Maria Sledmere
Speculative Ethnography: Lucian Moriyama’s Notebook of A. (L’Opuscule, 2018). 

‘Literature’, Maurice Blanchot argues in The Book to Come (1959), ‘is not a simple deception, it is the dangerous ability to go toward what exists, by the infinite multiplicity of the imaginary’. When the sum-total of our contemporary ‘moment’—every sliver of personal and political data—is exported to the unreadable, yet infinitely rewritable code of the Cloud, what role remains for the Book as a trad form—a readable, ‘complete’, physical object—in probing our sense of the present and beyond? How might the book, in this case the novel, continue to make imaginative inroads on a digital future, in tandem mapping the past, and what ethical and aesthetic questions are at stake? Ben Lerner refers to the novel’s potential as a ‘curatorial form’, ‘a genre that assimilates and arranges and dramatises encounters with other genres’. Narrative’s virtual, immersive qualities can transform the book into a sort of laboratory for aesthetic experiment: staging processes of collation, synthesis, development and reaction. 

 

Yet fiction’s speculative possibility does not lie solely in the inventive bounds of narrative, the author’s propensity to conjure alternative universes, but also within the refractive eye of its characters: the sum of the environments in which they move, the material conditions of their lives and the objects and artworks they come into contact with. Zoning between perception, reflection and incident, fiction is ideally poised to render the subtle shifts in daily life perhaps missed out within journalism’s hunger for newsworthiness, or social theory’s macro sweep. This micro focus, of course, marks fiction’s proximity to ethnography: the systematic study of peoples and cultures, their customs, habits and mutual differences. By studying in the available micro-social, you extrapolate the whole. Lucian Moriyama’s latest, Notebook of A.(2018), dubbed ‘EXOTICA’, ‘ETHNOGRAPHY’ and ‘BEAUX-ARTS’ is a veritable selection of aesthetic concoctions: sampled, served and warmly mulled upon by Moriyama’s mysterious narrator, A. Less a novel than a carefully assembled artist’s book, Notebook of A. nevertheless adopts the fictional nexus of its protagonist’s perspective in order to stylishly dissect the artefacts and oddities of contemporary and modernist culture—oscillating between the Western world and the frisson of anthropological ‘exotica’, gleaned from the arts of other places. 

 

Although the text’s most obvious parallel is Tom McCarthy’s 2015 novel, Satin Island—which switches between visionary and meandering digressions in order to dramatise Maurice Blanchot’s impossible task of the Book of Everything—A.’s project comprises less an attempt at rendering The Contemporary in its entirety, and more a connoisseur’s offering of occasional, subjective and curated analysis. After all, this is Notebook of A.: A’s notebook, but also a completed Book that hones on his perspective, a compilation of his thoughts. As with McCarthy’s protagonist, U., A.’s nominal letter hinges on the idea of character as less a fully-rounded humanist individual and more as a node in the network of language, quite literally another letter among letters, a point among points. Even typing the word ‘A.’, my word processor tries to sort the proceeding text into a list, mistaking Moriyama’s protagonist for a symbol of alphabetic system. I wonder if Moriyama isn’t teasing us into imagining A. as the resistant key to a sprawling codex. Everything after A. must follow. There’s also, of course, Louis Zukofsky’s poem of both epic and hermetic proportions, A. (1978): a poem that reflexively acknowledges its intertextual debt with the encrypted, ‘difficult’ poetics of other modernists such as James Joyce, or the Objectivist lyrics of Charles Reznikoff. Notebook of A. is a sort of puzzle of the modern condition, where each paragraph is a piece slotting with some logic or other into the next. The order is far from linear. 

 

A. positions himself as an archivist, an ‘endpoint’: an ethnomusicologist who parses the connections between artefacts and phenomena, between work and leisure, but also acknowledges his own role in this functional network: ‘There exist social groups (mostly men) obsessed with people like me and my work — the French term is, I believe, bibliophile’. A. admits himself to an external ‘hierarchy of knowledge’ which such social groups command. With an anthropologist’s eye, he notes the prevalence and play of binaries throughout: for instance, comparing the ‘obsession’ of the bibliophile’s art, ‘which grants special privileges to the dead’ to the life-affirming, cyclical ‘vibrancy of music made by farmers’. He reads, sensitively, the trail of implications behind daily phenomena: the fraught history of cultural entities like Santa Claus, the aesthetics of a nature documentary, the resonant semiotics of a familiar corporate logo or anthropology of font choice. He is attuned to the narratives behind names, ‘the constraints’ of a certain ‘medium’ of ‘documentary’. There is then, a constant feedback loop between A.’s analysis of other arts or archival practices and the work his narrative is doing in this field. The reader becomes a sort of interlocutor, deciphering the slight fractures of process and event (‘Phenomena pass before me, revealing their rotations and inversions’) which the text performs, shimmering between tales of personal experience and instances of global significance:

 

I woke up very early this morning, thinking I was perhaps agitated by a minor earthquake. I turned on the local news, which didn’t mention anything of the sort, though I did discover a sharp devaluation of my cryptocurrency portfolio.  

 

These miniature shockwaves of shifting resonance recur throughout Notebook of A.Whether an experience is literal, or the metaphoric residue of something else, often seems to matter little. It is the process of realisation, of connection, which counts. The apophenic passage towards epiphany and its sometimes bathetic denouement.  

 

While little is mentioned of twenty-first century technology throughout the text, the internet haunts in the narrative diegesis. If this is a book of mostly modernist obsession—the aphoristic, manifesto-esque proclamations, the interest in analogue media—then hypertextuality and the internet of things manifest in the direction of A.’s thought: its meandering digressions, its oscillation between affects, states and timescales. A phenomenological rendition of the urge to google everything, Moriyama’s ‘incidental ethnography’ glides through the material world the way many of us glide between qualitative data online. There’s an apparent randomness that belies its secret, formulaic or ultra-niche, semantic logic—just like the undisclosed ‘algorithm’ for parking lot allocation accorded by his university’s ‘“defamiliarisation” policy’, or the ‘radical seating topology’ he encounters at a dinner party. A poetics of overlay, of cultural memory or imagined abstraction thrust into the present’s material intimacy. Like modernism’s best flâneurs, A. glides effortlessly between ideas, encounters and forms, decoding their significance with an ‘on-the-fly’ detournement that recalls a more stylised, probing version of the often disorientating, performative statements found on social media, the summarising blurbs of a search engine. What is useful about Moriyama’s text is its insistence on the human sensorium as a nexus of subjective knowledge. By conducting a prismatic anthropology or intellectual psychogeography, Moriyama’s narrator acts as a point of accidental exchange and aesthetic refraction, in attendance to everyday happening. Fictional narrative becomes ‘incidental ethnography’: the cultural semiotics of daily life are scanned, parsed and assembled, as it were, on the fly. Incidental ethnography, as Jean Michaud puts it, elevates the ‘merits’ of ‘all forms of ethnography’, regardless of ‘professionalisation’; ‘[i]t also conveys the sense of these observers, otherwise busy with their chief duties, being accidentally dragged into this activity’. A.’s perspective and attentiveness drifts between academia’s analytic precision and the more casual phenomenology of a lay person; Moriyama’s narrative exploits the moments of juicy epiphany that occur when the two collide in reflective excess.

 

In the site of all this data overflow, A. does the precise but playful work of tuning and channelling lines of communication between divergent phenomena. I’m reminded of something the contemporary composer/producer Tim Hecker has said about the curse of the experimental music archivist, whose acuteness of knowledge about his genre and its formal history in fact impedes his compositional process. He or she is paralysed by awareness of data, every ‘new’ sequence carrying the shadow trace of what came before. Hecker thus advocates structural constraints to provoke productive ‘play’ in composition: the use of limited instruments, media and tools; a deliberate restriction on listening to one’s contemporaries. Some parallels are to be found in the deliberate slimness of Moriyama’s text, which reads like a pamphlet when really it could be a door-stopper tome of Everything. The curatorial precision of the artist’s book is the medial constraint A. requires as an ethnomusicologist, probing the space between things, the micro’s significance as a possible blueprint of some other whole. 

There is a sense that the work A. does insists, insouciantly, on the value of the periphery, the accidental or vulgar, the detritus of ‘low culture’; a way of pushing through the material tide of daily life, not resisting but rather attempting to trace these flows of meaning at wider scales. An example of this occurs early on in the book, where A. demonstrates the ‘network’ between work and music by articulating the discursive and material feedback loops of cause and effect whereby a new Kasabian single results in ‘thousands of Bangladeshi workers’ being ‘condemned to making fake leather jackets for months’. While tinged with obvious topical tragi-humour, A. makes the important point that these seemingly arbitrary channels of cultural flow, of capital, trend and media, can be virtually mapped in the durational space of narrative. Although Satin Island strives for similar forms of mapping, McCarthy’s domain involves mostly the ~high cultural big boys~ of Theory—from Derrida to Lévi-Strauss—and the sprawl of flows governed by such abstractions as ‘The Company’ or the ‘Great Report’. This leaves little room for exploring the grounded specifics of culture itself, beyond a digressionary dossier on the semantic parallels between Lévi-Strauss and Levi jeans, along the formal notion of the Deleuzian fold or Badiou’s rip (footnote: the fabric word ‘serge’ also providing a cute intertextual reference to the silkworm-obsessed protagonist of McCarthy’s previous novel, C—another book poised upon the Pynchonian code of the letter). Moriyama’s book even makes a knowing, ironic wink at U.’s brand of overzealous, highbrow theorising, including a notably clipped paragraph where A. notices the ‘slight variations’ in the rips of everyone’s factory standardised, identikit jeans and realises the anthropologist’s comic struggle to ‘enjoy’ himself without turning every social phenomena into ‘research’. 

 

While U.’s cultural analysis retains a theorist’s degree of generality, Notebook of A., on the other hand, lives up to its titled proclamations and features an array of specific ‘exotica’ within the ethnographic realms of art and musicology: from painfully familiar and vanilla British indie, to the ‘Negro Prison Songs recorded at Mississippi State Penitentiary by Alan Lomax in 1947’, or the ‘Arch chronology’, ‘Figure 3’ in the book’s appendix—whose playfully Derridean pun melds the architecture of arches, as doorways/entrances/portals, with the epochal tendencies of aesthetic classification. A. is perhaps teasing us with our search for the transcendental signified, playing on the Derridean ‘archi-writing’ which precedes our division of speech/writing, comprises the sense of language prior to human use, the textuality of patterns in nature as much as notches on stone or curlicues written on paper. 

 

The act of exposing or exploring such patterns, and the slippages between them, forms the basis of A.’s narrative. We are guided vicariously throughout the text by the oscillating motions of the virtual. A.’s anthropology, like U.’s, falls more upon tracing, as the anthropologist Claudia puts it in Satin Island, ‘patterns of behaviour and belief’. The objects themselves, once glowing with potential—the iconic material of anthropological study—now acquire a cool sense of obsolescence, the problematic residues of colonial guilt. As Claudia explains, you can’t even ‘return’ the purloined artefacts to their tribal or historical origins, because the people in question have been swept up in globalised modernity—they don’t know ‘what this wicker thing is for either’, ‘they’ve all got mobile phones and drink Coke’. A.’s response to this archival crisis is to conduct a more speculative ethnography, poised in the realm of the conditional, the specific at play with its field’s own semantic/categorical resistance, the palimpsest effect of cultural appropriation in the contemporary moment: ‘Maybe these notes are for sketching out some Orient-futurist avant-gardes of the 1950s, before hippies and Anglo-American festivals ruined their recognisability’. 

 

This speculative ethnography is a collaborative one, conducted by A.’s constant focus on form over content, thus encouraging the reader to take a similar stance on his own text. We might read A.’s twists and turns of thought as a sort of postulating model for tracing many possible futures at once, never quite touching the solidity of the singular. Midway through the narrative, A. attends a lecture delivered by ‘the most famous alumnus of the institution’, on the topic of ‘“speculative futures”’. Most of Notebook of A. takes place in the meandering timescales of intellectual thought and reflection. This is one of the only times in the book that the narrative states its temporal situation: somewhat ironically, the lecture on imaginary tomorrows occurs very much in the present, ‘Today’. Although most of this talk in fact constitutes the speaker’s reflection on his ‘previous accomplishments as an entrepreneur’, A. is hardly disappointed. In fact, he reads in his self-aggrandising speech the source code of the lecture itself, as a communicative medium: 

 

As the talk continued, I lost myself in the presentness of the words of his International Business English, drifting along their Greco-Latin-Franco-Germanic connections and etymologies, each word drawing me closer to its conclusion. He walked off stage after mentioning something about space, ‘the last frontier of total regulation’. As the applause of the audience developed out of its crescendo, I tried to trace each applause to its origin, engulfing myself in hundreds and thousands of microapprovals. 

 

The present becomes an ambient state of immersion, the connective semantic tissue that one can get ‘lost’ in. Perhaps what Zukofsky refers to, within the membranous abstraction of free-standing quotation, ‘“Such lyric weather”’. We are drawn towards the possibility of teleology, completion and ‘conclusion’, but the end of the talk itself remains cryptic, open by osmosis, expanding capital to the anthropocenic scales of the planetary, billowing like weather. And with the applause, A. swims back towards the shoals of possible origins, the warm embrace of the stable subject in brilliant plurality, the emoting individual whose affect in this state is perhaps their solidifying, landlocked condition of identity. And yet the individuals remain multiple, they are merely the candied, surface sprinkles of affect: the ‘hundreds and thousands’ of a crowd in mutual, signifying gesture. 

 

I’m reminded in these passages of the two TED-style talks U. delivers in Satin Island. One a virtual lecture, the lecture U. later wishes he had given in Frankfurt at the conference on The Contemporary: a highly performative account of the oil spill as the ultimate, ubiquitous event of our times, a sort of default ontology of contemporary crisis (‘There’s always an oil spill happening, I’d say’). The other talk being the actual presentation U. gives IRL, comprising mostly McCarthy’s gloss on Paul Rabinow’s notion of

 

 [...] a moving ratio of modernity: as we straddle the dual territories of a present that, despite its directional drive, is slipping backwards into past, and a future that will always remain notional, we’re carried through a constantly mutating space in which modernity itself is no more than a credo in the process of becoming “dated”. 

 

While the aesthetically-charged account of oil spills and disaster capitalism goes down a storm in U.’s idealised talk, the real one is met with nothing but a ‘smattering of polite clapping’. McCarthy makes the point that people are interested, perhaps, more in aesthetics than temporality itself: reflexive, structurally-attuned accounts of temporal anthropology remain the niche domain of the zealous specialist. If U.’s work strives towards an ‘anthropology ofThe Contemporary’, this is embodied in the very form of the novel: its sense of lacking completion, rendered paratextually in the blank yellow sticky notes adorning Satin Island’s dust jacket, signifying drafts just barely begun, a Book-to-Come. Moriyama is similarly interested in rendering the material status of the book, not only in his title but also in the picture of a marble-cover notebook, ‘Figure 1. Notebook of A.’, presented on the book’s first page as artifactual evidence of the text as a smoothed collation of A.’s fieldwork notes and theoretical writeups. If ‘Notebook of A.’ is the raw data, then Notebook of A. is the attempt to make of these sketchings a Book as such, the artist’s book as a stylised containment of thought. 

 

The connection between the swirling marble cover of ‘Notebook of A.’ and the viscous oil spills dripping on McCarthy’s cover are perhaps not accidental. Meaning spreads in both texts through a sort of ‘thick language’ of sensory encounter: rich with lists, piled-upon clauses and the notelike condensation of paragraph fragments, arranged by numbers (Satin Island) or asterisks (Notebook of A.). These narrative vignettes work as intertextual plugins, enabling multiple versions of events or logical constructions in the hands of the reader (another recent hybrid text which does this is Sam Riviere’s 2017 ‘ambient novel’ Safe Mode, where the narrative is assembled as meditative recountings of both banal and mysterious events, and half the novel is literally flipped and reduplicated with subtle perspective variation). In such texts, one event can easily cascade into another, the way a google search flags up the tentacular plurality of semiotic possibility. As U. gets swept away in the conspiratorial potential of contemporary ‘real’ narratives (such as the reported death of a parachutist), A. latches onto the virtual potential of whole new sprawling archives: for instance, a proposed study of ‘townies’ becomes a way of defamiliarising one’s own culture and revealing the Otherness within—a study of ‘long-term immersion’ that nevertheless persists in its ‘ethnographic distance’. There is the question of the anthropologist’s stance, of ‘going native’, of the class dynamics between field and academy. The irony is perhaps that A. himself is no more immune to the pulls of ‘townie’ culture than the rest of us: musing on chapter titles for this new project, he finds himself listening to the ‘Free Beer and Hot Wings Morning Show’ on his car radio, indulging in the ‘jagged, hormonal vibration patterns’ of a Dire Straits single. As an ethnomusicologist, A. is able to note the social problematics of such forms of masculine, working-class ‘low’ culture, but also unable to resist their sensory pleasures. He’s as culturally enmeshed as anyone. The pleasure of Moriyama’s text is that he is unafraid of showing such indulgences, revealing their awkward theoretical and everyday entanglements with the deftness of humour, rather than U.’s addictive but frustratingly prolonged digressions. 

 

Another projected idea A. has occurs after the speculative futures talk, where he becomes interested in curating ‘an archive of “business performances”’: providing a platform for the technologies of ‘promotional materials and performance paraphernalia, TED talks, preserved on reels of 8mm film, PowerPoints perpetually ensconced in drawers full of slide carousels’. This jostling together of analogue and digital is how we should read Notebook of A. itself, as a chiasmic flow of past and present, the ‘dual territories’ of modernity’s moving ratio. 

 

If Satin Island stages the novel as a curatorial form for dramatising the anthropologist’s encounter with and sorting of art objects, cultural and environmental phenomena, rich in analytic ekphrasis and academic attempts at epistemological synthesis, Notebook of A.is the more playful cousin to this project, a humble, speculative toolkit for decoding, hacking and musing our contemporary condition through the jumbled residues of history, figuring the parallel or adjacent realms of exotica. As U. puts it, ‘What the anthropologist encounters when he ventures beyond civilisation’s perimeter-fence is no more than its effluvia, its toxic fallout’. With his interest in ‘visionary anthropology’, A. concocts a sense of ambient modernity, one that glistens with immersive potential and yet its precise edges elude us—as he writes, aphoristically, deflating the complete hubris of utopian abstraction: ‘An architecture of taste seems essentially impossible’.  This ambient modernity is unlike ‘the modernity of the institution, which is a sort of vestigial runway for the cool, sleek, intercontinental modernity present in the air here’. Understanding it requires, as his architect dinner party host Béatrice contends, that ‘[r]ather than seeing or getting the feel of a place [...] urbanists should get the smell; not seeing a cloud of loose particles so much as a permanent, unstoppable network of contact’. This ‘urban cartography of smell’, with its implication of a baroque catalogue of imagined, empirical categories, is just one tool in the arsenal of the incidental ethnographer, the ambient anthropologist. 

 

Going through the motions of different approaches to our material existence, its varying cultural contexts, A. defamiliarises those aspects of ‘invisible’ experience we take for granted—the sensory realms often left out in accounts of objects in isolation. Thus we have an incidental, correlationist (in the Kantian sense, as described by speculative realist philosopher Quentin Meillassoux) anthropology, which acknowledges the ethnographer’s mammalian as well as intellectual role in ‘activating’ and structuring the world, giving life/meaning via the semiotic expression of senses: 

 

I find myself overcome with the desire for connectivity. It is as if I was falling in all directions, unvaulted. The only sense which can still be trusted is that of perfume, which arrives to me mostly as water vapour. I realise instantly that my body has been touching at least one object — fabric, wood, tile — for nearly every moment of my life, and I had somehow forgotten.  

 

The word ‘unvaulted’ is a curious one. Vaults are of course either arches or underground storerooms, the implication of a portal or burial chamber, an opening or locked space, an entrance or closure. While most online dictionaries give me the unhelpful definition of unvaulted as ‘not vaulted’, to unvault, in gaming terms, is to unlock a vault of stored items for players to attain, often within a constrained timespace. For instance, in the third-person shooter game Warframe, ‘unvaultings’ are seasonal events whereby players can access new ‘frames’ for play, thus enhancing or shifting the ‘reality structure’ of the game. So what is the phenomenological state of feeling unvaulted? To pole vault is to thrust one’s body over a bar with the assistance of a long pole. Perhaps to be unvaulted is to be without the physical assistance of such techne, to plunge into freefall’s kinesis. But also, perhaps, to be radically ‘unlocked’, to flip over, open to all kinds of sensory scrambling, as in the glitching of a game whose source code has been messed up by a cheat cartridge. As in McCarthy’s first novel Remainder, where the blue ejaculation of windscreen fluid prompts all sorts of jagged epiphanies about desire, repetition and intimacy with matter, it is the ‘water vapour’ of perfume that prompts A. into realising his physical enmeshment with a world of nonhuman things. Whether we might classify these instances as a sort of object-oriented sublime or comic poke at human existential hubris, they serve to remind us that in the seemingly dematerialised, wireless connectivity of the contemporary, we still remain deeply physically entangled as living, ecological entities. Further research could explore the recurrent, shaky binary between ‘dead’ writers, cultures and artefacts in these texts, and the vibrancy of living materials; to probe a dark-ecological hauntology of present tense anthropology, its underlying physical archives. 

 

What’s important to note here, maybe, is the way Moriyama refrains from grand theorising. A. probes at various techniques for ethnographic discovery, but what results is more a collection of possibilities than a sense of a complete project, in the form of U.’s impossible ‘Great Report’. A. attends a history lecture where the speaker suggests ‘Rather than drinking and tasting only formal characteristics [...] one should try and drink the spatial, the social, and the historical’. Here we shift from scent and vapour to fluids: this kind of vibrant anthropology would involve sliding around in the space between things, the ultimate goal ‘to drive endlessly between two parallel objects’. And there is a sense that A. does that, hovering awhile in the archi-writing parsed in the materials around him, both everyday and strange (sometimes the two colliding). Tracing the slave histories behind the ‘luxury’ of a mirror’s utopianism, the strange violence of plastic hidden within an imagined Venetian mask. Becoming himself less an ‘endpoint’ than a plasticised ‘connection between nodes’. 

 

For A., the ‘disc jockey, as a truly multinational modern, enjoys a sort of limited liability as a curatorial entity’. This recalls McCarthy’s notes on the writer as a sort of dj or remixer in his 2012 essay ‘Transmission and the Individual Remix’, where writing involves re-assembling, modulating and transmitting the channels or signals within the ‘airspace’ of literature. To write in an ekphrastic or ethnographic style, as McCarthy and Moriyama often do, is to make this remixing more explicit, to foreground your materials—to make of reading itself more an art of further remixing, than passive listening. When DJ Shadow performs those infamous disc scratches, he’s making present-at-hand the structuring materials of his creation, the slide of needle on grooves of vinyl—a material (as A. reminds us) derived from the strangely elegiac ‘vibrancy’ of dead ‘algae, insects, and plants’. The narrative reflexivity of Satin Island and Notebook of A., where the protagonists often discuss the state of their desks, recalling again the scene of writing, serves a similar purpose in foregrounding writing as a material, enmeshed and thus necessarily ‘environmental’ process. Such oscillation between objects and forms positions writing as a curatorial medium for channelling various patterns of kinship, behaviour, belief and cultural system, in the manner of reading the grooves in vinyl, picking up the magnetic patterns on tape or the temporal buffering of the digital interface. 

 

Perhaps this sense of oscillation makes A.’s practice more metamodern than modern, drawn between nostalgia and futurism, irony and genuine interest. Its speculative quality lies in the attunement to the limits of material instance, as A. puts it: ‘I am drawn back to this act of separation, this betweenness, this cut. The arch here serves as a question mark, a comparison between positions and times. Movement is rendered still and tangible, inscribing innumerable alternative histories of exotica’. The undecidability invites meaning’s oscillation between times, spaces and social structures. The arch signifies, hesitantly, and at once: a portal, the Derridean play of archi-writing, a speculative entrance that blurs into the multiple, delaying completion/realisation. Tunnelling interpretative directions from the plural entranceways of the past, Moriyama positions incidental ethnography as a sort of translucent blueprint of archival futurity, channelling desire as production through the immersive, sometimes discordant logic of material encounter. A blueprint which bleeds through to reveal its creator’s affect, the vibrant residues of history, of ‘ethnographic fantasies’.

 

Resonating with A.’s identity as an ethnomusicologist, the tin whistles adorning Moriyama’s cover invite us, perhaps, to ‘play’ the text in the Barthesian sense of rendering its meaning each time anew in the interpretative matrix of the reader’s own textual economy, their unique (but discursively informed) approach to the inevitable undecidability of language. There’s a sweetness to that, maybe, the tin whistle symbolising a sort of childlike commitment to meaningful yet whimsical sincerity—the invitation to speculative ‘play’, an elevated ‘primitivism’ or minimalism, which seems more the prerogative of the artist’s book than say, traditionally, the realist sprawl of the traditional novel. I’d argue it’s this curatorial play, a flirtation with the ‘danger’ (as Blanchot puts it) of the newly imagined, or renewably seen, a blurring of genres and forms, that we need to speculate better futures: to enact productive, mutual and cross-cultural conversations; to ecologically realise our inevitable enmeshment with nonhuman entities; to formulate our own ‘defamiliarisation policy’ on the present. 

 

Notebook of A. is available to order from Motto Books.

Maria Sledmere is a writer and critic living in Glasgow. She is editor at SPAM Press and Dostoyevsky Wannabe, and a member of A+E Collective. Recent publications include nature sounds without nature sounds (Sad Press), Rainbow Arcadia (Face Press) and infra•structure (Broken Sleep), with Katy Lewis Hood. Her poem 'Ariosos for Lavish Matter' was highly commended in the 2020 Forward Prize, and her work was included in makar / unmakar (Tapsalteerie, 2019), an anthology of contemporary poets in Scotland.

© 2020 Colin Herd and all the individual poets

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