HALF-LIFE OF THE SHELF-LIFE
Since it’s more or less exactly half-way through the year, I thought I’d get a head-start on my normally year-end reading roundup & post the first half now, because this results in far less work for me at the end of the year. I can’t tell if I’ve been more or less insane than normal with my reading habits this year. I can never really tell. Anyway, here we go, here’s what I read from January through June:
01 – Twentieth Century French Avant-Garde Poetry, 1907-1990 – Virginia La Charité
Nice over-view of the major movers & shakers associated with poetry in France throughout the 20th century. While I’m still insistently anti-Surrealist (despite my utter obsession with more than a handful of dissident surrealists), I’m not entirely ideologically opposed to the authors insistence that it is most likely Surrealism which charted the entire course of the 20th century’s poetics.
I picked this up to read primarily because it has a section on the poetry that came out of the Tel Quel group, but was also pleased to discover an entire section dedicated to the “neo-formalists”–a name I’m not quite on board with, but I suppose it works–a group of poets from the 70s & 80s including Anne-Marie Albiach & Claude Royet-Journoud. Being obsessed with these poets, their écriture, I’ve been wanting to read a critical appraisal of their work for a while and was more than satisfied to be able to do that here.
02 – Serie D’Ecriture No. 4 – ed. Rosmarie Waldrop
A spectacular collection of French poetry–mostly work that hasn’t popped up anywhere else, including to my particular excitement a section from Danielle Collobert’s first book, Muerte, & also the entirity of Anne-Marie Albiach’s “WORK VERTICAL AND BLANK.” Exciting enough to re-integrate my renewed insistence upon the work of these poets.
03 – Tagged: Variations on a Theme – Kevin Killian
Kevin’s just the sweetest! Also, my butt is in this book so maybe I’m biased, but it’s a very lovingly assembled collection of naked male people posing with a Raymond Pettibon drawing. Halpern’s essay is interesting, though ultimately perhaps a strange beginning, although it is very smart.
04 – Eric Orr: A Twenty-Year Survey – Thomas McEvilley & Eric Orr
Eric Orr is a revelation. Fitting the perfect lineage of my interest in art, between Yves Klein, James Lee Byars, Terry Fox, John Duncan & even Gregor Schneider in some capacity, Orr is my favorite new person to be excited about. I encountered his painting “Blood Shadow” at the MOCA in LA and immediately fell in love–the piece pulled me to it. I hadn’t heard of Orr so I snapped a photo of the placard and was astounding to find, upon returning home, that there is little to no information on Orr on the internet!
This book, which I got from the library (though would desperately like to own) is amazing, more of an artist book than a catalog, though it does have full-color plates of some of Orr’s work. Orr is magick, working magic, and this is a great little book.
05 – Cut – Patricia McCormick
This was in the free box outside of Dog Earred books on Valencia when I was there to meet with Jarett Kobek & William E Jones. Jarett asked if I had ever read it and I said no, and told me that I should take it & read it. Being a free YA novel, I had no reason not to take it, figuring that the book wouldn’t take me that long to read anyway, and if I started it and it were crap I wouldn’t have to finish it.
So, of course, the book sat in my room for four months until yesterday I got tired of repeatedly & accidentally coming across it (as I’ve kept it in boxes instead of on my bookshelves) and said fuck it, I’ll just read it so I can get rid of it. So I did.
It is a YA novel, so it is a quick read, but really it’s not a horrible book. I always find it strange when reading YA fiction that, in comparison to, say, “contemporary literary fiction” that’s targeted at adults (which, admittedly, I don’t read that much of either), narrative is developed far more efficiently without sacrificing any of the elements of fiction that the modern gatekeepers love to insist upon; character development, setting, theme, etc. I think there’s something interesting in the fact that YA fiction is so much more often more efficient & tight in its development.
That being said, while everything is tight & efficient, the characters occasionally veer into sentimentality, which is “real” I suppose but reduces the weight of the book. It very coherent and arguably more well-written than a lot of shit that’s been sold to adults in the last 15 years, but in terms of personal aesthetics, it does little for me.
06 – Inquest – Danielle Collobert
Short radio play by Collobert that, while very interesting, seems nowhere as near as strong to me as her poetry. Perhaps it would be best to actually hear it?
07 – The Third Mind – Brion Gysin & William S Burroughs
As a book that explores the cut-up method, this actually fully articulates and explicates the method; though the co-authorship here is tricky as I would wager at least 80% of the content was done (and is attributed) to Burroughs. Sometimes, as I often find the case with Burroughs, the examples of cut-up work tends to drag on and on, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; all the explicity cut-up work still reads just like middle-period Burroughs, which is fascinating.
BUT, I should that the primary reason this book is of interest is due to the fact that it’s basically a book on hyperstition, but only in secret. Several chapters detail the uncanny coincidences Burroughs experienced between the texts he created (mostly via the cut-up method, or at least associatively via his scrapbooks) & reality he later encountered; it’s true, here are the earliest incidences of Burroughs realizing he could write the future; though this was not a controllable future, this is just the word virus working. As such, this book becomes very important because hyperstition is something that I think holds a key to the ultimate reality, the operative function of fiction, and even beyond.
Also, nearing the end of the book, the idea of the silence of the heiroglyphs also fascinates, but everything melts away when faced with the idea of hyperstition (though not named as such)
08 – Selected Poems – Rene Char
Brilliant divests the Rimbaudian sense of the prose-poem into something more organice, something that refuses, occasionally, the meta-syntax of poetry in favor of delivering ideas, and of course, because Char is brilliant, the work still resounds the way good poetry should. I have formerly only read Leaves of Hypnos, which is truly brilliant, but also somewhat of a departure from Char’s poetry as a whole with Hypnos being closer to a journal (or something; I’ve always insisted that Leaves of Hypnos is very similar to Georges Bataille’s Guilty).
09 – From Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972
Borrowed this from Dean something like six months ago, and just got around to finishing it this morning. Ultimately a beautifully designed catalog that suffers somewhat from it’s bloat– while it’s really great to see such nice repros of photos of primary artists works & see translations of the writings of the artists themselves, there’s too much extemporaneous shit– 140 pages of essays before we even get to see hardly any work, most of the essays only tangentially related to Arte Povera itself… though often very interesting in terms of contextualizing the entire ‘movement,’ which while I understand is really the point (and as we near the infinitude of the future I recognize we’re all striving for some sort of ‘totality,’ whatever that might mean), ultimately frustrating for someone like me who is anal-retentive and insists on reading books straight through (constant problem I have with catalogs is the abundance of essays at the beginning of a book–put ‘em at the end for christ’s sake!). Still, it’s lovely and has so much great in it.
10 – Mother Ghost – Casey Hannan
Hannan’s book circles around precocious gay children, dogs & cats, snakes, cigarette smoke, ghosts, bodies of water, ghosts, horses, coming out, ghosts, men who leave, mother & ghosts. These are are excellent things to write stories about, & Hannan’s stories are exceptionally well written, with language turning into new ways to deliver information. The language hits hard, in a really cutting way, it’s language that fills scars. The only shortcoming could be the abundance of ‘coming-out’ tales grouped near each other in the first half of the book, but mostly the language & abstraction of narrative makes up for the repetition. As we move forward things seems familiar in the book-world, but there is always something new, always something haunting.
11 – Marisa Merz: Musée National D’Art – Germano Celant, et al
Marisa Merz has been fascinating in her enigma to me since I first discovered Arte Povera, but until finally reading the FROM ZERO TO INFINITY catalog, I hadn’t really delved in too deep. Her work is amazingly personal, though mystic in a way, bridging the gap between the phenomenological experience in the world (of objects), and the subjecthood humans occupy. Her own writing on her work is cyclic, mysterious, poetic. Merz is a poet of the best time. Her objects are fragile and mean more in the their relation to other objects or the space of the room. She arranges them like words to create a new sentence.
The few essays that are translated into English in this catalog are very good– Celant is always good to read, as he virtually invented Arte Povera, and as such has kept in close contact with the artists. Rudi Fuchs is a favorite of mine as all of his art writing seems to border on memoir but still manages to get at the heart of the work, due once again to his proximity to the artists. The final essay by Catherine Grenier is also fantastic, as it takes Mallarmé’s notes on THE BOOK in a letter to Verlain as it’s launching point, and it’s utterly apt. There are also nice, albeit somewhat small, photographs of much of Merz’s work, which is fantastic to see.
12 – Antwerp – Roberto Bolano
I’ve never quite bought the hype-machine of Bolano, but the few books I’ve read by him I’ve enjoyed. Multiple people, however, told me to check this one out, so I filed it in the back of my head, figuring that when it was the right time it would come to me. Yesterday I saw the paperback (what a lovely cover!) staring back at me at Dog Earred Books on Valencia and decided that it was the right time. I’ve read it over the last 24 hours, reading it while I smoke, while I shit, while I stand up in my room in the sun.
This mode of reading fits the book. & The book does things that I love–there are fragments that exist on their own, almost as prose poems, but also ultimately add up to a much larger thing upon the completion of the book; the work circles around a narrative, hints at it, suggests characters, but never dregs into the certainty, and this is an amazing thing for a book to do.
This is the second book titled Antwerp that I’ve read, and both books have had some sort of bizarrely direct-to-my-brain elements; the other book, though pretty shitty, was a neo-noir murder mystery set in Antwerp that takes Harry Kumel’s filmography as it’s structure (!? yeah, seriously)–Kumel one of my favorite film makers. & Here, Bolano takes a structure that I’m excessively fond of adapting in my own writing. Maybe I should just automatically start reading all books that are called “Antwerp.” Maybe I should go to Antwerp.
13 – ObliviOnanisM – M.O.N.
Review up here.
14 – James Lee Byars: The White Mass
Byars is always great, always inspiring. His work is so striking, and his quasi-spiritual quest, his obession with Bueys, his outfits, his perfect geometric objects, they’re everything that make an artist interesting.
This book, ostensibly situated around an ‘installation’ in a church in Cologne, offers both fascinating photographic documentation of the installation, as well as essays that surround the piece, include an excellent one by Thomas McEvilley, but all the essays in here are great. The book ends with an interview with Byars that’s interesting, but also sort of revealing–while the poetry of the man’s words shine in his work, his capacity to articulate himself in an interview seems strained, though maybe the interviewer is just asking the wrong questions.
15 – Glowing in the Dark – David Peak
There are two things that are, outside of the narratives found insider of here, really exciting about this book. First, there’s a wide variety of forms found inside here, each story almost has a different skin than the one before, a new permutation on similar themes. This keeps each story exciting even if the narrative ground is ground that’s been covered before. Secondly, this is explicitly a balls-to-the-wall book of horror stories. There is no genre-shame here, and the writing is also good enough to force one to recognize that you don’t have to write like an asshole to write horror. Horror is a terrific genre that’s been explored to more heady levels in cinema, so it’s exciting to see it happen in language without the obnoxious cage of the mass market genre fiction (or just in general ‘traditional storytellin’) marring the power.
Aside from that, the book is also fun. It’s verisimilitude offers everything from ancient demons devouring children’s insides to find a son eating his sister as dad pulls his hair out in terror, the post-apocalypse in a biblical sense after a man finds the 5-9th dimensions beneath his wisdom tooth, the uncanny placement of technology that overtakes the world in a few brief evenings, and more. There’s both horror-for-horror’s sake, but there are also moments that indicate the horror that’s present in the actual world without any speculative creatures filling the haunt: humanity itself is terrifying.
16 – Yoga – Aleister Crowley
I like Crowley in the sense that he posits Magick simply as being able to conform reality to your will. It’s a simple explanation that offers a systematic attack at making one’s own reality better without succumbing to empty aphorisms & maxims (cliches) such as self-help books do. Plus, this actualization is offered within an object & ritual based context, which for me, is far more appealing. Yoga here is not the yoga of San Francisco classes, of course, yoga means unity. It’s yoga as meditation, which I’m sure is what Yoga started out as before it became a fitness regime (which I unabashedly partake in, albeit in my bedroom with a bootlegged video instead of paying out the ass to have someone from Noe Valley compliment me on my form). The lectures here are succinct and very interesting, he approaches the lexicon of language and how to achieve. It all seems simple, and in the 6th & 7th lectures he even approaches science & ontology, which is fascinating in tangent. Overall a nice book to read– Crowley’s prose is actually acutely readable, he moves through styles, can be very funny, and is also very good at being clear. I should read more–this being only the second work of his I’ve read other than Book of the Law.
17 – Errata – Michael Allen Zell
Review up here.
18 – A Strange Solitude – Philippe Sollers
While it tends that the narrative herein would, under a less deft pen, be one of angst & inexperience, a pointless exercise in juvenilia–but what is so striking about Sollers in this case (despite the fact that, I believe, he himself has disowned the book) is that he was both ‘close enough’ to the event (22 to the protagonist’s-at the beginning of the novel–16 years) and a strong enough writer that he pulls it off. There’s a joy in the text here, the rolling of language over the tongue in its relation to the somewhat banal events & epiphanies offered here. Nowhere near the mastery his later work revealed, but interesting as a novel none-the-less…
19 – Fauna – Joan Fontcuberta
A crypto-zoological document of the utmost important, it could be said, the narrative constructed here by Fontcuberta & Formiguera of Dr. Peter Ameisenhaufen is a fascinating read, an example of taking fiction to a level beyond simple narrative, instead creative a life and the documents that the life left behind. The photographs here, documents of Dr. Ameisenhaufen’s “New Zoology” are all wonderful, broken plates and scratched negatives, these construction creatures deserve to exist despite the fact that they don’t.
20 – Graveyard of Cathedrals / Starlight (Rork #3) – Andreas
I was craving some architecturally prescient euro-comix in the style of Crepax, Moebius, Schuiten & Peeters, etc, and Rork was offered as a suggestion to me. This volume was the only one immediately available from the library, so I picked it up to check it out. The art itself alternates between the architectural/landscape precision that I love in this kinda work & the scratchier, ‘impressionistic’ mode of expressive comic detailing. I prefer the precision (Just like I also prefer Rork with a beard).
The narrative here is also thankfully interesting, it’s still located firmly in the realm of fantasy, but it avoids the fantasy tropes that are prone to cliche and (a personal sense of) annoyance. No dragons–at least in this volume–not hyper-buxom warrior women, etc. The story telling isn’t as solid as some other euro-comic stuff, but still very competent, and thus, enjoyable enough that I’ll likely seek out the other volumes.
Of particular interest here (though under-developed, I would insist) is the first story, The Graveyard of Cathedrals, which tells the tale of an architect discovering notes and documents on a huge set of Cathedrals built in the jungles of Brazil. The contrast is amazing & enticing on its own accord, & includes a sort of metaphysical battle/erasure along a labyrinth, which is so terrific that I didn’t mind how under-developed a lot of the ideas felt.
21 – James Lee Byars: I Give You Genius – Henrich Heil
In my continuing obsession with James Lee Byars–launched upon initial ‘discovery’ in 2011, now nearing total fruition of bombast early on in 2013–I’m always pleased to discover the care with which his monographs have been designed, printed, assembled. Aside from holding beautiful content, they are always beautiful objects (books) themselves.
This catalog, documenting the exhibition entitled “James Lee Byars — The Perfect Axis,” in Dusseldorf, works well as one of these objects. Eschewing the essays to minimal, a few pages at the beginning on the spatially perfect geometry of Byars’s work, a few pages at the end on the geometric construction of the maison de plaisance which the exhibition was held in. Interesting, all of it, but why this book is great is the beautiful LARGE photos of Byars’s work installed in the beautiful mansion.
Images nearing 14 inches in height of Byars’s sculptural geometries installed within beautifully decadent–though empty of all but the work–interiors brings out the, shall we say, perfection of the geometry itself, the beautiful materials that Byars uses, the way these forms can cause reflection and insist upon a holiness.
22 – Marisa Merz – ed. Pier Giovanni Castagnoli
Not quite as good as the Marisa Merz book I read earlier in the month if only for the fact that all the images of the work are presented entirely out of context & without any textual information. Regardless, the essays in here are good (though the Rudi Fuchs one is present in other catalogs, but that’s OK), and the images are of a really nice quality. There’s less reflection upon the work itself that Merz as a “being” or something, which is kind of weird, but also really interesting.
23 – Dreams of Kurosawa – Raul Zurita
A very interesting book that, somewhat uniquely, becomes even more interesting after reading the essay by Anna Deeny (also the translator) at the end. The circumstance of Zurita believing he saw Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams around 1973–17 years before it came out in 1990, and thus ending up writing these poems, colors the poems in a bizarre mystic sense of displacement, and makes them even more enticing. Zurita is a wonderful poet, and I’m always excited at the opportunity to read more of his work, and these short poems, that together add up into a fragmented existence cuts deep.
24 – Project for a Revolution in New York – Alain Robbe-Grillet [second reading]
Review up here.
25 – Hilma af Klimpt: The Greatness of Things
I’ve been fascinated by Himla af Klint since I encountered a quote from her talking about how the black cube contains everything (I’m paraphrasing)–her work is also terrific, esoteric occulted paintings that are really the earliest abstract paintings, predating both Mondrian and Kandinsky by a few years–her life is fascinating, and the idea of painting as a mediumistic praxis is just lovely–while i’m not crazy about her more figurative paintings (a few of which are included in this catalog), the abstract work, especially the later abstract work, is truly terrific. Also, this is a really stunningly produced volume, lots of gold, great reproductions, a nice over-arching essay.
26 – The Moon’s Jaw – Rauan Klassnik
A fragmented sadism, lust-desire. Narrative chunks falling apart like the viscera of bodies. Seemingly arbitrary punctuation which stalls the text like a shitty car. Self-erasure in the from of accusation. A sublime sense of finitude, ultimately a romantic attitude in the actual definition of romantic. There’s so much beauty in death, he said.
27 – Sisyphus, Outdone – Nathanael
This is a really interesting book: somewhere between poetry, aphorism, and theory it sits, straddling the border between French & English and dipping into either at will, sometimes including the same quotation both in English and French, other times just one or the other.
This book seems to be about: doors, photography, death; catastrophe, the Sisyphean task, I suppose. It’s interesting, I’m not totally sure how the book function, but there’s a dark stranglehold it casts upon me as a reader, and I feel its weight. Which, of course, I enjoy.
28 – John Hejduk: 7 Houses – Peter Eisenmann
Seven houses examining specific architectonic ideas as present in the mystical air of Texas. There’s something astounding here, looking from one house to the next, the progression, an understanding of how space works, what happens when the sheer scale of the houses is realized, and then the thought of how it must feel to be inside one of these houses that have never been built, how it would feel to live in one, exist inside of it. Hejduk’s architecture is crystal clear here, less impressionistic but not devoid of the poetry despite as much extra-textual interaction. Eisenman, who I find fascinating, writes the introductory essay which remains mostly oblique, but still speaks of volume and the precision that Hejduk has instilled that I cannot see.
29 – Pamphlet Architecture 1-10 – Various
PA #1 – BRIDGES
An interesting start–interesting particularly because it’s clearly more of a singular proposal for a project as suggested in the introduction), but still maintains a sort of ideological optimism heralded in with the confluence of bold architecture.
PA #2 – 10 CALIFORNIAN HOUSES
I love this. Much of the hyperbole had me actually cracking up. Aside from that, I’m always particularly interested & satisfied by these paper architects’ plans for houses, especially houses that are serving a specific function. Also, reading this while living in the Bay probably ups the ante on the hilarity, even 35 years after it was written.
PA #3 – VILLA PRIMA FACIE
Absolutely amazing. Taking a line from Francis Ponge as its launching point, Lerup manages, with a high level of success, to actually use poetry to write architecture–I say this with a marked sense of disbelief as it’s one of my primary goals as an artist. The work is astounding, buildings are words and there are beautiful diagrammatic sketches that illustrate the text-house. So beautiful.
PA #4 – STAIRWELLS
An absolutely terrific sequence of drawing permutations, going from simple forms and shifting into various fantastic stairwell diagrams, incredibly monolithic spaces, structures, forms. John Taggart wrote a poem series called The Pyramid is a Pure Crystal and this essence is imparted here, pyramids, cylinders, cubes, all used as routes from one point to another.
PA #5 – THE ALPHABETICAL CITY
Of the initial run, this seems to be the most “utile” of the pamphlets, perhaps, working mostly as documentation into building types in cities, and the grids that these buildings can be placed upon. Building types are compared to letters, and in its consideration of light and depth there is much of interest here to actual architects & engineers, but less of interest to a poet. However, I feel like architecture is important to narrative, and while perhaps not the most exciting pamphlet of the series, there’s a sense of information here that will prove itself helpful.
PA #6 – EINSTEIN’S TOMB
Lebbeus Woods is always a dreamer, and while often his architecture is hard to understand based on the diagrams & drawings, in here there’s a simultaneous insistence between the poetry-like discussion of the tomb & the drawings, from many angles, repeated and redrawn over themselves. It’s fantastic, of course, and a kick into a sort of impossible to realize but essential to create (in the sense of a real understanding of architecture meting with concept).
PA #7 – BRIDGE OF HOUSES
This volumes presents two proposals for what are, as the title would indicate, bridges of houses. I also found it interesting that the ‘introductory’ text also explicitely states that the first proposal (1979 competition proposal for Melbourne, Australia) is “in the form of an ideal speculation,” while the second (proposal “sited on a disused elevated rail link in the Chelsea area of Manhattan”) is “far more pragmatic.” Guess which one I find more interesting. I’m regularly fascinated by the idea of houses that are targeted at such a hyper-specific/poetic demographic (i.e. “House of the Decider,” “House for a Man Without Opinions,” etc, in the Melbourne proposal) and how narrative can be worked into the layout of a hosue.
PA #8 – PLANETARY ARCHITECTURE, PROJECTS 77-81
I seem to be completely incapable of actually reading the diagrams of this section–as in, they simply don’t make sense to me, I can’t make sense of them spatially, and they’re slightly abstracted enough to disorient me entirely. I’m into the idea of a sort of horizontal development of architecture, especially in relationship to hotels, but I found myself utterly confused. In the last apartment though, I do fully enjoy the large glass brick wall & the large ‘black’ wall.
PA #9 – RURAL & URBAN HOUSE TYPES in North America
Ostensibly a follow up to The Alphabetical City (PA #5), I found this typology of house types far more fascinating, which had me questioning the idea of how much of a hold rural house types actually hold over me. As a catalog of forms and structures, the rural were/are far more interesting than the urban; which is another idea I find interesting.
PA #10 – METAFISICA DELLA ARCHITETTURA
Sartoris’s projects, pictured, mostly in axonometic drawings,are amazing, and I wish that instead of just an essay on purity & harmony in a metaphysical approach to architecture there had been information on Sartoris’s own work… The essay is interesting, but seems a little old hat, and also coming from a modernist tradition that I can’t 100% get down with… I much prefer Sottsass, who also declared that everybody should be able to have a home, but he also insisted that everyone deserves a beautiful, which undermines the modernist assumption that ornament is inutile.
30 – Deserts: A Very Short Introduction – Nick Middleton
A very competent introduction to deserts– I find myself most fascinated by the flora that populates deserts & the more outlying ideas of the 100 days wind, but my fascination with deserts found the reading of this facilitated by pleasure.
31 – Poems for the Millenium, Vol 2 – ed. Pierre Joris & Jerome Rothenberg
As I’ve been chunking away at this 900 page anthology since I got it sometime several years ago, its completion leads to a weird sort of finitude–I still need to go back and re-read all of the poets I have dog-earred, dog-earred to mark a certain pleasure, inspiration, poetic push, whatever, to my own taste. As I find myself reading more and more poetry I feel like this anthology is, certainly, important, both in its breadth and its inclusiveness. A tome that brings to light poets whose work has probably seen very little translation, but nonetheless feel important. This feels essential.
32 – Tool. – Peter Sotos
I’ve read a number of Sotos texts throughout the year, though had not read this, which is more or less his first “novel,” following his PURE and PARASITE ‘journals’ for want of a better word. Having read more of his more recent texts, it’s really interesting to compare the earliest prose, how it functions so differently, how it’s more angry and less developed–which makes sense, of course, while still circling around the same obsessions that haunt. Perhaps more visceral in a corporeal descriptive kind of way, whereas later work is more affecting in its haunt.
33 – Three Poets of Modern Korea – Various
Translation seems to be great, though I can’t read or speak Korean obviously so who knows what that means. YI SANG: 5 stars, these poems are fantastic, Poem XV of the Crows-Eye View series is really astounding work. All of YI SANG’s poems ring hyper-contemporary when they’re actually the oldest in the book. Hahm Dong-seon: 2 stars, too banal, pastoral, near to sentimentality. Occasionally lines work for me, but overall this is not poetry I’m interested in. Choi Young-mi: 3 stars, after reading her intro I was expecting something different–while this is more appealing work to me than Hahm Dong-seon, it still strikes me as too traditionally still or something. Regardless of caveats, I think this is a collection worth reading.
34 – Four Elemental Bodies – Claude Royet-Journoud
Though I had read probably three-fourths of this before, the act of reading all four volumes in a single go (albeit a “go” that was broken up into several sittings), really helps to emphasize the affect of this “neutrality.” I still often feel like Royet-Journoud buried narratives that are similar to Robbe-Grillet; for instance, specifically THE CROWDED CIRCLE, a section in the first volume. There’s something so precise and amazing about Royet-Journoud’s poetry, that while I cannot figure out a way to articulate that ‘what-it-is,’ it remains, and it carries, and I can literally feel it moving through me upon reading. The space of the page operates less as a stage–as in Albiach–and rather more as a container, a tomb, the buried words breaking through into light.
35 – Dark Matter – Aase Berg
I find Aase Berg fascinating, and part of the fascination comes from the fact that, really, she should like specifically appeal to all of my interests–to an extent, she (her poetry) does, but there’s just something about what I’ve read that’s not quite all the way there–there are a lot of works in this book that I loved, but the entire thing doesn’t quite coalesce. There’s almost a sort of late-90s techno-utopian vibe that perhaps is what restrains it, but when certain modes are overlooked, it vibes into a perfect dark matter of pleasuretext.
36 – Green and Black: Selected Writings – Leslie Scalapino
I’ve read very little Scalapino, but keeping meeting people who were very attached to her and her work, so, based on that & the minute amount included in Poems for the Millennium Vol 2, I thought I’d pick this up. I’m glad I did–it’s a good short collection that serves an introductory purpose–there are a few things in here that I found fantastic, that resonate in a way similar to both Collobert & Albiach, yet uniquely Scalapino’s own, of course.
37 – Figured Image – Anne-Marie Albiach
The articulated language of Anne-Marie Albiach has progressed throughout her work, and the razor-thin precision of the language is what allows the words to haunt the white space of the page. There are a number of ‘forms’ (formless forms) present within this book, which adds up to a heterogeneity of affect.
38 – Gregor Schneider – Gregor Schneider
Schneider is one of my favorite artists, and this catalog–I believe the first English language catalog–is great both as an introduction to one of the most brilliant & enigmatic artists working today, and also absolutely essential for its totalizing sense of Schneider’s early career. Besides the abundance of images that the catalog offers, there’s both a long & truly insightful interview with Schneider, as well as an apocryphal interview that Gregor Schneider conducted on Hannelore Rouen, one of the imaginary tenants of the house u r in Rheydt. Schneider, who also name-drops John Fare with some regularity, really uses this catalog to construct his own mythos, in addition to just presenting the work. It’s amazing.
39 – The Correct Sadist – Terence Sellers
Separated into three parts, I found this interesting–the first section introducing our Mistress–the SUPERIOR, that is. The middle section is somewhat of a guidebook to Dom-ing, in a sense, and the ‘inspired’ dialogs presented are probably my favorite part of this, though it’s also interesting to see Mistress Angel explain all the ins and outs of her interactions with her customers. Also interesting to see how she shies away from blood, or rather did at first, but then after indulging into it she has, so to speak, retired from the effort.
40 – Selected Writings – Henri Michaux
Michaux is endlessly fascinating–while the earliest sketches into the fantastic fall a little flat for me (hence 4 stars instead of 5) the later flights of fiction are amazing–the last half of the book or so is perfect. Michaux is often called a poet, and while I understand that in the same way James Lee Byars could call virtually anything a ‘self-portrait’ you can call basically anything a poem, but it’s really work like Michaux’s that approaches, quite simply, the idea of writing in a way different (but not impossibly different) from the 20th century’s écriture–this is neither poetry nor fiction but pure creation, Michaux is a god and language is the land he dominates. I look forward to reading more Michaux.
41 – Pyramid Scheme & Other Stories – Lando
Amazing, post-Moebius dialogue-less comic that was just drawn last year? It’s great. The architecture, the movement,t the geometry.
42 – Selected Letters – Stéphane Mallarmé
This book is an amazing joy to read, as I did, as a sort of morning devotional to this symbolist artist who was trapped in life but still managed to make his art touch the precipice. I found overwhelming comfort in the familiarity that became reading this book. I looked forward to it. Upon finishing it, I felt both that I had a much more complete understanding of Mallarmé’s life, but also frustrated–there’s merely a single mention of Un Coup de dés, and that’s just in response to Gide’s impression of the first printing? There’s not a single mention of le livre? The most interesting WORK of Mallarmé seems to go unmentioned–though I’m not positive if it’s an editorial decision that lead to this, i’d almost doubt it–It just seems so strange that Mallarmé would be able to refrain from mentioning anything when it was he who so loved to talk about poetry. Regardless, there’s still so much in here, such a joy to read, I feel like it is something that can be dipped back into, Mallarmé is such an utter inspiration.
43 – Flowers of Evil – Charles Baudelaire
Baudelaire is a figure that has floated over my interests for years now, though I hadn’t bothered actually reading The Flowers of Evil yet, mostly marred by the available translations in verse. I picked the mass market version of this book up from a thrift store for a quarter and decided it, positioned close to my finishing of Mallarmé’s letters, that it was time.
A book being split between two translators is not always a strange thing, especially when the translators are working together to translate work with each other’s assistance, but that case of what happens here, between George Dillon & Edna St. Vincent Millay, is different–it seems that they each translated a number of poems in isolation, and the book collects all their translations combined. Which, again, is fine, except for the fact that it seems to me that Millay’s translations are far more readable than Dillon’s–though it is occasionally true of both, Millay’s translations generally keep at least a syllable count more consistent from line to line, and while the floating emphatic syllables still make the rhythm difficult, it’s in Millay’s translation that there’s at least some sense.
Despite all this, I do enjoy the poems much more now than I did before, though I certainly wish I could read French in order to really enjoy the work.
44 – boneyard – Stephen Beachy
First part is one of the most amazing texts ever, indulging in every childish fantasy while being inflicted by the darkness of a desolate adulthood, these short stories are fucking perfect.
Part two starts off with a narrative that, frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about (the “bad boy” rock n roll star or whatEVER) but metamorphoses into a really fucking heavy and dark piece of intense writing that really highlights the reality & darkness of life when you’re completely emotionally unavailable.
The things that Beachy/Yoder/Whoever manage to do in this are literally astounding, creating such a realm of despair & affect without relying on a ‘developed character’ to force a reader to empathize with (thus adding a level of distance to the emotional involvement of the reader) […]
45 – Collected Works Volume II – Antonin Artaud
I love Artaud, honestly & fully, but holy shit I was not so invested in a lot of the content here–the Alfred Jarry Theater, while perhaps a worthwhile experiment, seems so dead on paper compared to many of the other things Artaud has written; & to have half the volume dedicated to texts on the Alfred Jarry Theater (and, more specifically, to staging of plays that I haven’t read–is, for example, the Roger Vitrac play even available in English?), I found myself far less invested than normal. The two plays of Artaud’s own in the middle are fantastic, and probably the most worthwhile thing in the volume. The reviews are interesting, though once again often missing a referent, in some capacity.
46 – White Piano – Nicole Brossard
Review up here.
47 – Pataphysical Essays – Rene Daumal
Review up here.
48 – The Perfect Moment – James Lee Byars
A really terrific Byars catalog. Overwhelmingly beautiful as an option, wonderful reproductions. Excellent chronology. Brilliant essays, some reprinted from elsewhere, all worth reading. The Perfect Byars Book.
49 – Je Nathanael – Nathalie Stephens
There’s something really interesting happening here, and while the text stands as it’s own, it seems like the publication of the English version also marks the point where Nathalie Stephens becomes Nathanael, and while maybe that makes me a horrible person, but I’m curious about the book-as-life, and how that’s working, and why there are Nathalie Stephens books between the French publication & the English publication, why it is that THIS, this second version, was the push…
Regardless, there’s a duality, a sexual fascination, the idea of bodies that don’t exist beyond text, these are things that I personally am fascinated by, but there seem to be secrets here too, secrets that either Nathalie or Nathanael is keeping from the reader, but that’s ok, because all we need to know is that these secrets have left their feels, and that makes this short book (though one that echoes, surely) such a pleasure.
50 – The Book of Monelle – Marcel Schwob
This book is a lovely little thing. It twists & turns around narrative archetypes developed throughout the history of fiction, the fantastic, fairy-tales, adventure stories, etc, but is weighted down by a sadness, a nihilism, and this makes it an amazing thing. The opening section, perhaps, is what is most amazing, but at the closing there’s such a sadness, it creeps in in a way–perhaps–similar to Jahnn, there’s just always something off, something wrong, something not quite working.
What I admire most about this book is it’s construction, the way it’s put together, and how Schwob was smart enough to know how parts can make up a stronger whole. This sort of fragmentation is something that I’m specifically interested in, both as a reader and a writer, so I love a good example of it working right.
51 – The Glass Menagerie – Tennessee Williams [re-read]
I ended up with a copy of this &, having not read it since high school (when I feel like I read it at least three times in various classes), figured I may as well read it again. It’s pretty depressing, yeah, & the narrative flows fine and all, but the play has little to offer me at this point in my life other than a sort of eye-roll towards the ideas presented in it. So much of it seems antiquated, and even the lack of resolution (i.e. nobody is happy) is so old-hat now. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s fine, I enjoyed the process of re-reading it, but it is not something that I think I’ll need to revisit.
52 – Destroy, She Said – Marguerite Duras
Holy shit this is amazing. I was hungover from having too much champagne celebrating the birthday of James Lee Byars’s ghost, & after finishing Glass Menagerie I couldn’t actually convince myself to do anything productive, so I pulled this down off my shelf and burned through it. It creates a remarkable space of affect, a headspace, of how Duras herself puts it, fear–there’s really a heavy-fucking-madness present, one that’s expressed in the (once again Duras’s own term) “hyper-reality” of the events, the closed of nature, the limited ‘cast.’
The shifting signifiers, shoving each character equally into the position of “protagonist” at different times, does such wonders to de-hierarchize the narrative, and the fact that it’s another of Duras’s ‘in-between’ texts (in between book & film), with performance notes at the end no less, makes it such a striking collection of set-pieces. Such anxiety.
The interview at the end is great, both illuminating the film of the book (which I will probably watch in the next few days) & highlighting a lot of Duras’s ideology, which is almost joyfully nihilistic, yet still in favor of the events of ’68 as well as hippies?
53 – The Necrophiliac – Gabrielle Wittkop
Despite its occasional bits of the utterly disgusting, there’s so much lyricism running through the language here that it becomes so very lovely to read. There’s no tangent of empathy developed via psychology, so it’s the language that carries the little novella through; language and narrative. I love bits with the sea, was brought to mind Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues for some reason, The Girl Beneath The Lion, perhaps in a twinned lyricism.
But really, even the diary format was very suitable, there’s not too much going on, one could almost hope for more but I imagine it would become tedious after a bit. I’d be interested in reading more from Wittkop.
54 – Killing Kanoko – Hiromi Ito [re-read]
It’s interesting, I think I enjoy the biographical introduction & the notes at the end more than I enjoy the poems themselves, which, as mentioned three years ago, I find dragging in their repetition instead of beautiful (and I love repetition normally). There are a lot of things that happen in these poems that I think is really important and inspiring, but there’s something tenuous about some of the work. I am still curious about reading more Ito though.
55 – Chasm – Dorothea Tanning
A delightful narrative, to be sure, though of course, due to my own obsessions, I wish the desert mansion & Meridian’s BDSM “laboratory” were given more presence, despite not being the point at all. BUT, giving what is at stake here, the narrative moves along like a dream, penetrating various points of view as people change or don’t change, with a major revelation to the “city-folk” that nature doesn’t give a shit about humanity, the ultimate in geocosmic recognition. I found this book very pleasurable to read on this sunny afternoon.
56 – Body of a Girl – Elizabeth Barille
I picked this up as it was the only book available in English translation that I hadn’t yet read in the book Forbidden Fictions: Pornography and Censorship in Twentieth-Century French Literature, but this of course was three or four years ago. I picked up the book yesterday morning and threw it in my backpack to take to work; starting it on the train I enjoyed the language, which moves beautifully, and the fact that there was an urgency in the honesty of the voice.
However, there is much to be frustrated about, that perhaps is intended to be ironic, but doesn’t come through as such–the idea of “the writer” is filled with so much pretense that it drives me batty, and as the climax of the novel suggests, is really nothing beyond pretense–“the writer” is so unlikeable that Elisa becomes unlikeable herself through the neurotic insistence & tangentiality with him. Of course, whether or not I ‘like’ a character generally has little bearing on my opinion of a book, as it’s certainly not a requirement that I even care about characters at all; but when writing from the “I,” when writing from such a position of privilege over everything else that occurs, it’s had to separate the idea of character (if one has been provided) and the content of the book itself.
But really, it’s mostly just the hyper-pretentious depiction of a “writer” that drove me nuts in this, the rest of the book is astutely written and lovely, pulsing with a subconscious sexuality that is occasionally allowed to rise to the surface.
57 – Exchanges on Light – Jacques Roubaud
I’ve been continually luke-warm on Roubaud with everything other than his book of poetry written in mourning of his wife, Alix– he seems so cold and calculated, which makes sense given his background, that even here, ostensibly a book-length poetic conversation on light, fails to arouse much response. Regardless, there are wonderful bits and pieces sprinkled throughout, and the form, a classical dialog in a sense, makes it more engaging, but I often found myself glasses over and thinking of other things.
58 – Good Day Today – Daniel Neofetou
Review up here.
59 – Poetry: Oct-Nov 200-: Contemporary French Poetry In Translation
This is actually a pretty boring collection, save for a few names here and there. The excerpted Julien Gracq fragments are fucking stellar though.
60 – Geometries – Guillevic
This is a really quick, exciting book of poetry intersecting with geometry. It’s never too heady but sits just right, feels so accurate and is so pleasurable to read.
61 – Saints of the Impossible – Alexander Irwin
Comparing the sacred practices of Bataille & Simone Weil, Irwin comes to some great conclusions and similarities, and I’m struck, specifically, by this fragment from the final paragraph of the book’s conclusion:
Dealing primarily with both authors’ work in the midst of the second World War, there’s weird/freaky accusations against both during this time. That Bataille’s turn to mysticism was fascistic in its refusal of active engagement on the fore front (a total misreading of Bataille’s war time praxis, as the book detailedly examines. That Weil’s saintdom was mental illness (starving herself, writing instead of taking care of her health, her desire to sacrifice herself to battle). It seems hyper-relevant to the current zeitgeist, as if the awareness of self & an ‘inner-experience,’ this idea of sacrifice, could be the one solution to much of the world’s ailments… though there’s something impossible here, for when one is striving for pure autonomy one cannot count on the realms of others.
Regardless, this book strikes me as important, both in developing a further politicalization of Bataille, but more importantly in revealing the true mystical, religious nature of Bataille’s work, and the tangential work of Weil, interesting in its own capacity but, of course, ever-so-slightly less interesting than my personal interests.
62 – Contra Mundum I-VII
I had read literally all of this but the final “talk” about 2 years ago, before I moved to California. Now that it’s in my hands again, I finished it. It’s a fun, good looking book, cycling between high ideas and conversational frankness, which is good. My favorite ‘chapter’ is on the Private Issue New Age records
63 – The Man Suit – Zachary Schomberg
Years ago, right after I started writing for HTMLGiant, before I had really read a ton of poetry & when the conceits of “indie-lit” was new to me, I ended up by chance at a group show (of art) in DeKalb dedicated to the work of Zachary Schomburg. Schomburg himself flew out from PDX to read at the opening, so I went, fairly excited that the work of someone who I was aware of from the INTERNET was going to be reading in my tiny-ass college town. The opening was fun, and the reading was good, though immediately following the reading I remarked to my friend who had gone with me that I found it odd that there was so much laughter from the audience–the texts that Schomburg read (both from The Man Suit and Scary, No Scary) seemed to hold a sort of gravitas to me. There was something fragile about it, but nothing I would find funny. I found disappointment in the laughter (clearly, this was long before the point where I was attending poetry readings like fucking weekly). I did really enjoy the poetry though, and read Scary, No Scary shortly after, my friend having bought it at the reading.
The other day I encountered the latest Schomburg book online, and instead of ordering it did the thing that’s responsible to my finances & just requested whatever was available from the library, which was this book & Scary, No Scary (which, as I mentioned, I’ve read before, but look forward to reading again).
I think there’s a lot to praise in Schomburg’s work–specifically the level of pure creativity that he engenders, his work introduces truly unique instances and places them in a sort of uncanny position with that of humanity. However, I find it kind of frustrated that a lot of it the tone that Schomburg generates is subverted by the sort of cutesy/’funny’ shit that certainly diverts from the tone. It’s like the darkness is there but Schomburg is afraid to go into it. Which is fine, but I find it frustrating that what could be so good ends up sort of devolving into cute irony (and random juxtapositions does not equal “surrealism” people, how many times do I need to say this).
Regardless, it is mostly enjoyable, and I found myself writing my own fiction/poetry immediately upon setting the book down, which certainly means something.
64 – Scary, No Scary – Zachary Schomberg [second reading]
So this isn’t as “cute” as The Man Suit, which finds me enjoying it significantly more. The creation of the uncanny is more fine-tuned here, and there’s more of a tone that carries the narrative, less ‘random’ asides that devolve into irony. Definitely good, still not amazing.
65 – Pulling the Wool – Jordaan Mason
This short, but packed, chapbook carries a number of poems that deal with abstractions of the self and the Other, because since Rimbaud we’ve been uncomfortable with subjectivity (at least, when we’re aware of the present state of the world). Poems of desire and the abject, routed towards a way to actually look.
66 – Book 4 – Aleister Crowley
Part I deals with the subject of Yoga, which Crowley seems to address more in full in his book on Yoga I read earlier in the year, but it’s a nice sort of reminder of what has been read, a sort of ‘review,’ so to speak, of the subjects at hand.
Part II introduces the tools & their meaning of Magick, and while I’m still not sure of the ritual aspects that these tools are used for, the practice, so to speak, as an introduction to the ‘toolbox’ it is lucid and well explanatory.
Crowley’s writing doesn’t strike me as consistently strong in this book as it does in his Yoga book, but it is still lucid & incredibly intelligent. Magick in Theory and Practice will be next.
67 – Desert Notebook 2004-2008 – Standard Schaefer
After discovering & becoming very interested in the poetry of Standard Schaefer a few years ago, I was happy to discover this book at Moe’s in Berekeley–a beautiful poetry book with art inside, published in Italy, no ISBN number, not on Amazon (nor on Goodreads until I just added it!), that I had no idea existed.
The words inside are fantastic, direct but still evocative, portraying a heightened sense of a political engagement (though formless, perhaps) that in ways reminded me of Dan Hoy.
In the lip of the red rock in a sky once black with ducks customs of abundance
In a desert of pure composition letters cut sideways and struck through with silence
Ponderous as the cocktail waitress who stopped and turned to cough
The images in the book complement the work in a very cutting way: black white desert photos, drawn/painted over, an erasure that denies the photos to sit as spatial evocations in their own right, attesting to the validity of Schaefer’s words.
68 – The Sun Placed in the Abyss & Other Texts – Francis Ponge
Ponge is an interesting poet– I understand his importance in the history of French écriture, but often I find him flat, too objective (though in a way different from both the early Nouveau Romanciers as well as the current zeitgeist’s “hyper bored subjectivity painted as ‘objectively’ as possible while language is a trap”), but the titular poem of this collection is absolutely astounding. Poets writing about the sun & voids is something that either entirely works for me or doesn’t at all, and this functions in a way that preys on my attention.
69 – Poetry, Etcetera: Cleaning House – Jacques Roubaud
This is an interesting book; consisting of, basically, Roubaud espousing his poetics, an explication of the OuLiPo, what he thinks of hegemonic poetry, what he thinks poetry is, reflections on French poetry & poets, and more. There is a lot I like in here, though occasionally the cyclic conversations-with-the-self veer into a sort of indulgent playfulness that seems to intentionally denigrate his ideas, which I realize is part of the point, but ultimately becomes somewhat tedious. Regardless, there is smart stuff in here, and I’m glad I’ve read it.
70 – Inversion Twilight – Carrie Hunter
Poetry from Birds of Lace. I liked the cover of this but, really, little inside held my attention.
71 – Vocative Figure – Anne-Marie Albiach
Anne-Marie Albiach perpetually blows me away, but the intensity of this short book is unparalleled. If there is a goal to be reached in poetry, it is the goal of an intensity that matches the words in this book. I will be reading this over and over again. Perfect.
72 – The Surreal House – ed. Jane Alison
A mixed bag here, really. The Alison & Vesely essays were insufferable &, despite being written by woman, place way too much emphasis on Breton (who I hate)–the emphasis on Breton (by the time you finish the essays you’ve read his quote about his glass house at least 5 times) is actually a sort of annoyance about the entire book… The Mary Ann Caws, Brian Dillon & Krzysztof Fijalkowski essays are all really terrific, so they compensate for the shit that starts the book.
In terms of the art itself, it’s also a mixed bag. There’s less architecture, even fewer “houses” proper here, more there is the idea of space, which is a fine concept, but ultimately not what one would desire considering the HYPER ABUNDANCE of architects who have done projects on exclusively HOUSING.
Still, I found a FEW new artworks of interests, and while the catalog is nowhere near perfect, it’s a fun ‘collection’.
73 – Solip – Ken Baumann
I think it is more than likely that I’ll be writing about this more (and in a further expanded form) in the future, so for now I’ll keep this brief: this is an excellent book. Ken Baumann has possibly written the first “anti-novel” that is compellingly readable. It’s not exhausting, but it’s also not exhausted, it flows with events and images and words and builds up to a solid, engaging whole. Recommended.
74 – Nude -Anne Portugal
Before this book I had only encountered Anne Portugal via the Burning Deck pamphlet, “Quisite Moment,” which I found both annoying & entirely un-enterable, but I wanted to give Portugal another go because I’ve encountered excerpts & shorter pieces in various anthologies & magazines, and enjoyed them–this turned out to be the right place to go. Terrifically translated by Norma Cole, this is one of the first times this realm of French écriture has given me multiple points of entrance; perhaps it’s the fact that there are images peppered throughout a form which is generally against the idea of an image in a traditional sense, but Portugal takes the stage and refuses performance, and it works to become interesting in a modification of the way poetry, often, works. Narrative, an ekphrastic bent, perhaps? The Robert Duncan piece on the front is nice, though what strikes heavier is less the idea of Art and more the idea of Existence.
75 – The Plight House – Jason Hrivnak
I picked this up again while I was at my parent’s house (where a number of my books are in storage) and intended to just re-read the front matter contextualizing the core of the book, but then ended up bringing it back to California with me and reading the whole thing. What is perhaps most astounding about this book is that I consciously remembered very little, but discovered that there is so much present in this book that has snuck into my own writing (specifically, perhaps obliquely, Variations on the Sun). Regardless, there are a million narrative threads here that are fascinating in precisely the manner that I want fiction to be.
I will admit, however, that I still find the form the core-novel takes as a bit distracting; it’s the sort of culmination of the occasional experiments people like Barthelme and co were using (think of the questionnaire in the middle of Snow White)–and I think I’d prefer it in a different capacity. Despite this caveat, this book is really great, and I’m glad I picked it up again to remember it.
76 – Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers – Leonard Koren
The 96 pages is certainly a stretch here, as I doubt there’s more than 5000 words here, tops. Large font, lots of space, lots of photos–granted, the book LOOKS good, but in terms of information it reads like a pamphlet instead of a near-100 page book. Also, I feel like, despite taking the idea of articulating wabi-sabi in the introduction, the book seems vague; the factors that SURROUND wabi-sabi are accounted for, but the actual aesthetic is not probed deeply enough for my taste.
77 – Forbidden Fictions – John Phillips
I’ll lay it out up front that the author is clearly a Freudian, and I pretty much think Freud was an idiot, so, granted, there’s some immediate tension. The Bataille chapter is useless; Phillips draws attention to the fact that Bataille’s fictions should be read outside of their existence within Bataille’s entire oeuvre, specifically in terms of his theoretics (what becomes clear is that Philips hasn’t read any Bataille outside of Erotism and the fiction), and then goes on to insist upon reading Duvert specifically WITHIN the context of his entire oeuvre, specifically the theory/essays! This caveat aside, it’s an interesting book, especially as much of the subject matter is close to my heart; I specificaly appreciate it for offering a few selections of Duvert’s Récidive translated into English, a book I desperately would like to read in English (I would love to read Duvert’s entire oeuvre of course, but I’m particularly interested in his novels which approach the nouveau roman/’experimental’ techniques).
I don’t agree with all of the readings, of course, but some seem accurate. Philips, like so many others before him, manages to horribly mangle his defense of Robbe-Grillet’s misogyny and turn it into apologist rhetoric while specifically citing examples of other defenses that fail… but the textual readings are interesting and, more often than not, spot on. It’s just when it comes to issues of morality within difference & psycho-analysis that I roll my eyes and read on. It’s worth reading, and there was actually a decent amount of pure information that I didn’t formerly know that I’m glad I do now, but it’s nowhere near perfect.
78 – Kaye Wayfaring in Avenged – James McCourt
A couple months ago, when I was seeing a bunch of Werner Schroeter screenings at the PFA, I started thinking about Mawrdew Czgowchwz a lot, probably because of the opera connections. Later I remembered I had a copy of this book, and then a week or so ago I picked it up and have been reading it intermittently. Billed, in a sense, as a short story collection, it rather functions as a novel, following Kaye Wayfaring & co from the beginning to the post-end of the production of Avenged.
It’s a lot of fun, and satiated the exact sort of vibe that had sent my memory into overdrive with the Schroeter films.
79 – Nohow On – Samuel Beckett
I have this problem with many of the later Beckett texts, that I read them &, finding so little to “grasp onto,” I find my attention fugue-ing elsewhere as I’m reading. Despite this, moments shine through. The Darkness, the created Others via Voice, the sense of the alone–there is a lot that I find admirable in this text, if only I could figure out how to better grasp it.
ILL SEEN ILL SAID
I felt like I had more of an entrance point to this one, even with the protagonist being a woman–an old women?–these things seem of little importance in these narratives of course. Some really beautiful paragraphs that refocus attention. A weird complicity surrounds the narrative here–the twelve?
Seemingly written from the depths of the void itself, this is much more fragmented, linguistically cyclic than the former two ‘novels.’ Nothing to hold on to because there’s nothing to hold onto in the void. Painful, almost, to read, but only if you let it clamp onto your skullflaps. The language flaps and floats and skirts precipices, but avoids beauty, because beauty is a way out of the void. That said, I like the idea of it, but had a hard time actually reading it.
Overall, I think the central ‘novel’ was the one most rewarding to me. Only section I have any pages dog-eared for quoting. Beckett sits out of reach, in a way, for me. I will read more, because as the man himself once said, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
80 – The Reading of Time in the Text of Nature – Klaus Merkel
Beautiful, beautiful structures to get lost in, the space of the page a connecting tissue between the repetitions of both the natural and the man-made. The stark prints are literally magic portals. I’m fetishizing the land here, but I feel comfortable doing so. There’s so much out there. Float through.
81 – Toward a New Poetics: Contemporary Writing in France – Serge Gavronsky
This is still, I think, probably one of the most simultaneously important and under-read book on French poetics in the last 15 years; at least in terms of what I’ve encountered, and I actively seek this shit out. The value of the interviews strikes me as even more important second time around, even if I do find it frustrating that Gavronsky spends so much time asking every subject about what their relationship to American poetry is.
82 – Hiroshima, mon Amour – Marguerite Duras
I love Duras, but really, for being a sort of cine-roman thing, this one sort of fails to deliver. Resnais’s film is so image based, and while the images are hinted at, it’s actually the collaborative efforts that make the film so wonderful. Where both INDIA SONG and DESTROY, SHE SAID work as books in an amazing way, this one feels too light, too fragmented, and not in a holy way that Duras’s work often feels.
83 – The Writing of the Disaster – Maurice Blanchot
Having been reading this on and off for a year and a half, and then following the sporadic nature of reading with a daily reading, always in the morning, the completion of this book feels like a weight lifted. The aphoristic, fragmented nature of the text refuses a reading straight through. There are so many ideas here, it’s as if this is Blanchot’s holy book. There’s a weight to so much said in here.
A lot is opaque, difficult, like Blanchot often is. There’s the question of a relevancy to an existence that arises sometime; like, what is the purpose of literature, poetics, the word itself, but the conclusion, occasionally, is that the word is, really, the only domain that we can exercise control over. But this, of course, is immediately refused, neglected, within the idea that the writer does not necessarily have control over what has been written; this is demonstrated, often, in various circumstances, not necessarily that of the idea that the writer goes into a trance when she writes, but within the idea that the space of the text creates meaning for a reader not necessarily intentionally injected by the writer.
Through all this, the book is helpful, and it is painful, but near the end it is Blanchot himself who instructs us to “Learn to think with pain.” And with this thinking, there is something larger, I think.
84 – Nancy Grossman – Arlene Raven
Grossman’s work is a revelation. My boyfriend introduced me to her work a week or so ago, so I requested this catalog from the library to maybe get a larger idea. There’s a weird inherent sexualized masculinity in her work, the taut, muscled body beneath leather, restrained in dramatic poses (though, really, it is her leather-clad heads that are most well known). I was curious as to whether this was a fetishization of the male body, a queering of feminist sexuality, or maybe just a female sexuality expressed via domination of the male, but turns out it really seems to be none of these things. Or, I still wonder, if perhaps the catalog text just chooses not to address the ideas other than opaquely. A paragraph noting that many of Grossman’s friends were dying of AIDs in the 80s combined with the fact that many of her works had/have been photographed by Mapplethorpe would seem to imply that she was not absent from the gay-male subculture of NYC in the 1980s, but any question I might have regarding this is not answered here.
Regardless of this fact, there’s a sort of progression through the work that seems so amazing to me, the movement from collage drawings to linos to sculpture to Lee Bontecou-type “assemblage” sculptures that sit on the wall; the work is astounding.
85 – Sun Ra + Ayé Aton – John Corbett
Review up here.
86 – Poems & Texts – Serge Gavronsky
A precursor to Toward a New Poetic in many ways, this anthology finds shorter interviews and fewer participants, but still presents a brilliant poetics & translations of a lot of poets who have been translated almost nowhere. An essential part of the trajectory of French poetry.
87 – Mere – CF
Review up here.
88 – Pallaksch, Pallaksch – Liliane Giraudon
This is terrific. I had read Giraudon’s Fur several years ago and was struck by how totally alien the narratives found in each short story feel–in Pallaksch, Pallaksch, this is even more so. Though now I’m not sure if “alien” is the world i would use. These are, in a sense, limit-texts; though not necessarily on a formal/semantic/language based level, but rather, in terms of narrative. Giraudon pushes her stories to the narrative limit, and then they peer over the precipice, staring down into the void. The longest story, also the centerpiece of the book, “The Boarder,” is perhaps my favorite, along with “The Circle,” but really every thing in here is great. There’s something increasingly impossible about the narratives that these stories create, and I don’t say this in a sense of realism, but rather there’s an impossibility in the turns they take, there is seemingly no connective tissue between A > B, but Giraudon’s mastery makes everything just work. I’d love to read everything Giraudon has ever written, but I think I’ve exhausted what’s available in translation.
89 – Distressed Properties – Magdalena Zurawski
Got a free copy of this from Birds of Lace Press a month or so ago and just sat down to read it today. The first half I like less,as it more or less feels like (and I say this without reading too closely, and I will recognize that) pretty typical indie poetry, even coming from a novelist. The second half, however, seems to really break down and find its form, the movement in the second half feels great and really spectacular, especially in the poem “Pencils Would Lay Bricks,” which enjambs after every word, creating a rapid velocity in reading, broken at the end by all caps intrusions.
As a note; there appears to be NO information about this book anywhere on the internet, which is bizarre. I know it’s part of a ‘suite’ of chapbooks from Three Count Pour, but the publisher/imprint whatever it is doesn’t seem to have a website. Nice letterpressed cover.
90 – Phantasmic Radio – Allen S. Weiss
This is a really terrific essay collection–Allen S. Weiss writes in a way that I find incredible, and his subjects always manage to be of the utmost interest to me. While he does occasionally slip into a Freudian thought in other essays, that’s mostly absent here. Writing about the landscape of radio art–a ‘medium’ that at this point is unfortunately almost entirely dead–he takes us from Artaud to Whitehead with Cage and Novarino in between; and it’s all fascinating and inspiring, really tremendous stuff.
91 – Six Contemporary French Women Poets – Serge Gavronsky
This fantastic collection is as great as would be expected, following Gavronsky’s POEMS AND TEXTS and TOWARD A NEW POETICS: CONTEMPORARY WRITING IN FRANCE. Once again taking the structure of long, contextualizing essay as an introduction, then followed by “interviews” with the poets & translations of the poetry itself–as a structure for a book, it’s perhaps most enlightening as an anthology. The great anthology IN THE WAKE OF THE WAKE takes a similar structure–the combined effects of these four books is a much heightened knowledge.
Regarding the poetry itself, Risset’s words finally clicked for me here in “INSTANTS II (Sphere)” totally violating the page in a way that creates space. Everything else is fantastic too, although Kaplan’s poetry– early work about factory work rooted in Maoism, which seems very important but not the most astounding thing to read –is really top notch too.
92 – The Uninhabited – Andre du Bouchet
This slim volume, printed as a limited edition pamphlet in 1976, is, as far as I am aware, the most sizeable collection of du Bouchet’s work in English translation. And it’s sort of a break through for me. It’s myopic, but I feel like I’ve carried this book inside of me without ever having reading it. There is a buried sun, an image that pops up repeatedly throughout my work, yet I can’t recall having ever encountered it before in someone else’s work. Did I read a fragment, a snippet, a translated excerpt somewhere before? Who knows.
But the poems here, and Auster’s cuttingly brief introduction, are really amazing. Powerful use of space, of silence. The sun haunts, like it does in reality. So many amazing words. I will be spending further time with this book, because it deserves it.
93 – The Art of Struggle – Michel Houellebecq
The translation of the verse is pretty abysmal, as many have noted. The prose is fine & on par with the later translators of his novels. Despite this, Houellebecq’s poetry is strong, and sometimes the translations work–though, thank god this is a bi-lingual edition, as even a rudimentary understand of French allows one to render certain elements that are totally not present in the translation. I’d love to read the work in a better translation. There’s an occasional Pongian element here, though almost ironically, which is ultimately interesting.