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/ubu Editions, Third Series: 12 New Titles

By Kenneth Goldsmith

UbuWeb is pleased to present our occasional but substantial ongoing series of full-length e-books, called /ubu Editions. Titles for this series include works by Steve Benson, Maurice Blanchot, Mairéad Byrne, Terence Gower & Mónica de la Torre, Dick Higgins, Bernard Nöel, Severo Sarduy, Claude Simon, Rosemarie Waldrop, Robert Wilson, and Monique Wittig. This new series of /ubu editions presents eleven out-of-print works from 1957 to 1994 – and also includes three newer titles (1999-2007). Of the historical republications, there are three works of poetry, three works of prose, one opera libretto, one work of critical theory, and one manifesto – though each piece blurs these genres. Seven were written in English, four appear in translation, and one is bilingual. Two authors could be considered language poets, two are associated with Tel Quel, one arguably initiated Fluxus, another arguably initiated the new novel. Four are women, nine are men. One title was changed for its /ubu publication. Series editor: Danny Snelson. All e-books are entirely free.
Full descriptions, links, and list of titles below the fold…


Bruce Andrews “Divestiture – A” (1994)
The choice: to be a catalog, or a cataloguer. Such examples can be multiplied. I only collect money, America is more astonishing. Husk. Cataloging phrasal fragments and reconfiguring verbal shells, Divestiture—A continues Andrews’ method of anasemantic editorial composition begun in the mid-eighties: a montage of heterogeneous constellations of words culled from vast collections of textual material jotted down over time. We see only the feet of the dancers, the de-socializing of language, never their whole bodies. As editing is the reading moment: the multimplication of material in Divestiture—A yields a thresholding surplus, a hyper-trophy of enjoyments: its post-personalizing thrill bursting from an energizing strangeness of interferences, interruptions, and diastrophic collisions. Now, even the lacunae are eloquent—plausible verbal models are quite easy to formulate. The unlikely pairing of radically disjunctive contexts and syntactically coherent prose (preminiscent of spambot computational processing) is formed precisely in the affirmation of rupture & divestiture. To understand too much is to destroy: the containers are distorters inevitably. The horizon-value of Divestiture—A emphasizes a political economy of full textual dissemination: Andrews cedes the original contexts of the collected material and relinquishes authorial control over illusory semantic value—in its place: the ecstatic pleasures of egalitarian exchange and productive reader-editor dialogue. The sounds are not enough—’no address,’ ‘in distress.’ Language speaks for itself. … I hate dealing with messages that may not have been intentionally transmitted delicacies of randomness.
Steve Benson “The Ball // 30 Times in 2 Days” (2005)
Saturday and Sunday, April 23 and 24, 2005, every hour on the hour, when my wristwatch alarm sounded, I wrote five minutes in a brown book Lyn gave me several years ago, as well as I could. This is the transcript, completed two weeks later.
Maurice Blanchot “The Last Man” (1957)
We can dream about the last writer, with whom would disappear, without anyone noticing it, the little mystery of writing. A dense, dream-like exploration of the extreme limits of this mystery, written some ten years prior to the Death of the Author, (though unpublished in English until thirty years later) Maurice Blanchot’s The Last Man (Le Dernier Homme, 1957) could be considered a narrative follow-up to The Space of Literature (L’Espace littéraire, 1955) or a fictional companion to the critical essays composing The Book to Come (Le Livre à venir, 1959). One can imagine an infinite conversation between these works: drifting wearily across abyssal alterities—the echo, in advance, of what has not been said and will never be said. But this sumptuous récit alone demands the reader’s full attention—marvelously, Blanchot writes what cannot be written without losing it as un-writable by writing it (Hans-Yost Frey, YFS, 1998). Narrating at the threshold of this impossible writing, The Last Man weaves a blurring of several prosopopetic characters towards a radical revision of the subject and the text. The prose itself never crystallizes into an unambiguous statement—Blanchot’s trangressive philosophy peculiar in the tantalizingly pleasurable suspension of the never-fulfilled promise of understanding. Reading happens in this continual absence of comprehension: instead, dense knots of delightfully paradoxical propositions and stupefying catachreses drive the reader on in the unconditional acceptance of the text that pierces, like a look that is too direct, the indeterminate prose, and makes all relations, and especially our relationship to time, absolutely precarious
Mairéad Byrne “SOS Poetry” (2007)
Within hours of its release SOS POETRY was wreaking havoc with readers’ sleep. Cathy Wagner checked her email just before bed & though she was completely wiped, eyeballs like raisins, read SOS POETRY straight through & laughed a lot & nodded a lot & went to bed with her eyeballs like GRAPES. The author’s daughter said: “ok i need to go to sleep so im going to stop reading the book now. let me tell you though…it is great. im sitting here laughing and crying at the same time. i love you so much.” Joseph Massey was more restrained: “This is wonderful. I’m perusing it now, as I type, while drinking some sort of mint tea — pleasurable.” Evie Shockley said: “you are totally on crack. : ) i’m laughing and cheering through my sleepless haze… .” And – proving that the effect lasted well into next day – Dodo said: “I spent a good part of the morning reading the book (When I should have been doing other things, but I was entranced).”
Terence Gower & Mónica de la Torre “Appendices, Illustrations & Notes” (1999)
This surreal and funny artist’s book is a collaboration between conceptual artist Terence Gower and writer Mónica de la Torre, who have created an anthology of meaningless book-marketing blurbs, reviews of dubious exhibitions, evil-spirited notes by editors, and obsessional letters addressed to a psychiatrist. Presented as an appendix of ancillary material to a fictitious book, the texts take referentiality to a level of Borgesian absurdity. The humor is dry and understated, and it is only upon rereading that the uncanny thread uniting the seemingly found and disjointed fragments becomes apparent. For anyone whose day-to-day encounters with discourse include texts riddled with jargon and psychoanalytical babble, Appendices, Illustrations & Notes offers the opportunity for sweet revenge.
Dick Higgins “Horizons” (1984)
In 1984, Southern Illinois University Press published two books as part of its “Poetics of the New” series: The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, ed. Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews and Dick Higgins’ Horizons: The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia. It should be noted that this title has been charged with “false advertising”—the essays composing this collection better understood as aesthetic manifestoes or reports from the front rather than a cohesive poetics or theory of the intermedia (Poetics Today, 1984). This indispensable collection includes writing on a wide swath of innovative work: from free metaphorical application of Gadamer’s “fusion of horizons” to exacting taxonomic configurations of experimental art across media up to and including Higgins’ serious reconfiguration of his monumental essay “Intermedia” (1965) from the vantage of 1981. Of particular note are inspiring chapters on visual poetry, music without catharsis, postmodern performance, and a charming “Child’s History of Fluxus.” Interestingly, the unifying strain of argumentation among these fragments, letters, and essays culled from small magazine publication in the late 70s and early 80s is a polemic against an increasingly capitalized Theory; throughout the work this rhetoric testifies to the unique alienation of Higgins’ milieu to the dominant currents of academic criticism. The principle value of Horizons, however (perhaps in spite of this polemic), is Higgins’ characteristic candor, taxonomic rigor, and prescient perceptions of cutting-edge, genre-blurring work.
Bernard Nöel “The Outrage Against Words” (1978)
Bernard Noël’s pamphlet The Outrage Against Words (as it’s translated in 1978) has seen a multiplicity of afterlives. Originally written in 1975 following the infamous attempted censorship of his spectacular Le Château de Cène, the manifesto asks: How can one turn their language against them when one finds oneself censored by one’s own language? First appearing in Paul Buck’s remarkable Curtains magazine before being picked up by the parallel political effort in the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E journal, the work was appended to the Atlas Press translation of The Castle of Communion in 1993, and most recently surfaced in Jed Rasula and Steve McCaffery’s UbuWeb-like tome Imagining Language (2001)—each reading changes it, according, of course, to the immediate state of the reader and his social context, but equally according to the relationship of these components with those which exist at the moment of the book’s composition. In every instance, the writing opens paradoxically: Screams. They begin again. I hear them. Yet I hear nothing. A meditation on the politics of erasure and potential of expression introduced through the impossible figure of the written cry. Perhaps one writes to erase? Noël struggles against bourgeois silencing—the encyclopedic ‘outrage against words’ that acts both through words and against them. The police are even in our mouths. A penetrating defense of polysemia, The Outrage Against Words is essential reading for the state of language and the politics of play.
Severo Sarduy “Big Bang “(1973)
Cuban émigré Severo Sarduy (1937-1993) is one of the most daring and brilliant writers of the 20th century. By the publication of Big Bang, Sarduy had become director of the Latin American collection of Editions du Seuil, a regular contributor to the influential Tel Quel magazine, and an important theoretician of the neo-baroque. /ubu is excited to reintroduce this resplendent cosmological poetry cycle in the original bilingual version printed by Fata Morgana in 1973. Sarduy’s interest in cosmology stems from a Foucauldian attention to shifts in the cosmological episteme made explicit by formal aspects of literature and the arts. Just as the development of the baroque ellipse was born of the confrontation of Kepler’s elliptical orbit with Galileo’s circular order in the 17th century, the modern theory of the expanding universe (in 1973, rooted in the discovery of the cosmic microwave background) introduces the polymorphic and movable center essential to modern literature. The theory of the empty center, the topology of the empty center, is going to reverberate in literature exactly as the theory of the ellipse resounded at a certain moment in the structure of the Gorgorine metaphor. Hijacking astronomical argot from “white dwarves” to “red giants,” Big Bang explodes from this empty center with an elliptic circumscription of parodic pseudo-charts and de-functionalized cosmological notions. The unique arc of Sarduy’s radial phenotext does not lead us to a pure and simple meaning, but rather, through a series of ellipses, of zig-zags, of détours, carries with it only a floating signifier—empty and polyvalent.
Claude Simon “Properties of Several Geometric or Non-Geometric Figures (1971)”
Originally published in 1971 as Les Corps Conducteurs, Claude has repeatedly noted that the real title (“abandoned for absurd commercial considerations”) of this work has always been Properties of Several Geometric or Non-Geometric Figures (see ‘interview’ in Diacritics, 1977). An unseemly title for Simon’s combine-novel, perhaps, but vastly more interesting considering its architectural arrangement: crisscrossing citations occurring and reoccurring, encoding and recoding each image in a Euclidean field of semantic reproduction. A sign for the particular sort of systematicity ruling the prose might be read from its partial publication in Tel Quel as The Properties of Rectangles. These changes in title mark the work more as a decentered network of passages inscribing a kaleidoscopic welter of images than as a polymorphic circumvolution of words as ‘conducting bodies’—the difference erected by the change in title is exactly that between Simon’s geometric composition and Silliman’s spiraling Tjanting. Instead, Simon weaves wandering sets of hesitations, fragmented documents, and unfinished conversations through rectilinear woofs. Here, the reader is obliged to consider (in a geometric sense) a grid of verbal events charted by a Lawrence Sterne-like constellation of ‘associations, contrasts, sideslips and oppositions.’
Rosemarie Waldrop “Shorter American Memory” (1988)
All Americans are also ambiguous. In 1937, Henry Beston assembled and edited an anthology of various historic sources titled American Memory: Being a Mirror of the Stirring and Picturesque Past of Americans and the American Nation. The gist: to weave historical documents together to ‘evoke the emotions and motives of those who made our memory.’ From this commonplace histrionic babble, Rosmarie Waldrop crafts her delicious comic critique, Shorter American Memory. Originally published in 1988 by paradigm press (a year after The Reproduction of Profiles, Waldrop’s stunning reworking of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations) Shorter American Memory applies a playful array of abbreviating manipulations to Beston’s collection. Unlike Waldrop’s more familiar signature of mixed original composition and embedded citation, Shorter American Memory is strict detournement‹the entire work consists of politically subverted, procedurally reprocessed fragments from the hegemonic narrative of American Memory. The twenty-two prose-poem revisions fall between disjunctive textual synthesis and nuanced hypotactic collage. Hear Waldrop read selections of Shorter American Memory at PENNsound here, or enjoy a small sample: We holler these trysts to be self exiled that all manatees are credited equi distant, that they are endured by their Creditor with cervical unanswerable rims, that among these are lightning, lice, and the pushcart of harakiri.
Robert Wilson “A Letter For Queen Victoria: An Opera” (1974)
The staggering Schizo-Culture issue of semiotext(e) (no. 2, 1978)—punctuated by Christopher Knowles’ patterned typings and childlike scribblings—features a brief interview of Bob Wilson by Sylvère Lotringer. Lotringer: How did you arrive at a theatre which is not based upon language? Wilson: I never liked theatre… Later I added words, but words weren’t used to tell a story. They were used more architecturally: for the length of the word of the sentence, for the sound. They were constructed like music. Wilson wrote the opera libretto for A Letter to Queen Victoria in 1974, two years before Einstein on the Beach. Most of the text is derived from a mechanical rehearsal process of performance and improvisation in “supportive dialogue” with Knowles’ spontaneously organized pseudo-geometric speech patterns. L: It seems to be very logically, even mathematically ordered although it may be futile to try to understand what that order actually is. W: Then I became more fascinated with him and what he was doing with language. He would take ordinary, everyday words and destroy them. They became like molecules that were always changing, breaking apart all the time, many-faceted words, not just a dead language, a rock breaking apart… Originally performed with scream songs, contrapuntal shouts, and heteroglossic murmurs—far removed and formally inscribed, this outstanding libretto still reads with the distinct verbivocovisual pleasure of anarchic verbal destruction and architectonic musical reconstruction.
Monique Wittig Les Guérillères (1969)
They say that in the first place the vocabulary of every language is to be examined, modified, turned upside down, that every word must be screened. /ubu is very pleased to present this sharp new edition of Monique Wittig’s ‘delectable epic of sex warfare.’ Originally published in 1969, Les Guérillères remains one of the most important experimental novels of the century. Concurrent with Wittig’s foundational role in the MLF and the birth of radical feminism, the significance of this work is momentous. A precursor of the Language maxim ‘to change ones language is to change one’s world,’ Les Guérillères functions doubly as politicized SF explosive and gender-neutering disarming device. One should remember that where David Le Vay writes “the women” (1971) Wittig wrote elles, not les femmes: significant in difference to the gendered pronoun, elles is without English equivalent. Here, every word is deployed in Wittig’s battle against the mark of gender. Linguistic shrapnel and fantastic invention, the delicious writing of Les Guérillères enacts a change to the language of the book, as they say, the world. Or, as Wittig has it: ALL ACTION IS OVERTHROW.
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Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, May 1st, 2007 by Kenneth Goldsmith.