I first became aware of Craig Dworkin’s work through his book Reading the Illegible (2003) and his contribution to Information as Material. A poet, critic, editor, and professor in the Department of English at the University of Utah, Craig is also the author of No Medium (2013) and editor, with Kenneth Goldsmith, of Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (2011). He runs Eclipse, an online archive of radical small-press writing.
Here are Craig’s words around En abîme, at once a response and an echo to my book:
Daniela Cascella’s En Abîme both describes and enacts the dynamic between writing and sound that gets put into play whenever we write about the auditory or sound out the phonetic limits of writing. Her soi-disant “archival fiction” thematizes the writing of sound in scenes where phonographs serve as mnemonic triggers or are deployed as answers in an interview, but the archival sense of “records” also plays throughout. Moreover, in its investigation of the dynamic between writing and sound, Cascella’s work makes a compelling argument for rethinking the metaphors by which we understand both reading and listening: moving from surface and depth to horizon and edge to entanglements and knots. Picking up on Herman Melville’s description of his unsuccessful book Pierre as a “shallow nothing of a novel,” Cascella patiently demonstrates that the depth-model of value (“shallow”) and the ontology of “nothing” (as John Cage had proved for “silence”) are far from certain and stable. Indeed, with its five blind-printed pages, her own second-hand copy of Melville’s novel reanimates the metaphors of ghostly haunting and diminished echoing that echo and haunt her text in turn. A visual version of an echo, “en abîme” names the recursive relationships that animate the formal structure of the eponymous fiction, but the abyss is also a formation where echoes emanate — the space required for resonance, the cry of the voice de profundis. Like Robert Walser’s poetry, Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, and Gert Jonke’s novels (such as Der Ferne Klang and Erwachen zum großen Schlafkrieg), En Abîme conducts philosophy by other — narrative and aural — means. Cascella is a phonographer of the mind, and her work repays the replay of repeated auditioning.