29 December 2011

Kenneth Goldsmith in The Believer, October 2011

I'm a little late getting round to this article, but I think it's something I should make a note of as it's so challenging to our conception of literature. As indeed it's meant to be. The full title of the article in The Believer, including the subtitles, is 'Kenneth Goldsmith (Poet): What Happens when Sense is not Foregrounded as Being of Primary Importance: Some Books Better Thought about than Read: Finnegans Wake[,] The Making of Americans[,] The works of Kenneth Goldsmith'. Dave Mandl writes an introduction about Goldsmith, and then has an email interview with him.

Goldsmith has written books such as Soliloquy, which contains every word he spoke in a week; The Weather, which is a transcript of a radio station's weather reports over a whole year; and Day, which is the text of an issue of The New York Times retyped. You get the idea.

And that's what this is all about: ideas. Goldsmith calls himself a 'conceptual writer', and says he has a 'thinkership' rather than a readership: his books are evidently more or less unreadable, so their value is as thinking tools, or what Goldsmith calls ''pataphysical reference books', an expression that made me immediately think of Alfred Jarry and Oulipo, so I was hardly surprised to find Goldsmith enthusing over Michel Houellebecq enthusing over Georges Perec and Jorge Luis Borges, or to learn that he has established an educational resource called UbuWeb.

Goldsmith also works at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches 'poetic practice and the art of plagiarism'.

And the interview is here.

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