Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
Daniel Levin Becker is Reviews Editor for the Believer and has been a member of the Oulipo since 2009.
Davis Schneiderman is a multimedia artist and writer and the author or editor of ten print and audio works, including the novels Drain (TriQuarterly/Northwestern), Multifesto: A Henri d'Mescan Remix (Sputyen Duyvil), and the DEAD/BOOKS trilogy: BLANK, [SIC], and INK. (Jaded Ibis); and the co-edited collections Retaking the Universe: Williams S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization (Pluto) and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism's Parlor Game (Nebraska). He blogs for The Huffington Post, and his work has appeared in numerous publications including Fiction International, The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, and Exquisite Corpse. He is a professor Lake Forest College, Director of Lake Forest College Press/&NOW Books, and he edits The &NOW AWARDS: The Best Innovative Writing.