A review of

Bass Cathedral

by Nathaniel Mackey

Central question: Can a serial novel with no beginning or end bring about a world music revolution?
Format: 224 pp. paperback; Size: 5" x 8"; Price: $14.95; Publisher: New Directions; Editor: Jeffrey Yang; Book design: Rodrigo Corral and Gus Powell; Number of letters written to angel of dust: thirty-eight; Sketches of balloons: one; Number of balloons emerging from the record player: six; Number of band members in Molimo m’Atet, formerly the Mystic Horn Society: six; Representative sentence: “Djamilaa’s makeshift martinete was more a makeshift buleria now, the band a band of creatures of rhythm and repetition, sacred and profane conduits caroling chiliastic sweat.”

Dig, if you will, dear reader, this useful false dichotomy:

There are two types of literary fiction books not on the best-seller list.

The first has a traditional plot, recognizable characters, and some form of everyday language. It is, in many ways, just like its best-selling brethren—with a slight tilt in the publishing axis, this book could get picked for Oprah’s Book Club, adapted into a major motion picture, or eventually showcased on that big list. But this doesn’t happen, because the book has its quirks—an off-kilter narrator, an obscure vocabulary, a plot based on an unread classic, no distribution, bad cover art, etc.

Let’s call this type of book the Bizarro Updike Book.

You know this book. You’ve read it on the bus and in fits and starts before drifting off to sleep. You’ve finished it. You’ve forgotten it.

Then there’s the other type of book. This type of book is weird. Its plot, characters, and setting are so far from the ken of a best seller that for it to succeed commercially, the reading world would have to undergo a revolution of consciousness.

Let’s call this type of book a Nathaniel Mackey Book.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Travis Nichols

Travis Nichols is a poet and fiction writer living in Seattle. His first collection of poems is forthcoming from Letter Machine Press, and his first novel is forthcoming from Coffee House Press. He edits the online magazine Weird Deer.

News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list