Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Borges' Travel, Hemingway's Garage

Borges' Travel, Hemingway's Garage

Borges' Travel, Hemingway's Garage
Secret Histories

by Mark Axelrod

Paperback
2004. 112 pp.
ISBN 978-1-57366-114-0
Price: $13.95

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If art imitated capitalism, it would look like Borges' Travel, Hemingway's Garage. In this secret guide to culture, Mark Axelrod has scoured Europe and the Americas, photographing products and businesses that bear the great names of Western civilization and then has recounted the little-known turns of fate by which our immortals ended in these mundane straits.


Learn the untold history of Rembrandt's Toothpaste, Van Gogh's Potatoes, Lautrec Handbags, and Kipling's Rucksacks. Dine on Fellini's Pollo La Strada in Brussels. Hear the great Czech fabulist kibitzing with his cooks at Kafka's Cafe, and find out about Christ's "hidden years" at the Taverne Chez Jesus.


Axelrod's guide reconnects contemporary reality with a heritage it has rendered dreamlike, making tangible the hallucinatory grandeur still projected from our past. For those who lament our culture's prostitution to capital, Borges' Travel, Hemingway's Garage offers definitive proof that art lives on.


"A different voice in North American Writing...a very special, poignant sense of humor." —Luisa Valenzuela


"This novel is an experiment with style and a comment on the social fabric of the United States. Replete with experiment, it contains advertising blurbs, movie blurbs, and typographic dalliances. It is also a satire on Hollywood film; American television, folklore, advertising, and education; the U.S. presidency; Ronald Reagan; and publishing prejudices and "literary" agent incompetence. Moreover, it contains a panoply of gibes, jabs, and gestures at American culture in general. The author is attempting to prove that the novel is not dead, only that those people who want to write novels in the style of Balzac are dead." —World Literature Today


Excerpt


Cafe Karen Blixen:


Blixen always seemed hampered by money problems. Whether dealing with literary agents, publishers or coffee reps, Blixen was always trying to "wheel and deal" financially. But Blixen was also hampered by another thing: food. That is, just as food played such a large part in her creative life, so too did food play a great role in the financial life of the Café Karen Blixen.


It all began as a joke when, in 1949, a certain Geoffrey Gorer made a bet with her that she couldn't sell a piece of fiction to The Saturday Evening Post. The topic: food; something Americans loved reading about.


So Blixen set about writing a short story which resulted in Babette's Feast and which The Post, in all their editorial wisdom, summarily rejected. She then sent it to Good Housekeeping (sic) which, likewise, rejected it. She was "fortunate," however, in getting The Ladies' Home Journal to accept it after a very lengthy review process. After all, one couldn't be too critical about a short story coming from someone whose native language wasn't English. They were curious places to send fiction of that caliber, but Blixen was intent on getting the story published. But Gorer also convinced her that perhaps she should try to "expand her appetite" into other "culinary areas." It was a well-known fact that the Karen Coffee Company was initiated in 1916 with shares sold to family and friends, but by 1918, the drought in East Africa took its toll on human life as well as coffee beans and began to drain the company's financial situation from which it never fully recovered. So it was shortly after the publication of Babette's Feast that Gorer suggested the idea of franchising Karen Blixen Cafés in order to play on the success of the fiction and to help her regain some of the early losses that were never adequately realized. Plans were outlined, a financial scheme was drawn and by the early '50s the cafés were in business all over Denmark, Holland and the rest of Scandinavia.