John Culbert was born in Tokyo and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. He is the author of Paralyses, winner of the 2011 Modern Language Association Scaglione Prize for French Studies. His short stories have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Wave Composition, The Manchester Review and Harvard Review.
A book of collected short fictions, The Purgatory Press & After the End, was published in 2013 by Perfect Edge Books. He lives in Vancouver, where he teaches in the Department of English at the University of British Columbia.
On The Purgatory Press:
An outsider artist coats a flat surface with a skin of paint once a day for sixty years, hoping to build a layered edifice that could reach the moon; a photographer travels the world to take smiling self-portraits in front of ghastly scenes of death and destruction; an obscure typist named Benny Walter exerts an uncanny influence on generations of famous authors. Like these characters, none of the titles in The Purgatory Press are fit for this world. The press itself is an aborted enterprise, having gone into bankruptcy, leaving behind this wondrous backlist.
“John Culbert’s double book The Purgatory Press & After the End pulls off a double feat: its ingenuity is matched by an undiminished sense of wonder and a talent for the delicate shaping of enigmas. It is at once deeply knowing and wide open to the unknown. Culbert’s prose moves with unfailing grace from the layered jokes of his “imaginary lives” to the surprises that keep coming “after the end,” which test the powers of fiction to tickle, puzzle, haunt or devastate the reader. This is a book to be relished.” ~ Chris Andrews, translator and poet
“Imagine Borges as a satirist with the Great Library of the Internet at his disposal. Or imagine a Proustian salon that doubles as an all-American saloon where you can meet everybody you ever wanted to. They’re all here — with walk-on parts for Frank Zappa & Jacques Derrida, E.T.A. Hoffmann & Isua Nunaap, fictional authors & real characters! But be careful, reader: don’t do as you imagine the author does, i.e. tuck tongue firmly into cheek — he isn’t, and on this roller coaster ride you’d risk to bite it off, maybe in laughter, maybe in deep thought, as you crash into the next curve.” ~ Pierre Joris, author of A Nomad Poetics
“Sometimes John Culbert’s work sounds like Bolaño, other times it sounds like Lydia Davis, or a demented art historian. He embodies so many voices and styles and finds the virtues in conventions even as he is critical of them. A writer shouldn’t be able to do this many things this well.” ~ Adam Novy, author of The Avian Gospels
“Two slim books in one, Vancouver author John Culbert’s first collection of fiction is a small masterpiece, a double A-Side of breathtaking ingenuity and beauty.” ~ Jon Beasley-Murray, author of Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America (link to review).
“The fragments in ‘The Purgatory Press’ all tell of lost books from a catalogue of the damned… They are compelling, erudite, and playful Borgesian metatexts, but also poignant portraits of artists whose work is so wilfully obscure it’s under erasure even as it’s being created. The vignettes in ‘After the End’ are strange and melancholy, like lost stories from ‘Lost in the Funhouse’ or ‘Pricksongs and Descants’, but with a downbeat modern sensibility.” ~ Timothy J. Jarvis, author of The Wanderer (link to review).