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Monday, September 27, 2010

Oulipo Sample

taken from McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, issue 22

"Thirty-Five Variations on a Theme from Shakespeare," by Harry Matthews

2.   Anagram:  Note at his behest: bet on toot or quit
5.   Lipogram in I:  To be or not to be: that's the problem
6.   Lipogram in E:  Almost nothing: or nothing: but which?
7.   Transposition (W+7):  To beckon or not to beckon: that is the quinsy
22.  Reductive: One or the other--who knows?
31.  Homophony:  Two-beer naughty beat shatters equation
33.  Heterosyntaxism:  I ask myself: is it worth it, or isn't it?
34.  In Another Meter:  So should I be, or should I not? / This question keep me on the trot.
35.  Interrogative Mode:  Do I really care whether I exist or not?

Obviously, I didn't quote all of them, and there are a variety of other limiting approaches to different genre.  I just don't feel like typing them all up.

But here's something extra:

Today I was Mr. Andreason, a 6th grade teacher. Well, I was his sub. One of the many times for which he had inadequate material for me and the students, some of the kids took to writing each other codes. I had a thought: Suppose a computer could figure out what a coded message says--a cypher--without knowing the cypher, simply by recognizing the patterns of letters and punctuation plus the number of letters in a word and the relationship of word lengths in context (like, there are only so many three-letter words with potential context as frequent as "the").... Anyway, that got me thinking about the Oulipo and their seemingly random restrictions.

Here's what I'm thinking: what if we took a piece of literature--a short piece, in this case--and represented it exclusively with dashes, like a hangman puzzle. Then, what if the writer replaced those blanks with letters to form words in grammatically correct syntax to form a new piece of writing?

Here's an example, and we'll even call it a contest (I have no idea what the prize would be--fear not, it won't be an old pair of my shoes like what Tobin took once for a prize), to the first person to create a new piece from Hulme's "Above the Dock:"

----- --- ----
----- --- ----- ---- -- --------,
------- -- --- ---- ----‘- ------ ------,
----- --- ----. ---- ------ -- --- ----
-- --- - -----‘- -------, --------- ----- ----.

You can fill in the blanks anyway you like, so long as every blank is used and the result makes sense, grammatically and poetically.

(If anyone has the guts to even attempt this, comment or email your results!)

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