In the Realms of the Unreal: ""Insane"" Writings

John G. Oakes, Compiled by, John G. Oakes, Editor, Donald Kennison, With Four Walls Eight Windows $14.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-941423-57-1
In presenting these writings--all by individuals institutionalized for insanity--``for their intrinsic worth'' rather than as ``clues to someone's `illness,' '' the editors (Oakes is copublisher of Four Walls and Kennison is a freelance editor) take a bold step. They require readers to respond to these poems and prose pieces, written over the last 100 years in various countries, without assimilating them as aberrations. Given the profoundly strange uses of language that characterize most of them, the works make for demanding but mind-expanding reading. German Gustav Sievers's extraordinary essay conflates race and geography through profuse punning. The Black Sea, he explains, ``linguistically lacked only an nstet roman on the end of Sea ( See ), in order to make the Blacks see .'' Swiss writer Jules Doudin revels in Joycean variant spellings: ``Ide bee blyged iff yoo cood spair a pockit hanker cheef.'' Doudin's translator, however, renders the work of Frenchman Sylvain Lecocq in suspiciously similar language. For two writers from different countries and times (Doudin wrote in 1927 and Lecocq in 1949) to share so idiosyncratic a style seems unlikely, and one wonders if this is not an instance of the assimilation the editors set out to avoid. Nonetheless, these documents provide a fascinating study of language's slippery relation to reality. (May)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1991
Release date: 07/01/1991
Hardcover - 253 pages - 978-0-941423-52-6
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