The surreal world
Exact Change, the experimental publishing house run by Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang (a duo best known for their musical endeavors as Damon & Naomi and Galaxie 500), reprints works by the wild minds of literature. They focus on Dada, Pataphysics, Surrealism, and avant-garde energy from the 19th and 20th centuries, and their latest title, out this week, fits right into the mix. “Mount Analogue” by René Daumal and translated from the French by Roger Shattuck, is an adventure story of an expedition to a mountain which exists and doesn’t exist, can be inferred but not seen: “The door to the invisible must be visible.” There’s a tone of playful mysticism, a crammed-up combo of “Into Thin Air” and a painting by Remedios Varo. “Here’s a truth, one small but certain truth. In the whole show there’s nothing but mystery and error. Where one ends, the other begins.” The book, originally published in 1959, ends mid-sentence; Daumal died, aged 44, before finishing. “Mount Analogue” joins Exact Change’s roster among works by Gerard de Nerval, Fernando Pessoa, Antonin Artaud, John Cage, Alice James, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, and Unica Zürn, among others.
The 11th annual Salem Literary Festival takes place this coming weekend, bringing over 50 authors for readings and panel discussions in historic spots around the town. The festival opens with Whitney Scharer, whose “The Age of Light” (Little, Brown) reimagines the life of photographer Lee Miller. Saturday’s panels include “The Truth of the Matter” with Kim McLarin (“Womanish”), Jabari Asim (“We Can’t Breathe”), Cheryl Suchors (“48 Peaks”), and Deborah Blum (“The Poison Squad”), moderated by Diane Stern; “Real Life, Represented: Honesty in Fiction” with Chaya Bhuvaneswar (“White Dancing Elephants”), Katrin Schumann (“The Forgotten Hours”), Jeanne Blasberg (“The Nine”), Belle Brett (“Gina in the Floating World”), with Randy Susan Meyers moderating; and “Delectable Tales,” a panel on food and stories, gathers Ann Hood (“Kitchen Yarns”), Crystal King (“The Chef’s Secret”), Louise Miller (“The Late Bloomer’s Club”), with Michael Ruhlman moderating. Saturday’s keynote features author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Sunday’s programs focus on Y.A. concerns with a writing workshop, a group of debut authors, and panels on “Walls, Racism, Captivity & Guns,” and “Dragons, Dreams, and a Drag Queen Sorceress.” Events are free and take place from Sept. 20-22. For a complete schedule, visit salemlitfest.org.
A speaker series debuts this fall from the American Ancestors organization, the oldest genealogical organization in the country, with its base in the Back Bay. “American Inspiration,” which opens this week, brings authors whose books wrestle with immigration, identity, and social and cultural history. On Tuesday, Susan Ronald will discuss her biography “Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire” (St. Martin’s), about the life of the influential publisher. Later this fall will see Brian Jay Jones with his book “Becoming Dr. Seuss” (Sept. 26); Gail Collins discussing “No Stopping Us Now: A History of Older Women in America” (Oct. 18); and George Howe Colt, author of “The Big House,” to discuss “The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968” (Nov 21), among other events. Readings take place at 99-101 Newbury St., in Boston, and tickets start at $12.50. For a complete schedule visit americanancestors.org/index.aspx.
“A Kitchen in the Corner of the House” by Ambai, translated from the Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström (Archipelago)
“Red at the Bone” by Jacqueline Woodson (Riverhead)
“The Undying” by Anne Boyer (FSG)
Pick of the week
Ari S. at Trident Booksellers in Boston recommends “Patsy” by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright): “Dennis-Benn, in addition to stepping unflinchingly into the undesirable and understandable nature of Patsy’s interpersonal relationships, magnifies a commentary on experiences of (undocumented) immigrants in the US. There’s no softening of this content — nor is there much I can say to fully encompass the punch of this novel.”
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.