You are commenting using your WordPress. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to discover new talent! Alphabetical Africa — Wikipedia Or if you just… twitter. Dec 06, Laura Pardo rated it liked it. A reader watches the first letters of many words, and also attends to the stories.
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His linguistic constraints are "terrifying and irrefutable," as Ashbery says chapters from A to Z and back to A, each one containing only a subset of letters of the alphabet , but the stories he tells are carefree and funny. I think this matters because in the Oulipo tradition, the stories that are told have some correspondence, in tone, philosophy, pointlessness, absurdity, and so on, to the rules the authors imposed on themselves.
That correspondence is the glue that binds the books together: otherwise Perec and others could have simply taken existing novels or newspaper accounts as Goldsmith and others do now and subjected them to predetermined rules. More on this at the end. Its humor is a kind I recognize in other authors of the s. He is untroubled about mentioning that his characters take acid: they are who they are.
The result is a politically invested but carefree tone that reminds me, in a different sphere, of Arlo Guthrie. Meanwhile, each chapter in the first half of the book adds another letter, and each chapter in the second half subtracts one, and the machinery of that expansion and contraction works alongside the stories but almost never to any determinate purpose. A reader watches the first letters of many words, and also attends to the stories.
The result is not a surrealist juxtaposition, because it so often seems that Abish is simply trying to write well, in spite of his own constraints. Mentioning my memory makes me feel insecure. A few months ago Alex and Allen kidnapped a jeweler in Antibes and killed him almost inadvertently But the sentence immediately following serves the purpose of furthering one of his stories.
So it is not clear how we are expected to attend to the alliterations. Are we to read as Oulipeans for part of one sentence, and then forget that regimen, and think instead about the plot?
When "Alphabetical Africa" is funny, it is so in spite of its linguistic constraints. The principal expressive option here would be surrealism: the stories would be juxtaposed in unexpected and irrational ways with the language used to express them.
But that does not happen often, or consistently, and sometimes it seems not to happen intentionally. In the end, it seemed to me that this is a lighthearted spoof about American attitudes to Africa in the s, placed, for reasons I think the author himself never entirely analyzed, into the "terrifying and irrefutable" Procrustean frame of a linguistic game. It is an example of a book that reveals a crucial criterion for constrained writing: there needs to be a nameable connection between the linguistic constraint and whatever stories are being told.
That connection can be a contrast irrational, surrealist, or satiric or a harmonious correspondence between constrained lives and rule-bound writing, between partly unknowable psychologies and partly private constraints, etc. I might not be interested in such a writer. There should be a strong connection between story and constraints: it can be a strong contrast, or dissociation, or affinity, but it really has to work as a whole: otherwise it seems to me the interest of any constraint is diminished.
Relatively few people can figure out how to link or contrast the constraint to the material story, subject matter, voice, mood. I do find I want the relationship between form and content to be acknowledged in some manner: form and content can exhibit a radical disconnection, disharmony, incoherence, randomness, surrealism, or irrationalism; regardless of the kind of relationship, I am most engaged when the author or the narrator, or the text demonstrates that the problem has been considered.
ALPHABETICAL AFRICA DE WALTER ABISH PDF