Joseph Clayton Mills
210×148 mm; 28pp
Belgium £15 (including postage)
Europe £18.50 (including postage)
Rest of world £23 (including postage)
Second edition, 2012
An anthology of alienation from A to Z, Zyxt consists of 24 brief and darkly comic tales of idealism and despair; friendship and self-loathing; murder and madness. An unnamed narrator recounts a series
of anecdotes about his dearest friends — a collection of misanthropic academics, misfortunate composers, and melancholy
astronomers — that together form
a mosaic of parables, fables, and paradoxes for the bitter and disaffected.
Joseph Clayton Mills is Chicago-based artist, writer and musician. His text-based paintings, assemblages and installations have been exhibited in Chicago and
New York, and his work has appeared
in numerous publications, including
The New Yorker. His fiction and criticism have been published both in the US and abroad, most recently in the magazine Joyland and the architectural journal Log.
He is also an active participant in the improvised and experimental music community in Chicago, where he has performed and collaborated with such notable musicians as Adam Sonderberg and Steven Hess (as a member of the band Haptic), Tony Buck, Mark Solotroff,
Sylvain Chaveau, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Olivia Block. His recordings have appeared on numerous labels, including Entr’acte, FSS and Bloodlust!.
I have a friend who, as a lifelong devotee of Bizet, harbors great hopes that his young daughter might one day make
a grand success upon the operatic stage.
Although she is still a mere toddler and
is thus far incapable of forming with any facility even the simplest words in English (to say nothing of Italian), my friend insists that, even from the moment of
her first postnatal cry, he has been able to detect in her voice the sure traces of
a divine instrument. In order to encourage in his daughter a proper love for all things sonorous, my friend installed in her bed-
room a beautiful nightingale in a gilded cage. Its melodic trills, he hoped, would serve as a suitable influence upon his daughter’s as yet inchoate musicality.
When, some days later, my friend discovered that his young daughter had smothered the nightingale with a silken pillow, he was, much to my surprise,
neither horrified nor discouraged. On the contrary, he was transported with delight, and his face beamed as he related the story. “After all, is not the foremost ingredient in the soul of any artist,” he asked rhetorically, and with an expression of perhaps justifiable pride, “an insatiable lust for the blood of one’s rival?”
The stories, which are all quite brief,
most of them running to less than a
page, are reminiscent of Borges in their playfulness, Calvino in their precision
and concision, and, most important, Bernhard in their wry misanthropy.
The book fairly runs over with the under-appreciated joys of misanthropy mixed with a fundamental love of human strangeness. The Randall Jarrell of Pictures from an Institution would have loved this book. The back cover of Zyxt
is taken up by an index. If I haven’t yet convinced you to order a copy, perhaps
the index's four subdivisions of ‘Suicide’ or its nine subdivisions of ‘Murder’ will.
Or its entries for Spinoza and Preston Sturges — if those twin brilliants of the
pantheon, wild opposites even at the same time as they are both utterly indispensable, don’t do it, then perhaps the misanthropists have the right idea
Levi Stahl at Ivebeenreadinglately