Evan Lavender-Smith has let us into a world of strife and angst, love and discovery in his musings found in From Old Notebooks. How does parataxis function in this narrative that makes the language found here that of every story, of every notebook—yours, mine, or all of us who are capable of scribbling down the bits and pieces of dialogue that float around in our heads? FON is as much about investigating our own mental resources for content as it is narrative structure. The author gives over all of his ideas and insecurities about the clichés of being a writer and the banal moments of his everyday as documented on paper in the pages of his old notebooks.
This book asks its reader to have an open mind, letting in stories, fragments, thoughts and varied points of view. These moments have been archived, memories have been held hostage and unleashed here for the reader to experience as one notebook; the ultimate connected narrative. Lavender-Smith has created a conceptual novel of sorts, a work that asks the reader to examine the process that occurred before the writing of the words in this first book and in his old notebooks. The content becomes a vehicle for the reader to engage with their own memories, their own mental archives. Some might think of this work as a series of journal entries and for others it might read as a unique approach to memoir. Lavender-Smith seems to be posing the question to his readers, “Can’t it be all of these things and none of these things, at once?”
Our engagement as readers with the text in FON goes beyond form or rather implied form. The author questions his narrative and even his idea of narrative throughout the book. He questions the direction FON should take, whether publishing this book will have negative repercussions for the next book, “To write that sort of first book of which people say, “he has fucked himself for the second book,” he wonders who to dedicate his book while letting us in on his thoughts about the book and the writer/character/author who’s plagued by choices “what if I had to choose, under the threat of losing one forever between poetry and pornography?” or contemplating Wittgenstein’s proposition that the world is everything that is the case. “The world is everything that is not the case. The world is nothing that is the case. The world is everything and nothing that is and is not the case.” Often, Lavender-Smith ponders the hypothetical (what to save if his home burned down) “flash drive, baseball glove, first edition Gravity’s Rainbow. Three more: Carmen, Jackson, Sofia” or what his obituary might look like:
Evan Lavender-Smith, of Las Cruces, a part-time college instructor, died Sunday at Memorial Medical Center. He was 82. Mr. Lavender-Smith died of excessive masturbation.
What FON offers its readers is a peek into the daily minutiae of the quotidian elements that make up this author’s life as a writer, father and teacher. The varied stories and projected ponderings about life are falsely simple in the author’s memory of events, moods and dreams. This text is full of lessons, concepts, and vulnerability and the author has the ability both with spectator and writer to inform the reader with provocative stories and fragmented thoughts. Like Bernadette Mayer, Lavender-Smith has given readers hundreds of book ideas or writing projects with his fractured thoughts on family, life and a myriad of philosophical concepts.
FON is not just a book infused with meta-fiction, nor is it just conceptual thinking and writing at work, it’s a book that’s bold yet understated, where its author is both a performer and spectator in his own life, who watches things unfold with us. Lavender–Smith gives anecdotes and opinions in equal measure, reminding us every step of the way that he’s the one conducting this chorus of conscious, for better or worse, with shouts and fits and brains and beauty.
From Old Notebooks by Evan Lavender-Smith
She, A Blueprint explores the architectural space of the body as female structure and experiment where ekphrasis occurs on the interior and exterior of this form. Michelle Naka-Pierce has created a manifesto of the body that claims architectural limits on varied dimensions of that space. By turning the female form inside out, cutting up its psychological sequences with images and text, travelling through abbreviated materials in the body, she reveals structures “lack a design that can survive.” Within the body we are exposed to absent spatial positions and broken rhythms of action or sequence in the altered territories of human experience. This collection of work exists at the intersection of instruction and destruction, where spaces within the blueprint are upheld by words, connected with linguistic tissue and fractured points of intimacy between varied forms.
Poet Akilah Oliver said “dwelling is the friction of stasis.” These pages ask how place can interrupt a liminal space? How does language create barriers with in the architecture of a space? Sue Hammond West and Pierce have created a space for language to conduct its own investigations on the body as dwelling. Images reveal where words collapse within these structures, whether they be emotional or visceral, thus allowing the reader to participate in a deviant form of investigative poetics. This collection of text and art explores the complicated nature of what exists both inside and outside of a single structure (the female body, a dwelling, a home, a spatial position) where language ruptures and breaks down inside itself. Within the pages of She, A Blueprint, Pierce carves out territories inhabited by lines that describe the interior of the body by using legend-like images and titles to help the reader navigate through the interior of both text and image.
Based on Gordon Matta-Clark’s work with anarchitecture (abandoned buildings that Matta-Clark split or cut in two, often removing ceilings, floors and archways), the blueprint here maps the interrogatory space of the textual female body. Like Clark, Pierce divides each section of text into spaces labeled LOT or CUT that share pages opposite diagrams or parcels that reveal mapped spaces of interior lives. It is here that memory and language launch a full-scale examination with emotion, where fissured territory emerges like a festering wound in need of treatment.
In one [LOT], Pierce writes, “She demanded to see the inside of the outside. The slit between the two. Determine whether the home was sound or an imposter with no walls, actually walls, but no foundation, actually foundation but no coverage . . . she attempts to construct a primary semblance of domestic reality,” emphasizing the importance of evaluating a structure for both sustainability and susceptibility in the midst of ruined moments or carpeting. “If the inside were outside and the outside the inside structure of this. Passage.” The corresponding legend that accompanies this quote resembles the female reproductive organ with a passage scale that reads: A Foot Equals The Length Between Wrist & Elbow.” Every [LOT] and legend allow the reader to journey farther into the space of the female body while representing that same space as every space as it exists in multiple structures, being both inside and outside of “a” narrative.
Pierce cuts up images of silhouette with phrases like, “her alphabet scars the bodice” and directs language within visual structures seen opposite text: “Parcel D: Suspend The Grid’s Impulses Between Autonomy & Reliance.” Image and text are in constant conversation with one another throughout these pages, while leaving room for the ruptured rhizomatic space that remains in the unmapped narrative between map and legend. Hammond West and Pierce have strategically placed footnotes throughout She, A Blueprint, which creates a recurring visual space on the page, allowing for interruption of narrative with lines that construct borders on sonic and visual levels. Pierce says in a footnote, “Note: Abandonment, an unexpected trajectory in wagering.” This note serves as a reminder of the rapture and rupture of language, both spoken and unspoken in [LOT 8] and in the textual body of this work. “Around the corner of a room similar to hers. She found solace. Crumbs on counter. Flames on stove. All the names of all the names, she said. Normally this would have been historically relevant.” Pierce pays homage to Matta-Clark’s ideology about architecture as is evidenced throughout in her use of word play and the unique juxtaposition of architecture and relationships as they occur within a structure.
She, A Blueprint aims to re-conceptualize language by disassembling absent yet visible bodies within these “tangled labyrinths” which remain “outside the blur of occasion.” This collaborative work helps the reader map experience as seen through the architecture of the body, noting weakness; where things collapse. Pierce writes:
In a day, circles end or
intersect a part of her. A matter of breathing
perpendiculars. Hers is a language
in labyrinth. She in her, outside the blur of.
Inside each inside all outside stutter or
forward. Outside the tension of a traced clue.
She visibly part of a ghost effect.
This text highlights what makes a body human, what happens to personal territory, an irregular story where the body becomes a shifting “I”. She, A Blueprint shows us how we should hear words within these structures, as borders and bodies that carry with them the consciousness of space. Pierce’s use of parataxis as breath or fragmented voice within an architectural body instructs the reader on how to move through ruptured language while keeping narrative intact. The notion of identity is diagrammed and bracketed making bodies converse with bodies, reflecting impermanence in all abstract and concrete depictions of narrative within these pages. Pierce’s blueprint reinforces through imagery and textual bodies that “she between surface is but a word.”
She: A Blueprint
Michelle Naka-Pierce (text)
Sue Hammond West (image)