American Oulipo


In Vice, Blake Butler writes on the many false floors of Harry Mathews.

Those who work in the school of Oulipo are well known for applying constraints to guide their work. The N+7 method, for example, is where one replaces a word in a sentence with whatever other word appears seven entries later in the dictionary. Like many Oulipians, Mathews’s sentences are totally enigmatic, often so unusual in their syntax that you could stop and read most any of them over and over again in search of what they really mean. And yet, there is something living and breathing at the center of his concepts. Each of Mathews’s works are so distinct in approach that the reader is left constantly updating his expectations of what might appear, while at the same time finding in every book a syntax so assuredly composed in its own image that it couldn’t have been written by anyone else.