cover image The Collected Fiction of Kenneth Koch

The Collected Fiction of Kenneth Koch

Kenneth Koch, , intro by Jordan Davis. . Coffee House, $30 (387pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-176-9

One of the six or so seminal members of the New York School of poetry (including John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara), Koch died in 2002 at age 77, best known as the author of Rose, Where Did You Get that Red? —a terrific book of poetry pedagogy. He left a huge verse oeuvre (the collected short poems is due from Knopf in November) and, like many other poets, a vast miscellany of failed and partially successful experiments in other genres. One of the two main components of this book is The Red Robins (published in paperback in 1975), a disjointed non-narrative epic that follows a group of airplane-flying men as they make short hops through Asia and encounter a plethora of strange characters. The other is Hotel Lambossa (1993), a series of 85 very short Borgesian "stories" that read more like telegraphic dream narrative than plotted fiction. Four shorter pieces round things out. While Koch's writing here is full of startling images and imaginative turns, it never really comes together—even if read for a kind of disjunctive expressism above all else—but the book gives further dimension to a writer whose place in American letters remains uncertain. (Oct.)