Living the Dada Life: Andrei Codrescu Style
Eat your heart out, H1N1. Move over, New York Stock Exchange! For God’s sake, sit down, American Idol.
Because in the dada world, poets (and other mischief makers) will always make the best headlines… and the dada world might very well be the REAL world according to Andrei Codrescu’s latest book, The Posthuman Dada Guide (Princeton University Press).
You see, headlines are dada, especially when you take out a pair of scissors and whip down a shot of whiskey while reconstructing prose. (I warn you, this is not easy—but neither is dada).
Dada is the art of making very little sense (in practical terms)—and loving it. But it’s more than that (and not exactly that too). In the words of The Guardian (UK) reviewer of The Post Human Dada Guide, “This book may damage your career, but it could just save your life.”
On May 6, at Labyrinth Books, award-winning writer and NPR commentator, Andrei Codrescu, talked with Princeton University Professor, Brigid Doherty (author of Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Cologne, Hanover, New York, Paris) about his new book and suggested that dada is still alive and well. As Codrescu put it, dada seems “impossible to kill.” In fact, dada might just be the best survival tool today, an antidote to the modern “loss of liberty” furnished by the luxury of cell phones, I-pods and the 24-7 “plugged-in” buzz of busy-ness.
“Sixty percent of your body is electronic now. I don’t know how you can exist without dada. I can’t,” Codrescu said in the signature wry tone that continues to delight NPR listeners.
I should mention that the dada movement stemmed from no lack of grave circumstances. Born in early twentieth century Europe amidst deep concern over colonialism and protest against the First World War–dada was a creative means of tearing down societal boundaries to combat the status quo through avenues like theater and art. It might be argued that dada’s absurdity served to buffer it from the pitfall of most revolutionaries (who, suspiciously often come to resemble those who they criticize)–taking themselves and their philosophy too seriously, so seriously that any and all behavior can be justified in its service.
So what’s Codrescu’s book all about?
“The Posthuman Dada Guide is an impractical handbook for practical living in our posthuman world–all by way of examining the imagined 1916 chess game between Tristan Tzara, the daddy of Dada, and V. I. Lenin, the daddy of communism. This epic game at Zurich’s Café de la Terrasse–a battle between radical visions of art and ideological revolution–lasted for a century and may still be going on, although communism appears dead and Dada stronger than ever. As the poet faces the future mass murderer over the chessboard, neither realizes that they are playing for the world.”
Back at Labyrinth Bookstore, perhaps like a drug, the “primal raw energy of dada” overtook me in the very midst of Codrescu and Doherty’s conversation, just as the audience asked studiously about the importance of cities in dada and dada’s potential use in “teaching” poetry. (In one dose of dadaism, Codrescu instructed his afternoon poetry seminar to write their poems on various kinds of fruit. Not long thereafter, he allowed them to eat their words.”It was a late afternoon class. They were hungry,” shrugged Codrescu matter-of-factly.)
And I felt a little guilty at the end of the talk when, instead of posing an intelligent question, I suddenly imagined Codrescu leaning against a pool table playing various anonymous opponents (including author of “The World is Flat” Thomas Friedman and overnight You-tube superstar, Susan Boyle) in Labyrinth’s well-stocked bookstore with no pool table in sight.
My imagination cared little for these limitations. I mean, who would nail the corner shot with a satisfied Cheshire grin? Who would call stripes? More importantly, who would forget about the game altogether and start up a game of “truth or dare” or hopscotch (or a hybrid of the two)? Would someone (perhaps a customer) sit in the corner laughing over a well-thumbed copy of John Kennedy Toole’s, The Confederacy of Dunces or Angela Carter’s Wise Children or maybe even The Best of the Onion?
And when I turned on my laptop (in between checking my voice messages on my I-Phone) to write this blog, what I thought was: Perhaps the most important thing to be learned from living the dada life isn’t whether you win or lose, but just how well you learn how to PLAY.
May 14, 2009
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative
First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson