That Post-Modernism!

September 15, 2017

Spring will be here in three short months, and with it a new publishing season. At Tantalus & Son, Publishers, that means post-modernism! At Tantalus we offer a large selection of the post-modernest books available. And all of our books are handsomely bound,* easy-to-read,* and modestly priced.

Here are some new titles you won’t want to miss:

FLAUBERT’S PANDA by Boolean James.

This one is part biography, part literary criticism, part prose poem, part fire hydrant, and part decayed wolf’s pelt — in short, the post-modernist novel at its best. That the giant panda was undiscovered by the West until 1937 — more than fifty years after Flaubert’s death brings into question the very notion of “time,” and we are forced to consider various questions such as How might the great prose stylist have cared for such a pet in nineteenth-century France? What were his options? Does his fierce dedication to a prose style somehow anticipate the rare animal’s discovery fifty years later? Also, What’s the French for panda? Proust’s Hedgehog, by the same author, will be published in the fall. (350 pages, 425 psi.)


As a primate, George straddles the line between “chaos” and “meaning”, but what is he doing when he puts too much soap in the washing machine? We know that he is “making a mess,” but Mr. Derrida suggests that he is “making a text” as well. Here is the pre-linguistic troublemaker at his mischievous best. (525 pages, with a foreword by Koko.)

THE NAME OF PETE ROSE by Umberto Umberto, translated by Joe Garagiola.

Descend into a medieval world of hermeneutics and double plays… Umberto provides a serious lesson in semiotics, as well as countless batting and fielding tips. Divided into the eighteen innings of a twi-night double header at Shea, this “Po-mo” masterpiece begins by taking an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at “Charlie Hustle” in nine typical at-bats.

Chapter One, “In which the bases are loaded, and that is all,” and Chapter Two, “In which Mr. Rose is caught looking, and strikes out,” start us off rather slowly. But one’s inevitable fear — that this is going to be a pitchers’ duel — is put to rest in Chapter Three, “In which Mr. Rose, after taking three outside pitches, slams a change-up to left center, and, after being called out at third, invokes the name of the Antichrist and is suspended from play.”

Then things take a strange turn. Chapter Four, “In which a discourse follows on the unlikelihood of the umpire’s longevity,” and Chapter Five, “In which there is something about an Aqua Velva man,” speed the novel toward evidence that the author’s grand vision reaches well beyond this double header, to the terrifying center of a dark mystery about the very nature of the National League itself. Semioticians in particular will appreciate Chapter Fifteen, “In which Mr. Rose gets the green light to swing away, but, in misinterpreting the signs, offends the third-base coach. Then there is a fight.”

The book also includes an epilogue, “In which we encounter the enigmatic figure of Yogi, a Yoo Hoo man, who declares that the ball game is not only not over until it is over — but it is also never over.” (442 pages, with illuminations.)


This remarkable first novel is written from the point of view of a pen writing a novel titled — you guessed it — Mightier Than the Sword. At first it appears that we are concerned with two separate novels, but when the pen addresses the author directly, we sense that something wonderfully post-modern is afoot.

The core of the novel consists of a touching and valuable dialogue between the author and his unwilling pen, but the action explodes when the hitherto deferential pen, having in the course of the novel developed a sense of self-esteem, boldly decides to take a break, triumphantly marking time with periods and commas until the end of the chapter. After this victory the pen refuses to form semicolons or commas, or conjunctions of any sort, reducing the prose to a series of simple sentences, and thereby cleverly accelerating the pace of the novel to its abrupt ending, seven pages later. (57 pages.)

¡HOLA, BUZZY!: Memoirs of an Argentine Insect
by Tomas Yrastorce.

In this revealing portrait Yrastorce gives us another in the long tradition of picaresque heroes — although unusually small and with a thorax — and makes use of the tremendous narrative scope afforded a fly, which in this book takes us from the gorgeous boudoir of Eva Peron to the twitching rump of a frisky horse grazing on the pampas.

One is inevitably reminded of Julio Cortazar’s novel Hopscotch, whose pages can be “shuffled” and read in any order the reader pleases. Yrastorce’s pages, however, can be not only “shuffled” but also rolled into balls and “juggled.” Later they can be combined into eye-catching shapes, and “fondled.” Eventually they may be incorporated into a large paper raft, which, with some caulking and a basic understanding of ocean currents, may be used to re-enact the Ra expedition of Thor Heyerdahl. (320 pages, with sunscreen and flare gun.)

VEAL FUSELAGE by Giovanni Tomanioni.

This one brings into question the very notion of “book,” made as it is of large steel girders and fur — and it renders all but meaningless the standard “book questions” having to do with character development and plot line, let alone issues of “translation” and “paperback rights.”

Despite a simple appearance, the book’s narrative structure is phenomenally complex: each girder corresponds to an exit on the Jersey Turnpike, with graffiti spray-painted in the “style” of that exit. The author seems to be tipping his hat to Joyce, particularly in the girders that begin, “Dear Mr. Joyce…” Other girders reveal various and disparate influences, such as Picasso’s blue period, Handel’s Messiah, the outfielding techniques of the three Alou brothers, the Green Giant jingle — and, inevitably, the forearms and eyelids of Julie Nixon Eisenhower. (25 girders, with tollbooth.)

* where applicable