The Logic of the World and Other Fictions
Cloth, sewn, jacketed, 224 pages, 5.5 x 8.5", 2010, 978-0-929701-89-9
"There is such beauty and mystery and surprise on the path we are seductively invited to follow in Robert Kelly's The Logic of the World. Do not miss this deeply charmed and haunting foray."
— Carole Maso, author of AVA
The thirty works in this fifth collection of short fictions trespass knowingly into fictional realms of droll lyricism, audacious description, studied anachronism, sensual immediacy and subtle compassion. In one, a woman waits at a window for the moon to return her body; another story reveals the triple identity of Don Juan; in still another, an itinerant tragedian invents a dangerous form of theatrical performance; and in the title story a dragon questions a youthful knight's errancy, as well as his sanity. Scattered throughout are nine pieces known as "sudden fiction," a genre Kelly named, while other tales appear in the guises of myths, letters, rituals, and even dreams.
Description and Table of Contents
Four Square Meters / Baby / Crucifixes / The Example of the Hawk / The Wandering Jew / Andromeda / Offshore / The Priest's Mistress's Story / The Logic of the World / The Sacred Garden / Trigonometry / Two Towns / The Tureen / The Plumber / Woman with Dog / Saving the Moon / La Tache Vertigineuse / The Skirt / The Cryptanalyst / Outside / The Secret / The Yoke / The Geese in December / A Simple Room / The Ritual / Letter to Thomas Bernhard / The Bridge Near Zamorek / Edmund Wilson on Alfred de Musset: The Dream / Confessions of Don Juan/ Kafka's Brother
The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Rarely does a collection's title so perfectly capture the strategy of its constituent stories’ composition—with the exception that its phrasing implies a book concerned only with one logic and one world. In stories written in modes ranging from fantasy and fable to a letter to Thomas Bernhard to a realist account of a young woman interviewing an elderly author, Robert Kelly pursues fragments of logic to the point of their exhaustion. These logics are often small and slim. They are exhausted quickly, frequently in the space of two or three pages. These logics, whether embodied or disembodied, spoken or unspoken, become the protagonists of their stories. In 'Baby,' a newborn explains to the reader in high-flown, insistent language the reasoning behind his assertion that he is God. In 'The Sacred Garden,' monks mark off a section of land to watch and study without interference. In 'The Example of the Hawk,' a young actor reads a story entitled 'The Example of the Hawk,' and it changes his life, transforms his ideas of theater. He lives and dies by this epiphany. The actor’s story, a dramatic response to Robert Kelly’s fiction, suggests how Kelly might hope to affect readers. He is not afraid to demand, command, explain, or insist: 'Trigonometry,' a story told in chapter headings, instructs readers explicitly in how they are meant to receive and understand it. We are meant to take something away from these stories—which sometimes barely qualify as narrative—back into the world with us. However, as the ambivalent ending of 'The Example of the Hawk' suggests, Kelly harbors no utopian dreams. Even pursuing the best idea, putting one’s faith into the most beautiful story, is no guarantee. Kelly wants to change the world, but harbors little hope that it will be much better after. It will only be changed."--Mike Meginnis
New Pages [NewPages.com]
Entering my neighborhood from a different direction for the first time, I became disoriented, unable to find my building right away. Then, there it was! And I suddenly had a new "feel" for the place. Experiencing the familiar from a new perspective can bring disorientation that, fading, leaves an enhanced understanding. In much the same way, Robert Kelly's fiction shows us our familiar world from a new perspective, and expands our understanding of this life we live.
Kelly steps clear of established forms, constructing and sequencing images, sometimes rather whimsical but always remarkable, in such a way to hang lightly, like freshly washed kerchiefs, from a thin, absolutely unpredictable story line – creating not just a story but a work of art.
Kelly's new fiction collection, The Logic of the World, begins with "Forty Square Meters," about two lovers "in the old part of the city. The street was so old it had been there when Sadi-Carnot was assassinated, when the saxophone was invented, when Berlioz swept through the avenues openly crying for his lost Irish love." They fill their apartment with impossible keepsakes:
- One meter contained the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro, which came from Africa. It was so high there was always snow on top of it, right up to almost touching the ceiling. When it got hot and stuffy in the apartment they would climb up the gentle slopes of the mountain till they found a cool grotto, where lush vegetation welcomed them, and they listened to the springs gurgling.
- Right next to that mountain, a square meter contained a small meadow on the slopes of the Donnersberg, not far from the Rhine. On it a few dozen cows.
He ties knots in time and reality. In 'The Example of the Hawk,' a woman seduced by the waters of a fountain is protagonist in a story read by a man of the theater; his own concepts of theater are brought to life, and seduce him. He spends the rest of his days as an itinerant, bringing his own theater to villages across the land. When his life has run its course, the fountain woman, still young, finds and comforts him. Kelly mines tales rooted in pre-English, retrieving bits and pieces, examining relationships among men and women and their gods. He re-constructs the myth about Andromeda and Perseus to explore their sexual motivations.
"The collection's title piece, 'The Logic of the World,' features a knight, a leper and a dragon. The knight, of course, is Parsival, from the Arthurian legend and its ancient German predecessor. The dragon becomes a teacher and benefactor for the knight, instructing him in – yes, the logic of the world. Perplexed, Parsival draws his sword.
- 'O little one,' the dragon says, 'Don't you realize you have already slain me,' disappearing into thin air. 'You will listen to me in your head again. You will realize that, just like the cowardly creature your traditions claim I am, I have rushed into hiding. You will slowly realize that I have hidden myself in the snuggest cavern of them all, deep inside your mind, and that you will never altogether silence me'
Kelly's stories are interspersed by very short (flash?) pieces: In one, a man has gradually built an imaginary world to his liking. When it's finished he slips into it, leaving his dead body.
Kelly includes a painfully exact description of a room and all — all — of its contents, and he examines the underpinnings of Don Juan, and of Faustus. He ends the collection with a piece about 'Kafka's brother, who whispers big plans, who guides the writer's hands toward plausible solutions and away from the structures of thought and poetry.'
"'So it is to escape Kafka's brother,' Kelly concludes, 'that some writers on their deathbeds cry out, Max, burn all my work.'
This is a collection which, for its unique perspectives and Kelly's skill in presenting them, may well end up not on your shelf of interesting reads, but instead taking its place upon your shelf of indispensable reference books. —Thomas Hubbard,
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at The Bookstore in Lenox, Mass., Part One
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at The Bookstore in Lenox, Mass., Part Two
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, Part One
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, Part Two
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, Part Three
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, Part Four
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, Part Five
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, Part Six
Robert Kelly: Reading from The Logic of the World... at Millbrook, NY