This collection of conceptual fictions enacts the misalliances of lovers, coworkers, families, and friends, following out the unlikely conjunctions of postmodern America to their often preposterous ends. At the work's comic center is an invention that transgresses the boundaries of fiction and fraud. Just who is Jirí Cêch? A businessman, vampire, and artist from Czechoslovakia? A website? A hoax? An American con artist whose racism and sexism, although obnoxious, only heighten his allure? Or is he Debra Di Blasi herself? Obsessed with everything as enigmatic as himself, whether platypuses or Emily Dickinson, Jiri seems determined to become an obsession for us as well.
In her third work of fiction, Debra Di Blasi explores the process of writing, not merely as an arrangement of words, but as the creation of pages, of signifying colors and forms in two-dimensional space. The Jirí Chronicles & Other Fictions is writing for the eyes, with illustrations and digital images defining this work as a response to our collective lust for visual information. Di Blasi's ability to generate tension results from her integration of these pictorial codes with exquisitely designed sentences:
The poet bored of living dead, so loving the living dead - Emily with her clever dash of pause and breath, little here-to-there line demarcating the fat-swarming world here she inhabited there on her page in her mind, that line a slit through which she'd slip, like a finger between labia, and all the wetness of creation a swooning banquet of word-interlaced silence.
These mixed-media fictions are as fun as they are intellectually provocative. The Jirí Chronicles & Other Fictions is a masterful work by one of America's creators of a new literary medium.
"Agitated, angry, inventive, iconoclastic, both literally and figuratively graphic, the real Jiri Cech would both revere and rape Emily Dickinson, then bottle all the blue flies she ever imagined and make a balm to annoint the body of his beloved. Or at least the object of his desire.
Here is a series of tales, in varying keys, of intoxication and revenge, intoxication with whatever seduces, revenge for being seduced. An oblique memoir of family, an investigation of a mother's misplaced life, flirtation with self-advertisement in the manner of supermarket tabloids, and above all the Chronicles of Jiri Cech, seducer supreme, rogue chauvinist, lover and enemy. Beware, reader, you're in for a sumptuous, hypertextual, hypercharged ride. Hyperion himself would smile."—David Hamilton, Editor, The Iowa Review
"Debra Di Blasi's The Jirí Chronicles & Other Fictions is chaotic, brilliant and, like Jirí Cêch himself, possibly quite mad. With frenetic energy, Di Blasi mixes personal narrative with ad copy, traditional fiction with newspaper clippings, email messages, reportage, collage, and scholarship. The resulting concoction is consistently surprising, challenging, invigorating, and, most surprisingly of all, often deeply moving. Di Blasi has a mind unlike anyone else writing fiction today, and this is her finest work yet."—Kevin Prufer, editor of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing
"In Di Blasi's visual rhapsody, time passing is us fucking, killing, and betraying each other; time stalled is our obsessive concern with the head of the spear. All our furies-fathers, the way roots rot, the puzzle of cross words, fathers-dance on the head of a pin, till we can't help but laugh. Rage, cradled in Di Blasi's brilliant hands, grows gorgeous. Mothers and trees from photos fade, and we enjoy an exquisite lack of orgasm, sobriety...and bears."—Kass Fleisher, author of Accidental Species: A Reproduction
"In clear, resonant prose, laced with bittersweet humor, Di Blasi imparts her understanding of love's multiple ironies."—The New York Times Book Review
"Both Di Blasi's style and her objective distance and comprehension of her chosen subject mark her as a very psychologically driven, very talented writer."—Publishers Weekly
"Debra Di Blasi writes about love with thrilling originality and insight."—Robert Olen Butler, 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner for A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain
"Di Blasi...is young, brash, hard-nosed, and talented…."—Voices in Italian Americana
"Erotic, earthy, humorous, sometimes shocking, always engaging."—George Gurley, The Kansas City Star
"Di Blasi is a bold talent and succeeds in a teasingly abrupt style."—BookLovers
From the story, "Czechoslovakian Rhapsody Sung to the Accompaniment of Piano"
GENEALOGY: BAD TO THE BONE: PART 1
My maternal grandmother died believing she was half German, half Irish. She was not. Here's the story:
Toward the end of the 19th Century my great-grandfather, who was a Jew and whose last name began with the letter G, emigrated from Germany to the United States. This was his second emigration. The first was during the European Revolution, as an infant carried by his parents. There had been "some sort of trouble" and the G family had escaped it by fleeing to America. (Something about Kaiser Wilhelm. Something about money and/or property. Something vague but unseemly, perhaps dangerous but not, perhaps, noble.) The trouble vanished, or was momentarily forgotten by the Kaiser, and the G family returned home only to flee again for similarly vague but [perhaps] ignoble reasons. The family settled somewhere in the area of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin-that region known for its vast Jewish-emigré population (ha ha ha!).
There were six children in the G family: three girls and three boys, one of whom was my great-grandfather. Something happened to the parents; either they again returned to Germany to face whatever political music was playing (Wagner?) or they died or they simply could not afford to feed, clothe, and shelter a brood of six. Therefore, the girls were sent to live with a family by the name of Johns, and the boys were sent to live with a family by the name of Clark. The Clarks were Irish. My great-grandfather took not only their name but their heritage, and passed it on to (1) his daughter (my grandmother) whom he never told otherwise, and (2) his son (my great-uncle) whom he told shortly before his death, shamefaced, though it was never clear whether his shame arose from the 70-year charade or his Jewishness. Let me explain:
My great-grandfather hated being a Jew. It shamed him. Whether it was the anti-Semitic climate in Germany or the anti-Semitic climate in Beaver Dam, or the anti-Semitic climate in his soul, my grandfather wanted so badly to fit into the world-a world that offered the possibility of rejection wherever he went-that he himself became anti-Semitic. He was a handsome man with olive skin and black hair and eyes, and a thick black mustache, and a streamlined soldierly physique. There was an exoticism about his appearance that couldn't be explained away (though he tried) by saying he was not only Irish but Black Irish: finer, rarer, worthier.
He was worthy to Hattie, my great-grandmother: a tall big-boned German woman, her blue eyes drawn to his black eyes like day to night. She knew his true identity for he confessed it one night after they had kissed and kissed deeply, and she had hinted at their shared future by saying, "I vish to go on kissing you forever-if you know vhat I mean." Loved him especially for the burden of his self-hatred: the limping melancholia it lent him.
AND YOUR ARYAN EYE, BRIGHT BLUE
Ah, yes! I remember you years ago, when you were in the shape of a young man with Aryan looks of blue eyes & blond hair, and an Aryan last name (von Something-or-other), and an Aryan hatred for Jews and Gypsies and Blacks and Hispanics and Homosexuals and anyone everyone all who did not appear Aryan, as I did then in my German-skin phase, my eyes-Swiss-blue phase, my English-tongue-and-cheek phase. And I remember, I remember that last night you visited me before I fled to Europe, you were hung over and disgusted because you had fucked a Jewish woman ("But she had blonde hair!") and how you felt, you said, "unclean" and "damaged" and how those words toppled incongruously from your young ignorant lips, the way "genocide" and "supremacy" might spill from the lips of a three-year-old boy-for the implications of the words are as yet incomprehensible to him of the small dick the incomplete prick, and the words themselves only sounds his father makes when he's pissed and self-righteous and light-in-the-pocket after a long shitty day at the office. And I remember how I could not bring myself to declare, "My great-grandfather was a Jew," and how the shame of my reticence made me hate you that night so that when you said "I love you" and kissed me good-bye I shuddered, and when you'd gone I scrubbed my lips with a rag until they bled.
I should have sent you the part-Jew-bloody rag with a note reading: "Fuck this, you fascist disease, you crime against humanity."
Instead, when I ran into you ten years later I kissed you on the cheek and asked about your health and your new wife. Who was Irish.
The Jiri Chronicles & Other Fictions
The Jiri Chronicles & Other Fictions