Unpublishable: 99 Readers
I got the idea for this project from Bolaño. Which is to say, from reading. He says somewhere that he could live the rest of his life reading Borges under a table. Bolaño is great at saying things like that, which is why you find Bolaño blurbs on most physical surfaces. I remember reading an interview with a writer who asked his publisher if he could put, “Bolaño never said anything about him,” as a blurb, but they declined. That tickled me. I can’t remember the writer’s name, unfortunately—maybe because Bolaño never read him?
Anyway. I loved thinking about Bolaño reading Borges. It’s so romantic, of course, but watching someone read can be very distant and alienating. What are they laughing at? What’s so funny? Well, don’t bother asking: you wouldn’t understand.
Once I had put in the moderate degree of labor to compose the text, I felt somewhat disappointed by its existence. It’s useless! What the hell is the point? But—I still felt close to it. I wanted to watch it, show it to others, and watch them, too. An ersatz building without windows, no doors in or out. But something is going on inside, I felt—even suspected. That was good enough for me. I couldn’t expect the same from others (other readers).
It was rejected the three or four times that I submitted it and immediately understood why. I did edit it this time for publication, now years after the fact. Re-arranging the furniture in an abandoned building with no windows is a bit precious, but at least it follows the original blueprint’s capricious principles.
I’m happy that I can now put it out there with the conditions of its failure getting cozy right next to the object itself. Salud, dear reader! Mon semblable, mon frère, etc.
– Sebastian Castillo
Roberto Bolaño reading Anna Kavan’s Ice while sitting at the bottom of a staircase.
Jorge Luis Borges reading Emily Dickinson in a library, alone.
Dennis Cooper reading S.E. Hinton at his parent’s house, under a blanket.
Marcel Schwob reading Charles Dickens in a cold but otherwise comfortable room.
László Krasznahorkai reading Light In August by William Faulkner, late at night.
Lydia Davis reading Russel Edson’s The Clam Theatre at the home of a friend.
John Ashbery reading Viscount Lascano Tegui after having sex.
Enrique Vila-Matas reading Tan Lin on a very old computer in his study.
Muriel Spark reading Malcolm Lowry in a hotel room.
Franz Kafka reading Felisberto Hernández after a difficult workday.
Jenny Erpenbeck reading David Markson’s This Is Not A Novel while eating lunch.
Jacques Vaché reading Félicien Marboeuf while very drunk, possibly stoned.
Filipe Alfau reading Javier Marias immediately before crying in bed about unrelated matters.
Frank O’Hara reading Joe Wenderoth’s Letters To Wendy’s on the beach.
Joan Didion reading J. Rodolfo Wilcock’s The Temple of the Iconoclasts right before having sex.
Jean Genet reading Sam Pink’s Person while watching television, eating pretzels.
Dalton Trevisan reading Albert Cossery’s A Splendid Conspiracy while his wife prepares dinner, which is burning, either due to negligence, or spite.
Robert Walser reading Robert Walser after a particularly long walk.
Witold Gombrowicz reading Virgilio Piñera, sitting right next to him.
Gherasim Luca reading Henri Bergson immediately after getting into a drawn-out argument with a close friend.
César Aira reading Comte de Lautréamont’s Maldoror in a crowded coffee shop.
Harry Mathews reading a Tom Clancy book, a title he keeps forgetting, in the middle of a bustling party.
Renata Adler reading Louis-Ferdinand Céline on the subway.
John Cheever reading Henry Green in a tent, camping with friends.
Clarice Lispector reading Gerald Murnane in her kitchen while a friend prepares tea.
Yoko Tawada reading Lorrie Moore after trying to sleep for two hours.
Ted Berrigan reading Álvaro Mutis while on vacation in Croatia.
Chelsey Minnis reading Thomas Mann while riding a carousel.
Juan Rulfo reading Iphigenia by Teresa de la Parra in an abandoned mansion overrun by rotting verdure.
Philip K. Dick reading Carson McCullers on a guided bus tour.
Arno Schmidt reading Bruno Schultz inside of a dusty study in a relative’s country home.
Linh Dinh reading Georges Bataille after drinking too much wine.
Chris Kraus reading Julien Graqc’s The Opposing Shore while watching horror movies with her partner.
Henri Michaux reading The Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan after eating some soup.
Georges Perec reading Robert Desnos while falling asleep.
Samuel Delany reading Donald Barthelme’s The Dead Father after swimming in a dirty creek.
Renee Gladman reading Marguerite Duras on an airplane.
Yi Sang reading Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet inside of a cardboard box.
Ivy Compton-Burnett reading Knut Hamsun, sitting next to a fireplace.
Kathy Acker reading S.Y. Agnon on the toilet.
Antonio Tabucci reading Osama Alomar while his friends play tennis in front of him.
Yukio Mishima reading Robert Burton’s The Melancholy of Resistance after exercising.
Sergio Chejfec reading Jean Cocteau while sitting at a bar with friends.
James Purdy reading Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch at the zoo.
Robert Coover reading Ann Beattie’s Chilly Scenes of Winter on a train headed away from Budapest, in the dining cart.
William Gass reading Michele Houllebecq while switching from coffee to martini.
Blake Butler reading Pierre Guyotat’s Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers while waiting for his food at a Burger King.
Italo Calvino reading Susan Sontag inside of a movie theatre, as the credits roll.
Can Xue reading René Daumal at the bottom of a swimming pool.
Bill Knott reading Emil Cioran inside of a lighthouse, on the coast of Maine.
Wayne Koestenbaum reading Robert Musil on a treadmill at the gym.
Diane Williams reading Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human in a car stuck in traffic.
Pierre Louÿs reading Robert Glück on a paddleboat in Central Park.
Mario Bellatín reading Sylvia Plath’s journals in a doctor’s waiting room.
Hervé Guibert reading Hannah Weiner in a remarkably noisy library.
Jesse Ball reading Macedonio Fernández while playing chess.
Kevin Killian reading Kate Zambreno at a Super Bowl party.
Alejandro Zambra reading Natalia Ginzburg before eating breakfast.
Eileen Myles reading Ezra Pound’s Cantos at Coney Island, in the middle of winter.
Alejandra Pizarnik reading James Baldwin in a dark room in the middle of the day.
Nathaniel Mackey reading Pierre-Albert Jourdan in a taxi.
Monique Wittig reading Unica Zürn after completing a banal but important task.
Valeria Luiselli reading Joseph Roth the night before a job interview.
Heriberto Yépez reading Edna St. Vincent Millay in the middle of a family member’s piano recital.
Kenneth Koch reading Daniil Kharms next to a dumpster.
Samuel Beckett reading Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone after watching a football game with feigned interest.
Guy Davenport reading Herman Broch’s The Death of Virgil inside of a massive, almost dilapidated, cathedral.
Ishmael Reed reading Simone Weil inside of the bathroom of a casino in Hong Kong.
Nicanor Parra reading Joseph Ceravolo in the courtyard of an unfinished apartment building, where everything smells like dust and paint.
Thomas Bernhard reading Hilda Hilst at Haus Wittgenstein, on a clear, bright day in late spring.
Atila Joszef reading Manuel Maples Arce in the early morning, before a disastrous day.
Miyó Vestrini reading Petrus Borel while smoking a carton of cigarettes in a hammock in Margarita.
Dino Buzzati reading Paul Celan in the back of a police car.
William Gaddis reading Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans after a very long day with his grandchildren.
Roque Dalton reading Edmon Jabès while eating a total of four oranges.
Robert Creeley reading Paul Scheerbart instead of completing his current to-do list.
Jean Rhys reading Jean Ferry while trying, unsuccessfully, to ward off a persistent migraine.
W.G. Sebald reading Keith Waldrop’s Light While There Is Light at the horse races.
Raúl Zurita reading Cid Corman in an office building that smells equally of cleaning products and cheap food.
Federico Garcia Lorca reading a Jack Spicer chapbook after successfully completing twenty-five pushups on his bedroom floor.
Alice Notley reading César Vellejo’s Trilce in a hotel room, close to dawn, unable to sleep.
Lyn Hejinian reading William Carlos Williams Spring and All in her hometown, sitting on a pile of hay.
Tomaž Šalamun reading Susan Howe in a stranger’s pick-up truck on the way to a nearby lake.
Adolfo Bioy Casares reading Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies after a brief, and ultimately underwhelming, birthday party.
Viktor Shklovsky reading Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop in the isle of a bookstore.
CA Conrad reading John Barton Wolgamot in an alarmingly quiet, brand new coffee shop in the center of Philadelphia.
Álvaro Enrigue reading Shirley Jackson to his children.
Dodie Bellamy reading Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy to somebody else’s children.
Michael Earl Craig reading B.S. Johnson in an empty booth at a video game arcade.
Kōbō Abe reading Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education in a greenhouse of orchids.
Denise Levertov reading Juan José Arreola while holding a gun.
Robert Grenier reading Marcel Proust in the hottest room inside of which he’s ever been.
Ron Silliman reading Hob Broun’s Inner Tube inside of a sauna filled to capacity with almost-nude body builders.
Luis Chitarroni reading Flannery O’Connor’s short stories in the home of a criminal.
Charles Olson reading Primo Levi while watching an impossibly large line of dominos fall, one by one.
Leslie Scalapino reading Dante blindfolded.
Anne Carson reading Sappho during a hostage situation.
Simon Leys reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves moments before having sex for the first time.
Lynne Tillman reading Raymond Roussel on a Sunday, in bed, at home.
—Philadelphia, PA, 2014-2015