Monday January 24th, 2011

Ten Walks/Two Talks by Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch

tenwalks1This meditative, slender book, partly inspired by the travel journals of 17th-century Japanese poet Basho, is part of the Dossier series published by Ugly Duckling Presse, a collection of books that includes titles like Notes on Conceptualisms and Made-Up Interviews With Imaginary Artists. Two of the book’s four sections feature selections from Fitch’s walking project: hourlong walks through Manhattan, each described in 60 sentences. An excerpt:

I couldn’t feel the cold as a young Asian woman crossed Canal in clogs and yellow neon socks. Behind her men pushed delivery carts: four Andyboy lettuce boxes, four marked TROUT. There weren’t any Italians yet on Mulberry. They must all drive in from out of state. One dark-skinned boy chipped away at ice. One door sat surrounded by olive oil tins. The one gay pride flag for blocks had gotten entangled in fire escape steps. Neatly stacked Malaysian newspapers had been bound and stamped Recycling.

If you live in New York, this will likely tempt you to maintain a similar noticing journal. (Mine might include: “A young man in Union Square, sitting on a milk crate and wearing brown shorts, a polo shirt and a Boba Fett mask, is playing an accordion.”)

The other two sections are edited, stylized transcripts of conversations between the author-friends while they walked around New York (and sat eating purportedly stolen food at the Whole Foods in Union Square). Bookslut’s Michael Schaub says “the transcripts approach poetry, even — especially — at their most distracted and unguarded. . . . There’s shades of Harry Mathews-style sly humor in there, of course, but nothing about it seems unreal, and nothing seems forced.”

Writer and musician Franklin Bruno says, “[The] project has too many antecedents to list — the book alludes to Thoreau, James Schuyler, and Lyn Hejinian, among others — and focusing on its structure and strategy misses its moment-to-moment humor, the writing’s lightly torqued syntax, and the sweet-natured affect conveyed by both of its voices.”

Jonathan Messinger says it’s an “unusually quiet and beautiful book” that left him trying to decide “if it reminded me more of browsing through an art gallery or watching a foreign film without the subtitles.” Justin Taylor says, “A deceptively simple book, it demands little but offers much.” Laura Wetherington echoes that sentiment: “Everything and nothing happens in this book. That’s the beauty of it.”

Ten Walks/Two Talks by Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch
Ugly Duckling Presse, 88 pp., $14.00