In the summer of 1930, aboard a ship floating near the Atlantic island of Nonsuch, marine biologist Gloria Hollister sat on a crate, writing furiously in a notebook with a telephone receiver pressed to her ear. The phone line was attached to a steel cable that plunged 3,000 feet into the sea. There, suspended by the cable, dangled a four-and-a-half-foot steel ball called the bathysphere. Crumpled inside, gazing through three-inch quartz windows at the undersea world, was Hollister’s colleague William Beebe. He called up to her, describing previously unseen creatures, explosions of bioluminescence, and strange effects of light and color. From this momentous first encounter with the unknown depths, the book widens its scope to explore a transforming and deeply paradoxical America, as the first great skyscrapers rose above New York City and the Great Plains baked to dust.
In prose that is magical, atmospheric, and entirely engrossing, Brad Fox dramatizes new visions of our planetary home, delighting in tales of the colorful characters who surrounded, supported, and participated in the dives–from groundbreaking scientists and gallivanting adventurers to eugenicist billionaires.
The Bathysphere Book is a hypnotic assemblage of brief chapters along with over fifty full-color images, records from the original bathysphere logbooks, and the moving story of surreptitious romance between Beebe and Hollister that anchors the exploration.
Brad Fox blurs the line between poetry and research, unearthing and rendering a visionary meeting with the unknown.
Tess keeps vigil at the bedside of her friend Laura through a long night of labor as Laura’s first child arrives. The two have known each other for what seems like forever. Their humanitarian aid work has taken them from the Balkans, to Egypt, to Istanbul amid the ongoing refugee crisis—an era that includes the US’s war in Iraq, the Arab Spring, and many forms of global consequence and aftermath. Brad Fox’s first novel is a luminous inquiry into the incarnations and limits of hope. This writer helps us endure our questions about what forms care may take, what we may offer to anyone, near and far.
PRAISE FOR TO REMAIN NAMELESS:
Brad Fox’s virtuoso novelistic voice, alternately terse and florid, in the mode of José Saramago, Roberto Bolaño, or Alberto Moravia, is sonorous, lapidary, and melancholy—a seamless dreamy fabulist omniscience, bearing world-weary witness to perilous events, both inner and outer. Fox gives the impression of having lived underground or in other centuries and of only now emerging from his hiding place to narrate these limpid yet dense fantasias. A phenomenally gifted novelist and a probing intellectual, he transforms critical thinking into dramatic scenario. “Thought” isn’t appended to the story, but emerges in the complicated telling of the tale. In a bravura feat of formal construction, To Remain Nameless flashes between a birth scene and international adventures: from the cramped, germinating vantage of a hospital room, the novelist unfurls a teeming network of international exaltations and disappointments. The room compresses; the world expands. Djuna Barnes and Virginia Woolf pioneered this trick of simultaneous engorgement and diminution, of funhouse-mirror space-time reversal; and now Brad Fox, wonder-worker, takes up the dizzying mantle. WAYNE KOESTENBAUM
Daring, vivid and utterly original, Brad Fox’s debut is a tour de force. CLAIRE MESSUD
To Remain Nameless is a gorgeous meditation on a shifting self in a shifting world, a querying-onward in which there’s both melancholy and delight. SHELLEY JACKSON
My story on the first underwater photographic portrait — actually a story about cave-dwellers, the Antarctic night, and the proximity of the afterlife — part of Public Domain Review’s Conjectures series:
To Remain Nameless was released at the beginning of the pandemic, when we were all in lockdown and no one knew what was going to happen. It was not a good time to release a book. But interesting things happened as everyone tried to find their bearings. The amazing Mary South (You Will Never BeForgotten) started a mailing list for writers who put books out at that time, and an ad hoc community formed. From relatively obscure writers like me to established writers working in all kinds of genres. We communed and bitched and celebrated any victories, gave each other advice, and read on zoom at times. Finally this week, the memoirist Meredith O’Brien (Uncomfortably Numb) organized a reading at Tatnuck Books outside Boston, and a few of us who were in the area gathered there to read together. It was wonderful to meet everyone, and fascinating to read with a diverse group of writers who would otherwise not be programmed together. Meredith introduced us, and readers–in order–were Christina Chiu (Beauty, a novel), Leslie Gray Streeter (Black Widow, a memoir), David Daley (Unrigged, a work of political reportage), Alice Early (The Moon Always Rising, a novel), and me. My reading starts at 43:30.
After almost two years of lead-up, through a neurological event, a bout of Ukrainian COVID, a father-in-law’s dental surgery, and other delays, Il’ja Rákoš of The Millions finally completed this interview about To Remain Nameless. It’s here.