Gender City

Gender City
by Lisa Samuels
Shearsman Books Ltd, 2011
114 pages / $16.00 Buy from Shearsman Books
Rating: 0.0







The epigraph(s?) of Gender City condenses what would be the otherwise unacknowledged or scattered cathectic charges of pavilions in a blank and anti-readerly moment as esoterically alarming as the discovery of age-weighted shelving practices, while utilizing the stylistic succor of regulative coolant (the wonderful Lisa Robertson) and aspirant fantasticality (New Zealand at Shanghai World Expo 2010). Spectrally efficient, these two quotes effect mutation and prove temporarily problematic: by brushing the bounds of a credible tele-cocoon with you, the writing soon coaxes out resentment for the rhetorical transposition in section one, that is, demoing a contrasting reader task, and projecting this actual loneliness backwards. This is not a question of inelegance, but a question, for me, of palling around with dissatisfaction beyond an intimacy that was never anything but that, a serif font that does the one like an I [“Homosocial fugue”], the first of nine content markers marking content that does not.

And then all of this is a pleasure. Gender City is in the tradition of the long poem, and we corroborate this form with Lisa Samuels by gradually accumulating semantic awareness of what the space allows her to accomplish: varietal delight, acute description, architectures of anxiety. She is, broadly, and among other things, addressing the contemporary city (of refracted subjectivizing tradition) as its own contemporary: “Inside or insight / a t shirt with the realm of defamiliarisation / to itself.” (10). We are not working with certainty, but maybe peeking though a hundred tiny holes. Laura Riding, who Samuels has researched, writes (in Anarchism Is Not Enough): “Appearances do not deceive if there are enough of them.” Sometimes it seems that parts of the environment are talking, or superseding via future shapes or pronouns: “to hide behind trees until we’re trees [ … ] MY SKULL, SHE SAID / THIS TIME I FELT MYSELF / BECOME THAT BUILDING” (33). Already multi-stable in perception and efficiency, the lines are intercut by this quote’s capitalized formatting, a cue neither disagreeable nor affirmative, the same nor exotic, but possibly excessive or undeniable, and importantly non-exclusive. I associate a very flexible and dense mode of lyric poetry with Lisa Samuels, and here, as in other texts, I am surprised by the kinds of thoughts and images that can occur within a intricate vocabulary which nonetheless feels drawn from a unified, non-specialized discourse.

There are many specifics that we might associate with something close to a recountable narrative throughout Gender City, such as character names and concrete locations (“The Barbie Doll museum”), but it would be difficult to establish these as the primary concern, instead of, for example, a codified means of thinking about socio-spatial dynamics through language that does not itself necessarily record that thought. Per the book cover’s slightly grainy reproduction of Laura McLauchlan’s collage (‘Rat Coaxing’), a torn overhead city map aligned with a close photograph of a hairy limb: a small flying insect was just now trapped in the curls of my arm hair.

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  1. Brendan

      seems like the review was written in Chinese and then processed through google translate

  2. Brooks Sterritt

      seems like you should read it slower, with the help of a dictionary.

  3. Anonymous

      thinking “but there’s no reason…”

  4. Russ

      Dear lord, if the book is written anything like this review, I really don’t want to read it.

  5. Brendan

      Don’t worry bro, I understand what the words mean.

  6. Brendan

       But maybe there is an easier way of expressing this thought: “Already multi-stable in perception and efficiency, the lines are intercut
      by this quote’s capitalized formatting, a cue neither disagreeable nor
      affirmative, the same nor exotic, but possibly excessive or undeniable,
      and importantly non-exclusive.”

      Whoever wrote this has to be joking. And it is funny.

  7. Frank Hinton

      not even a tenth. reminds me of:

  8. Brooks Sterritt


  9. Brendan

      आप बकवास

  10. Confused in Gender City

      Dear Gentle Giant:

      One could observe that, in his forgotten comments in a forgone
      (for good?) thread
      (, my friend Robert Walser (whose Jakob von Gunten knew
      only one thing, that ultimately he would rate “a charming, utterly
      spherical zero”) forgot to remark
      that, above all, we dead and dying writers would ask of these otherwise welcome / useful / harmless / helpful anonymous
      reviews only that they put an end to their numbering of books.

      it seems very report card / Pitchfork / goodreads / Publisher’s Weekly
      to delegate a numeral, let alone a decimal? Not that as far as they go
      those are inherently bad things / places (I wouldn’t know) but aren’t
      the simplisms of their systems (A+ / 10.0! / 5 stars! / starred–as if
      reflected in a sea of gmail messages–review) easier to ignore coming as
      they do from teachers / music reviewers / friends (“See what your
      friends are reading.”) / trade insiders (inside traders)?

      anyone really want to start seeing on authors’ faces / on facebook / on
      (the fronts and backs of) books themselves / in book reports (themselves
      graded) that such and such a book received a capital R Rating of 8.0 or
      7.0 or 8.5 or 7.3 or 8.4 or 7.0 HTMLGIANT? In fact, these, aside from
      three outliers (5.4 for, surprise, James Franco and two 0.0s, counting
      the above which seems to be an oversight…or?) and one double review
      (8.7–new high score!–and then, in a second review–also by
      Anonymous!–an 8.0 for Mathias Svalina’s I AM A VERY PRODUCTIVE
      ENTREPRENEUR) are the actual ratings awarded by all Anonymoi to date.

      book is redoubtable, a quick and beautiful read (I just took a break
      from this idle comment and finally read and deeply loved it) and
      doubtless deserves ample attention. But doesn’t it undermine precisely
      what should not exist when two equally anonymous reviewers write equally
      glowing reviews and assign relatively divergent (or seemingly random)
      ratings to the same book? Indeed, unless the ratings are randomly
      generated, the “relative” difference between an 8.7 (ostensibly B+ish)
      and 8.0 (def. B- at best) might be better described as “decided” in that
      the rating scale established so far (throwing out the two or three
      statistical outliers, the “failing” grades, as it were) ranges from 7.0
      to 8.7 (or 8.0). (We dispassionate dead don’t think that books of all
      things should
      be graded on a curve, or, well, graded.)

      And what of different (or the same) books that receive different (or the
      same) ratings from different (or the same) Anonymous reviewers? Unless,
      as more Anonymous reviews appear, it became clear that “Anonymous” was
      an amalgamation (a Pitchfork, a Publisher’s Weekly, a person) with
      palpable predilections, how could anyone ever read these ratings?

      If you are striving to be less divisive (not burn bridges, etc.),
      don’t such deliberate / delicate / dewy-eyed decimals seem too perfect /
      priceless / pertinent / pat, too to-the-point? If you aren’t, aren’t
      the reviews anonymized to avoid at least outward opportunism? Why
      subtract a byline from an already minimal-slash-sleek 500 word max.
      review and add a sum? 

      In short, why start with a summation of something so short? If you just
      must, why not bypass judgment and give the reader a byway. (But do try
      to go beyond my beloved The Believer’s “representative” portions,
      spooned out like auto-summaries for Emerson’s representative men.)

      ABOUT THIS COMMENT: isn’t it enough to read / skim, that is to say write / rate, the review ourselves?


      Virginia Woolf

  11. lorian long

      what the fuck is that first sentence

  12. Craig Duncan

      Review stinks of ‘deadgod.’ 

  13. Guest

      Why would deadgod write an anonymous review?

  14. Guest

      Why would deadgod write an anonymous review?

  15. Brooks Sterritt

      a party

  16. Guest

      Is there any doubt that deadgod didn’t write this review? 

  17. MS, trainbound

      But, then, where are deadgod’s trademark en-dashes?

  18. deadgod

      I don’t think they are en-dashes; I think they’re hyphens, even when they’re space-bar-separated from the words on both lateral sides.  –but maybe they’re en-dashes and there are no actual hyphens in this un’carrot’ed text (‘carrot’ = ).  (Fancy fonts have both hyphens and en-dashes, hyphens being slightly shorter, right?)

      To whom are you in debt for that exhausted use of “trademark”?

  19. deadgod
  20. MS, trainbound

      [space][hyphen][space] autocorrects to an en-dash in word, so I guess I always felt like you were en-dashing in spirit. 

      Quite en-dashing, in fact! So en-dashing a character*, I assumed you had the actual trademark on it.

      * Was about to gender you here, but I don’t know how to sex a deadgod. If only I had grown up on a farm.

  21. shaun gannon


  22. Brooks Sterritt

      brotown, i’m sure you understood but didn’t dig the style. i was also pretty hungry and get tired of people saying, essentially, “this is too difficult, incoherent, etc.”

  23. Guest

      I could care less

  24. Ardvark7678928

      it good to see reviews like this on this blog 

  25. Guesty

      because he/she/it pretends to not be ‘in it’ for attention-seeking behavior

  26. deadgod

      literacy will change your life

      borrow the money

  27. Guesty
  28. deadgod

      excellent reconnaissance

      you will need a quiet place to sleep between your lessons

  29. Evan Hatch

      deadgod, i sincerely want nothing more right now than to collaborate on poetry with you

  30. R. Ross Selavy


  31. Guesty
  32. deadgod

      another outstanding reconnaissance

      other visitors to your dormitory will champion your better behavior through chemistry

  33. Guesty
  34. Guesty

      he/she/it won’t email you. it’s a lost cause.

  35. Guesty

      sorry: he/she/it’s a lost cause.

  36. mimi

      commenting on htmlgiant _is_ collaborating with deadgod on poetry (loosely defined) (but good enough for me)

  37. stephen tully dierks

      “the otherwise unacknowledged or scattered cathectic charges of pavilions in a blank and anti-readerly moment as esoterically alarming as the discovery of age-weighted shelving practices” =]

  38. mimi

      i’m against un-un-choose-able auto-correcting

  39. deadgod

      that is a cruel first lesson but don’t tell mom or she will make the teacher meaner

  40. deadgod

      that’s how I understand conversation/argument/banter/(even) disciplinary closure to be:  collaborative

      not sure about poetry, which I’d prefer to segregate (fictively (?)) as a subset of the linguistic Everything Word ‘dialogue’, also being linguistically ubiquitous

      –but surely everything ‘poetic’ is collaborative

  41. deadgod

      –as your literacy acquisition is not wee guesty

      don’t give up!

  42. Char

      time to retire / at least a long vacation

  43. Anonymous

  44. Guesty
  45. deadgod

      the failure needn’t be life-long

      reading and writing are worth your investment

      don’t give up!

  46. deadgod

      my guess is that you give this tricky advice oftener than you take it / cool gig

  47. Guesty
  48. deadgod
  49. Leftofthestage

      This review is a flop of magnificent proportions: Deadgod remove, please. Don’t let anyone else waste their valuable time reading it. Also, an apology to Lisa is in order.

  50. Leftofthestage

      This review is a flop of magnificent proportions: Deadgod remove, please. Don’t let anyone else waste their valuable time reading it. Also, an apology to Lisa is in order.

  51. deadgod

      This comment is a flop of infinitesimal non-proportion:  Sherlock remove, please.  Leave it as an incentive for the barely literate to practice.  Also, an invitation to Lisa to laugh her ass off is hardly needed.

  52. mimi

      should that be ‘I could care less’ – or – ‘I couldn’t care less’ ?

      ( or should i say “_shouldn’t_ that be ‘I couldn’t care less’ ” ? )

  53. deadgod

      [I think Guest, having figured out the gibe, was making a perhaps-self-deprecating and, anyway, somewhat funny ha-ha


  54. Guest

      Is Deadgod Margaret Christakos?

  55. deadgod

      I doubt that Deadgod (any of the Deadgods) is (or are) Margaret Christakos.  This deadgod certainly is not.

      Why do you put this hat on her??

  56. Guest

      Keep thee to the mystery a kiss on the heart. ALSO/ re: a previous post/ Twitter book: road trip across America — Butor’s MOBILE.

  57. Raymond Deane

      The problem isn’t one of vocabulary…

  58. Guesty


      Are you interested in being understood?

      At all?

  59. mimi

      oh really?

  60. deadgod

      it is a guess

      optimism of the will; pessimism of the intellect

  61. deadgod

      Hegel says somewhere that illiteracy happens, as it were, twice.  He forgets to say that it appears first as incomprehension, the second time as wounded yelps of ‘gibberish’.

  62. mimi

      i’m pragmatic of will, skeptical of intellect

      pleasure to make your acquaintance

  63. Anonymous

  64. shaun gannon

      i need to brush my teeth