In 1980, the year before Elias Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, Susan Sontag wrote that the notebook was the perfect form for a writer like him-a man who was a student of everything rather than of anything in particular or “it allows entries of all lengths and shapes and degrees of impatience and roughness.” Canetti's published works are as various in their shapes as the entries in his notebooks. He originally intended his 1936 Auto-da-Fe to be the first in a series of eight novels, each examining a monomaniac whose madness typified a facet of the modern era. But Auto-da-Fe, an epic about a reclusive scholar who is ultimately driven to immolate himself in his vast library, was to be the only book in that series. Canetti never wrote another novel. Twenty-five years passed before the publication of his next book, the monumental Crowds and Power, a pancultural study of the basic human urge for dominance. He did eventually return to his monomaniacs in the 1974 volume Ear…
Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Episode 22: “Form and Formlessness”
In an essay specially commissioned for the podcast, Aisha Sabatini Sloan describes rambling around Paris with her father, Lester Sloan, a longtime staff photographer for Newsweek, and a glamorous woman who befriends them. In an excerpt from The Art of Fiction no. 246, Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti discuss how writing her first novel helped Cusk discover her “shape or identity or essence.” Next, Allan Gurganus’s reading of his story “It Had Wings,” about an arthritic woman who finds a fallen angel in her backyard, is interspersed with a version of the story rendered as a one-woman opera by the composer Bruce Saylor. The episode closes with “Dear Someone,” a poem by Deborah Landau.
Rachel Cusk photo courtesy the author.
Subscribe for free: Stitcher | Apple Podcasts | Google Play