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About the books
The Long Cut (Dalkey Archive Press)
The narrator of The Longcut is an artist who doesn't know what her art is. As she gets lost on her way to a meeting in an art gallery, walking around in circles in a city she knows perfectly well, she finds herself endlessly sidetracked and distracted by the question of what her work is and how she'll know it when she sees it.
Her mental peregrinations take her through the elements that make up her life: her dull office job where she spends the day moving items into a "completed" column, insomniac nights in her so-called studio (also known as her tiny apartment), encounters with an enigmatic friend who may or may not know her better than she knows herself. But wherever she looks she finds only more questions--what is the difference between the world and the photographed world, why do objects wither in different contexts, what is Cambridge blue--that lead her further away from the one thing that really matters.
“I remember how Knut Hamsun’s Hunger scared & excited me when I was young & now, later on, Emily Hall’s The Longcut has produced its own inimitable effect. I think of a mayor I read about who advocated digging a hole so big there’s no alternative to filling it. Emily Hall’s digging (for art) is bedraggled and ecstatic (“I was a lunatic for miles”) it makes its mark and I am helplessly subsumed in it still. Her Longcut is like an Artist’s Way for bad kids.” —Eileen Myles
Saint Sebastian's Abyss (Coffee House Press)
Former best friends who built their careers writing about a single work of art meet after a decades-long falling-out. One of them, called to the other's deathbed for unknown reasons by a "relatively short" nine-page email, spends his flight to Berlin reflecting on Dutch Renaissance painter Count Hugo Beckenbauer and his masterpiece, Saint Sebastian's Abyss, the work that established both men as important art critics and also destroyed their relationship. A darkly comic meditation on art, obsession, and the enigmatic power of friendship, Saint Sebastian's Abyss stalks the museum halls of Europe, feverishly seeking salvation, annihilation, and the meaning of belief.
“Saint Sebastian’s Abyss feels exactly like the description of the painting—deceitfully small in scale, containing a cosmic abyss at its center. The mimetic impulse between the book and its themes pervades the whole reading experience. Aesthetic value, history, institutions, criticism, authorship, material conditions—these are only some of the terms in the critical constellation that emerges in Haber’s beautiful, elegant novel.” —Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance
Antonio wants to avoid thinking about his sister, even though he knows he won’t be able to avoid thinking about his sister, because his sister is on the run after allegedly threatening to shoot her neighbors, and has been claiming that Antonio, Obama, the Pentagon, and their mother are all conspiring against her. Nevertheless, Antonio is going to try his best to be as avoidant as possible, because he worries that what’s been happening to his sister might infect his relatively contented, ordered Los Angeles life and destabilize the precarious arrangement with his ex-wife that’s allowed him to stay close to his two daughters.
In fact, he’s busy doing everything except facing his problems head-on: transcribing recordings of his mother speaking about their troubled life in Colombia; transcribing recordings of his ex-wife speaking about her idyllic life in Czechia; writing about former girlfriends whose words and deeds recur in his mind; rereading stories by American writers that allow him to skirt the subject of his sister’s state of mind without completely destroying his own.
Written in long, unraveling sentences that accommodate all the detritus of thought—scenes real and imagined, headphones and heartache, Toblerones and Thomas Bernhard—Aphasia captures the immensity of the present moment as well as the pain of the past. It cements Mauro Javier Cárdenas’s place as one of the most innovative and extraordinary novelists working today.
“Brainy and decadent, playful and outrageous, Aphasia marks the comeback of the Self in a spiraling trip into contemporary manhood and the Latin American spirit that will render you speechless.” —Pola Oloixarac, author Mona
About the participants
Emily Hall has been a contributor to Artforum since 2003; her writing has also appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Stranger, and the zine RedHeaded StepChild. The Longcut, her first novel, was shortlisted for the 2020 Novel Prize. She lives in New York, where she edits exhibition catalogues at The Museum of Modern Art.
Mark Haber is the author of the 2008 story collection Deathbed Conversions and the novel Reinhardt's Garden, longlisted for the 2020 PEN/Hemingway Award. He is the operations manager at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Texas. His nonfiction has appeared in the Rumpus, Music & Literature, and LitHub. His fiction has appeared in Southwest Review and Air/Light.
Mauro Javier Cárdenas is the author of The Revolutionaries Try Again, which The New York Times called “an original, insubordinate novel.” In 2017, the Hay Festival included him in Bogotá39, a selection of the best young Latin American novelists working today.