The Annotated Tree Worship:
Draft Research Portfolio. ISBN 978-0-473-41328-6. Paper Table Novellas 2 (i). Auckland: Paper Table, 2017. iv + 88 pp.
List of Topoi. ISBN 978-0-473-41329-3. Paper Table Novellas 2 (ii). Auckland: Paper Table, 2017. iv + 94 pp.
Draft Research Portfolio:
Melancholy Boughs (26/8/12-29/1/13; 8/6/13-16/7/13)
- Vastation - p.2
- Voyage dans la lune - p.3
This Draft Research Portfolio is the first in a pair of twin novellas. A bored provincial academic has been ordered to provide a report on his research. The story he is telling doesn’t sound much like the translation of a sixteenth-century French novel he promised them, though. In fact, as his Head of Department writes indignantly in the margins of his work, it sounds more like madness.
List of Topoi:
- Breaking - p.3
- Entering - p.13
- Marshes - p.22
- Shores - p. 31
- Margins - p.38
- Tomb - p.47
- Cave - p.56
- Labyrinth - p.57
- Eros - p.66
- Dreams - p.75
- Pictures - p.77
- Food - p.82
- Goddess - p.89
Workplace bullying lies at the heart of List of Topoi, the second in a pair of twin novellas by Jack Ross. Or does it? Perhaps there’s something stranger going on here. Just who is this narrator, anyway, and what kind of an agenda might he have?
Jack Ross’s publications include five poetry books, three novels, two novellas, and two collections of short fiction. He is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand, and works as a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Massey University’s Albany campus.
6 Hastings Rd
RRP: $NZ40 for the pair
Reviews & Comments:
- Bronwyn Lloyd, Launch speech introducing Paper Table Novellas (December 3, 2017):
The first two books in the series are Jack Ross’s novella in two parts, The Annotated Tree Worship, and Letters to a Psychiatrist, written in the mid-70s by Leicester Kyle and distributed as a limited-edition pamphlet – now republished in 2017 in consultation with Leicester’s dedicated co-literary executor, Jack Ross. There are many overlapping themes in the two books, indicating that Jack’s reading of Leicester’s novella exerted a deep subliminal influence on him. That’s the reason I wanted the two books to come out together and I hope you’ll enjoy discovering the connections yourselves when you read them.
- Richard Taylor, Online comment on The Imaginary Museum blog (December 9, 2017):
I enjoyed the launch. I have read your first book. Very absorbing and the ref. to a story by Henry James got me reading that story. Very much enjoyed! I think just right. The trees from those ('talking') trees in LOTRS? I am now absorbed in your second.
Novellas. A good form. I like the method of the second. Topoi. Typical topics. ...
What you, Bronwyn and Lisa (the artist) and others are doing around Pania Press is great. Her art is good also. I like the covers.
I urge readers to read these two. They are very absorbing, intriguing. Not just dry academic. Mix of fast and slow pace. Good stuff ...
- Zoe Nash, "5 Minutes with ... Print Designer & & Illustrator, Lisa Baudry." Design Assembly (December 12, 2017):
This week I’ve just signed off on some fantastic books with a new literary press, Paper Table. I designed the covers and inside pages. They are the first 3 books in an series of novellas. Each book features painterly botanicals on the covers. I’m hoping some of these designs will also make their way onto textiles somehow.
- Tracey Slaughter, "Jack Ross's The Annotated Tree Worship" (Launch Speech at 6 Hastings Rd, 3rd December 2017):
In the online blog which thickens the ‘garden of forked paths’ linking these fascinating books, Jack describes the plot of an Ursula Le Guin fantasy, where reality is ‘literally being dreamed into existence all around us’ and only a rare being can ‘stand outside and watch the unfolding strands of this multiverse.’ That rare master, to me, is Dr Jack Ross. There’s no one in New Zealand literature exploring the dark ways of narrative with the alchemical touch of Jack Ross, and his gift of spinning tales which jump ‘from track to track on the time-space continuum’ never fails to leave me exhilarated, in outright awe.
- Garry Craig Powell, "Jack Ross's The Annotated Tree Worship," Facebook (29/7/18):
Just read Jack Ross's novella The Annotated Tree Worship. A delight.
- Vana Manasiadis, email communication (December 13, 2020):
... did I ever write to tell you how much I loved loved loved Annotated Tree Worship? I'm not sure I did, which is the height of dumb. So damn layered and funny and wry and smart and self-aware and sentences-to-die-for and Nabokovian all the way.
[reprinted by permission]
Tracey Slaughter. "Launch speech: Jack Ross's The Annotated Tree Worship." (3/12/17):
I first embarked upon my journey into the shady, forked world of The Annotated Tree Worship when I was simultaneously caught up in preparations for my own Draft Research Portfolio, that document of official torment whose compilation any academic learns to rightly dread. Be warned: PBRF is a perilous, or perhaps aphrodisiac, time to give yourself over to these sly, spellbinding twin books (with the third in the ‘troika’ lurking so cleverly, as you’ll see from the flyleaf, in an online blog link). Any Jack Ross fiction is always going to be a Siamese dream, a text which plays with the pleasures and hauntings of text itself, that toys with, clones and uncloaks characters, that lures you down corridors of narrative where alternate stories murmur beyond mirrored doors – and this delicious doubled (or tripled) novella features a disintegrating academic whose formal documents of scholarly performance soon start to splinter and seep, swerving from their purpose of testifying to publication outcomes and professional achievements into a strange haze of pathways that range from the pomo to the supernatural to the porno, his intellectual pursuits and ‘ponderings [increasingly] jerked off into dreams’ (as one poem from the blog puts it). Jack has always worked, as one critic said of David Mitchell, ‘as if writing from the helm of some perpetual dream machine,’ and the magnificent labyrinth of The Annotated Tree Worship proves no exception, glinting with Jack’s wicked gift for leading readers into places where stories spill and breed, strange realms replicate and twist reality, voices whisper like unharvested pages from the trees. When it may seem to masquerade at its most linear – and it does for long stretches, so that even the bullying scholarly reviewer whose disgusted comments pepper the margins can’t ultimately resist the dirty fixations and learned enticements of the tale Jack’s narrator spins – there are always myriad narrative threads and resonances being cast around the reader, to silkily pull their textual assumptions undone. We may feel on solid story ground as the narrator details his suburban neighbourhood, with its ‘strip of disputed land’ running the brink between his domicile and the mother/daughter duo next door, but this mundane boundary slippage just marks the first in a series of fused and overflowing thresholds, as the straightforward and scholarly slides into the subterranean, research directions stream into existential dread, bookish pursuits slither off-task into a sexy, sylvan hallucination. Forget thresholds. You’re in a Jack Ross book now. And books themselves are always portals, they’re never guides out, but only deeper in – though the narrator tries to decode his eerie experiences with a multitude of literary references, splendidly flourishing Jack’s own vast breadth of reading (which never fails to take my breath), this cultivated bibliophile is only ever descending into wilder kingdoms, with books arousing seamy leanings, conjuring malignant doubles, and translation tipping over into kinky delight. The carnal and uncanny are always uncoiling from the serpentine shapes of stories, as books fuel and pollute their readers’ fantasies and fears – at one point, the narrator begins to murmur a bedside story of De Bergerac to his lover, but it soon slips from its original form into a ‘spiced-up’ ‘embellished’ voyage, winding the riffs and nightmares of the speaker’s mind, crossing all generic thresholds – and of course, as the novella opens we’re in precisely this position as reader, ripe to be seduced. Books are no protection, they’re ‘joint hallucination[s],’ subliminal agents of all modes of chaos from the occult to the comical – all forms of official document the narrator employs to shore up his wavering psyche descend too into so many ‘psychotic claims,’ manuscripts vanishing and reappearing between novellas, the trail of any factual account always dissolving among ‘timebombs of testimony,’ folios swelled by sinful yearning, strange ‘vastations’ of doomed paper threatening to manifest other lives and selves. Pages are always darkened glass, through which ‘irreconcilable realities’ shimmer and ‘concepts cross in mist.’ In the online blog which thickens the ‘garden of forked paths’ linking these fascinating books, Jack describes the plot of an Ursula Le Guin fantasy, where reality is ‘literally being dreamed into existence all around us’ and only a rare being can ‘stand outside and watch the unfolding strands of this multiverse.’ That rare master, to me, is Dr Jack Ross. There’s no one in New Zealand literature exploring the dark ways of narrative with the alchemical touch of Jack Ross, and his gift of spinning tales which jump ‘from track to track on the time-space continuum’ never fails to leave me exhilarated, in outright awe. So buy these books, surrender to their pull, their mischief, their lyricism, their complexities, their visionary cunning, their satirical genius – you’ll love every moment lost in their intoxicating labyrinth. It's a thrill and an honour to be here to launch them – once again, all hail Jack Ross, the King of Alt, ‘disturber of all sorts of systems,’ ‘enemy of straight lines and clear destinations.’ And congratulations Paper Table on your championing of the New Zealand novella, and your launch of this trailblazing, engrossing and utterly original work.
Paper Table Books at Everest Base Camp
[photo: Sophia Lewis]