Good evening, world…

22 Jun

This is my first post, just by way of introducing my WordPress blog page…

The page design is one of WordPress’s presets and is called ‘Oulipo’.  As a result, I had no choice but to select it, regardless of its graphic qualities.  L’Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, Oulipo for short, translates as the Workshop for Potential Literature and is a collective of writers and mathematicians.  And three writers whose work I love were members – Georges Perec (author of my favourite book, Life a User’s Manual – have I mentioned that before?), Italo Calvino and founding member, Raymond Queneau.  In essence, the Oulipians dedicated themselves to ‘constrained’ writing.  So Perec’s La Disparition (translated by Gilbert Adair as A Void) was an extended lipogram, written without the letter ‘e’ (try it for yourself – it’s not easy!).  Queneau’s Exercises in Style told the same short story 99 times in 99 different styles.  And Life a User’s Manual was tied down with numerous constraints that forced Perec’s Houdini-like imagination to make its improbable yet brilliant escape.

I love this kind of playfulness in writing.   My own current fictional project has many chapters, 82 of which (and this just happens to be the narrator’s age…) begin with an anagram of the book’s title.  As my friend and fellow writer, Jess Fitch remarked of a previous lipogram that I produced, it seemed to create a kind of strange poetry, even if you weren’t aware what it was that was odd about it.  So here’s an excerpt from my short story, An English Conundrum, about a sort of guerrilla crossword compiler, if such a thing can be imagined:

Will living within strict limits diminish his writing by crippling its intrinsic lyricism, stifling its virility?  His writing is tricksy with cryptic twists, inviting lit-crit grilling by cynics (it didn’t fit with stylistic thinking).  Typing his film script (it’s its first imprint)…  Switch.  This twit – Crispin, is it?  Digby? – is tipsy imbibing spirits.  Gin, whisky… mixing his drinks.  Crispin/Digby is ill.  Sick, sick, sick (in WC, in sink, in bin…).  Did his siblings slip things in his drink, spiking his gin with micky fins, swilling it with pills? 

Christ!  This is shit, isn’t it?

Adoxography, I believe that’s called.  And if that strikes you as self-indulgent, then maybe it’s because the only vowel involved is ‘I’…

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2 Responses to “Good evening, world…”

  1. Abi Hiscock June 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    What about the three incidents of y as a vowel?

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves June 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Well, Abi, I was thinking, ‘Three Incidents of Y as a Vowel’ – I don’t know that work, but it sounds interesting. It seemed the sort of thing Perec or Queneau might well have written. So I looked it up but could find no reference to it on Google. Then I saw what you meant. There are actually five uses of it as a vowel (fourteen if you include its terminal usage), but the punchline doesn’t work if you count it that way…

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