Monday, May 8, 2006

recent reading: may

Couldn't sleep, so I got up and wrote capsule reviews.

Kathy Acker's Great Expectations

In this novel Acker aims her critique at the gnarly intersection of capitalism, violence, sexual dysfunction, and male dominance. In order to live out this critique, Acker jettisons most of the (male-dominated) traditions of narrative as she writes, systematically disrupting the stability of characters and setting, and rejecting the claim to authorial originality (as you might guess from the title). Some might say that this rejection is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but I'm more inclined to say it's form following function. Exemplary.

Johanna Drucker's The Visible Word : Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923

This dense book by the brilliant Johanna Drucker focuses primarily on four practicioners of experimental typography: Tristan Tzara, Ilia Zdanevich, Filippo Marinetti, and Guillaume Apollinaire (with Mallarme visible in the background). It's not merely a general overview of these four poet-typographers, however: it's a sustained book-length argument about the nature of signification and textual materiality. This increases the intellectual value of the book but also makes it less welcoming to a non-academic audience, despite the one-chapter recap of the history of semiotic theory that's crammed in there. Essential for visual poets who want to better understand the historical and conceptual underpinnings of what they're doing, less useful for graphic designers or casual browsers.