Decompositions: Essays on Art and Literature by Eric Basso / 186-page paperback from Asylum Arts Press, published in 2006 / ISBN 9781453855782
Decompositions collects all of Eric Basso's essays on art and literature in one volume. Basso takes us on a tour of bizarre literary landscapes and eccentric machines created by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam and Alfred Jarry. He explores Paul Valéry's brilliant subversion of philosophy and metaphysics in Monsieur Teste, and reveals the deathless apparition behind Maurice Blanchot's harrowing Death Sentence. The collection also contains illuminating, and diverting, pieces on Finnegans Wake, the French Romantics and Jacobean dramatist Cyril Tourneur, a study of the unexpectedly elusive, and venomous, Céline, and moving biographical portraits of Goya, Gérard de Nerval and Theodore Gericault. In the pivotal essay, "Annihilation," Basso takes a short story by a forgotten Hungarian writer as the springboard to a searing dissection of Rembrandt and the punitive anatomy, the alchemists' quest for a mystical Absolute, French poet Stéphane Mallarmé's collision with nothingness, Poe's chilling depiction of hypnotic suspension in articulo mortis, and René Daumal's dangerous experiments with asphyxiation to test the frontiers of life and death. "Annihilation" closes with a new interpretation of Kafka's The Castle. Basso approaches his subjects not as a critic but as an artist reflecting on the works, lives, deeds and frailties of other artists. These are studies that cut to the quick of what it means to create, and be created or destroyed by, a great poem, story, novel or painting.
Eric Basso was born in Baltimore in 1947. His work has appeared in Asylum Annual, Bakunin, Central Park, Chicago Review, Collages & Bricolages, Exquisite Corpse, Fiction International, and many other publications. His novel, Bartholomew Fair, is available from Asylum Arts. He is the author of twenty-one plays. His critically acclaimed drama trilogy, The Golem Triptych; the complete short plays, Enigmas; his play The Sabbatier Effect; a book of short fiction, The Beak Doctor; and five collections of poetry, Accidental Monsters, The Catwalk Watch, The Smoking Mirror, Catafalques, and Ghost Light, are available from Asylum Arts, along with Decompositions: Essays on Art & Literature 1973-1989 and Revagations: 1966-1974, the first volume of a book of dreams. Basso’s most recent previous collection of poems, Earthworks, was published by Six Gallery Press in 2008.