From my review:
Whatever the message is, Ancient History and Cy’s manuscript (for they’re one and the same) confront the impossible: Cy seeks in his project to embrace a totality that’s larger and greater than the limits of others’ minds. This high ambition stands parallel to that of Michel Butor’s Degrees (1960; cited by McElroy as a precursor and model for his early work), as well as McElroy’s first novel, A Smuggler’s Bible (1966), whose central protagonist, David Brooke, has “perfect recall.” Similarly gifted, Cy has in his brain an unusually developed “Vectoral Muscle” that enables rare feats of attention, perception, and intuition. On the page, this amounts to what Tony Tanner aptly termed a sense of “egalitarian respect for the most apparently modest detail.” A name on an apartment directory-board that’s “mint white grooved in velvety black,” for instance, or, an egg sandwich seen with “the gold-gray damp of the grease coming into the Pepperidge Farm white.” Like these minute touches, McElroy’s prose can, at its best, almost conjure synesthesia.
Note: an improved-quality audio file (optimized for voice) replaced the original recording on Jan 9, 2013. — JS
Last week I traveled to New York City, to lower Manhattan, to hear Joseph McElroy read from his work. The reading took place at the New School. In attendance were the renowned translator and poet Richard Howard, as well as McElroy’s son, Boone, and his wife, artist Barbara Ellmann.
I also visited McElroy at his Tribeca apartment and spoke with him about the (then) impending election, about how his week had been since the flooding of parts of the city, about his forthcoming books, and more. I am presently preparing a summary of this exchange for publication.
For now, enjoy the recording of McElroy’s digressively “self-interrupted” reading of his work, including excerpts from Cannonball, his “water book” which he’s wrapping up, “Canoe Repair,” “The Campaign Trail,” and a brief commentary on Sigfried Giedion’s Space, Time, and Architecture.
All posts on this site about Joseph McElroy are archived here.