blob blob blob blob blob blob blos blop blob blob blobg blog -Jackson Mac Low (1956)

May 18, 2005

Alphabetical Africa 1

Ara Shirinyan suggested this book to me the very first time I visited him at his house and encountered his room full of books. This may not seem like a lot to say, but Ara's room is littered with stacks of books on top of shelves of books, on top of boxes of books, on top of desks covered with other stacks of books... The mere fact that he recommended I read this particular book out of all the books he's hording in his room seems pretty important. And he's recommended it to me a few times since, always claiming that it 'changed his life.' I finally took his recommendation about a week ago and began reading it.

There are 52 chapters in the book going from a-z then from z back to a. The first chapter, a, uses only words that begin with the letter a. The second chapter, b, uses only words that begin with the letters a and b. And this goes on to the mid point z chapters where Walter Abish was able to use whatever words he felt were necessary, and then the second half of the book proceeds to diminish again as it moves through the alphabet back to the final a chapter.

The technique itself was immediately interesting to me because of my interest in the Oulipo and I am surprised, after reading a bit of the book, to find out that Abish isn't a member of Oulipo. Maybe he should be.

Books suggested to date...

Ara Shirinyan:
Andre Breton, Selections **
Georges Perec, Three **
Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa **

Amanda Yates:
Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky **
Rebecca Brown, The Dogs: A Modern Bestiary **

Harold Abramowitz:
Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science **
Erwin Schrodinger, What is Life? **

Nicholas Grider:
David Markson, This is Not a Novel **
Nicholas says, "Just about as good a meditation on writing (and on death) that you can read, it's a brian-mashing novel-length list of the deaths and illnesses of "famous" novelists and other culture-producers. A quick and devastating read."
Kathy Acker, My Death My Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini **
Nicholas says, "Acker proposes Nominalism, and follows through. Opens up (to me at least) the essential idea that writing is a field of _possibility_, not a form to be filled out as elegantly and politely as possible. Anything can (and should, and does) happen.

Jesse Whitney:
Frank Herbert, Dune **
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow **

Sean Deyoe:
Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity **
Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture --
Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaulings **

Sam Stern:
Anthony Burgess, Enderby **
Bruce Jay Friedman, The Dick **

Stephanie Rioux:
George Elliot, Middlemarch **
Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life **
Rigoberta Menchu, I, Rigoberta Menchu **
Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter **

Stan Apps:
Henri Michaux, Darkness Moves, an Anthology **
William Carlos Williams, Spring And All **
Arthur Rimbaud, A Season In Hell **

Jared Olmsted:
Daniel Clowes, David Boring **
Chester Brown, The Playboy **

Christine Wertheim:
Russel Hoban, Riddley Walker **
The Bible, The Book of Revelations

The Pile:
In Process...
Samuel Beckett, The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989 **
Christian Bok (ed.), Ground Works: Avant-Garde For Thee **
Andre Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism **
Compte de Lautreamont, Maldoror & the Complete Works **
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, anti-oedipus: capitalism and schizophrenia **
Don DeLillo, White Noise **
Jean Genet, the Thief's Journal **
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime **
Alfred Jarry, Adventures In 'Pataphysics **
Gordon Lish, My Romance **
Warren F. Motte, Jr., Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature **
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire **
Raymond Roussel, Locus Solus **
David Foster Wallace, Oblivion **

The Rest...
John Cage, Silence **
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life **
Ralph Cusack, Cadenza **
Steve Erickson, Our Ecstatic Days **
Raymond Federman, The Precipice and Other Catastrophes **
Michael Joyce, Moral Tales and Meditations: Technological Parables and Refractions **
Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion **
Norman Klein, The History of Forgetting **
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee **
Henrik Ibsen, Four Major Plays: Vol. 1 (A Doll House, The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder) **
Ben Marcus and Matthew Ritchie, The Father Costume **
Philippe Soupault, Last Nights of Paris **