Attention Span 2009 – Omar Berrada
Hélène Bessette | Suite suisse | Léo Scheer | 2008 (1st edition Gallimard 1965)
Hélène Bessette (1918-2000), who invented the GRP (Gang du Roman Poétique!), was much admired by the likes of Raymond Queneau, Marguerite Duras, Jean Dubuffet, Dominique Aury. A couple of years ago she was almost completely forgotten and her 13 extraordinary novels, published by Gallimard between 1953 and 1973, utterly un-findable, even in libraries. Thanks to a few admirers’ efforts, Hélène Bessette is slowly being republished and rediscovered. No English translations available, except for 4 pages translated by Keith Waldrop for the journal Avec in 1990.
Edgardo Cozarinsky | Museo del chisme | Emecé editores | 2005
The title translates as The Gossip Museum. After a theoretical introduction on “indefensible narratives”, and following Karl Kraus’ precept that most things are insignificant but everything signifies, the book presents 69 anecdotes, mainly about writers and artists from various countries and generations, culled from books or from oral sources. Absolute hilarious gems.
Mark Z. Danielewski | Only Revolutions | Doubleday | 2006
Very impressive semantic, syntactic, typographic, poetic and narrative tour de force. Beautiful to look at, intriguing and often exhilarating to read. This “Democracy of Two, set out and chronologically arranged” has two teenagers in love, perpetually 16, on a road trip, with US and world history flashing by the side of the road (i.e. the margin of the book), over a period of 200 years (and 360 pages, with 360 words on each, to be read from the beginning and from the end –upside down).
Dominique Fourcade | Citizen Do | P.O.L | 2009
In this book Merce Cunningham meets Nicolas Poussin, and René Char meets Saskia, the author’s grand-daughter. Fourcade meets Welles, and language meets the world, hence citizen-ship (“à ce point, réel de la langue et réel du monde ne font qu’un”). In such “écriture-contact”, verse meets prose, songs are systems and lyricism is ethical. “Poésie est identification et séparation et dislocation systémiques”.
Michel Gauthier | Les promesses du zéro | les presses du réel | 2009
Brilliant art criticism. Six essays, on Robert Smithson, Carsten Höller, Ed Ruscha, Martin Creed, John Armleder, Tino Sehgal and how their work can help us not look for meaning or an ultimate essence, but rather develop our inability to see and/or our capacity to get lost.
Also recommended, Michel Gauthier’s previous book, L’Anarchème (anarcheme, as in, unit of anarchy), about artworks that sabotage their own authority by de-focalizing the viewer’s gaze away from themselves (Peter Downsbrough, Claude Rutault, Steven Parrino, Jessica Stockholder, Cécile Bart…)
Daniel Heller-Roazen | Echolalias | Zone Books | 2005
This is a book « on the Forgetting of Language », which reads the history of language as multiple stories of oblivion and loss and recovery (of sounds, letters, texts, idioms). With multilingual sources ranging from the Zohar to Chomsky and from medieval Arabic texts to Proust, a feat of extraordinary erudition that is also an immensely pleasurable read.
François Noudelmann | Hors de moi | Léo Scheer | 2006
This is a book angry, if polite, against genealogy, or rather, against conservative contemporary uses of (the concept of) genealogy that stray away from the genius and method of Nietzsche and, after him, say Foucault. Everyone seems to be endeavoring to find their family origins, psychogenealogists are on the rise as the transmission of values is rumored to be dysfunctional. This echoes a general form of thinking that strives to restore linearity and causality and to reestablish ‘lost’ continuities and analogies. Noudelmann, on the contrary, vigorously calls for alternative, radical, non-pure modes of kinship, in thought and in life.
Avital Ronell | Crack Wars | U. of Nebraska Press | 1992
Already a classic. Still über-exciting. A work of resistance written at a time when chasing crack users boiled down to a sheer ethnocide. Taking her cue from Nietzsche, Avital Ronell sets out to show that “the history of narcotica is almost the history of ‘culture’, of our so-called high culture”. She does so by exploring not the expected canonical texts (Burroughs, Baudelaire, Benjamin…) but rather Emma Bovary as addicted body (“EB on ice”). Flaubert as you’ve never read her.
Jalal Toufic | Two or Three Things I’m Dying to Tell You | The Post-Apollo Press | 2005
Jalal Toufic is always surprising. He keeps arresting my interior monologue (see his first book, Distracted). Here Spielberg, Rilke and Lewis Carroll are read together in the light of Lebanese politics, and Lyn Hejinian’s A Border Comedy in the light of The Thousand and One Nights as well as other, mystical, Arabic texts. Toufic also invents a fascinating double feature titled Rear Window Vertigo (1954-1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock where, from the first part to the second, James Stewart aka L.B. Jefferies/John (Scottie) Ferguson had a psychogenic fugue leading him west, to San Francisco.
Bénédicte Vilgrain | Ngà | Héros-Limite | 2009
For a few years now, Bénédicte Vilgrain has been making poetry out of tales and proverbs culled from old Tibetan grammar treatises. Her own version of a Tibetan grammar has been coming out, chapter after chapter, in various forms of publication. Ngà is chapter 8, the longest so far, a little book of its own with Geneva-based éditions Héros-Limite. I don’t always get it but i love to read it. Beautiful, mysterious and unflinching.
Marina Warner | Managing Monsters | Vintage | 1994
“Queen Victoria opened the first dinosaur theme park at Sydenham in South London in 1852”. Thus begins Managing Monsters – Six myths of our time. These are 6 essays that Marina Warner gave as the Reith lectures on the BBC in 1994. She packs in, with radio-lightness, a lot of ideas about gender and myth and contemporary society that get more substantial development in her other, heftier, books (From the Beast to the Blonde, Monuments and Maidens, etc.). She looks at the origins of six modern myths: monstrous mothers, warrior heroes, diabolical innocents, wild beasts, savage strangers and the myth of origin, or of home. The book ends “without sentimentality, without rancour, always resisting the sweet seduction of despair”.
More Omar Berrada here.