A few months ago, in April, to be exact, I started a series of posts entitled “A Sentence About a Sentence I Love” with a sentence about one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s magnificent sentences. This concentration, or, rather, this obsession with the sentence may have come from my, at the time, recent readings of William Gass’s essays wherein he concentrates much of his attention on the sentence as a primary building block in poetry and prose. Essays by Gass like “The Soul Inside the Sentence,” “The Sentence Seeks Its Form,” “The Architecture of the Sentence,” take as their focus the centrality of the sentence toward the construction of thought, and particularly of thoughts within the parameters of fiction. In “Philosophy and the Form of Fiction,” Gass claims that sentences are “the most elementary instances of what the author has constructed….a moving unity of fact and feeling.” Moreover, sentences
must be sounded, too; it has a rhythm, speed, a tone, a flow, a pattern, shape, length, pitch, conceptual direction. The sentence confers reality upon certain relations, but it also controls our estimation, apprehension, and response to them. Every sentence, in short, takes metaphysical dictation, and it is the sum of these dictations, involving the whole range of the work in which the sentences appear, which accounts for its philosophical quality, and the form of life in the thing that has been made (Fiction and the Figures of Life, 14).
“From animals are drawn good burning lights, and good medicines against burning; Though the seminal humour seems of a contrary nature to fire, yet the body compleated proves a combustible lump, wherein fire findes flame even from bones, and some fuell almost from all parts; though the metropolis of humidity seems least disposed unto it, which might render the skulls of these urns less burned than other bones.”
–Sir Thomas Browne, from Hydriotaphia or Urne Buriall, 1658
At the Kenyon Review blog, William Walsh has been posting about collaborations. Since I’d been posting about the topic over here, he thought I might be interested–and in turn, I thought you might be.
(The descriptions of the articles are in his words.)
A Q&A with Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney about their long-standing collaboration.
A Q&A with Kate Schapira about her new book of poems, TOWN, which is an uber-collaboration with “contributions” from over sixty writers and non-writers.
And most recently, a Q&A with writer Joseph Young and artist Christine Sajecki, including some interesting art and video.
Easter Rabbit, Joseph Young. This is an IMPORTANT book. Some reviewer predicted early in Richard Brautigan’s career that he was creating a new genre, that one day we’d read novels, poems, short stories, and “brautigans.” He was right, even if common parlance has yet to catch up. Enter the new mode of writing: ‘joe-youngs.’ These are not flash fictions. They use very few words and often have a narrative suggestion, but they are are not tightly wrought nuggets. These joe-youngs exist beyond the reader’s, and I suspect the writer’s, control. The words prod and explore the essence of a moment. Barthelme could suggest a world with a few words. Instead, Joseph Young explores a pinpoint in a page. (I keep this on my desk when I write; I’d suggest you do the same.)
Light Boxes, Shane Jones. This is a beautiful and fun and melancholy and classic ‘brautigan.’ Continue reading
I’ve read over 120 books in 2009, and by the time the year is up I’ll have reviewed over fifty. At the risk of being redundant, I’ve put together a list of the books I thought were this year’s best. I’ve also included links to the ones I reviewed. But before that, I should mention some great books that weren’t published this year: Eugene Lim’s Fog & Car, Eugene Marten’s Waste, Mary Caponegro’s first three books, Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia, and Michael Kimball’s The Way the Family Got Away and Dear Everybody. And then there’s Shane Jones’s The Failure Six, David Shields’s Reality Hunger, and Ander Monson’s Vanishing Point, all of which won’t be released until next year. By the way, while the so-called major presses churned out a whole lot of fluff I did enjoy John Haskell’s Out of My Skin and Anne Michaels’s The Winter Vault. Oh, and I should mention The Complete Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino which is playful and inventive in that inimitably Calvino way. Each chapter is a combination of pseudo-science (as far as I can tell) and fantasy—a weird mishmash of fable and fact. They sound like entries from an encyclopedia sometimes, albeit a whimsical one. This was the best way to close out the year. So, besides beautifully-crafted language, eddying narratives, evocative imagery, and provocative characters—whose quirks, thoughts, and comings and goings remain with me—what the books on this list have in common is that they were published by independent presses.
Michael Kimball and Joseph Young talk about words. Thirty of them. These words from Young’s Easter Rabbit:
As she read essays, she plaited one side of her hair. You’d last forever, he said, up from his puzzle. The green light of some vehicle tracked across the ceiling.
I love the kind of obsessive attention to words found in this interview. I’m also interested in consecution and recursion, and the acoustical properties/relations of sentences in general. Does anyone know of any essays/books besides Gary Lutz’s incomparable “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place” that treat this subject in an in-depth way?
From Adam Robinson:
Tis the season to celebrate the birth of Joseph Young’s first book, Easter Rabbit.
The party is at the Hexagon, in Baltimore (1825 N Charles St) THIS SATURDAY NIGHT.
It opens at 7pm, the show starts at 8:30.
It’s free, and the book will be available at a discount.
Before the show, there is art to look at — paintings and installations specifically made for the book.
There will be very short plays and very short songs. Free champagne.
I just went to the space where it’s happening and it looks really cool. I feel certain that this is going to be a winning event. Would love to see you if you’re in or around Baltimore.