Nick Montfort and William Gillespie. 2002: A Palindrome Story in 2002 Words. Illus. Shelley Jackson. Spineless, 2002. 24 pp. Paper: $16.00.
Frequent readers of RCF are more likely than most connoisseurs of contemporary fiction to be titillated by Oulipian fiction. The print arrival of 2002: A Palindrome Story serves proof that the efforts of the Oulipos progenitors have translated loud and clear to a new generation of experimentalists. Hallmark examples of Oulipian writing (which explores the nature of constraint, where artists operate under rigid, formalist rules) are Georges Perecs Las Disparitions, an entire novel composed without the letter e, and Doug Nufers Never Again, wherein every word is used exactly once. In 2002 Montfort and Gillespies formalist constraints are (1) exploring the palindrome as a narrative structuring device and (2) using a predetermined word count of 2002 words. That this experiment toes the lines of its dual constraints is in itself impressive; that 2002 actually is capable of delivering traceable characters (whose names, of course, are palindromes themselves: Bob, Anna, Otto), mood, and thematics is delightfully astonishing. Equally astonishing are Shelley Jacksons incredible pen and ink illustrations on vellum, tucked between the pages in this beautiful little edition (imagine City Lightss pocket books series from the 1960s, only smaller and with an actual, functioning aesthetic . . .). This also fails to mention the books digital residence at www.spinelessbooks.com, where websurfers will find both a virtual bookstore and an electronic library on experimental writing in the computer age. Like the best works of experimental fiction (and Im thinking beyond the Oulipo gang here, notably to John Barths Letters, the cut-up trilogy of William Burroughs, Paul Austers novella Ghosts, Raymond Federmans Double or Nothing, Gilbert Sorrentinos Mulligan Stew, and Ishmael Reeds Mumbo Jumbo), 2002s genius can be found beyond its experiment, insofar that experimental texts can teach us not only new ways to read, but new ways to create and to mean. [Trevor Dodge]