James Lasdun was born in London and now lives in upstate New York. He has published three books of poetry—A Jump Start, Woman Police Officer in Elevator, and Landscape with Chainsaw—and three collections of short stories, most recently Besieged (Selected Stories), of which the title story was made into a film by Bernardo Bertolucci.

Houellebecq in the Flesh

Michel Houellebecq, 2014

At fifty-seven, Michel Houellebecq has the miraculous look of someone almost double his age. Etched, haggard, battered, half-collapsed, his face seems destined to become one of the great ruins of our literary era; something to measure up to Beckett or Auden—for druidic ancientness if not quite nobility. His mouth in particular is alarmingly caved-in, as though his mother had followed through on her notorious threat to smash his teeth in with her walking stick if he ever wrote about her again.

Between a and B

The Tree of Heaven’s lost its winter bloom Of plastic bags. The leaves are coming out— A fizz of reddish green afloat Over the garbage it sprouted from. You wonder why it bothers. Hasn’t it heard Nobody’s interested in that kind of thing…? A …