Years before I read it, Jason Schwartz’s 1998 collection A German Picturesque (Knopf) captured my imagination. It wasn’t just because I knew Schwartz as a favorite of legendary editor and teacher Gordon Lish, who published Schwartz’s first stories in his magazine The Quarterly, or because the title struck me as provocatively incongruous given that there wasn’t anything obviously Teutonic about Schwartz, whose author note described him as living in Pennsylvania (he has since decamped to Florida). More than anything, it was that it seemed possessed of the power to make anyone who tried to describe its contents sound completely insane. “The nouns will be the bones, the adjectives the cartilage or skin and the verbs will be the organs,” wrote The Los Angeles Times in a typically gnomic review, while Ben Marcus, not obviously insane, described Schwartz as being “unlike any writer on the planet . . . a master.” I was curious, if not outright incredulous: how was it possible for a single writer, a twentieth-century American “master” no less, to depart wholesale from the line of succession and influence that I understood literature—with its various avant-gardes, occasional norms, and buffet plate of styles—to comprise?

Schwartz’s second book, John the Posthumous, new from OR Books, confirms Schwartz as a writer with neither peer nor precedent, except perhaps in certain Puritan textbooks, diagnoses of medieval plagues, and Biblical glossolalia. Broken into three sections—“Hornbook,” “Housepost, Male Figure,” and “Adulterium”—John the Posthumous reads like a story that already befell its characters, disastrously, and what is left is to pore over the rooms, interrogating the objects and words as though they themselves were the guilty parties. Or perhaps these remains are the stories themselves.

Read the full interview at BOMB.

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