Archive for November 2012
Chad Friedrichs, dir. | The Pruitt-Igoe Myth | 2011
It’s not so much that this documentary is formally masterful; in fact, it’s all about the content here. But the ideological intervention it makes is consummately important and seriously successful. The “failure” of Pruitt-Igoe is the crown-jewel in the anti-utopian, anti-modernists’ case. But we know that it is the utopians that always tell the truth. Pruitt-Igoe, it shows, flamed briefly and brightly as an interracial communitarian project, and its inhabitants cry on-screen over its loss to the austerity attrition of government funding and restoration of segregation in Saint Louis.
Richard Pare | The Lost Vanguard: Russian Modernist Architecture 1922-1932 | 2007
This book is nicely paired with The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. A loving and voluminous photographic survey of Soviet-era modernist architecture. It’s not ruin porn, if that’s what you’re in search of. Pare’s eye is in absolute solidarity with the social dreams preserved in alembics of concrete and plaster. Each and every photograph, and its thorough attendant description, offers an opportunity to fantasize lavishly about a world where Family and Obedience no longer bind the structures in which we live and labor.
Bela Tarr, dir.| Sátántangó | 1994
You should be suspicions of Tarr, but watch all of his films. Sátántangó, like much of his oeuvre, is anti-Communist, mythic, and quasi-religious. It is also a wildly melancholic and totalizing account of transition—a staring out from a dusty precipice onto emerging landscapes of differently-formed capitalist accumulation. Like the work of Aleksandr Sokurov, it is precisely its anti-materialism that should please the student of history who finds richness in the valiant failure to grasp the punctual moments when one kind of history becomes another.
Bethesda Softworks | Fallout – New Vegas | 2010
According to my gaming statistics, I spent the length of a February in a leap year playing this game. That makes sense, since the game insists on the fictitious nature of any calendar not wedded to seasonal cycle or the actions of its world. The apocalypse, for the game’s creators, brings equal parts Gemütlichkeit and gore. One possible ending, entitled “No Gods No Masters,” carves a home out of time, however virtual, for our anarchist comrades.
Antler | Factory | City Lights | 1980
Antler’s neo-Beat Whitmanian anti-capitalism is a prismatic negation of emerging neoliberalism’s labor regimes and attendant eviscerating effects on the class-for-itself. The repetition of form clogs up the humanism, but you’ll need both Adorno and The 1844 Manuscripts to really get it. The inauthentic solution at the end features a squirrel that can once again travel contiguously from coast to coast on branches reforested over the detritus of capital. Factory is best read alongside the excellent syndicalist anthology Rebel Rank and File: Labor Militancy and Revolt from Below During the Long 1970s.
Hossam el-Hamalawy | http://www.arabawy.org
El Hamalawy has been and remains one of my principal guides to the Egyptian revolution. His reporting and analysis offer incredibly subtle and partisan accounts of the unfolding social and class antagonisms in the Middle East. His activism far predates the revolution, and it is his rootedness in the industrial strike actions in the textile sector that allows his analysis to go really vertical; really deep into the prehistory of Tahrir. He is also an excellent curator of revolutionary graffiti and anti-authoritarian metal.
Kenneth Fearing | Collected Poems | Random House | 1940
Sol Funaroff might tenderly eulogize Fearing’s sensorium of historical consciousness: “I am that exile/ from a future time/ from shores of freedom/ I may never know.” My favorite Fearing poem, “Denouement,” is at once a cemetery of socialist possibility and a breathtaking celebration of the kind of infinite vision possessed by the best revolutionaries. If you have the vaguest interest in how poetry supersedes narrative in its ability to mediate the struggle against capital, then you should read this poem. Fearing writes to, and from, that future time.
Srđan Spasojević, dir.| A Serbian Film | 2010
This film received a mixed reception at best. But it’s not at all correct to write it off as yet another iteration in the now fully mainstream genre of torture porn. It is a gritty Skype from the semi-periphery, a filmic impress of teeth-grinding nationalism, war crimes of rape and murder, post-Communist immiseration, “industries” of orphans and pornography, and the blood and effluvium soaked nest of the family romance.
Larry Eigner | Collected Poems | Stanford | 2010
It’s the 70s period windowscapes which I love the most, but I haven’t finished the entire oeuvre, so I could end up loving something more, better, later. I’m reading this alongside Fredric Jameson’s Representing Capital and the two are profoundly inter-illuminating. The geographic fidelity of Eigner’s particulars is matched only by their deference to the silent abstractions of empty typespace. Isn’t that also the secret of the letters, and the dashes, of M-C-M ?
Craig Santos Perez | from unincorporated territory [saina] | Omnidawn | 2010
Perez’s expansive, materialist geographies of Guam remind us that the Pacific is to the 21st Century what the Atlantic was to an earlier capitalism. Perez cites the importance of the tilde (~) throughout his work; its rolling oceanic wave alternates in its function as an allusion to waterways, and to mathematical equivalence. The poem, like its predecessor, from unincorporated territory [hacha], is full Earth in its spatial imaginary, emotionally sonorous and unironically vibrant in its protest. A postmodern Charmorro epic.
Jim van Bebber, dir. | Deadbeat at Dawn | 1988
What if Dayton, and not Detroit, were the site-specific synecdoche of outsourcing, austerity and uncommoning? For Van Bebber, it is. The ultraviolence is robust, at times besting the heroic sadism of Rob Zombie’s anti-federalist lumpens. But it’s the urban landscapes that really show the violence of Reaganite dispossession; unevenly brutal scars on the city combine, and the periphery is an archipelago in the core.
Ruth Jennison is an Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst. She has recently published The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins and the Avant-Garde (Johns Hopkins, 2012). Her current project is entitled “Figurative Capital: Poetry and the World System, 1929-1989.”
This is Ruth Jennison’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.
Frank Kuenstler | LENS | Film Culture | 1964
It took Kuenstler more than a decade to accumulate the paired words by paired words that make up this single work. In one of the most radical books of poetry published during the 1960s—something which has still to be recognized—Kuenstler takes apart and rejoins words. This is writing that comes out of reading and listening. Canticle becomes “can.Tickle.” Tornado becomes “torn.NATO.” Kuenstler sustains this level of hyper-precise attention for pages.
Frank Kuenstler | In Which | Cairn | 1994
This book was the last to appear during Kuenstler’s lifetime. The poet Michael O’Brien, who has championed his friend for more than four decades, published it. Every sentence in the book begins with, “In which…” Example: “In which the garter belt & the Bible Belt.”
John Taggart | Is Music: New and Selected Poems | Copper Canyon | 2010
Made up of new poems and poems culled from Taggart’s fourteen books, many of which are out of print, this selection contains the full range of Taggart’s genius. Read “The Marvin Gaye Suite” and you will see what I mean.
John Koethe | Ninety-fifth Street: Poems| Harper Perennial | 2009
Koethe remains remarkably open to the vagaries of time, place, and memory, often combining all three in a single poem. In this book, he writes about being in Potsdam and Berlin (places he had not been before), Lagos (where he has never been), and New York and Milwaukee (places he knows well). Contradictorily as this might sound, Koethe’s poems are simultaneously purposeful and meandering reflections upon the individual borne along by time. For those coming to Koethe for the first time, I would suggest “North Point North: New and Selected” (2002).
Susan Stewart | The Open Studio: Essays on Art and Aesthetics | Chicago | 2005
All critics ought to aspire to the condition of sympathy, insight, and learning that informs Stewart’s essays on art and artists such as Ann Hamilton, Tacita Dean and Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Michel de Certeau | The Practice of Everyday Life | California | 2011
I have found this book particularly useful in thinking about the need to get beyond, as Robert Creeley said, “the habits of one’s own thinking.” Both individually and collectively, are we to simply accept the legacies that have been packaged and handed to us as if they are the final say. De Certeau has a lot to say about this.
T. J. Clark | The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers | Princeton | 1989
This book got a lot of negative reviews when it came out. Don’t believe them. Read this book and make up your own mind.
T.J. Clark | The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing | Yale | 2008
Clark keeps a diary of his impressions of two paintings by Poussin, “Landscape With a Man Killed by a Snake” and “Landscape With a Calm,” that were facing each other at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles when he was there for what he calls ‘a six-month stint’ in January 2000. Clark states: ‘We should think about why some visual configurations are harder to put into words than others. And about whether there is an ethical, or even political, point to that elusiveness’. Certainly, it is something to remember when looking at art or reading a poem.
James Meyer | Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties | Yale | 2004
This is the smartest book I’ve read about a well-known, well-documented, often considered period. The research Meyer has done into the period, as well as his writing about Ann Truitt is nothing short of brilliant. This was a book that needed to be written and we are lucky to have gotten it.
Robert Walser, trans. Christopher Middleton | Selected Stories | NYRB Classics | 2002
Both Middleton and Susan Bernofsky’s translations of Walser are essential reading.
This is not a “best of” list, but a cluster of pairs of books I was lucky enough to relish in the midst of finishing projects that had me immersed in works 40-160 years old (or older), and of the immediacy of the occupations, whose greatest texts were transient. I’ve taken pains to draw attention to works by those outside my innermost circles of reference—though various intellectual confidantes have published spectacular works this year—and to point to at least a couple of things that won’t appear elsewhere on the ‘Span, due to their temporal or geographical non-proximity.
Claude Cahun, trans. Susan de Muth | Disavowals: or Cancelled Confessions | Tate | 2008
Entre Nous: The Art of Claude Cahun show at the Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago Loop | 2012
The image of Cahun gripping a Nazi badge between her teeth after having been released in 1945, an avowal if ever there was one, forms the aptest of codas to these disavowals. Their twin across la fa ille being
Nathanaël | Absence Where As (Claude Cahun and the Unopened Book) | Nightboat | 2009.
Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo, eds. | Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven | Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven | MIT | 2011
Strategic delirium, across subject positions and idioms. And how many of us have heeded the Baroness’s riposte to Duchamp’s Fountain through a drain pipe called God?
two novels of a sort:
Gail Scott | The Obituary | Nightboat | 2012
The domestic architecture of Montreal and of its languages is delivered in unapologetically contaminated accents redolent of Joyce and of Baron Corvo’s Crabbe. And that’s not even to mention the sleuthing. Long awaited.
Robert Coover | Pinocchio in Venice | Simon & Schuster | 1991
Written in the same period in which Coover wrote “The End of Books.” (Further speculation on this point forthcoming next fall from me….)
Yelena Gluzman & Matvei Yankelevich, eds. | Emergency Index 2011 | Ugly Duckling | 2012
It was a crazy idea to hunt and gather a bound archive of global time-based art, in seemingly casual chronological order. They pulled it off.
Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman, eds. | The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics | 2012
I commend the editors for their explosion of the venerable tome to encompass contributions by younger and farflung scholars, as well as terms such as, gosh, xenoglossia and glossolalia. A Herculean collaboration, against obsolescence.
metacommentaries on the actual:
Tan Lin | Insomnia and the Aunt | Kenning | 2011
Disintegrating racial memory (or the notion of such) force-filtered through obsolete tube technology: Lin keeps delivering it, even in the leisure time of paper.
Dana Ward | The Crisis of Infinite Worlds | Futurepoem | forthcoming
Maps the bad infinite of slumberland-as-invective, Alicelike.
Jonathan Stalling | Yingelishi: Sinophonic English Poetry and Poetics | Counterpath | 2011
The most amazing aspect of this experiment in traduction, aural and written: that in “English,” one hears a banal set of stock-utterances in an abjected alien accent, while the Chinese text assumes the highfalutinness of poesy.
Frederick Bodmer, ed. Lancelot Hogben | The Loom of Language | Norton | 1944
A fascinating study-manifesto by a renegade linguist, aimed at world peace through revelation of the interrelations between languages, anarchy and traffic. Discovered in Rosselli’s personal library.
reenfleshed, the rebellious metaphysical:
Stacy Doris | Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit | Nightboat | 2012
“…which is my house if / I leave now you know since / I’m the milk of all cats / which time one and still me”
Return to 2012 directory.
Roberto Bolaño, trans. Chris Andrews | Amulet | New Directions | 1999
Amulet is a strange, short, lyrical novel that confuses time and identity as it explores questions of community and politics in Mexico City in the 1960s and 1970s.
Inger Christensen, trans. Susanna Nied | alphabet | New Directions | 2000
The moment I finished this book I thought, “I wish I had read that a lot earlier.” These are the sort of poems that inspire people (more ambitious than myself) to learn a new language.
E. M. Cioran, trans. Richard Howard | A Short History of Decay | Arcade | 1998
A deluge of aphorisms, darkness, and humor. Reading it is like going for a brisk morning jog in a waste land. “In every man sleeps a prophet, and when he wakes there is a little more evil in the world.”
Teju Cole | Open City | Random House | 2011
This novel made me want to write a novel. Its narrator elegantly meditates on travel, cities, walking, politics, history, love, and solitude.
Cid Corman | O/I | The Elizabeth Press | 1974
Corman and I share a birthday (separated by 54 years). Although having admired his work in bits, I hadn’t read a single collection until this one, which I love. Spare and sensual, full of ideas, friends, and places, O/I has great range and an easy wisdom that puts other poets—who posture to be called wise—to shame.
John Glassco | Memoirs of Montparnasse | New York Review Books | 2007
This is a joyous, beautifully-written memoir about being a young and in love with life. It’s also about Paris and the literary set there in the 1920s.
Kenzaburo Oe, trans. Kunioki Yanagishita and William Wethrall | A Quiet Life | Grove | 1996
I bought A Quiet Life knowing only that it was one of the few novels by Oe that I hadn’t yet read. His work always seems to magically arrive at just the write moment, there are many things in this book (which blends critical study, fiction, and memoir) that have helped me work through my own recent writing.
Georg Trakl, trans. Robert Firmage | Song of the West | North Point | 1988
I picked up this selected bilingual edition of Trakl because I’d only read a few of his poems and I remembered enjoying them. Hopefully after a year in Germany I’ll be work my way through the originals, but I loved Robert Firmage’s translations. His images are the sort that instantly send tremors through my sense of things. “Toads emerge from silver water.”
John Williams | Stoner | New York Review Books Classics | 2006
This is a depressing novel about a child of farmers who becomes an academic. If anyone out there knows of an uplifting novel about a child of academics who becomes a farmer, please contact me.
Nick Twemlow | Palm Trees | Green Lantern | 2012
Lynn Xu | Debts & Lessons | Omnidawn | forthcoming 2013
These two soon-to-be-released collections by two of my Canarium co-editors / closest friends / biggest influences/ favorite poets, Lynn Xu and Nick Twemlow, are flat-out incredible. They’ll both shake the world.
Joshua Edwards directs and co-edits Canarium Books. He’s the author of Campeche (Noemi Press, 2011) and Imperial Nostalgias (Ugly Duckling Presse, forthcoming), and the translator of Mexican poet María Baranda’s Ficticia (Shearsman Books, 2010). He and his wife, Lynn Xu, live in Marfa, Texas and Stuttgart, Germany, where he’s currently a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude.
Julia Bloch | Letters to Kelly Clarkson | Sidebrow | 2012
“Dear Kelly, // I was moving one square of air from one corner of the country to another, / I held that square in my mouth or cheek so I could still talk, breathe, even / sing while holding it.”
CA Conrad | A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon | Wave | 2012
“what I really want / is to scatter / my own / ashes”
Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Draft 96: Velocity | Little Red Leaves | 2011
“tight astride the no of Yes, / inside a stranger, starker yes of No.”
Susana Gardner | Herso | Black Radish | 2011
“what was once unwanted / so wavering was now so — this new I, / small hero.”
Jenn McCreary | Odyssey & Oracle | Least Weasel | 2011
“I don’t think / of a white bear so hard, I can’t think of a wish.”
Lisa Robertson | Nilling | Bookthug | 2012
“26. Thus the interdiction against reading — it was Rousseau who said that any girl who reads is already a lost girl. The codex has lent her its secrecy. She will read in spite of any law.”
Elizabeth Robinson | Three Novels | Omnidawn | 2011
“The soft, mathematical breath of a nocturne. The fresh paint on the doorsill / clings to the nightclothes of this apparition.”
Juan José Saer, trans. Steve Dolph | Scars | Open Letter | 2011
“The fourth time I saw her I was on the bus and she was standing on the corner. I watched her from the rear window until she disappeared. A month later I was the one standing on the corner while she passed on the bus. Then I didn’t see her for several months, and finally I forgot about her.”
Cole Swensen | Gravesend | California | 2012
“actually exists the proper name of an excised space”
Laura Walker | Follow-Haswed | Apogee | 2012
“pencils / exhaust / all of the sentences of Engish”
Matvei Yankelevich | Alpha Donut | United Artist | 2012
“BUSTER: The novel will be about Paris / because no one will let me go to Paris / where love is free. VLADIMIR: Everyone gets / their just desserts. BUSTER: All I get is jello.”
Pattie McCarthy is the author of bk of (h)rs, Verso, Table Alphabetical of Hard Words, and Marybones (forthcoming), all from Apogee Press. Her most recent chapbook is L&O, published by Little Red Leaves. A 2011 Pew Fellow in the Arts, she teaches literature and creative writing at Temple University.
Clark Coolidge | The Crystal Text | Sun and Moon | 1995
One morning in June, I pulled this off a bookshelf and read parts of it while lying on the living room couch. I do this every couple of years. Someday I would like to read the whole book in one sitting, though I think that might be impossible. It’s crystalline—you can’t see the whole thing at once, you can only take partial views into its center. It’s too bright. Not bright, sharp. It is dull but luminous. The language is like white noise, unassuming but persistent.
Samuel R. Delany | Dhalgren | Vintage | 2001 (orig pub 1974)
This is the central book of my year. Always throw a big ass crazy novel into the mix. I’ve often thought I would like to live in a place that was cut off from the rest of the world, but now I’m not so sure. Bellona is dirty and alluring. Dhalgren has been haunting me since the day I picked it up and it continues to linger. 801 pages and I’m about 500 in. I have to take breaks. When I first started, I read it every morning and night for many days in a row and I almost went insane. I might always remember Oakland 2012 as DHALGREN.
Eiko and Koma with the Kronos Quartet | Yerba Buena Center for the Arts | 2012
Performance as text. I sat transfixed while Eiko and Koma lay naked on a bed of dirt with the Kronos Quartet playing behind them, their movements so slow I could hardly track them. I watched with painful attentiveness, like a close reading of movement and stillness, rhythm and structure and syntax. Four hours later, walking out onto Mission and 3rd was a jarring shock to the senses. When art transports you to a different universe, it is a rare thing. This was an epic.
Samantha Giles | deadfalls and snares | Futurepoem | forthcoming 2013
Bold enough to go places that most people can’t, or don’t want to. SG’s first book (Hurdis Addo, Displaced Press, 2011) is an elegy for every person murdered in the city of Oakland, CA in 2006. deadfalls and snares deals with Abu Ghraib tortures. I often find the writing on such issues of public trauma to be cliché or sensationalist or just plain bad, but Giles opens up a space that not only complicates an issue, but also challenges readers to consider their relationship to it as victims, perpetrators, and onlookers.
Ariel Goldberg | The Estrangement Principle | 2012
Staggering number of references in this chapbook-length text, a series of musings by Ariel Goldberg on the label “queer” as used by and applied to artists and writers. Expanded aphorisms threading slantwise through a conclusion that has yet to be reached, that is perhaps unreachable. The thing I love about this piece is that some of it perfectly articulates thoughts of my own, while other parts cause me to shake my head or cringe with disagreement. This is an honest text. It’s raw. It preserves the juiciness of its subjects. It doesn’t attempt mastery. It is not making a corpse out of the art or culture it critiques. The questions it asks have immediacy and vitality. This is an evolving program and I can’t wait for the next version.
Pamela Lu | Ambient Parking Lot | Kenning Editions | 2011
The long-awaited Ambient Parking Lot arrives, toting with it an amorphous group of ambient musicians exuding smugness and self-satisfaction, anxiety and paranoia, revelry and disillusionment. They are a singular character embodying a WE. In the center of the book, an anecdote spans 50 pages–a sustained bravado, a tale of adventure and heartache, an individual belting his story out beyond the backdrop of the Ambient Parkers. Then, a radio interview with a dancer and former collaborator of the Ambient Parkers enfolds them in a new self-consciousness–the sudden realization that they have been seen and judged by others, not merely by themselves.
kathryn l. pringle | Fault Tree | Omnidawn | 2012
One of the obsessions of this book is TIME. The narrator cannot escape time, and cannot make sense of it. I believe kathryn l. pringle has invoked a narrator so powerful that he influenced the actual text to resist conventions of temporality as well. There is no beginning, middle, or end. It is circular in a way that makes me feel almost as paranoid as the narrator. I have read this book many times, heard it read many times, I even lived alongside its creation, and yet every page, though familiar in the moment I encounter it, seems to appear in a different place each time I return. The entirety of the book takes place in one moment. The MOMENT. I encourage you to revisit KP’s first book RIGHT NEW BIOLOGY (Factory School, 2009), as it might make a little more sense now, or if not now, it will soon.
Viktor Shklovsky, trans. Shushan Avagyan | Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar | Dalkey Archive | 2011 (orig. pub 1970)
Hadn’t read anything by Shklovsky besides Zoo but now that will change. I am already having intense feelings about this book and I only just started reading it. Trying to fathom Shklovsky’s life in the Soviet Union through the greater part of the 20th century. Looking at his style, words, anecdotes, and criticisms with enthusiasm and relief. He is offering me alternatives to the mundane. He offers new questions. I think being moved to consider new questions is a good thing. Potentially life saving.
Suzanne Stein | Tout va bien | Displaced | 2012
The excitement I felt upon reading through this book I cannot say I feel very often. I see this work/collection as its own living and breathing organism that I can hold, have conversations with, listen to, grapple with, consider and reconsider. I deeply appreciate its architecture. I appreciate the moves it makes, its gestures. It is free, literally.
Cecilia Vicuña | SABORAMI | Chain Links | 2012
The re-release of this collection of writing, drawings, painting, and ephemera by Cecilia Vicuña after the death of Salvador Allende couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Her live performance in February of SABORAMI at Small Press Traffic in San Francisco included text, voice (in song/words/whispers), projected visual imagery, storytelling, and inspiration from this luminous spirit that is Cecilia Vicuña.
This is Erika Staiti’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.
Georg Büchner, trans. Michael Hamburger | Lenz | Frontier | 1969
Read last summer in one go on a yellow metal bench, and again this. The tear of self-preservation and hopelessness…night torments…pages of descript on the crumbling of a natural composition…read after I got up from the bench that a key term from Celan’s Meridian speech is “majestas,” Latin for “sovereignty,” “Medusa’s head”; after this is the crumbling bit: “I saw two girls sitting on a stone; one of them was unfastening her hair, the other was helping her. Her golden hair hung down; a grave, pale face, and yet so young, and the black dress and the other one so anxiously busying herself. The finest, most intimate pieces of the German school can hardly give us an idea of what this scene was like. Sometimes one would like to be a Medusa’s head, so as to be able to transform such a group into stone and show it to people.” So, to recognize that motive, artistic impulse as a will to power. But the face of stone as it actually shifts through light and dark throughout Lenz’s wandering/madness/”atheism” is the ultimate, quietist joke.
Tina Darragh | A(Gain)2st the Odds | Potes & Poets | 1989
So late I know! Hadn’t read this one, and Erica Kaufman corrected that, gifting it to me in Jan. Love Darragh, and thinking about her especially now in proto-concept literary climate (of course and glad to see her in the Les Figues I’ll Drown My Book) and re: intensified (for some) political engagement. “late 1800s | with the specialization of / labor, ‘unemployment’ is / seen as distinct from ‘idle,’ / except during worker strikes.” […] “you must have a machine to think,” then, “you think better with a machine”. Her nonfiction and science sources distilled to great effect…and of course all related in her thoughtful and light-handed way; reminds me of some WPA/Federal Theatre Project plays…e.g., entire scripts made in the 1930s from newspaper clippings on farm policy. Darragh is less pointed, questioning user passivity and collisions of self and culture production.
Marguerite Duras | Duras by Duras | City Lights | 1987
Marguerite Duras, trans. Richard Seaver | The Ravishing of Lol Stein | Pantheon | 1986
Marguerite Duras, trans. Barbara Bray | The Malady of Death | Grove | 1994
I’m deep in a Marguerite Duras kind of way. Working on three performance texts based on her work (might take some years!), and am calling the trilogy The Whole Tragedy of the Inability to Love, which is lifted from a Le Monde blurb on the back of The Malady of Death. Duras by Duras I came across at Unnameable Books—it was pleasantly waiting for me on the table where Adam Tobin & co. subtly set a rotating collection of seemingly whatever strikes. Duras by Duras as a title is a slight misnomer—the book includes critical essays on her work from Blanchot and Lacan, among others, and script fragments of India Song and notes both on that film and her relationship to crossing/inhabiting form(s) in general—this all occurs way outside the “mimetic stage” (or cinema)—making place a condition for listening. Lol Stein also works this way, a character as a doubled space, and she also acts a bit like the stone for Lenz, though more impossible. I can get past (and completely in) the melodramatic tenor/constant despair of Duras (as one of her editors said, “The avant-garde in recent times has had no love story” [hmm])—because she also wrote very basic things like, “A lot of people left the cinema a long time ago. That is why it still goes on” and she worked from that nothing, from standstill.
Lisa Robertson | Nilling | BookThug | 2012
I’m hung up on the first essay, “Time in the Codex.” For some reason in my reading (“leaning into chiaroscuro”), I kept replacing terms—”the small inconspicuous track of no-time” renders time as qualified by what’s visibly left pretty moot, perhaps what she means by “invisible.” I thought “unowned” for “inconspicuous,” though not the same. “Her autonomy undoes itself and disperses into a devotedly plural materiality. Her identifications are small revolutions and also the potent failures of revolutions. She is free to not appear.” (Rather than a resistance to subjectivity.) I think by “revolutions,” LR means “turning in the ruin” and by “potent” she means potential. And overall feel that it’s not the object (a book) I should be so afraid of, though the “material infinite of the fold” is a nice reminder that maybe I should be. But a misread. “When will desire replace identification?” Hopefully soon, personally. Later I reread The Men with all of this in mind…learning to read Robertson is to be less entranced (by the language, the permission, the agility) and to see it all as more reasonable, and by reasonable I mean accurate. So often we/I look at accuracy in close relation to more minimalist or compressed texts, so a luxurious break.
Keith Tuma | On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes | Salt | 2011
Absolutely enjoyable read from Tuma, who seems to conceive of gossip as a space to mine for integrity, can you imagine—written on sabbatical, On Leave looks at the history and meaningfulness of the anecdote, and is personal without any cloy whatsoever. Anecdotes used to be strings of facts! We were interested in their material! There was no wit! (My exclamations.)
Lorine Niedecker | Homemade Poems | CUNY Lost & Found Poetics Document Initiative | 2012
Chuck Stebleton bought me a copy of this at the CUNY Chapbook Festival, after he saw my empty pockets, and somehow it was all I took home. So grateful for these poems’ newfound tangibility that I might even try writing one by hand sometime.
Denise Riley | “A Part Song” | London Review of Books (link – sub only) | 2012
Must champion Riley’s first publication of poetry in a decade (has since been followed by a book-length essay about the death of her son, Time Lived, Without Its Flow [Capsule Editions]).
Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez | The Femicide Machine | Semiotext(e) | 2012
I saw Rodriguez give a talk after I read this book, and realized that a formal intention of The Femicide Machine was to stall a differentiation between journalism and literature, something I didn’t pick up while reading it. Certainly it’s all fact, what’s going on in terms of institutionalized oppression, public space as hunting ground, electoral-level aggression against women, and on and on in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Bodies of women are being reduced to a medium between cartels and police; rather than average daily violence against women being committed by people they know, we’re dealing with second-tier violence—crimes against women being committed by people in power. Discusses state responses, art-world response, border-town associations with contraband, how arms, drugs, people, become equivalent. And importantly in a broader sense, how to counter morbid fascination and engage with culture as space for solidarity.
Doris Lessing | The Golden Notebook | Harper Collins | 1962
The leveling of formations of political thought with banal personal desires on Lessing’s part…a constant enacting of talk about writing and composition itself, even as the narrative circles a familiar base feeling…the primary fondness for hyperreal behavior and perspective…the ongoing joke about which friend would have killed the other if only ten years prior or which fresh young revolutionary will be first to fossilize, a nearing to love but never quite…”I feel what I felt with sleeping Michael, a need to laugh out in triumph, because of this marvelous, precarious, immortal human being, in spite of the weight of death”; it’s all a somewhat-gorgeous ruse—as complex and dark philosophically, maybe, as the doubling in a Duras story but structured to be comprehensible—fuck, it’s almost alienating (in the best theoretical way); at the least it’s clever. Again late to the party, by about fifty years.
Corina Copp is most recently the author of Pro Magenta/Be Met(Ugly Duckling, 2011), with publications forthcoming from Bad Press, Minutes Books, and Trafficker. An excerpt of her play The Whole Tragedy of the Inability to Love, Part 1: SUSANSWERPHONE can be read at The Claudius App 3 and will be presented in October at the PRELUDE.12 Festival. She lives in Brooklyn.
This is Corina Copp’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.