Attention Span 2009 – Craig Dworkin
Nathan Austin | Survey Says! | Black Maze Books | 2009
All of the answers from a two month stretch of Family Feud game shows, alphabetized by the second letter of each phrase. Survey Says! is the literary version of those vernacular works of obsessive fan collage made popular on YouTube (every curse on the Sopranos; every “what?” from Lost; every “Buffy” from the first season of the eponymous show; et cetera). The next task would be to match Austin’s answers to the appropriate questions in Ron Silliman’s Sunset Debris….
Derek Beaulieu | Local Color | ntamo | 2008
A visual translation of Paul Auster’s 1986 novella Ghosts, in which the characters are named—Reservoir Dog style—by primary colors. Beaulieu has removed Auster’s text, but left a rectangle of the eponymous color wherever the names appear. Each page thus looks like a manic, rigid version of a Hans Hoffmann abstraction, with overlapping monochromes floating on a narrative field. To be read alongside Alison Turnbull’s Spring Snow (London: Bookworks, 2002) and All the Names of In Search of Lost Time (Toronto: Parasitic Ventures, 2007).
Clark Coolidge and Bernadette Mayer | The Cave | Adventures in Poetry | 2008
Long awaited, this publication is like finding an old home movie from the ’70s. Or maybe one of Stan Brakhage’s home movies from the ’70s (well, at least one of Ed Bowes’ films from the period, though they seem to be irretrievably lost). A Rashomon-like account of a trip to Edlon’s Cave near West Stockbridge, Massachusetts in the Fall of 1972, the book is a banter you want to press your ear to: a paratactic battery of deliciously opaque (but always ultimately referential) phrases featuring that prime ’70s mode of dense internal rhymes, hard saxon consonant clusters, and bopped akimbo rhythms. Lots of geology, lots of Wittgenstein, and an unaccountable obsession on everyone’s part with breasts (which may explain the lines “bearer/ dome milks,” from Coolidge’s contemporaneous Space). The work was at one time tentatively titled Clark’s Nipples.
Robert Fitterman and Nayland Blake | The Sun Also Also Rises; My Sun Also Rises; Also Also Also Rises the Sun | No Press | 2009
The first of these three pamphlets extracts all the sentences beginning with the first person singular pronoun from The Sun Also Rises in a grammatical analysis of Hemingway’s masterpiece. The second booklet rewrites those sentences to account for Fitterman’s move to New York in the early 1980s. And Blake’s contribution rounds out the trilogy by reducing Hemingway’s prose to truncated intransitives and catalogues of definite nouns, rewriting the novel in the mode of John Ashbery and Joe Brainard’s Vermont Notebook.
Kenneth Goldsmith | Sports | Make Now | 2008
The final installment in Goldsmith’s New York trilogy, inevitably following Traffic (2007) and Weather (2004) with the logic of an AM news station. Like those other books, the interest here is generated from the distance between the deodorized and totalizing paratexts (a year’s worth of weather reports; a day’s worth of traffic reports; the transcript of the longest baseball game ever broadcast) and the messy specifics of the texts themselves, riddled with inexplicable gaps, lacunae, and aporia. Like the photograph of a Mexico City traffic jam on the cover of Traffic. Or the photo of a basketball game on a book about baseball.
Lawrence Giffin | Get the Fuck Back into That Burning Plane | Ugly Ducking Presse | 2009
Heir apparent to Kevin Davies’s pitch-perfect spin of idiomatic vernacular, critical theory, and a range of references spun between stunned horror and laugh-out-loud humor. “Is this thing on [?]” Giffin asks at the end of the second section. Absofuckinlutely YES.
James Hoff | TOP TEN | No Input Books |2008
Hoff compiled a decade of “Top Ten” columns from Artforum, in full facsimile but with the illustrating images blacked out like funereal Mondrians. The frustrated indexicality recalls Robert Smithson’s nonsites, but the images were never representative to begin with and always pointed more to the magazine’s decorative turn toward a frivolous hatue fashion, obsessed with runway models on aircraft carriers and the design of Prada boutiques. The prose, however, remains some of the decade’s essayistic best. Perfect bathroom reading.
P. Inman | ad finitum | if p then q | 2008
Absolute hardcore. After two decades of carefully reading Inman’s work I still have no idea what he’s doing. But whatever’s going on, it involves a thrilling frisson of microphonemic densities, a radical torque of grammar, and an obdurate materiality whose unassimilability is the test of its politics. I hope I never really figure it out so I can keep re-reading ad (in)finitum.
Dana Teen Lomax | Disclosure | Ubu Editions | 2009
Ihre Papieren, bitte! It has been a long time since poets were expected to be authentic, and the government doesn’t much care either, so long as your papers are genuine. Under the regime of the modern bureaucratic police state, identity is less an essence than a manner of presentation—not self-fashioning, but self-documenting. Here is the documentation, in the most radically confessional work of poetry ever published: parking tickets, loan statements, rejection letters, report cards, lab results, a drivers license, et cetera. Identity, we learn in Disclosure, is always nostalgic: these documents freeze a moment in time—when Lomax was 145lbs, or in sixth period study hall, or placing fourth in the Junior Golf Program or delinquent on her payments—but while those papers remain a fixed part of her permanent record she will continue to change, unstable, mutable, unpredictable. Full disclosure: I know less about my girlfriend of ten years than I do about Dana Teen Lomax, and I’ve never even met her.
Yedda Morrison | Darkness | Little Red Leaves | 2009
The first chapter from an edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with everything but references to the natural world whited out. Like most works of conceptual writing, the premise at first sounds mechanical, but what counts as “the natural world” is far from self-evident, and opens onto a range of philosophical and ethical questions. A lesser writer would have been paralyzed by indecision, their bottle of correction fluid drying to a brittle pallid skin before the little brush could set to paper (or the photoshop tool mouse to screen, as the case may be).
Vanessa Place | Statement of Fact | unpublished MS | 2009
Just the facts, Ma’am. The only way to be more clever than Kathy Acker, it turns out, is to be less clever. Charles Reznikoff sampled the National Reporter System of appellate decisions for his verse in Testimony; Acker incorporated legal documents from In re van Geldern as part of her modified plagiarism; but Place recognizes that such documents are far more powerful left unedited. And they read, frequently, like the reticent syllogistic prose of Hemingway short stories. Reframed from the public record as literature, the results are emotionally unbearable.
More Craig Dworkin here.