Commentaries

“In your hearing words are mute, which to my senses / Are a shout.”

In her chapter on “Irritation” in Ugly Feelings, Sianne Ngai focuses first of all on Helga Crane, the ever-ambivalent and often-irritated protagonist of Nella Larsen’s 1928 novel Quicksand. Helga is, at one point, a processor of scraps of others’ texts, and this tedious word-labor is a prime source of “irritation.” Ngai compares her to Melville’s Sub-Sub Librarian, but unlike that of our full-eyed poor devil of a Sub-Sub, Helga’s is not a labor of love. It is, in a very literal sense, a job, imposed by the wealthier woman who employs her.

Translated presence: Genevieve Kaplan & technologies of bookmaking

"The Book of Obsolete." Sculpture by Peter Vogel.
"The Book of Obsolete." Sculpture by Peter Vogel.

Some books come to us by way of friends, some by strangers, tucked into an anonymous mailer by someone we will never meet. Not so very long ago (and maybe in some places still), you might have opened a book on a library desk and seen, listed inside the back cover, the signatures of all those who opened it before.

Antonin Artaud's Hyper-Negation

Image 1: Watchfiends and Rack Screams. Image 2: Antonin Artaud: Man of Vision.
Image 1: Antonin Artaud, Watchfiends and Rack Screams: Works from the Final Period, Tr. Clayton Eshleman and Bernard Bador, (Boston: Exact Change, 1995.) Cover art: Nancy Spero, detail from “Codex Artaud XXIII,” 1972. Image 2: Bettina Knapp, Antonin Artaud: Man of Vision, (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1969.) Cover art: Still from La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, 1928.

When I asked the poet David Abel what first drew him to Antonin Artaud’s work, he said, “At least one dimension of that work is a grand negation. A gigantic no, which at a certain time in my life was absolutely thrilling. […] I feel like 'no' is a landscape that now is very rich and three-dimensional. And what I got from Artaud is foundational, a part of the architecture or a part of the geology of the no, but which now has lots of other structures in it.”[1] David Abel’s response captures a fundamental celebration of Antonin Artaud’s writings.

"It felt like many lifetimes"

The last issue of Angel Hair

Angel Hair 6, cover art by George Schneeman

“Only three years had passed,” Lewish Warsh writes of publishing the journal Angel Hair, “but it felt like many lifetimes.”