Shining at the Bottom of the Sea

Shining at the Bottom of the Sea

by Stephen Marche

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440635021
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/05/2008
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,191,357
File size: 677 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Stephen Marche has published short fiction in DescantThe New Quarterly, and Event, and his story “Garrison Creek,” originally published in The Malahat Review, was shortlisted for the 2002 O. Henry Prize. He is the author of The Hunger of the Wolf, Love and the Mess We're In, How Shakespeare Changed Everything, Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, and more. He serves as a columnist for Esquire magazine

Table of Contents

Foreword   Leonard King     11
Preface   Stephen Marche     15
The Pamphlets and Early Fictioneers
The Destruction of Marlyebone, the Private King     37
Pigeon Blackhat     40
Professor Saintfrancis and the Diamants of the End of the World     72
Von Lettow-Vorbeck, Africa's White Lion     82
An Interlude at the Opera     88
Upheavals and Independence
Sufferance Pow     97
Two Stories About the Abandon Tree     111
The Master's Dog     113
The Christbird     128
Ultimate Testament     133
To Be Read at the Hour of Independence     136
An Old Man Mourns for His Blind Daughter     139
Flotsam and Jetsam     144
Exile and Return
Men     155
Under the Skin     159
Histories of Aenea by Various Things     166
A Wedding in Restitution     178
The Man Friday's Review of Robinson Crusoe     198
The End of the Beach     202
Letter to John Dos Passos     213
On the Motif of the Shipwreck as History     214
Why It Is Imperative to Pay Close Attention to Detail     219
ComparativeBiographies of Elizabeth and Ira Rushton     221
A Note on a Code in Morley Straights     227
Language in Charity Gurton's Men and Other Stories     231
Two Reviews of A Wedding in Restitution     235
An Interview with Octavia Kitteredge-Mann     239
Biographical Notes     245
Acknowledgements     253

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Shining at the Bottom of the Sea 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing 8 months ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)There is of course a long and proud tradition here in the West of elaborate histories concerning made-up places; take JRR Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series, as perhaps the most famous example of all. But now imagine that the made-up land in question is designed deliberately to mix with our real world, geography and history -- for example, that your particular made-up land is supposed to be a part of the British Commonwealth, just a part that doesn't actually exist in the real world, originally part of the British Empire in the same way that Bermuda, Jamaica and New Zealand became members of the Empire and then Commonwealth too. Imagine an island in the middle of the North Atlantic, one that became crucial in the 1600s for British sailors making their way from the Continent to America, and has been part of British history ever since; a place where the citizens themselves are the same bronze natives like you find in the British Caribbean, but who have cultivated a culture at their island almost exactly like Ireland's craggy fishing coast, complete with Victorian lighthouses and big burly wool sweaters. Picture that, ladies and gentlemen, and you're starting to correctly picture the latest mindblowing novel by the multi-talented writer Stephen Marche, the made-up literary anthology Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, which purportedly is both a folk history and a survey of arts concerning the exact kind of fictional North Atlantic British colony and later independent nation just mentioned. Known as "Sanjan Island" during its colonial period and "Sanjania" after independence, it is a place that shares many traits of other former UK colonies but that combines these traits in odd and unique ways; a remote island known mostly as a trading and military port for far-flung sailors, but more like Iceland or Greenland in makeup than the British ports of the South Seas, although with still as glorious and complex a history concerning their British overlords as any equatorial paradise.In fact, turns out that there's a unique detail to Sanjania's history as well, one that makes it stand out among all of the Commonwealth nations; that for some strange reason that's still being debated by sociology professors to this day, back in the 1800s so-called "penny dreadful" publications shipped in from England became a much bigger hit among Sanjanians than among other British colonists, making Sanjania itself easily the most literate and intelligent of all the former Imperial lands. Chalk part of this up, Marche argues in the fake historical introduction (crucial for understanding exactly what the hell is going on in this initially confusing book) to the nature of this fictional island itself -- that since the interior of Sanjania supposedly consists of a series of rocky mountains, what has instead developed on the island is a 360-degree ring of small, isolated coastal villages. In effect, the terrain kept the majority of Sanjania's citizens cut off from each other (everyone except their coastal next-door neighbors, that is) for the first two centuries of British occupation there; these newfound publications of the Victorian Age, though, including not only the aforementioned dreadfuls but also what we now know as newspapers and magazines, were the first time the island's entire set of inhabitants were able to start thinking of themselves as a unified group of people.According to Marche's fake introduction, in fact, it is quite easy to track Sanjania's history as a people through its popular writing over the decades; from their lurid ripoffs of Sherlock Holmes and other melodramatic Victorian tales in the late 1800s, to the introduction of Modernism in the early 1900s and a consolidation of all the various village dialects, to the codified language of revolution and self-rule in the 1920s and '30s, to the optimistic poetry of independence in the 1950s, to the c
ShelfMonkey on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Every author, in some respect, creates unique worlds in their novels. Whether it be a wholly fictitious planet, a slanted version of our own reality, or merely the kindly neighbours next door, the sphere of existence on display within the pages only subsists as an artificial construct, subject to the whims of its creator.It¿s a fair bet, however, that not many authors have gone to the lengths Stephen Marche has in idiosyncratic world-building.The Canadian author¿s second novel, Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, documents the Island of Sanjania, ¿an invisible dot in the middle of the North Atlantic.¿ Sanjanians, in the words of one of its leading writers, ¿are perhaps the most literary people on earth¿bookstalls are as common as fruit stands¿on Sanjair flights the stewards push small carts of books down the aisle after the beverages and pretzels.¿Yet rather than simply set a story in this fictional country, Marche sets himself the challenge of anthologizing the many varied works of fiction in Sanjania¿s history, exploring the country¿s past through its pamphlets, short stories, and novels. Marche, in his role as editor, is perplexed that Sanjanian writing is essentially ignored in the world, especially as authors such as George Orwell praise Sanjanian pamphlets as ¿[reminding] me of a childhood I never had.¿In lesser hands, such a notion could easily lead to cheekiness, a nudge-nudge `aren¿t I clever¿ showiness that showcases the author¿s vanity in his own talents rather than serve the central conceit of such an endeavour. Even the slightest wink at the absurdity of the scenario could destroy its fragile nature.Luckily, as fans of his first novel Raymond and Hannah are aware, Marche is a spectacularly precise writer, with nary a word wasted or phrase unexamined. His meticulousness of language and rhythm carry his voices easily throughout the stories, from the distinct local patois of the early pamphleteers, through to the later ¿clean school¿ of writing ostensibly introduced by Blessed Shirley.Indeed, such is Marche¿s accomplishment that it becomes well nigh impossible to critique Shining at the Bottom of the Sea as anything less than a factual anthology. From Cato Dekkerman¿s charming ¿A Wedding in Restitution¿ to Caesar Hill¿s wonderful ¿Flotsam and Jetsam,¿ it becomes an exercise in futility to distinguish Marche the Canadian author from Marche the fictional compiler of material.Marche¿s disparities of tone and style, his inclusion of footnotes and author biographies, his traversing of the Sanjanian cultural landscape though fictional heroes such as fallen woman Pigeon Blackhat and aged crimesolver Professor Saintfrancis; all combine into such a complete literary deconstruction of a land and its people that a reader not in on the joke would be forgiven for looking into making travel arrangements to Sanjania.In a sense, by skirting the usual narrative trappings of the novel, Marche, in revealing ¿a secret compartment of the sea,¿ has summarily reinvented them. Impossible to categorize, impressive in execution, always enthralling, Shining at the Bottom of Sea is a joy, and a celebration of all that is possible in literature.