:: Buzzwords Archive: January 2013. Click here for the latest posts.

#currentlyreading (published 25/01/2013)

David Ohle’s Motorman. From the introduction by Ben Marcus:

I would venture that had Motorman not been published, but instead shown at an art gallery, page by page plastered to the walls maybe, its cachet and value would not be in question, and Ohle would now be regarded as a vital conceptual artist of the seventies, akin to someone who built a behaviour cannon out of bent plywood that pelted pedestrians with one of the seven leading emotions, each emotion equipped with a fur backing and a set of workable teeth…

FurtherMotorman reviewed in Bookforum / author profile in Time Out New York

#currentlyreading (published 22/01/2013)

Lauren Elkin & Scott Esposito’s The End of Oulipo? An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement. From the introduction:

Exhaustion is the necessary corollary to the Oulipian concept of potential. The constraint acts as a rubber band, expanding around the contours of the work as it pursues exhaustion, stretching to its limits; then it’s snapped, and the work’s potential sails out into the world. The constraint creates an environment in which creation can be helped along. Rather than facing down the blank page, the Oulipian writer can begin with a project.

There is no doubt that the Oulipo remains a productive and much-admired literary force on both sides of the Atlantic, but today, as the group enters its sixth decade of existence, its relevance and its future are in question. None of the Oulipian works that have made their way into English in the past decade (with the possible exception of Jacques Roubaud’s “great fire of London” project) can rival the best work published during the group’s staggeringly successful run through the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, in many instances the writing produced now is strikingly derivative of prior Oulipian works. Increasingly, the strongest work in the Oulipian spirit is occurring outside of the group, being done by authors working both consciously and unconsciously within its shadow. Perhaps this was inevitable: embedded in the Oulipo’s “open source” ethos is the idea of discovering forms and methods that anyone can use, regardless of membership in the group (though they can always be coopted sooner or later). It is possible that the group has become too inbred: it is now as concerned with archiving its history, carrying on its traditions, as it is in making new literature. Perhaps it is now the case that writers who wish to make their mark by following the creative spirit of the legendary cadres of Oulipians must do so beyond the group’s margins. These questions cut to the core of artistic movements in general, commenting profoundly on where true experimentalism comes from and how it is sustained. Can potential literature outlive its potential? Is the inevitable progression of an avant-garde group from fringe to mainstream? Which aspects of Oulipo have thrived, and which have become co-opted and defused? Where
is the Oulipo vulnerable to caricature?

Further: ‘Negation: A Response to Lars Iyer’s ‘Nude in Your Hot Tub” / Another excerpt in The New Inquiry / Scott Esposito‘s annotated list of Oulipo books / 3:AM interview with Oulipian Frédéric Forte / At Berfrois, 3:AM‘s David Winters on Daniel Levin Becker / Karl Whitney on Georges Perec.

The Missing Links (published 21/01/2013)

The enigmatic subject of women turning away. * László Krasznahorkai‘s anxiety. * Ruined language in Hungarian literature. * Paul Celan reading his poetry, 1954-1968. * Sam Jordison on Modernism’s first wave. * Why do we burn books? * David Winters: “As with many students of Lish, the influence of [Sam] Michel’s mentor looms large over his prose: every sentence in Strange Cowboy seems to summon up a new world, tied inside a taut knot of surging, swerving syntax”. * An interview with Gordon Lish, 1994. * Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians of Melville House interviewed. * Dennis Johnson pays tribute to Jakob Arjouni. * Lars Iyer in Full Stop: “Blogging allowed me to write of my sense of failure. Perhaps if I hadn’t spent so much time at my blog writing about my failure, I wouldn’t have been a failure! On the other hand, writing about my failure became a certain kind of success”. * Philosophers’ novels. * All This Can Happen: a movie that retraces the footsteps of Robert Walser‘s narrator in The Walk. * Loneliness in literature. * Dead authors do tweet. * A great review of Deborah Levy‘s superb Black Vodka. * Writing about what haunts us. * On Vanishing Land: Mark Fisher and Justin Barton‘s new audio-essay. * Industrial chic. * The street names of Las Vegas. * HMV’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street in pictures. * On d’Annunzio. * Debussy plays Debussy. * Douglas Glover interviews William Gass. * Plaza Joe Strummer. * Bertrand Russell in Bollywood, 1967. * Alan Bennett in Family Guy! * The Writers No One Reads 2013 book preview list. * The novel that reinvented fiction: “Virginia Woolf remarked that Middlemarch was one of the very few novels written for grown-up people. In The Portrait, however, fiction itself grew up” (John Banville). * Birthday tributes to Jonas Mekas. * New exercises in style à la Queneau. * Devo live at Max’s Kansas City, 1977. * Devo do Hendrix. * The sound of red. * Man Ray documentary. * Excerpts from The End of Oulipo?. * TS Eliot: employee of the month. * On Steampunk. * On Anthony Asquith‘s Underground, 1928. * Kurt Schwitters in Britain: “The Dada rebel who had found London too quiet somehow found a new spiritual home in the land of Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle”. * Alex Ross interviewed in the Financial Times: “[W]hat strikes me is that there is not the same sense of a colossus needing to be overthrown as there was in Germany, the need to break away from a giant like Wagner. Even Birtwistle, a more radical voice, somehow has a rooted Englishness about him. The pressure to reinvent the musical language was simply not so strong”. * Four Pieces by Lydia Davis. * WG Sebald‘s writing tips: “It’s very good that you write through another text, a foil, so that you write out of it and make your work a palimpsest. You don’t have to declare it or tell where it’s from”. * The rise of the TwitCrit. * Sheila Heti: “The novel should only do what the serial drama could never do”. * Britain in the 80s: “Is Martin Amis‘s gaudy 1984 novel Money, as Stewart interprets it, simply about “the corrupting influence of — the world the Tories were supposedly encouraging” — or are its brash sentences also suggesting that Thatcher’s Britain was rather more exciting than what had gone before?”

Solitary individuals (published 17/01/2013)


3:AM‘s Andrew Gallix interviewed by Full Stop:

Literature is often a compensatory activity; an elaborate form of wish-fulfilment. I am absolutely fascinated by the impact that someone’s physical and psychological life can have on his/her thinking and writing — how apparently rational choices are due, for instance, to a tiny todger, short stature, child abuse, or the absence of a parent. Sartre claimed that he began writing to make up for his ugliness and impress women. We all want to be loved, and writing is always a love letter of sorts. As Richard Brautigan put it, “Just because people love your mind, doesn’t mean they have to have your body” — but one lives in hope, of course. Perhaps Cioran’s remark makes more sense in the context of philosophy, but literature is the space of contradiction and ambiguity, and that’s what interests me. Incidentally, I once lived in the same street as Cioran, in Paris.

#currentlyreading (published 16/01/2013)

Eugene Marten’s Firework. From the blurb:

Firework is the story of a man who, though ill-equipped to help himself, attempts to help someone else, and the beautifully rendered, perhaps necessary catastrophe that results. Unequalled in intensity, it is also an exhilarating expression of the noble, all-too human impulse to become more than what we seem to be.”

From editor Giancarlo DiTrapano, on Tyrant Books‘ acquisition of the manuscript:

“This book was too good for a press as young and as small as mine to publish… I later discovered that some of the bigger houses had wanted to publish it but with some really terrible ideas for an edit. They wanted a different ending. God, I wish I knew the names of these editors so I could laugh and laugh if I ever got to meet them. I wouldn’t change one thing about that ending. You’d be a fool to fuck with it.”

Further: Gordon Lish on Firework/ review in The Believer / author profile in the NY Observer.