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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.


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