John the Posthumous
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"After reading Jason Schwartz, it's difficult to talk about any other writer's originality or unique relation to the language. John the Posthumous is a work of astounding power and distinction, beautifully strange, masterful." -Sam Lipsyte "[Schwartz] is complete, as genius agonizingly is." -Gordon Lish "Haunting, original prose by a writer unlike any other on the planet. Jason Schwartz is a master." -Ben Marcus John the Posthumous exists in between fiction and poetry, elegy and history: a kind of novella in objects, it is an anatomy of marriage and adultery, an interlocking set of fictional histories, and the staccato telling of a murder, perhaps two murders. This is a literary album of a pre-Internet world, focused on physical elements - all of which are tools for either violence or sustenance. Knives, old iron gates, antique houses in flames; Biblical citations, blood and a history of the American bed: the unsettling, half-perceived images, and their precise but alien manipulation by a master of the language will stay with readers. Its themes are familiar - violence, betrayal, failure - its depiction of these utterly original and hauntingly beautiful.
storm windows and the screens: these are rather in disrepair. The lake window, as we would refer to it—though the house, of course, faces neither a lake nor a pond, nor even a creek, a fork, a stream—had been governed, for a time, by a curious assemblage of hinges, several of which suggested claws. The objects on the windowsill: I suppose they were carried off—once and for all—by the wind. It is more satisfactory in this corner of the house, at the bow window—especially in the morning, in
notably—or an overturned rowboat. The hanging features a three-legged mare, which gives way, in later examples, to a simpler figure. The drop, at Newgate, 1783. Two posts and a crossbeam, a five-foot trap, and a scaffold covered with haircloth or drill. The veil always acquits itself quite well. Ox-carts travel hither and yon. A balcony gallows may help dignify things a bit, despite the maulings in the courtyard. A roadside gibbet, for its part, makes little accommodation for the sounds in a
A winding-sheet would imply contagion, despite the burlap sacks at the chapel wall. The coffins: on the lawn. These are adorned with various forms. The likeness of a child—divided lengthwise—or an overturned rowboat. The inscriptions, in cursive, list the hour and the year, and then explain the arrangement of graves. FOUR The mother gives way, in due course, to a red morris—so named for the disposition of steeples beyond the burial mound, or for the absence of the man’s arms—and then to
it—the throat, or the wrists and the throat, the seams appearing to bleed. Ephesians cites “children,” which may explain a blot in the margin, say, if not the formation of horses on a shoreline. The birds at the falls, for their part—these were waterfowl of an ordinary variety, the sadder examples crippled or maimed. It was a lavish drowning, according to that story—a gentleman, or some other lonely figure, early in the morning, a thicket and a hilltop in the distance. Philippians cites
hope, to remove knives from left to right, and the glasses last. This one has cracked in my absence. The hallway offers its own disappointments, beginning here, in poor light, and following discreetly to the gash in the far wall. Deathwatch beetles will attack woodwork of this variety. And then: the joists and cripples. The ticking sound, once thought a final sign, is actually a fact of courtship. I imagine the jaw as a broken line or as a simple triangle, the points in gray. A circle