A Brief Description of the Whole World (1999)

Pander 9 (November 1999)

A Brief Description of the Whole World:
A Review Symposium of the first twelve issues of this Journal of Experimental Writing, founded by Alan Loney in December 1995,
and thereafter issued by him (in stapled, xeroxed, A4 format) until
October 1998, when the editorship passed to John Geraets.

ABDPOTWW 10-11 (October 1998)

Our criticism is littered with overviews – the year’s poetry, the year’s fiction, a review of seven magazines in one to two thousand words, five new books from a new press, or yet another anthology to tell us who’s in charge of canon building.”
Alan Loney, ABDOTWW #8 (1997): 3

It is in the zone of hyper-bowl that we will have to stand.”
– Jacques Derrida, Auckland Town Hall, 18th August 1999

Dear John,

Thanks for getting back to me about the Pander review. I’ve collected some views already, and am gradually working my way through the issues (in both senses).

There’s a rather missionary tone in some of the editorials which slightly grates on me, I must admit. I don’t really see being “non-referential” as either inherently wicked or inherently virtuous, I must admit. What appeals to me most is the ludic cleverness of so much of the work I read there.

The purpose of the review – or review-symposium – is to describe and celebrate more than critique, though. There’s too much there which would need to be dealt with in isolation, and I really just want to bring our readers’ attention to the existence of this submerged continent of innovative text-work.

I take your point about not particularly wishing to expand your market. I just think it would be nice if people who would like it got to know about it.
I did this the other night, but lost it, damn!, so v. briefly let me try again:

That, of course, makes me muse on the immense mana of the lost message. What brilliance must have been there! So only this skeletal residue remains ...
The term “literary” is always retrospective. Novelty is not an interest.

No, kinda twentieth-century, really, all that stuff about innovation and “newness,” isn’t it?
Newly experimental is always to do with a self-questioning, although these questions are not necessarily ones that are asked. They address a reflexivity that may be strangely extended, extensive.

I’d add including an implicit challenge to the reader’s ontology – though I quite understand that you might see this as a heretical return to something resembling the affective fallacy …
As well performing a special questioning, ABDOTWW questions its and its material’s performance.

I like this mystic apotheosising of your magazine, and the HLAH-like initials are fun, too.
In all this there is subtlety involved, to be sure.

To be sure – but “don’t rely on subtlety / frighten them or they won’t see” (Tim Rice: Jesus Christ, Superstar)

“Go play,” says Hamish. But what said Alan Loney, ABDOTWW’s onlie begetter? Here are extracts from various of his editorials:
I ever hope for words clear as these, on a sign on a lamp-post I saw last year – “Our cockatiel has flown away. We miss him” … a search for clarity among the literally unimaginable welter of words we live in, would be useful.
“On Clarity” #1 (December 1995): p.3.

We want answers. The culture wants answers, the media wants answers, any answers, where all answers are all too equally valid. The ‘unexplained’ is then reserved for the strange, the weird, the spooky, the ‘paranormal’ …
In my own work, the sentence “Nothing like it exists everywhere” still haunts me, as an enigmatic unsolvable puzzle, several years after writing it.
“Defamiliarizing the Familiars” #3 (June 1996): pp.3-4.

While I think that all information is privileged information, it’s hard to see that it’s necessary for information that is not readily available to stay hidden. One reason for the apparent ‘obscurity’ of some writing will be that it has not been spoken for …
“Who do I write for?” #4 (November 1996): p.6.

[from a review of Tony Green’s NO PLACE TO GO printed by Tara McLeod:] … if Green mourns the loss of some of his line-endings, or if McLeod mourns the loss of options that would have been given by different types and papers, and if I myself mourn for the loss of the opportunity signalled by the term ‘collaboration’, then are we doing any more than what we’d do by being faced, as in this book we most concretely are, with the vagaries of reading that are inevitable when the work goes out ‘into the world’, with no place to go but into the hands of those who will read it.
“A place to go” #6 (July 1997): p.6.

… one of the most interesting things I learned from my years as a psychiatric nurse and an orderly in a geriatric wing of a general hospital, was that very many people, even most perhaps, die without ever enjoying classical music, looking at fine art, or reading great literature, yet believed absolutely that they had lived a full life … This flies in the face of one of our most cherished assumptions about the quality of life …
“What are poets for?” #7 (September 1997): p.3.

… there is only one Tradition, and everything whatsoever is in it, like it or not. But if everything is in this Tradition, what can being ‘marginal’ mean?
… What is, for instance, ‘postmodern poetry’? By the mainstream it tends to be taken as a kind of ‘thing’, which one can have to deal with or not as one chooses. Postmodern poetry is then seen as a kind of poetry, a sort of style, as if it’s an option on the menu that we can click on or pass by, take it or leave it. But what if postmodernity is … the name of the condition in which we [as a culture] find ourselves?”
“The Other Tradition” #8 (December 1997): pp.3-5.

“Those who specialise in generalist overviews that mention oppositional writing in passing lack the credibility that only published close readings can provide …” (#4 (1996): 6). Point taken, Alan. This rather scrappy collection of views and re/views is the result. One could hardly hope to consider so varied, so textually adventurous and visually challenging a body of work otherwise. What’s more, “reviews do not necessarily stimulate a lot of sales, but negative reviews almost always stop sales in their tracks.” (#7 (1997): 3). Perhaps it is invidious to single out one from so many examples, but how can I refrain from finishing by quoting this page of Lesley Kaiser / John Barnett’s (#6 (1997): 9)?

Stone is
more stony
than it used
to be


Pander 9 (1999): 14-16.

[1110 wds]

Pander 9 (1999)

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