Edited by Danny Snelson
Bruce Andrews Divestiture - A (1994)
Steve Benson The Ball // 30 Times in 2 Days (2005)
Maurice Blanchot The Last Man (1957)
Mairéad Byrne SOS Poetry (2007)
Terence Gower & Mónica de la Torre Appendices, Illustrations & Notes (1999)
Dick Higgins Horizons (1984)
Bernard Nöel The Outrage Against Words (1978)
Severo Sarduy Big Bang (1973)
Claude Simon Properties of Several Geometric or Non-Geometric Figures (1971)
Rosemarie Waldrop Shorter American Memory (1988)
Robert Wilson A Letter For Queen Victoria: An Opera (1974)
This new series of /ubu editions presents eleven out-of-print works from 1957 to 1994 - and also includes three newer titles (1999-2007). Of the historical republications, there are three works of poetry, three works of prose, one opera libretto, one work of critical theory, and one manifesto - though each piece blurs these genres. Seven were written in English, four appear in translation, and one is bilingual. Two authors could be considered language poets, two are associated with Tel Quel, one arguably initiated Fluxus, another arguably initiated the new novel. Four are women, nine are men. One title was changed for its /ubu publication.
Continuing the /ubu precedent of restoring 'unjustifiably ignored classics' to the free market grab-bag economy of online publishing, most titles of the new series are difficult to find and expensive to acquire despite their textual importance and historical significance. By contrast to this established model, two books, pervasive in the 80s and 90s (though now out of print), are republished here despite ridiculously inexpensive amazon.com prices. Emerging from heaps of tarnished and unattractive old editions, this series returns appropriate luster to these exciting works through the signature /ubu editions PDF format you've seen deliver stunning works from Craig Dworkin's Smokes to Mac Wellman's Lesser Magoo. This new curatorial reversal realized through UbuWeb's commodity-altering free market to embody these works with value beyond the fetish economics of the bookshelf.
This series delights in the unlikely pairings and possible connections sparking up between these works and their imminent afterlife on UbuWeb:
Beginning at the beginning: Big Bang. Severo Sarduy's incredible work is offered here in the original bilingual version printed by Fata Morgana press in 1973. Appearing just before the Cuban exile's magnificent literary-cosmological critical work Barroco, Sarduy's Big Bang is a glamorous pleasure of astronomical proportions. In conjunction with this release see the html version of Sarduy's concrete series Mood Indigo in ubu historical. On the other side of the spectrum, and in conflicted resistance to Sarduy's milieu, /ubu is eager to present Dick Higgins' collection of essays, Horizons: The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia (1984). A sister volume to Higgins' A Dialectic of the Centuries (1978), Horizons employs Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics to confront what Higgins views as the hegemonic critical theories of the 70s and 80s—all towards new conceptions of the wide range of historically innovative experimental works.
Bruce Andrew's 1994 title Divestiture—A is a follow-up collection to Divestiture—E, a pastiche of journal entries from the early 70s. The result: a violent verbal stripping of social order and cultural flotsam, presenting language in a "state of undress." Toward these ends, Bernard Noël's important manifesto The Outrage Against Words (1975), written in reaction to the attempted censure of his incendiary Le Château de Cène, appeared (albeit significantly cut-up, and one could argue, politically truncated) in Bernstein and Andrews' L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E journal (no. 7, 1979). Still, The Outrage Against Words remains a vitally trenchant manifesto: as timely today as in New York in '79. In league with Noël's revolt against the politics of oppression, written in the same year as Le Château de Cène, Monique Wittig's Les Guérillères (1969) famously takes up the problem of written rebellion, aiming linguistic weaponry and fantastic imagery at the mark of gender in this experimental classic of political science fiction. Preceding these verbal projectiles and forecasting a theoretical conclusion beyond this cluster of political writings, Maurice Blanchot's delicious paradoxical bundle, The Last Man (1957), speculates on the possible impossibilities of the text, of language, of the last man.
A different rhythm of madness, Bob Wilson's A Letter to Queen Victoria, staged in 1974, marks Wilson's first collaboration with autistic poet Christopher Knowles. This incredible libretto stands as a essential document of Knowles elegantly idiosyncratic language and Wilson's developing operatic vision—for a hint of this work, hear Wilson and Knowles perform a section from the opera, released a year later by John Giorno's prodigious Poetry Systems: The Sundance Kid Was Beautiful (mp3). The musically structured recurrence of words in Queen Victoria mirrors the narratological geometry of Claude Simon's Properties of Several Geometric and Non-Geometric Figures (1971). Simon's object-novel inscribes an ensemble of textual moments in a rigorous mathematic grid of relations on the theme of Poussin's "Blind Orion": a multiplicity of exhausted struggles for luminosity. A still more diverse array of considerations is offered in Rosmarie Waldrop's delightful collection of poems Shorter American Memory (1988). A comedic critique composed by a variety of procedural devices—from Oulipian s+7 (on the Declaration of Independence) to procedural alphabetization (of the American character)—Waldrop carefully manipulates the texts collected in Henry Beston's 1937 anthology American Memory for a nuanced abbreviation.
After tracing this small number of shared concerns and parallel vectors, I am eager to turn and spotlight something like reading: the dancing potentialities and free dissemination of these works in their new /ubu digital afterlife. Or rather, to recollect the reading that lets be what is—reading that is freedom: not the freedom that produces or grasps, but freedom that welcomes, consents, says yes, can only say yes, and, in the space opened by this yes, initiates a dance with an invisible partner—a helplessly joyful dance with the "tomb."
Danny Snelson, 2007