Of Rich's forthcoming novel, The Mayor's Tongue, Stephen King wrote: "This is an elegantly-structured, brilliantly-told novel, by turns terrifying, touching, and wildly funny, and always generous and magical."
I recently asked Rich what he was reading. His reply:
A friend just sent me Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 prose poem, The Wild Party, which tells the story of a bunch of floozies and broken-nosed wiseguys who get together for a drunken orgy. The book was banned at the time of its publication, but reclaimed from obscurity by Art Spiegelman, who illustrated a new edition that Pantheon published in 1999. (Spiegelman seems to have particularly relished the chance to draw the character of Queenie, a sexed-up blond vaudeville dancer who appears naked, in numerous poses, throughout the book). March’s schoolboy rhymes give the sordid subject matter a strangely pleasant menace:Rich wrote in Slate: "O'Brien's lack of readership [compared with Beckett's and Joyce's] is particularly surprising since of the holy Irish trinity, he is by far the funniest. His masterpiece, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939), has the singular distinction of being consistently laugh-out-loud funny, even on a second or third read, even 70 years after its publication. Many readers today regard Ulysses or the Molloy trilogy in a daze of stultification or with mild terror at the novels' calculated efforts to frustrate narrative convention. Yet it would take a reader of calcified heart to read O'Brien's best work without laughing his face off." [read more]
The candles flared: the shadows sprang tall,
Leapt goblin-like from wall to wall;
Mimicking those invited.
The noise was like great hosts at war:
They shouted; they laughed:
They shrieked: they swore:
They stamped and pounded their feet on the floor:
And they clung together in fierce embraces,
And danced and lurched with savage faces
That were wet
Their eyes were glassy and set.
I also recently read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle—predictable, preachy, grim, yet totally absorbing. I was surprised that John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces turned out to be tedious, but was revived by a re-reading of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds, one of my favorite books and the funniest one I know.
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