on 27 October 2006
Fish. Well, that's what most people think of when they think of surreal literature, but this is more, much more, than that.
Until I discovered Georges Perec, and through him Oulipo, I was a happy consumer of mainstream literature. This book, though, has opened my eyes to the amount of literature that's out there that doesnt get the recognition it deserves.
Buy it. Read it. Hell, steal it if you have to, its worth a few months in jail for a life-changing experience isnt it?
More than surreal, more than literature, more than entertaining, more than mindfood, this compendium literally will open your eyes. Believe me, you will never look at the bookshelves in well known bookshops in the same way again.
Incidentally I wouldnt really condone stealing it, at least not when its as cheap as it is on Amazon now. Go on, treat yourself.
You owe it to yourself.
on 11 January 1999
Probably the best way for an English Language reader to get a sense of what Oulipo does at its best--you get to see how much more than a stunt the whole endeavor is. It includes much hard-to-find material, including a translation (!) of Queneau's One-hundrerd-trillion sonnets, and some neat experiments in severe overdetermination. It also includes the wonderful Skinhead Hamlet, by Richard Curtis. (Oddly, the editors--Harry Mathews is one of the major members of the workshop--say they can't track him down, but he's the screenwriter for Four Weddings and a Funeral, so shouldn't be too hard to find.) Lot's of interesting material on Georges Perec, and also on an American writer who wrote a novel in which no word is used more than once--a kind of hyper-Flaubertian enterprise.
on 30 January 1999
harry mathews and alastair brotchie have done something remarkable: structured a book according to its own logic. (rare, really.) the structure and content of this book will help clear the air of more than a few too-common brain farts, not the least of which is the opinion that formalism implies either exhaustion or conservativism. read this book. try some of the experiments. go get some of the other titles in the Atlas series. you will say fewer stupid things at parties, and care less about the times you do.
on 26 May 2010
Some of the entries are perhaps less interesting to writers than they would be to puzzle compilers or mathematicians. Having said that I think this book points the way to the future: Good writing often follows from observing some restriction. Over the centuries, 'natural' restricions have been removed or reduced. We can go back, but with restrictions of our choice not those inherited by convention. These restricions often produce completely new ways of writing. Removal may suggest a completely new way forward as well (a diferent form of de-restriction than we had ever thought of).