Dennis McCort was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, the “mile square city” on the Hudson, in the shadow of Manhattan. He writes of his experiences growing up there in the postwar industrial era before gentrification in his recently published book, A Kafkaesque Memoir: Confessions from the Analytic Couch, now available from PalmArt Press and Amazon Kindle eBooks. McCort is now retired from Syracuse University where he taught German language and literature over a long career. He has authored scholarly books on Swiss writer C.F. Meyer and on the influence of Zen on such Western writers as J.D. Salinger, R.M. Rilke and Thomas Merton. Turning to the writing of fiction in retirement, he recently completed a comic novel, titled The Man Who Loved Doughnuts, about a young professor who fails to get tenure at his upstate university and spends a lost weekend in lower Manhattan (also available from Amazon Kindle). His second novel, a psychological thriller titled Duncan, is slated to be published by Gatekeeper Press on January 31, 2019. He says of it, “This ‘devil’s spawn’ of a book was born of my lifelong addiction to thriller reads and suspense movies.”
The Man Who Loved Doughnuts (2015)
Translated from German:
Off the Tracks: A Novel (2016), by Inge Merkel
In the Lions’ Den and the Panther (2011) by Felix Mitterer
Hermann Leopoldi. The Life of a Viennese Piano Humorist (2013), by Georg Traska and Christoph Lind
Things Could’ve Been a Lot Worse: The Experiences of a German American Bellybutton Jew of Berlin Origins (2016), by Gerd K. Schneider
Biggest literary influencers:
William James, for his elegance and precision of style; Franz Kafka, for his strangeness, which is, somehow, so familiar; Karl Ove Knausgaard, for his courage to glorify the trivial, which most of life is; E.T.A. Hoffmann, for his magical ability to evoke the reality of the unseen.
Last book read:
Phineas Finn (1867-68), by Anthony Trollope. A delightful Victorian novel about upper-crust social life and parliamentary politics in 19th-century London.
The book that changed your life:
The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment (1980 ed.), by Philip Kapleau. This book opened up the spiritual realm for me, a man who spurned organized religion yet yearned for the spiritual. Zen, via Kapleau, showed me, through its simplicity and its rigor, how and why religious beliefs were a stumbling block to authentic spiritual vision. Three bows (Japanese gassho) to Kapleau.
Your favorite literary character:
Gregor Samsa, the anti-hero of Kafka’s story, The Metamorphosis (ca. 1912), who wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a huge insect. And its all downhill from there, culminating in Gregor’s death at the hands of his cold, unfeeling family on a Spring Sunday morning (Easter time). Believe it or not, this is a love story, the love of a son for his family in spite of their rejection of him. Overtones of Christ on the cross, but the Christian symbolism is very subtle, so subtle that most readers miss it and even expert commentators aren’t convinced it’s there. An immensely powerful story of world renown, which, oddly, the author himself did not especially like.
Currently working on:
A novel with the working title, “The Exquisitely Ectoplasmic Koans of Anselm MacGregor.” It’s a pastiche of a fairy tale by the German Romantic author, E.T.A. Hoffmann, about a young graduate student (titular Anselm) who undergoes a kind of spiritual apprenticeship to a strange, eccentric archivist employed at a technological institute that overlooks the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey. Various weird, unsettling, even dangerous, things happen to Anselmus as he muddles his way along the rocky path to a kind of spiritual illumination.
Words to live by:
If you live by words, you’re confusing the map with the territory.
Advice to new and aspiring authors:
Don’t “collect” experiences for the sake of your art. If you do, both your life and your art will be second-rate. (By no means do I claim to have entirely lived up to my own advice.)
A Kafkaesque Memoir: Confessions from the Analytic Couch:
Amazon Customer Review:
Thomas J. Kennedy
10 February 2018 – Published on Amazon.com
Not since I read Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” in my days as a student, have I been so fascinated by a book which uses the analysis of dreams and the role of the subconscious as a modus operandi for the telling of the author’s personal story. This tale, told with the analysand as narrator, is well-supplied with interesting and amusing apercus, and an entertaining and, at times, vehement exchange of views between the author and his analyst, with whom he eventually becomes quite close. The book presents a revealing glimpse into what it means to be human in an age which has grown dangerously insensitive to the demands of the human heart. Some knowledge of Eastern religious and philosophical traditions will help the reader in understanding some of the discussions.
Going beyond the Pairs: The Coincidence of Opposites in German Romanticism, Zen and Deconstruction:
“By going beyond the oppositionalism of nineteenth-century Romanticism and twentieth- century deconstruction, McCort compellingly demonstrates that these critical theories each indicate an implicit ‘third, ‘ a triangulation of signification, in the face of difference. The surprise in the argument is that the radical wisdom concerning this coincidence of opposites comes from Zen! It is an Asian logic that makes going beyond Occidental pairs experientially and intellectually possible.” — David Miller, author of Three Faces of God
“In addition to building surprising bridges between these seemingly disparate literary and philosophical systems, McCort offers a new reading of deconstruction that helps us find a way out of the cul de sac of much current critical theory.” — Harold Coward, author of Derrida and Indian Philosophy