Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Pathetic Literature

by Eileen Myles

An utterly unique collection composed by the award-winning poet and writer, a global anthology of pieces from lesser-known classics by luminaries like Franz Kafka, Samuel R. Delany, and Gwendolyn Brooks to up-and-coming writers that examine pathos and feeling, giving a well-timed rehab to the word “pathetic” 

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 672
  • Publication Date November 07, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5716-4
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $25.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 672
  • Publication Date November 15, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5715-7
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $34.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date November 15, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5717-1
  • US List Price $34.00

“Literature is pathetic.” So claims Eileen Myles in their provocative and robust introduction to Pathetic Literature, a breathtaking mishmash of pieces ranging from poems to theater scripts to prose to anything in between, all exploring the so-called “pathetic” or awkwardly-felt moments and revelations around which lives are both built and undone.

Myles first reclaimed the word for a seminar they taught at the University of California San Diego in the early 2000s, rescuing it from the derision into which it had slipped and restoring its original meaning of inspiring emotion or feeling, from the Ancient Greek rhetorical method pathos. Their identification of “pathetic” as ripe for reinvention forms the need for this anthology, which includes a hearty 106 contributors, encompassing canonical global stars like Robert Walser, Jorge Luis Borges, Rumi, and Gwendolyn Brooks, literary libertines like Dodie Bellamy, Samuel R. Delany, and Bob Flanagan, as well as extraordinary writers on the rise, including Nicole Wallace, Precious Okoyomon, and Will Farris. Wrenching and discomfiting prose by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Jack Halberstam, and Porochista Khakpour rubs shoulders with poems by Natalie Diaz, Victoria Chang, Lucille Clifton, and Ariana Reines, and butts up against fiction from Chester Himes, Djuna Barnes, Chris Kraus, and Qiu Miaojin, among so many others, including Myles’s own opening salvo of their 1992 presidential campaign. The result is a completely anomalous and uplifting anthology that encourages a fresh political discourse on literature, as well as supplying an essential compendium of pained, awkward, queer, trans, gleeful, and ever-jarring ways to think differently and live pathetically on a polarized and fearful planet.  

Praise for Pathetic Literature:

“Huge—and (I hope) hugely influential . . . A collection that makes an argument or, even more, aspires to frame a counter-tradition of literature . . . An anthology rich in allusions: One piece speaks to another across geography and time . . . The weave is so all-encompassing, the associations so multilayered, that I feel like fireworks are popping off inside my head . . . Pathetic Literature represents not so much a collection as it does an ethos: ‘almost a poem,’ its creator observes. These texts and voices take us someplace unexpected, beyond the individual and into the realm of a collective, a tapestry of words that add up to a way of being in the world.”—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

Pathetic Literature surpasses six hundred pages without ever seeming bloated. The book’s ample size gestures to the enormity of the pathetic as an organizing principle or theme, an ecumenical affect that has no fealty to period, place, or genre . . . Thrilling in its unerring quality and lurching pace, Myles’s engaging collection encompasses essays, poems, short stories, letters, and book excerpts from over one hundred authors connected to movements ranging from Magical Realism to the Black Radical Tradition to Romanticism . . . Rejecting the urge to erase, minimize, or turn away from an unsightly feeling, the writers included in this anthology audaciously inhabit a sentiment that society exhorts its high-functioning citizenry to disown. The beautiful, weird aggregate that results is profoundly, pathetically human.”—Cassie Packard, Brooklyn Rail 

“For the quirky and the weird—and who among us is not?—this singularly unexpected assemblage curated by Lambda Award–winning poet and writer Eileen Myles is an anthology like no other . . . What Myles has captured here is simply this: the power of literature.”—Oprah Daily

“Bits and bobs to make you feel, excerpted from poems, plays, and prose, from Franz Kafka to Porochista Khakpour.”—Vanity Fair

“This far-flung, idiosyncratic collection of transgressive poems, plays, and prose is laser-focused on celebrating the outsider. The result is a resplendent affirmation of humanity that has become so essential and necessary today. In the acknowledgments, Myles hints that Too Pathetic might be forthcoming. Let’s hope so.”—ArtsFuse

“In this powerful anthology, poet Myles shares a wide-ranging but deeply focused reading list linked by the concept of pathos . . . The collection amounts to a solid argument for the value of literature that lays bare its author’s personal investment.”—Publishers Weekly

“Maybe the way these pieces relate to each other seems opaque, but I am 672 pages inside Eileen Myles’s head, and it all makes perfect sense to me. Spending time on this book gave me the same feeling that reading Kafka gives me, the same feeling that I’ve been going through the world with after reading nothing but Dennis Cooper for a month or so. I grin to myself—really grin—when I come across both names in Pathetic Literature, feeling like I’ve discovered something incredible, like Myles knows me . . .  I would recommend Pathetic Literature. It’s pessimistic, kinky, and mean. There’s lots of scat and descriptions of genitals. It might depress you, but probably only if you were depressed beforehand. What I know is that I’ll keep the book with me, just like I keep a German copy of Kafka’s diaries on my bedside.”—Noelle McManus, Liber

Praise for Eileen Myles:

“In Eileen Myles’s newest book of poetry, Evolution, we encounter an arrival, a voice always becoming, unpinnable and queer. Myles’s new poems are transformations, and perhaps a culmination of the poet’s previous inquiries into love, gender, poetry, America, and its politics . . . The form of Myles’s work rivals its subject matter in intimacy. The lines in Evolution are physical, a body unleashed but not yet comfortable and not without fear. The short lines rush down the page, movement as touch, touch as freedom.”—Natalie Diaz, New York Times Book Review

“Myles’s poetry is kinetic, ecstatic, muscular, hilarious, sorrowful, valiant, original, necessary, and timeless.”—Maggie Nelson

“Explore[s] and document the limits of language, both visual and literary.”—Artforum, on Evolution

“I loved Evolution . . . Poems that lope along, chatty, restless and limber.”—Olivia Laing, New Statesman

“Eileen Myles’s essential poetry is the hip kid leaning against their locker secretly burning with intensity, the smartest boy in the class who doesn’t care he has a scar down his face, the thing you just wish you’d said.”—Lena Dunham

“Lopes forward in the strutting style of the witnessing and sincere, but gorgeously nonaustere, poet in New York . . . The gift of Evolution is its bold depiction of the textually-rendered ‘I’-Eileen.”—Kenyon Review

“With the publication of their new book of poetry, Evolution, Myles explores, among other things, the loss of their mother, who died in April of last year; this current political era; past relationships; and their new dog, Honey . . . Myles [wants] people to find the accessibility of poetry: in life, in love, in Instagram, in everything.”—Vanity Fair

Evolution, Eileen Myles’s first all-new collection of poetry since 2011, circles back to classic themes such as their love of dogs, loneliness, and parental loss. These poems, however, are also immediate and pressingly contemporary. Myles is conducting an intimate exchange with the government, peering into their computer and saying hello to whoever might be surveilling them.”—Lambda Literary

“A mutt elegy in a million . . . Myles gets at something no other dog book I’ve read has gotten at quite this distinctly: The sense of wordless connection and spiritual expansion you feel when you love and are loved by a creature who’s not human.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air, on Afterglow (a dog memoir)

“A wry, gorgeous, psychedelic effort to plumb the subject of dog-human partnership.”—New Yorker, on Afterglow (a dog memoir)

“Cosmic, and charming . . . Far-flung, and wonderfully loving.”—Boston Globe, on Afterglow (a dog memoir)

Table of Contents

Introduction by Eileen Myles

“Untitled” by Alice Notley

“we’re the only colored people here” by Gwendolyn Brooks

“People Without Names” by The Friend

“Loveland” by Kevin Killian

“Yesterday I Was” by Ama Birch

“Afterword: The Great Punctuation Typography Struggle” by Andrea Dworkin

“Truth or Consequences” by Ariana Reines

Excerpt from The Pain Journal by Bob Flanagan

“A Description of the Camp” by Baha’ Ebdeir

“Would You Wear My Eyes?” by Bob Kaufman

“August 6, 2011” by Brandon Shimoda

Excerpt from The Romanian: Story of an Obsession by Bruce Benderson

“My Faggot Kansas Blood Confessions to the Earth” and “MyFaggot Blood on His Fist” by CAConrad

“Reading My Catastrophe” by Camille Roy

“Soap Bubbles in the Dirty Water” by Can Xue

Excerpt from Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa

Excerpt from My Mother Laughs by Chantal Akerman

“Before You Go” by Charles Bernstein

Excerpt from If He Hollers, Let Him Go by Chester Himes

Excerpt from I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

Excerpt from “Some Other Deaths of Bas Jan Ader” by Dana Ward

“Being Close to Data” by Dara Barrois/Dixon

Excerpt from God Jr. by Dennis Cooper

Excerpt from “Fat Chance” by Dodie Bellamy

Excerpts from Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

“Campaign Letter for President of the United States, 1991” by Eileen Myles

“that flaming brand” and “Boulder/Meteor” by essa mayranapiri

Excerpts from Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan

“A Child in Old Age” and “A Vision” by Fanny Howe

“there is religious tattooing” by Fred Moten

“Play It Again, S” by Gail Scott

Excerpt from Letter to His Father by Franz Kafka

Excerpt from Lenz by Georg Büchner

Excerpt from My Dog Tulip by J. R. Ackerley

“My Struggle” by Jack Halberstam

“This Dark Apartment” by James Schuyler

“Chronicle” by Frank B. Wilderson III

Excerpt from Winter in the Blood by James Welch

“28.” by Jerome Sala

“An Obituary” by Joe Proulx

“Stop” by Joan Larkin

“The Merry Widow and The Rubber Husband (or How I Caught HIV:Version 4; Fall 1983)” by Joe Westmoreland

“The Copyists” by Jocelyn Saidenberg

“Catullus Tells Me Not to Write the Rant Against the Poem ‘Good Bones’ by Maggie Smith” by The Cyborg Jillian Weise

Selections from The Hotel Wentley Poems by JohnWieners

“The Cult of the Phoenix” by Jorge Luis Borges

“A Woman Is Talking to Death” by Judy Grahn

“You Better Come” by Justin Torres

“New Haven” by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

“SMALL/MEDIUM/LUST” by Andrea Abi-Karam

Excerpt from Great Expectations by Kathy Acker

“38” by Layli Long Soldier

Excerpt from Light While There Is Light by Keith Waldrop

“Shadow Janitor” by Kim Hyesoon

Excerpt from Children in Reindeer Woods by Kristín Ómarsdóttir

“In Case I Don’t Notice,” “God Gives You What You CanHandle,” and “The Only Good” by Laura Henriksen

Excerpt from The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

Excerpt from Wigger by Lawrence Braithwaite

“Worms Make Heaven” by Laurie Weeks

“the mother’s story” and “slave cabin, sotterly plantation, maryland, 1989” by Lucille Clifton

Excerpt from No Lease on Life by Lynne Tillman

Excerpt from All the Battles by Maan Abu Taleb

Selections from Bluets by Maggie Nelson

“East River Park Oak Tree” by Marcella Durand

Excerpt from “Potatoes or Rice?” by Matthew Stadler

“For the Death of 100 Whales,” “Flower Garland Froth,” and“Fleshy Nave” by Michael McClure

“Polishness” by Michelle Tea

“haiku,” “untitled 8,” “5 years old,” and “untitled 2” by Mira Gonzalez

“Sum,” “People Like Monsters,” “How to,” and “Great” byMorgan Võ

“Wedding Loop” by Moyra Davey

“My Brother, My Wound” by Natalie Diaz

Excerpts from Goner by Nate Lippens

“it doesn’t matter how you fall into light, she said” and “think of the words as angels singing in your vagina, she said” by Akilah Oliver

“Los Angeles” by Porochista Khakpour

“NIIZH” by Nicole Wallace

“Letter Three” by Qiu Miaojin

“Intercepts” by Rae Armantrout

“The Gift of Sight” by Rebecca Brown

Selection from The Activist by Renee Gladman

“April 4 Friday” by Rose “Rosebud” Feliu-Pettet

“Kleist in Thun” by Robert Walser

“Ed and the Movies” by Robert Glück

“Four times over,” “I see you and I am getting closer,” and “Strain”by Sallie Fullerton

“Yesterday I went to him full of dismay” by Rumi

“Manual for General Housework” by Saidiya Hartman

Excerpt from Molloy by Samuel Beckett

Excerpt from Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel R. Delany

Selections from The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon

Excerpt from Notes Toward a Pamphlet by Sergio Chejfec

“Letter I: Hesitations Concerning Baptism” by Simone Weil

“Stingray” by Simone White

“it’s dissociation season” by Precious Okoyomon

“TOTAL LOL” by Sophie Robinson

“The Slow Read Movement” and “Lincoln’s Lost Speech” by Sparrow

“Inez, I Have to Gloat: You’re Gorgeous” and “Inez, When Someone Tells You You’re a Bitch” by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

“Where I Left Off” by Susie Timmons

“Falling for You” by Tim Johnson and Mark So

“Email to Mark Tim” by Eileen Myles

Selection from Up Your Ass by Valerie Solanas

“Goodbye Forever” by Steve Carey

Excerpt from La Bâtarde by Violette Leduc

Selection from The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Tom Cole

“Time” by Victoria Chang

“A Story that the United States is Made of” and “Pass” by Tongo Eisen-Martin

Excerpts from The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo

“MW Duet,” “Awake,” “Body,” and “Orlando” by Will Farris

After Words by Eileen Myles