Dodo Ink Acquires Debut Novel by Andrew Gallix

“Dodo Ink Acquires Debut Novel by Andrew Gallix.” Dodo Ink Press Release, 7 July 2021:


Dodo Ink is delighted to announce a new publication.

Dodo Ink has acquired UK, Commonwealth and translation rights to Loren Ipsum, the debut novel by French author Andrew Gallix. Gallix founded the 3:AM Magazine website twenty years ago, which is still flourishing; it was the first to champion Tom McCarthy and a host of other emerging writers. He recently edited the anthology We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books) and has reviewed for numerous publications including The Guardian, The Irish Times and The Times Literary Supplement.

Loren Ipsum settles in Paris to write a book about Adam Wandle, a reclusive author who has been hiding out on the fringes of the French capital for decades. Meanwhile, prominent figures of the literati are being kidnapped and “executed” by terrorists, who are convinced that bourgeois bohemians are the main obstacle to revolution today. Cryptic messages are attached to their victims. It transpires that these are all culled from Wandle’s works. Is the latter simply a source of inspiration for the terrorists or their éminence grise? What about the editrix, who is busy rewriting Wandle’s latest typescript by means of erasure? And what of Loren Ipsum herself? Through this satirical collision between the worlds of publishing and guerrilla warfare — set against the background of Paris and its multicultural banlieues — Andrew Gallix explores whether literature can effect radical change. Are books still the only true bombs, as the poet Mallarmé once claimed?

The book was bought on a partial manuscript. Publication is set for 2023.

Andrew Gallix said that he was thrilled with the deal: “Dodo Ink is a bold and innovative independent publisher — my novel couldn’t have found a more fitting home. I look forward to engaging with the whole team and am particularly excited to be edited by Sam Mills, whose work as a writer and publisher I have greatly admired for many years. It’s a dream come true.”

Editorial Director Thom Cuell said, “Andrew is one of the most passionate and insightful contemporary literary voices, and we are delighted to acquire this brilliantly satirical and intelligent novel, which perfectly matches our intention to publish daring and innovative fiction. We look forward to working with Andrew and to sharing Loren Ipsum with readers.”

Sam Mills, Managing Director, said, “We’ve very proud to be publishing Gallix’s debut novel, having been a fan of his essays and fiction for many years. His prose is cerebral, playful and beautifully crafted. In this sharply satirical and wonderfully surreal novel, he explores whether literature can still effect radical change.”

Dodo Ink is an indie press dedicated to publishing daring and difficult fiction. Set up by novelist Sam Mills, book reviewer Thom Cuell and marketing expert Alex Spears, it has published authors such as Monique Roffey, Neil Griffiths and Seraphina Madsen, as well as the recent Trauma anthology, which included essays by Emma-Jane Unsworth, David Lynch and Juliet Jacques.

For PR enquiries contact Sam Mills

sam@dodoink.com

Playful and Beautifully Crafted

Hackett, Tamsin. “Dodo Ink Acquires ‘Playful and Beautifully Crafted’ Gallix debut.” The Bookseller, 8 June 2021:


Independent press Dodo Ink has acquired French author Andrew Gallix’s debut Loren Ipsum, a “daring, satirical novel which alternates between the worlds of publishing and guerrilla warfare”.

The publisher acquired UK, Commonwealth and translation rights directly from the author. The book was bought on partial manuscript and publication is set for 2023.

The synopsis reads: “Loren Ipsum settles in Paris to write a book about Adam Wandle, a reclusive author who has been hiding out on the fringes of the French capital for decades. Meanwhile, prominent figures of the literati are being kidnapped and ‘executed’ by terrorists, who are convinced that bourgeois bohemians are the main obstacle to revolution today. Cryptic messages are attached to their victims. It transpires that these are all culled from Wandle’s works. Is the latter simply a source of inspiration for the terrorists or their éminence grise? What about the editrix, who is busy rewriting Wandle’s latest typescript by means of erasure? And what of Loren Ipsum herself?”

Thom Cuell, editorial director, said: “Andrew is one of the most passionate and insightful contemporary literary voices, and we are delighted to acquire this brilliantly satirical and intelligent novel, which perfectly matches our intention to publish daring and innovative fiction. We look forward to working with Andrew and to sharing Loren Ipsum with readers.”

Gallix commented: “Dodo Ink is a bold and innovative independent publisher — my novel couldn’t have found a more fitting home. I look forward to engaging with the whole team and am particularly excited to be edited by Sam Mills, whose work as a writer and publisher I have greatly admired for many years. It’s a dream come true.”

Gallix is the founder of 3:AM Magazine. He edited the 2019 anthology We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books) and has written reviews for the Guardian, the Irish Times and the Times Literary Supplement.

The Unknown Writer

Here is my interview with C. D. Rose for 3:AM Magazine, 30 June 2021.


C. D. Rose is an award-winning short story writer and the author of three palimpsestic books that recall the likes of Calvino, Perec or Borges.

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure from 2014 celebrated the lives of writers who had ‘achieved some measure of literary failure’. Naturally, they all turned out to be fictitious with CD Rose (or some homonym) masquerading as the book’s editor.

Who’s Who When Everyone is Someone Else, which appeared in 2018, revolves around a British academic who, having written a book entitled (what are the odds?) The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure — is invited to deliver a series of ten lectures on lost or forgotten works in a provincial university located somewhere in central Europe. This academic is an authority on Maxim Guyavitch, a cult author so obscure that his very existence is contested.

The Blind Accordionist (Melville House, 2021) is subtitled ‘Nine Stories by Maxim Guyavitch’. It appears to be the long-lost manuscript that the academic was looking for in the previous novel. These nine tales often revolve around their own telling and seem to occupy a liminal space between potentiality and actuality. Beautifully written and exquisitely crafted, Rose’s fables are, by turns, surreal, hilarious, poetic, poignant, allusive and elusive.

So, to begin with, could you talk to us about your interest in ‘Pseudo and Crypto Bibliography’ and, more generally, ‘parafiction’ — a term you use to describe works about fictitious books or supposedly by fictitious authors…

CDR: Pseudobibliography is the study of fake or non-existent books; Cryptobibliography that of hidden or lost books. Parafiction is neither of these, though may have a pint with them from time to time.

Parafiction is a mode of literary enquiry which seeks to examine the truth status claimed by both fictional and non-fictional tropes, strategies and discourses. Unlike metafiction which lays bare its workings, and is ultimately interested in showing itself off, parafiction lies quietly alongside the established tradition, neither true nor false.

Do you feel a bit like an actor when you assume someone else’s identity to write fiction, as you do here with Maxim Guyavitch?

CDR: No disrespect, but I mistrust actors. The process of adopting a different identity in order to write is sometimes described as ‘ventriloquism,’ too, but I’m not sure about that either. When we sit down to write, we all become someone else. (It may, however, simply be that the word reminds me of nothing more than Keith Harris and Orville the Duck, or Rod Hull and Emu.)

Being Guyavitch allowed me to shed the layers of self-criticism, hyper-awareness, judgment, over-editing, over-caution, self-censorship, doubt and worry from beneath which so many of us attempt to write. It’s a good strategy. I’d recommend it.

You even turn yourself into a fictional character of sorts with the fake critical apparatus (the introduction, the afterword and annotated bibliography). This adds an extra layer of fiction. It also means that the book contains its own exegesis. Could you talk to us about these two aspects: the proliferating ontological uncertainty and the mock-scholarship?

CDR: I am a fictional character. Don’t we all make ourselves up? (That might account for the ontological uncertainty.)

The book contains its own exegesis partly in order to pre-emptively fend off any critics. You want to criticise this book? it asks, Too late — many have been there already.

It’s also there, this ‘mock scholarship,’ not in any way to mock scholars (heaven forbid), but because of Eco’s idea of the ‘open work,’ a work which can engender its own multitude of interpretations, responses, offshoots, parodies. The Blind Accordionist already includes a few, with the hope that the reader will create more.

Is Maxim Guyavitch a kind of Unknown Writer like there is an Unknown Soldier?

CDR: Yes, I think that’s exactly who he is.

That said, I’m not sure he can stand in for ‘all’ writers, but only for one particular strand. What could represent all unknown writers? There should be an abstract sculpture somewhere. Not a solitary flame though. Maybe one of those Sarah Lucas overflowing ashtrays.

There are many recurring images and motifs in your new book — the compression of time, railways, card games, cartography, ghosts, doppelgängers, dreams, pears (especially pear brandy), etc. — but the most obvious and most enigmatic one is the eponymous figure of the blind accordionist, which recurs in various guises in all the stories. Where does this figure come from?

CDR: André Kertész’s photograph of a blind accordionist, from around 1916. It’s a haunting, disturbing picture, as many of the best photographs can be. George Szirtes has written a really good poem about it, but I first came across it in Geoff Dyer’s book The Ongoing Moment. Dyer lists many of the other photographers who have taken pictures of blind accordionists, tracing it as a kind of trope, an ongoing homage or response to Kertész. I was interested in how it persists through time, both as a photographic subject, but also simply in the number of blind accordionists there actually are!

More simply, I thought ‘The Blind Accordionist’ would be a good title for a book. So I wrote it. With no blind accordionists in it.

(I like the sound of accordions, too, and a lot of accordion music — though I realise many object!)

You point out that great art — from Petrarch to Cindy Sherman — is often based on a pattern of repetition with minor variations. In Who’s Who, there were references to the Goldberg Variations, for instance. Here, we have the figure of the blind accordionist (which appears in each story but always under a different form), the two almost identical villages, the doppelgängers who are not ‘quite identical’, the warder’s day which is ‘as similar and as different’ as any other, the card game in which ‘each card should have its twin, although the twin card was not necessarily identical’… Why are you fascinated by this pattern?

CDR: It’s a way of putting order onto chaos, structuring the random happenstance of the world. Categorising and listing, while still allowing for difference, change — chance even. I mean, random chaos can be fascinating, thrilling, especially in an artistic context, but it can also be scary. And it’s bloody difficult to turn into fiction.

The Blind Accordionist is a collection of short stories and a novel. It’s both at the same time (like a rabbit-duck), isn’t it?

CDR: Exactly that. It’s a collection of short stories pretending to be a novel pretending to be a collection of short stories.

In the Introduction, you write that all we know about Guyavitch is that nine stories were published under his name between the beginning of the 20th century and the 1930s, but you then go on to mention a tale you have chosen not to include (admittedly on account of its ‘dubious authenticity’ — but still!). Is this missing story a bit like the missing chapter in Perec’s Life A User’s Manual? Is it an act of sabotage, or a dose of potentiality that has escaped actualisation? Is it one of the ‘volitional’ errors you describe as ‘portals of discovery’?

CDR: It’s a sabotage into potentiality, perhaps, both a hole and an escape route. It refuses the closure of the completed volume. There’s still more, out there somewhere. I like to think it will turn up, one day.

In your brilliant Afterword, you conjure up a lineage for Guyavitch — mainly authors from central or eastern Europe — a kind of School of Kafka. Why this attraction to Mitteleuropa?

In the 1970s — when I was a child — short animated TV programmes were sometimes broadcast between the more popular shows. Many of these were Czech or Polish. During the school holidays there was also morning television, where you might see imported European dramas for children, either badly dubbed or with one single voice telling us what was going on, the actors speaking mutedly in their own language. There were often flutes on the soundtrack, and sometimes a zither.

In the 1980s — when I was a teen — central and eastern Europe seemed as distant as the moon. Prague, now a city of mini-breaks and lads-on-tour stag weekends, I knew of then as little more than expressionist shadows and rumours of dissidents. Music might reach us from Berlin, its eastern part occasionally visited by the intrepid who always returned with a story. Few of us knew that Leningrad was St Petersburg. I listened to side two of Low a lot, perhaps too much.

In the 1980s — when I was a student — I read Kafka’s grey-spined Penguin Modern Classics, then moved on to white-spined translations of Kundera, Hrabal, Škvorecký, and Schulz.

Now I am an adult, and I know that some things which happen to you when you are young never go away.

In the bibliography, you feign to quote from David Kingston’s ‘Notes on the Whimsical’ (unpublished — of course!) in which he supposedly lists the mise en abyme as one of the genre’s attributes. It seems to me that the mise en abyme is your work’s guiding principle. The best example, here, is ‘At the Gallery of National Art’, where many of the paintings depict other stories in the book (the two villages, the man who decides to become a bear, etc.)…

CDR: The idea of framing something, then putting that thing in frame, then putting another frame around that thing becomes addictive — it’s similar to the process of repetition and variation mentioned above, and it becomes vertiginous, dizzying. It calls everything about perception and representation into question. I think it’s funny, too.

Your books have an encyclopaedic quality: they are full of literary references as well as cross-references to your own works. But they are also frequently attracted to nothingness: I’m thinking here of the desolate landscape painting which is ‘a picture of nothing, if that is possible’ or the mirror, in another story, that fails to reflect anything (and could well be the aforementioned painting rather than a mirror)… Tell us about this oscillation between everything and nothing.

CDR: The abyme mentioned above is the abyss. The mise en abyme is the process of piling things up on the edge of that abyss, or over it. It’s about amassing plenitude in an attempt to cover the horror of the void, or to avoid staring into the abyss too long. The Neapolitan actor-director Enzo Moscato claims the baroque as a style is based on a hysterical fear of the abyss, thus acknowledging the inseparability of the two. I think there’s a useful generative tension between the minimal and the baroque.

Do you see your three books as a trilogy now?

CDR: In that they are three connected books which all talk about each other, yes. You can read them in any order, mind, and The Blind Accordionist might actually be the best place to start.

The Netanyahus

Here is my review of The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen. The Irish Times, 5 June 2021, p. 17.

In a postface to his sixth novel, The Netanyahus, Joshua Cohen relates how he befriended Harold Bloom (to whom this book is dedicated) towards the close of his life. The venerable critic regaled Cohen with countless anecdotes — playing chess with Nabokov, skinny-dipping with Derrida — but the one that made the greatest impression was the time he supervised the campus visit of an “obscure Israeli historian” called Ben-Zion Netanyahu, who rocked up with his feral family, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Netanyahu’s second-born child went on to become the longest-serving, and most controversial, prime minister in Israeli history, thus endowing this farcical fait divers with a retrospective patina of world-historical importance: “An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family”.

The antique cast of this comically prolix, self-deprecating subtitle is redolent of early novels, which frequently masqueraded as authentic documents. The Netanyahus purports to be composed by a retired academic who, sensing the nighness of the end, is prompted to put pen to paper, as established in the opening sentences: “My name is Ruben Blum and I’m, yes, an historian. Soon enough, though, I guess I’ll be historical”. This transmutation of subject into subject matter is posited as a “more natural, rational incarnation” than the Christian version: “Goys believe in the Word becoming Flesh, but Jews believe in the Flesh becoming Word”. It could also be construed as the mission statement of an author at the top of his game who, like Flaubert, has alchemised a rather insignificant real-life incident into fictive gold. Cohen exploits his character’s professional rigour to sport with the conventions of memoir. Quotation marks are “holy to historians”, Ruben explains, vowing “to express only what was expressed to [him], as verbatim as [his] memory is able” — which is ironic given that both he and the dialogue are made up. Beyond his aversion to today’s “culture of grievance”, the character bears no resemblance to Harold Bloom. There is his surname, of course, but Ruben’s year of birth — 1922 — connects him to Joyce’s Leopold Bloom, and hence the world of fiction, rather than the waking nightmare of his discipline.

The struggle between history and myth provides the novel with its dialectical armature. History is associated with the onward march of progress, which would go on unimpeded “so long as every country kept trying to be more like America and America kept trying to be more like itself”. Even the revisionist zealot Ben-Zion is depicted, “lotused” on the floor in front of his hosts’ new colour television set, watching Bonanza with rapt attention. Significantly, when events spiral out of control, the tohubohu unleashed by the “Yahus” (as Ruben and his wife, Edith, call them) is likened to technological failure: “the snow was hissing down like static from a world signed-off, ash from the end of broadcast days”.

Ruben opted for “pagan” academia in a bid to flee his “Jewish past” (which returns in the shape of the Yahus), but remains torn between “the American condition of being able to choose and the Jewish condition of being chosen”. His teenage daughter Judy — whose agonistic relation to her elders provides a great deal of mirth — chooses rhinoplasty, which may be her own way of leaving behind the stereotypes affixed to her origins. Corbindale, where the Blums relocated from New York City, is so nondescript that their relatives keep calling it “Corbinton” or “Corbinville”. It is also a hotbed of petty anti-Semitism. The mechanic at the local garage pats Ruben’s head to feel his horns and, as the first Jew to be hired by Corbin College, he is expected to don a Santa Claus outfit at Christmas. It is for this very reason too that he is tasked, in 1960, with vetting Mr Netanyahu’s application and preparing his visit. Ben-Zion, whose idiosyncratic interpretation of the Iberian Inquisition I shall not disclose, argues that the Jewish people have been able to endure by abiding in myth, from whence he himself seems to have sprung. When he howls, it is “in the wind’s language, Hebrew” that he does so.

The Netanyahus demonstrates what can still be done within the relatively conventional yet capacious parameters of literary fiction. It veers from mid-century comedy of manners to campus caper by way of social, political and religious satire. Bravura displays — such as the hilarious scene where Edith’s mother harangues Ruben while her husband unburdens himself, most indiscreetly, in the adjoining toilet — are legion. Dialogue is deftly handled throughout: the banter between Ruben and Edith, in particular, is pitch perfect. Cohen’s style — inventive but elegantly understated — is a class act that few of his contemporaries can follow.

All in all, this is a veritable triumph.


Her Quiddity for a Few Quid

Another illustration provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum.


“An old dear who had been strangled in broad daylight with her Hermès scarf near the Champs-Elysées. The motive of the crime remained a complete mystery prompting prominent columnists to brush up on their Gide, eager as they were to frame this putative acte gratuit with lashings of Lafcadio. There was no CCTV footage. No witnesses. None of the woman’s expensive jewellery had been stolen. The wads of banknotes she was wont to carry about in her handbag? All there too and all too there. Not only was their non-theft ostentatious, even downright provocative, but rumour had it that a couple of extra bundles had been bunged in for good measure — that is, presumably, as compensation for the murder. A tip of sorts. Her quiddity for a few quid, or the equivalent in euros. Stranger still, forensics had found breadcrumbs lodged, hither and thither, in the biddy’s extravagantly-lacquered bouffant. They believed the victim was beaten about the head with a baguette tradition bien cuite. Whether this had occurred before, after or, less plausibly, during the strangling, remained a moot point at this stage. One school of thought argued that the criminal had planned to kill their easy prey with this incredible — and indeed edible — weapon, before consuming it, thus cunningly disposing of exhibit number one. In the event, however, the crusty bread had proved insufficiently crusty, hence the scarf. The only real clue, and a rather cryptic one at that, was a note pinned to the corpse’s coat, which read NOTHING IS LOST in English and in all-caps Helvetica Neue. A death sentence.”

Drawing Him Hither

Another illustration provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum.


“Then he got up to refill her glass and, instinctively, she got up too and then they were kissing, deep and slow, their tongues going round and round and round like the ground bass number in the background, and he gently lifted up her summer frock as the melody soared over the looping bassline and she found herself reclining in a Le Corbusier-style chaise longue. ‘J’aime quand ça s’incarne,’ she whispered, drawing him hither with her long legs.”

Zanzibar’s Kitchen Corkboard

Another illustration provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum.


“She had four sisters and one brother. It was the latter, Athelstan, who had taken the picture that was proudly displayed on Zanzibar’s kitchen corkboard: Andromeda, Lunula, Phylloxera, and Loren, all stark naked, on a Cornish beach (a re-enactment of the famous 1914 shot of the Olivier sisters).”