By Samuel Stolton, Editor
This summer’s reading pool, fattened by the inclusion of a number of works determined by my recent travels, has been disposed to a broad and expansive character. So much so, that I believe it to be may be one of my most nauseous reading lists, a dizzying circus-market of philosophy, anarchist theology, poetry and critical theory. Posited on the underside of my mind are the rots of Blago Blung Blago Bung, a collection of some of the founding texts of Dadaism, Hugo Ball’s Tenderenda the Fantast, Richard Huelsenbeck’s poetic fragmentations Fantastic Prayers, and Walter Serner’s Last Loosening – a manifesto of which provoked a symphony of voracious affrays when read at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich – needless to say my own venture to the venue this summer resulted in nothing more than the sight of proto-hipster baristas, ironic post-dada semiotics, overpriced coffee and sardonic monocles.
Zurich’s slap back into the 21st century was consequentially accompanied by a reading of Tiziana Terranova’s Network Culture: Politics for the Digital Age, a book I’ve been meaning to read for nearly ten years now, and such has satisfied my academic impulse for the time being. To calm such a brutal viaduct between academic political theory and fiction, a copy of Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials presented itself as one of the most apt of suitors to such a segue. Hailed as of cardinal significance when tracing the contours of Iranian philosophical sci-fi horror, Negarestani’s narrative – an incestuous tribrid of hyper-occultist theological discourse, abstract demonology and geopolitical schizophrenia, provided me with an appropriate conduit from a certain Hegelian speculative logic into my next course of contemplation. That was to be attributed to Hegel’s The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline, originally published in 1817, that travelled with me on my journey to Heidelberg University in Baden-Württemberg, south-west Germany. Hegel penned this work for his students while an academic at the University, incredibly evident as such, as he unscrambles the oft distorted Hegelian storyboard to form a more widely accessible theorem.
The positing of a Dadaist bacterium in Zurich had left me with an appetite to be re-afflicted by abstractism. For this cause I turned to Yi Sang’s The Wings. Not much has been written about Korea’s most prominent Dadaist exponent, and the short stories in the collection as well as The Wings – Encounters and Departures and Deathly Child, can provide perhaps one of the most distinct insights into the troubled man. A master of autobiographical exploitation, Yi Sang mutates elements of his forlorn existence into a conceptual abjectionist narration, administering variants of his worldly experience as a means to prize into the public domain the ambiguous introspections of an schizotypalist bent on the pursuance of the absurd, the nonsensical chatterings of the midnight rambler, the lilt from the flirting shadow behind the curtain of solitude.
Travelling through the vineyards of Burgundy, I decided to further my Korean enterprise with a more modern title. For some reason the antithesis between the two polar industries of French Wine and Korean Literature appealed to me. Kim Hyesoon’s poetic collection, I’m OK, I’m Pig, catered for this want. The revolutionary twist in her postcolonial tongue is evident throughout the work, as is the brutal venture into body-politics and gender relations, that resists, as fellow south Korean poet Don Mee Choi observes, a feminism categorized by a passive and genteel taste, what is referred to as ‘yoryusi’. On the contrary, Hyesoon’s lexicon is a violent and uncompromising dialect, applying language as a means to subvert a traditionalist discourse taut to the pursuance of establishing patriarchal hierarchies and administering the stereotypical parameters of gender relations.
Later this month, I shall also compliment the summer’s poetic stock with two new titles from New Directions Books, A Musical Hell by Alejandra Pizarnik, and The Helens of Troy, NY by Bernadette Mayer. From one Bernadette to another, the Bernadette Corporation’s poetic elegy to New York City, The Complete Poem stitched a multifariously colourful drapery to dress in this summer (the metaphor not unfounded as the corporation is both an art and fashion collective). Their epic poem uprooting from the depths of the subways a patchwork of underground oratorios, a clandestine derive through the sullied words of the City, where ‘every day is a dirty secret you never speak of.’
Under the recommendation of a friend, I have also begun Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society, originally published in French in 1954. A most prophetic title, preempting the metaphysical ascendancy of technology from the mere habitations of utility into the echelons of social governance. Ellul’s dialectic is one that becomes ever potent with age, a fine wine, apt as the commencement of this book paralleled with my departure from Mâcon’s vineyards.
Why are Animals Funny by the Everyday Analysis Collective concluded my summer reading thus far. A concise application of critical theory to an array of elemental quotidian productions, from mobile phone covers to Old Spice adverts to the death of James Gandolfini, the group bleed out radical perspectives from the body of popular culture and burn a philosopher’s fire from the residue – an insightful and astute blaze. I have followed the EDA Collective from the early blogging days, and Zero Books’ publication of their corpus has been a characteristically bold and bright move, I’m very much looking forward to volume two, it could very well be on next year’s summer reading list.
First posted: Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014.