Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Harry Mathews: 1930-2017

Sorry to report that the novelist, poet, long-standing Oulipian and all-round linguistic adventurer Harry Mathews has passed on.  His work has been an important yardstick of brilliance and experiment for a good long while for myself, and I suspect for some of my fellow editors at Gists and Piths, too.  The Oulipo Compendium, co-edited by Mathews and Alastair Brotchie, is one of the most bottomlessly useful documents any writer can possess: my own writing would be palpably impoverished without the (dog-eared, coffee-blotted) copy that has sat on my shelf for the last 15 years or so.  I will be producing a series of posts throughout the next few months on Mathews' various novels, poems, and unclassifiable, formally-dextrous oddities - as with any Oulipian, the quantity of the latter category most likely outweighs the more conventional forms we normally expect from our serious writers - but for now, I would simply urge you to read his work.  Below are a few links to interviews and articles which area good place to start.

Paris Review: The Art of Fiction, 191

Interview with Lynn Tillman for Bomb Magazine

A comprehensive symposium on Mathews in issue 29 of The Quarterly Conversation

Blake Butler in Vice giving a nice potted introduction to Mathews' major works, up to The Journalist