Sunday, 28 October 2018

I’ve been flipping through Svetlana Boym’s Off-Modern Architectures, a very short paperback edition of two essays in which Boym takes on certain problems and concepts familiar to readers of her other work. Her subjects and her methods and deeply intertwined. Boym writes about Shklovsky’s idea(l) of the knight’s move in chess: slant, indirect, and surprising. She writes about Tatlin’s “Letatlin” flying suit and his great unbuilt memorial. Boym uses these art pieces as portals into dreaming the past’s alternate futures. Without apparent capitalist utility and without participating in academic vanguardism, Boym is a rogue intellectual—a poet. 

That she exists (she passed away in ___, but death does not disqualify you from active membership in the sisterhood of the slant) helps to authorize my own slant path.

There’s more to say here about the social life of a book: my friend Una introduced me to Boym and I think of her as an author of our friendship—as in one of the creators of a space of friendship that Una and I exist within and as someone whose work is held in common, a bridge, a bond.

And then there’s how I came by this book: attending my friend Amy’s wedding. At the reception we had been given $10 gift certificates for Alley Cat Books and Off-Modern Architectures was $11 before tax, which was fortunate, because I had already blown more money than I had since Britt and I were staying on the border of Chinatown and North Beach—a block away from City Lights.

What I’m actively reading right now is Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook. Ever since I finished the richly allusive Call Me Zebra, I’ve been tracking down Zebra’s reading list, starting with the Catalan writers. Pla’s book is a bit of a brick, over 600 pages. It’s a diary, written towards the end of the Great War from Palafrugell. I like a diary—narrative but anti-plot, full of vignettes, character sketches, landscape and architectural sketches. Pla wrote it when he was 21, evidently revising it throughout his life but not so much so that he doesn’t leave readers to occasionally suffer from the literary consequences of his younger self’s inexperience. The low points are when he deigns to talk about or record conversations with friends about women, but some of my favorite parts are when he writes about other Catalan authors in relation to the contemporary state of the Catalan language.

Other Texan (or formerly Texan) trans writers I’m thinking about:

Jamie Berrout—translation, Latina Texas

Jeanne Thornton—austin, memory, this book would be on my tour of exile