Archive for the ‘books’ Category


It’s good to want things.

June 22, 2009

So I’ve been caught up with submitting work and sending out a couple reviews—and that’s good, but it’s been a little too busy. Here are a couple of things I’ve been meaning to check out. (Feel free to send them my way if you’d like to help a poor post MFA student—with no money—out!) Oh and does anyone have recommendations for anything else? I’ve been so immersed in my thesis manuscript that it’s kind of a luxury to look at anything else now that I am done.

Notes on Conceptualisms—This came out in May and I’ve been seeing reference to it around including Dennis Cooper’s Best of 2009. Here’s a blurb from the publisher’s site:

“What is conceptual writing, how does it differ from Conceptual Art, what are some of the dominant forms of conceptualism, where does an impure or hybrid conceptualism fit in, what about the baroque, what about the prosody of procedure, what are the links between appropriation and conceptual writing, how does conceptual writing rely on a new way of reading, a “thinkership” that can shift the focus away from the text and onto the concept, what is the relationship between conceptual writing and technology or information culture, and why has this tendency taken hold in the poetry community now?”

Whew—-that’s a long sentence. Has anyone had a chance to look at it yet?

I’ve also wanted to read Dave Hickey’s revised and expanded The Invisible Dragon… The old version was on my reading list for a while, but I never got around to it. But now that it’s re-issued… I read Air Guitar a while back and enjoy Hickey’s writing style.

From University of Chicago Press:

The Invisible Dragon made a lot of noise for a little book When it was originally published in 1993 it was championed by artists for its forceful call for a reconsideration of beauty—and savaged by more theoretically oriented critics who dismissed the very concept of beauty as naive, igniting a debate that has shown no sign of flagging.


Thomas Hirschhorn’s Monuments and Displays

April 3, 2009

Thomas Hirschhorn’s work parallels elements of a project I worked on and developed for a number of years called the Tollbooth Gallery. The Tollbooth was a reclaimed hunk of concrete in a public space that housed a twenty-four hour outdoor video galley and paper-based installations (video, audio, and paper) in an urban setting. The exhibitions changed every six weeks and featured work from artists from around the world. One of the most exciting aspects of the project was the precariousness of the materials and equipment that were left in public spaces even in the most extreme weather. The project was always in danger of vandalism, theft, or weather failure, but that became part of the work and how it was received. In order to succeed the project had to create a relationship where it trusted in the casual passerby and chance encounters. Like the Tollbooth, Hirschhorn’s work often consists of hewn together spaces in public locations that house an idea or event.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Agnes Martin’s Writings

February 4, 2009

Agnes Martin’s Writings read like art torah, striving towards an inner perfection and finding a place of honesty in one’s efforts. In my work I am at a crisis and wish I could spend more time wrapped in her process. Her ideas are profound, yet resonate with the dailiness of life, as she seeks an underlying awareness of perfection. I found myself wishing I had some Agnes Martin chip I could have installed in my head (keeping these ways of thinking at the forefront of my thoughts about art and writing). She is wise in exactly the way I am not.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Martin’s Branwell

September 10, 2008

Douglas A. Martin’s Branwell is a novel that bleeds the line between novel and historical fact. It’s written in a style that traces the tragic story of Branwell Brontë and composites it through the lives of those involved, from golden child and hope of the family to drunken dissolute, all while the politics of family allegiance drift and Branwell falls further into oblivion. This hallucinatory narrative shifts back and forth, switches tense, shows us one reading only to challenge it later, and ultimately unfolds a tale embroidered of speculation, suspicion, and earnest confession, where one is never certain of the absolute truths.

The novel feels invitingly Nineteenth Century, a lost Jane Eyre, yet contemporary and pluralistic. Like Victorian novels it follows the main character from early childhood until death, but here the voice is many blended perspectives. The result is a dream or hallucination that feels true and harvested from the period. I’ve always had a soft spot for old British novels like Jude the Obscure, Mill on the Floss, or even Moll Flanders. This has the same sense of inevitable doom, with damp decayed surfaces, but the success of Branwell is that it doesn’t mimic these other works. It’s not a copy of style, but something hybrid and new hewn out of the pieces of something else, halfway between poetry, biopic, and a novel.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Schjeldahl: Let’s See

August 19, 2008

The New Yorker format of a three to four page column allows Peter Schjeldahl to leap into subjects, look around, and amass a glittering pile of insights for each installment. In these essays on art he seamlessly blends high and low language to bring descriptions and ruminations to life where phrases like “drag queen cheek” cozy up with arcane words like “inchoate” and “fungible.” In addition the scope and range of Schjeldahl’s knowledge and history is daunting, but in spite of all this, his writing comes across as generous, accessible, and possibly even hospitable. His style invites the reader into subjects even if they have no previous knowledge of the sometimes-obscure topics, but his approach leaves the ramifications of these posited notions up to the reader to discover. That’s part of the beauty of this diving-in short format I mentioned before.

Schjeldahl gets right to the point. In his first essay from the collection Let’s See entitled America, he takes a rather worn theme of a lack or hole being at the center of American identity, but transforms it into something fresh.

Americaness is nobodiness. Deep down, I feel like nobody; and this void in me is the earnestness of my belonging. A hole in my heart pledges allegiance to America. (14)

Read the rest of this entry ?


Robbe-Grillet: Jealousy

August 17, 2008

After reading Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy, it’s apparent why his writing is so closely aligned with visual art, as his approach embodies a sort of object based conceptualist mise-en-scène. The reader is bound meticulously to the cataloguing and scrutinizing of objects in rooms and nurtures a relational system based on distance, proximity, and difference.

Jealousy is a compulsive observation of interactions between the implied narrator/character’s wife A… and a neighbor Franck. The novel is set on a banana plantation and documents the narrator’s growing suspicion that A… and Franck are having an affair. The language focuses on extreme surface, chronicling objects, proximity of things, and disembodied individuals treated as bits and pieces; relational. All is static, purgatorial, and repetitive in this world; change and growth come through revisiting the flood of surfaces and exterior observations. What is different? What changed in how the narrator decodes the tableau of objects as he seeks to confirm his suspicions? A slightly damaged and subjective empiricism is at work here. Sitting on the veranda the narrator observes:

A…’s arms, a little less distinct than her neighbor’s because of the color—though light—of the material of her dress, are also lying on the elbow-rests of her chair. The four hands are lying in a row, motionless. The space between A…’s left hand and Franck’s right hand is approximately two inches. The shrill cry of some nocturnal carnivore, sharp and short, echoes again toward the bottom of the valley, at an unspecified distance. (49)

Read the rest of this entry ?


Holden Caulfield

April 30, 2008

J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye is a difficult piece to write about well, and even harder to write something original about. The story is set as a flashback and takes place over three days in which the protagonist Holden Caulfield is expelled from boarding school, decides to leave early and returns to New York to stay in a hotel, while becoming progressively disillusioned about societal roles and expectations. Through this he becomes increasingly unhinged by the events around him and suffers from a mental breakdown. The plot takes on a tangential feel as one event triggers another digression on Caulfield’s path from prep school to emotional collapse, but the structure is deceptively concise and directed while appearing lateral.

Read the rest of this entry ?