What made Orwell’s 1984 a classic? The language of this high-school required reading isn’t particularly memorable, with the obvious exception of phrases like, “war is peace,” and “ignorance is strength.” The plot swings rustily on an ill-fated romance in the first part. The lovers, Winston and Julia, are unlikable, one-dimensional, selfish anybodies. In the second part, Winston’s torturer O’Brien, like Milton’s Satan, steals the literary stage for a bit, but, even so, his evil nature lacks style, compared to, say, Medea or the Judge. Remarkably, however, I will say, that, as tragedies go, 1984 pulls its hero down lower than any Greek drama or Cormac McCarthy novel that I can think of. Winston Smith ends in total dehumanization when he accepts Big Brother into his heart as his savior.
It may be the bleakest book.
What made the book so popular—beyond its utility to American Cold War propagandists targeting Soviets—is that the literary naturalism brought the imagined surveillance state into reality. The gritty dismal future was made concrete and literal. Fully realized fear powerfully attracts readers. This is your future. Here we are. Continue reading
“The Grim Reaper visits Florida wearing a silly tie. One man’s life is done…or is it? What happens if you subvert the cosmic order?”
Dactyl Review friends at The Strange Recital have released another great podcast. Head on over there and listen to U. R. Bowie read from his recent collection of short stories. Stay tuned for an interview at the end of the recording.
Newton’s collection of surreal stories, Seven Cries of Delight (Recital Publishing, 170 pages) was nominated by Brent Robison who, in his review, writes, “As legions of MFA students busily workshop their childhood drama into market-friendly ‘realistic’ fiction, Tom Newton has clearly been following a different muse.” At Dactyl Review we value unique and eccentric talent and our readers will find those few authors writing today who aren’t trying to appeal to the most common of those dominating the market. Newton appeals to a special literary taste, to those whose minds tend to wander, who question the act of thinking itself and who often catch themselves in the act, examining the form and structure of the process of meaning-making. In short, Newton writes about thought-art. Continue reading
Presented as a memoir of Captain John Smith, founder of Jamestown Colony, Virginia in 1607, The Weight of Smoke (McPherson & Co, 389 pages) is the work of a self-described antiquarian, rare books dealer whose imagination is stacked to the ceiling with historic archives and Elizabethan letters. With this volume of historical fiction, Minkoff truly does seem to inhabit the language of those times.
Smith’s narration has a reflexivity to it that radically alters the reader’s sense of time. Every line is both fraught with Smith’s rich backstory and, at the same time, is nervously peering into his bleak future. Such tricks with time are only possible in literary narrative. And it’s a reading experience that is mind-expanding. If his narration had a shape it would torus-like, perhaps, or arabesque, but definitely not linear. Continue reading
Happy New Year to all our friends. Looking back on 2019, I optimistically note that participation at Dactyl Review has increased since 2018, with many good contributions: reviews, new book announcements, and editorials. We have nine new nominations for the Dactyl Literary Award this year, and these will be in the running for the 2019 award, together with nominations from previous years when no prize was awarded.
Although we usually announce the winner fairly early in the year, I have not yet read all the nominated books. I beg your patience. It’s a lot of very important work that I take seriously. And I also have a review of a book from my favorite literary fiction publisher, McPherson & Co., to finish and post soon. (It’s been a crazy, busy year for me.) In the meantime, I will personally match any donations (up to $500) made to Dactyl Foundation between now and the day of the award announcement. As always, and at any time in the year, your donation is fully tax-deductible.I want to take this time to mention that contributing editor U. R. Bowie reviewed Olga Tokarczuk’s, book Flights, translated into English by Jennifer Croft, which subsequently won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2019. Bowie’s review was one of the first to praise the book and his review is one of the longest and most complex to be published before the Nobel prize announcement. You read it here first. Good catch, Bowie.
Looking forward to Dactyl Review‘s 10th anniversary in March of 2020, Dactyl Foundation is pursuing plans to operate as a non-profit hub for a literary publishing cooperative. Since 2010 we have been providing authors with what they need most: excellent peer reviewers, potential to receive a generous financial award, recognition for good work, and a community of like-minded authors. We hope that our cooperative venture will provide much, much more of the same and then some.
Thanks everyone for all the reading, writing and reviewing you do.
V. N. Alexander, Editor, Dactyl Review
The state of platform cooperativism November 7-9, 2019 at the New School in NYC.
Around the globe, we are starting to build an alternative economy that benefits the many, not just the few. Our passions, research, and projects challenge platform capitalism and chart a more democratic future. We show that an inclusive economy is not only necessary but already growing among us.
When starting a platform co-op, we have a much better chance at success if we rely on the support of our communities, established co-ops, incubators, co-op banks, unions, foundations, researchers, lawyers, technologists, and policymakers. “Who Owns the World?” is about building connections between these groups, finding the much-needed support, and learning from each other. For the first time, this event will bring together many of the most active players in this movement worldwide to share updates and insights, instigate initiatives, make new friends, lift each other up, plan next steps, and find new business partners as well as funders.
Celebrating 10 years of digital labor conferences at The New School, “Who Owns the World?” will feel the pulse of platform cooperativism, worldwide.
Victoria Alexander, director at the Dactyl Foundation and editor of Dactyl Review, will speak on Saturday Nov 8th about efforts to transform literary fiction publishing using a co-operative platform model.
New Book Announcement
My first novel just emerged into the world after too many years in gestation. It has a strong Hudson Valley NY presence but also ventures to Utah deserts and further foreign hotspots. In addition to the blurbs on the website, I like John Burdick’s take on it in the Almanac Weekly: “Ponckhockie Union is a mad fireworks display of global conspiracy and paranoia, haunted synchronicities, shadow-world manipulations of history, tricksters and false guides and the sudden and irreparable rupture of everything normal and stable in one man’s life. It also posits a model of what a sturdy self might look like after such a rupture, after acute exposure to the things going on underground and overhead. And it takes place down by the Rondout.” That’s a reference to the creek adjoining the Ponckhockie neighborhood of Kingston, NY, where the British landed in 1777 to burn down New York’s first capital. But historical fiction this is not. There are shadowy assassins, but it’s not a “whodunit;” perhaps a “who-am-I” is more accurate. With a pinch of metafiction thrown in. Available online and by order at bookstores.
New Book Announcement
by Charles Holdefer, illustrations by Royce M. Becker
From Genii Magazine:
This wee tome is very attractive. Royce M. Becker’s design and colorful illustrations are beautiful.
Mr. Holdefer is an abundantly gifted, witty writer. His creation, his delightful doppelganger Blast, is a funny, goofy, erudite, Baron Munchausen of magic… Highly Recommended.
The reader of a good book can hear the narrator speaking, can even envision the narrator’s gestures and facial expressions. Dactyl Review contributing editor, U. R. Bowie consistently produces fiction that animates itself in the reader’s mind. And now this, an audiobook of Bowie’s short story collection, Such Is the Scent of Our Sweet Opalescence (Ogee Zakamora, 148 pages), read by the author. (Paperback also available.) The narrator of title story is Uretherer V. Lamb, a character reminiscent of one of Kurt Vonnegut’s memorable creations. The story opens when U.V. is struck by lighting in the midst of taking a leak roadside. He meets death, in the form of grinning Delmas W. Pruitt, but somehow U.V. cheats Delmas and goes on to live his life as a “backslider” without a soul, it seems.
Beginning immediately, authors who have reviewed on this site in the past year are encouraged to send in news and announcements about their own books. Let us know if you have a new book out, or your old book just got another good review, or any noteworthy anecdote about your novel or short story collection. Keep it brief. About 500 words.
Also Dactyl Review continues to offer you the opportunity to post your available review copies here.