Equss Press is delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of two new titles, Natural Complexions by D. Harlan Wilson and GlassHouse by Louis Armand, two important works by two contemporary innovators.
D. HARLAN WILSON, NATURAL COMPLEXIONS (forthcoming, October 2018)
In the late 1960s, J.G. Ballard levied a fierce critique against the then-new phenomenon of media politics, populating the “condensed novels” of The Atrocity Exhibition with such real-life fictionalised characters as Jacqueline Kennedy, JFK, Marilyn Monroe and, of course, Ronald Reagan (whom his protagonist wanted to fuck). He fashioned an insane main character: a doctor at a mental hospital who himself surrenders to a world of psychosis. Ballard vied for a scandal and managed to cause one.
50 years later, D. Harlan Wilson’s Natural Complexions explores the dynamics of contemporary American media pathology and resorts to similar formal strategies. Wilson collects satirical vignettes and docufictions extrapolated from actual news stories, spam emails, advertisements, social networks, and other scraps of disposable infotainment. There’s little need for fictionalising here, as in 2018, there’s no fiction more fictional than the “real.” Through the interactions of over 100 characters, among them movie stars, ex-presidents, televangelists, motivational speakers, con artists, back-alley philosophers, forensics experts and Biblical kings, Wilson’s book faithfully renders the absurdist spiritus mundi that galvanizes the cultural landscape. In contemporary America, you don’t get to fuck the president, but the president sure as hell gets to fuck you. Wilson’s protagonist, a mysterious trickster named Brian Gonka, haunts the pages of the narrative like a machinic ghost. No need to surrender to psychosis here—sanity is no longer an option.
Natural Complexions is a biting satire on modern life as lived online and virtually more than here and now, saturated by media idiocy and the closed circuits of celebrity status at every turn. Its masterful combination of hilarity and eeriness functions as a 21st-century upgrade of the Kafkaesque—both in its compressed epigraphic form and in its obsession with the (im)possibilities of the sacred. Is Wilson’s book vying for a scandal? What would that, in 2018 America, even mean?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“A sharp report from the madhouse is always a joy. Wilson’s prose is exquisitely precise and his humor relentlessly unpredictable. Only two other authors have made me laugh out loud so often: William S. Burroughs and Spike Milligan. Natural Complexions is a very funny, very smart book.”—Malcolm NcNeill, author of Tetra and Ah Pook Is Here
“In these exquisite flares of literary highwire, D. Harlan Wilson corkscrews facts into helixes of strange that feel realer than truth.”—Matthew Roberson, author of List, Impotent and 1998.6
“D. Harlan Wilson’s vignettes sometimes read like news reports from a Fortean America, sometimes read like the dream journals of daytime television personalities, but are always disconcertingly and hilariously connected to the present… reality. Wilson explains how a mysterious tornado can get a shoplifter cleared of charges, an ill-advised selfie can set your world on fire, and discovering the sixth person pronoun can revive a celebrity’s career. In each case the stories he tells are both absurd and true.”—Douglas Lain, author of After the Saucers Landed, Last Week’s Apocalypse and Bash Bash Revolution
“An author in the revolutionary tradition, which he’s unafraid to satirise as venomously as every other.”—Louis Armand, author of The Combinations
LOUIS ARMAND, GLASSHOUSE (forthcoming, October 2018)
“À ces mots, il s’est tu. Assez de mots! Il c’est tué.”
Set in and around Jardin des Plantes, Paris, Europe, the World, the Universe, Armand’s short novel is a whodunit with multiple twists. Meet Françoise X, a primary school teacher on an excursion turned victim of a grisly murder. Meet chief of police Schönbrunn, begrudgingly dealing with ectoplasm amidst fossils just next to the wallaby enclosure, on his “fracking day off” moreover. Meet Qwertz, a ne’er-do-well vagabond for whom Mauthausen was just the beginning of lifelong ordeal. Meet Mahnood, a space-time continuum traveller, in the wrong place at a very wrong time.
The setting of the tale against a backdrop of fossils and marvels of taxidermy gives Armand’s story a macroscopic dimension. As if the evolution of an entire species could be compressed into several hours of a Sunday morning. As if a tale of a murdered schoolteacher and a vengeful mob could tell of speciation and extinction throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth. And it can. Armand’s deftly written fragmentary narrative is a point-counter-point of silent unheard voices, whose apocalyptic finale eschews euphony in favour of a cacophonous refusal of resolution. “NO END” – loose ends being preferable to final solutions…
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Armand writes to the self-reflexive atmospherics of a wild hallucinatory noir. His narrative folds itself again and again, so that each new chapter deepens a sense of cramped desolation and despair. The constant mood of this inescapable dread comes from the tangible stink of evil evoked by his image-lathered prose. He writes in vivid spit gobs of language that detonate carnal images into a wrecked spiritual landscape. Who are his characters? They’re fragments, angles and suffocating close-ups thrown back at us out of receding nightmares. And Armand really does get close up enough to show that not every argument from evil fails. If he’s asking what it would take to redeem these characters and their worlds he’s doing it knowing that if you have to ask then you aren’t reading him right. Armand’s is a bleak and fierce imagination, filtering life’s rancid nightmare through detective tropes that often feel like they’ve drowned. By the time we get to the end we realise the detectives and the dead are all skewered by the incoherence of any final resolution. That, and by Armand’s smart black humour. A great read.” —Richard Marshall, 3AM Magazine
“GlassHouse by Louis Armand should first be read as the novel that refuses at once any overload of words and the silence, as its epigraph in French suggests, because both overload and silence are fatal. It should also be read, as its title indicates, as the presentation and the defense of transparency. The latter is paradoxical since it is attached to the power of observation that the novel exemplifies and to the menagerie and exhibitions of the Musée d’histoire naturelle of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, that it is to say, to the transparency of the glass that protects what is enclosed or fixed. This protection is synonymous with the spectacle and designation of the whole history of evolution with its continuities and holes. This double reading defines the poetics of GlassHouse — a detective story that should turn silence and clues into words and finally meets the enigma of the mob — and its universe, at once cosmic — the evolution commands a cosmic view — and strictly local — the Jardin des Plantes, its neighbourhood and its residents. Or in other words, a whole world and the cosmos are included in a glass house, the Musée d’histoire naturelle and the novel. Because the latter cannot be an overload of words, it offers only a series of portraits and scenes, from the offices of the Musée to the murder of a young female teacher, with many holes that are figurations of the hole of the universe. The portraits — a detective and his associate, a secretary at the Musée, the head of a department, his successor, a female student, some others, and a ‘fishboy’ — are kinds of images that confirm this novel is a play upon totalization and detotalization, lucidity and obscurity. It consequently offers an ironic or contradictory view upon our present, the alliance of realism and fantasy, causticity and playfulness.”—Jean Bessière, Sorbonne-Paris III
“A corpse slathered in ectoplasm has film-noir detective Schönbrunn pursuing the killer rapist through a familiarly unrecognizable Paris – Louis Armand’s sectioned novella finds narrative creeping forth from an excavated Jardin des Plantes; seams of poetry spiel throughout a masterly array of vertiginous prose mechanisms – pitch visceral, snot-gilded sequences that leach forth plot at oblique slant. ‘The vast constellated grid was like a metaphor for all he believed in, all he’d sought to achieve or know, all he doubted.’ – Before we engage with their thoughts and actions, our protagonists’ names themselves spin about arresting conceptual orbits: a Lacanian conceit of Oneness; the baroque architecture of imperial Habsburg; racial politics; keyboard Kabbalah of Mitteleuropa; the prophet Mohammad; an evolutionary algorithm that creates computer programs who adapt like a living organism (GEP); a dildo in the shape of a penis with a scrotum; the trigger of a gun; an extinct genus of lobe-finned fish ‘who lived a long time ago in a rock’, and of course is a stoner. Ruinously crystalline, GlassHouse confines a rewarding pell-mell of literary tip-offs and esoteric taxonomies, fracking each other up before the fatality’s dissolve to lucid absolute – all this, plus an inexplicable fear of ants, Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder, oasis pelicans and a wallaby enclosure: ‘How, despite everything, Paris always gave him, Qwertz, the impression of God staring down into his own navel. . . .’ – maelstromphalos, ripper.” —Richard Makin, author of Dwelling
“Set around the same Parisian Jardin des Plantes which inspired Goethe and Rilke’s romantic outpourings, GlassHouse offers a counter-narrative to this tradition by leading natural history to the point of its autocritique, where words and things have a hard time matching. By cycling through a host of vividly realised characters and stylistic modes, between searing black humour and soaring unfettered poetry, it decomposes rigid arborescent taxonomies into prismatic subdivisions of the event. Poised in this uncanny border zone of the incompleteness of formal systems, this is writing which pushes language to a state of disequilibrium.” —Thomas Murphy
“Louis Armand is among the best literary authors working today. In GlassHouse, he ushers us into a world of intrigue, surreality and dark romanticism, exposing the intricacies of (un)consciousness with the combined flair of Joyce, Kafka and Burroughs. This is first-rate writing—Armand’s exquisite prose is a delicacy to be savored.”—D. Harlan Wilson, author of J.G. Ballard