Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

Issue 11

A) Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to the eleventh 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." I am in no way affiliated with "The Lesser Quail," that fellow who runs a hypertext literary site called "The Modem World." Speaking of which:

B) Contest #1: Imaginary Book Review

Last issue, we introduced a Borgesian contest, asking visitors to submit a review of an imaginary book. We received almost 80 entries, from reviews of Thomas Pynchon's "next" novel to short stories about the end of the universe. Evaluating and judging the entries was not easy, but in the end we narrowed it down to fourteen reviews: four prize winners and ten honorable mentions. (The judges were Richard Behrens, Andrew Duncan, Allen Ruch, and Richard Ryan.)

And the four prize winners are:

1. Plethora: Lost Verse 1942-2002
By William Coraxe
Review by Ronald Flanagan

2. Untitled
By Anonymous
Review by Benjamin Kline
Submission by Joshua Cohen

3. For third place, we have a tie:

The Collected Novels of Jorge Luis Borges
By Jorge Luis Borges
Review by Ben D. Anderson

The Wake's Wake
By Icaro Canto
Review by Wally Bubelis

These four, and all the honorable mentions, may be read in full here:

II. Books

A) Book News, with Maggie Ball

1. Eliot's Usk

The Guardian reports that the mystery behind TS Eliot's most difficult poem, Usk, has been solved. The words "Do not / Hope to find/ The white hart behind the white well" was referring to the White Hart Inn in Wales. For the full story, visit:,6109,1013056,00.html

2. Woolf Notebook

A lost notebook covering three months of the novelist Virginia Woolf's life in her 20s has been found after lying in an academic's bottom drawer in Birmingham for 35 years. The first exclusive extracts from the journal appear in the Guardian Review. For the full story, visit:,6109,977276,00.html

B) Featured Books

We have two books to feature in this issue.

1. City of Saints and Madmen
Jeff VanderMeer's collection of Ambergris tales.

Review excerpt:

....In City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer offers us another true place: Ambergris, an ageless, Byzantine sprawl populated by squabbling artists, lewd visionaries, and philosophers at war with their own obsessions. Like the best architects of imaginary cities, VanderMeer has crafted a dark mirror to reflect (and often distort) our own conceptions of reality, bringing into focus the many ways the human imagination attempts to make sense of an often senseless universe. In the city of Ambergris, art, science, religion, and history are in constant strife, their respective adherents waging war through café gossip, whispered innuendo, broadsheet polemics, satirical opera -- and occasionally, the sudden, violent retort of an assassin's knife. At stake seems to be the territory between madness and sanity; but trapped within the surreal labyrinth of the city -- where a painting is as powerful as a legion, and even the bankers go armed -- telling the difference between the two is an uncertain prospect....

.... From the dubious description of the author on the jacket flap to its final notes on typography, City of Saints and Madmen takes delight in spreading incertitude and confusion, subverting the usual boundaries between author, subject, and reader. Many of the stories contain built-in instabilities, from metafictional paradoxes that threaten to unravel the narrative to delayed pieces of information that change the reader's interpretation of an earlier event....

Full review at:
By Allen B. Ruch

2. And the Ass Saw the Angel
Nick Cave's twisted novel of madness and hypocrisy.

Review excerpt:

....A chronicle of thirty-odd years in the Southern town of Ukulore Valley, most of the novel is told through the eyes of a crazed hillbilly named Euchrid Euchrow, who spends the course of the book slowly sinking to his death in a pit of quickmud. Euchrid is a cast-off, a human being with no rights, no respect, no love, and -- quite literally -- no voice. It's a hard, uncharitable world he lives in, and no one is kind to anyone, least of all to the "hill trash" living in shacks on the edge of town. Mute from birth, Euchrid narrates his tale through a highly personal language, a mixture of old-fashioned country vernacular and formal Bible-speak. Or, as Cave explains, a "kind of a hyper-poetic thought-speak, not meant to be spoken -- a mongrel language that was part-Biblical, part-Deep South dialect, part-gutter slang, at times obscenely reverent and at others reverently obscene." Traumatized by his brutal surroundings, and unable to express himself to others, Euchrid is forced to cobble together an inner mythology from bits of Biblical lore, twisted out of shape to meet the needs of his nightmarish existence. He speaks to us from this very private world, inhabited by magical creatures and illuminated by angelic revelations....

Full review at:
By LJ Lindhurst

C) Staff Recommendations

A new section soon to be added to The Modern Word, "Staff Recommendations" will allow our writers, reviewers, and associates to suggest books, authors, films, comics, and other items of possible interest to Modern Word visitors. These recommendations do not need to be full-length reviews, nor do they have to meet the usual Modern Word criteria for inclusion. Here's a preview:

1. Eric Kraft

Staff writer Bob Williams would like to recommend writer Eric Kraft. Recommendation excerpt:

....Kraft probes the nature of reality and his character Peter Leroy is the instrument with which he does so. In Peter's world we encounter many of the same events and institutions that we know in what we call -- for want of a better name -- reality. But, while the big facts stay in place, the details are skewed in ways that call in question the nature of our reality and emphasize the text as text. As a way of underlining the latter, Kraft, credited appropriately with the design of many of his books, has inserted fictitious illustrations. These are comic inventions but they are multifunctional and textually subversive....

Full recommendation at:
By Bob Williams

2. The Crusader

Stanley Goldstein, CEO of Bibliotech and president of the American Friends of James Joyce, would like to recommend Michael Alexander Eisner's historical novel, The Crusader. Recommendation excerpt:

....Eisner's depiction of monastic life is evocative of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, but his portrayal of boundless faith -- reverberating with a sense of mystery reminiscent of García Márquez -- is quite different than Eco's modern irony. In rendering the heat of battle, he carries into the realm of fiction the tradition of John Keegan, who raised the bar on describing the face of war for soldiers in combat. Eisner draws his reader into the inferno to the point of fright. Not since James Michener's The Source has the storming of a castle during a siege been so beautifully written, with all of the chaos and noise of battle brought to vivid life. But most of all the fear; fear of confronting the enemy face to face with the knowledge that, in every case, only one man survives....

Full recommendation at:
By Stanley Goldstein

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:

Joyce Influences
The entire section has been expanded and revised, with a new page devoted to works with Joyce as a fictional character.

Joyce Criticism
Another extensive revision, with plenty of new additions.

Joyce Works
Yes, more Joyce! Including some new remarks on Ulysses and a Finnegans Wake FAQ.

Selected New Commentaries

Joyce: Joyces Mistakes
A review of Tim Conley's book on literary error, misreading, and irony.

B) What's in the Works?

The next few months should see reviews of Monique Truong's The Book of Salt, Alain Robbe-Grillet's Repetition, and KJ Bishop's The Etched City. 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 early this Autumn. By late September, the Rotunda will expand to include an area for additional literary features. Possibilities include contests, staff recommendations, indie press spotlights, and monthly columns.

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, 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!

Congratulations to Vivian Walsh for Frank Lloyd Wright's "I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters." She has been sent a copy of Nick Cave's And the Ass Saw the Angel.

IV. Literary Events

A) Exhibitions/Performances

1. Beckett Play

Waiting for Godot
October 8-25, 2003. Presented by the Tangent Theater Company at Center Stage, New York City.

B) Conferences/Calls for Papers

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

Philosophy in a Time of Terror
An excerpt from Giovanna Borradori's dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida.

Modernism a Beneficiary of War in Iraq
Gerald Owen looks at the Derrida/Habermas "alliance" for Canada's National Post.

Thomas Pynchon and the South Bay
Garrison Frost in The Aesthetic.

Hypertext Precursors: From Barth and Burroughs to Nabokov and Borges
Robert McClelland for LiP Magazine.

B) Featured Sites

1. Literary & Cultural Sites

The Internet Book Database of Fiction
An online community devoted to the discussion of fictional characters and locations.

The Voynich Manuscript
Everything you wanted to know...or didn't want to know...about the Voynich Manuscript.

La Idea Fija
A literary Web-based magazine from Argentina, dedicated to publishing rare, cult, out-of-print, or experimental texts. (Spanish)

2. Humor & Games

Subtly Askew Museum
Contains, among other things, the Necronomicon, a Tlönian Hrön, and one of John Shade's index cards upon which the poem Pale Fire was composed.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Another intriguing museum; I think it has the other 79 of Shade's index cards....

The Cowbell Project
Because we all know Proust was fond of songs with cowbells.

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