Thursday, January 10, 2008

Untitled Stuff No. 1

My favorite opening scenes from any movie ever:

THE TOP 10 TRADE BOOKS OF 2007, arbitrarily selected by Unnameable Books and alphabetically by authors:

NOTES FROM THE AIR: Selected Later Poems
John Ashbery
Who doesn't love John Ashbery? I don't care if this book was published by Rupert Murdoch, nor would I care if the selections were made by a random number generator (They weren't -- Ashbery made the selections himself, and they are extraordinarily smart in their paratactical logic -- in fact, this book seems more "of a piece", and more ambitious, than any of the smaller books from which it is compiled): give me a couple hundred poems by Ashbery, printed beautifully on large pages (wide enough to hold most of his long lines) in a handsome clothbound book with a well-designed matte dustjacket, and I will love you forever.

BLACK FIRE: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing
edited by Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal, first published in 1968.
I thought I was special because I owned a first edition of this book, which has long been out of print. But now it's back, from Black Classic Press, and readily available at the bookstore, and the Black Arts movement of the 1960s is now again here and now. The huge diversity of its aesthetics, and its importance to a wide diaspora of artistic lineages, is greater by far than you would expect if you have learned of the movement only from reductive textbooks and secondary anthologies compiled after the fact.

Robert Creeley
Ok, so technically this book was published in 2006, but it takes more than a year to read it, and Creeley's ghost continues to haunt the contemporary world. He inhabits just about every poet writing today, and these last 30 years of his actual breathing, though not as widely loved as the first volume of his collected (now available in paperback) are carried everywhere by everybody, whether you buy this book or not. But if you do buy this book (and do buy it from me!), you'll probably be happier in the long haul. Onward!

TODAY I WROTE NOTHING: The Selected Writings Of Daniil Kharms
Daniil Kharms
Edited and translated by Matvei Yankelevich, who himself comprises one of the boundless energies of Ugly Duckling Presse, and who incidentally is reading here in January, TODAY I WROTE NOTHING includes many of the most astonishing condensed fictions (not, to be sure, "short stories") ever written.

THE ALPHABET GAME: a bpNichol reader,
bpNichol, edited by Darren Wershler-Henry and Lori Emerson
bp Nichol (1944-1988) was a concrete poet, a sound artist, a 'pataphysical speculator, a linguistic mystic, a theoretician/practitioner whose output spanned genres, mediums both small and large, and decades. He wrote for the page, for the stage, for cassette tape and for television (yes, he worked on FRAGGLE ROCK), as well as for the potential of future works and forms. Finally, somebody has made a compendium of reasonably representative works, fit it all into 334 pages, and priced it at a very reasonable $21.95. I can't understand how the NY Times missed this one.

I AM A BEAUTIFUL MONSTER: Poetry, Prose and Provocation
Francis Picabia
Francis Picabia (1879-1953) was a funny guy. His dada doings have long been overshadowed by other writers who are perhaps more easily incorporated into the official narrative of modernism, but NOW IN ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME, thanks to the efforts of translator Marc Lowenthal and MIT Press, his writings remain "avant-garde" still for the post-avant century.

Thomas Pynchon
This is the only novel on my list. The rest of the top-10 books tend to get shelved in the Poetry section. Here in the book business, some years are like that. Perhaps the novel is a dying art form. In any case, this is the only new novel I have read all the way through to the end in the past year. And Michiko Kakutani hated it, which is probably a good sign: He’s doing something new! It’s not a good novel, it’s not a good Pynchon-novel, it’s something else and better.

Tom Raworth
Raworth's Collected was published a couple years back, but he keeps writing anyhow. These pieces include a mix of angry satires and the complex everyday language compositions that have kept him so intimately unfamiliar to us for the last 40 years or so. "examined every one real".

DAY OCEAN STATE OF STAR’S NIGHT: Poems & Writings 1989 & 1999-2006
Leslie Scalapino
Scalapino is the edgiest thinker/writer/perceiver around right now on the edge where things happen, not cutting but expanding and exciting, this “rim of occurrence”. Her books are always challenging to read (and even more challenging to sell), and entirely preoccupying. This collection, published in El-E-Phant format, allows her long poems to reflect on each other, her project become more self-apparent. “Only what one doesn’t know happens.”

Rachel Zolf
From the notes at the end of the book: "Poems on pages 15, 23, 39, 51, 59, 69 and 77 were made using Lewis LaCook's Markov-chain based Flash poetry generators. All other poems were made by the author’s proprietary machine-mind™, with some assistance from WordCount™ and QueryCount™ at The former is a searchable list of the 86,800 most frequently used words in English, while the latter is a searchable list of words most frequently queried in WordCount. / The author also used the Gematria of Nothing (GON) engine at Gematria is a method of Biblical exegesis based on assigned positive or negative numerical values of Hebrew letters and semantic links between words based on their values. The GON is a bizarre Christ-, crow- and empress-laden attempt to co-opt the serious practice of Hebrew numerology and apply it to select English words and phrases. The author co-opts GON for HR purposes. / WordCount values are represented in the text by the letter w; QueryCount by Q; and GON by G. As QueryCount rankings shuffle every few hours to reflect recent word queries, Q values in this text will not match present QueryCount rankings. Nor does GON‘s numerology always add up. Orthography and punctuation are also used as found.”


WordCount™ is an artistic experiment in the way we use language. It presents the 86,800 most frequently used English words, ranked in order of commonness. Each word is scaled to reflect its frequency relative to the words that precede and follow it, giving a visual barometer of relevance. The larger the word, the more we use it. The smaller the word, the more uncommon it is.

WordCount tracks the way we use language. QueryCount tracks the way we use WordCount.

No comments: