Rise of the machines

Brendan Byrne on Nanni Balestrini’s 1966 experimental novel Tristano.

When composing Tristano, Balestrini used a computer algorithm to shuffle the sentences of the ten paragraphs which comprise each of the ten chapters. The exact methodology is not clear, but it was likely similar to the process he used for an earlier computer-manipulated text, Tape Mark 1 (1961). For that work, snippets of Lao Tzu, Michihito Hachiya, and Paul Goldwin were divided into fifteen short phrases and then remixed combinatorially by an IBM 7070 and a program comprising 322 punched cards to create short texts, each a unique sequence of ten elements.

Language drug


Ben Marcus in The Rumpus:

Sometimes I worry, for myself, that I’ve stopped being amazed at certain things, or I’ve taken for granted a set of ideas about how the world works, what people are doing with each other or alone, all the fundamental relationships in the world. I worry that I start taking it for granted and stop feeling the intensity of it because of language. Language starts to shut down the strength and power and strangeness of what it means to be a person in the world.

Introducing: David Winters


Editors’ note: As we head towards publication, we thought we would introduce our contributors.

David Winters is an invigorating literary critic (“criticism will be renewed by being disembedded, deligitimized, deinstitutionalized”), who has lead discussions on Gordon Lish (“it’s no overstatement to say that Lish is to the second half of the 20th century what Gertrude Stein was to the first”) and modernism. In an interview with HTMLGiant David said,

“Perhaps every novel contains a “theory” of the novel, as part of its cache of tacit knowledge. A novel has an understanding of itself, whether it knows it or not…“The novel” as a grand project: the idea fills me with nervous exhaustion. What I can say with confidence is that I’m less and less interested in that sort of novel. I’d rather read a book that wants to do away with itself. Deep down I closely identify with literature, but I also compulsively want to kill literature.”

For gorse, David interviews literary experimenter Evan Lavender-Smith.