Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Tuesday, 6 April 2004

"Oulipo Compendium" by Harry Mathews and Alastair Brotchie

Not always an easy read because of the alphabetical ordering of material, but lots of interesting material. "Oulipo" is short for "Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle" and deals with wordplay and rules to generate texts (constraints, combinative procedures, and potentiality). There's also "Oucuipo" ("Ouvroir de Cuisine Potentielle") "Oupeinpo" (painting), "Oulipopo" (Ouvroir de Littérature Policière Potentielle), etc, the general term being "Ou-x-po". Here are some terms/examples I was unaware of

  • ALAMO - Atelier de Littérature Assistée par la Mathématique et les Ordinateurs
  • Anterhymes - rhymes on a line's 1st syllable
  • Beautiful in-law - only the letters of an addressee's name can be used (opposite is Beautiful outlaw)
  • Bilingual palindromes - here's one by Luc Etienne
    Untrodden Russet
    T'es sur, Ned dort nu?
  • Clinamen - a deviation from the strict consequences of a restriction (often on aesthetic grounds). It can only be used if following the rule is possible.
  • Cylinder - being able to start at various places in the text, continuing from the start when you reach the end. It can be used at various levels, from chapters down to letters. An example at the lowest level is "emit", which (depending where you start) can also be "mite", "item" and "temi".
  • Deunglitsch and "l'egal franglais" - attempts to produce sentences in English that also make sense in another language. A French example is "If rogue ignore genes, bride pays"
  • Equivoque - a text that can be read in two different ways, each producing a distinct meaning.
  • Holorhyme - an extended unit of verse that rhymes in its entirety
    Let us two venture (melancholy care)
    Lettuce to vent your melon-colic air
  • N-ina - the generalisation of sestina. Not all stanza-lengths allow sestina-like permutations. Queneau initially listed some Queneau Numbers capable of producing sestina-like permutations. They all had the property that doubling them and adding 1 produces a prime number (for example, the usual lines-per-stanza value produces 13)
  • The prisoner's restriction - can't use letters with "legs" (bits sticking up or down)
  • Slenderising - removing a letter from a text to produce a new text - "once brought into this country, partly imprudent gray barbers marry expatriate, parrying the frictions of tried friends, such as Mary, the sorry crook with no work at hand, who is now without a murmer getting pastry in her pantry" allegedly reads ok if all the instances of 'r' are removed.

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