Bibliography . Oulipo Bibliography . Palindrome
Bibliography of Formally Perfect Literary
Augarde, Tony. The Oxford Guide to Word Games. Oxford.
New York. 1986.
Borgmann, Dmitri. Language On Vacation (An Olio of Orthographical
Oddities). Charles Scribner's Sons. 1965. Beyond Language
(Adventures in Word and Thought). Charles Scribner's Sons. 1967.
Curious Crosswords (edited and annotated by Borgmann). Charles
Scribner's Sons. 1970.
Brandeth, Gyles. The Joy of Lex. New York. William Morrow.
1980. More Joy of Lex. New York. William Morrow. 1982.
The Word Book. Robson. London. 1988. Word Games.
Harper. New York. 1986.
Eckler, Ross. Making the Alphabet Dance. St. Martins.
New York. 1996. Definitive and excellent. Eckler is America's most important
man of letters.
Who conjured up pizzazz? A quilt of foxy games.
Eckler: A. Ross, who examined D, B, J to opaque Z, gave off
a query, gave off waxy jazz, makes A's alphabet dance.
Above a quirk of pop: how to taxonomize (judiciously) logo-
logy. A queen book, who juxtaposes a maze carved of
a cube, a requisite example, and a dizzy view off of a huge joke.
Eckler Ross, editor. Word Ways: the Journal of Recreational Linguistics.
An indispensable quarterly academic periodical featuring groundbreaking
Espy, Willard R. An Almanac of Words at Play. Potter
New York. 1975.
Gardner, Martin. Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing.
Pocket. New York. 1972.
Lederer, Richard. Word Circus. Merriam-Webster.
Springfield, Massachusetts. 1998.
American Book Review. Focus: Experimental Writing (19:2)
Bellos, David. Georges Perec: A Life in Words. Boston:
David R. Godine, 1993. Written by his principal translator,
this biography of Perec is gigantic and includes a great deal about
the Oulipo and his relationship with it.
Calvino, Italo. Cosmicomics, T Zero. The Castle of Crossed Destinies.
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. Invisible Cities, Marcovaldo.
Everything Italo Calvino wrote is worth reading, these are just our
Gardner, Martin. "The flip-strip sonnet, the lipogram, and other
mad modes of wordplay." Scientific American (February,
1977): 121. This is a discussion of the Oulipo written
by a professional games expert and a correspondent of Mathews'. It is
mostly to present their ideas as invitations to gamers both linguistic
and mathematical. Although the presentation here is removed from an
academic context, the tremendous amounts of fun to be had by writing
through constraints makes Gardner's approach to the Oulipo more sensible
than most of the writers here.
Leamon, Warren. Harry Mathews. New York: Twayne,
Mathews, Harry. The Orchard. The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium.
Cigarettes. Singular Pleasures. Selected Declarations of Dependence.
Out of Bounds. S. The Journalist.
Mathews, Harry. Armenian Papers. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1987. UI STX: 811M423A
Mathews, Harry. Country Cooking. Providence: Burning
Mathews, Harry. The Human Country. Normal: Dalkey
Mathews, Harry. Immeasurable Distances: The Collected Essays.
Venice, CA: The Lapis Press, 1991. ISU: PS 3563.A8359A161991
Mathews, Harry. "Oulipo." Word Ways 9 (1976): 67-74.
This article, published in A. Ross Eckler's journal of recreational
linguistics (what an amazing discovery for me!), gives a brief description
of the Oulipo and discusses some of their philosophy.
Mathews, Harry. The Way Home. London: Atlas Press, 1989.
UI STX: 818M4232W
Mathews, Harry. 20 Lines a Day. Elmwood Park,
Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 1988. This series
of autobiographical ramblings was written while Mathews was in France
and working actively with the Oulipo. It provides glimpses of insight
into the group from one writer's perspective.
Mathews, Harry. "Vanishing Point." The Avant-Garde Tradition
in Literature. Ed., Richard Kostelanetz. Buffalo: Prometheus, 1982.
Mathews, Harry, & Alastair Brotchie. Oulipo Compendium.
London: Atlas, 1998. Absolutely necessary reference of new poetic
Motte, Warren F., Jr., ed. Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature.
Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 1986. One
of the finest books in English about the Oulipo, this includes two manifestos
and writing by many of the members of the group. Some of the writing
is about specific Oulipian forms, some of it is in specific Oulipian
Motte, Warren F., Jr. Playtexts: Ludics in Contemporary Literature.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
Motte, Warren F., Jr. The Poetics of Experiment: A Study of the
Work of Georges Perec. Lexington: French Forum, 1984. UI STX:
Nufer, Doug. "Georges Perec and the Oulipo." The Stranger
(March 1, 1995): 12-14. An article published in what
is presumably an obscure Seattle 'zine by a brilliant and frustrated
novelist who uses constraints. While it is mostly a review of A Void,
the writer discusses the Oulipo, their philosophy of writing, and how
it has informed his own.
O'Brien, John, ed. Review of Contemporary Fiction 7:3
(1987). Elmwood Park, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press. This
entire issue is devoted to Harry Mathews, the American Oulipo member.
It has interesting articles about the Oulipo's influence on his writing,
as well as dozens of clues as to where to find more information on the
O'Brien, John, ed. Review of Contemporary Fiction 13:1
(1993). Elmwood Park, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press. Half
of this is devoted to Perec. Similar to the Harry Mathews number above,
this includes both writing of his, essays about him, and pages of valuable
bibliographic information and footnotes.
O'Brien, John, ed. Review of Contemporary Fiction 17:3
(1997). Elmwood Park, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press. Half
of this is devoted toRaymond Queneau.
Perec, Georges. Three. Things / A Man Asleep. Species of Spaces
and Other Pieces. "53" Days. Life: a User's
Manual. W or the Memory of Childhood.
Perec, Georges. Trans. Timothy Ades. "Classic Gallic Lipograms."
Modern Poetry in Translation. New Series: 8. 1995. In Gilbert
Adair's translation of La Disparition, he includes lipogrammatic versions
of Anglo-Saxon poems, such as "Black Bird," a version of "The
Raven" excluding the letter E. In Perec's original novel, the selection
of poems is Gallic. Here are two poems originally written in French,
translated by Perec into lipogrammatic French, then translated by Timothy
Ades into lipogrammatic English in an attempt to provide that which
was omitted from Adair's translation. Wow. The mind reels.
Perec, Georges. Trans. Gilbert Adair. A Void. London:
Harvill, 1994. This is a detective novel without
the letter E. Originally published in French in 1969, it has recently
been published in English. This will make you dizzy if you think about
the difficulties the translator faced.
"Perverbs and Snowballs." Time (Jan. 10, 1977): 55. Time's
"Science" article for the week. Useless, but it is the closest thing
I have yet found to mainstream recognition of the Oulipo in America.
Queneau, et al. Trans. Mathews, et al. Oulipo Laboratory.
London: Atlas Press, 1995. This is an absolutely
luscious collection of wonderful writing by members of the Oulipo, released
over the years in pamphlet form. One of the pieces was written in 1994,
demonstrating that the group did not die with Perec and Calvino.
Queneau, Raymond. Zazie in the Metro. Pataphysical Poems. Exercises
in Style. The Blue Flowers. Pierrot Mon Ami. Odile. Saint Glinglin.
Roubaud, Jacques. The Great Fire of London. Our Beautiful Heroine.
The Princess Hoppy. Some Thing Black. Hortense is Abducted. The Plurality
of Worlds of Lewis.
Roudiez, Leon S. French Fiction Revisited.
Elmwood Park: Dalkey Archive. 1972.
Taylor, Simon Watson, & Edward Lucie-Smith.
French Poetry Today: A Bilingual Anthology. New York: Schocken.
1971. Contains four poems by Queneau, among others.
Note: two book-length palindromes in English were published in extremely
limited editions and are currently unavailable: Lawrence Levine's
Dr. Awkward and Olson in Oslo, and David Stephens' Satire:
Veritas. Contact us
if you know the authors.
Agee, Jon. Go Hang a Salami, I'm a Lasagna Hog,1991. Sit
on a Potato Pan, Otis, 1999. So Many Dynamos.
Palindromania!, 2002. Agee's
spirited drawings make unassuming palindrome fragments into laugh-out-loud
funny cartoons. Palindromania is a bit less comic and more
cerebral, and is a good starting place. Elvis Lives! (2000)
is a book of illustrated anagrams.
Bergerson, Howard. Palindromes and Anagrams. Dover. New
York. 1973. Spectacular, definitive, disciplined, important, and silly.
This book contains the first known examples of 20-consonant poetry,
although that is not what he called it.
Clarke, G. R. Palindromes. (Glasgow, 1887). We have not
yet seen this book but include it here because we have it on good authority
that this is the original book of the illustrated palindrome genre.
Donner, Michael. I Love Me , Vol. I: S. Wordrow's Palindrome
Encyclopedia. 1996. This is an encyclopedia of palindromes,
some of whose entries are genuinely informative, others of which are
forced. Because, for some of its entries, it contains authorship information
as well as interpretation, it is very useful. Because some of its entries
are just punchlines to orient forgettable palindromes, I think the encyclopedia
suffers from being too encyclopedi, including entries for which there
is no information.
Written by William Irvine, Illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia.
Madam I'm Adam: and Other Palindromes. Scribner's.
New York. 1987. Illustrated shorter palindromes,
a bit more perverse than Jon Agee, but not as stellar.
Maguire, Mike. Drawn Inward
and Other Poems. 2001. This book of poetry contains four
sections: charades, palindromes, word palindromes, and train poems.
The palindromes are well-crafted, and trains are cool.
Written by Allan Miller, illustrated by Lee Lorenz. Mad
Amadeus Sued a Madam. Godine. Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
1997. This is an embarrasing low-water mark of palidromic literature.
Bad palindromes, bad illustrations, pompous font. Look for it on the
Montfort, Nick, and William Gillespie.
2002: a Palindrome Story in 2002 Words.
Written by John Pool, illustrated by Peter Brookes. Lid
Off a Daffodil. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. New York.
1982. This is another book of small palindromes, set to illustrations.
This book goes to an admirable degree of effort to translate palindromic
structure into both the illustrations (which tend to be symmetrical
along their horizontal axis, and two different images (depending on
which way you look at it) along their vertical axis) and the book design
(you can read the book forward or backward). Nevertheless, despite this
being the best example of a an illustrated book of palindrome fragments
we have yet encountered, the illustrations are much more rigorous than
Palindromist. The only periodical dedicated to palindromes
that we know of, and worth buying all the issues of.
Saltveit, Marc. A Man, A Plan ... 2002: The Palindromic Datebook.
This is a day-planner for the year 2002 with 247 palindromes, most of
them original, corresponding to particular dates with varying degrees
of silliness. It is published by The
Palindromist magazine and is worth buying, even if 2002's
months have elapsed, as the book may serve as a reference should you
ever need palindromes that correspond to particular dates (well, you
Thomas Will. The Big One. Online at: http://uk.geocities.com/willhelston/thebigone.html.
of Formally Perfect Literary Works
Abish, Walter. Alphabetic Africa. This novel
has 52 chapters, lettered A through Z and then Z through A. The letter
that serves as the chapter title indicates the constraint. All the words
in the chapter must begin with that letter or a letter that precedes
that letter in the alphabet. All the words in the first and last chapters
(both chapters are titled "A") must start with the letter
A. The two middle chapters (both titled "Z") may include any
word in the alphabet. This is a wonderful idea for a narrative composition.
At the beginning and end of the story the writer is severely constrained,
in the middle of the story the writer is perfectly unconstrained.
horizontal axis=progression of story, vertical axis=possible vocabulary.
This shape resembles Freitag's plot triangle with verbosity replacing
Abish, Walter. 99: The New Meaning. 99
segments taken from page 99 of 99 books by different authors.
In the Future Perfect. A collection of more-and-less-obviously
Alfeiri, Pierre. Oxo. Translated by Suzanne Doppelt. Providence: Burning Deck, 2004. Seven sections of seven poems of seven lines of seven syllables.
Bök, Christian. Eunoia.
Toronto: Coach House, 2001. This stunning book is univocalic on each
vowel in turn, attempting to use every possible word, with additional
constraints on content.
Cage, John. (poetry) Cage introduced and refined
mesostics, an acrostic technique.
Christensen, Inger. Alphabet. Translated
by Susanna Nied. 2000. A lovely book-length poem tied to an alphabetic
sequence and the Fibonacci sequence, originally written in Danish.
Dunn, Mark. Ella
Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable.
2001. San Francisco: MacAdam/Cage. 2001. A series of lipograms in
which progressively more letters are excluded.
Hejinian, Lyn. My Life. 45 passages,
each (supposedly) with 45 sentences, one for each year of the author's
life. An earlier edition had 37 sections of 37 sentences. The obvious
analogy is with music.
Gillespie, William. Table of
Forms. What this is.
Goldsmith, Kenneth. No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96.
Berkeley: The Figures, 1997. Chapters are titled with Roman numerals
and arranged numerically from I to VMMCCXXVIII. Each chapter consists
of fragments of text whose number of syllables is the same as the number
whose Roman numeral is the title of the chapter. Within each chapter,
phrases are in alphabetic order. Not every number is represented: there
are many numbers for which there is no chapter. Head Citations
is a cento.
Mac Low, Jackson. (Almost anything). Even Jackson
Mac Low's unconstrained writing feels constrained, since writing freely
obviously comes unnaturally to the man. Any book by him is recommended,
and the constraints are usually explained very coherently: open source
poetry. One of his major contributions is diastics.
Nelson, Gale. The Left-Right Divide. A story
without the letter O.
Nufer, Doug. Never
Again. This book doesn't repeat a word.
Rhymer, Eve. Legendary, Lexical, Loquacious Love.
1996. Sara Ranchouse. Chicago. This is a romance novel whose words
are arranged in alphabetic order. It is not, strictly speaking, readable,
but that fact makes its existence all the more remarkable.
Seuss, Dr. The Cat in the Hat. A vocabulary
of 250 words. Green Eggs and Ham. A vocabulary of 50 words.
Silliman, Ron. Tjanting. 1981. This
book employs the Fibbonaci sequence to deploy paragraph breaks. As the
sentences are paratactic, this does not constitute much of a constraint,
but it is an interesting structure nonetheless. A book whose paragraphs
are in increasing order by length.
Sorrentino, Gilbert. Aberration of Starlight
(1980) is a novel of four sections, one for each of four characters,
each composed of 10 chapters, each corresponding to a scene, such
each scene is replayed four times from each character's perspective.
The Orangery (1978) is a lovely collection of poems,
each containing the word orange. Splendide-Hôtel
(1973) is an alphabetic prose poem. Gold Fools (2000)
is a unique example of a book with a grammatic
constraint: every sentence is interrogative.
Steig, William. C D B! Simon & Schuster.
New York. 1968. Cartoons whose text is a sequence of letters. When the
names of the letters are spoken out loud, the result is a homophonic
transliteration of English. ("C D B" = "see the bee") Steig may have
done a number of books in this vein but this is the first.
Stratton, Dirk. Purple
July 1999 Dirk mailed one postcard on each of the 31 days. Each postcard
had the same number of lines as the digit
of pi corresponding to the day on which the postcard was sent. Within
these parameters, Stratton employed additional constraints, including
some classical poetic forms, such as sonnets broken over two cards.
Terry, Philip. The Book of Bachelors, Published
as Review of Contemporary Fiction (XIX:2, Summer 1999. A series
of lipograms telling the story of the nine bachelors in DuChamp's The
Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors.
Wright, Ernest Vincent.
Gadsby. 1939. A lipogrammatic novel excluding the
letter E, predating Perec's La Disparitions by 30 years. It was
written in 165 days when Wright was 67. Apparently, he died on the day
of its publication, shortly before the Nazi invasion of Poland, which
doesn't have the letter E in it..