The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Books I like and the reasons why -

I've been traveling and working for the past couple of months; here's the
latest - texts and others I'm fascinated by -

Google, The Missing Manual, Sarah Milstein and Rael Dornfest, O'Reilly:
This is the third book on Google help that O'Reilly's published, and for
most people, this is by far the best. Google is expanding, building a
search empire, for better or worse; there are all sorts of experimental
Google searches, as well as an enormous number of configurable options. I
use Google, because it's clean, fast, and hasn't disappointed me - and
this is probably the best guide out there. You don't have to know
programming, by the way, to use this. And like all O'Reilly books (well,
almost all of them), it's well-written, interesting reading, with no

destruction in art, Bob Cobbing, writers forum
( I'm not all that interested in concrete
poetry and/or destruction art, but this work is of great interest, a
series of 21 prints of Cobbing's Typestract One and the events program for
The Destruction of Art Symposium - all increasingly mangled, none of them
readable. The prints blur to almost black. I'm reminded of Latham's Skoob,
the work of Dom Sylvester Houedard (who has had an interesting career - do
a Google search) - and, most recently, Gerhardt Richter's photographic
sequences of sections of his paintings. In all of this material there's a
sense of loss, the attempt for something else to 'emerge' or 'give,' and
in general a melancholia related to the violence of everyday life. Check
this out.

On the other hand, if you want an amazing Cobbing / Peter Mayer work, ask
for concerning concrete poetry, from the same press (run by Lawrence Upton
at the least!). This book, also inexpensively produced, is a reprint from
1978, and includes the work of a number of people, from John Furnival
through Porfirius Optatianus. But what makes it remarkable are the
contents: chapters on 'The Term Concrete,' 'Some Historical Statements and
Manifestos,' 'On Semantic Poetry,' 'Some Myths of Concrete Poetry,' two
chronologies of visual and sound poetry, and so forth. Wonderful!

EDA: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry, edited by Murat
Nemer-Nejat, Talisman House Publishers, is spectacular. I knew nothing of
these poets, but the themes and styles, at least for me, are unique. I
tested it on my father, who's 90 and reads history and literature
incessantly, and he also was fascinated. I love Sami Baydar and Lale
Muldur's works - but it all reads well. I can't tell of course how good
the translations are, but the works are excellent in English as well.

Eden Eden Eden, Pierre Guyotat, Creation Books. I'd not read Guyotat's
work before, so you're probably far ahead of me. Needless to say, it
resonates in its apothecaries of relentless sexuality and violence,
somewhat reminiscent of Kenji Siratori's work (see below). Stylistically
most of it runs on gerunds and participles; I've never read anything like
it. If there's a writing degree zero, this is it. Do check it out. It was
originally published in French in 1970, by the way.

Crum, The Novel, Lee Maynard, Vandalia Press. Crum had a population of 219
in West Virginia, for real; the book is part fiction, part memoir, and if
you ever want to understand West Virginia or for that matter, any American
rural/mining area, begin here. It resonates. It was banned in Crum and
shouldn't have been. It's wonderful.

The Ethics of the Dust: Ten Lectures to Little Housewives on The Elements
of Crystallisation, by John Ruskin, 2nd edition, 1877. This is one of the
truly weirdest books I've ever come across, and that's saying a lot. In
his later years, Ruskin fell in love with a nine-year-old girl; the rest
is history, both found and lost. The book is a summary of his beliefs in
terms of crystallization (reminding one of Stendhal in the matter, but not
in manner or content) - if you ever see a copy, pick it up.

Likewise, Prophetic Writings of Lady Eleanor Davies, edited by Esther S.
Cope, Oxford. Mid-seventeenth century writings, the like of which, being
outside the kin and ken, I've never come across; apparently there were
other prophets of the time. The language is various and strange. As the
introduction says, 'Some sentences lack subjects or verbs' and the whole
is rather breathless and Beat Generationist by loose default. Again, if
you see it...

The Knapsack, edited by Herbert Read, 1939, is one of my favorite small
books, containing a plethora of literary excerpts that somehow match my
taste; it's a tiny book, but one of the few anthologies I can read over
and over again.

Just finished Volney's Ruins, by the way - again, look for it.

D.C. Lau's translations of Confucius and Mencius are excellent, by the way
- I'm using them with a slow-reading list I'm on, dealing with Chinese
classical philosophy.

HUMAN_WORMS, Kenji Siratori, iUniverse Inc. is a beautiful book. I've been
reading Kenji's works for a long time; at one point, I was modifying
texts he was emailing on. Much of his writing, including this, sounds like
uncompromising cyberpunk cutup, but it isn't; in fact, I have no idea how
it's written. I love it for that. Recently, Jim Reith wrote a program for
me that will take a text, place the words in an array, and access them
according to an arbitrary mathematical function that I can define. It's
the closest I get to Kenji's style myself, but his work is far denser, and
darker in furious post-Bladerunner style. This particular work is his most
advanced - and beautiful - to date. Phrases are repeated - 'hunting for
the grotesque WEB' for example - these are broken and recombined like an
insane DNA. If you're getting one Siratori book - and you should - this is
the one.

I have three Sheila Murphy books here - she's one of the most interesting
'subliminal' poets around - by which I mean everything is beneath the
surface of what appears in wildly various styles - but all related - of
the three - Green Tea With Ginger (Potes and Poets) - Letters to
Unfinished J. (Green Integer) - and Concentricity (Pleasure Boat Studio) -
I prefer the second _and its italics_ - or the third - of which on the
back cover John Tritica references the 'tone complexion' and 'promenade of
images' - which he also puts into quotations - it that, the centrifugal
force as if the sections split apart - they don't - cerebellar sparks of
adjacency but widely disparate imagery/imaginary -

At this point I'd also like to mention in passing -

The wryting list, co-moderated by Ryan Whyte and myself (the descendent of
the old fiction-of-philosophy list that I started circa 1994-5) - some of
the best experimental writing I've seen is there -

Sophia - my sophia.txt, published by Writers Forum or writers forum just a
few days ago - this is the main theory/philosophical text I've written -
one might be interested -

The Compaq Presario notebook I bought a short while ago with the Athlon
3000 64-bit processor - cool and fast and the wireless _reaches_ - I've
been using it for production and it responds well -

The Zaurus 5500 linux-based PDA I've used for almost the past year - this
is an incredible mini-computer - it runs Mathematica-like programs, full
linux, perl, anything you want to put on it - with a wireless card Kismet
is great on it - etc. -

Peter Krapp's Deja Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory, Minnesota - I'm
still in process of reading this and I've not been focusing all that well
(with the residency at West Virginia University followed by the Incubation
Conference at Nottingham) - but I'll cover this - I asked for a review
copy - an outstanding chapter on Heiner Muller - more later -

- Alan

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