Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

Issue 10

A) Happy Bloomsday!

Hello, and welcome to the tenth issue of Spiral-Bound. A part of The Modern Word, Spiral-Bound is a newsletter for all enthusiasts of modern literature. My name is Allen Ruch, also known as "The Great Quail," and I am happy to announce that Bloomsday is also the anniversary of The Modern Word -- we turn 8 years old today, which is 36 in Web-years. I am even more happy to announce that we have been growing steadily since then -- last month we received a quarter of a million visitors, serving out 450,000 pages to 8 million hits. And all that without a Harry Potter page!

B) Book Announcement!

Congratulations to Dr. Tim Conley on the publication of his book, Joyces Mistakes! A look at literary error, irony, and critical misreadings, Joyces Mistakes is published by the University of Toronto Press. (Tim Conley is a Contributing Editor of The Modern Word, co-author of Apmonia and a frequent book reviewer.)

C) Contest #1: Imaginary Book Review

Borges famously wrote: "The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary . . . More reasonable, more inept, more indolent, I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books."

The Modern Word is hosting the following contest, open until July 15, 2003:

In the spirit of Borges' remark, write a book review of an imaginary book. The book may be from any time period, it may be fictional or non-fictional, and its author may be either an invention or an actual writer.

The review should be between 500-1000 words, and must be submitted electronically to The Modern Word at the following email address: Entries should be submitted as a Microsoft Word attachment, or as text in the body of the email itself.

The five most creative and well-written reviews will be gathered together and posted permanently on the site. Three reviews will be selected as First, Second and Third place by The Modern Word's staff. The First Place winner will receive a package of five books as a prize: D.B. Weiss' Lucky Wander Boy, Tom Carson's Gilligan's Wake, Matthew Derby's Super Flat Times, Jim Knipfel's The Buzzing, and the new centennial edition of George Orwell's 1984, with a foreword by Thomas Pynchon. (Courtesy of Plume, Picador, Back Bay, Vintage, and Plume, respectively.) Second and Third place winners will receive copies of The Buzzing, courtesy of Vintage.

Submitting a review to The Modern Word authorizes the site to have non-exclusive rights to the review for all eternity and a day. The contest closes July 15, and winners will be announced by August 1, 2003.

So study up on your Herbert Quain and Pierre Menard and have fun!

D) Jim Knipfel Interview

The Modern Word interviewed New York Press columnist Jim Knipfel on the publication of his first novel, The Buzzing, a tale of a reporter named Roscoe who finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire of conspiracies and crackpots.

Interview excerpt:

Laurence Daw: Since your novel exhibits a classic postmodernist lack of closure, which type of paranoia best characterizes your protagonist?

Jim Knipfel: It's funny, the way people look at that ending. Some people say there's a lack of closure. Others say it "just stops." But there are others -- and I've heard from quite a few -- who have very definite ideas about what, exactly, happens at the end. Interesting thing is, most all of their interpretations are different, and I don't correct any of them. I have my own ideas how it ends, but I'm not telling. If other people have different ideas, that's great. And I think admitting that Roscoe was a real or creative paranoid -- even a paranoid at all -- would be giving too much away.

Full interview at:
By Laurence Daw

II. Books

A) Book News, with Maggie Ball

1. Ulysses movie premieres!

Sean Walsh's "bl,.m," a new cinematic adaptation of Joyce's Ulysses, recently premiered at Cannes. Starring Stephen Rea as Leopold Bloom, the film is currently exploring distribution options. You can read more about it -- and watch a handsome trailer -- at the film's official Web site.

2. IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk has won the 100,000 euro International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2003 for his novel My Name Is Red (Vintage). The judges praised the book as "a rare tour de force of literary imagination and philosophical speculation."

3. Thomas Pynchon and 1984

Thomas Pynchon has written a new foreword to Plume's "Orwell Centennial" edition of 1984.

B) Featured Books

We have two books to feature in this issue.

1. Gilligan's Wake
Tom Carson's surreal story of seven castaways before a certain fateful trip.

Review excerpt:

...A disturbing but funny tale of seven stranded castaways -- yes, those seven castaways -- Carson's novel functions like a modern Canterbury Tales, tracking the history of the United States during the long, strange trip that was the 20th Century. On the way, Carson gobbles up high and low culture alike, from James Joyce to those seven castaways we know and love so well -- though after finishing the book, you'll realize that you never really knew them at all.... Appropriately, the novel begins in a madhouse, where Carson echoes the layered prose of Finnegans Wake through the bebop, thorazine-addled consciousness of a poor guy who thinks he's Maynard G. Krebs. As this pre-Gilligan ("and I remembered what the G in my old name had stood for... ") beatnik receives shock treatment, the novel’s main symbols, themes, and secondary characters emerge in a frenetic and surreal overture, from the Maxwell House Coffee clock outside the window to Richard M. Nixon, pregnant (yep) in the room next door....

Full review at:
By Richard Romeo

2. The Point of Return
Siddhartha Deb's novel of homecoming.

Review excerpt:

...The reverse chronological order of this opening section isn't a mere gimmick employed by Deb. Nor does it serve the function of heightening suspense in the manner of the film Memento, which gradually moves toward a shocking revelation which calls into question everything seen before. There is no shocking revelation in The Point of Return. Rather, the reverse chronology is an approximation of the nature of memory, which is what Deb's novel is really about. Although the dust-jacket proclaims that "The Point of Return is a stirring novel set in India in the 1970s and the 1980s about a father and son whose relationship is shaped by tides of violence," it is not really about India at all, nor is it about Dr Dam and his relationship with his son Babu. It is about memory. Memory and migration. Migration and its concomitant notions of exile, belonging, home, and the crossing of boundaries.... In his straining after memories from his childhood and his later dissection of the nature of memory, Deb's fictional character Babu evokes nobody so much as Marcel in Proust's A la Recherche de Temps Perdu...

Full review at:
By Blair Mahoney

III. The Modern Word

A) What's New at the Modern Word?

The following notable recent additions have been made to The Modern Word:

Selected New Features:

Borges Influences
American fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer, author of the haunting and kaleidoscopic Ambergris stories, added to the Borges Influences section.

William Gaddis Page
The William Gaddis page has been expanded, and now includes a section of commentary on his novels.

Joyce & Music: Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce, Erik Satie: An Alphabet
John Cage's radio play added to Bronze by Gold.

Selected New Commentaries

Beckett: What Where
Part of the "Beckett on Film" project, Damien O'Donnell's film is a bleak and futuristic study on the abuse and sterility of power.

Beckett: Peephole Art
A review of the 1989 "Peephole Art" project, which adapted Not I, Quad I and II, and What Where for American television.

B) What's in the Works?

The next month should see reviews of Monique Truong's The Book of Salt, Alain Robbe-Grillet's Repetition, Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen, and Michael Moorcock's The Skrayling Tree. I am (still) editing and laying out a Scriptorium piece on William S. Burroughs, and future pages include Paul Auster, Edward Albee, Neil Gaiman, and James Kelman. We are also planning on expanding the pages on Kobo Abé and Jeff Noon. Jeff Nowak is currently at work on a major Kafka site for inclusion later this summer. Also over the summer, the Rotunda will expand a bit, leaving room for possible columns, more contests, and additional literary features, including a "Book Recommendations" column.

C) The Daily Muse -- A Call for Submissions

One feature on The Modern Word's main "Rotunda" page is the "Daily Muse," a literary thought which changes daily, such as a quote, trivia question, or word of the day. If anyone has a favorite quote they would like to contribute, or a literary trivia question, or a literary word of the day, please email it to me at If your submission is selected, your name will be entered in a drawing for a free book!

IV. Literary Events

A) Exhibitions/Performances

1. Joycean Art

Roger Cummiskey's "A Stroll Thro' Ulysses"
On display in Ireland: May 8-30, at the Monaghan County Museum; and June 4-30, at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre in Dublin.

2. Ulysses Movie

Galway Film Fleadh
Sean Walsh's bl,.m, a cinematic adaptation of Ulysses, will be shown at the Galway Film Fleadh, July 8-13, 2003.

B) Conferences/Calls for Papers

Beckett: Page and Stage
June 20-22, 2003; University of Leeds. A 2-day conference on performing Beckett.

García Márquez: Songs Spun on Island Time
Margin, the online magazine devoted to magical realism, is issuing a call for papers around the theme of "Magical Realism from the Caribbean Islands."

Pynchon: Malta Pynchon Conference
June 8-10, 2004, Malta. To be held during the Transit of Venus. Call for papers until October 2003.

V. Featured Links

A) Interesting Articles

One-Way Street
John Updike on Don DeLillo's latest, Cosmopolis.

Author Denies Drug Call
García Márquez is misquoted on the Colombian drug situation.

The Theatre of Memory
A translated extract from Milan Kundera's latest work in progress.

When a Great Novelist Turned His Pen on Tyranny
Jonathan Yardley looks back at García Márquez's underappreciated Autumn of the Patriarch.

Pynchon Brings Added Currency to "Nineteen Eighty-Four"
David Kipen calls Pynchon's intro to 1984 the "finest, deepest, sanest new 20 pages around."

B) Featured Sites

1. Literary & Cultural Sites

Bloomsday Cabaret
A new documentary on Joyce and music is in the works.

What Mark Twain Didn't Say
Misattributed quotes.

2. Humor & Games

The Geek Test
Why are there so many H.P. Lovecraft questions...?

Assassinations Foretold in Moby-Dick!
Brendan McKay demonstrates how textual games with Moby-Dick can predict...just about anything.

The Greatest Album Covers that Never Were
Imaginary covers for imaginary albums by real musicians...and maybe one or two bands from Uqbar....

Thank you, and I'll see you in a few weeks!