Ugly Duckling Presse

Convalescent Conversations
Convalescent Conversations

Laura Riding

edited by George Fragopoulos

Fiction | $18 $14
Spring 2018
Pre-Order"An irreproachable jewel …"
Originally published under the pseudonym Madeleine Vara in 1936 by Laura Riding's and Robert Graves's Seizen Press, Convalescent Conversations is one of Riding's least known works, and one of her most wonderfully idiosyncratic. A novel unfolding almost entirely in dialogue form, Convalescent Conversations tells the story of Adam and Eleanor, two patients recovering from unknown maladies in a nondescript sanitarium. Through a series of increasingly esoteric philosophical conversations regarding topics such as God, love, and the meaning of illness, Adam and Eleanor come to tell the stories of who they are and what they are suffering from. While not strictly an allegorical work, it is difficult to not see historical parallels between the suffering of the protagonists and the state of the world in the late 1930s. 1936 was also the year Riding and Robert Graves had to flee Mallorca, Spain following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Edited and with an introduction by George Fragopoulos.

Convalescent Conversations is #20 in the Lost Literature series, and is published in tandem with another long-lost Laura Riding title, Experts Are Puzzled (Lost Literature #19).

Excerpt ˇ


On their second morning together Eleanor and Adam talked about themselves. First they discussed childhood—because Adam had said that being ill was like being a child again; it was awkward being a child, and awkward being ill. Also, people behaved the same way to you. Eleanor would not agree that being ill was like being a child again. She had not enjoyed being a child, and she had enjoyed being ill. When you were a child people were always expecting things of you, and whatever you did was watched and weighed and commented on. When you were ill you were left pretty much to yourself. People were cruel to children, but kind to invalids. Close ˆ

About the Author

Laura Riding
Laura Riding was a poet, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and publisher. While primarily known for the critical works that she co-authored with Robert Graves—A Pamphlet Against Anthologies and A Survey of Modernist Poetry—Riding also left behind an incredibly powerful body of poetry and prose works that, regrettably, remain little read today. These include The Close Chaplet, The Lives of Wives, and The Progress of Stories. Famously rejecting poetry early in her career, she spent the last decades of her life co-writing a theoretical work on linguistics, Rational Meaning, with her husband Schuyler Jackson. She was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1991, the very same year she died.

About the Editor

George Fragopoulos
George Fragopoulos's poetry has appeared in the journals The Found Poetry Review, House Organ, and Momoware. His translations from the Greek of Manolis Anagnostakis's poems were published in Fairleigh Dickinson University Press' Manolis Anagnostakis: Poetry and Politics, Silence and Agency in Post-War Greece. He has published academic articles on the poetry of Olga Broumas, Robert Duncan, George Economou, Bob Kaufman, and Laura (Riding) Jackson. He lives in New York City and is an assistant professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY.

Advance Praise

Convalescent Conversations is an irreproachable jewel, equal in wit and ferocity and linguistic acuteness to the best fiction of the century. How I wish Jane Bowles and Ronald Firbank were here to read this rediscovered classic! Laura Riding is in their droll league: she turns sickbed colloquy into a minimalist spectacle as intemperately lancing as the wise patter of Grey Gardens.—Wayne Koestenbaum