tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Descriptions of Impossible Objects

Descriptions of Impossible Objects by John Berndt
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really liked it
bookshelves: philosophy, sf

A small bk like this, esp one this succinct & full of ideas, inevitably reminds me of part of a great song by the late lamented Vivian Stanshall: "Sport (The Odd Boy)":

"The Odd Boy lay down by the football field,
took out a slim volume of Mallarme,
The centre-forward called him an imbecile;
it's an Odd Boy who doesn't like Sport."

John provides 10 stripped-down descriptions of a person experiencing 10 "impossible objects" & follows this w/ an Afterward in wch he heavily references his mentor Henry Flynt. Not surprisingly, I find Flynt's influence to be prominent. Less obviously, I'm also reminded of my own unpublished bk "Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & Other Examples of Perverse Number Theory". I'm also reminded of 2 other bks that I've read recently: Italo Calvino's "t zero" & Rudy Rucker's "Saucer Wisdom". Wch is not to say that John's necessarily influenced by these bks - he's familiar w/ mine but might not be w/ the other 2. Regardless of the similarities, this is definitely a unique bk, a bk distinctively by John Berndt.

"Descriptions of Impossible Objects" makes not only for an interesting read just as writing by itself but also succeeds as stimulating & funny. I think of Rucker b/c of "Object Four" in wch the object stays always exactly behind the perceiver & is, therefore, perceived only thru reflection & thru pushing a stick behind the perceiver to touch it. In "Saucer Wisdom", at 1st, the aliens always stay behind the abductee to thwart looking at them. John's description of trying to see the object head-on is thorough & thoughtful.

I almost gave this a 5 star rating but I was slightly put off by some of the Afterward. While I like that John puts the descriptions in a philosophical context I almost liked the descriptions better alone. Then again, if he HADN'T had the Afterward, I might've lamented its absence.

Independent of the Afterward, just reading the very clear descriptions & imagining being in the situation of the perceiver was completely fun for me. & John's approach to the descriptions has some formal variety. In "Object Six", eg, a part of the "impossibility" lies in the unexpected use of adjectives. Take this 1st sentence:

"The object's length is dark brown, stopping just before bright yellow. and it is approximately half as green wide." It's this type of inspired writing, justified by the content, that reminds me of Calvino. & I don't even object to the brevity of the bk. In most case I prefer massive tomes of dense structure & epic content. In this case, the concentration is perfect - the writing's a seed & needn't be the whole 200 yr old tree.
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