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Eunoia

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,053 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
Christian Bök embarks on an ambitious exercise in Eunoia, an avant-garde work in which each chapter uses only one vowel, creating a text that fluctuates between poetry and prose. To make things more difficult, Bök constrained himself further: all chapters must allude to the art of writing, and they must describe a culinary banquet, a bawdy episode, a pastoral tableau, and ...more
Paperback, 115 pages
Published October 14th 2005 by Coach House Books (first published January 19th 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,204)
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Manny
A mad, bad, glad Dada blast. Expect sex, sex, sex:

The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)
MJ Nicholls
Poor Christian. He wants to be in the Oulipo so badly. Surely they could make him an honorary member? Or put his name on a shortlist or something?

Sweet dear. He spent seven years in Toronto, poring over his Perec and Queneau, dreaming up Eunoia. He thought it was his ticket into the French experimental elite. Yet, one Griffin Poetry Prize later, and NOTHING. Not even a phone call! I mean, they let Harry Mathews in, fer chrissake! Surely they can let one Canadian in? Come on!!!

Poor man. Still, hi
...more
Bookkaholic Magazine
Sep 15, 2013 Bookkaholic Magazine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
(See our full review over at Bookkaholic.) To have written even one single-vowel poem (called a univocalic, or a univocal lipogram) would have been a noteworthy accomplishment for Bök; to have written an entire book full of strange, lyrical poetry cycles that only employ one vowel at a time is stunning. Random conglomerations of cherry-picked words should not be expected to produce sense, let alone poetry. Stand in awe of his linguistic genius.
Travis Cottreau
Nov 01, 2013 Travis Cottreau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Christian Bok is amazing. I've never seen a lucid narrative so densely packed with sound and rhythm.

As an example, from "Chapter E": "When Helen feels these stresses, she trembles. She frets. Her helplessness vexes her. She feels depressed (even when her cleverest beekeepers fetch her the freshest sweets)." etc... this goes on for a long, long time. NOTE: each word in "Chapter E" is restricted to only using the vowel E. The same is true for all the vowels. E, A, I and O are interesting narrative
...more
John Wiswell
Apr 01, 2008 John Wiswell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Innovative poets
Recommended to John by: Christopher Miller
A strange experiment in fiction where Bok only uses words with one particular vowel in a chapter. So the first chapter only features the vowel ‘a,’ the second only features ‘e,’ and so on. You've got to give Christian Bok credit for the effort, and for pulling it off at all. Sometimes it’s interesting to see how much a writer can do with an arbitrary limitation. Sometimes it’s interesting to skim it and put it back on the shelf in the bookstore. Back in college my entire class groaned when a kid ...more
Lobstergirl
Jul 19, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
An enjoyable read, although I was disappointed places couldn't be found for parallax, belvedere, gingivitis, monochord, and tumulus. Astonishingly, the book claims to "exhaust the lexicon for each vowel, citing at least 98% of the available repertoire." One thing I did find distracting and unnecessary was the resorting to italicized sounds: "clunk, clunk - thud"; "chuff, chuff"; "scuff, scuff"; "munch, munch"; "glug, glug"; "rush, rush"; "gush, gush"; "tweet, tweet"; "cheep, cheep."
Gary
Feb 07, 2013 Gary marked it as possible-author  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: wordizens
Shelves: poetry, spl
Until now, not that I'd thought of it much, it had never been clear to me why anyone would want to write a novel without any e vowels in it (or was it only with words containing the vowel e) apart from it being a sort of clever thing to do, but this book has let me see just how interesting writing with such constraints can be.
James Murphy
Jun 11, 2012 James Murphy rated it really liked it
Poetry can reference anything in the world. It can view modern society as a spiritual waste land. Or it can be about something as simple and bucolic as a bee in prairie clover. But one thing poetry is always about, no matter the subject, is language. This is impressively demonstrated by Christian Bok's volume Eunoia.

The word eunoia itself, as he explains in an afterword, is the shortest word in English to contain all 5 vowels. Literally the word means "beautiful thinking." Bok has written a vol
...more
Bryan Coleman
Apr 12, 2010 Bryan Coleman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy Shit Christian Bok is crazy! Well you know in a good way. Saying Bok simply experiments in writing poetry adhering to strict rules with chapters dedicated to only employing one vowel is the understatement of the year. Eunoia truly has some marvelous poems. I will try to do Bok's experiment justice in this review. In Eunoia, he writes a series of poems and each poem uses only one specific vowel. Moreover, each of his poems contain certain specific elements/themes. For example: debauchery, a ...more
Naomi
Apr 11, 2010 Naomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christian Bök's Eunoia was an enlightening study on the different permutations and uses of vowels within words and sentences. As an exploration of language, I thought the book was very well done: each chapter was dedicated to a vowel, giving the vowel a certain character and theme on top of its sound. For example, U is easily established as the crude vowel, with many sexually explicit phrases and ideas written throughout the chapter. Although these sections were interesting, I couldn't shake the ...more
Marie
Apr 11, 2010 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't believe how experimental and time-consuming this book is. When I first picked it up, I was hesitant to bend the pages and mark it up--the quality of the paper and text both seemed too precious to touch. I can totally see how it took Bok so long to work on this project. I was impressed by all of the techniques he used and how he put together all the words under strict rules to create something that had meaning. I had difficulty reading it, dizzied by only seeing one vowel at a time, co ...more
Marco
Apr 12, 2010 Marco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Eunoia because of admirable and difficult goals. After going through the process of creating lipograms I had a great appreciation for what Bok was attempting to do. Bok's form was even more controlled and he was able to construct a powerful book within a narrow choice of words. He is able to show the power and diversity of the different words within the English language. Instead of overlooking vowels, he highlights them in an innovative way. After a while though, some of his writing be ...more
Dana
Dec 23, 2007 Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's stunning what Bok can do with only one vowel for such an extended time. The first five chapters of this book are each restricted to the use of only one vowel: A, E, I, O, or U, respectively. The last quarter of the collection includes poems that acknowledge other constraints. There is a brief explanation at the end as well, in case you don't "catch" something. Even the cover art was selected for its unique employment of vowels. Two poems are dedicated to George Perec and there is no mistaki ...more
Stephen
May 06, 2016 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eunoia.

Let's get this straight: some people are weird.
Let that flavour this short review.

Listened to a CBC Radio Ideas Podcast featuring Bök and his most recent project. Gosh he sounds pretentious. But, he has a passion for language and words and sounds etc. (And doing things that nobody's done before because... Science! Art!)

Anyway, at this point in reading a review about this book, I feel like any summary I give of the book will be knowledge you've already obtained. Nevertheless!

Eunoia mea
...more
Bremer

Christian Bök’s Eunoia was a herculean project. As he mentioned in the June 2009 edition of The Believer, he created this slim book while working full-time (more than sixty hours) at two jobs and finishing his dissertation for his PhD. And he managed to work five hours a day on his manuscript, which he completed after seven years. That level of work ethic makes me question all my late-night Netflix binges, where after I finish a season, I complain I don’t have enough time to write. In fact, Bök
...more
Laura Zurowski
May 26, 2014 Laura Zurowski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: word-game
The beauty of books is that even if you show up late to the party you still get to say how AWESOME it was! :-)

Despite Eunoia being published close to 15 years ago, it's still a fascinating, amusing, and thought-provoking read - and Bök's concept is a successful creative exercise in combinatorial optimization with words. The constraints are rigorous, but the outcomes are brilliant.

Those readers who like word games and literary forensics should NOT stray to "The New Ennui" section (located at the
...more
Chris Davies
This is a tricky book to review. I can't really say I enjoyed it particularly, but it is a fascinating exercise and one that I think will prove memorable.

This is not a novel, whatever the blurb on the cover says. It is more a series of long, strange poems, each featuring a single vowel. These are...interesting. My favourite was 'E', which gets closest to having a story, but they all have their moments. One can't help but feel admiration for the endeavour.

There's a little introduction which is
...more
Tyrannosaurus regina
I first read this in, I think, 2003, when a friend challenged me to work within just a couple of the constraints that the author imposes on himself here. It blew my mind. An exercise in severe formalist restrictions, it is a remarkable achievement both technically and artistically.

Usually when I reread a book, especially one I've read more than once before, it goes much more quickly. This one I read more slowly each time, savouring the way the language fits together and reading passages aloud (s
...more
Candy Wood
When I first received this book in the mail from a crossword-loving friend, I thought it unreadable: blocks of text in the middles of about 100 pages, each “chapter” made up of words containing only one vowel. So Chapter A begins “Awkward grammar appals a craftsman. A Dada bard…” and continues with 11 more lines of the same length, each with no vowel but A. Picking it up again, I discovered that there are all kinds of patterns to notice, besides the incredible feat of composing any coherent sent ...more
Adam
Jun 29, 2015 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How to describe Eunoia? Pretentious? Sure. Self-congratulatory? Most definitely.

However, the accolades Christian Bök heaps upon himself don't matter much because of the startling nature of Eunoia. To read it is to marvel at the astounding adaptability of the English language (though Bök does include many foreign words, which feels a bit like cheating, but most writers include them anyway, so why not Bök as well?).

Eunoia is a univocal lipogram, meaning each chapter is restricted only to words con
...more
Sam
Apr 12, 2010 Sam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The worst.

I don't sympathize with this word game, at the very least not in the way it's represented here. The way the writing is constrained here doesn't help anything, doesn't conduce to good sound or specific, informed word choice. All I liked were the way these poems looked. But this isn't a book of paintings.
Molly Ison
This book of poetry gets a fourth star for effort. So much effort. It's also uneven, possibly because some letters have more interesting monovowellabic (Did Bok use an actual word to describe this?) words than others. A started out well, and E was a thematic victory, but I was unfocused and I fell asleep on the couch during O. I thought I detected a theme where certain letters tend toward certain types of ideas, and maybe that's a result of how Bok put them together instead of something inherent ...more
Jason
Aug 08, 2010 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I should have brought this book with me, when I moved from Portland, but now it sits lonely in storage. I think about Bok all the time. Reading this aloud is essential.
Yifei Men
Dec 06, 2015 Yifei Men rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Reading Eunoia is like watching a contortionist performance, or the act of a hunger artist . The book is a great feat in itself and it is no surprise that the book took 7 years to prepare. Bok's work deserve applause, and the applause come naturally, from how strange and shocking the insanely restrictive lipogrammatic verse sounds. And of course, it is a bigger feat that they make grammatical and logical sense (to some extent). After the shock and admiration dies down, however, I'm left with the ...more
Shawn (ThatOneEnglishGradStudent)
There's no denying that this book is quite an achievement. It is experimental writing in the truest sense of the term: the author has set out to write sequences of poems which highlight one of the five vowels, and in doing so discovers a distinct personality for each of them. My personal favorites were the chapters dedicated to E and I, as I found them the easiest to read and the most pleasing to the ear.

That said, there's something lacking for me with this collection. Yes, the poems are very cl
...more
Sean Endymion
Had I read this book just a year ago, it most definitely would have found its way to my shit-list. For a long time, eccentric and experimental wordplay like Bök’s irritated my sensibility for clear and direct writing. Back then (ha! and most likely even still), I came off very much like the critics (and even the speaker?) envisioned in “Chapter I” (pg 50) – both self-aware of contrived gimmicks and yet blind to, and dismissive of, their value and impact.

Now however, whether by evolving tastes or
...more
Heather
May 22, 2010 Heather rated it liked it
The back cover gives a better summary than I could: "'Eunoia,' which means 'beautiful thinking,' is the shortest English word to contain all five vowels. This book also contains them all, except that each one appears by itself in its own chapter."

This is, as you might guess, both excellent and a little tedious, though more excellent than not. This book is visually really appealing: this edition's printed on very nice cream paper, and the "chapters" are made up of paragraph-length bits of text t
...more
Mcatania21
Mar 20, 2013 Mcatania21 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bok’s Eunoia is clearly meant to be read aloud; the magical music he makes with his vowel sounds are irresistible to the ear; however, they are also intriguing to the eye as we read in surprise how Bok so eloquently mashes together vowel sounds. Through a lipogram, Bok forces us to recognize the power that a single vowel can have through repetition. As Instructor Maxwell points out, “lipograms are especially good for thinking through/about sound and the letter.” Perloff points out that Eunoia is ...more
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 Jim Elkins rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
Why does Bök cripple the interest of his book by naming his Perec-style rules of inclusion: "All chapters must allude to the art of writing. All chapters must describe a culinary banquet, a prurient debauch, a pastoral tableau and a nautical voyage" (that is from Bök's Afterword, called 'The New Ennui').

Yes, the language is mesmerizing, and it's true that Oulipo-style restrictions, as in Perec's work, can produce unpredictable and fascinating distortions of conventional narrative lines and ordi
...more
Black&white
The “Eunoia” part of this book is highly impressive in the fact that he actually managed to make something decent & enjoyable using the crazy restrictions which he set for himself. As impressive technically it is, as middling the actual text is. It is not something that I particularly go wild about, still technically highly impressive but largely dull and forgettable content-wise. Almost makes you wonder why he bothered with it, it remains very impressive.

The “Oiseau” part of the book was a
...more
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1408164
Christian Bök (born Christian Book) is a Canadian experimental poet. He began writing seriously in his early twenties, while earning his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Carleton University in Ottawa. He returned to Toronto in the early 1990s to study for a Ph.D. in English literature at York University, where he encountered a burgeoning literary community that included Steve McCaffery, Christopher Dewdne ...more
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