Anything & Everything is a collection of imaginary portraits of modern and contemporary artists ranging from Montaigne to Erik Satie, Gertrude Stein, David Lynch and Captain Beefheart. While some of these "microessays" are grounded in the life and works of the artists, others were
generated by a more personal, subjective, associational logic that pays tribute to the complex, whimsical and paradoxical legacy of Belgian Surrealism. More often than not, the works and artists considered here are seen through the lens of the conjunction of food and
discourse, from a perspective that stresses the need to attend to the movements of a consciousness which is as visceral as it is cerebral.
Praise for Anything & Everything
Anything & Everything (the original French was called Between the Pear and the Cheese, referring to the entr’acte at dinner between the two courses) presents us with a medley of riddling Steinian portraits of our favorite artists and writers. From Montaigne to Warhol, from Proust to Ponge, from Beckett to Bacon, from Satie to Steve Reich (an especially brilliant one!), Michel Delville, poet and expert on the prose poem, invents verbal fantasies that catch the exact nuance of the work in question. Sometimes narrative, sometimes lyric, these charming definition poems will delight and engage you—and above all, make you smile with the shock of recognition. This is a genuinely delightful book, full of surprises and new bonbons to whet one’s appetite!
One doesn't read across these pages but enters into them, becoming quicky excited by being inside the addictive texts. Each piece is a meal ticket, a short, disarming ride to a world of sharp aroma and tangential flavour. Works and ideas by familiar creatives are laid before us afresh, and overlaid and strengthened by astounding and original thought. Further, Delville has X-rayed the works and ideas and exposed their underpinning, their very nature. The complex rhythms he employs are extraordinary, recipes by way of rhythm, the intricacies of colours and humors and the complexity of their ordering (in all senses) and arrangement. In these texts we are delighted to find oil in our drink and grit in our food. These works are, often literally, mouthwatering. There are Poe like gothic visions, evoking scenarios of bounteous web covered food on tables set before great roaring fires. Or again Carrollian tea parties of strange and uncanny fare. The subtleties of his ideas are thrilling, mesmerising and deeply intriguing. He frees words, allowing them to gel around each idea. Sentences such as "Wine flows under the table and slowly inches toward the door. The walls are pock-marked and light interferes with pores, causing discomfort arising from a disagreement between the duty of deception..." or "His jacket pockets, worn with rain and sweat, recalls the womb in which the author said he felt so cramped, from which he claimed to scream from the depths of his intrauterine lungs." Here we have such subtle slicing and layering, one does not only taste but absorbs the ineffable intricacies of his words and ideas.
This translation of Michel Delville's brilliant prose poems, these, that is, into Anything and Everything, sounds like Michel Delville, which is about as high a compliment as compliments get. The quirky phrasing, the twists and turns and returns, the angular perception, it all comes out the way it went into the original, and when we say original here, we mean original.
—Mary Ann Caws
Anything & Everything offers a bountiful literary feast. These dazzling meditations on food and artistic culture are both playful and erudite. They offer treat after treat, the “overpowering pleasure in words made flesh.
If the “worst modern nightmare” is eating “without appetite” (“Wyndham Lewis”), Michel Delville seeks to awaken us from that nightmare by inviting us to enjoy the pleasures of language, as the English idiom has it, “with relish.” Moving deftly and fluently between the culinary idiomatic register figured in its original French title, Entre la poire et le fromage, and the dryly abstract register of that title’s English translation, Anything & Everything, the book’s thirty-six “prose poems and microessays” revel in a riot of the senses that refuses to consider taste, smell, sight sound, touch as mere side dishes to the staple literary, aesthetic, philosophical pleasures of affect and concept. Instantiating Borges’ dictum that writers—and not only writers, but all artists—“create their precursors,” Delville sets the table for us to savor all the arts together with a Rabelaisian disdain for discrimination.