Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

Issue 7

A) Note from the Editor
Hello, and welcome to the seventh 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.

I would also like to welcome Maggie Ball into the fold and loops of Spiral-Bound. The founder and editor of The Compulsive Reader, Maggie will be authoring our "Book News" section. I'd like to warmly thank Maggie -- who has the amazing ability to remain up-to-date on every event in the world of literature, nonfiction, and poetry! -- and encourage all readers of Spiral-Bound to check out her Compulsive Reader site:

You won't be disappointed!

B) Jeff Noon Interview
The Modern Word is delighted to announce that we have begun a Scriptorium page for British novelist Jeff Noon, author of Vurt and Pixel Juice. While this feature will be expanded over the next few months, our centerpiece is an interview with Noon himself, conducted by Ismo Santala in the wake of Noon's latest book, Falling Out of Cars.

Interview excerpt:

Ismo Santala: Jorge Luis Borges is a major influence on your work. When did you discover his works, and what is it about his fiction that makes it so special to you?

Jeff Noon: I was in my early twenties. I was visiting Leeds with a friend and we discovered a little secondhand bookshop. There was a book in there, Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges. I'd never heard of him before that moment. I opened it at the first story and read about mirrors and sex being equally abominable because they both multiplied the numbers of Man. I was hooked from that moment. It was just the sheer quality of the idea itself that got to me; the imagination on view. Later on I came to appreciate the prose style and the melancholic nature of the work, and the fact that the stories seem incredibly human despite the fact that hardly any emotions are described. But again and again it's the bank of ideas I come back to, and use freely as I see fit, trying to keep Borges' spirit alive in a new, contemporary way. He is far and away my favourite writer.

Full review at:
By Ismo Santala

II. Books

A) Book News, by Maggie Ball

1. National Book Awards

The National Book Awards are among the most prestigious awards given to books in the United States. The 2002 NBAs have gone to Master of the Senate by Robert Caro (Knopf) for nonfiction, Three Junes by Julia Glass (Pantheon) for fiction, In The Next Galaxy by Ruth Stone (Copper Canyon) for poetry; and The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (Atheneum) for Young Peoples Fiction.

2. New York Times Best Books of 2002

The New York Times editors have selected the best books of the year from those reviewed since the 2001 Holiday Books issue, choosing three novels, a biography, a memoir, a history and a journalist's salute to astronomy and its addicts. The selected books are Anthony Blunt: His Lives, by Miranda Carter (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Atonement, by Ian McEwan (Doubleday), Bad Blood, by Lorna Sage (Morrow), Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, by Margaret MacMillan (Random House), Roscoe, by William Kennedy (Viking), and Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth From Interplanetary Peril, by Timothy Ferris (Simon & Schuster).

3. Yardley's Best of 2002 List

Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley has published his annual list of favorite books for the year, citing an "embarrassment of literary riches in a publishing year that just kept on giving." His absolute favorite is Ian McEwan's Atonement, which he claims "made his year, pure and simple." For the full list, visit the Washington Post.

B) Featured Books

We have three books to feature in this issue.

1. The first is Roger Lewis' new biography on Anthony Burgess. It is reviewed by Tim Conley, author of the Scriptorium's Burgess page.

Review excerpt:

....Quotations get thrown around altogether too casually, and when Lewis isn't simply competing with Burgess for erudition, there are many instances of words attributed to Burgess himself that he may not have spoken or written at all. Lewis likes to ridicule, parrot, and distort His Master's Voice. Take his account of Burgess's racism. "Burgess wasn’t much of a one for brotherly love," writes Lewis, because he "never had any time or respect for the concept of black or ethnic studies." In case such a glaring non-sequitur seems insufficiently ad hominem, Lewis quickly follows it up with imputations that could be included as elementary examples in a student's textbook entry on libel. Burgess "just didn't get it" when he had an argument with a black timpanist who, Lewis says, "you know Burgess is longing to call an uppity nigger." The racism that is in evidence in Burgess's account of this argument ("like many blacks, he insisted he had a natural sense of rhythm") is upstaged by an invention, an italicized phrase that is repeated for good measure. Even Lewis's own "titting about" with the question of whether his book is biography or critical study can neither exempt him from the need to address what he finds or justify the mudslinging fabrications. This is very ugly and immature stuff....

Full review at:
By Tim Conley

2. The second book is Gary Radford's On Eco, a volume that introduces Eco's work in semiotics to the interested beginner.

Review excerpt:

....On Eco proceeds in this playful spirit, introducing Eco's work in semiotics, outlining his theories of interpretation, and finally relating these ideas to his first two novels, The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. Intended for the general reader, the book is written in a refreshingly immediate style, virtually twinkling with wry humor and peppered with charmingly eclectic examples. Radford takes an obvious delight in selecting offbeat illustrations for Eco's theories, and his erudition ranges from Monty Python and Elvis Costello to Borges and Schopenhauer. Not above tweaking the nose of his subject, Umberto Eco quickly becomes the primary target of his own theories and obsessions -- after finding his name emptied of content and cast as an "expression unit," the Professor is, among other things, deconstructed out of existence, semiotically "blown up," and placed in a hypothetical mystery novel as the killer's next victim....

Full review at:
By Allen B. Ruch

3. The final book is Without Covers, a collection of essays about online literary magazines. It is reviewed by Spiral-Bounder Paul Kane.

Review excerpt:

....Without Covers, edited by Lesha Hurliman and Numsiri C. Kunakemakorn, examines the phenomenon of small literary magazines migrating to online publishing, and explores some of the issues and concerns arising from this transition. The majority of the essays have been written by the editors of literary magazines themselves, and in general they adopt one of two approaches. Some tell the story of how they got their own particular magazines on-track and online, and of how they discovered particular writers, such as Leah Rudnitsky. Others address what one might call "keynote issues," reflecting upon the impact of the Web on literature and its future. There are nineteen pieces in all, including contributions by Rebecca Seiferle, Katherine McNamara, and hyperfictionist Michael Joyce....

Full review at:
By Paul Kane

III. Music

A) Featured CD

Florencia en el Amazonas

Florencia en el Amazonas, Daniel Catán's opera loosely based on García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, has been released on CD by Albany Records.

Review excerpt:

....It is an opera that deserves its success, for Florencia en el Amazonas is, in a word, beautiful. Free from the mawkish sentimentality that too often passes for beauty in today's world of pop ballads, film scores, and Disneyfied neo-Romanticism, Florencia possesses the artful beauty of traditional opera; a form that, at its best, values grace, craftsmanship, and lyricism over the sugar-high of instant gratification. Comparisons with late Puccini are inevitable and certainly apt, but much of Catán's score touches upon the flowing Impressionism of Debussy and the vibrant colors of Ravel as well. It also contains some engaging touches quite compelling to the modern ear -- frequent marimbas add a slightly exotic flavor, and the percussion section underscores the music with intriguing Latin rhythms. Catán scores the opera for a relatively small orchestra, which adds a sense of precision and punch -- the strings never dominate, and each instrument is clearly articulated. The music simply shimmers, occasionally opening up into an expanse of surging sound, floating the vocals aloft on an iridescent wave of color....

Full review at:
By Allen B. Ruch

B) Joycean MP3

Bulgarian composer Gheorghi Arnaoudov has recently made FOOTNOTE available as an MP3 for download. Intended as an "interlude" to Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, the piece features a setting of Joyce's poem, "A Prayer."

Review excerpt:

....The piece opens quietly, the cello unfolding in a dark, gliding line as the rest of the instruments come slowly to life. Although not particularly melodic, the music is quite sensual, mysterious; and the ghost of Wagner's score may be felt flickering through its measures: occasionally a clarinet or harp will shudder with a familiar, momentary figure before returning to its languid drifting. The poem is read in a breathy whisper, the words slipping through a sparse, dreamy soundscape of spidery piano, quivering strings, and fluttering woodwinds. Hearing FOOTNOTE brings to mind a vivid set of impressions bordering on synesthesia. I imagine Isolde on the forest floor, her mind unmoored at the edge of sleep and hovering at the nightmare shores of premonition. Her familiar world, as represented by the opera's lush score, has lost its hold: much in the same way as Joyce relaxes and breaks down familiar language in the nocturnal swirl of the Wake, Isolde's world of nineteenth-century harmony has become slurred, its various elements unbound and floating free, changing their shapes like ephemeral tendrils of vapor. Only the intermittent presence of the cello anchors her body to the damp, Wagnerian moss, holding her earthbound as her unconscious prayer rises to drift among dark branches. Climbing a ladder of notes softly plucked from a harp, her final words -- "O spare me!" -- are delivered into the silent void....

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:

Selected New Features:

Pynchon in Film
A new addition to the Pynchon site, this area explores movies, TV shows, and documentaries related to the life and work of Thomas Pynchon.

Selected New Papers:

Abé: Free From The Crime of Being Ridiculous: Transcending Shame in Kobo Abé's The Face of Another
Michaela Grey examines the many faces of shame in Abé's novel of masks.

Eco: Beware of the Fallout: Umberto Eco and the Making of the Model Reader
By the author of On Eco, this paper examines the creation of meaning when a reader encounters a text.

Pynchon: and the New Democracy of Opinion
Using Gravity's Rainbow as a case study, Erik Ketzan discusses the merits and flaws of's user-review forum.

Pynchon: Mason & Dixon and the Enlightenment
Mechanical ducks, talking dogs, and prankster scientists: Erik Ketzan's discussion of Pynchon's so-called "Age of Reason."

B) What's in the Works?

Next issue will see reviews of Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man, José Saramago's The Cave, Judith Kitchen's The House on Eccles Road, and Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat. I am currently editing and laying out a Scriptorium piece on William S. Burroughs, and pages for Neil Gaiman and José Saramago are scheduled for the future. We are also planning on expanding the Philip K. Dick site. 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 late 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. I would like to congratulate Robert Galwaithe for winning the most recent certificate!

V. Featured Links

A) Interesting Articles

Waiting for Beckett jnr: 'Bugger that for a joke'
Sharon Verghis, The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 January 2003. Director Neil Armfield makes a public demand for the Beckett estate to allow more freedom with Beckett's works.

The Secret Life of Non-readers
John Allemang, Globe and Mail, 7 December 2002. A discussion about losing the habit of reading.

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.

Meme Pool
Updated daily, this site scours the Web for a variety of tasty tidbits, from the horror of scrapple to the wonder of omniglot.
A minimalist site in wintry colors, this online magazine/journal explores the world of musical minimalism.

Reading the Future
Mike Murphy interviews twelve great Irish writers for RTE.

2. Humor & Games

The Beastly 50
A list of the fifty most "loathsome" people in America for 2002!

UK Entrances to Hell
From the land that brought you magical wardrobes and police call boxes that could travel through time and space....

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