Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bunch your matter and count the pages.

by Ryland Walker Knight


Back to widget time. Really. Just want to sell some books, even if this internet thing is part of the reason why lovable stores like Black Oak (and Cody's, of course) are long gone. So, here's some stuff you should read, and probably own, if you haven't/don't already, along with some quick plugs for some DVDs (released and yet to be released) that I'll be bringing up and blogging about, again, in greater depth, soon. Cough:

  • As inspired by his recent Fresh Air interview, which was amazing for how moving it was on top of how hilarious it was, I want to nod at what Tracy Morgan was helping sell: his memoir, I Am the New Black.

  • Since I took off that Library of America collection, but couldn't leave off my man, here's a plug for the paperback I own of Pale Fire, which may be the best book ever.

  • Georges Perec's Species of Spaces is pretty phenomenal, as is most of his work, and this Penguin edition is an affordable introduction to one of the great Oulipo brains (and hairdos) to create language fun full of wit and smarts. I think I like Perec more than Queneau, if that matters.

  • Coming out of Bright Star the other day, I spent a lot of energy thinking about how much I wanted to read all kinds of Keats. I did not buy any, and may not yet, but I may check this Complete Poems and Selected Letters put out by Modern Library Classics. [Update: You can also get the poems, all of them, for free right here.] The Brawne-inspired poem that gives Campion her title is quite lovely, and Ben Whishaw reads it well; recites it well, too, laid against Abbie Cornish's breast. Still thinking about the film...

  • And, for good measure, here's some movies I'll be writing about shortly: from The Criterion Collection, Wim Wender's perhaps-pinnacle (or a high point never touched again?), Wings of Desire, and Chantal Akerman's seminal structuralist block of routine-art that couches feminist politics inside a maze of linoleum and potatoes, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; from the long-lost file (also the terrible art direction file), John Huston's final film, The Dead, adapted from James Joyce's short story of the same name (itself the final story of its Dubliners book), which I've recently re-read.


  1. While I love Perec dearly, he is a magnificent writer, one of my favorites, (and Species of Space is one of his best), I find as I age I may gravitate to Queneau more (at least Queneau at his peak. It is hard to compare a "full" life's work to one so stunted). Perhaps this is akin to the similar fondness (for it more of that quality than a labeling of "better" or ranking of greatness) I find for Rivette and Rohmer to Godard (to stay within Cahiers as an example) as the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years, etc. go by. Life A Users Manual is the Perec work which is perhaps the most Queneau-like in its comfort with the minor and itself, and is the Perec book dedicated to Queneau (and what of this update translation?).

    The above is to limit to the authors mentioned. Harry Mathews is horribly neglected and at times surpasses both Queneau and Perec, which is a remarkable feat, to say the least. And one should never neglect Roubaud, etc etc.

    P.S. Just saw this book the other day:
    have yet to read, let alone purchase it.

  2. Thanks for the comment, and for reading, and for the tips. I'll be sure to investigate Harry Mathews and Boubaud and maybe I'll try to track a copy of that Alison James book for myself--here's a clickable link: Constraining Chance: Georges Perec and the Oulipo (Avant-Garde & Modernism Studies).

    As I've tried to say, these are kind of scattershot enthusiasms trying to signal things that have made a dent in me. There's no real hierarchies at play, ever, I hope, in this blog. I'm just trying to share things I enjoy. Especially with this widget sillyness.

  3. oh, entirely. i wasn't trying to spark some heated debate about who is better, etc. this post merely prompted that thought above about aging and a shift in appreciation towards that which appears less bombastic or something. this in no way denegrates the latter. perec remains a favorite writer of mine, and i would hardly label him bombastic, though he is more forward in the foregrounding of his us of constraints, etc than queneau, just trying to track this movement of my own i guess.

    there is also a recent atlas press collection of perec's "scientific writings" which i have yet to order. highly reccomended is david bellos' biography of perec.