A Book of the Book: Some Works and Projections about the Book & Writing

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9781887123280: A Book of the Book: Some Works and Projections about the Book & Writing
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"A collection for the general reader and the specialist, A Book of the Book is an accessible and erudite set of readings on the book as a mythic and material object. These texts comprise a vivid exploration of the poetics of the book, a multifaceted study nurtured by the literary and ethnographic scope of its editors' vision, that argues compellingly for the continued survival of this most mundane and metaphoric of artifacts. In a moment when irresponsibly inflammatory ravings about the demise of print rage through the cultural landscape, this collection offers serious reflection upon the real profundity of the book as a symbolic force within the poetic and spiritual imagination that remains the wellspring of human culture. Drawn from diverse realms-of avant-garde art, anthropology, textual criticism, literature, and speculative thought-this will be the definitive collection for decades to come-a volume whose very physical presence in the hand performs the rhetoric of its pages in offering its riches to the reader." - Johanna Drucker
A Book of the Book is broken down into four sections: "Pre-faces" includes work by Rothenberg, Steve McCaffery, & bp Nichol, Keith A. Smith, Michael Davidson, Anne Waldman, Jacques Derrida, Edmond Jabès (translated by Rosmarie Waldrop), among others; "The Opening of the Field" includes work by Gertrude Stein, William Blake, Susan Howe, Maurice Blanchot, Marjorie Perloff, André Breton and Jerome McGann among others; "The Book is as Old as Fire & Water" includes work on Guruwari designs, novelty books, pattern poetry, celestial alphabets, among others, while "The Book to Come" presents work by Tom Phillips, Johanna Drucker, Alison Knowles, Charles Bernstein, Jess (a complete re-issue of his 1960 work 'O!'), Ian Hamilton Finlay, Barbara Fahrner and many others.

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From the Publisher:

EDITORS’ FOREWORD

The predecessor to the present book—elsewhere described—was The Book, Spiritual Instrument, co-edited by one of us and published by the other. It was in its aftermath that we felt the appeal of expanding the work both in size and range and in the recognition that the physicality of the book was a necessary concomitant to Mallarmé’s proposition of the spiritual book that we were still eager to further explore. And we were aware too that the hegemony of the material book—as a conglomerate of cloth and paper and ink and leather and glue and thread—was in some danger of being superceded by that of the virtual non-book—much as the book and writing had challenged the dominance of the oral technologies that came before them. It is those key terms—oral, material, virtual, spiritual—that underlie the discussions in the pages that follow. Set in the context of a turning from one century into another—indeed of one millennium into another—they encompass the full range of human languages t! hat makes an ethnopoetics the underpinning for any still viable poetics.

A more substantial pre-face from the editors’ perspective heads off the Þrst section of this gathering—a section in which we extend the privilege of prefacing to a number of other interested parties. We do this as a way to move beyond our limits and to recognize some of those who have thought long and hard about the practice and problematics of the book and writing. In much the same way we’re aware that our book—whatever its size—can’t do justice to all of the book artists and writers to whom, as writers and readers ourselves, we’re clearly beholden. For some of this we would like to mention not only those with pieces listed in our table of contents but those also whose works are cited or included within the anthologized selections. While we’re satisÞed that the book is ample in its inclusions, we want to point out—as always—that a gathering like this can only scratch the surface of what the past and present have given us to work from.

The selection of course is also personal, reþective of our own experiences and needs, while hopeful that these will prove of use to others. We have moved forward in the hope that our readers will be able to construct a kind of narrative from these otherwise disparate pieces. To intensify the sense of a narrative—or a series of such narratives—we have taken the liberty of removing footnotes and bibliographic references unless, from our perspective or that of the authors, they added greatly to the story being told. We have also modiÞed the number of illustrations for certain pieces—eliminating some or adding others—and where we have selected a section from a larger work, we have eliminated references to material included elsewhere in that work but absent from our own. On the other hand, we have been þexible about stylistic features, particularly those that distinguish American from British written usage or, still more crucially, those that represent deliberate or contrarian move! s on the part of the authors. We have tried in this way—and within the limits imposed on any material book—to be faithful to the intentions of those whose works we’re including. And we’ve also attempted to present our readers with gifts like the facsmile of the Cendrars/Delaunay La Prose du Transsibérien or the complete reprint of Jess’s O!—not for their economic feasability but for the pleasure it gives us to do so.

In the course of putting the work together, we are indebted to all those artists, writers and publishers whose work has come into our enterprise. If Mallarmé was right about the spiritual book—the book that all of us are writing—it may be possible to see each generation or overlap of generations as one chapter in that common (or communal) volume. Among those of our time who have most affected us—separately or together—in our thoughts about the book and writing, are Robert Duncan, Timothy Ely, Barbara Fahrner, Walter Hamady, Dick Higgins, Edmond Jabès, Sherman Paul, Ian Tyson, and Tony Zwicker to any one of whom this book could well be dedicated. Others who shared the work with us include, most notably, Philip Gallo (as designer and assembler) and Amber Phillips (as organizer and reader), whose attentions moved us along from concept to material object.

And Þnally, but centrally, we have also shared time and thoughts with Julie Harrison and Diane Rothenberg—some of it in New York, some in California, and some in Paris—and we have learned between ourselves as co-makers to work together on that adventure in writing and reading that forms so crucial a part of all our lives.

—Jerome Rothenberg —Steven Clay 1999/2000

About the Author:

Jerome Rothenberg is a poet and one of the world’s leading anthologists. Among his more than sixty books are Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania (1985), Revolution of the Word: American Avant-Garde Poetry Between the Two World Wars (1974), and Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas (1986). With Pierre Joris he edited the monumental two volume Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern & Postmodern Poetry (1995 & 1998). He lives with his wife in Encinitas, California.

Steven Clay, publisher of Granary Books, is an editor, curator and archivist specializing in the art and literature of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He is the author, with Rodney Phillips, of A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing 1960-1980 (1998). He lives in New York City with his wife and their two young daughters.

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Published by Granary Books (2000)
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