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Monday, September 11, 2006

Reader's Diary #155- Christian Bok: Eunoia (FINISHED)

The afterward of Eunoia came close to ruining this book.

Remember when all those magicians were up in arms because the Masked Magician was revealing all of their secrets on Fox TV? The public on the other hand, was thrilled. Who doesn't like being shown behind the scenes?

Me. In the case of Eunoia anyway. Here Bok played the Masked Poet, but in a masochistic spin, appeared to reveal his own secrets! Giving a brief definition of a univocal lipogram, Bok then describes the other rules of Eunoia. In each chapter, there must be an allusion to writing, a description of specific events (i.e., a culinary banquet, prurient debauchery ...er, dirty parts, a pastoral tableau, and a nautical voyage). Furthermore, each sentence needed to "accent internal rhyme through the use of syntactical parallelism." And it needed to come within 98% of exhausting the available lexicon per vowel.

What this technical jargon did essentially, was strip away the magic. Basically, what Bok did was collect all the vowel exclusive words, categorize them as food words, dirty words, and so on, and put rhymes within a sentence's length of one another. Who couldn't do that?

But after thinking it through (I loved the book so much, I didn't want to give up on it), I was selling Bok short. First of all, it was Bok's idea. Yes, it's true, univocal lipograms have existed before, but the categories were his. I'm sure that after he collected the words, some categories were obvious. Yet again, how many others have taken the time to do so? And the fact that Chapter E is an e-only retelling of the Iliad, says that Bok had more skill than the average Joe.

And furthermore, if Eunoia can be stripped down to a poem that a computer could be programmed to write yet still appear poetic, it says a lot about the magic contained within these little vessels we call vowels.

So, in keeping with the Masked Magician analogy, perhaps Bok wasn't revealing his own secrets, but the secrets of the almighty vowel.

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

So, if one reads this without reading the afterward, they should be okay?

John Mutford said...

Yeah, they would be. But I'm not sure who has that kind of willpower.

Martin Olson said...

Interestingly, I thought the Afterward *enhanced* my love of the book, just as the rules for crafting sonnets or haiku, for example, augment my appreciation.