Hunger's Brides
Page Updated On: 04/16/2013

6 Volumes

Stairway

A word from the publishers (2002)

 

(Although we had to tell the author that the 2004 release will not be not serial but rather in a single volume, all the nice things we said in 2002 still hold.)

Hunger’s Brides is a novel in six books that we are considering for serial release. Well, a novel in the sense that the novel is the most fluid of imaginary forms. Better, perhaps, to approach it as a small necropolis sprung up about a tomb. Of an emperor, for instance, and his bride. Together, the temple complex, burial vault and catafalque enshrine - round the leathery remnants of the Tyrant - expressions of that civilisation’s high arts: frescoes, urns, weavings, jewellery, musical instruments; sculpture, scrolls and murals.

But there is more to a city than the glorification of emperors, and so his complex houses not just art but latrines, barracks, brothels, stables, granaries, archives, palaces, altars, forges, cells, schools, market stalls. Imagine, now, that city sacked, despoiled, pilfered, shattered. If these are losses to historical science and beauty and permanence, all is not therefore lost. The sack of his city, the ruin of his empire, the desecration of his tomb and his bride’s say things the emperor’s artists could not. More even than the city intact, its ruins are a work of, and for, the imagination...

Colonnades blasted by wind and sand down to goblet stems — at their groins, the goiters of swallows’ nests. Overhead roost doves, swatches of plaster wait to fall, silken bolts of sunweft motes unfurl from the rack of a roof rift, wisps of cloud slip into banquet halls, rainwater pools in shards of tile. Along the walls, tapestries rotting to showy cobwebs, sentries standing solemn behind chiselled-off noses and toes and phalluses, masks agape, their jewelled eyes gouged blind - a lover’s promise, stale, broken, scratched into a fresco. Down the halls, moustached goddesses. At the last passage’s end a jimmied sarcophagus....

Although we are the largest publishing group in the world, no one here remembers publishing a work of quite this, um, scope. We have no special wish to lose our shirts on this, so have decided to test the waters with a serial edition, as was the case with the novels of Dickens, Dostoevski and some 19th-century writers more justly forgotten. The books will be released at the rate of one per month, roughly as fast as a busy reader of books and magazines can finish them. So, like series television but unlike series fiction (released, say, once a year), the work has not been laced with repeated information for those tuning in late or forgetting the story. Instead, at the back of every book will be a half-page distillation of each preceding volume. Again, this is a serial edition, meant to be read first to last. Though each volume is a thematic and more or less chronological whole, it does not offer the closure of a stand-alone volume, nor should it be confused with trilogies and quartets, which aim for this closure, more or less successfully. Which, in turn, often depends on whether they were originally plotted as a cluster of books, or were rewritten as such, or just turned into one. No, for Hunger’s Brides, art’s illusion of closure is a truth pursued only by the work as a whole.

We’re only publishers of course, but we like art too and so have scrambled around quite a lot for some excuse, some thin pretext, to take this on. Someone finally turned up a quote by Paul Auster, whom we all like. In his introduction to a re-edition of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, Mr. Auster cites Samuel Beckett in an interview. What I am saying does not mean that there will henceforth be no form in art. It only means that there will be a new form, and that this form will be of such a type that it admits the chaos and does not try to say that the chaos is really something else ... To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.

One such imaginary form might be this small necropolis; or another, the ashes of the absolute book — the lifework of Mallarmé, its pages burned by him before his death, perhaps in order to give form to the defeat of form, to give Chaos her due.

Six slim books, then, modestly bound and priced to sell, as it were, by dividing six ways all the costs of finding, editing, designing, and marketing a single larger work. This will be a limited edition, in numbers more customary to collections of poetry and devotions. If the reception of readers and critics warrants, we may release the usual, though in this case colossal, hardcover edition, or in our wildest dreams the thrillingly expensive leather-bound, boxed-set collector’s edition.

If not, you may be holding in your hands right now a collector’s edition, of the first and perhaps last serial novel of the twenty-first century.

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