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.
stopped—and the name of, more happily, an early children’s game—bleach and stack the bones; carve the hearts in the dirt; place the mice inside. I recall a pause of some sort. Criminal conversation, as the common notion, and as the preferred legal term—preferred here a ruptured version of something finer, either hers or his, while ruptured, now that we have it, revives for me too keenly that awful fall—dates from the nineteenth century, in America at least, in a house in Pennsylvania, in a high
mind, preferable as it is to vesture, to raiment, to disguise, or to my own attire, for that matter, warp, weft, and so forth—though you may prefer her ermine collar, or a table of cropped collars in a funeral parlor, the choke-smock conjuring the body as a dressmaker’s form, or as a diagram of red wounds, or as, more likely, a man in a cutaway, leaving a room. NINE I. Perforation of the left atrium, and then the right, as occasioned by a ten-inch blade—this posits obvious complications.
are black, given the inscriptions. They list the illnesses, in order, and relate the terms of the murders. Fits, for instance, with bules—and then the king’s evil. A man and a woman stabbed through the hands on a staircase. A treatise concerning Mrs. Trundle’s disease, from 1760, cites the demeanor of the bedsheets, and offers an inventory of hospital objects, beginning with a bistoury and a capital saw. The former, according to the annotation, is engraved with the surgeon’s name. The latter has
hand. A split-head teaspoon of about 1810, then, common in coffins, may startle one. A carving knife of roughly the same moment, such as the specimen found at the New Street house, will likely display letters and numbers—or, to be exact, a name and a date. In various woodcuts, the heart appears as a crutch-cross or a pitchfork. The former, given this configuration of spikes, also means lightning—and fire, when events warrant. A Devil’s staff, pointing east—perhaps this will remind you of Philip.
morning is cold: begin with the scars at the bottom. Rot might follow the stains. For cubits, consider measuring endwise, pulling smartly at the hem. Subtract the width of one digit for every flaw. An insect might well be our culprit, after all. When facing south: the house appears to drown. Now the hour is happier but dim. For shaftments, measure the posts only, halving the rust at the bolt. Indicate the span with both hands, as though to signify fright or defeat. In the dark: the nail speaks