10 August 2016

"Essays" per Rebecca Solnit

Genres and forms of library resources have been much in mind for some years now as the art project slowly works its way toward proposals for the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT). The latest flurry for non-art headings involved whether or not "Essays" was a narrower term of Creative nonfiction and whether the word "creative" was perhaps too narrow. I'm a generalist so I think "Essays" should be used broadly as a genre/form term for short prose pieces without too much consideration of creativity. It's rather like "is it art?" I'm generally willing to accept something as art if it's presented as art.

My current reading is The encyclopedia of trouble and spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit. She's an incredible and creative writer, a leftie rabble rouser. The introduction includes her thoughts about "essays":

"As nonfiction -- that leftover term apotheosizing fiction -- gets defined down as only memoir and essay, I've wanted to open it up again, to claim everything else. Nonfiction is the whole realm from investigative journalism to prose poems, from manifestos to love letters, from dictionaries to packing lists. This territory to which I am, officially, consigned couldn't be more spacious, and I couldn't be more pleased to be free to roam its expanses. And maybe the variety of forms here is part of the book's breadth along with its geographical range. Calling this anthology an encyclopedia was a way to call attention to its range and maybe imagine these almost thirty essays as entries in an extremely incomplete encyclopedia. Essays explore; they also define, every essay is an entry in the author's personal encyclopedia."

Not only is there resonance in Solnit in regard to genre/form. I was reading the chapter on "cults, creeps [and] California in the 1970s" and she mentioned how Jess and Bruce Conner went their own way rather than play along with the East Coast avant-garde critics. I was reading that on the subway and then I was walking toward MoMA and there was a Bruce Conner banner on the streetlight post on 54th Street. Small world, great world, interesting retrospective of Conner's work.

That was yesterday. Today I was in McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street on Soho. The section of books on the landing on the stairs to the basement is labelled "Essays & Creative Nonfiction." Sigh. Then off to the new space for the International Center of Photography, now called the ICP Museum. The main show is "Public, Private, Secret" with plenty of gleanings from internet sites. Then cross the street to the New Museum for the Keeper show about collections. Quite a few of the collections were obsessive and reminded me of the art and autism show I saw at the Museum Dr Guislain in Ghent in fall 2014. The collection of teddy bear pictures seemed rather like an analog internet collection of images.

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