Best Of 2009, Guest Editors: Ken Stringfellow On Tristan Egolf

As 2009 comes to an end, we are taking a look back at some of our favorite posts of the year by our guest editors. Today’s entry is from April 4. Here, Ken Stringfellow writes about Tristan Egolf in an attempt to find any MAGNET readers who might have known the late author so Stringfellow could learn more about him. What Stringfellow didn’t realize when he wrote this was that Egolf was a classmate of MAGNET editor Eric T. Miller at Temple University; Egolf also manned the counter of the Foodery, Philly’s famed takeout-beer store, a place Miller still frequents. Miller initially found out about Egolf’s death from a sign posted in the shop’s window.

kstringfellow1110fYou probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

tristonv340Stringfellow: Here we encounter an exception to the list (Tristan Egolf being an American author), but he did live, write and was discovered and first published here in Paris. I was in a bookstore in Berlin a couple of years ago, looking through the small quantity of English-language books. One title stood out. In fact, made me laugh just to see it: Kornwolf. I bought it on the spot and found inside a wit comparable to other favorites of mine, George Saunders and Thomas Pynchon. I soon picked up Egolf’s first novel, Lord Of The Barnyard, which depicts an alternate universe that places a thinly disguised Long Winters singer John Roderick (OK, not really, but the comparisons were striking) in the midst of “Pennsyltucky” and imagines the ensuing chaos. Egolf was, like me, a musician (he had a band called Kitschchao, which released one seven-inch) and a Paris resident, and he has a daughter about the same age as mine. I would have truly loved to have known him, as it seems we had much in common. But Egolf killed himself in 2005, just after the completion of Kornwolf. I have yet to run in to anyone who knew him, and there isn’t a ton of info on him on the web, so, if anyone reading this did know him and could reminisce a bit, please contact me: I can’t recommend the two books above highly enough. I have his second book, Skirt And Fiddle, on order at The Red Wheelbarrow bookstore in Paris.