By Peter Dimock
In his newest novel, widely-praised experimental novelist Peter Dimock explores literature’s capacity to re-plot America’s political trajectory in the midst of the shuttering of empire.
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Daybook from Sheep Meadow: The Notebooks of Tallis Martinson returns to the breakdown of America’s imperialist history reflected in Peter Dimock’s groundbreaking previous novel, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time. In Daybook, Dimock expands on what it means to refute the narrative of American exceptionalism – and what happens once one starts on that path.
Historian Tallis Martinson has grappled for years with the atrocities of the American past through meditative notebook entries, wherein he has attempted to create a “historical method” that guides an individual’s personal thought outside the language of empire. When words end up failing him completely, he commits himself to a psychiatric facility, suffering from severe adult mutism and unable to write.
Daybook presents Tallis’ notebook entries, annotated by his brother and editor Christopher Rentho Martinson. Christopher initially follows the entries’ complex guided meditations in hopes of being able to reach Tallis during his visits to the psychiatric facility. Instead, he finds himself immersed in his own family’s implied complicity with normalized national atrocities.
An experiment in the capacity of literature to reimagine the trajectory of America’s future, Daybook stages a space wherein the reader can register – and, potentially, remedy – the criminal catastrophe of the legacies of American empire.
“Just an absolutely wonderful, strange, Borgesian work, but with more direct lyric sentiment. Brilliant, really.” –Tom Sleigh
"What words, and what unexplored ways of reading, can restore a sense of historical continuity in the face of the normalized atrocities of American empire? Peter Dimock remains our most acute pursuer and vigilant disciple of that overwhelming question. T. S. Eliot said of Henry James that “he had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it,” and if Dimock’s text manifests an equivalent fineness of mind, its singularity nonetheless takes shape around both the burdens and the possibilities of those historical violations that it insists cannot not happen. As winningly wayward and arresting as his George Anderson, though both more personal and more multiply wrought, Daybook at Sheep’s Meadow sounds a clarion call in the key of a sadness beyond outrage and a love beyond sadness—marshaling our ethical enmeshments in the infinite value of a present beyond empire and a future perhaps still not quite beyond imagining. There is, and could be, no other book like this." –Lee Zimmerman, author of Trauma and the Discourse of Climate Change: Literature, Psychoanalysis and Denial
"Dimock (A Short Rhetoric for Leaving the Family) provocatively weaves history and philosophy into an unorthodox fictional biography... This experiment is a resounding success." —Publishers Weekly
"The intricacy of the ‘method’ each narrator devises itself indicates that ordinary language alone can’t reverse the linguistic corruption brought about by the public officials who convert ordinary language into an instrument for the adulteration of truth." –Daniel Green, Full Stop
Praise for George Anderson: Notes for A Love Song in Imperial Time
“Peter Dimock... possesses the rich, intricate, and subtle patternings of the verbal lacemaker's craft.” –Toni Morrison
“How can we live with ourselves? I mean, really? How can we? This is the book’s prevailing question, one that rises from the pages less as a pretty love song than as a helpless keen. Fales invents and pursues his method as a way to fix history so he can live with its implications.” – New York Times, Heidi Julavits
“George Anderson is indeed this ambitious, a work of great ethical force and historical scope, written in the singular form of what might best be described as — try to imagine it — an epistolary, synesthetic, anti-imperial self-help manual… What a remarkable novel: for a few radically hopeful lines at a time it imagines that a new history might be possible, imagines what it might mean to imagine this. Perhaps we cannot see and hear this history as clearly as its protagonist can. But we have for a moment felt his moral devastation and his hope as our own — no small feat for a novel in imperial time.. –Los Angeles Review of Books, Hilary Plum
“George Anderson” requires some heavy mental lifting, but Fales’s seeking voice and the book’s innovative structure make it more of a calling than a chore. The rewards here are great: a fresh perspective on some of the thorniest events in recent American life, alongside enduring questions about history, art and narrative. Dimock’s slender, sturdy investigation into their meaning should inspire anyone who wants to think deeply and philosophically about this great nation.” –Washington Post, Veronica Esposito
“Peter Dimock's new novel, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time is about torture and politics, making it so well suited for America's contemporary dialogue, but it's also about the difficult (and dishonest) things that language can and cannot do. Stretch that last part a bit further and it's also a novel that's trying to find out what novels can and cannot do.” – Bookslut
“Bordering on narrative madness (and/or genius), history meets method in Dimock's second novel, an experimental instruction manual aimed at revolutionizing the way we experience the past.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
Peter Dimock has long worked in publishing, both at Random House and as senior executive editor for history and political science at Columbia University Press, where he worked with authors including Angela Davis, Eric Hobsbawm, Toni Morrison, and Amartya Sen. His novels A Short Rhetoric for Leaving the Family and George Anderson: Notes for A Love Song in Imperial Time were published by Dalkey Archive Press.