Tyrone Williams: Heretofore
c.c. reviews
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c.c. reviews
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Adventures of Pi reviews
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c.c. by Tyrone Williams, Krupskaya, 2002--Energetic, casually appalled rhetorically, politically/socially angry (for good reason), and lyrical bends of phrasings, conjunctive amalgams of abrupt acts, places, etc. Much theory and change of scene. Explosive at times, quieter at others. Terse ex-cursions.


                                                                           Esther Press (blogsphere)


From Publishers Weekly
In six sections-"Calling Cards"; "Carded"; "Called Card"; "Cold Calls"; "Who Is It"; and "Tag"-Tyrone Williams forwards ("cc's") some serious correspondence in c.c. Beginning with torqued Web search sampling that takes Bob Hope as symbol of old guard hegemony ("discombobulated/ status qua `ad lib'... Hope dressed up in another caper"), Williams moves through, successively, a "fetal,/ misshapened, delegged/ future `i'," "Not de gustibus but homegoing, via Heaven's Gate," and "a relic amid the rattle of Charleston subways." From the zingers and, putdowns emerges a remarkable sensibility that purposefully seeks and synthesizes out of the way histories, commemorating figures like civil rights activist Ola Mae Quarterman, dancer Arthur Bell and Hayes Williams, a prisoner whose conviction was overturned by DNA evidence. Cimino's cinematic failure is thus just one force propelling these missives.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.



Report: The Future Anterior as a Way of Thinking the Present



         What links here

Submitted by Rob Halpern on Fri, 11/14/2008 - 21:49. 


BARGE Buried Treasure Island documentation image 3Wednesday nite’s Nonsite event (11/12/08) at SF Camerawork with Amy Balkin and David Buuck was particularly gratifying for me because David’s and Amy’s works have been corresponding for a long time, if only in my head, and so this evening was the occasion for making an otherwise imagined conversation actual.

And that conversation seems to have realized many of Nonsite’s hopes to make manifest, as material for sustained discussion and investigation, some of the submerged lines of communication between projects located in disciplines often kept at some remove from one another: say, poetry and drawing, performance and social practice. The rich discussion that emerged during the Q/A made it clear that the investigations Balkin and Buuck are pursuing converge with many of the collective’s concerns and engagements, so there’s no doubt we will be following-up. In the short term, we are hoping to make an audio-file of the evening’s talks available here, soon, and perhaps there will be further discussion on the website as well. Stay tuned, too, for Kristin Palm's generous introduction. [read more at blog post]

While doing work in different media -- Buuck’s being linguistic, sculptural, performative and ‘dirt-specific,’ Balkin’s visual, interventionist, conceptual, and legal -- these two artists share a set of concerns that converge along a number of axes: the commons, local histories, public use, and the temporality of social action. For both, time itself becomes a critical social medium whose vectors of force penetrate and determine the shape of so-called “public space,” as their projects generate, and make use of, multiple social narratives. Many of Amy’s works, like *Invisible-5*, are spatial and durational, while others, like *This is the Public Domain*, are engaged with the temporality of legal processes and the citizen’s constrained agency therein. Similarly, *Public Smog* intervenes in the burgeoning market of carbon off-sets and maps the emergence of that neo-liberal commodity, whose value is tethered to corporate time.

By contrast, Buuck’s recent BARGE (Bay Area Research Group in Enviro-Aesthetics) project, *Buried Treasure Island*, bends our sense of social time by performing actions cast in atypical grammatical tenses to displace the past’s claim on the future. In his (de)tour guide, Buuck writes, “these are those things that *will have had to have been*, that *will have had to yet occur* in order for such performatives to be able to imagine themselves into being today. Thus the body becomes the vessel for acts of conceptual theater, site-specific performances that aim to have had liberated other futures from the husks of the present.” If you don’t yet have a copy of Buuck’s (de)tour guidebook accompanying BARGE’s Buried Treasure Island, check-out www.davidbuuck.com/BARGE/BTI.

So, while Buuck’s obsolete oil drums and gasoline pumps on Treasure Island will have been sculptural monuments from a post-oil future commemorating our yet-to-be-realized tomorrow, Balkin’s charcoal logo-rubbings from the signage of corporations nefariously involved in the nation’s terror machine, make visible the often invisible names and involvements which appear in “Sell Us Your Liberty or We’ll Subcontract Your Death” as shadowy epitaphs, invoking a moment when the invisible will have become the negative imprint of a memory, or the decaying trace of a nightmare.

At a time when the public sphere has consolidated itself as the organization of private interests, what might it mean to activate residues of past utopian dreams in the interest of other futures? And how might such a time- travel project potentiate site-based interventions in the logic of empire's temporality when the future as we know it appears like a catastrophic fulfillment of yesterday’s fantasy? I’ve been thinking a lot about, and working with, the future anterior tense for a while, specifically as a way of thinking the present. Tyrone Williams’s work has helped me considerably, so in the interest of contributing to some threads emerging from Wednesday nite’s event, I thought I would include here some fragments from a piece I’ve been writing (for too long now) on Williams's book *c.c.* (Krupskaya, 2002). But first, an excerpt from a letter I wrote to Tyrone after his book came out:

Dear Tyrone:

Maybe history isn't haunted by what happened, rather by what didn't happen. But, I think it's also haunted by what hasn't happened yet, the specter haunting from a future we're still unable to imagine.

You refer to "the possibility of disruption -- or permanent abortion," like a wrench in our unsustainable status quo, this possibility haunts our unsustainable present like a promise. It has to.

And in order for us to be faithful to that promise, don't we have to let our selves and our work be similarly haunted? You use the word "ghosted", or am I misremembering that? In any case, really possessed, not only by what didn't happen, but by something we can't imagine happening yet. The short hand for this i guess would be "another world", one whose futurity wouldn't be determined by dominant interests today. This might be a kind of “catastrophe,” but considering how the "unimaginable catastrophe" is the present we’re already living now, it would also be catastrophe’s antithesis.

But more to the point, it's yr use of the future anterior tense, the "what will have happened" that suggests to me a grammar that might inform a response to the crisis, granted a weak one, as it creates a rift in our understanding of what's happening, and traces a fault thru the present. It's a rogue tense, pressing on oblivion's horizon, reaching to break this continuum of catastrophe, or at least open a place from which to ask, "what will we have done to have made this other future?" I mean, what if this other future, the one beyond the privative horizon of private property, the one that breaks with empire’s temporality and is not a mere extension of the present, what if this future were somehow already here with us, haunting our bodies even like some as yet unnameable organ or sense?

Maybe what the present continuous was for Gertrude Stein, the future anterior is for us—the tense haunting our own "modern compositions," or at least our situation, the only tense that might promise to disrupt permanently the time of Empire, which the present continuous has become.


from: “Future Thens And Past Tomorrows:

Spectral History In Tyrone Williams’s *c.c.*”

<<The spatial/temporal lacuna insures the possibility of temporary disruption—or permanent abortion—of service, insures only the probability of successful enunciation, its own passing over. Cf.Paul Laurence Dunbar as an example of such disruption, failure,breakdown: “My voice falls dead a foot from mine old lips / And but its ghost doth reach that vessel / passing, passing.”>>

(Tyrone Williams, from “Cold Calls”)

This recalls a future “those___________…”
future then, future unannounced
however called for

Tyrone Williams, “Study of a Negro Head”

<<Thus it is doubly difficult to write of this period calmly…For here lies unwritten history.>>

W.E.B. DuBois, *The Souls of Black Folk*

<<I wish I could tenderly lift from the dark side of history, voices that are anonymous, slighted—inarticulate.>>

Susan Howe *The Europe of Trusts*


Despite the “end of history” triumphantly proclaimed by neo-liberal technocrats in the wake of geopolitical shifts nearly two decades ago, history continues to impose new demands on poetry today. This so-called “end of history”—co-terminus with the “ends” and means of global capitalism—haunts all of us together with our projects. Rather than disavowing that spectral referent and exorcising its ghost, Tyrone Williams’s c.c. sustains an active meditation on the question: what will “the end of history” not have been? Williams’s work activates the promise of a present that will not have been terminal—the promise of something other that “the end of history”—while proposing that this promise calls to us with some interpellative force from a future radically disjoined from our present tense. From the point of view of a future radically discontinuous with own present, something can be seen that we cannot quite see. By drawing this other time into relation, the poetry allows itself to be haunted by a tense that is not contemporaneous with any “now,” a history whose remains we already are.

As I hope to show by way of Williams’s work, the future anterior -- what will have been -- informs a poetry that courts its own mediation by a future that is not “our own.” From the strange vantage point of a “future then,” the so-called "end of history” becomes legible as nothing more than history’s current dominant ruse.

It is the anterior future that is operative here. The tongue that will have spoken of this future, together with the language and the labor through which it will have emerged, do not yet exist. But they will have arrived, eventually. And the site of such eventuation, like that of the disfigured “i” who will have spoken of it, is the misprized site of a violent elision in the present, the site of an “inaudible howl,” that cold and unidentifiable call toward which it is *c.c.*’s calling to orient us.


         Rob Halpern's blog


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Tyrone William's poetry, in a tradition of poet-scholars, requires research to understand it to its fullest extent, and yet does not require research to enjoy it, and to benefit from its meaningful critiques. These critiques are obviously of race, and the legacies of African Diaspora; yet, in more complicated fashion, are also of the ways race lines up with gender, sexuality, nationalism, and class implicating language in struggles for power. Having grown-up on Identity Politics in the 80s and 90s, I appreciate so much the way that Tyrone’s work refuses to subsume politics under the name of “identity,” and poetry under the qualifier “experimental”. While Tyrone’s critique of identity is practical in C.C. (Krupskaya, 2002), and extremely playful (take the poem which opens C.C., “Calling Cards,” featuring found language from Google searches of Bob Hope), something which grounds it is an extremely productive engagement with Deconstruction, and Deconstruction’s pre-history in Emmanuel Levinas’ ethical philosophy.

For the past couple months I have been testing the idea of the “killer app.”—an idea gleaned form Silicon Valley. In computer cultures, a killer app. (short for killer application) is "any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology" (Wikipedia, "killer application," 1/26/2009). While Derrida’s notion of the ‘trace’ is endemic to Levinas’ Jewishness, and the Jewish experience of memorializing the Shoah through exegesis and testimony, ‘trace’ may find its larger killer app. through any number of struggles to discover conditions of possibility through mourning and memorialization.

Trace is that which is outside time—chronological time, time as it is tracked by official historical record—and yet immanent to it as disjointing event. So in Derrida’s book, Specters of Marx, Derrida relates trace through Hamlet’s declaration: time is out of joint. What Tyrone tracks through his own poetics—a poetics that confuses lyricism and illegibility, signifying with academic convention—are the traces embedded in his own autobiography: the writing of his life, which is something different than the inscription and codification of presumed identity.

To be for tracing vs. identifying (or playing-out an identity politics when the outcome is known in advance) is to constantly tease out the place in our social fabric where the citing of identity gives way to a larger critique of interpellation (the hailing of the subject as the ultimate ‘call back’). Likewise, by citing the trace—as Tyrone literally does through the poems of his second book, On Spec (Omnidawn, 2008) in which he juxtaposes a reading of Derrida’s The Gift of Death with short essays on Richard Pryor, Jimmy Webb, and Ralph Ellison—Tyrone situates trace as a condition of possibility for poetry qua cultural criticism and discrepant historiography (history that tells it slant).

Why am I so moved by this “poem” that juxtaposes a fairly straightforward, yet concise, gloss of Derrida’s chapters in the The Gift of Death with short essayistic fragments on African-American cultural-political discourse? Perhaps it is because in being placed beside one another these texts should have a dialogue, that, reading the secondary literature besides Tyrone’s original text, I can not help thinking Tyrone is performing the operations to which Derrida’s vigorous theoretical apparatus refers more effectively than Derrida himself. The deconstruction of Blackness as presence, logos, plenitude, essence; the interruption of Heideggarian metaphysics by Black Particularism.

Tyrone’s work also moves me to wonder whether community can be formed out of despair, and whether despair, “sublime despair,” shall finally overcome. I wonder this after Tyrone’s poem “I am Not Proud to be Black,” a poem I feel the importance of that much more since the election and inauguration of Obama. “Not called and not called back” goes the first line of the poem’s tenth section: a play, obviously, on not being called back by a potential employer, but also, as the epigraph of C.C. goes (Emily's Dickinson's final letter/epitaph), to the dead, and from the ways the living are interpellated inversely through social death—the exclusions and slightings which define one’s life in the margins.

Can community be born out of shame, ressentiment, melancholy? Can abjection be productive, even creative, for struggle? Why shouldn’t we embrace despair, as that which binds communities and singularities; or trauma, which hurtles us back to past possibilities, future anteriors and futures perfect? Constellating Tyrone’s work with the work of Taylor Brady, Rob Halpern, Judith Goldman, kari edwards, Jocelyn Saidenberg, and others, I wonder the fate of “bad feelings” as they also found the socius, and the extent to which Obama’s election—bolstered by the slogan “Hope”—does not offer yet another false promise for the fate of all identities, and the political pursuit of identification’s eclipse.

What the slogan “Hope” smoothes over, and what the poets I mention here will not stand for through their work, is the idea that any social fabric should cease to produce antinomy, antagonism, and struggle (i.e., that it should successfully assimilate and synthesize difference, or foreclose antinomy as that which motivates and produces the social). So the poet descends into negativity—they become “negatively culpable” to borrow Steven Cope’s witty play on Keat’s terminology—and what is left over is the subject itself—the subject as remnant, as affirming lack. Tyrone’s work, like Rob’s or Jocelyn’s or Judith’s or kari's or Taylor’s, relates a tenuous community. A community founded less on the recognition that we are all “one,” or that we “hope” collectively, or that we resolve the lacuna of our identifying features any time soon, so much as how to produce social action by activating our lacks, lacuna—the very incommensurability of ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘us’. To truly be “called back” is this: to be interpellated by our shared condition which is language. Tyrone William’s poetry bears out the consequences of the interpellated, therefore implicated, subject through perfectly pitched and modulated lyrical address.



Volume 57, Number 1


Textual Prostheses

"Prosthesis" belongs to a class of terms denoting arbitrary processes, whose intrusion

into the realm of language should be viewed with suspicion.

—Thomas Le Marchant Douse

There are books in which the footnotes . . . are more interesting than the text.

—George Santayana

Nobody is going to believe that footnotes changed Writing and Reading. But they did.

—Heriberto Vepez

IN SEUILS, GERARD GENETTE inventories those genres on the threshold of a

literary work: dedications and inscriptions, epigraphs and tides, prefaces, notes,

and all manner of bibliographic accouterments—from Jacket copy to format.

Genette argues that "a text without a paratext does not exist," but he also mentions,

in passing, that "paratexts without texts do exist, if only by accident" (3-

4).' Paratexts without a text—paratexts as texts, one might put it—have also been

written quite intentionally, however, and they constitute a remarkable trend in

contemporary writing. While drawn from diverse contexts and written in apparent

obliviousness to their precedents, these works all stage a related set of tensions:

between literal and metaphoric language, between the etymological history

of words and the amnesia of their colloquial usage, between the form of a work

and its ostensible themes. By attending to the materials and rhetorics of these

paratextual works, I hope to show that those tensions gesture toward the

embodiedness of these literary works' bibliographic forms, and to the textual

corporeality tbat all sucb paratexts sustain as they seek to supplement, support,

and displace tbe body of tbe text.

On 17 October, 1961, at 3:47 p.m., Daniel Spoerri stopped wbat he was doing

and made a map recording the location of all tbe objects that happened to be

lying on bis kitchen table. Eacb outlined shape was tben numbered and described

in a corresponding note with tbe mock precision of one of Robbe-Grillet's

' For slightly different formulations of the idea of the literary paratext, see Genette's Palimpsestes,

Susan Vanderborg's Paratextual Communities, and Vincent Colonna's nicely titled "Fausses Notes."


nouveaux romans. Published as the Topographie anecdotee du hasard (Anecdoted Topography

of Chance), subsequent editions included notes to the notes—as many as

eight degrees of annotations by as many authors—in a self-reflexive network of

emendation,^ In addition to the sober, ostensibly scrupulous, dead-pan documentary

that records details about the objects on the table—such as the fineprint

on the labels of packages, the cost of items, and the date they were

purchased—the notes include more discursive anecdotes about the circumstances

under which objects were acquired and used, reminiscences and arguments

among the writers, copies of their correspondence, transcripts of interviews,

scholastic disputes, corrections and clarifications, obscure passages from literature

and scrapbook clippings from contemporary newspapers, notes on translation,

interlingual puns, dirty jokes, and, in some of the later editions,

extraordinary, entbused passages from Dieter Roth that interrupt tbe expository

tone ofthe original with hallucinatory extended metaphors and Steinian syntactic


The Topographie thus amplifies a long-standing tension between two competing

and contradictory rhetorical traditions that have taken tbe genre of tbe note

as tbeir vehicle: tbe personally expressive and the objectively impersonal. On tbe

one band, tbe note bas always been an anecdotal site that attracts speculative,

conjectural, and incidental remarks; it is often the occasion for undocumented

testimony or confidential asides—or even, too often, tbe irrepressible inclusion

of material too dear to the writer to part with and yet not really germane to tbe

topic under consideration. On the other band, tbe note, and tbe footnote in

particular, was seen to oppose tbose "particular, anecdotical traditions, whose

original authority is unknown, or justly suspicious" (Bolingbroke 337), Accord-

^ The proliferation of varied books under the same title pushes the distinction between different

editions and entirely different books to the limit, as even the briefest bibliography will suggest. The

first version of the Topographie Anecdotee du hasard was published as a catalogue of sorts for one of

Spoerri's exhibitions (Paris: Editions Galerie Lawrence, 1962), with text by Spoerri and collaborative

additions by Robert Filliou. The book was apparently translated into Dutch in 1964, although I

have been unable to locate a copy. An expanded English edition, an anecdoted topography of chance

(New York: Something Else Press, 1966), with sketched pen and ink illustrations by Roland Topor,

was translated and annotated by Emmett Williams, with an excerpt appearing the same year in The

Paris Review. A German edition, Anekdoten zu einer Topographie des Zufalls (Neuwied: Luchterhand,

1970), was expanded yet again, though with the illustrations omitted, and translated—from the text

ofthe first French edition and the notes ofthe Enghsh edition—by Dieter Roth (then "Diter Rot"),

who added his own annotations, A facsimile of the original French edition was published by the

Archives of the Centre national d'artcontemporaine (Paris, 1972), and that version ofthe book was

subsequently reprinted in a new edition with a new introduction by Topor (Paris: Centre Ceorges

Pompidou, 1990), Most recently, a newly expanded and reannotated English edition, with the illustrations

restored, was published in an oversized format as a sort of genetic text that brings all of the

earlier variants together: An Anecdoted Topography of Chance, Atlas Arkhive Four, Documents of the

Avant-Garde (London: Atlas Press, 1995); all citations in this essay are to this edition. In addition to

a trade edition Atlas also published a limited deluxe edition, and there was both a hard and soft

cover version from Something Else Press, The map of the table was printed differently by each of

the presses.

On the significance of the format of the Something Else edition, with implications for the reading

ofthe new Atlas edition, see Silveira (169), Additionally, compare the new schematic layout of

the Atlas edition with Thomas McFarland's description of Eduard Fraenkel's book on Horace as

"one giant footnote of 460 pages, with footnotes to that footnote cascading magnificently down the

bottoms of those pages" (159),


ingly, notes came to be understood as tbe proper repository for material beyond

the writer's personal autbority: recourse to tbe work of otber writers, evidentiary

and corroborative bulwark, tbe foundation of objective facts, and citations in a

standardized—and often imposed—system. At the same time, tbe association of

tbe footnote with scientific objectivity was "virulently contested in the early modern

period," and tbe tension could still be felt in tbe opposition in the early

eigbteentb century to designating tbe note as either "a vehicle for displaying the

critic's taste and breeding" or "a quasi-scientific system for displaying the vicissitudes

of textual transmission" (Tribble 229-30), Indeed, "even eigbteentb-century

empiricism was content witb weaker positions tban tbose adopted by the triumphant

positivists of tbe following age" (Cosgrove 130-31),

To "note," of course, is to observe closely, and tbe conceit ofthe Topographie is

that it pays meticulous attention to objects tbat would otherwise go unnoticed:

bread crumbs and grains of salt, a stray paperclip or rubber-band, an empty botde,

a torn carton, a cracked asbtray, and so on,' Witb its exbaustive and careful analysis

of a depopulated mise-en-scene in whicb everyday objects are recorded at a certain

moment, frozen wberever they happen to be, tbe Topographie has some kinsbip

with tbe attention a detective gives to the disposition of clues in a crime

novel. Indeed, the structure of tbe book—witb tbe textual and typograpbical

attention lavished on each individual entry—promises revelations about tbe significance

of the noted objects, wbicb are imbued witb an aura of mysterious

immanence. In tbe end, however, the anecdotes fail to divulge any especially

interesting secret histories; tbe banal accounts of quotidian objects ultimately

reveal tbem to be, in fact, rather ordinary. But tbe book sets in play a dynamic

between everyday utility and detached observation tbat is nevertbeless quite interesting.

In a sense derived directly from the Old Icelandic nota, to "note" also

means to make use of something, so it is ironic tbat tbe cartographic notes of tbe

Topographie suspend tbe use of tbe objects noted. However, botb tbe "useless"

objects on tbe table top (spilled salt, burnt matcbes, torn paper bags, et cetera)

and tbe utilitarian objects frozen in place and rendered unuseable are re-motivated

by tbe project of mapping and anecdodng, activities in whicb tbey once again

serve a definite purpose, Tbe Topographie reflects explicitly on tbis cycle, botb

witb its note tbat tbe word "floccinaucinibilipilificadon" (tbe estimation of something

as worthless) might be used in a way in wbicb it was in fact considered

wortbless, and witb Dieter Rotb's series of speculations on tbe contest between

"attention" and "use," in wbicb the objects in Spoerri's book oscillate between

"artwork" and "commodity," conservation and consumption (50; 61-62), Specifically,

Roth argues that "one can call symbols discarded commodities, because

commodities—so long as you need tbem—lead an unconscious or unseen life"

(149), We will see this dynamic recast in yet another form, as tbe alternation

between tbe literal and metapboric comes to cbarge tbe artist's book witb its

distinctive cbaracter, and in wbich notation itself vacillates between symbolic use

' The recurrent dairy products mentioned in the Topographie—a "half-litre bottle of milk," a "quarter

of a pound of butter," "the corner of a half-litre container of milk," an empty milk carton—may

not be incidental. "Note," the English translator of the Topography might have noted, is a dialect

term for cow's milk (O.E.D.).


and commodified referent, but for now I want to recall the similar logic of an

artist's book from precisely the same moment In Marcel Broodthaer's sculpture

Pense-bete (1964), books of his early poetry, bound sbut by being set in plaster,

can either be the subject oi attention (contemplated as sculpture) or of M^e (opened

and read)—but not both.

Tbe Topographie belongs to wbat Johanna Drucker bas identified as a documentary

tradition of artist's books (335), but it can also be read in a broader

literary context that includes botb the ancient trope of tbe epic catalogue and tbe

much more recent lists and inventories of conceptual writing. Tbe Topographie

bas a place in tbe tradition of "literary" footnotes originating in Edmund Spenser's

self-glossing apparatuses in tbe Shepherd's Calendar and stretcbing from eigbteentbcentury

examples in tbe works of Pope, Swift, Fielding, and Sterne to tbe modernist

notes of Eliot, Joyce, and Beckett, and later to books by Vladimir Nabakov,

bp Nicbol, Manuel Puig, Nicbolson Baker, and Mark Danielewski, among many

otbers.'* Tbe arcbasology of tbe tabletop is itself a recognizable literary motif. In

George Perec's "Notes concernant des objets qui sont sur ma table de travail"

(Notes Concerning tbe Objects tbat are on My Work-Table), for instance, Perec

describes a table "cluttered almost to excess," wbicb be documents witb a combination

of anecdotes and precise descriptions not unlike Spoerri's annotations.

Similarly, tbe theme is tbe occasion for a tour-de-force paragrapb early in Thomas

Pyncbon's Gravity's Rainbow, Tbe passage begins witb the

millions of tiny red and brown curls of rubber eraser, pencil shavings, dried tea or coffee stains,

traces of sugar and Household Milk, much cigarette ash. very fme black debris picked and flung

from typewriter ribbons, decomposing library paste, broken aspirins ground to powder. . .

and surfaces upward and outward to tbe News of the World—an expansive sounding

terminus, altbough its actual presence, Pyncbon suggests, is only speculative.

And besides, he adds, it too migbt bave "been tbrown away" (18).

Discarded refuse, as it bappens, is one of several inspirations Spoerri bimself

bas claimed for tbe Topographie project. Fascinated witb tbe idea tbat one "could

retrace tbe history of every scrap" of garbage in a wastebasket, Spoerri acknowledges

tbe precedent of the/JowfeWei ftrasbcans) ofArman (Armand Fernandez),

wbo created bis sculptures informes by displaying the contents of various people's

garbage cans in museum vitrines (Anecdoted 25). Or worse: for an infamous 1960

exbibit entitled LePlein (Cbock Full), Arman filled tbe entire Galerie Iris Clert

with trash that be must bave been saving—with a really ratber toucbing sentimentality—

for some time. Tbe Topographie similarly salvages wbat, by 3:48 on

tbat day in October, migbt well bave been detritus. The book displays tbose disposable

items as "the discrete heroes of a modern romance whose destiny leads

to tbe dustbin" (21), so tbat "amidst tbis anecdotic mine/Tbou labour'st hard to

bid thy Hero shine" in this neo-epic catalogue of tbe transient and banal (qtd. in

O.E,D., at "anecdotic"). At the same time, the compositional procedure of the

book is clearly related to Spoerri's contemporaneous tableaux depiege (snare paintings)

: sculptural collages in wbich the contents of a surface such as a tabletop are

affixed witb adbesive, so tbat the support can be rotated ninety degrees and

bung on the wall. That rotation botb defamiliarizes tbe generally ordinary ob-

*' For a discussion of the literary footnote in Romantic poetry, see Labbe.


jects, which now jut outward just above eye level, and translates tbeir sculptural

forms from tbe borizontal ground of gravity to tbe easel painting's vertical plane.^

A darker version of a carefully arranged tabletop presented as sculpture (altbougb

one tbat still maintains a bealtby dasb of the absurd) was assembled by Robert

Watts at precisely tbe same time Spoerri was composing bis topography. Watts'

Table for Suicide Event (1961) consisted of a painted wooden folding table supporting

a number of objects, from tbe cbilling (assorted metal instruments in a

leatber case, a single latex glove) to tbe ominous (a drinking glass, an apotbecary

botde, note paper, telephone, and some audio tape) to tbe cruelly campy

(a Band-Aid box).

Comparisons witb any of tbese various intertexts migbt be pursued productively,

but one sbould not lose sigbt of tbe way in wbicb tbe publication of Topographie,

witb its near rbyme of "typograpby," puts tbe format of tbe book into

dialogue witb its style. Witb individual items inventoried on separate pages as if

tbey were eacb wortby of equal attention, the layout of tbe book empbasizes one

of the denotations of "anecdote": a detached narrative of a single incident or

event "told as being in itself interesting or striking" {O,E.D.), At the same time,

Topographie anecdotee is a sort of etymological oxymoron; "anecdote," from tbe

privative Greek anekdota, originally meant "secret histories" or "unpublisbed material"

(O.E.D.). A similar bistorical pun also causes tbe subject and format of tbe

Topographie to coincide: despite its record of cbance, tbe tabletop is not a coincidental

subject for a keyed reference map; in their bibliograpbic sense, "index"

and "table" were initially "applied somewbat indiscriminately" (Welliscb 206).

Witb its notes keyed to tbe tracings of a topograpbic map, Spoerri's book is

structured mucb like Andy Warbol's exactly contemporaneous simulation of a

paint-by-numbers kit,DoIt Yourself Landscape (1962), or Roni Horn's more recent

Still Water (the River Thames for Example) (1999), a series of offset litbograpbs in

wbicb tiny numerals are overprinted on images of tbe surface of tbe water, witb

corresponding footnotes printed below. But even tbese image-based systems of

annotation bave tbeir origins in tbe bistory of tbe book and tbe development of

the footnote as the dominant form of annotation. Al tbougb "tbe practice of linking

notes to text bad already been employed in glossed books by tbe late eleventb

century," the footnote bas its roots in tbe early modern dawn of printing (Parkes

139). As tbe commentary incorporated into printed books increased over the

course of tbe sixteentb century, tbese unkeyed marginal notes set more or less

beside tbeir relevant passages became increasingly crowded, confusing, and in

need of differendation, so "printers employed a series of letters in alpbabetical

sequence as signes de renvoi to link tbe notes to tbe text" (Parkes 57). Although

tbe typical number of glosses actually began to decrease in tbe late seventeentb

century, tbose keyed passages were also sbifting from tbe sides of tbe page to tbe

* Compare this practice with Jackson Pollock's roughly contemporaneous "drip" paintings, as well

as the reverse procedure of Marcel Duchamp's 1917 trebuchet (caltrop, literally a "stumbler"; the

word is also un terme de metier m chess for placing a pawn in the opponent's path): aset of mounted

coathooks taken off the wall and affixed to the floor to create a sort of sculptural trap.


bottom, so that "from a technical point of view, the great [codicological] innovation

of about 1700 was the choice of the footnote to the virtual exclusion of other

forms of printed annotation" (Jackson 55; see also Tribble 231 and Parkes 57).

Initially called "bottom notes" (the first entry in the Oxford English Dictionary,

from William Savage's 1841 Dictionary of the Art of Printing, implies that "Foot

Note" was still a secondary term in the middle of the nineteenth century), the

sequences of notae were repeated anew with each page, in contrast with our current

practice of continuous numbering throughout a chapter or book (Parkes

57).^ In either case, the footnote's focus on the page indicates its debt to the

history of the book and the shift from scroll to codex. Moreover, the increased

use of the footnote "appears to have been part of the printers' efforts to modernize

layout as they increasingly distanced themselves from the original manuscript

models" in which "comments surrounded the text, top, sides, and bottom, flowing

from it like the decorative acanthus that adorned monastery capitals and

liturgical mosaics" (Jackson 55-56; Cosgrove 139). Such designs carried over into

early printed books, in which compositors—as John Smith put it in his 1755

Printer's Grammar—"contrived to encompass the pages of the text, that they might

have the resemblance of a Looking-glas in the frame" (qtd. in Tribble 232): the

page, in other words, glossed to a reflective gloss. In contrast, the footnote was

seen to "mime contemporary ideals of order, coherence, beauty, and hierarchy"

in a neoclassical aesthetic of restrained elegance and an overall page design based

on uniform typefaces, with sections of text distinguished by size rather than font

(Tribble 232, 231, et seq). The footnote as we know it, then, is coeval with the

modern principles of book design that emerged with the Enlightenment.

Inextricably bound with this history, the modern typographical conventions

of annotation—following a section of text with the callout or indicator of a superscript

numeral—are inevitably associated with scholarly publications. Indeed,

the extent to which notes form the core of a critical text has recently been put to

the test by Simon Morris in his artist's book Interpretation, a bibliographic version

of site-specific art. Taking two academic essays, Morris erases everything except

the footnotes, which remain at the bottom of the page, their isolated call-out

numbers still suspended in the space above, like star-charts illustrating Mallarme's

"alphabet des astres" (98; "alphabet of stars"): writing's negative image of blackened

constellations on the bleached white sky of the page. Morris then gives the

writer of each essay the other's erased text, from which he or she attempts to

reconstruct the original essay from only the evidence of the notes. The notes are

thus the point of contact between the surfaces of the two—original and reconstructed—

essays, and the resulting similarities between the essays indicate the

extent to which notes are not merely isolated end points of reference; rather,

they gesture to the textual spaces between each other, carrying information about

their text as a whole.

Even without a network of notes as such, superscript still operates within its

own textual economy. In Walter Abish's short story "Ardor/Awe/Atrocity," for

example, the pages bristle with superscript constellations that spike and swirl

^ Before the word "footnote" was coined, Samuel Johnson spoke of notes "subjoined to the text in

the same page" (Lives 3.112; qtd. in H.J.Jackson 60).


over the alphabetic grid of the main text's larger lines—reminiscent of the numbering

added to Honore de Balzac's Sarrasine when it was reprinted in S/Z, Roland

Barthes' limit-case of structuralism. The twenty-six sections of Abish's story are

each titled with three headwords, grouped in alphabetized sets. Whenever one

of those words appears in the story, it is marked with a superscript number indicating

its place in the sequence of seventy-eight headwords, as in this sentence:

"Without Mannix Southern California' would be bereft of the distinction between

ardor,' awe^, and atrocity^" (45). The superscript numerals in Abish's story

send the reader not to a note, but self-reflexively back to the tagged word in a

circular relay. The numerals thus point to the status of the otherwise fairly conventional

story as text,'' and the erratic spacing of the superscript punctuates the

prose and trips the reader's eye with its "roughened, impeded" surface (Shklovsky

22). An empty formal system disrupting the ostensible "meaning" of the story,

these numerals are a perfect example of what Viktor Shklovsky termed priyomi

ostranennia (devices of making strange): those techniques by which poetry slows

the reader's habitual consumption of the communicative content. In Shklovsky's

famous formulation:

The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty

and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and

must be prolonged. (12)

Like Spoerri's patient notice of everyday objects, the superscript numerals in Abish's

story focus the reader's attention on generally quotidian vocabulary. "Atrocity,"

to be sure, is rather charged, but the single most striking headword is "totemic,"

and in general the noted words are not particularly exceptional: "now," "open,"

"how," "color," and so on. Whereas an actual note might have either augmented

the story or revealed something about the significance of a particular word, here

the system merely prompts the reader to speculate about lexicon: why, in this

idiosyncratic textual system, is any particular word a headword? What might be

special about the chosen word? To what extent does vocabulary determine a

story? Was this an exercise requiring the writer to use certain words, or were the

headwords chosen after the story had been essentially written?* Whatever the

answers (and none are forthcoming from the text), Abish's story is a good example

of the potential of even the quasi-footnote to simultaneously interrupt

and structure a text.

Whereas the text of "Atrocity" establishes a citational system without notes,

' In Shari Benstock's distinction, "critical" footnotes are essentially exophoric while "fictional"

footnotes are anaphoric: pointing back to the text to which they are keyed rather than outward to

another, cited work (209; cf 205, 207-8, et passim). This schematization is useful to a point, but

even "critical" footnotes are doubly articulated indices, hinged between the text they note and the

one they cite, looking—-Janus-faced—simultaneously at both. Further complications arise with cases

such as the numbered endnotes to an essay by Jean-Marie Gleize, which are not keyed to any particular

section of the article. The first note slyly explains that "les notes renvoient a n'importe quel

endroit du texte" (29; "the notes refer to any place in the text"), and, doubling the stakes of his

scholarly parlor-trick, "aussi bien a n'importe lequel de ses blancs" ("also to any of the white spaces

as well"). 1 am grateful to Genettefor bringing Gleize's essay to my attention.

"Abish's numbering was almost certainly not a strictly retrospective revision, since one suspects

that a word such as "xenophile" was generated by the formal need to include at least three words

beginning with the letter "x." The general principle, if not a strict procedure, is still indeterminate,



other books have enumerated notes without a text. The precedent for such works

is Gottlieb Wilhelm Rabener's satiric 1743 book Hinkmars von Repkow Noten ohne

Text (Hinkmars von Repkow's Notes Without Text), which reasoned that since

scholars acquire their cultural capital through footnotes that explicate other works

rather than through writing "primary" works themselves, a book with only footnotes

would be the fastest route to scholarly success (cf. Grafton 120) .'•• Although

the motivations have changed, the idea of a book of "notes without text" continues

to be attractive to poets and artists. Like Phillip Gallo's artist's book Captions

from Animals Looking at You, in which captions are reprinted without the illustrations

they originally accompanied, books of notes without text isolate one element

of the textual apparatus in order to lay bare and better understand the poetics of

the note and its function as a device. The note, as I have indicated, has its etymological

origins in denotations of "usefulness," but by obviating the intended value

of the notes in their original context and frustrating their functional utility, a

book can focus attention on what the Russian Formalists might have called "the

note as such." Or, to put this in the terms of more recent linguistics, these works

move the notes away from use and toward mention.

Indeed, when separated from the body of the text and taken by itself, even the

most earnestly objective and utile system of notes can appear as a paratactic prose

poem of "new sentences" that invite alogical connections—sometimes surrealist

or absurdist, sometimes simply nonsensical.'" David An tin's "Separation Meditations,"

which transforms the supplemental clarifications of an editor into evocative

and gnomic statements, provides a perfect illustration. Related by compositional

practice both to Antin's earlier Novel Poem, a collage of sentences transcribed

from popular novels, and to the constraint-based writing of his earlier "Meditations,"

which were composed from pre-set lexicons of severely restricted vocabulary,

the "Separation Meditations" were taken from some of the endnotes in P.E.

Matheson's translation of Epictetus." The opening stanza of the first "Separation

'The Reverend John Hodgson's//wtor)i of Northumberland, a heavily anecdoted "topographical

enquiry" (v), is one of the most infamous instances of the excessive use of annotations. While Zerby

overstates the case when he claims that an entire volume is given over to a footnote on the Roman

Wall, in the third volume of the second part of Hodgson's History (edited by James Raine), the

subtitle "Roman Barriers in Britain" is followed by a footnote that runs for 264 pages. The main text

continues to squeeze along at the top of the page in a trickle two or three lines wide for seventeen

pages, but then gives over entirely to the note—and to the series of notes within that note—for

the remainder of the volume. Grafton simply calls it "the longest footnote ever" (qtd. in Kevin

Jackson 155).

The satiric impulse behind Rabener's book has more recently surfaced in a series of essays mocking

the ossified conventions of law review articles. Tbe main text of Erik Jensen's excessively footnoted

"The Shortest Article in Law Review History" can easily be quoted in full: "This is it." Two

responses, also fully footnoted, set the record straight: Grant H. Morris's rebuttal "Not so!" and

Thomas H. Ohom's subsequent query "Why?" Beat at his own game, Jensen's "Comments in Reply"

is simply a blank page, without notes.

"• "Nonsense [is] the essential sense of the Marginal Note," as Edgar Allan Poe wrote (qtd. in

Lipking 609). With a phrase that resonates with the works considered in this essay, Lipking argues

that for Poe the ultimate attraction of marginalia was its "complete independence from the text,"

"glossing the white space of nothingness" (610, 611). For a discussion of the new sentence, see

Silliman (63-93 et passim).

" An tin must have used Matheson's two-volume Epictetus. His procedure might be seen as a riff on

Whitehead's often quoted (and rarely footnoted) remark that "tbe safest general characterization

of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato" (63).


Meditation," for example, is drawn from the notes to Chapter 24 of Book 3 of the

Discourses}'^ The first five notes in the original volume's appendix read:

1. The places where you now are.

2. probably refers to the story that Nicocreon ordered Anaxarchus' tongue to be cut out, whereupon

he bit it off himself and spat it in Nicocreon's face. Diog. Laert. ix. 59.

3. KapniaTri?—vindex or assertor, the man by the touch of whose wand the slave became free, if

his master made no counter claim. The word is used again in iv. 1 and iv. 7. For Epictetus' references

to mantimission cf ii., 1, note 3.

4. 5taxuat(; here and later in the chapter, of pleastire as something diffused or expansive (opp.

5. i.e. "take my life." (186)

From which An tin takes:

1. The places where you are now

2. A man who wanted another's tongue cut out

3. By the touch of whose wand the slave became free

4. Here and later of pleasure as something diffused

5. Take my life (66)

Isolating the small six-point type of the original in this way "is an attempt to

render the force of the diminutive" {Meditations 70). His procedure also illustrates

the fact that the codexical articulation of footnotes and endnotes—their

separation on the page and within the book—opens them up to reiteration. Ostensibly

outside the text that both contains and is framed by it, with a subservient

role that nonetheless possesses an authority to trump the text that would seem to

master it, the note is a dangerous supplement that establishes "the problematic

limit between an inside and an outside that is always threatened by graft and by

parasite" (Derrida 196).

In the new context of Antin's page, for example, the excerpted lines take on a

distinctly self-reflexive aspect, gesturing to their new context rather than to the

body text of their original volume. Consider another line from the first "Separation

Meditation," for instance: "The middle finger upraised" (68). The phrase

describes a vulgar gesture, of course, but it is also—like the separated notes themselves—

a sort of perverted index: the finger pointing with iconic significance

but not, as the forefinger would, to any specific referent. Moreover, the reader of

the poem's first line, "The places where you are now" (66), is indeed now in two

places: the words of one writer transplanted to a new location. With those glosses

cut out of the body of their original text, so that the reader is "reading/omitting"

(70), the amputated tongue of the second line is far from gratuitous, as a gloss of

the Greek yAwaaa (tongue) reminds us (an etymology all the more salient given

the context of the classical text from which his separations are taken).

After the first two poems in the series, Antin works with much smaller fragments

of found text, typically only one or two words, which he repeats and re-

Following Antin's slip of the tongue (a mis-placed gloss, as it were) that his volume of Epictettis

was "open to the footnotes" (Selected 19), one scholar has also referred to the source of the separations

as footnotes rather than endnotes (Glazier). I recognize that this is an exceedingly pedantic

distinction, and what mtist sound like a lot of fuss o\er Fussnoten, but I hope that the small force of

the difference will be clear by the end of this essay.

'^ More pedantry, just for the record: in his introduction to the Selected Poems, Antin cites the

origin of his first line as a verbatim transcription, but note the slight final inversion.


combines into spare lyrical permutations, so that the entire series is a recognition

of poetic "pleasure as something diffused" (66). The formal integrity of

those first two poems, however, is revealing and sustained; the stanzas almost

always correspond to the chapter divisions of the original's notes, and one can

trace Antin's reading through the endmatter of the original volume. While in the

first poem, lines are taken from notes without regard to their order within a

chapter, in the second poem, the lines more closely follow the order of the notes,

beginning with the very first sentence of Matheson's first note to Chapter 1, and

tending to move from chapter to chapter as well as from note to note within each

chapter. Both poems follow the spatial logic of typography, which separates keyed

material, rather than the associative logic of theme or tone; "the point is that the

discourses are treated as matters of language without regard to their substance"


Even when he transcribes sentences in their entirety and closely follows the sequence

of the notes, Antin's procedure is never mechanical, however, and the

small transformations of his transcriptions are telling. By replacing the original

verbal phrase "setting up" with the more prosaic "planting," for instance, Antin

alliterates the otherwise verbatim line "planting a palm tree seems to be mentioned

as an acrobatic feat" and syncopates its rhythm accordingly. He also tends

to edit lines so that their references are less specific. As the example above illustrates,

Antin typically omits proper names and precise referents, rendering "Caesar"

as "the king," for instance, and he thus transforms those original explanatory

notes into lines of text which themselves might benefit from a further gloss. At the

same time, this practice emphasizes the indexical force of the note and its status

as a linguistic shifter by suggesting a wider range of referents for the reader to

imagine ("Nicocreon," that is, indicates a more restricted set than those "who

wanted another's tongue cut out," however small one hopes that latter category

might be).

Separating the appropriated notes into small stanzas of two to six lines, Antin

exploits what Ron Silliman has called the "parsimony principle": the strong habitual

tendency by which readers try to incorporate even the most radically

paratactic sentences into a coherent explanatory framework, imaginatively supplying

any necessary logical connections in the process (109 et seq). Given that

—according to Antin—readers have an instinctual desire for "freedom from logical

error or a secure judgement" (68), and that "no step can be taken without

logical process" (69), the separations' "governing principle/is rational/which

makes knowledge articulate" (71), and they suggest that "truth is/of many alternatives/

only a corner/where a fact happens to stand" (71). Moreover, Antin typically

arranges his lines in numbered tercets to suggest a syllogism. In fact, one of

the sections of the poem neatly describes and enacts its syllogistic form:

1. With one another

2. Or any two

3. With a third (68)

With a nice irony, Antin thus gives a scholastic form to material from a work that

is explicitly concerned with the seriousness of reasoning and the careful analysis

of syllogisms, which—it argues—must not be followed too blindly (see esp. DisTEXTUAL


courses 1.7). In brief, his separations underscore the claim that "a convincing

impression [...] is not a criterion of truth" {Mediations 67).

It is worth remembering that however convincing an impression the letterpress

edition of Antin's Meditations might make, it is not, following Johanna

Drucker's useful delineation, strictly speaking an "artist's book." According to

Drucker, "an artist's book is a book created as an original work of art rather than

a reproduction of a pre-existing work" (2). Although the "Separation Meditations"

derive from the formal aspects of the book and demonstrate the poetic

value of paying attention to the supposedly incidental and secondary bibliographic

aspects of books, his work is ultimately published as a reproduction rather than

an exploitation of bibliography. True to their name, the "separations" are in fact

twice removed: first from the body of the texts to which they refer, and then

again from the logic of the page on which they originated. This is certainly not to

fault the poems, which gain their syllogistic logic, riddling tone, stanzaic form,

and lyric rhythm from that double separation; but the difference between his

book and similar works is, as I hope to show next, illuminating.

At the heart of Drucker's definition is the conceptualization of the artist's book

as "a book which integrates the formal means of its realization and production

with its thematic or aesthetic issues" (2). "Self-conscious about the structure and

meaning of the book as a form," the artist's book, in short, "interrogates the

conceptual or material form of the book as part of its intention, thematic interests,

or production activities" (Drucker 4, 3)." Following this argument, I want

to consider several works which might not readily be recognized as "artist's books"

(because of their production values, distribution, and the social networks in which

they were produced) but which nevertheless conform to Drucker's characterization.

In these works, the most metaphoric and the most literal understanding of

bibliographic apparatuses can be seen to underwrite the logic of their content as

well as their form. As with the books by Antin and Spoerri, these books also take

their place in a long literary tradition of incorporating paratextual apparatuses.

Within poetry, for instance, one might think of the "Explanatory Notes" that

appear, without indicators, on the lower half of the pages in Jack Spicer's "Homage

to Creeley," or the similar diptych layout of Bruce Andrew's "Getting Ready

to Have Been Frightened." Tyrone Williams's "Cold Calls" renders its appropriated,

collaged, and recontextualized language as a citational system of footnotes

hugging the bottom of the page and referencing endnotes; presented directly in

this way, without introduction or the advance notice of contextualizing hypotaxis,

these poems are indeed cold calls in the marketing sense, but they are also "called

out" in the publishing sense of the phrase (as when a letter or numeral is used to

" Vincent Colonna argues that Georges Perec's use of notes "s'attaque a la materialite du livre, a

la denegation de son support materiel mais parce qu'en exploitant des possiblilites paratextuelles

inusitees dans les oeuvres de fiction, ell deplace ce qui fait notre logique de la lecture, en particulier

pour ce qui est de I'instanciation du discourse litteraire" (108; "grapples with the materiality of the

book, with the denial of its material support, but by taking advantage of the unexploited paratextual

possibilities in fictional works, it displaces that which constitutes our logic of reading, specifically

that which is the instantiation of literary discourse").


indicate relations within a larger design, such as the labeled parts of a diagram,

or when a superscript asterisk indicates a note) and "cold" in the senses of the

"detached" and "objective" of citation that they echo. Yet another example, from

a quite different perspective, is the beautiful Cronicas Brazileiras by Critical Art

Ensemble, an intricately structured book that backs its accordian-fold pages with

Annotations to Cronicas Brazileiras in a play of sheet against page. Unlike any of

these works, however, the books I want to examine here all explicitly thematize

their structure.

The first of these books is Jennifer Martenson's Xq28', Taking its eponymic

title from the chromosomal location of the purported "gay gene," the work addresses

the competing implications of developmental models of nature and nurture,

or "the ratio of biological to cultural factors" (5), as she puts it. Indeed, the book

balances genetic codes with codes of conduct, the code of the X-chromosome

with the codex. The thirteen interior pages of this twenty-page stapled booklet

are left largely blank, although they are set with headers and footers as if awaiting

their contents. At the bottom of these pages a dozen cross-indexed footnotes

appear to follow not so much from some erased text as from the superscript "1"

of the book's title, and then to proceed from numbered note to numbered note

as footnotes within footnotes direct the reader forward and backwards through

the bottom of the chapbook's pages, tooping back on themsetves with humorous

and telling coincidence. Both "probability" and "real," for instance, point to the

same explanatory note: "Usuatly defined as statistically significant obedience to

faulty premises..." (8). Likewise, following "the long, twisted strands" of Arachne's

"spidery [. . .] threads" through the maze of notes leads readers from both

"banned" and "normal development" to the same definition: "this process is known

as indoctrination" (9, 8, 14, 13, 15). "Women" and "the popular imagination" are

similarly both glossed by "a dense, fibrous tissue" (6, 17, 13). Three notes all

return to the explanation that "while the spines are relatively durable, the information

stored within can be banned at any time" (14): the "destruction of [. ..] manuscripts"

(11); "perfectly average figures of speech" (16); and narratives banded

"tightly with strands of DNA" (6-7). As with the genetic code in question, a limited

vocabulary of building blocks proliferates into a variety of mutating sequences,

folding back on itself in a literal replication. Moreover, the self-sustaining notes

continue to function in a book that has, allegorically, questioned reproduction.

Recognizing how "numerous experiments have demonstrated that narratives

have the ability to bond tightly" (6-7), Martenson grafts idiomatic phrases to

sentences so that different themes and registers are spliced in a sort of intellectual

surrealism. Best of all, her ear is attuned to fortuitous found phrases such as

"to reside on the very tip of the long arm of the X chromosome" (7), in which

the "long arm of the law" and the "tip of the tongue" recombine.''' In this way,

Xq28' bears a (family) resemblance to Rosmarie Waldrop's deft recasting of

Wittgensteinian propositions in books such as The Reproduction of Profiles and Lawn

'* The phrase appears in one of the concluding sentences to the research article that sparked the

debate of Xq28: "Our experiments suggest that a locus (or loci) related to sexual orientation lies

within approximately 4 million base pairs of DNA on the tip of the long arm of the X chromosome"



of the Excluded Middle, and like these works Xq28' hinges on its carefulty modutated

handting of tone, a subject wittily and obliquely invoked in the phrase "experts

have long advised regular exercise of subtle forms of sexual dimorphism

lest the muscle grow fiaccid and lose its definition" (13).''' With such sentences,

Martenson reminds the reader of the powerful "side effects of perfectly average

figures of speech," and, like the Topographie anecdotee, her investigation of the metaphoric

force of even the most descriptive, objectively nominalist language of science

exploits the tension between the footnote's two traditional rhetorical roles (16).

That tension between metaphoric and literal language is replicated by the very

form of her artist's book, which plays on the dynamic between its physical structure

and that structure's metaphoric associations. The absent text in the body of

Martenson's book recalls the absence of female subjects in the original studies of

the so-called "gay gene," an omission wryly noted in the very first note: "if, as

Wittig says, lesbians are not women, it [the failure to seek for a genetic basis for

lesbianism] may have as much to do with the fact that no one knows exactly

which population to study" (5-6; see also Hu et al.). Similarly, the typographicatty

marginat position of the notes speaks to what one reviewer has termed "the

tong-standing argument regarding the marginatization of women in the study of

gay culture" (Bazzett). Encouraging shifts of style and voice, footnotes foreground

questions of expressive identity as they speak, quite literally, from the margin:

always partially excluded from the central text and always subaltern."" Indeed,

because footnotes establish "a spacing that assigns hierarchical relationships" and

"relationships of authority," their hieratic form has proven especially well suited

to books that thematize issues of social injustice and psychological trauma (Derrida

193). The recurrent motifs of slavery and political agency in An tin's Meditations,

for example, are not unrelated to the dynamics of his book's form, just as the

literal and metaphoric senses of the "repressed" motivate the psychological connotations

of the notes in Xq28'. But there has always been an ambivalence about

the role of the footnote and its place below the text; footnotes can be either

subservient or subversive, with "the power to undermine or uphold" (Cosgrove

139)." Because footnotes are always permitted to speak, to speak back, and to

have the last word, even in their traditionally subservient role they can both assert

and challenge authority, so that, as Toril Moi has argued, we might in fact

recognize "the marginal and the heterogeneous as that which can subvert the

central structures of traditional linguistics" (qtd. in Labbe 79).

With the same dynamic negotiation between the symbolic and the spatial, the

layout of Martenson's book—^with the blank expanse of its pages emphasized by

the division line of the footnotes and the running header—is all to the point in

the context of the debate over the relative infiuence of genetics and environment,

'* Xq28' is anticipated by Martenson's earlier poems such as "Gene Expression." which could serve

as a proem of sorts to Xq28', and "Cast." which has the visual form of a glossed text such as S.T.

Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Lyn Hejinian's Gesualdo.

'* Benstock makes this claim more strongly when she asserts that the discourse of the footnote is

"inherently marginal" (204).

" Or as Grafton puts it. in rhyming sestets, the footnote has the power to "buttress and undermine,

at one and the same time" (32).


gross anatomy and social psychology. In part, those pages are simply mirroring

the notes' references to textual lacunae and the destruction of manuscripts, but

above the pseudoscientific mockery of claims for innate nature that runs through

the notes, they also stand as magisterially silent reminders of both the Enlightenment

empiricists' figure for the power of cultural formation and Sigmund Freud's

figure for the mechanism of the modern psyche's perceptual apparatus: the tabula

rasa and the mystic writing pad. We speak to each other through books, but

books speak also to, and about, themselves.

When the prefigured "dp of the tongue" returns explicitly in the third note of

Martenson's book and is recalled in a later reference to the ancient "oral form"

of "female sexuality," its inclusion in a book of glosses enacts the etymological

pun we saw in Antin's first "Separation Meditation." Nor is such paranomasia

limited to the "gloss"; Xq28' repeatedly conflates the body of the text and the

human body.'* The ninth note, for example, states that "while the spines are

relatively durable, the information stored within can be banned at any time,"

suggesting both the codex and the cortex. Indeed, the meninges, that protective

layering of our "relatively durable" spines (13), is evoked in other notes by the

phrases "dense, fibrous tissue" and "spidery mass" (8), which echo the standard

anatomical definitions of the "dura mater" and the "arachnoid membrane," respectively.

Moreover, in a book directly focused on gender roles and stereotypes

of the nuclear family, the translation of the Latin dura mater (hard mother) and

its meningeal counterpart the pia mater (soft mother) folds Martenson's anatomical

lexicon back into her discussion of the stakes of science's social construction

with a neat and chilling logic.

One precedent for the striking format of Xq28' can be found in Gerard

Wajcman's 1986 novel L'interdit, in which the text is quite literally "interdit" (forbidden,

suspended, but also spoken between), with only fragmentary notes remaining

below the blank pages of what appears once to bave been a biography.

Tbe unnamed protagonist of tbat biography suffers from both amnesia and an

inexplicable silence so palpable it is taken as an act in itself.'^ Tbe mostly blank

pages of the book thus reenact his "trou" (gap in memory), which stares back at

tbe reader like "une orbite vide" (114; "a vacant eye socket"). Or perhaps, the

notes hint, tbe erased pages have actually somehow resulted from bis mute attempt

to "effacer cette monstrueuse vacuite dans laquelle il sombrait des que les

regards se detournaient ou que cessaient les mots" (37-38; "rub out speech, to

wear down that monstrous emptiness into which he would sink as soon as those

around him diverted their gaze or stopped speaking"), because "les mots l'ont

deserte" (170; "words had deserted him"). Over tbe course of tbe book, its blank

pages inevitably appear to illustrate a range of themes mentioned in the notes—

ruins, withheld secrets, sins of omission, the attentive search for evidence, and so

on—and they remind the reader of the supposed illegibilities of tbeir putative

source, which the implied editor has catalogued in the notes with a scholarly

'* The metaphoric association of the "body" of the text can also influence our understanding of

the notes against which it is defmed; "marginal notes," according to Valery's Cartesian schema, "are

part of the notes of pure thought" (Lipking 610).

" The phrasing is Wajcman's: "silence inexplicable" and "acte silencieux" (23).


punctitiousness: "tout un passage qui s'intercatait ici a ete raye et demeure illisible.

En marge: 'Contradictoire'" (67; "An entire passage which is inserted here has

been struck out and remains iltegibte. In the margin; 'contradictory'"); "It avait

d'abord ecrit: 'fugitive,' puis l'a raye" (204; "he had first written 'fugitive,' then

crossed it out").

L'interdit could welt be read as a graphic attempt to represent the sense of any

"vie, avec ses ombres, ses dessous, ses jardins secrets, ses enigmas" (37; "life, with

all its shadows, its hidden faces, its secret gardens, its mysteries"), but its increasingly

theological narrative focuses more narrowly on the difficulty of narrating

an event so traumatic that one must say 'j'ai perdu la possibitite d'habiter dans

un monde de paroles" (234; "I have lost the possibility of living in a wortd of

spoken language"). Specifically, the novel suggests one response to the problem

of representing the Shoah: namely, a book of blank pages as a non-representative

monument in which, paradoxicalty, the "rote des morts" ("catalogue of the dead")

would be written invisibly and read off in silence, so that "la page elle-meme"

("the page itself") would be not so much "derriere ces noms" ("behind the

names") as the "fond btanc de ta page que chaque nom qui s'inscrit montre en

silence" (225; "white substrate of the page, which each name written upon it

indicates in silence").

Intervening in the poststructural debate on presence and absence in language,

the blank pages of L'interdit negotiate between the spoken and the written until

the transience of speech comes to be confused with the blank page from which

its record seems to have evaporated, at the same time that the physicality of writing

comes to be atigned with the bodity presence associated with the breath of

speech. Like the narrator's strange sitence, the pages oi L'interdit appear as willful

acts, and part of the import of its footnoted format is to frame the blank of

the page as a space not merely with the potential to bear writing but as a place stilt

numinously immanent with the writing it had once borne and seems to carry,

ghostly, still. The protagonist contrasts writing with "la parole elle-meme qu'il

regarde comme un mensonge qui vient brouitler son absence veritable" (50;

"speech itself, which he understands as a lie that comes to be confused with its

sheer absence"). In contrast with writing, he

oppose continuellement a la parole qui ne ferait que rappeler le souvenir des mots, tendre leur

image, leur apparence dans un souffle. Parler lui semble une affaire de memoire, on se souvient des

mots, tandis qu'ecrire, au contraire, ce serait prendre leur chair a bras-le-corps. une chair silencieuse.

morte, une matiere. (97)

continually opposes the spoken word, which can only recall the memory of words, can only hold out

their image, their semblance in a sigh. Speaking seemed to him to be a matter of memory: we

remember words, while with writing, in contrast, we grapple bodily with their flesh: their silent,

dead, matter.

That mingling of our bodies with the body of the text is further figured by Wajcman

as the form of the book itself, which rethinks the grounding of corporeal identity

in terms of a negative ontology by grounding the presence of the former in

the latter's absence. At various points, L'interdit equates the codex with the biographical

narrative of a life (36-37), and with memory in general (cf. 122):

les archives de la memoire ressemblent a ces livres de l'Extreme-Orient qu'on lit a rebours et dont

les feuillets peu a peu s'obliterent et se decolorent a mesure qu'on s'enfonce a travers les niveaux


multipliesjusqu'au titre ajamais illisible. (52)

the archives of memory are like those Asian books which one reads backwards, and in which the

pages are canceled hit by bit and faded to the extent that one penetrates through the multiple levels

all the way to the forever unreadable title.™

The conflation of the codexical and biological body is made explicit in L'interdit,

The key to the logic of its form is the concept of a textual prosthesis; the novel

pivots on a note near the middle of the book: "sans doute involontairement (mais

pas tout a fait par hasard) on retrouve ici la pensee kabbaliste d'un corps dont la

chair meme serait faite de letters" (140; "no doubt involuntarily [but not quite

entirely by chance] one fmds here the kabbalistic concept of a body, the very

flesh of which would be made of letters"). By the end oi L'interdit tbis conflation

is so complete that an allusion to Shakespeare's "livre de chair" bangs indeterminately

between its two possible denotations: a pound of flesh, but also, always

equally, a book of flesh (188).

Ranged at tbe bottom of otherwise blank pages, the amputated references in

these books line the back wall of tbe page like stacks of artificial limbs: legs witb

feet that note (in the archaic sense of the contraction "I know not") and arms

with fingers pointing stiffly into space. Even without the kabbalistic concept of a

body made of letters, footnotes are the prostheses of the textual argument, and

in the case of Xq28' and L'interdit the absent textual body comes to be defined

and structured by its appendages and supports so that the core of these books is

like the body of Edgar Allan Poe's Brevet Brigadier General Jobn A.B.C. Smitb,

wbose various prostheses are removed one by one, like the layers of an onion,

until nothing remains. The corporealizadon of the text precedes these books, of

course, as the lexicon of paratexts suggests: the/oo<note and the index (with its

etymological origins in the forefinger). However, even without that anatomical

terminology, the footnote would be related to tbe body by its deictic, indexical

nature. Like the set of non-descriptive signs that defines the grammatical index,

the functioning of the paratextual indices—including not only notes, but also

tbe table of contents, tbe index and tbe bibliography—requires a spatial and

physical context. For the writer, that context is the spatial and material logic of

collage; the footnote, as Hugh Kenner suggests, "is a step in the direction of

discontinuity: of organizing blocks of discourse simultaneously in space rather

than consecutively in time" (40).^' The same is true for readers: in the acts of

reading provoked by tbe paratextual index, not only are the spatial coordinates

of the page and the volume of the volume evoked, but the reader's body is put

into motion: tbe eye moves, the head tilts, the hands and fingers work the pages,

the arms and torso shift as the book is handled and manipulated. Drawing on

Maurice Merleau-Ponty's dynamic schema corporeal (bodily field), William F. Hanks

has made a similar point in grammatical terms:

^"The note is a quote from Paul Claudel's Le philosophie du livre, which itself echoes Freud's

description of psychic disturbances: "one way [to resolve such disturbances] would he for the offending

passages to be thickly crossed through so that they were . . . best of all, the whole passage

would be erased. ..." (Standard 236).

•'^' In Genette's typology, the essence of the note is its always local character; unlike a preface, for

instance, notes refer to only a portion of a text. Moreover, there is a social aspect to this logic of

collage: notes tend to be addressed to a more specific audience and to anticipate only certain

ers (Seuil


In acts of deictic reference, speakers integrate schematic with local knowledge. It is critical to an

understanding of deixis to recall that even very "local" elements of context, such as a speaker's own

corporeal experience and perceptual field, are susceptible of schematization. (19)

Or, in short: a relational predicate is necessary for a full analysis of the indexical


Jenny Boully's The Body, another hook with the layout of Xq28' and L'interdit,

figures its formal structure of notes without referents in terms of an explicitly

linguistic context. Not only does the hook mask the identity of its characters with

the pseudonymic conventions of a roman a clef, hut dramatic irony is also one of

its recurrent themes, with examples, explicit mentions, and the incorporation of

what appears to he a definition of irony from a handhook of literary terms (see

Kennedy and Gioia). But the reader soon realizes that irony would still have

heen a theme without these passages; the notes refer to a context which the

reader cannot know, and material is quoted without citation so that "we are unahle

to determine whether the exact wording has a source" (59). Moreover, the

ironic nature of the notes in this text are mise en abyme: footnotes speak in a

dramatic aside, commenting knowingly heyond the purview of the hody text. As

its tide underscores. The Body literalizes the metaphoric printing term of the

"hody" of the text, hut whereas Martenson's pamphlet eliminates that hody in

order to sharply question the physiological grounding of social categories, and

Wajcman's solemn philosophical novel displays its pages in an act of mourning,

Boully's Body more casually figures the eroticized human hody of an ahsent lover.

Understanding that the withheld referent can he an adventure as well as a

frustration, and picking up on the idiomatic sense in which information is "huried"

in footnotes, Boully further narrativizes this structure of knowing and unknowing

with the thematic thread of hunting for hidden treasure. This huried

treasure metamorphoses during the quest from a hodily scene of two sisters who

"hecame hrave and decided to look for our holes" to a cartographic scene in

which the mapmaker "purposely placed the 'X' in an ohvious, yet incorrect location"

(18, 26)—perhaps at 62 17' 20", 19 2' 40", an angle which cryptically appears,

with the addition "37.29 N, 79.52 W" in one of the later notes (75). Following

a good enough hunch, the reader may recognize the first point not as "a mere

entry of latitude and longitude" hut as the location of the huried treasure in

Rohert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and with a sufficiently detailed map the

reader can discover that the second set indicates a location just outside of Roanoke,

Virginia—HoUins College, to he precise, where Boully happened to he an undergraduate.

But which set is the "ohvious, yet incorrect location" and which is the

treasure?^^ Is the first merely another clue to the fact that the unattrihuted quotation

in the suhsequent note is in fact from the fourth chapter of Stevenson's novel?

I felt in his pockets, one after another. A few small coins, a thimble, and some thread and big

needles, a piece of pigtail tobacco bitten away at the end, his gully with the cracked handle, a pocket

compass, and a tinder box were all that they contained, and I began to despair.

The passage colors the note that follows it, a nostalgic vignette ahout a girl and

her father (27), hut it may also prompt the reader to recall a similar catalogue

from one of Boully's much earlier notes:

^^ The quotation is from Chapter 6 of Stevenson's Treasure Island.


In the prop room, she found the collection of butterflies, fossilized bones, her mother's hairbrush,

bedsheets, belonging to a past love, an earring she lost when she was ten, and a box containing

letters which X would compose to her until her death. (45)

Is the return of that pseudonymous "X" marking the spot of discovered treasure

—a treasure that in this case might in fact be the hidden associative logic of the

book's cryptic notes (as when the inclusion of quotations from Stevenson in footnotes

recalls the title of his 1892 book A Footnote to History)—or is it merely another

purposely misplaced lead? In the end, the answers to such questions remain

indeterminate, but provoking and permitting their asking may be the ultimate

point. BouUy confesses in her notes that she desires "someone who would pay

close attention to details" (36): someone, in other words, who notes.

With its story of buried treasure and its references to an absent origin, The Body

reenacts the history of the footnote's evolution. Not only is the original first footnote

lost to us, but the ancestor of the footnote itself also was used to indicate an

absence; the asterisk, one of the critical marks that survived the translation from

manuscript to print, appears in early printed books "with its original function, to

mark omissions" (Parkes 57). And I can note, without giving anything away, that

at the root of the index is a mystery as well.

Indices have also been written to nonexistent books, as if taking the notorious

late-sixteenth century Catholic indices—the Index librorum prohibitorum (List of

Banned Books) and the Index expurgatorius (List of Expurgated Books)—to literal

extremes. James Ballard's "The Index," for instance, purports to be "the

index to the unpublished and perhaps suppressed autobiography" of one Henry

Rhodes Hamilton. Part science fiction, part picaresque, and part burlesque, its

alphabetized entries gesture provocatively, giving glimpses of their source's unattainable

body. Hamilton seems to have been a cross between Forrest Gump, Albert

Schweitzer, and Don Juan. Working backward from the index, one can infer the

range of his mid-century exploits: he is on the beach on D-Day and then with

Churchill at Yalta; he pilots Chian Kai-shek, is invited to Dallas by Lee Harvey

Oswald, and warns John F. Kennedy of danger; he receives the confidences of

Einstein, Fermi, Ghandi, and so on. At the same time, the index incongruously

contains the names of modernist writers and entertainment celebrities, suggestions

of sexual escapades and messianic religious cults, the recurrence of psychiatric

illness, and a single hilarious reference to Burl Ives. Part of the fun of such a

work comes from trying, like one of the participants in Simon Morris's Interpretation

project, to imaginatively reconstruct a single coherent narrative to which

the fragmented references might possibly obtain. The success of such works depends,

accordingly, on their ability to both invite and ultimately resist integration,

as individual entries gesture towards a text into which they cannot be entirely

absorbed. Ballard's "Index" trades on such incongruity, but it also betrays a linear

narrative that emerges from the list of headwords despite their alphabetization,

which would lead one to expect a random distribution of references.

However, as the entries progress alphabetically, they also tend to reference sequentially

higher page numbers in the missing autobiography, which in turn


appears to have been organized chronologically. A more-or-less linear narrative

thus develops in "The Index," with its denoument following the takeover of the

United Nations by Hamilton's cult and his call for world war against both the

United States and the USSR (all revealed in section "U"). The final sections record

his arrest by the Special Branch and incarceration on the Isle of Wight (W) and

the government's denial of a Star Chamber trial or any knowledge of Hamilton's

whereabouts (Y). The final entry suggests the ominous finale from which the

document itself is born:

Zielinski, Bronislaw, suggests autobiography to HRH, 742; commissioned to prepare index, 748;

warns of suppression threats, 751; disappears, 761. (87)

This narrative of threatened indictment, betrayal, and discovery aligns the form

and content of Ballard's "Index," returning the work to the etymology of its title,

which derives from indicare (disclose, divulge, betray, give away, inform on).

With its simultaneously ominous and comic narrative, science fiction tinged

surrealism, and alphabetic structure, "The Index" anticipates both Peter Greenaway's

novel The Falls and Charles Finlay's short story "Footnotes."^' The former,

based on the author's eponymous film, purports to be one of the volumes in a

biographical dictionary, recording the victims of a "violent unknown event." The

volume at hand contains those victims whose last names begin with the letters

"Fall," and Greenaway slyly works in the meanings of all of the English words

beginning with "fall," as well as thematizing questions of probability and chance

so that the story and its structure coincide. With a bewildering multiplication of

possibilities that loop reflexively from entry to entry, with a nested structure of

films within films, Greenaway constructs a mirrored hallway of fictions and conspiracies

engulfing one another so that every ground is at risk of being found to

be illusory, and every apparent illusion is documented in detached, objective,

scientific reports.

Finlay's work (2001), which takes the form of bibliographic citations presented

as footnotes, is set about fifteen years in the future and is also the fragment of an

account of some lethal unknown event. As in The Falls, victim lists are compiled,

concerns over fictitious symptoms surface (88), and "anecdotal" evidence suggests

that the event has linguistic consequences (86). From the notes one can

adduce that the disaster was some sort of biological epidemic, apparently with

neurological symptoms, and perhaps with evolutionary consequences. However,

even after a congressional "Investigating Committee" has been convened, private

emails requisitioned, and "special reports" issued, details about the event

"remain difficult to explain," debates continue about "what really happened,"

and key witnesses disappear without being questioned (85; 87). As with Ballard's

"Index," the genre of suspense and the form of the index coincide in these works,

with their references to undivulged stories of indictment and disclosure.

^' In addition to Paul Violi s poem "Index," one might note two other books in this context. Niels

Nielsen's Biografish Skygge Lehsikon is a work of mad genius that purports to be the volume covering

"Pedersen" to "Poulsen" in a fictitious biographical dictionary. The Dictionary of Traumatic Signs, an

alphabetized reverse dictionary of Freudian dream symbolism, appears as the appendix to Stefan

Themerson's Cardinal Pdldliio; a reference work intended to prove the Cardinal's innocence. If the

Freudian system interprets the most innocuous everyday images as ciphers for secret sexual desires,

then sexual desires—in the Cardinal's logic—must merely be signs of innocuous everyday objects.


Footnotes, indices, and bibliographies are not the only paratextual conventions

of the book, and all such devices can be exploited for conceptual ends. The traces

of social and institutional contexts in the details of bibliography, for example, is

the subject of Terrence Gower and Monica de la Torre's wickedly parodic artist's

book Appendices Illustrations & Notes, which recreates ephemera to nonexistent

books and exhibitions. Their book teases out the cynical social networks and

intellectual laziness disguised by the cliches and formulae of genres such as the

review, the jacket blurb, and the author bio. Paul Fournel's novel Banlieue (Suburbia)

gives a similar treatment to a single book. Although once again the body of

the text is entirely absent, leaving the centers of the book's small pages blank,

Banlieue is replete with a surplus of bibliographic accouterments: those elements

which entail what Hugh Kenner has called "the book as book" and the mechanization

of its codexical discourse (39). The book includes legal disclaimers and a

copyright notice, epigraphs, margins, headers and numbered footers, a dedication,

table of contents, index, errata, title page, allographic foreword and

afterword, introductory notes from both the publisher and the author, a pedagogic

supplement, back-cover blurbs, a bio-line—even a suggested price and universal

product code. And, of course, footnotes. The edition advertises that it has been

specially annotated by the Inspector of the Ministry of Education "for use in

schools." Once again, the metaphoric valence of a hieratic bibliographic structure

suggests a context for the content of the book. The cartography oi Banlieue

maps the suburbs of the book: those outlying regions of the page (the footer and

header) and the neighboring sprawl of commercial puff and commentary that

crop up around the supposedly central text like bedroom communities of the

mind—arrondisements just beyond the terrain vague at the edges of the book's recognizable


Part of Banlieue's conceit is that its form withholds a titillating content, hints of

which the reader can only deduce. Suggesting a novel of class violence somewhere

between Alan Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and Anthony

Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, the supplementary texts imply that the

"provocation" of the "incendiary" main story (vi)—a narrative containing prurient

scenes of "violent eroticism" (5)—was originally a "scandal" that led to legal

action (9 et passim). The reader's imagination, of course, creates more lurid

scenes than even the most explicit prose Fournel could have furnished, and this

fiction of a scandalous story contrasts with, or perhaps ironically underscores,

the metaphoric implications of the book's form. At the same time, the pages of

the chapbook are to some extent simply the punch-line to a conceptual oneliner.

Despite the hints of racy content, and the book's opening disclaimer that

"ce texte est une pure fiction. Toute ressemblance avec des personnages existant

ou ayant existe serait fortuite et independante de la volonte de l'auteur" ("this is

a work of pure fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental

and unintentional on the part of the author"), the vacant pages of the fictional

(fiction) Suburbia are indeed an accurate representation of one of the stereotypical

accounts of postwar "suburbia": a social space that is vacuous, uniform,

and devoid of narrative interest.

Despite its publication under the imprint of the OuLiPo, Banlieue is not a


procedural text, and its constraints, such as they are, do not present much of a

hindrance. Indeed, one should keep in mind that the formal conceit of all of

these works permits the comfort of the impression of a system, while freeing the

author from the demands of actually having to adhere to a rigorous formal structure.

This dynamic explains, in part, why most of the works considered here tend

toward a rather sloppy, indulgent eclecticism; without the constraints of a genuinely

fixed form, these works clothe what is at heart freely composed expressive

writing in the guise of disjunction and artifice, or the post-Cagean procedures'

ready-made found material sifted together by the rule of happy chance. From

this perspective, one might compare the visual poetics of these books to structurally

similar but conceptually very different works such as Vito Acconci's "Drop

(on the side, over the side)" or Alastair Johnston's Heath's German Dictionary, both

of which present much more austere versions of the evacuated page by appropriating

and erasing reference books, leaving only the framing elements of typographic

layout. In contrast, the annotating impulse evident in Spoerri's Topographie

and mimed by the other works I have considered illustrates the way in which gloss

is suspended, depending: in its excess, threatening glossolalia, and always, with

an omission, the threat of loss. That loss is the exclusionary rule proven by these

works, and which this essay has tried, futilely, to avoid for itself; "any interpretation,"

as Wittgenstein enumerated this first law of the paratext, "still hangs in the

air along with what it interprets, and cannot give it any support" (198) .^*

University of Utah

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