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Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature
Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature (Hardcover)
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What sort of society could bind together Jacques Roubaud, Italo Calvino, Marcel Duchamp, and Raymond Queneau and Daniel Levin Becker, a young American obsessed with language play? Only the Oulipo, the Paris-based experimental collective founded in 1960 and fated to become one of literature s quirkiest movements.
An international organization of writers, artists, and scientists who embrace formal and procedural constraints to achieve literature s possibilities, the Oulipo (the French acronym stands for workshop for potential literature ) is perhaps best known as the cradle of Georges Perec s novel "A Void, " which does not contain the letter e. Drawn to the Oulipo s mystique, Levin Becker secured a Fulbright grant to study the organization and traveled to Paris. He was eventually offered membership, becoming only the second American to be admitted to the group. From the perspective of a young initiate, the Oulipians and their projects are at once bizarre and utterly compelling. Levin Becker s love for games, puzzles, and language play is infectious, calling to mind Elif Batuman s delight in Russian literature in "The Possessed."
In recent years, the Oulipo has inspired the creation of numerous other collectives: the OuMuPo (a collective of DJs), the OuMaPo (marionette players), the OuBaPo (comic strip artists), the OuFlarfPo (poets who generate poetry with the aid of search engines), and a menagerie of other Ou-X-Pos (workshops for potential "something"). Levin Becker discusses these and other intriguing developments in this history and personal appreciation of an iconic and iconoclastic group.