Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dancing Lessons

Among the books that landed on my desk at the library today was Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, a novel first published in Czech by Bohumil Hrabal in 1964, now issued by New York Review Books Classics in an English translation by Michael Henry Heim. The novel consists of one, interminable run-on sentence. (Thomas Bernhard also used this method, and taught me to admire it.) But what I mainly noticed as a first impression of the Hrabal book was the black-and-white cover photograph, made by my favorite dead Czech outsider artist, Miroslav Tichý (who appeared here a few months ago).

Tichý was a scruffy dirty old man living in a remote Eastern European village in the bad old dull days of Soviet Communist domination. Too poor to purchase equipment, he made his own cameras out of cardboard and scrap metal and tape  then used them like a voyeur to photograph local women. His fame of course shot up steeply after his recent death, but the new Hrabal paperback marked the first time I noticed one of his images on a book cover.