Vincent Broqua’s first book in English — I hasten to specify that it would be much more appropriate to say in “expanded English,” since the work is a linguistic hybrid in more than one way — is the perfect demonstration that US and English-speaking interest in French writing is still very lively, if not intense. Not necessarily in the domain of mainstream prose fiction, but undoubtedly in the smaller but infinitely much more exciting field of cutting-edge experimental writing, of which this publication is a superb as well as extreme example.
In The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading (2018), Edmund White, a longtime lover of France and French literature and culture, makes en passant the following observation: “Mine was probably the last American generation that took France seriously. We wanted to learn the language, the fashions, the heritage. We learned to cook French from Julie Child, to think French from Michel Foucault, to dress French in whatever stylish Parisian way we could afford.
There are many chairs and no tables in this depressingly uplifting play, Help, which is about a new table we need right NOW, “NOW that is the ‘n-word,’” as the play says: a kind of roundtable, virtual and actual, where we can all sit around to talk “us,” cohabitus, especially the souls of White folks.
A stingray doesn’t know the word for “pathetic.” A saint does not care if prayer renders her pathetic. Poets are pathetic because they devote themselves to form in the face of formlessness. (Are they? Do they?) These kinds of formulations and queries arise in reading Pathetic Literature, the momentous anthology edited by Eileen Myles and released by Grove Press in November 2022.
At first glance, Kerri Webster’s lyrical, lushly allusive Lapis and Jana Prikryl’s restrained, architectural Midwood make unlikely interlocutors — but both these 2022 collections situate themselves in the selva oscura of midlife and conduct their readers across the rough ground of fresh grief and ambiguous loss. Reading these two collections in dialogue offers a rich yield.