Wednesday, January 07, 2009

All over the place

A brief essay by the Romanian-born Hungarian novelist György Dragomán on creating fictional worlds out of axioms.

review of a translation of Inger Christensen's poem alphabet, a poem based on two major constraints: the number of lines in each section increases as a segment of the Fibonacci series, and each section begins with a successive letter of the alphabet, a through n. (Not quite Walter Abish's Alphabetical Africa, but then again, what is?)  (Hat tip: Silliman)

Charles Shere writes about reading Harry Mathews, a writer who understands constraints. 

Shere cites Mathews on buying/collecting/reading books.  Across the lattice of coincidence, Frank J. Oteri, at the New Music Box, writes about his collecting habits, books and many, many, recordings. Isn't this something that could have been in one those little Borges stories?  An obsession for collecting creates such a supply of music or books that you'll never be able to listen to or read all of them.  This reminded me a bit of Edward Gorey's collecting habits.  Gorey was such a collector — everything from books and recordings to potato mashers, smooth stones, and odd sets of garage-sale porcelain —  that the weight of his books alone was causing major structural damage to his house and the abundance of interesting things in any one room would often distract one from moving to the room one actually intended to visit. 

I've now moved house too many times, crossing continents, oceans, and major borders, dealt with nasty customs agents and suffered the end of the US Postal Book Bag, to any longer afford to be sentimental about my library.  I'm resigned: books come and go, a few stay, and you can't really plan which books will stay.   I don't buy recordings, but people often give me CDs, which are like calling cards these days.  I do buy sheet music, preferring to play music as long as I still can rather than play recordings of music.  I buy many books, but all but the most prized must leave promptly when read, for space is precious here.*  If I had stayed in California, my library would have suffered no such reductions, but now, if I were to return, I'd have to reduce even more radically.   

A commenter to Charles's item points to the name Frederick Sommer, well-known as a photographer, but who was also an artist who produced "drawings in the manner of musical scores". 


* Among many other ought-tos, I ought to keep a list of books I've read.  Less for the more serious stuff, which I usually can recall, more for trashy airport novels, so that I don't get two chapters into one of them before remembering that I'd read it before.   (Publishing practice includes giving the same trashy airport novel different titles in the US and UK editions as well as retitling them when republished.)  


Anonymous said...

Regarding books and your "ought-tos," I was in the same boat as you until I decided to keep track of the books in a more modern fashion: with databases. There are a few good software programs out there that allow you to keep track rather easily. I happen to use this one in particular and it works great. Why torment yourself with such trivialities?

Charles Shere said...

Ah, book databases, and collections; if you don't look out you'll begin collecting those databases. After trying a couple of them I finally settled on Librarything, partly for its convenience, partly because it's cheap, partly because it seems to be widely used, partly because it allows me to use a pocket browser in a used book store to verify that I do indeed "need" such and such a title.

The subject of collecting deserves a collection of books of its own. Thousands of LPs, most of them sold long ago; hundreds of reel-to-reel tapes, many of them in a storage unit awaiting digitizing one day (because they're unique, in many cases); and then all those books...

Anonymous said...

That looks too communal for my taste. Besides, the software I mentioned has most of those features as well, such as publishing your library to the web where you can search all you like from anywhere. The *real* nice feature is the option for a bar code scanner - instead of typing all the information, or even bothering to type in the simple ISBN, just point and click and your done. Use your fingers for more important things, like to practice that all important toccata! ;p