about the author

Jacques Debrot has a PhD from Harvard University and chairs the department of Literature and Language at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountains. His short fiction appears recently in The Collagist, Hobart (web), and Gone Lawn and was a finalist in The Dr. T. J. Eckleberg Review’s Franz Kafka Award in Fiction.

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A Brief History of the Minor Modernists

Jacques Debrot

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If they’re remembered at all it’s for sleeping with Man Ray or knocking F. Scott Fitzgerald flat on his ass or crashing an Hispano-Suiza into a ditch on the way to a bullfight. Their difficult books are no longer read. No one plays their études or spends any time with their rigorous, anarchic paintings. In photographs they sit at an outside table on the terrace of the Café de Flore or the Dome with a leg or a head cropped out or lounge on crowded beaches that could be in Antibes or on the Gold Coast, freckled and defiantly dumpy in old-fashioned swimsuits. They dabble in opium or lesbianism. They join pan-Buddhist conventions and write manifestos that are typed poems arranged to look like explosions on paper. They have nervous breakdowns in the trenches at Foucaucourt-en-Santerre, on cruise ships after wild send-off parties, or in sprawling white hotels. The minor Modernists are unextravagant in everything except Books. Museums bore them. Bad news confirms their paranoia. They devour science fiction and westerns. They believe that genius is a habit that can be acquired. They write in day beds with filthy sheets and on slow trains as the rain smacks against the carriage windows like wet darts. In old age they wither or bloat. They commit suspension-bridge suicides at twenty-five. Or middle-aged, they die in boarding houses in Havana or Berlin or Lisbon, their worldly possessions consisting of suitcases full of books and unpublished manuscripts. Melancholy deaths, almost always. Deaths that are more like disappearances. Deaths that took practice to perfect.

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