tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Distance Function

Distance Function by Franz Kamin
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really liked it
bookshelves: in-its-own-category
Recommended for: all appreciators of the potential of non-Hausdorff Space as genre-resistant
Read 2 times. Last read February 12, 2011.

The author of this bk died in a car crash on April 11, 2010. He was a friend of mine. As of the time of writing this review, I'm making a documentary about him provisionally called "DEPOT (wherein resides the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin)". While making "DEPOT", I interviewed George Quasha who, along w/ Susan Quasha, is the publisher of Station Hill Books - the people who put this chapbk out. George explained to me that when he met Franz, thru Jackson Mac Low in 1973 in NYC, he & Franz wd sit around talking & Franz wd say incredible things that George encouraged him to write down. Franz grumbled that 'nobody wd publish it' & George told him that if Franz were to write it, George wd publish it. After this encouragement, Franz wrote something about the 'synaesthetic' "Concert of Doors" piece that he created in Indiana in early 1973 & George had it published by Sumac Press in their "Active Anthology" released in April, 1974. This, according to George, was the 1st thing Franz had published. By 1975, Pierre Joris & William Prescott had published something by Kamin in their "sixpack" magazine & by 1977, "Distance Function" was released as what may've been Kamin's 1st chapbk. Both of these were later incorporated into Station Hill's 1980 Kamin bk "Ann Margret Loves You & other psychotopological diversions".

I'm so impressed by the idiosyncrasies of this bk that I've decided to make a new 'shelf' for it: "in-its-own-category". That's one of the highest compliments I can give anything. &, yet, I still only 'rated' it 4 stars. This is b/c, even though Franz was around 36 when it was published, it's still a somewhat immature work. The later "Ann Margret Loves You" that it becomes incorporated into is much more developed. Nonetheless, this work has an astonishing conceptual slipperiness to it - truly original. I've elsewhere criticized some fiction writing in academic journals, eg, as reeking of personality-bleached taught 'correctness'. There's none of that here. Franz perversely blends materials & approaches w/ a total disregard for conventional genres. Dream descriptions flow in & out of personal memoir flow in & out of mathematics flow in & out of definitions of neologisms flow in & out of sexual reference.. Is this non-Hausdorff Space? I think so. If, in topology (a major influence on Kamin's work in general), Hausdorff Space is space w/ separable points, then non-Hausdorff Space is, as Kamin puts it elsewhere (in "A RITUAL EMBEDDING OF THE SPIDER'S RISK into non-HAUSDORF M-SPACE", eg) is "non-separable . . . that is, one cannot necessarily differentiate one locale from another." By the by, "Hausdorff" w/ 2 "f"s seems to be the 'correct' spelling but Franz spells it w/ one "f".

Reinforcing this non-Hausdorff Space is Charles Stein's cover foto. In it, the edge of a lake or pond is shown - next to wch is a puddle. Overhanging the water are branches, reflected in the water are branches. In the space of the foto, the perspective seems to've been manipulated so that the overhanging branches, while distinguishable from their reflections by their sharper focus, are somehow cropped so that they only begin at the edge of the body of water - just as the reflections do. Even the puddle & the larger body of water seem to be on unnaturally different planes - w/ the larger body almost vertical in relation to the puddle. While these objects are somewhat differentiable they're also fluid - not just b/c there's water involved but also b/c natural relations are subtly disrupted, in ambiguity.

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that this is probably the 2nd or 3rd time I've read this & when I reread it for the sake of this review I basically didn't remember ANY of it. This isn't to say that it's necessarily 'unmemorable' - more that it's what my friend Fabio Roberti might call "opaque". On the title page there's a text that says: "...that it is the physical distance between things that brings them together, but it is the 'distance function' that keeps them apart...". I doubt that that's taken straight from topology - more likely it's Franz's perversion of topology (but I cd be wrong). In the chapter entitled "Discovery Among the Cups and Saucers" Kamin writes: "The Distance Function (as peculiarly defined here) is an object which relates other objects by way of the distance between them [..]" &, later, in "Her Father's 2 Birthday Parties and the 2 Trains": "A strange feeling crept over me: I realized that we wanted to have it be like this...to taste the poignantly sweet sorrow of distance [..]". Whatever the case, one spin that I can put on this is that the Distance Function of "Distance Function" is that it creates a "poignantly sweet sorrow of distance" between the writer & the reader that maintains & nurtures both their specialnesses.

& if "Distance Function" is 'about' anything more than anything else, I'd say it's 'about' relationships - particularly his relationship w/ "Lisa" - a lover that I don't recall coming across other mentions of. In the afore-mentioned "Discovery [..]" chapter he writes: "What I have discovered is that when things are placed in their 'proper relation' to each other, a virtually discernable 'plasma' forms in the interstices" - & then in "Stagger Strands": "I have noticed, especially recently, that during short periods when I am more or less free of the bondage of normal 'gummy' relationships (all relations except that of the greater self) that I tend to trip and stumble a lot [..]".

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Started Reading
February 12, 2011 – Finished Reading
February 13, 2011 – Shelved
February 13, 2011 – Shelved as: in-its-own-category

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