Fidget

Kenneth Goldsmith, Author Coach House $16.95 (107p) ISBN 978-1-55245-076-5
Readers familiar with poet and visual artist Goldsmith's No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96, perhaps the most exhaustive and beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry, wondered what he might possibly do for an encore. The answer came on June 16, 1997--Bloomsday--when Goldsmith used a dictaphone to note as much of as many of his body's movements as he could, keeping a verbal record of what happened when he walked across his bedroom, shook his head or performed more intimate functions. This volume charts the results in 11 sections, corresponding to Goldsmith's eleven hours awake that day, in clear homage to the hour-by-hour chapters of Joyce's Ulysses--that most bodily of modernist masterpieces. And as in Ulysses, different actions dominate different hours. (Goldsmith's masturbatory episode comes earlier, and more graphically, than Bloom's, taking place between one and two p.m.) Most of the time, the actual prose is not the point: ""Facial muscles relax. Back tingles. Chills emerge. Right hand moves to top of head. Fingernail scrapes scalp. Thumb meets each successive fingertip. Rubs,"" though by nighttime we get lusher, lovelier phrases, like bits of Finnegan's Wake: ""Unpegged chip of tongue. Stealing very hard ridge. Very hard skin in its septemberary... Hoo hoo arises. Giggle hits head."" A brisk afterword from critic Marjorie Perloff (Poetic License, etc.) examines the links between Goldsmith and Beckett, concluding that Goldsmith ""celebrates with perverse charm... the victory of mind over matter, and the inability to convey what we call body language except through language."" But, as Perloff notes, the book is not the whole here: Goldsmith's project also inheres in a Java application done with programmer Clem Paulsen, and was interpreted in a vocal-visual performace by Theo Beckmann at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art (both archived at the publisher's Web site). This is another important book from Goldsmith, pointing the way to a rapproachment between poetry and conceptual and performance art--avant-gardists and art lovers of all stripes will want to experience its near-hypnotic pleasures. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/19/1998
Release date: 01/01/1998
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FORMATS
Ebook - 116 pages - 978-1-77056-064-2
Hardcover - 978-1-55245-989-8
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