Synopses & Reviews
A bewitching collection of short fiction — haunting and hypnotic meditations on art, movies, literature, and life.
A circus elephant named Topsy was executed at Coney Island in the year 1900 for killing a man. That's true. So is the life of Saartjie (Sar-key) Baartman, the Hottentot Venus, who was herself a circus act in the first half of the nineteenth century. What is myth is the Indian god Ganesha, whose head was lopped off by his father, Shiva, and replaced — with an elephant's head — by his disconsolate mother, Parvati. In John Haskell's expert hands, these three curious strands are ingeniously woven together in one story called "Elephant Feelings."
And so it goes with the rest of these dreamy meditations on the lives of artists, actors, writers, and musicians who are at once painfully human and larger than life. In "Dream of a Clean Slate," Jackson Pollock the man struggles with the separation he feels from Jackson Pollock the artist; in "The Judgment of "Psycho," Haskell probes the sexual dynamic of Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins in Psycho, and then delves into a different relationship, the one between Hector and Paris in the "Iliad; Orson Welles presides over the long story "Crimes at Midnight," a tense evocation of desire and its consequences. Haskell has written a series of myths for modern times, stories about the ways in which we are distant from ourselves and about the way art can sometimes help us imagine other worlds and other possibilities. It is an astonishing debut.
"Haskell uses language like a surgical instrument....These are stunningly sophisticated stories in which everything is new....[Haskell] makes language seem limitless in its possibilities." Los Angeles Times
"A dazzlingly inventive collection of nine uninhibited narratives that uses myths, meditation, and old-fashioned morality to examine age-old conundrums of life and art." Elle
"Simultaneously charming, innovative, and moving." Esquire
"Haskell and his wild imagination put some fictional oomph into reality....The highly original, Hemingway-esque prose is just as colorful and provocative as Pollock's paintings." Time Out New York
In this debut series of myths for modern times, haunting meditations are given on art, movies, literature, and life.
About the Author
is a former actor, playwright, and performance artist who has worked in New York and Chicago. He studied playwriting at UCLA and is a graduate of the MFA program at Columbia University. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Dream of a Clean Slate
The Judgment of Psycho
The Faces of Joan of Arc
Glenn Gould in Six Parts
Crimes at Midnight