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the Complete Review
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Writings for the Oulipo

Ian Monk

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To purchase Writings for the Oulipo

Title: Writings for the Oulipo
Author: Ian Monk
Genre: Various
Written: 2006
Length: 66 pages
Availability: Writings for the Oulipo - US
Writings for the Oulipo - UK
Writings for the Oulipo - Canada
  • Also available directly (and probably cheaper and more quickly) from Make Now Press
  • Some of these texts were previously published in the Oulipo Compendium

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice variety of Oulipo texts

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Writings for the Oulipo serves as an excellent introduction to what Oulipo-writers do, offering a variety of short and accessible texts that are written using some of the many Oulipo-constraints.
       "Homage to Georges Perec" is 'An exercise in six univocalisms', six brief pieces, each written using words that contain only one vowel (the first one using words that just have 'a', the second just 'e'), as well as one containing no vowels except 'y'. As Monk suggests in 'Perec's letterless texts':

When Perec penned the e-less Enlévement, the Exeter Text (even the He-Men Legend we've seen here) he set free the letters' secret essences.
       Essences or not, Monk manages six successful and very different variations on the idea -- including the particularly appealing 'Downtown', the exclusively o-ed variation on Hamlet's soliloquy (and a good deal more of Shakespeare): "To do or not to do: Gods, how to opt ?"
       In 'On G.Adair's A Void' Monk beautifully critiques Adair's translation of Perec's La Disparition -- "I must say that I found it an amusing work in its own right but, as a translation, frankly disappointing" --, all the while also not using the vowel absent from the Perec-text (and Adair-translation) either. And he still manages to conclude: "What should count is sticking to translating what an author actually said."
       The pangrammatic story 'Spies in Newquay' satisfyingly concludes with the "Slightly, but fittingly ambiguous" headline that's a perfect isopangram. Monk also offers, among other constraints, a snowball, a cylinder story, two sestanagraminas, and 'A Threnodialist's Dozen'.
       What all these odd-sounding forms are is actually fairly clear from the texts: Writings for the Oulipo really is a good introductory volume in showing a variety of Oulipo-forms -- but those interested in more specifics should refer to the essential Oulipo Compendium (in which, in fact, some of these pieces originally appeared). (Actually, anyone with even the slightest interest in the Oulipo should consult the wonderful Oulipo Compendium.)
       Many of these pieces, from 'Spies in Newquay' to 'Two Meetings', are also stories in the more conventional sense, i.e. not just formal play (as some of the poetry sometimes seems to be), and quite satisfying simply as such. And then there's 'Three ain't a crowd', a 39-stanza variation on the ménage-à-trois theme (likely influenced by Harry Mathews Singular Pleasures) .....
       Writings for the Oulipo has the advantage over many of the Oulipo-sampler volumes (such as the Oulipo Compendium and Perec's Species of Spaces and Other Pieces) that its author writes in English. Offering a good variety -- and not getting carried away with any one notion (most of the pieces are manageably short) -- it is an excellent introduction to what Oulipo writing is like. It's also a lot of fun. Recommended.

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Writings for the Oulipo: Reviews: Ian Monk: OuLiPo: Other books by Ian Monk under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Oulipo books at the complete review
  • Georges Perec's Three, translated by Ian Monk

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About the Author:

       Ian Monk was born in 1960 and has been a member of the Oulipo since 1998. He has translated numerous books from French into English.

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© 2006-2021 the complete review

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