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Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Steadman’

Not Sorry: An Interview with Jeremy M. Davies

March 1, 2016 | by


Collections of stories often lose steam as they go, because even stories that are great individually can sound too alike when read together. But Jeremy M. Davies’s The Knack of Doing steers far clear of this problem—almost aggressively so. His stories vary so wildly—stylistically, topically, even conceptually—that I can’t imagine where half his ideas come from: a series of letters from a father to his children, doled out to them by his ex-wife as she absconds with them on a trans-Atlantic cruise in the 1920s; a cartoonish, otherworldly smash-up of Robert Burns and Flann O’Brien; a tale of hypnotism and metafiction in eighteenth-century France. Davies is a writer of great precision, intelligence, humor, and depth, but if there is a guiding spirit in his work, it’s invention, literature’s endless potential for reimagining its forms of expression.

Davies is also the author of two novels—Rose Alley (2009) and Fancy (2015)—and was for many years senior editor at Dalkey Archive Press. We corresponded over e-mail in January of this year.

Harry Mathews wrote of your first book, Rose Alley, that it “ambushes the reader, not with brutality but with wit, irresistible ingenuity, and a stupefying narrative abundance.” It seems to me these are precisely the qualities you share with Mathews—wit, ingenuity, abundance—all of which are variations on playfulness. What is the role of play in your writing?

Play is of supreme importance to me. Everything I write begins with a sense of play and hopes to engage the reader’s playfulness in turn. Not that I’m always giggling to myself as I work, but I do think writing that doesn’t have a sense of play is going to wind up pretty dead on the page, no matter its subject.

My own rule of thumb is, If I’m not having fun, stop. If I can’t picture someone else having fun reading what I’m writing, stop. Bearing in mind that “fun” can mean many things. Primo Levi writing about life in a condition of absolute terror and deprivation probably wasn’t having fun, as such, but he was engaged—he’d have to be. He wasn’t plodding across the page. He wasn’t being dutiful. The same goes for Ivy Compton-Burnett writing about trivial differences of opinion among the wealthy. The same goes for Robert Sheckley writing about interdimensional travel. The same certainly goes for Harry Mathews and the writers he led me to, like Jane Bowles or Laura (Riding) Jackson. I think the same goes for just about every writer worth reading. They give you permission to play. Read More »


January 14, 2016 | by


This week, I started obsessively revisiting the 1997 album Closed on Account of Rabies, which features Edgar Allan Poe poems and stories interpreted by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Marianne Faithfull, Christopher Walken, and Debbie Harry. (David Bowie, in case you’re wondering, was not involved, although I think some Bowie-related rabbit hole led me back to it.) Read More »

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 »

The Self Resides in the Chest, and Other News

March 20, 2014 | by


Descartes thought the seat of the soul was in the pineal gland. He was so wrong.

  • “Revenge should have no bounds,” the Bard wrote in Hamlet, and one man, at least, vigorously agrees: when a graphic designer in Bristol failed to receive the gaming console he’d bought online, he sought retribution by sending the scammer the complete works of Shakespeare via text message.
  • An early photo of Jason Segel portraying David Foster Wallace indicates that Jason Segel does not very much resemble David Foster Wallace.
  • Where are you? You are in your chest. Researchers “asked ten blindfolded adults to use a metal pointer to motion at ‘themselves.’ Most people indicated their upper torso area … ‘the torso is, so to speak, the great continent of the body, relative to which all other body parts are mere peninsulas. Where the torso goes, the body follows.’”
  • In a new interview, Ralph Steadman discusses, among other things, his old pet sheep: “It was a mutant sheep, but a local farmer was taking it to slaughter. I adopted her, named her Zeno, or him perhaps—does it really matter? It’s a sheep, after all … I would go to her in the morning for wisdom, for a philosophic message of what to do with the day.”
  • John Banville’s new novel resurrects Raymond Chandler’s beloved private eye, Philip Marlowe, raising the question: “At what point does a work of supposed literary merit simply become fan fiction?”



Fear and Loathing in Wonderland

January 10, 2014 | by


From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Ralph Steadman, 1973. Via Brain Pickings.

Ralph Steadman’s febrile and slightly sinister take on Alice in Wonderland, published in 1973 and exhumed today by Brain Pickings, will make you think twice before using the phrase “Cheshire Cat grin.”