Cigarettes is a series of connected vignettes -- each "chapter" can be a story unto itself, focusing on the relationship between two specific people,Cigarettes is a series of connected vignettes -- each "chapter" can be a story unto itself, focusing on the relationship between two specific people, yet the characters are all from other chapters.
It's really tricky the way this book is put together. Each of the main characters weaves into others' stories, hence "connected vignettes." And it's also tricky the way you sometimes don't know that the characters are related -- there might be one story that has a minor character who is merely referred to as "the girl" or by a nickname, but a few chapters later you find out that the nameless character or the nicknamed character is actually one of the other main characters. And then it blows your mind that "Oh my God! *That* was *her*?!?" And you don't even realize that Mathews has been dropping hints all along -- for example, if the reader were really on the ball, s/he'd pick up that the nicknamed character is most likely this particular main character because the nickname fits one of the main character's characteristics. And then you feel dumb if you didn't realize it before, but it's a total "Ah ha! Oh my God!" moment. It's wonderful. And crazy. And brilliant.
However, since there's SO much interconnectedness, I'd suggest making a map and diagrams when reading this (which I'd probably do if I read this book again). Write down people's names as you meet them, attributes, who they know, why you met them, what chapter you're in... all that good stuff. It'll be useful as you go along. ...more
A comprehensive, yet not complete, look at Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature), its members, some of their works, and its writing strategies/thA comprehensive, yet not complete, look at Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature), its members, some of their works, and its writing strategies/theories/experiments. Also includes sections on some of the other Ou-x-po groups, like Oulipopo and Oupeinpo....more
This is a book about Oulipo, a group of writers, mathematicians, and linguists in the 1960s on, who experimented with language and writing. That's a wThis is a book about Oulipo, a group of writers, mathematicians, and linguists in the 1960s on, who experimented with language and writing. That's a wretched explanation of the group, but the entire idea of what they do blows my mind so much that I can't even explain what they do. Oulipians experiment with--among other mind-blowing challenges--lipograms, leaving out a specific letter, as in the case of Georges Perec's A Void, which NEVER uses the letter e in the entire book; combinatorics, as in the case of Raymond Queneau’s A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, which allows the reader to combine the 14 lines of 10 different sonnets to create her/his own new sonnets, or Italo Calvino's explanation of his "The fire in the cursed house" novel, or Raymond Queneau’s "A Story As You Like It" (which is basically a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story); and shifting words and phrases, such as in Jean Lescure's S+7 method, where a signifier in a story is replaced with the signifier that is 7 places away from it in the dictionary, or Harry Mathews's algorithm where he places the major parts of a sentence into a matrix, does the same with x number of other sentences, does some weird shifty-shifty movements within the matrix, and voila, composes a new work.
As the title says, this is a primer, so there are very few actual works of Oulipo in it, but many essays that describe what Oulipo did and what various authors accomplished (i.e. what experiments they performed) in their writings.
In reading some of the works described, I've found that the works can be interesting, or sometimes not so much (like A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems); but when you read the descriptions of *what* was done to create the work, and you think about the sweat and brainpower that must have gone into creating a work like that.... mind blown....more
I think I didn't "get" a lot of this book, but the writing (and/or William Weaver's translation) is absolutely beautiful, poetic and musical.
11/23/14I think I didn't "get" a lot of this book, but the writing (and/or William Weaver's translation) is absolutely beautiful, poetic and musical.
11/23/14: In the Challenge: 50 Books a Year group, Donna posted a comment about The Name of the Rose and Invisible Cities, and it so perfectly fits here, so I'm adding her comment and my response to it onto this review:
Donna wrote: "I think it's a matter of being smart enough to appreciate it, but not being intellectual enough to relish it. ;) That was my sum up of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities."
I was SO disappointed by Invisible Cities. I love If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, so I expected to lo-o-o-o-o-o-ove everything Calvino writes. Then I read Invisible Cities, and it was like.... "Okay.... And...?" And your summary is EXACTLY what I was feeling, but couldn't put in to words: I got the intricacies enough to know there was Something Special in the book, but I just couldn't quite grasp on to it! Yes, smart enough to appreciate, but not intellectual enough to relish. Beautiful!...more
I don't even know where to begin talking about the plot of this book. It's ... drugs .... lots of drugs ... and craziness. A guy and his attorney go tI don't even know where to begin talking about the plot of this book. It's ... drugs .... lots of drugs ... and craziness. A guy and his attorney go to Las Vegas to cover a motorbike race, then a drug enforcers' convention on a lark, all while completely whacked out of their minds on drugs and alcohol (in 1971, by the way). You can imagine what kind of craziness follows.
Here's why I actually liked the book, or at least why I was able to get into it: Many moons ago, I took a Chicano Studies class and we read two books by Thompson's "Samoan attorney," so I kind of felt like I already knew a little of the backstory (or the frontstory, since I think Oscar Zeta Acosta's books came out--and took place--after Fear and Loathing). It was also interesting to weave the two views of his personality into one as I read: Thompson's portrayal of him in Fear and Loathing, and his portrayal of himself (which is itself multi-sided) in his books Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and Revolt of the Cockroach People.
I also love the drawings in the book. Ralph Steadman's illustrations are totally trippy! So perfect....more
At first glance, this book seems to be all gibberish. The trick about it, though, is that it's written following the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5At first glance, this book seems to be all gibberish. The trick about it, though, is that it's written following the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, etc.). The first paragraph has one sentence. The second paragraph, 1 sentence. Third paragraph, two sentences. Etc. Not only that, but it's oftentimes almost like a dialogue between the odd and the even paragraphs. For example, the first paragraph says "Not this." Second paragraph: "What then?" Furthermore, Silliman refers back to many phrases and ideas throughout the book, or restructures sentences to create new ones, sometimes related but not always ("Analogy to 'quick' sand" goes to "Sand & logic to the quick;" similarly, "Not this" later becomes "Knot this."). It's quite a trip reading the book, especially if you try to keep track of the repeated elements and all of the instances of his tricks.
Themes that stand out: baseball, sex, and writing. (And really, isn't that what life *should* be about?)...more
This is an AMAZING book. Each chapter is titled for a vowel (i.e. the first chapter is entitled "Chapter A," etc.), and for each chapter, the chapter'This is an AMAZING book. Each chapter is titled for a vowel (i.e. the first chapter is entitled "Chapter A," etc.), and for each chapter, the chapter's vowel is the only vowel used throughout the chapter. Even though the text isn't too in-depth (it's not like the chapters have the plots of a novel), it's remarkable that Bok is able to make mini-stories using only the respective vowels. ...more