“David Stacton was a brilliant novelist – Faber is to be praised for getting him back in print.”
Meanwhile over at the Commonweal blog Anthony Domestico has been so kind as to wave an early flag for our Stacton project (and therein he tips the hat to Robert Nedelkoff who has been an incalculable help to our getting this exciting voyage underway.)
In a way, we could not want for a more apposite Finds author than Stacton. Across a published career of 15 years or so he put out 14 novels (under his name, that is – plus a further raft of pseudonymous genre fiction); many short stories; several collections of poetry; and three compendious works of non-fiction. He was first ‘discovered’ in England, and had to wait several years before making it into print in his homeland. Assessing Stacton’s career at the time of what proved to be his last published novel People of the Book (1965), Dennis Powers of the Oakland Tribune ruefully concluded that Stacton’s was very much ‘the old story of literary virtue unrewarded.’ Three years later Stacton was dead.
The rest has been a prolonged silence punctuated by occasional tributes and testaments in learned journals, by fellow writers, and around the literary blogosphere. But in 2011 New York Review Books reissued Stacton’s The Judges of the Secret Court, his eleventh novel and the second in what he saw as a trilogy on American themes. (History, and sequences of titles, were Stacton’s abiding passions.) Now in 2012 Faber Finds will offer selection of seven of Stacton’s novels.
Readers new to the Stacton oeuvre will encounter a novelist of quite phenomenal ambition. The landscapes and epochs into which he transplanted his creative imagination spanned vast distances, and yet the finely wrought Stacton prose style remained fairly distinctive throughout. His deft and delicate gifts of physical description were those of a rare aesthete, but the cumulative effect is both vivid and foursquare. He was, perhaps, less committed to strong narrative through-lines than to erecting a sense of a spiritual universe around his characters; yet he undoubtedly had the power to carry the reader with him from page to page. His protagonists are quite often haunted – if not fixated – figures, temperamentally estranged from their societies. But whether or not we may find elements of Stacton himself within said protagonists, for sure his own presence is in the books – not least by dint of his incorrigible fondness for apercus, epigrams, pontifications of all kinds.
(BTW on this aphoristic gift of Stacton’s, you might also like to check out the following appreciation by Jim O’Brien, which offers the added treat of reproducing a couple of original paperback covers arising from Stacton’s pseudonymous literary half-life.)
The first titles in the Stacton reissues will be A Fox Inside and The Self-Enchanted. The above-mentioned People of the Book, and the ‘Invincible Questions’ trilogy, are among those that are to come. Much, much more to follow, I hope and trust. Don’t tell me you’re not curious…