the shock of juxtaposition unmitigated

MOBILE, A Study for a representation of the United States, by Michel Butor, Simon & Schuster, 1963

Through an error of the inter-library loan system, I read the french edition first, and it was a fortunate error: my french being at the schoolboy level, meanings leapt at me from a turmoil of incomprehensibility – the french that I knew, the occasional english phrases flashing – you get the sense of us that Olson means, speaking of the Mayans, “the ball still snarled”, plain meaning being the exception, the miracle

the whole things is a dream, the materials being our own flat realities, it is the dreamstate we get into in driving this country, in which we sleepdrive off a straight level highway, or, as, the two grayhound buses, some years ago, near Waco, Texas, in the middle of night, the middle of nowhere, vision ahead limitless, slamming together headon

as in dreams, time-space are shattered, within the punctuation of present place and incident, we get history, anthropology, etc. – the motif of indian attention to peyotl is apt

as is the dedication to Jackson Pollock, it is the first full-length prose work I know in which – as in Pound, Williams, Olson – the meanings are stripped of all literary trappings, lying (as pigments) nakedly side by side, the shock of juxtaposition unmitigated

has Butor read our poets, or did he get it from the painters? in any case, this is a re-emergence of an old tradition of franco-american interchange, one that involved Jefferson, Franklin, Crevecoeur and de Toqueville . . . it is also in the tradition of that secondary European greed, not the landgrabbers, but those who gathered, at second hand, the land’s natural life: as, Coleridge mining the Bartrams – here, Butor makes a feast of Audubon, picking the birds clean

(Paul Metcalf, in Fire Exit, No. 3 (ca. 1969), ed. William Corbett, p. 67.)

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