The Kafka Studies Department
By Francis Levy
(Heliotrope, September 26, 2023)
About The Project
"Francis Levy has an unhampered, endearingly maverick imagination --as if Donald Barthelme had met up with Maimonides and together they decided to write about the world as it appeared to them. These deceptively simple and parable-like stories are full of wily pleasures and irreverent wisdom about everything from the failure of insight to make anything happen, to the subtle gratifications of friendship, to the tragicomedy of eros."
—Daphne Merkin, author of 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love, This Close to Happy
From Francis Levy, author of Seven Days in Rio, which The New York Times called “a fever dream of a novel,” comes The Kafka Studies Department, a highly original, quirky collection of short, parable-like stories infused with dark humor, intellect, and insight about the human condition. While the book’s style is deceptively simple and aphoristic, it carries a hallucinatory moral message. A prism of interconnected and intertwined tales, inspired by Kafka, the stories examine feckless central characters who are far from likable, but always recognizable and wildly human.
In the title piece, the institutional mandate of an academic department runs contrary to the spirit of the great writer’s work. Worse, the depressed faculty end up prizing a student whose carefree personality is a rebuke to everything for which they purportedly stand.
“The Afterlife,” which bookends these fable-like vignettes, employs hyperbole to deal with a character’s psychoanalytic treatment which literally goes on forever. The story starts, “The afterlife was the greatest disappointment of Spector’s life,” and concludes mocking the whole project of therapy itself: “After thousands of years of psychoanalysis, one of the most important signs of Spector’s growth was his realization that you can’t have everything.”
NPR Review by Joan Baum
Official Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Event at Unnameable Books
Talk at Brotherhood Synagogue
Canio's Books, Sag Harbor, NY
Two Dollar Radio Bookstore
About the Author
A native New Yorker, Francis Levy is the author of the comic novels Erotomania: A Romance (Two Dollar Radio, 2008) and Seven Days in Rio (Two Dollar Radio, 2011). He is also the author of Tombstone: Not a Western (Black Rose, 2018). Levy’s first novel, Erotomania: A Romance, evoked critical comparisons to the work of Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller and D. H. Lawrence. The New York Times called his second novel, Seven Days in Rio, “a fever dream of a novel” and The Village Voice wrote: “The funniest American novel since Sam Lipsyte's The Ask. Levy has been profiled in The East Hampton Star, AIGA Voice, Nerve, Interview, and elsewhere. His articles, reviews, short stories, humor, interviews and opinion pieces have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Washington Post, The East Hampton Star, Bomb, The Brooklyn Rail, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Evergreen Review, Contemporary Psychoanalysis and American Imago.
Hallie Cohen received her M.F.A. from the Hoffberger School of Painting of the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she studied with the painter Grace Hartigan and received her B.F.A. from the Tyler School of Art. She is a Professor of Art and the Director of the Hewitt Gallery at Marymount Manhattan College. Cohen has taught drawing, figure drawing, painting, design, watercolor, and art history to two generations of art and non-art majors. She is a frequent Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome’s (AAR) Visiting Artists and Scholars Program. She is a founding member of the artists’ group Retrogarde, exhibiting her work at Westbeth Gallery, Fox Gallery NYC, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Moravian College, The Painting Center, and La Mama’s La Galleria, among others.