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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction

The Posthuman Dada Guide

Andrei Codrescu

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To purchase The Posthuman Dada Guide

Title: The Posthuman Dada Guide
Author: Andrei Codrescu
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2009
Length: 219 pages
Availability: The Posthuman Dada Guide - US
The Posthuman Dada Guide - UK
The Posthuman Dada Guide - Canada
  • tzara and lenin play chess

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly creative, entertaining take

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 11/4/2009 P.D.Smith
The LA Times . 29/3/2009 Carly Berwick
The Village Voice A- 31/3/2009 Eli Epstein-Deutsch

  From the Reviews:
  • "Codrescu's wonderfully surreal and subversive guide tells the story of dada and puts you back in touch with your inner avant gardist. Behind the archly ironic playfulness is a serious-minded plea for creativity and a revitalised language. This book may damage your career, but it could just save your life." - P.D.Smith, The Guardian

  • "Codrescu, the NPR commentator and author, has rolled into one slim guide a postmodern self-help manual, a history lesson, a love letter to dissident poets, a hard jab at communism and a veiled autobiography." - Carly Berwick, The Los Angeles Times

  • "The Guide's Web-savvy structure isn't just a gimmick: It aids in the seamless formation of Codrescu's manic associative trains, which reach to the Middle Ages and back, tracing elements from surrealism to gothic vampire cults, Communist revolutions to Christian carnivals, artists' love for Peggy Guggenheim to differences between American and European witch hunts. This book might've vied with Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces for the subtitle A Secret History of the Twentieth Century." - Eli Epstein-Deutsch, The Village Voice

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Andrei Codrescu's The Posthuman Dada Guide is a history, guidebook, and defense of Dadaism, all spun quite creatively together. Codrescu takes a stab at arranging entries alphabetically-encyclopedically, but there are few entries (and these tend to be essayistic-digressive) and the alphabetical order is made to fit his whims, not only with his choice of subject-matter (e.g. 'kibbitzers') but with the arrangement of names -- it's 'hugo, ball' but 'michaux, henri', for example.
       "It is not advisable, nor was it ever, to lead a Dada life", Codrescu acknowledges right from the outset, but especially in this 'posthuman' age -- politically and technologically --:

you will need Dada as a corrective to what will certainly be the loss of the modicum of liberty you still possess.
       Much of the appeal Codrescu finds in Dada is in its resilience and refusal to take itself (or anything) seriously, and he notes that while other fads and movements -- from communism to all sorts of art movements -- come and go, Dada remains as fresh as ever:
There are, of course, many histories of Dada and, as noted, many dada revivals, but nobody can figure out why Dada won't rust. What's more, what's still live in some of the movements inspired by Dada, whether surrealism, happenings, Fluxus, abstract, or Pop, owe Dada that still-ticking je ne sais quoi and je ne regrette rien. The paradox, of course, is that those movements die to the extent that they become acceptable, while Dada stays both alive and unacceptable. Dada has no style, no taste, and no taste for taste, and, after its meager possessions have been divvied up by museums and collectors, all that is left is what Dada means. (Which is rien, nothing.)
       Codrescu chronicles much of Dada's history, and profiles many of the main players, and is particularly intrigued by the idea of Tristan Tzara and Vladimir Lenin facing off at chess in a Zurich café (as they possibly actually did), two representatives of radically different ideologies that had tremendous influence over the course of the twentieth century. The irony that: "These two people do not agree to society's rules, yet they obey the laws of chess" is just one of the oddities of this clash, which Codrescu milks for all it's worth (fairly cleverly).
       There are personal touches and digressions, too. Romanian-born Codrescu makes quite a lot out of the fact that so many of Dadaists were Jews from the Pale region, and he goes into their history, as well as that of Romania. Beyond that he discusses his own classroom experiences as he imparts Dada to his students, and even quotes himself, referring to previous texts he has published. Other lengthy digressions involve such things as the Internet -- or rather: internets, in old and new variations.
       Noting that so many of those involved with Dada assumed pseudonyms and new names, one of the clever ideas Codrescu offers is:
For the purposes of this Guide, I suggest that you read it as someone else. Yes, reader, take a reading pseudonym: you will be astonished how interesting it will become, without the intellectual baggage of whatever-your-name-is-now.
       A roller-coaster ride of essay(s) and grab-bag of ideas, history, and recollections, The Posthuman Dada Guide is an appropriately loose and shifting piece. It is informative and entertaining, though Codrescu himself is a bit too prominent a figure in the story. But it is good fun (and comes in an appealing and handy pocket-sized format).

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 November 2009

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The Posthuman Dada Guide: Reviews: Andrei Codrescu: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Romanian-born writer Andrei Codrescu lives in the United States.

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© 2009 the complete review

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