For its 65th anniversary, New Directions has just released an expanded edition of Raymond Queneau’s classic Oulipean text, Exercises in Style, featuring 25 previously untranslated exercises by Queneau, as well as new exercises by Jesse Ball, Blake Butler, Amelia Gray, Shane Jones, Jonathan Lethem, Ben Marcus, Harry Mathews, Lynne Tillman, Frederic Tuten, and Enrique Vila-Matas. If you’ve never experienced Queneau’s encyclopedia of ways to write the same scene over and over, each time new, there’s never been a better time.
On Feb 21st, at 8:00pm, there will be a launch party for the book in Brooklyn, info here.
Below, we’re happy to feature a few of the new exercises from the book.
COQ-TALE (first published in Arts, November 1954)
Ever since the bistros got closed down, we just have to make do with what we have. That’s why, the other day, I took a pub bus, at cocktail hour, on the N.R.F. line. No point in telling you that I had a terribly hard time getting in. I even had a permit, but IT WASN’T ENOUGH. It was also necessary to have an INVITATION. An invitation. They are doing pretty well, the R.A.T.P. But I managed. I yelled, “Coming through! I’m an Éditions Julliard author,” and there I was inside the pub bus. I headed straight for the buffet, but there was no way to get near it. In front of me, a young man with a long neck who hadn’t removed the Tyrolean hat with a plait around it that he wore – a lout, a boor, a caveman, obviously – seemed set on gobbling down every last crumb that was before him. But I was thirsty. So I whispered in his ear, “You know, back on the platform, Gaston Gallimard is signing contracts.” And off he ran, the sucker.
An hour later, I see him in front of the Gare Saint-Bottin, in the midst of devouring the buttons of his overcoat, which he had swapped for some
Translated by Chris Clarke
January 31st, 2013 / 2:25 pm
One of my favorite places to read is while running on a treadmill. Seeing as reading is powerful in its ability to render time null, and exercising is a space where time seems to stretch the longest, the most against the frame (though sometimes that is part of what makes the experience nice, in a wholly other way, other times you just want to get it done), reading, then, can create an amazing mental blank over the focus of physical exertion, separating, in its best moments, the body from the mind, while putting both to maximum work in enhancement of a kind. The ecstasy of reading, I mean, can cancel out, or at least sure as hell distract you from the bitchmaster that is fleshy exercise.