21 September 2006

JOE AMATO, CAO XUEQIN, MYUNG MI KIM, ELIZABETH ROBINSON, JEAN GROSJEAN, TRAFFIC

How divine it is to get new books, whether through purchase at a store, online, or as gifts in the mail. Here are a few of the ones that have come my way today or lately, some very briefly noted, some barely more than listed.

1. INDUSTRIAL POETICS: Demo Tracks for a Mobile Culture, by Joe Amato (Univ. of Iowa Press, 2006)

The author says in his acknowledgments that I (among several others) have "better sense" than he does. OK, Joe, but I don't have "better nonsense," and that has made all the difference. Actually, that's a lie, or at least the part that infers that Amato is nonsensical is a lie. Sure, he can goof with the best of them, and sometimes does, but it's truly a ruse, and this is one of the most serious books to come my way in a long time. It's just that Joe can have fun with serious, & often does, although it can be heartbreaking fun, too. From grant proposals to engineering, to the heights & depths of poetics, well, as the author says, everything is in dialogue with everything else. Or maybe, multilogue. And it's all here, at least in microcosm, & all a delight. Truly, I'm still within the first 50 pages (though I've glimpsed through), but I already know this is one for the ages, or certainly for this age, slamming it through.

2. THE GOLDEN DAYS, vol. 1 of THE STORY OF THE STONE, by Cao Xueqin (Penguin, 1973).

I've been wanting to read this book for more than 25 years, and the four volumes that follow, in this foundational book of Chinese literature, or at least foundational for the last 250 years. Written in about 1760, mostly by Cao Xueqin, with later elements added by other authors, and beautifully translated by David Hawkes, this is a novel of romance and manners wrapped in a fable and held within a metafiction. Metafiction? In 1760s China. Yes, why not. Chapter 1 begins,
GENTLE READER,
What, you may ask, was the origin of this book?
Though the answer to this question may at first seem to border on the absurd, reflection will show that there is a good deal more in it than meets the eye.
And there is.

So now I've begun. I'd love to finish it in a few months, but given the five volumes, not all of which are easy to find any more, realistically I may spend a year or so with this, reading as I can. I have a feeling Cao Xueqin will give Laurence Sterne a run for his money. And more.

3. RIVER ANTES, by Myung Mi Kim (Atticus Finch, 2006)

Oh those Atticus Finch people. They seem unable to make a book that is not physically and verbally fascinating. But then, starting with Myung Mi Kim is never a bad idea. She always creates a space in which her work exists creating the space in which the work exists creating the space . . .
In The Bounty and Dura it seemed to be transitional space, characterized by diaspora manifested in time/space and in language. Here too the past figures prominently, a past river, water, toppling shores, home hunt, all "Knotted heavy holy swear free flash."

Delightfully, reader is enclosed in the physicality of the book, as the book also becomes the space in which reader enacts transitions, unfolding gated pages to reveal sections of the book spread out before one. The architecture is physical.

Myung Mi Kim is one of the most focus-eyed writers I have ever known, but I love it when she also lets the language get a llittle goofy, as with

Could the rock be that yellow, canary yellow
Corresponding
Pelvis Bowl


Bunker buster bomb


Bombs indeed, as in one page of the text the language has literally exploded, with partial words drawn apart to pieces, unrecoverable except in gapped phonemes & morphemes. On another page, meaning entirely comes from markings, and there are two kinds of markings: virigules and periods. Make that three kinds of markings: virigules, periods, and space.

Find this book. Unfold it (literally). Read it. Conjugate it.

4. AN EARTH OF TIME, by Jean Grosjean (Burning Deck, 2006)

This one just came in the mail today, and I haven't read a word yet. But it was written while Jean Grosjean was a prisoner in the Second World War, and was his first book, published by Gallimard in 1946, awarded the Prix de la Pléiade. As the release says, "Between lyric and meditation on Biblical themes, the poems work up to a personal apocalypse." Translated by Keith Waldrop — I also just ordered his version of Baudelaire's Les Fleur du Mal, but that one has not arrived yet.

5. UNDER THAT SILKY ROOF, by Elizabeth Robinson (Burning Deck, 2006)

This one also just made its way to my mail box today, and I don't have a thing to say about it yet, but to me any new Elizabeth Robinson title is an event, and I keenly look forward to reading it.

6. TRAFFIC Issue Number Two

Also just arrived in the mail today. I was pleased when Small Press Traffic began a journal, and the first one was great. The second one looks beautiful, too. Ably edited by Elizabeth Treadwell. You should check out Elizabeth Treadwell's lively new blog, SECRET MINT: AN EXPOSITION.