Thursday, January 08, 2009

MOLLUSKS OF JEALOUSY or The Unshaven Veranda of the Iguana's Heart

This piece was a chapbook and then part of my first book, CRUELTY TO FABULOUS ANIMALS. It's based on images from The New England Primer. One of the things that it plays with is the idea of what each image is supposed to represent for each letter of the alphabet. The fact that there aren't 26 images for the primer added to the play.


Eccentric Scholar said...

I love that: an image for each letter of the alphabet, but not 26 images.

Chris said...

This is tremendous.

gary barwin said...

Thanks, Chris.

And Craig, yeah, I never researched what was going on with these.

Lately, I've been thinking about taking an old alphabet book and doing the images backwards: having them stand for other things. Or giving several people the images in random order and having them create an alphabet book.

I'd image in the past, many kids had a stronger sense of E being elephantine than the elephant as an actual living, breathing creature.

Jeff said...

It is to laugh, loud & long. Great!

Eccentric Scholar said...

Oh yes, Gary, this whole approach is just so marvelous. I love it to pieces. My favorites are probably the O of the moon and the following page about the lost birdsong.

gary barwin said...

Here are the original pictures with one version of the original texts. I don't know why they leave out 'i' and 'v'.

Scroll down to see the images:

Chris said...

They sorta don't -- they leave out J and V, which, although they had taken on their current roles by then, were still often thought to be just variants of I and U -- I and J, U and V, both basically the same letter, and both default to the older (vowel) form.

I think this is a smidge after the ampersand had a trial run as its own letter, which sadly didn't quite work out.

gary barwin said...

Thanks for the clarification, Chris.

The ampersand is fascinating: it almost made it into the alphabet even though its function was different since it was not a representation of a single sound but a word (unless you use it like jwcurry's "curved h&dz" press).

Do you know the piece A-Ronne by the Italian composer Berio ?A fantastic exploration of vocal sounds and various poetic quotations.

Evidently "A and Ronne were the first and last characters of the ancient Italian alphabet — the three signs ette, conne, ronne coming after the final letter zeta. The title A-Ronne is there the ancient Italian equivalent of A-Z.


Chris said...

The ampersand is used all the time as a mid-word substitute for "et" in medieval manuscripts, as is the Tyronian note (which looks like a 7 and is probably why the & is above the 7 on your keyboard) (and which never looked like an e-t ligature). But there isn't much of a history for it in (modern) English (though I think in Middle English MSS there might be? that's not my field so much).

I didn't know about the Berio piece, but it sounds interesting. (I did know about the extra three letters that were given a brief trial run for a few decades, though. There's a nice write up on the wiki.)