ALISTAIR McCARTNEY- THE END OF THE WORLD BOOK
The End of the World Book: A Novel by Alistair McCartney
(University of Wisconsin Press 08)
TEOTWB is not only a novel but also an encyclopedia, A to Z, of obsessions, memories and philosophical/homoerotic fixations. Highly acclaimed, TEOTWB was recently nominated for the presitigious Publish Triangle Edmund White debut fiction award.
As Dennis Cooper, author of God Jr. said, “If I’ve read a more deeply impressive, beautiful, sweeping, mindful, and innovative first novel than Alistair McCartney’s The End of the World Book, I have no memory of it. McCartney is a writer of peerless, brilliant originality and pure, giant talent.”
The Los Angeles Times referred to it as "...a giddy literary jape...The literary "insurgency" that "The End of the World Book" proceeds from is almost entirely French -- the not-quite-novels of Maurice Blanchot, Pierre Klossowski, Raymond Queneau and Louis-René des Forêts invariably called récits (accounts)...an interrogation of literature -- how we think about writing, what we choose to write about and why....delightfully peculiar"
And as the rave review in the Seattle Times (on which TEOTWB ended up on the top ten list for 08) stated, "Novel? Memoir? Encyclopedia? Fantasia? The End of the World Book...is all these things at once. And its brilliant....so sharp and alive that you feel as though bright, perverse balloons of insight are expanding-or exploding in your mind as you turn the pages. if you like Australian literary maverick Murray Bail or order-obsessed imagination of Peter Greenaway, you won't want to miss this."
Interview with the author in NYC Gay City News
BOOK INFO and MORE PRESS
The End of the World Book
A Novel by
This is no ordinary novel. An encyclopedia of memory-from A to Z-The End of the World Book deftly intertwines fiction, memoir, and cultural history, reimagining the story of the world and one man's life as they both hurtle toward a frightening future. Alistair McCartney's alphabetical guide to the apocalypse layers images like a prose poem, building from Aristotle to da Vinci, hip-hop to lederhosen, plagues to zippers, while barreling from antiquity to the present.
In this profound book about mortality, McCartney composes an irreverent archive of philosophical obsessions and homoerotic fixations, demonstrating the difficulty of separating what is real from what is imagined.
“If I’ve read a more deeply impressive, beautiful, sweeping, mindful, and innovative first novel than Alistair McCartney’s The End of the World Book, I have no memory of it. McCartney is a writer of peerless, brilliant originality and pure, giant talent.”
Dennis Cooper, author of God Jr and The Sluts
"Beguiling, comical, earnest, and wise beyond its author's years. Crossing sporadic bursts of linear narrative with a detailed taxonomy of altercation, McCartney has engineered a compelling compendium of integrated distractions, somewhat in the manner of Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. Read it from A to Z. He knows who you are: you will be quizzed."
James McCourt, author of Queer Street
"The End of the World Book is in turn informative, playful, erotic, imaginary, witty, perverse, charming, autobiographical, and full of wonders; the letter K, for example, begins with Kafka and ends with Freddie Krueger. If the world is ending soon, I recommend you read it while there's still time."
-Jim Krusoe, author of Iceland and Girl Factory
Alistair McCartney is the author of THE END OF THE WORLD BOOK to be published in April 2008 by University of Wisconson Press. This is no ordinary novel. An encyclopedia of memory-from A to Z-The End of the World Book deftly intertwines fiction, memoir, and cultural history. Born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1971, his writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fence, Bloom, James White Review, and other literary journals, as well as in a number of fiction and creative nonfiction anthologies, including Wonderlands: Good Gay Travel Writing (University of Wisconsin Press) and Between Men (Carroll and Graf.) He lives in Los Angeles with his partner Tim Miller and teaches creative writing and literature in the BA and MFA Programs at Antioch University Los Angeles and Antioch Santa Barbara.
Here's the feature on the book from yesterday's Critical Mass, the National Book Critics Circle Blog at [Link][Link]"ttp://bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com/2008/05/small-press-spotlight-alistair.html
More Critical Praise
As William J. Mann, author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn says, "TEOTWB heralds the arrival of a daring new voice in literature, the literary equivalent of Todd Haynes’ collaged post modern films, Slava Mogutin’s edgy urban photographs, Hernan Bas’s paintings of decadent dandies, and the Magnetic Fields’merging of irony and classic poignant pop. "
In their advance review Publishers Weekly wrote "… a surreal and self-referential encyclopedia for the 21st century. Arranged alphabetically, McCartney employs a short, free association style to expound on disparate topics, including Princess Diana, head lice, extinction-and everything in between. …fans of alternative literature and Borges may discover a kindred spirit. "
Featured as the recent lead review in the Advocate, TEOTWB was praised for its "…adult sense of imminent apocalypse... and flashes of brilliance… there's little doubt that his quixotic compilation can be more inventive in its brevity than many novels."
The Los Angeles Times said, "...a giddy literary jape...The literary "insurgency" that "The End of the World Book" proceeds from is almost entirely French -- the not-quite-novels of Maurice Blanchot, Pierre Klossowski, Raymond Queneau and Louis-René des Forêts invariably called récits (accounts)...an interrogation of literature -- how we think about writing, what we choose to write about and why....delightfully peculiar"
Library Journal said of the book " McCartney's playful, almost free-associative prose comes on like the work of a performance artist...or an avant-garde stand-up comic; it's often scabrously funny."
and in the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter it stated "Alistair McCartney's debut fiction work turns the 20th-century writing format on its ear... a literary box of delicacies...It's tempting to gorge on entire chunks, but take it slow, letter by letter, and savor the eccentric beauty of McCartney's prose."
"McCartney seems, like Wilde arriving in America before him, ' to have nothing to declare but his genius. ' I dare anyone to read The End of the World Book without being moved by its restless romanticism, its perfect paragraphs and the whisper of mortality that seeps through these pages...you won't find a more unusual book this year..."
Kevin Killian, Lambda Book Report
"The alphabetically arranged sections...are stunning in their wit, wisdom ,and sharpness. Some are poignant; others are downright disturbing.The love of knowledge--and experience of loss-- is the connective tissue of this novel... which provides us a view into the idiosyncratic mind of someone who has lived at the land's end for most of his life....The view from there is challenging, disturbing, and engaging."
The Gay and Lesbian Review
LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW
From obsession to obsession
In 'The End of the World Book,' something's missing in the family encyclopedia--and Alistair McCartney has his finger on it.
By David Ehrenstein, Special to The Times
April 8, 2008
"THIS encyclopedia is a dream," author Alistair McCartney declares right at the start of what he formally bills a novel. And in a sense this giddy literary jape is all three. Its form is that of an eccentric encyclopedia, with entries including "Head Lice," "Hummel Figurines," "Sex Addiction in Antiquity" and "Plane Crashes, the History of." Its content is quasi-fictional with elements (there's no real plot or characters to speak of) that sport a woozy dream-like logic to their assemblage. And this in turn relates to McCartney's coolly casual observations about sex which "is, after all, just a variation on dream." As for the title, "The End of the World Book," it's less apocalyptic than you might think. For McCartney's point of departure is the World Book Encyclopedia. "The End of the World Book" is its addenda; filled with entries that the most hallowed of suburban middle-class family encyclopedias somehow left out.
"The first encyclopedia was created by Aristotle in 322 BC; it was an attempt to bring together all the ideas of the time, but he also made things up," McCartney notes. But those tomes we know today have no particular author -- culling their information from a wide variety of sources that are then alphabetically organized. "The End of the World Book" just has McCartney -- singular and specific a writer as all get-out.
Born in Australia, he has for the last 14 years been what polite society refers to as the "life-partner" of noted Los Angeles performance artist Tim Miller. McCartney regards the term with icy disdain: "I'll refer to my boyfriend as my insurgent." The literary "insurgency" that "The End of the World Book" proceeds from is almost entirely French -- the not-quite-novels of Maurice Blanchot, Pierre Klossowski, Raymond Queneau and Louis-René des Forêts invariably called récits (accounts).
One thinks especially of "Exercises in Style," a 1947 compendium by Queneau in which a bus ride is recounted 99 different ways. There is however, one notable English-language precedent for McCartney -- the writings of artist/aphorist Joe Brainard whose "I Remember" series mixed nostalgia with puckish wit in haiku-like recollections such as "I remember 'come as you are' parties. Everyone cheated," and "I remember when I worked in a snack bar and how much I hated people who ordered malts."
McCartney's thoughts are more expansive. He writes of a Gertrude Stein who would "catch glimpses of the Holocaust, waiting there for her behind her endless sentences: a void so great it could not be covered up by any amount of repetition, one so vast it threatened to swallow up all her things" and notes of the so-called golden age of the sexually freewheeling 1970s, "The golden age actually begins in 1981, and then, not confined to the space of a decade, stretches backward like a long gold streak, far away from us, far away from disco, all the way back to antiquity." By contrast, in the 1980s, he claims, "pocket calculators were the height of eroticism."
What "The End of the World Book" aims for, and often achieves, is an interrogation of literature -- how we think about writing, what we choose to write about and why. "Anna Karenina" rather than a tragic romance, is for McCartney "a book of blushing." What interests him about Marie Curie is not the discovery of radium, but the stylish dress she so often wore. Henry James evokes for him not literary style but "a cholo by the name of Ricky." Goethe inspires comments on heavy metal music, and Kafka the rise of gay pornography in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. "I would say I've been a Communist ever since I was about nine or ten and saw a picture in the World Book of an Eastern Bloc gymnast." Clearly the much celebrated gay lit of David Leavitt and Edmund White isn't postmodern enough for him.
Born in 1971, McCartney grew to adulthood in shadow of AIDS, which he dryly observes "would probably win the prize for the most interesting disease." Moreover he's well aware it's not the only tragedy of modern times. "Here at the 'End of the World Book' we firmly believe that we must keep categorizing and that this is the only thing keeping the world, and us, from ending."
And what if the world does truly come to an end? "God will simply strip us of all our irony. . . . Unable to bear the literal, we will die almost immediately from exposure to the world's day-glo elements, its harsh beauty." An impressive image. But after reading this book one can't imagine McCartney dying from contact with beauty, however harsh, or operating without the irony that gives his récit its delightfully peculiar kick.