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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Conrad’

A Polar Wind: Robert Kloss and Matt Kish in Conversation

September 29, 2015 | by

A detail from Matt Kish‘s illustration for the cover of The Revelator, by Robert Kloss.

A detail from Matt Kish’s illustration for the cover of The Revelator, by Robert Kloss.

On the relatively short list of authors and artists who have collaborated on multiple books, there are few who so perfectly mirror one another’s sensibilities that it becomes difficult to imagine art and word as separate entities. I’d place Aleksei Kruchenykh and Olga Rozanova, A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard, Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake in that select group. And now I’d add author Robert Kloss and artist Matt Kish. The pair have, to date, worked together on two novels (Alligators of Abraham and The Revelator), a hybrid novel written with Amber Sparks (The Desert Places), and an ongoing project they call the “Bestiary.”

The two have published work independently—Kish, notably, has illustrated every page of Moby-Dick and Heart of Darkness—but their joint efforts are of a different order, primarily because, being of like minds, one’s work influences the other’s in the course of making. The Revelator, which was just published this month, is a psychologically brutal tale about an itinerant zealot in nineteenth-century America. In the opening paragraphs, a group of forlorn sailors, “their faces blistered and their minds bleached and weary,” espies a mountain: “some named it the ‘Finger of the Evil One,’ and some called it a tower of soot, dreamed it an ancient citadel misshapen by flame, the horror of all trapped within.” Kish’s illustrations, sprinkled throughout, are correspondingly prophetic, alien, and apocalyptic.   

Kloss recently moved from Boston to Boulder, Colorado; Kish lives in Ohio. The two have never met. Earlier this month, they conducted a conversation via online chat about the nature of collaboration and working in the shadow of Melville.  

—Nicole Rudick

Kish: I’ve been thinking about this conversation for some time, alternately veering between excitement and intimidation. Aside from our numerous e-mails, this will probably be the most in-depth communication we’ve shared, at least on a sustained level.

Kloss: Let’s start with Melville then, since I don’t think we would be having this conversation without his work. Read More »

This Week on the Daily

December 7, 2014 | by


E. Ravel, from Die Gartenlaube, 1891.

Our new Winter issue is here. Learn more about its cover, which features a photograph from Marc Yankus.


“Art isn’t always what—or where—you expect to find it.” Nicole Rudick looks at art ephemera.


Walter Benjamin used to write a radio show for children—here he tells a story with thirty brainteasers. (We’ll post the answers on Thursday.)


“I think poetry is always one or two poets away from extinction.” Michael Hofmann and Jack Livings talk about poetry, translation, and Vespas.


An interview with Julia Wertz about her online comic, Fart Party, now collected in a new book, The Museum of Mistakes. “I’m a real bitch in my work. No one likes a happy-go-lucky character—that’s the character everyone wants to see destroyed.”


Twenty-five years after Wild at Heart, Barry Gifford’s novels are still weird on top.


Two centuries after the Marquis de Sade, a French exhibition traces his influence


Plus, Sadie Stein sees how far a full-page ad in The New York Times goes; and Joseph Conrad thinks the world is plenty mysterious enough as it is, thanks.


Marvels and Mysteries

December 3, 2014 | by


A caricature of Conrad by David Low, 1928.


How would you define fantastic, then?


I wonder if you can define it. I think it’s rather an intention in a writer. I remember a very deep remark of Joseph Conrad—he is one of my favorite authors—I think it is in the foreword to something like The Dark Line, but it’s not that …


The Shadow Line?


The Shadow Line. In that foreword he said that some people have thought that the story was a fantastic story because of the captain’s ghost stopping the ship. He wrote—and that struck me because I write fantastic stories myself—that to deliberately write a fantastic story was not to feel that the whole universe is fantastic and mysterious; nor that it meant a lack of sensibility for a person to sit down and write something deliberately fantastic. Conrad thought that when one wrote, even in a realistic way, about the world, one was writing a fantastic story because the world itself is fantastic and unfathomable and mysterious.


You share this belief?


Yes. I found that he was right. I talked to Bioy Casares, who also writes fantastic stories—very, very fine stories—and he said, “I think Conrad is right. Really, nobody knows whether the world is realistic or fantastic, that is to say, whether the world is a natural process or whether it is a kind of dream, a dream that we may or may not share with others.”

—Jorge Luis Borges, The Art of Fiction No. 39, 1967

Since it’s Joseph Conrad’s birthday, I went in search of his foreword to The Shadow Line—it was an author’s note, actually, appended to the novel’s second edition in 1920. And Borges’s memories of it are largely accurate: Conrad uses it to mount a defense of “the world of the living,” which “contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is … I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvellous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural.”

The Shadow Line, which is now in the public domain, was first published in 1916, when it appeared over the course of two months in Metropolitan Magazine. It tells the story of a young man who assumes the captaincy of a ship in “the Orient.” The ghost of the ship’s previous captain, Mr. Burns, lurks: “His face in the full light of day appeared very pale, meagre, even haggard. Somehow I had a delicacy as to looking too often at him; his eyes, on the contrary, remained fairly glued on my face. They were greenish and had an expectant expression.”

Here’s the author’s note Borges mentions: Read More »


A Downright Incantation

December 3, 2013 | by


Old Belgian river station on the Congo River, 1889.

Everyone knows that Heart of Darkness was adapted as Apocalypse Now, but have you ever listened to the 1938 radio version Orson Welles did with the Mercury Theatre? The sound quality is poor, but it’s compelling nonetheless.



The Man in Black, and Other News

February 8, 2013 | by


  • “Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.” (When questioned, Goedde clarified, “I don’t plan on moving this forward—it was a statement.”) 
  • “Jane Austen has been dead for close to two hundred years, but it’s hard to imagine she’s gotten much rest in her grave in Westminster Abbey, what with all the rewrites, updates and zombifications of her work.” Enough already! says Carolyn Kellogg. 
  • “Son, where are your books on trains?” On selling books to Johnny Cash. (Spoiler: as amazing as it sounds.)
  • Yes, there is a hotel designed to look like Joseph Conrad’s steamer. Ten hotels based on literature.


    Conrad Signals, Server Signs

    August 10, 2012 | by


  • Because it is Friday, a Joseph Conrad bat signal.
  • A pair of Irish researchers have determined that Homer’s epics are (partially) based in fact. “We’re not saying that this or that actually happened, or even that the individual people portrayed in the stories are real ... We are saying that the overall society (that emerges from the stories) and interactions between characters seem realistic.”
  • The son of John Steinbeck has publicly objected to the invocation of Of Mice and Men to justify the Texas execution of a mentally handicapped man.
  • Celebrate Julia Child’s centenary with these ten titles.
  • If you  wish to rakishly mix your media, here is how to make a screen saver from your favorite book cover.
  • The secret language of restaurants; or, how your waiter knows who gets what.
  • And how did you celebrate Book Lover’s Day?