Attention Span 2010 – Patrick F. Durgin
Tan Lin | Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking [AIRPORT NOVEL MUSICAL POEM PAINTING FILM PHOTO HALLUCINATION LANDSCAPE] | Wesleyan | 2010
I wrote the following blurb for Tan’s metadata event: Tan Lin is the first poetic conceptualist with personality; it is no wonder he has paid scholarly attention to Eliot. But what was tradition has dissipated, as if it so needed, into detritus, and that cultural clog of ingredients are what you find “controlled” in SCV. In my estimation, this is the best book of poetry written yet this century, and precisely because the politics it demands are yet to come, but their context already so familiar.
Christine Wertheim, ed. | Feminaissance | Les Figues | 2010
One of several anthologies that have been useful to me in unexpected ways, the others include The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry, and…
Brenda Iijima, ed. | eco language reader | Nightboat | 2010
Several things seem to be coming together lately: ecological thinking, somatics, conceptualism (updated, or exploited, depending), feminism, and it’s all here. What’s great about how this collection is comprised and presented is that it posits a center and clarifies the radius of sources past and present for making a foray—you don’t just sit there and absorb, as we say, “the material.” It invites practical pluralities of response. Praise seems beside the point.
Andrew Levy | Cracking Up | Truck | 2010
An old favorite (of a poet) from a new press. The cover shots of Ann-Margaret doing “Bye Bye Birdie” perfectly illustrate the methodically coagulated spurts of late-capitalist wisdom in these pages.
Hannah Weiner | Page | Roof | 2002
I typeset this book almost a full decade ago. Now I am rereading it for a talk I am preparing to give. I have always thought it deserved as much attention as Clairvoyant Journal. It is a family drama—practically no name-dropping, which might explain why it is overlooked and why, as a new father, I have that much more interest in cracking it.
Ayane Kawata, trans. Sawako Nakayasu | Time of Sky & Castles in the Air | Litmus | 2010
I have nothing but admiration for Nakayasu’s work as writer, translator, and editor. But this one, I wish it’d gotten to me before I ordered the books for my “20th Century Writing by Women: A World View” course. I did manage to fit in Werewere Liking, Mahasweta Devi (though not Breast Stories—why let it go out of print, fools?!), Nicole Brossard, and other old favorites. Kawata is a new favorite, though I have so little context for saying so, or understanding why, exactly, I feel this way. I chalk much of it up to Nakayasu’s skill as a translator, though. After all, I need a translator, thus I have some basis for evaluating it. Maybe Kawata is proto-A Tonalist
Laura Moriarty | A Tonalist | Nightboat | 2010
Unlike Cole Swensen, who blurbs the book, I wouldn’t set Moriarty’s work under the oft-speculated upon third way rubric. She knows her history too well—Laura, I mean. What’s important to me about this book is how the concept unfurls, and what it seems capable of including, e.g. one of the sharpest critical assessments of how aesthetic communities are born, function, and die. So the book is, a lot like Tan Lin’s book in this list, both a joy to read and a compelling challenge to believe. And so it’s sort of what’s missing from conceptual writing in its current phase, as opposed, say, to the half-step between language and “uncreative” writing: Jackson Mac Low or Hannah Weiner. It also manages to be attractive, i.e. that moment you realize you won’t look up from a page you’re reading to see whose face emits that voice you just heard, and, the writing now victorious, the lyric “voice” is decisively overthrown. As for myself being included in an A Tonalist clan, I defer to Brent Cunningham’s remarks on the matter.
Fiona Kumari Campbell | Contours of Ableism | Palgrave Macmillian | 2009
I’m working on a project concerning “post-ableism,” and this is the first book to take on the converse with a satisfying scope. I don’t agree with the entirety of her argument. And it could have used a sustained sitting with a copyeditor before going to print. But it’s a good continuation of what people like Simi Linton, Lennard Davis, Tobin Siebers and Michael Davidson have begun.
Eduardo Kac | Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond | MIT | 2007
This takes me from the “post-ableism” project to the next big essay I’m writing, this time on “New Life Writing.” New Life Writing is not bio art, but sometimes it gets awfully close.
Marquard Smith and Joanne Morra, eds. | The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future | MIT | 2006
Just when he was getting somewhere with disability by devising a new critical category, “dismodernism,” Lennard Davis organized a highly publicized sidestep to “biocultures,” from which he has never returned. I came to this book initially as part of a disability studies reading group in Chicago, and we read Vivian Sobchack’s essay “A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality.” In it, she uses the metaphor/metonymy distinction to say something brilliant (though abrupt) about somatics. Someone ought to link that discussion back to dismodernism, right? I tried, but have since moved on to the other essays, all of which are pretty great.
Marc Bosquet | How the University Works | NYU | 2007
“1. We are not ‘overproducing Ph.D.s’; we are underproducing jobs. 2. Cheap teaching is not a victimless crime. 3. Casualization is an issue of racial, gendered, and class justice. 4. Late capitalism doesn’t just happen to the university; the university makes late capitalism happen.” It is also ruining my life.