Jan. 7th, 2014

fengi: (Dig Those Crazy Words)

A Brief History of Authoterrorism
Edited by Gabriel Levinson

Short response: As contributor Whitney Anne Trettien puts it, "authoterrorism: the seemingly illimitable, sometimes violent lengths to which authors and artists will go to promote their work."

The book is intriguing, and looks great, but the end result doesn't quite live up to the title or the JL Borges quote which (one assumes) inspired it. Trettien's piece - the only one by a woman - is the strongest, nailing both aspects of the project (an exploration of the word and sly tribute to Borges). Mark Jay Mirsky's piece is the next strongest, but too long with a strained conclusion (see below).

There's a good Terry Southern reprint, but it's about painting, not solicited and thus a cheat. The six dude originals are decent but lack focus in either ideas or execution. Five should be much shorter. Two involve women suggesting author dudes should resort to violence, and in one men resort to violence on behalf of a very boring female poet. In another (eloquent but needed to be cut by 75%) a female warrior poet resorts to terrorism in hopes of posthumous fame for her revolutionary art, but fails.

A collection of explicit thought exercises sort of demands the reader notice such things. It seems significant that a project about writers and terrorism which is 89% male depicts women as violent non-writers (or failed ones). Because the vagina is beyond words, but terrifying. Or something (which may explain the excerpt from a mysteriously corrupted text about ripping out a woman's tongue at the end of Trettien's piece).

1. From the Borges excerpt which serves as the epigraph/mission statement:
Printing, which is now forbidden, was one of the worst evils of mankind, for it tended to multiply unnecessary texts to a dizzying degree.
-"A Weary Man's Utopia" by JLB.
2. From Trettien's piece:
Thus, rather than protecting the rights of writers, the concept of authorship became a way of assigning culpability...Beginning as a fringe movement at the edges of literary property, authoterrorism rapidly developed into a form of opposition - as a refusal to recognize the legal, social and economic structures built to contain the free flow of books.