Tuesday 20 October 2020

Fargo Burns by Kos Kostmayer BLOG TOUR #FargoBurns @DrCiceroLit @booksforwardpr @RandomTTours #MyLifeInBooks


Howling and half-naked in his torn and bloody clothing Fargo is a desperate man and dangerous to himself and others. He ricochets around his kitchen, heaving furniture into the street. The street is twelve stories down and Fargo fills the New York air with chairs and tables, lamps and dishes, cutting boards and cabinets, electric fans and plastic caddies, frying pans and double boilers, brooms and mops and metal buckets, canned goods and Pyrex platters, a garbage can, a cookie jar, a toaster oven, even the refrigerator door, which he rips off and throws out the window.

Fargo Burns by Kos Kostmayer was published on 1 March 2020 by Dr. Cicero Books. I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. He's talking about the books that are important to him in My Life in Books, for the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour.

My Life in Books - Kos Kostmayer

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, because I can’t imagine a list of great books that doesn’t include at least one Russian novel. We all love Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, but Dead Souls made me laugh out loud from start to finish, which only goes to show how sad it is.

Meister Eckhart’s Sermons, because I read him when I was young enough to be stunned by the severe tenderness of his spirit, and because he trafficked in the inexplicable, and because he fortified my skepticism by laying out a set of beliefs that I found completely unbelievable, and because he spoke the truth when he asserted that (paraphrasing here from memory) The only thing we can say with certainty about God is nothing.

King Lear by Shakespeare, because it reveals how bleak the world will always be in the absence of mercy, and because Lear himself hollows out Eckhart’s dictum when he says that Nothing comes from nothing, and because the terrifying power of this extraordinary play rectifies belief by cleansing it of sentiments too false or weak to stand against the grief that life entails.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, because he fused autobiography, social science, photography, poetry, religion, activism, innocence, vanity, excess and beauty into a farrago of enduring power, and because he had the decency to feel shame in the face of other people’s pain.

Richard Wright’s Native Son, but also his stories, his essays, his entire body of work, and even his exile, because I didn’t know how it was until he told me so.

Tyehimba Jess, because he gave us Leadbelly straight in the face, and because Olio is a work of surpassing genius and undeniable originality, and because he rebuked John Berryman, whose poetry I love, and by doing so forced me to reckon with my own limitations and to think anew about my place in the world.

Jesus’ Son and Train Dreams, both by Denis Johnson, because he’s a beautiful writer, and because his work drives deep into your sleep at night and wakes you up to the dreadful beauty built into terror and the surprising grace that always accompanies failure, and because he touched me deeply and made me laugh, and because he died long before his time was up.

Against Forgetting, an anthology of resistance poetry beautifully compiled and edited by Carolyn Forche, because it offers no relief from the accumulation of sorrows – a century of unrelenting grief – caused by cruelty and oppression, and yet it lifts us up page after page by the sheer beauty of its songs and its stubborn refusal to surrender.

Justice by Carey Harrison, because the stark elegance and lightly worn erudition of this masterpiece runs counter to the fiercely radical – indeed the nearly unbearable – demands it makes on us, and Midget In A Catsuit Reciting Spinoza, also by Carey Harrison, because the bleak and terrifying power of this play makes it almost impossible for us to answer the call to mercy that Justice demands.

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, because this was one of the first books that made me realize language had no limits and could be a weapon as well as a wand and could function like the sword of Achilles, which supposedly had the power to heal the wounds it caused, and because she wrote that We are but skin about a wind with muscles clenched against mortality.

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Harman, because this marvelous writer is a scholar as well as an artist, and because she always adheres to the truth even as she liquefies the divide that normally separates fiction from fact, and because she brings us face to face with history that has long been hidden from our view and with people who have long been scorned, or even worse, forgotten.

Quarantine by Jim Crace, because he leads us into the desert and walks us out beyond the reach of reason, and because he refuses to abandon us, but rather makes an oasis of his formidable intellect in the middle of the barren waste that now defines our culture, and because his writing, like all good poetry, is tightly compressed, and because his language is lush without being rank and lean without being stingy, and because he gives pleasure without giving in.

Forgetting and Her Mirror Is An Unarmed Hunter, both by the great Syrian poet Firas Sulaiman, because he writes with stone and salt, and because he never lies, and because he is a Bedouin cut loose from his people and walking in the wind of a foreign land, and because he is strong enough to stand with one foot planted in the Babylon of Ancient Days and the other in the Babylon of contemporary American life, and because he knows what liberty looks like when it dies, and because his greatness deserves to be recognized.

The Bacchae by Euripides, because the Greeks are unsparing in their view of human destiny, and because they were among the first to recognize the heartbreaking relationship between beauty and violence, and because this play lays out a blood soaked and delirious map that defines for all time the geography of madness and grief.

The Collected Poems of Adrienne Rich, because she writes like an angel but walks along the margins where the dispossessed have gathered, and because the fierce, lilting charge that lives inside her work speaks to us of freedom even as it teaches us to understand that the personal is political, and the political is essential, and the essential is the very ground on which the arts in general, and literature in particular, are born to take their stand.

The Day Of The Locust and Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West, because he is a truly great writer – native born and native bound – and the unrelenting honesty in his work makes us understand exactly how and why the American experiment might yet fail.

Kos Kostmayer - October 2020 

Kos Kostmayer is a novelist, poet, playwright, and screenwriter.
His work has been honored with the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.
Kos served for many years as Supervising Writer and Field Producer for the Emmy Award winning television show Big Blue Marble.
Kos is married to the artist Martha Ferris, and he and his wife divide their time between their family farm in Mississippi and their home in the Hudson River valley.

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