Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Norman Finkelstein and the Offending Adam

"A Scribe Turned into a Scribe,", my review of Norman Finkelstein's latest book, Scribe, is up and running at The Offending Adam. I don't know what I like more: Norman's book, or The Offending Adam itself, the brainchild of Andrew Wessels and his merry band of literary co-conspirators.

I think there's a good chance that The Offending Adam may be the model for how literary journals can make the transition to the online world. The best feature (shared with a more established online journal, Jacket) is the way writing is rolled out in front of the public a little at a time. This seems like a better use of the possibilities of electronic publication than the dropping of all the content down in a big one-shot pile every issue, which is just an imposing of the limits of print production on a medium that needn't be bound by those limits. Jacket puts parts of each new issue out on an irregular basis, adding content as the issue comes together under the guidance of the editor. The Offending Adam is a bit more disciplined, at least so far: there's a new issue every week, with a few items published every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I like this, since in the age of democratized access to publication and massive literary proliferation, the best thing an editor can do for the writers he cares about is to present them in a way that draws attention to them — just a few items at a time. Poetry Daily has been doing this, but it relies on previously published material. Wessels and company do the extra legwork of selecting new material, and they provide a forum for reviews as well.

The intimacy of the presentation of material at The Offending Adam — you meet the contributions one at a time, not among a crowd of other poems — makes for something like a community-feeling. And community is also very much at the core of Norman Finkelstein's Scribe. Here's how I try to describe the phenomenon in the opening paragraph of the review:

Michael Palmer has said that to read Norman Finkelstein’s book Scribe “is to pass through a series of gates into the paradoxical heart of the poem,” where “the communal and the solitary” come together in the music of the poetry. He’s on to something, I think: what strikes one most strongly in Scribe are the repeated invocations of communal experience, and the ways the influence on collectivity works its way into the forms, as well as the subjects, of the poetry.

The book is available from Dos Madres Press, or here.


In other news, the latest Contemporary Literature is out, and includes "Postnational Ireland," a piece I wrote about contemporary scholarship in Irish poetry, and about the end of the old nationalist paradigm that has animated much of the thinking about Irish poetry (and some of the poetry itself) for the past century or more. Here's the table of contents. If you have access to a university library, you can probably view the piece via Project Muse or JSTOR. Otherwise, they make you pay. But you were wondering what to do with your royalty checks anyway, right?