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More Vertiginous Links for May 2013


I’ve been listening to a pre-release copy of an EP by Dao Strom called We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People (official release date May 28).  I don’t write about music much on Vertigo, but in this case I was struck by how the themes of her work so echoed those of the literature that I’m usually covering.  She studied at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and is both a writer and musician.  In Gentle People, she blends the two by transforming the traditional CD booklet into something much more expansive.  Her website describes the 150-page booklet as “a literary chapbook of prose, images, fragments and writings on Vietnam, as a late-century mythology, a war, a word, an aftermath, an inheritance.”  Dao Strom has a quiet, ethereal voice that matches her lyrics about the “aftermath of a cataclysm.”

my given name is tiêu-dao….
i was born in Viet Nam, in the wake of a war.
i am the daughter of writers,
i am also the daughter of a political prisoner. but i followed my mother –
i am one of the children divided
between mother & father / mountains & sea / between
i am part of the middle world; a hybrid; a troubadour.

these are my notes from the southern world.

Here’s more information from her website:

We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People is a hybrid music-literary project, combining both written and sung voices, plus text and imagery, to revive some of the old tradition of “ca dao” (a tradition of sung-poetry in Vietnamese culture ) utilizing the tools, language, and stylings of our modern era. Music and poetry-storytelling have for many centuries been a crucial part of the Vietnamese people’s mode of expression.  The project will encompass two “geographies” (or two EP’s/books): East and West. We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People: East (EP) – a 6-song EP album and literary chapbook – is the first of these two geographies.

Dao Booklet 1dao booklet 2


As everyone must know by now, Sebald’s A Place in the Country is out in England.  My copy has finally arrived and I’m slowly making my way through this long-awaited translation.  Here’s a chance to meet the translator and scholar Dr. Jo Catling (and get a signed copy of the book).  So, get yourself over to the Bull Hotel, Bridport in Dorset June 5!


An event organised by Wild and Homeless Books and Lectures On Everything

5pm, Thursday 5 June 2013  The Bull Hotel, East Street, Bridport

W.G.(Max) Sebald’s A Place in the Country is the much anticipated English language version of literary essays, translated by Dr Jo Catling. Each of six persons evoked here were important influences on him as a person and writer, underlining his interest in the role of literature and art. Dr Catling will talk about A Place in the Country and she will introduce readings by herself and Horatio Morpurgo.

JO CATLING is a senior lecturer at the School of Literature of the University of East Anglia  where she was a close colleague of Max Sebald. She is co-editor of Saturn’s Moons, W.G Sebald  –  A Handbook (2011).  A Place in the Country promises to be a further landmark in Sebald’s extraordinary literary reputation.  Copies of the book will be available for purchase which Jo Catling will be pleased to sign.  Tickets (£6) are available from Wild and Homeless Books, 12, South Street, Bridport.  (Tel. 01308 421970)

Wild & Homeless Books

If Streets Are Sentences

In one of my favorite stories by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Man of the Crowd,” the narrator impulsively singles out an elderly gentleman and determines to follow him wherever he goes (sounds like the premise for an art piece by Sophie Calle, doesn’t it?). For most of the next two days and two nights, the old man leads the narrator on an erratic, exhausting excursion through the city of London, taking a meandering path through the high and low neighborhoods of London with no  apparent pattern or goal. The way in which Poe’s narrator allows an arbitrary character to determine his path through the city can probably be seen as a precursor of the Situationists and their determination to impose similarly arbitrary ways of negotiating urban spaces in what has come to be called psychogeography. For me, Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital: A Walk Around the M25 (2004) is something I think of as a classic in this genre. Sinclair follows the highway that encircles London regardless of where it takes him, creating a travelogue of forgotten urban corners and what Rem Koolhaas calls “junkspace.” 

I’ve just finished two brief, quirky books that take this tradition into slightly new directions. Both of these books parse modern urban spaces through elliptical narratives that are an unlikely combination of keen observation, untethered imagination, insider’s knowledge, esoteric erudition, and photographs.


Jack Robinson’s Days and Nights in W12 (London: CB Editions, 2011) employs an encyclopedia of micro-entries to convey the range of urban life found in the W12 postal code, an arbitrary zone laid over an historic area of London that includes Shepherd’s Bush and Wormwood Scrubs. Using a comical system of alphabetically-ordered hyper-brief entries beginning with “ABC,” “A&E,” “Allotment” and ending with “Yawn,” “Yoga Advertisement,” and “Z,” Robinson gives an insider’a view of his neighborhood. Each entry is accompanied by a tiny, well-composed photograph, reinforcing a kind of modesty on the whole project. In both the texts and the dead-pan images (presumably by the author) Robinson remains a calm and bemused observer, unruffled by the urban dilemmas that plague him and his neighbors, casting a forgiving eye on all the flaws and shortcomings of his neighborhood and his fellow residents. He’s also prone to dropping references to literary figures like Coleridge, Dickens, Dinesen, Durrell, Eliot, Flaubert, Rimbaud, Robert Louis Stevenson, and others (check out the handy index to see all of the heady “topics” addressed in Days and Nights in W12). But lest we take all of this too seriously, Robinson warns us at the outset that he can’t vouch for all the tales that that are included. “Do you need evidence before you decide” what to believe or not believe, he asks? One day, when the taxi in which he is riding blows a tire on the way to Heathrow airport, he and his Somali driver “sit for a while in silence, smoking [while] gazelle and hartebeest come down the road the water to drink.”

W12 1
W12 2

It’s an open secret in Great Britain that Jack Robinson is a pseudonym for Charles Boyle, the publisher of CB editions.  Days and Nights in W12 is an expanded version of  an earlier 2009 book by “Robinson” called Recessional, part of which may be seen here. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a copy of the earlier title for sale anywhere on this planet.



Erik Anderson takes a different approach to the urban environment by literally inscribing letters on the map of Denver as he takes eight carefully orchestrated walks that spell out the letters P A S T O R A L in his recent book The Poetics of Trespass (Los Angeles: Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2010). As Anderson moves methodically through Denver, following paths that will trace the shape of each letter on the streets and open spaces of the city, the temporal part of the walk is dedicated to meditating, questioning, and stirring together dissimilar disciplines – like poetics and urban planning – in a kind of mental trespass. “The city, like the poem, consists of a tension: how we move in it and how it moves in us.” Anderson is interested in the problem of words and the interplay between words and sound and meaning.

I carved a large “P” into a medium-sized American city today. It was an attempt to inscribe language into a non-linguistic space, one in which, due to the billboards, liquor stores, gas stations and theater, temples, churches and restaurants, strip clubs, bus stops, and the Planned Parenthood office, any possibility of tracing a curve with one’s steps has been rigorous and systematically thwarted.

Like Robinson, Anderson also places small, self-made photographs throughout his text. His images feel less like documents than questions. The most interesting ones deal with the spatial puzzlement that arises in unplanned urban spaces and the odd juxtaposition of urban architectures. I’m not doing Anderson’s richly allusive and elusive book justice with this brief post, but there is an excerpt online, which includes several of the photographs (although the photographs in the book are reproduced in black-and-white). Tacked on after the end of the essay “The Poetics of Trespass” is another shorter essay called “The Neighbor,” on Wong Kar-Wai’s visually stunning film In the Mood for Love (2001). Here, Anderson plays with themes such as displacement, loss, and the nature of film.

trespass image

Vertiginous Links for May 2013


The German Bookshop in London is having an event with Uwe Schütte on May 22 at 19.00.

We are delighted to have the author of W.G. Sebald. Einführung in Leben & Werk, Uwe Schütte, with us to introduce you to many little known aspects of the life and work of W.G. Sebald.  His book was published in autumn 2011 to coincide with the tenth anniversary of his premature death. It provides new biographical material and examines all major literary works. In addition, a chapter on Sebald’s critical writings sheds an interesting light on a neglected yet crucial part of his oeuvre.  Schütte came to the University of East Anglia in 1992 to do both his MA and PhD with Sebald as his supervisor. He is a Reader in German at Aston University, Birmingham and the author of ten books on German literature, as well as numerous articles and reviews in national papers in Germany and Austria. 


Europe Mai 2013

The literary review Europe has announced that its May issue will focus on Sebald and Tomas Tranströmer (great pair!).  Here are the contents for the Sebald section:

Lucie CAMPOS et Raphaëlle GUIDÉE : W.G. Sebald, la marge et le centre.
W.G. SEBALD : « Mais l’écrit n’est pas un vrai document… »
François HARTOG : Le simultané du non-simultané.
Romain BONNAUD : Une expérience de l’histoire.
Sergio CHEJFEC : L’histoire comme représentation et comme peine.
Ruth KLÜGER : Cheminant entre la vraie vie et la vie fausse.
Raphaëlle GUIDÉE : Politique de la catastrophe.
Ben HUTCHINSON : « L’ombre de la résistance ». W.G. Sebald et l’École de Francfort.
Lucie CAMPOS : L’excès du savoir et du sentiment.
Patrick CHARBONNEAU : Max et le bélier hydraulique.
Karine WINKELVOSS : Pathos et théâtralité dans la prose de Sebald.
Muriel PIC : Élégies documentaires.
Emmanuel BOUJU : Mind the gap ! Humour et exil de la mélancolie.
Liliane LOUVEL : Un événement de lecture.
Mandana COVINDASSAMY : Le dépaysement en pratique.
Ruth VOGEL-KLEIN : Dans l’atelier de W.G. Sebald.
Martin RASS : Le bruit du passage du train.
Jean-Christophe BAILLY : Le troc silencieux de W.G. Sebald.
Fabrice GABRIEL : « Enjoy ».
Lucie TAÏEB : Sans histoire, pas d’histoire ?


Finally, over at The Public Domain Review, Adam Green has done all Sebald readers a great service with his elegantly conceived project “Texts in Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn.”  Here is his description of the undertaking:

Collected together in this post are the major (public domain) texts of which, and through which, Sebald speaks – accompanied by extracts in which the texts are mentioned. The list begins and ends with the great polymath Thomas Browne, an appropriate framing as the work of this 17th century Norfolk native has a presence which permeates the whole book. Indeed, in the way he effortlessly moves through different histories and voices, it is perhaps in Browne’s concept of the ‘Eternal Present’ which Sebald can be seen to operate, in this mysterious community of the living and the dead.