two things tagged “books”

Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes B+

'Ice Haven' by Daniel Clowes

Birthday gift from TK. Sharp, vibrant, funny, and dark. The characters’ philosophical ruminations are self-indulgent and sophomoric and tedious. Don’t know if that was the point.

Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books by Georges Perec B+

'Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One''s Books' by Georges Perec

I remember complaining about having too many books to read at The Mill (RIP) in Iowa City, and getting a weary “We know” to my “Did you know the Japanese have a word for this?”

I remember telling them I’d resolved to have no more than, say, a hundred books on my shelves at any given time, and them telling me about an essay (or at least I think it’s an essay) in this book.

I’ve never come by anything by him before. Reading him is like watching a bee bob and weave and float around and just be and have fun. Words1 and ideas, lists and taxonomies: It’s a lot of serious whimsy.

Even if Georges Perec had not written a novel without the letter “E”—“La disparition,” later rendered into “E”-less English as “A Void”—he would still be one of the most unusual writers of the twentieth century. Among his works are a treatise on the board game Go, a radio play about a machine that analyzes poetry, an autobiography cast in the form of a novel about a city of athletes, an approximately twelve-hundred-word palindrome, a crypto-Marxist anatomy of consumerist Paris, a scrupulously researched history of a wholly fictional painting, a deeply eccentric bucket list (“buy a number of domestic appliances” and “travel by submarine” are among the entries), a memoir composed of four hundred and eighty stand-alone sentences that all begin “I remember,” a novella in which the only vowel used is “E,” a lyric study of Ellis Island, and, from 1976 until his death from cancer, in 1982, a weekly crossword puzzle for the newspaper Le Point. It would be hard to disagree with Italo Calvino that Perec “bears absolutely no resemblance to anyone else,” or with Perec himself, who said, in an interview a few years before his death, that he had never written the same thing twice.

Paul Grimstad, The Absolute Originality of Georges Perec, The New Yorker
  1. Translated from French but still. ↩︎