Circa 1970, when I was a teenager, my imagination became captivated by surrealism. Journeying multiple times a week to the main library in downtown Buffalo, New York, I sought out various books on the avant-garde art movements, not to mention pulling volumes off the shelves in “New Books” sections that aroused my curiosity. I still remember odds and ends, many of which, while not necessarily inspiring, stuck in memory for some reason, perhaps because of their oddity. All this was new to me, perhaps because I was of the age where everything is new, or perhaps because the avant-gardes which now seem dated and quaint still looked alive, in many cases for decades after their prime time.
Every so often something pops into my head and I look it up online, a dimension of existence that did not exist in the ancient ’60s and ’70s. So recently it suddenly occurred to me to look up this book I read circa 1970, then a new book:
Gins, Madeline. Word rain; or, A discursive introduction to the intimate philosophical investigations of G,r,e,t,a, G,a,r,b,o, it says. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1969.
Table of Contents
1. The Waterfall of An Introduction
2. The Introduction of the Waft or Paraphrased Sensibility
3. A. Reading in the Rain or The Multiplication of Consciousness
B. More or Later
4. The Body of Letters or The Motion of Words
5. Fog in the Tunnel or Intruding Words
6. A Type of Rainbow or By Order of Words
7. Dust Storm or The Pulverization of the Metaphor
8. Lightning or The Wording of the Reader
9. A. Mist and Flood Evaporating Endings
B. Condensation The Reader and the Weather
I don’t remember this as anything more than word salad, but even word salad did not seem an entirely tedious affair back then. Historians of modernism and the avant-garde will offer their explications and explications of the relevant works in their context. But what is the source of the attraction to such matters to the naive newcomer out of context? Perhaps one can only attempt to recreate one’s instinctive impulses.
There are many zeitgeist labels for the 20th century prior to the 1970s. I will add one: the Age of Abstraction & Reflexivity, distinct from the reflexivity and zeitgeist of postmodernism that went viral, as they now say, in the 1980s. I’m sure I felt the then-not-obsolescent impulse to transcend the step-by-step temporal flow of narrative / language / sequence to grasp everything at once in its structural totality or web of associations. Coltrane once said in an interview he wanted to play everything at once. The innocence of the intense thrust into futurity . . .
See Kirkus Review of Word Rain, Sept. 25, 1969.
At the time I knew nothing about Madeline Gins. Much has transpired since 1969:
An Interview with Arakawa and Gins:February 10, 25; March 12, 2010 by Martin E. Rosenberg.
And more generally:
Visual Poetics: Research into Meaning by Alan Prohm
If you’re up for semiotic pretentiousness, there’s more:
“Reading/Writing Para(-)Sites: Madeline Gins’s Word Rain,” by Dagmar BUCHWALD, in INTERFACES: IMAGE / TEXTE / LANGUAGE, n° 21/22, volume II: ARCHITECTURE AGAINST DEATH / ARCHITECTURE CONTRE LA MORTE
Who knew when I read the book 43 years ago I’d live to see this crapola:
“She is raining” : reading WORD RAIN, par Marie-Dominique Garnier, Temporel, 29 avril 2012