Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

Issue 4

Hello, and welcome to the fourth issue of Spiral-Bound. A part of The Modern Word, Spiral-Bound is a monthly newsletter for all enthusiasts of modern literature. My name is Allen Ruch -- also known as "The Great Quail" -- and I'll be your friendly editor for the new millennium. Though I must confess, it being 2001 and all, I feel a mild sense of disappointment that I am not sending this out from the Moon. So much for childhood dreams....

II. Books

A) Book News

1. Baudolino

Umberto Eco's highly anticipated fourth novel was recently published by Bompiani. A picaresque novel set in the twelfth century, the book follows the adventures of an unreliable "trickster" named Baudolino. Though it's currently available only in Italian, an English translation should be available next year. For details:

2. The Body Artist

Don DeLillo, one of the masters of American postmodern fiction, will be releasing his twelfth novel this February. According to the publisher:

"In this spare, seductive novel, he inhabits the muted world of Lauren Hartke, an artist whose work defies the limits of the body. Lauren is living on a lonely coast, in a rambling rented house, where she encounters a strange, ageless man, a man with uncanny knowledge of her own life. Together they begin a journey into the wilderness of time -- time, love and human perception."

Simon & Schuster has placed an excerpt from Chapter 1 online here:

3. The World Fantasy Awards

I have always thought some truly outstanding works of modern literature have come from "genre fiction," and one of the goal of this site has been to showcase writers such as Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Stanislaw Lem, Mervyn Peake, and the like. The 2000 World Fantasy Awards were particularly pleasing this year, because Michael Moorcock was given a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Jeff VanderMeer's The Transformation of Martin Lake won Best Novella. As visitors to the Scriptorium may know, Moorcock is a writer I have long wanted to feature; and Jeff VanderMeer is also a freelance writer who is currently working on a Scriptorium piece about Angela Carter. He will also be reviewing The Jerusalem Quartet in an upcoming issue of Spiral-Bound. Congratulations!

B) Book of the Month

The Modern Word has selected Jorge Luis Borges' This Craft of Verse as January Book of the Month. Published by Harvard University Press, This Craft of Verse contains six Borges lectures, delivered in English on the subject of poetry, writing, and language. These informal, charming lectures have also been released as a 4 CD set, rescuing the voice of Borges from 34 years of silence in the vaults of the Harvard Archives.

Review excerpt:

... It is almost impossible to begin a review of This Craft of Verse without commenting on the very Borgesian nature of the discovery itself. From 1967 to 1968, Jorge Luis Borges delivered the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University. Having never been transcribed, they were subsequently assumed lost -- until the end of the century, when a dusty recording was discovered in a library vault. There, committed to magnetic memory, was a voice from thirty-odd years ago, the voice of a poet himself now silent for half that time. A voice perhaps even more vital today, after the long and often controversial course of postmodernism has delivered us to a new millennium; a voice urging us to keep language alive.

It is not hard to imagine an amused Borges, smiling ironically at the playful trickery of time and fate while brushing away a sense of import with an impatient twitch of his hand from its cane. Often known to remark -- perhaps a bit coyly -- that he was born in the last century, Borges has always radiated a charm and grace borrowed from an earlier age, his vast intelligence grounded by a kindly, self-mocking sense of humor. Besides the famous eclecticism and scholarship one would expect from Borges, the most striking thing about these lectures is their warmth, a casual confidence that conjures a feeling of intimacy not usually found in his essays and fictions.....

Full review at:

III. Music

A) Music News

Florencia en el Amazonas

Daniel Catán's opera Florencia en el Amazonas is returning to the Houston Grand Opera this season! Loosely based on García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, the libretto is by Marcela Fuentes-Berain, film collaborator and protégé of Gabriel García Márquez. As any visitor to the Macondo Music section of the site knows, I am particularly fond of this work! Filled with a sense of unabashed wonder, its themes of redemption and the transforming powers of love are perfectly supported by Catán's score, which captures a lyricism and beauty rarely heard in today's music.

The HGO will stage productions throughout April and May of 2001. You can read more details, including a review, here at Macondo:

You may also visit the HGO site directly:

B) CD of the Month

The Modern Word has selected David Del Tredici's Joyce Settings as January CD of the Month. On the CRI label, this disc collects the Pulitzer Prize winning composer's early settings of Joyce poems, each a gem of unique complexity.

Review excerpt:

....Reading ["I Hear an Army"] completely as a nightmare, Del Tredici discards any dreamy metaphors and sets the poem as a musical night-terror from beginning to end. He seems to take his cues less from the overall drama of the poem and more from isolated words of motion and violence: charging, plunging, fluttering, cry, moan, whirling, cleave, clanging, shaking, shouting, and so on. The string quartet is pushed to its limits. Entering with an unnerving agitation of sounds, the music snaps and bristles and flutters, swelling inexorably to assault the sleeper with its restless taunting. Eventually the soprano's voice emerges from a rare moment of tense stillness, her words like a handful of nails pressing through agonized flesh. The dreamer is left naked and stark; no sense of romantic melancholy is allowed, not even the lugubrious comfort of sadness. Del Tredici's lover is not moaning for a recently departed love; she is reliving a terrible abandonment perpetuated nightly upon her, her own fractured sanity itself the charging army. After the vocal line fades away, the strings begin a long process of winding down, crawling back into the sea of anxious sleep over a shore of sharp rocks and fractured shells....

Full review at:

III. The Modern Word

A) Essay Contest

In an effort to increase awareness of modern literature among high school students, The Modern Word is holding an Essay Contest. Sponsored by the Great Books Foundation and Gotham Writers' Workshop, the contest has a top prize of $1500, and is open to all high school students in the United States. For details on the contest, and for information on entering, go to:

Please feel free to pass this information along to interested parties such as students, teachers, and administrators. The contest runs until January 31, 2001.

B) Spiral-Bound Mailing List

The Spiral-Bound Mailing List is an online community of readers founded a few short months ago. So far the List has been growing steadily, and is proving to be a very friendly place where people can talk casually about books, modern literature, or the difficulties and pleasures they may be having reading a particular author. The List will begin an informal group reading of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot starting Monday, January 15. To sign on, go to:

C) What's New at the Modern Word?

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

Kobo Abé Scriptorium Page
Dr. David Keffer's addition to the Scriptorium details Japanese writer Kobo Abé, author of Woman in the Dunes.

James Joyce Theater
A new section of The Brazen Head explores theatrical productions and musicals based on Joyce's work.

Pynchon Music
Sonic Youth and saxophones! Barefoot in the Head added by Larry Daw.

Eco's "The Future of the Book"
A classic lecture from Umberto Eco on the Internet, books, and publishing.

Joycean Music
Two new composers featured: Roger Marsh and Alfred Heller. Marsh's piece is a vocal workout of the Wake's "Anna Livia Plurabelle" chapter, while Heller set the entire cycle of Chamber Music poems for piano and tenor.

Pynchon's V. Reading Group
The Pynchon List's group reading of V. is still in its early stages, and there's plenty of room for newcomers!

New Papers:

Eco: Umberto Eco and Electronic Music
This essay discusses the relationship between Eco and electronic music, such as the works composed by Luciano Berio.

Pynchon: Protective Coating: Bearing the Weight of Pynchon Using the Spectrum of Freud's Insight
A Freudian look at Slothrop, his many identities, and of course his thing with rockets.

D) What's in the Works?

I am currently editing and laying out Scriptorium pieces on Michael Ondaatje and Phillip K. Dick. Two major Libyrinth sites are on the horizon: "Apmonia," which is being created by Tim Conley and myself, will be the Web's largest Samuel Beckett site, and will open February 1st. This will be followed by "The Lighthouse," Tonya Krouse's site on Virginia Woolf, which should open in late February or early March. Sites on Fuentes and Calvino are in the "future planning" stages.

E) 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. I would like to open the Daily Muse up to subscribers of Spiral-Bound -- if anyone has a favorite quote they would like to contribute, or a literary trivia question, or a literary word of the day, please email it to me at If I select your submission, I will enter your name in a contest for a small prize -- a $20 gift certificate to, to be awarded bimonthly.

V. Featured Off-site Links

A) Interesting Articles

The Case for Literature
Gao Xingjian's Nobel Prize lecture.

The Medieval Dream
Gaither Stewart, Critique, 15 December 2000. An interview with Umberto Eco on the topic of Italy's abbeys.

Words That Must Be Said
Scott Sherman, Atlantic, November 2000. This interview with Eduardo Galeano discusses his work, his influences and Latin American literature.

Eco's Thriller Swings to Fine Line
Cathy Dunkley, Hollywood Reporter, May 2000. Fine Line films optioned the film rights to Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.

B) Featured Sites

Center for Book Culture
This organization houses Dalkey Archive Press, the Review of Contemporary Fiction and CONTEXT magazine. Their new site is a work-in-progress with future plans including the continued addition of casebook studies, and detailed biography and critical overview pages for each of Dalkey Archive's authors.

The Gaddis Annotations
The Gaddis Annotations page is a wonderful resource for exploring Gaddis' works. The site maintains a growing database of annotations to his major works, and features the work of Gaddis scholar Steven Moore.

nasty: academia at its brattiest
An irreverent little zine, "nasty is a peer-reviewed journal, which exists to create a forum for the dissemination and promotion of new, controversial and challenging cultural and academic thought across the humanities."

Thank you, and I'll see you in a month!