Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

Issue 6

Hello, and welcome to the sixth, long-delayed 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" -- and I have the honor of being your friendly neighborhood editor. But before we begin, a few words....

The last issue of Spiral-Bound was quite a while ago, and as some of you may know, the reason for the delay is basically a technical one. Vizy Interactive, the company that helped build and run The Modern Word, was subject to the same dot-com collapse that curtailed our own funding. Unlike us, however, Vizy didn't survive, and when they went under, they unfortunately took our newsletter database with them. Thanks to the efforts of a wonderful programmer who has decided to help us out, we have rescued the database and set up a new system to post issues of Spiral-Bound. So after quite a hiatus, here we are again!

II. Books

A) Book News

1. Gabo Memoirs

Vivir Para Contarla, or "To Live to Tell It," is the first volume of Gabriel García Márquez's multi-volume set of memoirs. The book has proved to be so popular it already sold out its first print run in Latin America. Knopf, a Random House imprint, will publish Vivir Para Contarla in the United States and Puerto Rico -- it should be available in stores by December 2002. The English translation has yet to be made, but it's tentatively planned for a late 2003 release.

2. Random House Gets U.S. Gabo Rights

Recently, Random House has acquired the U.S. rights to not only Vivir Para Contarla, but the entire García Márquez backlist. As Random House is the mother of the Modern Library imprint, hopefully we can expect some handsome new editions of Gabo classics!

B) Featured Books

Because of the long delay between the last issue of Spiral-Bound and this one, we have selected two books to feature:

1. The first is Umberto Eco's long-awaited Baudolino, his fourth and most playful novel:

Review excerpt:

....While Baudolino may lack the soaring prose, intense discussions, and convoluted density of Eco's previous works, like all good comedy it presents an image of the world that we instinctively recognize as true. Like a Speculum Stultorum, or medieval Mirror for Fools, Baudolino catches humanity with our pants down, hands windmilling frantically to divert attention from our exposed privates as we shuffle offstage for a drink. And yet, burlesque is born from fondness, not contempt; we allow Baudolino to tease humanity because it genuinely loves humanity. As in all Eco's work, cynicism never sours to nihilism, critique never bites down into mockery: there is a powerful argument for life in Baudolino, an argument for love, joy, persistence, and yes, even the transformative power of dreams. Like the writing of Gabriel García Márquez or Thomas Pynchon, Eco's fiction balances Romantic self-expression with postmodern self-awareness, emanating from a place where both currents serve to energize each other. Although truth is seen as relative, the dangers of belief are exposed, and meaning is revealed as a construct, the reader is still asked to critically engage with the thriving multiplicity of the world and invest some faith in hopeful stories -- Baudolino carries the message that the individual is free to discover meaning and to act with moral courage, whether in love or war....

Full review at:
By Allen B. Ruch

2. The second book is John Barth's latest, Coming Soon!!! Although out for nearly a near, the novel has just been released as a paperback.

Review excerpt:

....In Coming Soon!!!, Barth returns to the scene of his first novel, The Floating Opera. A showboat replica called The Original Floating Opera II inspires both an aging "novelist emeritus," trying to write what he conceives of as his final novel, and a cocky "novelist aspirant" who attempts to turn the same subject into an innovative hypertext. Along the way they revisit Edna Ferber's Show Boat, itself partly an inspiration for Barth's The Floating Opera. They also encounter a "Todd Andrews" who has styled himself after the character in The Floating Opera and heads an entirely implausible company that runs a modern day version of a floating opera. The struggles of the creative team running this floating opera to devise shows and make money along with the struggles of the two writers to complete their respective texts comprise the action, such as it is, of the novel.

One of the problems for Barth in producing this text is that, given the length of time it took him to compose it and the rapid pace of technological change, one of his key themes -- the struggle for supremacy between the new medium of hypertext (or "e-fiction") and the traditional novel (or "p-fiction") -- is now hopelessly out of date. In 1995, when Barth commenced Coming Soon!!!, hypertext fiction still seemed like an exciting new medium with the potential to become a big success. Writers such as Michael Joyce and Stuart Moulthrop were producing innovative texts that attracted the attention of people such as Barth's fellow metafictionist Robert Coover. Barth wrote in 1993 (In "It's a Short Story," collected in Further Fridays) of the "constrained fascination" that he brought to Robert Coover's "serenades to the medium of hypertext." By 2001, when Coming Soon!!! was finally published, however, hypertext was old hat, a medium that had fizzled, that had produced nothing substantial. That the novel relies so much on hypertextual elements, with its faux "buttons" at the end of chapters prompting the reader to select an option that, in fact, he or she has no choice over creates a sense that the time for this novel has already passed, if it ever existed....

Full review at:
By Blair Mahoney

III. Music

A) Music News

Florencia en el Amazonas

Daniel Catán's opera Florencia en el Amazonas is scheduled for CD release on December 24, 2002 from Albany Records. 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.

You can read more details here at Macondo:

Or you can pre-order it from

B) CD of the Month

The Modern Word has selected Pierre Boulez's Répons as CD of the Month.

Review excerpt:

....Although Boulez does not credit Joyce as a direct inspiration, Boulez indicates that Répons bears similarities to Joycean narrative technique. Essentially cast as a spiraling set of dialogues between and among the orchestra and soloists, Répons uses sophisticated electronics to apply real-time effects to the solo instruments. Répons opens with "Introduction," a six-minute segment that winds up the orchestra into shivering vortex of sound. Events occur quickly, with small figures passed from instrument to instrument like spinning plates. The music sounds precarious, as if one instrument should slip, the whole structure would come crashing down. After establishing this whirling dynamic, the piece expands to pull in the six instruments waiting at the perimeter. Section 1 wakes up the soloists and introduces the electronics. As each instrument enters, it plays an arpeggiated string of notes which are immediately absorbed into the computer and released back, transformed and multiplied, cascading down from the speakers in ripples. While it's obvious that the sounds have been electronically colored, they have a richness that elevates them beyond the cold world of squawks, drones, and bleeps usually associated with computerized classical music. The system transforms the plucked and hammered strings into beautiful new sounds, many of them having an almost liquid quality; and the percussion instruments are given a shimmer that sometimes fades into a haunting, mechanical rhythm, like the dreams of an old train submerged under water. Happily, this inventiveness continues as Répons unfolds....

Full review at:
By Allen B. Ruch

III. The Modern Word

A) What's New at the Modern Word?

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

New Scriptorium Pages
Several new Scriptorium entries have been added over the last months, including pages for John Banville, Angela Carter, Philip K. Dick, and Primo Levi.

Baudolino Book Tour
Erik Ketzan reports from Eco's speaking engagement at the Folger Library.

Borges: Lost in the Library
Garrett Rowlan's "A Subaltern Horror," a reflection on great libraries and infinity.

Joycean Chronology
A comprehensive chronology has been added to the Joyce Biography section, outlining James Joyce's life from 1882 to 1941.

Pynchonian Music
Six new entries for "Pynchon on record."

Selected New Papers:

Beckett: Drama, Criticism and Manifesto: Beckett's "Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit"
Paul Stewart's examination of Beckett's "non-fictional" Three Dialogues... and its "characters" B. and D.

Beckett: To and Fro in Shadow: "Not I"
Tia Ballantine looks at the way Beckett arranges the theatrical elements of Not I to further call into question the ambiguous nature of the self.

Eco: Mazes, Maps & Monsters: The Iconography of the Library in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose
An updated version of Adele Haft's examination of the medieval maps and associated world-views that informed Eco's great library in The Name of the Rose. By the author of The Key to "The Name of the Rose."

B) What's in the Works?

I am currently editing and laying out a Scriptorium piece on William S. Burroughs, and pages for Neil Gaiman, Jeff Noon, and José Saramago are in the works, including an exclusive interview with Jeff Noon. Tim Conley is still fleshing out Apmonia, and I am happy to say that Jeff Nowak is currently at work on a Kafka site for inclusion next Spring.

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, 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 quarterly.

V. Featured Links

A) Interesting Articles

CIA mind-control trials revealed as secret inspiration behind 'A Clockwork Orange'
James Morrison, The Independent, 13 October 2002. New biography of Burgess conjectures a possible source for the Ludovico treatment.

García Márquez, Fighting Cancer, Issues Memoirs
Juan Forero, New York Times, 9 October 2002. Describes the writing of Vivir Para Contarla, Gabo's first volume of memoirs.

The Roots of Conflict
Umberto Eco, La Repubblica, 15 October 2001, in response to a post-9/11 comment by Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi on Western cultural superiority. This is a revised, English translation.

B) Featured Sites

1. Literary & Cultural Sites

Cosmopolis: Borges and Buenos Aires
An exhibition about Borges and Buenos Aires. Oct 30, 2002 - Feb 16, 2003, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona.

The Invisible Library
A resource about books that only appear in other books....

The Labyrinth
Geoffrey Hawley's comic book is a tale of a much multiplied Borges.

Word Riot
Word Riot is a literary site with an emphasis on pushing the envelope of form, and has a wonderful section on Flash fiction.

2. Humor & Games

Grad Student Deconstructs Take-Out Menu
From The Onion. Now, if only he can pursue a PhD in Foucauldian coupon clipping!

The Lego Bible
Old and New Testaments, rendered lovingly in plastic blocks.

Thank you, and I'll see you in a few weeks!