Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

Issue 15

A) Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to the fifteenth issue of Spiral-Bound. A part of The Modern Word, Spiral-Bound is a newsletter for all enthusiasts of modern literature. My name is Allen Ruch, also known as “The Great Quail.” Although if you go by frequency of issues, you may have thought of me as “The Hibernating Quail.”

I know it’s been a while since the last Spiral-Bound, but they have not been idle months. The Modern Word is proud to announce several new features, including columns, a new contest, and another Small Press Spotlight.

A couple of things before we begin. In order to fit everything in, “Book News” will be temporarily omitted; it will return next issue. Also, the Featured Links section was contributed by staff writer (and Finnish Kraftwerk expert) Ismo Santala.

B) Contest #2: Adaptation

Last month, The Modern Word announced its third general contest: “The Discovery.” The first prize is a copy of Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire, signed by Alan Moore! (Courtesy of Top Shelf Comics.)

The Contest:
You have just discovered a text by a famous author – a manuscript, a letter, a page of notes, a shopping list, a few doodles, etc. It could be something entirely new, or it could directly relate to an established work. Describe your “discovery,” providing background, context, and exploration of possible “meaning.”

The review should be between 500 and 1000 words, and must be submitted electronically to The Modern Word at the following email address: Entries should be submitted as a Microsoft Word attachment, or as text in the body of the email itself. Entries must be submitted by September 15, 2004.

More details, including the prizes, may be found at:

C) Columns

The Modern Word is proud to introduce monthly columns by a quartet of wonderful writers. Michael Cisco will look at literature in “Jungle Mind.” Amy Rosenberg’s “Unreal Cities” examines cities and their relationship to literature. Andrew F. Duncan’s “Hot Lunch USA” takes on pop culture, and Emmet Cole’s “Joyous Anarchy” offers opinions on, well, all of the above and more. Additionally, “Slightly Foxed” serves as a Modern Word soapbox, and will be open to any writer or reader with something interesting to say.

For a list of current columns, head on over to:

II. Books

A) Featured Books

We have three books to feature in this issue.

1.Oracle Night
Paul Auster’s latest novel.

Review excerpt:

And yet, as its title suggests, Oracle Night is not so much about looking backward as it is about looking forward. It is about the writing process and the strange compulsion to fill blank pages with words, words that have been always already “used up,” but can still be recombined and replenished in new and wondrous ways. Looking into the future can be a destructive process, as Lemuel Flagg discovers in Auster’s story within a story within a story, and Sidney Orr finds that his future is as absurd and meaningless as that which he allocates to his character. But despite these revelations, the characters continue to tell their stories, and with such a compulsion that one tale is always threatening to overwhelm the other. This does not mean that the characters or their tales always make sense: like in all of Auster’s fiction, Oracle Night contains characters that occasionally act in incomprehensible ways or discover ruptures in their own reality....

Full review at:
By Blair Mahoney

2. Lambent Traces
Stanley Corngold’s examination of Kafka.

Review excerpt:

Stanley Corngold has a mighty reputation in Kafka studies, one which he deserves, and his latest book gladly continues his own search for the original Kafka. As long as one can appreciate Corngold’s dense, convoluted style, and as long as one accepts that Lambent Traces is intended for those who may know a little too much about Kafka criticism, it provides a fine example of what can be done when a sharp critic puts his mind to a great author. Corngold is both meticulous and creative in a field that too rarely combines both qualities. Not only is he an encyclopedia of Kafka criticism, he can also make persuasive arguments that would sound absurd coming from anyone else. In one work, he compared the complex contradictions of Kafka to a double helix, with two opposing elements swirling around each other in a confusing twist. In another, he summarized every existing article written about The Metamorphosis.

Lambent Traces is a collection of essays compiled under a general thesis: too many critics are focusing on the cultural and political side of Kafka. Yes, Kafka was Jewish, and some of the anti-Semitism of the early 20th century may have played a role in his fiction. However, when a book such as Sander L. Gilman’s Franz Kafka: The Jewish Patient attempts to transform Kafka’s writing into a subconscious filtering of anti-Semitism, then it’s gone too far. Corngold spends three chapters picking apart major works of Kafka criticism – such as Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature –  in order to pull Kafka away from the worldly interpretations which keep the author solidly defined by his culture....

Full review at:
By Jeff Nowak

3. The End of Art
Donald Kuspit’s look at modern art. Includes an interview with the author.

Review excerpt:

A photographic detail from the Hirst installation Home, Sweet Home – consisting of a clutter of fag ends, beer bottles, Coke cans, coffee cups and sweet wrappings on a table – graces the cover of The End of Art. Valued at around $7000, Home, Sweet Home was famously binned by humble cleaner Emmanuel Asare, who afterwards explained, to the amusement of the Press, that he did so because he “didn’t think for a second that it was a work of art.”

Neither does Donald Kuspit.

Indeed, Home, Sweet Home is so far beyond what can properly considered art, Kuspit believes, that he uses the term “postart” to describe it. And, like Asare, Kuspit engages in a spot of enlightened cleaning in an attempt to remove the postmodern clutter that threatens to swamp our artistic landscape....

Full review at:
By Emmet Cole

C) Small Press Spotlight

Exact Change specializes in books on surrealism, the avant garde, and pataphysics. You may read more about Exact Change and their work at this month’s Small Press Spotlight. The feature includes an introductory essay, an interview with editor Damon Krukowski, several notable publications, and resource links:

III. The Modern Word

A) What’s New at the Modern Word?

The following notable recent additions have been made to The Modern Word:

Selected New Features:

Kafka Works
Notes on Kafka’s diaries, letters, and notebooks.

Selected New Commentary

Joyce: Criticism
Bob Williams reviews yes I said yes I will Yes. A Celebration of James Joyce, Ulysses, and 100 Years of Bloomsday.

Selected New Papers

Eco: Beasts and Buildings: Religious Symbolism and Medieval Memory
Brendan Newlon discusses memory, mnemonics, and monastics. (PDF)

Joyce: Musical Allusions in Dubliners
Lindsey Warren looks at – or listens to – Dubliners.

Pynchon: An injustice that will not cancel out
Michael D. Koontz on “Slavery and the Voice of the Victim in Mason & Dixon.

B) What’s in the Works?

The next few months should see reviews of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, John Barth’s The Book of Ten Nights and a Night, James Kelman’s You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, and David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion. Das Schloss will continue to be fleshed out, and future Scriptorium pages include Flann O’Brien, David Foster Wallace, William S. Burroughs, A.S. Byatt, and Ezra Pound. The next Small Press Spotlight will focus on Night Shade Books. And a whole new section will soon open – the Sideshow. Edited by Alan DeNiro, the Sideshow will feature reviews of short fiction and literary magazines.

C) The Daily Muse – A Call for Submissions

One feature on The Modern Word’s main “Rotunda” page is the “Daily Muse,” a literary thought which changes daily, such as a quote, trivia question, or word of the day. If anyone has a favorite quote they would like to contribute, a literary trivia question, or a literary word of the day, please email it to me at If your submission is selected, your name will be entered in a drawing for a free book!

Congratulations to Miku Hinsaki for her Daily Muse quote. She has been sent a copy of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver.

IV. Literary Events

A) Exhibitions/Performances

1. The Cracked Lookingglass
July 6-August 13, 2004, NYC. A major exhibition of Ulysses-inspired artworks.

2. Godot Has Left the Building
July 7-Aug 6; Lex Theatre, LA. John Griffin’s Beckett-inspired play.

B) Conferences

Joyce: Joycean Naming
August 1-7, 2004, Zürich. A Joycean workshop billed as an “intense, critical, friendly exchange of ideas.”

V. Featured Links

A) Interesting Articles

Laughing Matters
The Guardian. April 24, 2004. James Wood traces the roots of humor and argues that tragi-comedy was invented by the modern novel.

And Afterward, the Dark
Kansas City Star. May 2, 2004. John Mark Eberhart on the big novels of the 1990s.

B) Featured Sites (By Ismo Santala)

Zembla has begun to post Nabokov’s novel online, with extensive
annotations by Brian Boyd.

Tajan & Nabokov’s Library
The auction firm offers some lovely scans of Nabokov’s inscriptions to his wife and son.

Iain Sinclair Chat Transcript
From The Guardian’s “Book Talk” series.

Masters of Cinema
A good film resource. News, an up-to-date release calendar for DVDs and a whole bunch of interesting links. They also host in-depth sites for Tarkovsky and Bresson, etc.

ARC Museum (Art Renewal Center)

Some of the artists featured are a bit dry (landscape painters, etc.), but the galleries (literally hundreds and hundreds of them!) cover most of the Old Masters. The image quality is outstanding throughout. And if kitsch is your thing, do check out the French Orientalists!

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
As far as I can see, this is the best introductory guide to some of the major figures in the canon of Western Philosophy. Yes, some of the pieces are drier than dust, but the overview is impressive.