Surreal mid-century British fiction? Yes, please.

Posted by Tobias Carroll

Up now at The Rumpus is an essay by the esteemed Brian Evenson, taken from his introduction to Barbara Comyns’s Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead. And here’s where I resolved to pick said novel up:

At times, it feels like an extended daydream; at other times it descends into nightmare. The two events that most shape the book, and indeed the lives of the people within them, are external events: the flood and its aftermath on the one hand, and the odd and initially unexplained outbreak of illness on the other.

(As an aside, fans of Evenson’s writing may also be interested to know that he’ll be hosting an event for the journal Conjunctions at BookCourt this Friday.)

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead is being reissued by Dorothy, a new independent press based in Urbana, IL. Their mission statement suggests interesting work to come:

We want to publish books that, whether conventional or un-, are uniquely themselves, that do not lean against preconceived ideas of what is wonderful, but brilliantly and purposefully convince us that they are, themselves, wonderful. We are also interested in thinking about how such books might fit together and collectively become a “project.”

Also worth a look: their explanation of the origin of their name. Dorothy’s other inaugural release, Renee Gladman’s Event Factory, comes with blurbs from Laird Hunt and Eileen Myles and looks to touch on themes of language and urban life.

NYRB Classics has also reissued a novel of Comyns’s — this one, The Vet’s Daughter, is described as “like an unexpected cross between Flannery O’Connor and Stephen King.” What this comes down to, I think, is that I’ll be reading several of her novels in the months to come…