Read Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker by Susan Howe Free Online
Book Title: Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker|
The author of the book: Susan Howe
Edition: New Directions
Date of issue: March 26th 2013
ISBN 13: 9780811220392
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 13.26 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.3
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I. I've never seen any of Chris Marker's films, but this book made me want to. (You can watch La Jetée online, or it's available on DVD, along with Marker's 1982 film, Sans Soleil.) (I've never read Moby-Dick, either, and this book made me want to do that as well.)
II. Howe's book is mostly in prose: nineteen numbered sections ranging in length from a paragraph to twenty-two pages, with images from films interspersed with the text: an airplane seen from below, a woman with an inscrutable expression, a scene of dismay, a fuzzy image of, what, a shadow on water? Soldiers cross a frozen lake; a balloon hovers/wavers. Another blur; three blonde children walking; that woman, again. There is one other image: the return address on an envelope, postmarked January 1943 from Roswell, New Mexico: a letter from Howe's then-future husband, now deceased.
III. Don't worry: this isn't going to be nineteen sections long.
IV. What's interesting and challenging about this book is the way Howe brings together so many different strands. She's writing about the films of Chris Marker, sometimes in detail, scene by scene, but also writes that she "was drawn to the project because of the fact of [her] husband's death and [her] wish to find a way to document his life and work" (5). Other filmmakers make an appearance: Dziga Vertov, Andrei Tarkovsky. Howe writes about Ivan's Childhood and also about the movie-going experiences of her own childhood, and also about her husband's life as a pilot in wartime, and also about the death of Lenin and Three Songs about Lenin, and also about American literature she knows well: Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, the idea of montage in their work.
V. The word "fact" keeps recurring. "Without words, what are facts?" (7). The idea of "the primacy of the "factual"" in Vertov's work (9). Poets and nonfiction filmakers as working by "factual telepathy" (7). The world is "flooded with facts" (13).
VI. There's something so satisfying about the kind of close-reading that Howe is doing of Marker's films. Like this:
La Jetée, composed almost entirely of photo stills, begins abruptly with a violent out-of-field-movement-sound-image, the roar of revving and hovering jet engines. Sometimes I think I hear sirens, until the whine or scream of aviation doubles and dissolves into cathedral music: voices in a choir sing passages from the Russian Liturgy of the Good Saturday. In northern Russia, Iceland, and other northern places, the sun never goes out of sight in summer. La Jetée's aborted soundtrack takeoff evokes technicist and eschatological worldviews.
Immediately time could be going either way. (13-14)
VII. There is in this book a sense of "oscillating between presence and absence" (10). Howe writes about her husband; Howe writes to her husband. Howe writes about her husband's image in photographs, in a home-movie; she writes about his studio, now gone: she "can only perceive its imprint or trace" (25). Her husband's daughter, from an earlier marriage, "remembers listening to the noise of waves breaking over pebbles in the cove at night, how tides pulled them under, how they swirled and regrouped in the drift and came back" (25). "A documentary work is an attempt to recapture someone something somewhere looking back" (50).
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Read information about the authorSusan Howe was born in 1937 in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the author of several books of poems and two volumes of criticism. Her most recent poetry collections are The Midnight (2003), Kidnapped (2002), The Europe of Trusts (2002), Pierce-Arrow (1999), Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979 (1996), The Nonconformist's Memorial (1993), The Europe of Trusts: Selected Poems (1990), and Singularities (1990).
Her books of criticism are The Birth-Mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History (1993), which was named an "International Book of the Year" by the Times Literary Supplement, and My Emily Dickinson (1985).
Her work also has appeared in Anthology of American Poetry, edited by Cary Nelson (Oxford University Press, 1999); The Norton Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (2003); and Poems for the Millennium, Volume 2, edited by Pierre Joris and Jerome Rotherberg (1998).
She has received two American Book Awards from the Before Columbus Foundation and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999. In 1996 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and in the winter of 1998 she was a distinguished fellow at the Stanford Institute of the Humanities.
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