On Births and Prophecies

Quarterly Volume II || Winter 2023

Chers amis de L’Esprit

Bienvenue à our second quarterly, Winter 2023! We’re very excited to send this out to all of you, and share the latest goings on of the journal. In this edition, we are featuring information about our reading for Issue Two, calls for submissions, an exciting new extract, a major announcement, and more.

This Winter Quarterly also marks our debut inter-issue feature, coming between the full releases of Issue One and Issue Two. Moving forward, in winter and summer, we will have new work published in the newsletter, exclusive to the quarterly. Two excellent, thought-provoking essays get us into 2023: Some Notes on Modernism and Creative Writing by Michael Nath and Descartes, Thoreau, and The Brass Tacks by Louis Gallo. Find extracts of each below.

As always we start, in the tradition of Eliot’s Criterion, with A Commentary.

A Commentary

Next month is the one-year anniversary of L’Esprit, conceived (of) in a Parisian bar hard up against the Seine (I think it was Pub Saint-Michel) in November and born online, as so much is these days, in February. It’s been an incredible year, and when we overuse excited here and on social media, it’s for good reason. To go from a third-beer idea in the Paris rain to a real living journal, one with contributors and readers and all that stuff of life, has been a wild, extraordinary thing. We’ve so far put out two full issues and a commemorative feature, with the last two, including Issue One, coming entirely from general submissions. We’ve got Issue Two ready to go, a start on Issue Three, and more already lined up as well. Most importantly, we have an expanding network of contributors, readers, and supporters who share our passion for exploring the boundaries of fiction, for refusing convention at the expense of truth, for always advancing the cause of fearless writing. That, one might say, is truly hors de prix

This Quarterly, our second, marks another milestone: our first inter-issue feature (the excellent idea of Associate Editor Jessica Denzer). In between full issues, each April and October, we’ll be including a few original pieces along with the Quarterly, as a way of keeping new work coming out regularly and changing speeds a bit from our standard editions. We’re very excited (there I go again) about the two essays we have for our debut, by Michael Nath and Lou Gallo, which are excerpted below and published in full on the website–our new Notes and Errata section will be the place to find these and all future features.

This is also Birthday Week at L’Esprit, coming between that of Virginia Woolf (Jan. 25) and James Joyce (Feb. 2). The work featured in this Quartelry engages in some way with our two most direct literary ancestors, and is our way of saying joyeux anniversaire to both. Woolf and Joyce were, of course, born in the same year, 1882, and would die mere months apart. It is one of life’s very odd cosmic amusements that these two titanic figures of Modernist art and literature would come in and go out of the world so closely together, as if the universe, having so lavishly distributed from its share of genius, had to take back its treasures all at once.

Birth and death, endings and beginnings; these are frequent partygoers at fiction’s soiree. They are timelessly and tirelessly written about, imagined, dreamed, remembered, forgotten, omitted, erased. Life, that walking shadow, certainly does not lack for brevity, but just as surely leaves its mark. With the ease of modern technology, L’Esprit came into the world painlessly–no grand prophecy here; Macbeth is saved–but it aims to have a long and challenging life, contesting literary convention, carving out a space for fearless, risk-adept writing, questioning what the word can and should do.

So, a year in, thank you to everyone who has read, contributed, and supported our endeavor. Thank you to Jessica Denzer, and thank you to all our literary ancestors. Much more to come.

D. W. White, 29 January 2023

Call for Submissions

L’Esprit is currently reading for Issue Three, due out in mid-October, as well as our next inter-issue feature, the Summer Quarterly. Forthcoming in June, we will once again be celebrating Bloomsday and Dalloway Day with writing inspired by, dancing around, or in some way conversant with Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway. Read our Modern Day 22 feature for an idea of what we’re after.

We’re also especially interested in getting more critical work (be it book reviews, literary criticism, autotheory, or craft essays), and writing in translation (we’d love something from French). See our Submission Guidelines for more details.


L’Esprit is now on Submittable!

Find us here.

Issue Two Reading

Come help us launch Issue Two for our second Zoom reading, featuring contributors presenting their work! Sunday, April 16th at 11:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time (GMT-7). Sign up using the link here:


Publication Announcements

L’Esprit is once again thrilled to share a few recent publication announcements from past contributors!

KHOSHBAKHTAM,” a short story by Kent Kosack, in Four Way Review.

His Heroic Courtesies,” a short story by Joyce Goldenstern published in Wordrunner journal, was nominated for a Pushcart prize.

Katherine Strange published an essay in Huff Post, “I Had Complex PTSD and Didn’t Know,” and recently launched a new Substack, The Heretic Hereafter.

And a recent essay from Editor D. W. White on POV in the novels of Rachel Cusk, The Revolution Comes from Within: Interiority and Point of View in Selected Novels of Rachel Cusk

Félicitations à tous!

Hormuz Shahdadi’s Night of Terror

L’Esprit is honored to be publishing an excerpt from the first English translation of Hormuz Shahdadi’s Night of Terror (originally published in 1978 as Shab-e Howl), translated from the Persian by Kayvan Tahmasebian and Rebecca Ruth Gould.

An underground classic written just before the 1979 Iranian Revolution that is currently being rediscovered by Iran’s millennial generation, this energetic novel utilizes various stream-of-consciousness techniques and has recently been invoked in the context of the current protests within Iran, inspiring the translators to share Shahdadi’s work with the world.

L’Esprit is very excited to be publishing this incredible extract. Look for it in Issue Two, forthcoming in mid-April.

Tangled Locks

The Issue Two Reading will feature special guest Tangled Locks Journal, who will be bringing some of their contributors to read! Check out their great work on their website.

House Portraits

Issue One contributor Jennifer Ostopovich is quite the visual artist and was kind enough to draw for us house portraits of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. Find them on our About page, and look for more of Jennifer’s visual work in future editions!

An excerpt of Louis Gallo’s Descartes, Thoreau, and The Brass Tacks

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms….

–Thoreau, Walden

Cogito ergo sum.

–Descartes, Discourse on Method

As I entertained these two aforementioned thoughts this morning, which have stuck with me since my undergraduate days and which I had always found unrelatable, it occurred to me that Thoreau and Descartes had after all pursued the same, identical target—getting down to the brass tacks. That cliché does not quite encapsulate the urge to excise excrescences in order to mine essences, but it will do. Some would call it reductionism—in a pejorative sense—while others would welcome the exploration of ultimates. Quantum physicists have always pursued such ultimates by first identifying atoms, then the constituents of atoms such as electrons and protons—and ultimately, so far, down to the varied quarks. This is reductionism par excellence, but no one would dismiss it as negativity.

Turns out that Thoreau engaged in the same enterprise—where Descartes acted cognitively, as a thought experiment, Thoreau’s was a physical endeavor. Descartes meditated, Thoreau acted. Which is not to say that Thoreau’s task lacked rationality or mentality. He used the word “deliberately,” and to deliberate means to think. But Thoreau translated his thought into praxis—he sought the essentials to survival, the sine qua non’s. They turned out to be vital heat, food, shelter and a few others I’ve forgotten. The case of Descartes is more problematic. He strove to reduce thought itself to its bare essential and pronounced cogito ergo sum, the ultimate thought. Why problematic? Because it suggests that only thinking, sentient creatures actually exist. That eliminates the entire inorganic world. Because a rock cannot think, it does not exist?

Continue Reading

An excerpt of Michael Nath’s Some Notes on Modernism and Creative Writing

Michael Nath’s essay, Some Notes on Modernism and Creative Writing, is the second of our original pieces in the Winter Quarterly. Michael will also be the first ever L’Esprit Featured Writer, with an extract of his novel Talbot and The Fall running alongside an interview forthcoming in Issue Two.

A portion of Michael’s essay:

In what may be taken as a challenge, the critic and novelist Elif Batuman noted that, 

Within the seemingly homogeneous sphere of the university English department, a schism has opened up between literary scholarship and creative writing, disciplines which differ in their points of reference (Samuel Richardson v. Jhumpa Lahiri) […] literary historians don’t write about creative writing, and creative writers don’t write literary histories.

So as a teacher of both modernism and creative writing, I would like to consider the following: 1) the practical training that the creative-writing student may acquire from experience of the modernist novel; 2) the modification, or refutation, of what may have become creative-writing doctrine by examples drawn from modernism; 3) some ways in which creative-writing practice and study may refresh our understanding of modernism.

Continue Reading

Quarterly Vol. 2 Original Work

Alongside the above pieces, Editor D. W. White has also reprinted his critical essay, “An Ordinary Mind on An Ordinary Day: Dorrit Cohn’s Transparent Minds and Methods of Rendering Consciousness in Ulysses,” originally published in theReview of UnContemporary Fiction. Find it on the site.

Thank you to Lou and Michael for sending us such excellent essays, and being part of our inaugural inter-issue feature!

A Grand Finale

Finally, we are happy to announce that we will be offering print and digital editions of all issues, alongside our current online versions. This is something that we have been working on for the last couple of months, and we hope our contributors will enjoy seeing their work on the physical page. Every issue will continue to appear for free on the website; we’re hoping to offer new ways of interacting with the work we publish more than making great sales numbers. Anything we do make will be used to pay contributors.

To that end, we’re also launching a new section of the website, Le Magasin, which will be the place to find everything we’re selling. For now, this will be the digital and print copies, and down the road may incorporate more.

Print copies are on-demand, which greatly helps us lower our upfront costs (so much so that this option is the difference between us having print editions now and having to wait at least another year), and means that we don’t have to worry about how many we’re able to sell. Follow our social accounts for a look at the print editions! Digital copies are high-resolution PDFs, able to be read on any device.

Issue One is available now (at Le Magasin), and future issues will be released in all three formats simultaneously. Thanks to everyone for the support!

Au Revoir

We’re very excited about all that’s happened over the last year, and what’s to come in 2023. We hope everyone enjoys the excellent essays in this year’s Winter Quarterly, and look out for the great writing coming in April. What is born into the world must leave its mark upon it, and that is what we aim to do. 

Thank you for your support of fearless writing, and à la prochaine.



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