Wednesday, April 3, 2013

re Denis Wood, Everything Sings

What I'm reading

Denis Wood, Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas (Siglio Press, Los Angeles, 2010) $28


That would be the brief yet exhaustively thorough review of this great thing, or rather what the author calls a "process-thing." 

I could slow down and say, well, what I like fact I will slow down and say that what I like is...

That he insists on what other cartographers leave out. He cites John Cage's amused discovery that no matter what he did to randomize and remove the controlling human hand from his musical activity, there would still be melody at times.  

DW insists that the same goes for what pretends to be merely instrumental or objective:

Those objects still sing.  

In other words, narrative is inescapable.  Mapmakers, as he says or perhaps rants/sings in his interesting and enthusiastic (in the Whitman sense) introduction, try to make a map as merely a set of directions.

Yet sneakily they imply that this map, this set of official lines and numbers and names, is all that is the case.  The map shows what there is.  The rest is not relevant. 

DW says, o no, not so fast, the rest is everything and not only that, everything is singing.

Essentially he maps not a neighborhood as a set of streets but a neighborhood as the experience of the people who live there, in accordance with his theory that a place is not just a place, that people and place together transform each other. 

So there are hilarious and sweet "maps" of things that don't ever get mapped like a color density and shade map of the neighborhood in autumn that is a word cloud of color names. 

And also serious reminders of the political and economic forces and artifacts -- restrictive covenants, for example -- that give a neighborhood its shape and look and flavor.  

A wonderful book/ process-thing....In the same way that DW says a neighborhood is a "process-thing" (not just a thing-thing, a silent motionless object) that transforms anywhere into here and here into everywhere, his book transforms person plus pages covered with stuff into something more interesting or at least something smiling with delight, if not actually singing, since it could be early in the morning and besides the birds are taking care of it here in South Frankfort right this minute. 

If all books were this good, I would use my secret powers to stop time so I could read books forever without either of us -- me or the books -- disintegrating. 

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