Brief Under Water is a sequence of 55 short passages that uses prose narrative as a design element in a larger lyric structure. The title refers to Kafka’s 1919 Brief an den Vater, reflecting a struggle with the notion of literary inheritance. So does Console’s sentence, refined nearly to the point of anachronism, that owes a great deal to Melville and to Garnett’s translations of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev.
The book was written while the author supported himself as a metalworker, housepainter, and waiter. The clashing of these professional spheres contributed to the struggle outlined above. The binary numbering (1, 10, 11, 100, 101…) is meant to express his sense of movement-in-place.
“[The] manuscript is terrific….The sensory detail of the writing, not surrealistic, not plot-oriented, is not even with the sense of ‘leading anywhere’ but accumulating both detail and expansion at once, opening a floating, fascinating, sometimes apparently violent yet detached terrain, as if not the author’s psyche…but the world itself… seen from at once extreme and mundane edges.”—Leslie Scalapino