Guest contributor David Dawkins on his literary highlights of the week
POETRY BOOK OF THE WEEK: Boycott by Vanessa Place (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Poet and criminal defense attorney Vanessa Place has continued her Boycott project with a slipcase of three booklets taking iconic feminist texts and eliminating all reference to women and that which is exclusively female. The gender specific pronouns and terms become uniformly male. For example, ‘…I write this as a man, toward men.’ The idea is that only through a singular sex can one fully grasp the truth that one is not born, but
rather becomes. Moma’s Poet Laureate and UbuWeb founding editor Kenneth Goldsmith has said that Vanessa Place creates, ‘ the most challenging, complex and controversial literature being written today,’ which brings me nicely to...
NON-FICTION OF THE WEEK: Seven American Deaths and Disasters by Kenneth Goldsmith (PowerHouse Books)
‘For the past twenty years, I’ve been fascinated with rendering the mundane in language,’ so says Kenneth, and in this small, pocket-size book are transcribed the breaking-news reports of national tragedies as they happened right there and then. The title comes from a series of Andy Warhol paintings for what is now a collection of prose poems, capturing the breaking moments in pop culture and American history - the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and John Lennon are transcribed along with the space shuttle Challenger disaster, the Columbine shootings, 9/11, and finally the death of Michael Jackson.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK: Melvin the Luckiest Monkey by Claudia Boldt (Tate)
Who knew the people at tote-bag supermarket, The Tate, had time for children’s books? Unsurprisingly they have a beautiful backlist of new and classic books and in their latest release award-winning children’s illustrator Claudia Boldt tells the story of Melvin the monkey. Needless to say it’s an epic tale of deep friendship and the importance of making your own luck. The Guardian call it, ‘a tour-de-force, a rare glimpse at the human condition in its most fractured and exposed state.’ So, so true.
SCI-FI BOOK OF THE WEEK: Robot Futures by Illah Reza Nourbakhsh (The MIT Press)
How will we share our world with robots? How will society change to incorporate a race of stronger, smarter beings? Will Robots be servants, or advertisers taking different forms, tracking our eyes and at all time physically and intellectually superior from the moment of their conception? In each chapter Nourbakhsh imagines a future from a technological standpoint and then explores the social consequences of each prediction. Exciting and frightening in equal measure, it makes me wonder if there will ever be a time in the future when robots become commonplace spoken about the same way as we do a kettle or a toaster?
EXPERIMENTAL BOOK OF THE WEEK: McNugget by Chris Alexander (Troll Thread Collective)
Lulu is a website that offers print on demand publishing to anyone who written a book and wants to see it in print. So yes, every boring memoir in the history of unpublished literature exists up there to be pulled down, printed and bound as a book for people to yawn into while traveling on the DLR. But also the doors are now open for some really experimental collage or derivative literature to make it out off the internet and into print. McNugget collects every mention of the work ‘McNugget’ on Twitter for the month of February 2012. If, as Ned Beauman suggests, an experimental book must ‘unshroud something recognisable and genuine about our shared experience that a traditional novel would have missed,’ then surely McNugget is more urgent and relevant than Moby Dick and the entire canon of western fiction? Go home literature, you’re drunk.
ART BOOK OF THE WEEK: Black Mountain College edited by Vincent Katz (The MIT Press)
Black Mountain College was a small school in North Carolina that has become known more widely as the most pretentious art school in the history of pretentious art schools. And that’s quite some boast. It’s best to just start with the names of its former faculty members and alumni - Ilya Bolotowsky, John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly amongst others. Guest lecturers included Albert Einstein, Clement Greenberg and William Carlos Williams. The book itself collects over 500 never-before-seen colour photographs and memories of former students and tutors including the poet Vincent Katz and the composer Robert Creeley.