July 16th, 2009



One of the students today told me about Eunoia, by Christian Bok.

Below is the description from Amazon:

"Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism, disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks impish hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn't it glib? Isn't it chic?" Besides being glib and chic, Bok's new book strikes one with the force of being the most incredible literary curio: each of its chapters is allowed to use only one vowel outgunning even Georges Perec's famed La Disparition, which simply omits the letter "e." Apparently seven years in the making, Eunoia, the shortest word in the English language to employ all the vowels (it means "beautiful thinking"), also employs other, more mundane constraints on paragraph length (all are 12 lines long) and what must be mentioned (the act of writing, nautical travel, energetic eating). This hyper-mechanization of the writer's craft sets the stage for a welter of eccentric, yet universally appealing, tours-de-force, such as Chapter E's retelling of the Illiad from the viewpoint of Helen: "Whenever Helen seeks these perverse excesses, her regretted deeds depress her; hence, Helen beseeches Ceres (the blessed Demeter): `let sweet Lethe bless me, lest these recent events be rememberd' then the empress feeds herself fermented hempseed, her preferred nepenthe." In the "u" chapter, "Dutch smut churns up blushful succubus lusts," and Ubu and Lulu burp, hump and bump for five delirious pages, exhausting, in the meantime, the entire range of English words that only contain the vowel. Eunoia's reductorial neurosis as euphonically zestful contrivance turns formidable stunts to imp's play. That is, this terrific book makes sense on its own terms. (Nov.)Forecast: Bok's debut Crystallography was well reviewed in Canada (Bok lives and works in Toronto, whence Coach House publishes), and he has invented languages for two Gene Roddenberry TV series, Earth: Final Conflict and Amazon. This book will have to be sought out, but it is beautifully produced, and browsers will be hooked.

And here's a couple of samples from the publisher:

Hassan Abd al-Hassad, an Agha Khan, basks at an ashram - a Taj Mahal that has grand parks and grass lawns, all as vast as parklands at Alhambra and Valhalla. Hassan can, at a handclap, call a vassal at hand and ask that all staff plan a bacchanal - a gala ball that has what pagan charm small galas lack. Hassan claps, and (tah-dah) an Arab lass at a swank spa can draw a man’s bath and wash a man’s back, as Arab lads fawn and hang, athwart an altar, amaranth garlands as fragrant as attar - a balm that calms all angst. A dwarf can flap a palm branch that fans a fat maharajah. A naphtha lamp can cast a calm warmth.

Fuck me, but that sounds cool.