thinking of the EU

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Knowing my fondness for all things Oulipian and lipogrammatic, Franklin told me about Christian Bök's Eunoia, and I knew I had to have a copy--it arrived yesterday, and I blew off some things I probably should've worked on instead to dive into it. It's a novel--sort of. Each of its five chapters uses only one vowel, and in fact uses almost every English word that contains only that vowel. (The E chapter is, in fact, a retelling of the Iliad: "Hermes, the messenger, tells her the news: 'Thebes sends the fleet.' The Hellene freemen seek redress. The steersmen steer the xebecs between steep, sheer clefts, where reefs prevent sheltered berth; there, the tempests whelm the decks, then wreck the keels--the helms, left crewless whenever the elements beset these crewmen.")

Eunoia proper is followed by "Oiseau," a series of tributes to its French antecedents. "And Sometimes" goes Georges Perecs "Les Revenentes" one better by constructing a sort of poem out of every English word that doesn't contain A, E, I, O or U; "Vowels" is a poem made of words that only include the six letters in "vowels"; etc. My favorite, though, is "Voile," a "Ladle Red Rotten Hut"-ish (or rather Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames-ish) English version of Rimbaud's sonnet "Voyelles." "Anywhere near blank rage/you veer, oblivial," it starts. The front cover is "Voyelles," too, with each of its vowels represented by the appropriate color and all other letters represented by gray. (Although Bök, curiously, refers to Rimbaud's poem as "Voyelle" rather than "Voyelles"--anyone know which is correct?) Anyway, I totally eat this stuff up.

3 Comments

steve said:

Shoulda known you'd love Eunoia. He, and it, are a very big deal in the avant-poetry world. A world whose most interesting lobes may now be in Canada. Have you seen Lisa Robertson's Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office of Soft Architecture yet?

chris piuma said:

You can download Bok reading Eunoia at www.ubu.com, and but while you're there also grab his performance of the Ursonate, which is great.

In theory I might be giving a lecture on OuLiPo in Portland in the near future; this might just be a theory after all.

The title of the Rimbaud poem is "Voyelles".

Bok's other book, Crystallography, is also pretty great, though not so explicitly OuLiPo/Perec/Abish-ian.

Have you read Abish's "Alphabetical Africa" yet?

Michael said:


And, should you choose to revisit those francophilic roots, check out Michel Thaler's "The Train from Nowhere" ("Le Train de Nulle Part"). Monsieur Thaler, whose real name is a mystery, believes that verbs are "invaders, dictators, and usurpers of our literature." Thus, his novel has none.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on May 6, 2004 1:55 AM.

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