You may or may not know that behind the scenes of this blog, as well as reading, there’s a lot of writing going on, in a sense. I’ve previously posted on generating text to edit into books. There aren’t any books that I know of that are about or directly relevant to this writing method. However, in this gallery I want to show some books that I’ve found stimulating. Most have little or nothing to do with programming. All are annotated at the bottom. Click to view.
Incidentally, observant readers of this blog may have suspected that a post or two may have been generated and edited. My software tool doesn’t work well with small source texts, but sometimes I like to conduct trials for new code mods. I shall neither confirm or deny anything!
A short and pithy account of dissident art movements from Cobra to the S.I. to Fluxus to Mail Art and so on. There is a sense that these movements share things in common and form a sort of anti-tradition that hands a baton from one generation to the next. Secondhand from Bookcase in Carlisle, one of those rare finds you know you’ll never part with. What’s most exciting is the way these movements reconstituted the culture around them with such violence through uncompromising and workaday eyes.
I need a week’s annual leave to simply learn and practice the mechanics of this language. It opens the door to running my code with a visual interface. Seems a straightforward enough book.
Quite a slog. Robbe-Grillet is known for a lot of dry descriptions of seemingly irrelevant details. His novels redefined what the novel could be about, and arguably contributed to a long-term cul-de-sac in French literature. It’s possible to live with his stuff in a love/hate relationship. This autobiography starts by immediately discussing itself as a book.
As with Practicalities, a mix of formats that keeps you stimulated. Is it philosophy? Is it war diary? Is it gothic fiction? Who knows? The melodrama makes anything forgivable. The book leaves you with an exciting feeling that the structure and content of a book can be enhanced with plasticity.
A wonderful visual survey of the two art movements. The cut-ups to Dada really chime with me as a coder of text butchery. But the nihilism behind the fun gets wearing. Enter the scene, Surrealism. Its lofty claims are easier said than proven, but the movement had positive energy. I say had because it’s very niche these days. Which is a pity. Surrealism has methods with plenty in the tank.
The parts of this that I read eventually led me to code some solutions. Some algorithms needn’t have sets of decisions based on value testing. It’s sometimes better to combine one measure with another to end up with a product that’s on a graded scale. I still don’t get the difference between fuzzy and probability, but hey, if something works, it works!
I got this for £2.49 at Oxfam Hexham many years ago. It’s very out of date. Xcode, the programming suite on the Mac, has changed in layout countless times since publication. This book drives me to YouTube videos to see where things are now. The videos are made by inarticulate 12-year olds who drive me back to the book. One day I’ll get something up to date and then take a week off work to try things out.
My abiding memory of this long-ago read is the jumps between what seems conventionally novelistic to metaphors and similes that aren’t altogether apparent as to what they point to. The result is something much more like what I imagined Burroughs would be like, but isn’t. Often very abstract.
I was bowled over when I first read this collection of pieces whose format is continually subject to revision. One moment you have a short story, the next autobiography, the next an elaborated diary entry. Shows how your whole idea of what a book could be could be narrow.
The reference for my coding. It never gets out of date because the language hasn’t been developed any further since 1999. Clear and concise stuff.
I sought out some secondhand Searle for months until coming across some at Caledonia Books. Searle argues here against dualist theories of mind, proposing a biological account of intelligence that digital computers cannot imitate, though they may become something entirely else. Anyone programming anything even mildly A.I. will have a passing aquaintance with his work, even if they haven’t read it, which they’re unlikely to, what with it not conforming to a lot of engineers’ tendencies to confidently predict that what they predicted 15 years ago would happen will happen in the next 15 years.
An ethically charged book that has conversations whose interlocutors are unnamed. The sense of an other and the fragility of their speech and being is conveyed in beautiful prose. The question of what a voice is within a text is always there when you chop up existing text and devise ever newer criteria for rearranging it.
An A-Z of OuLiPo terms, projects and people. I’ve dipped in and out of this for years. I’ve never used any of their algorithms for writing, but they’ve always given food for thought and the sense that I’m not alone in the strange writing system I’m developing. One of my favourite books.
I love books about forgeries. This one tells the sad tale of a young writer who tried to impress his loveless and disapproving father by forging documents signed by his hero, Shakespeare. It all goes horribly wrong, though it’s not all tragedy. Swiftly moves on from plot spoiler! A keenly researched examination of the historical and personal dimensions to literary forgery.
A book of fragments purportedly written under heteronyms. There’s a weirdness to the numbered pieces whose subject matter and angle of approach varies, yet with a pervasive essayishness that makes it seem like philosophy that consciously turned a corner out of having more curiosity about the literature department.
Some long and short papers by members of the OuLiPo about Oulipian theory and practice. Some of it’s turgid, rather like many Oulipian works. But there is an enjoyably obsessive spirit behind the technocracy and systematising that brings me back for more.
A feminist history of the cultural relationships between women and technology. Not content with challenging the many ways in which women have been sold to, (mis?)guided by, and fitted into a pre-ordained technological landscape largely shaped by men, Zimmerman offers lists of things that women can do to improve what they get from technology. Rather of its time (1986), so much is still relevant today. It’s a salient reminder when coding text to edit that female figures in the resulting text need to somehow be female without ending up templated (unless, of course, there’s something to be gained through templating).
I recently bought a secondhand copy of this for a friend. Turned out he’d already bought it after I emailed him a few pages about a year ago. It’s a drift through two parts of Paris, describing the places and people in their erotic and uncanny aspects. I could easily have added Breton’s Nadja instead. Both of these dreamlike wanderings are refreshing for the mind. They remind me of the sensation when editing generated text – the meandering subject matter has a freedom of movement much like taking a walk.
This entry was posted in Editorial
and tagged Bataille
, C Programming
, Clarice Lispector
, Cocoa Programming
, computer-generated text
, Fernando Pessoa
, Fuzzy Logic
, Gothic literature
, Harry Mathews
, John Searle
, Louis Aragon
, Marguerite Duras
, Stewart Home
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