What are the words we use to describe something that we never thought we'd have to describe? In Seven American Deaths and Disasters, Kenneth Goldsmith transcribes historic radio and television reports of national tragedies as they unfurl, revealing an extraordinarily rich linguistic panorama of passionate description. Taking its title from the series of Andy Warhol paintings by the same name, Goldsmith recasts the mundane as the iconic, creating a series of prose poems that encapsulate seven pivotal moments in recent American history: the John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and John Lennon assassinations, the space shuttle Challenger disaster, the Columbine shootings, 9/11, and the death of Michael Jackson. While we've become accustomed to watching endless reruns of these tragic spectacles—often to the point of cliché—once rendered in text, they become unfamiliar, and revealing new dimensions emerge. Impartial reportage is revealed to be laced with subjectivity, bias, mystery, second-guessing, and, in many cases, white-knuckled fear. Part nostalgia, part myth, these words render pivotal moments in American history through the communal lens of media.
About the Author
Kenneth Goldsmith's writing has been called "some of the most exhaustive and beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry" by Publishers Weekly. Goldsmith is the author of ten books of poetry, founding editor of the online archive UbuWeb (ubu.com), and the editor of I'll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, which was the basis for an opera, Trans-Warhol, that premiered in Geneva in March of 2007. An hour-long documentary on his work, Sucking on Words was first shown at the British Library in 2007. He teaches writing at The University of Pennsylvania, where he is a senior editor of PennSound, an online poetry archive. He held The Anschutz Distinguished Fellow Professorship in American Studies at Princeton University for 2009-10 and received the Qwartz Electronic Music Award in Paris in 2009. In May 2011, he was invited to read at President Obama's A Celebration of American Poetry at the White House, where he also held a poetry workshop with First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2011, he co-edited, Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing and published a book of essays, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age. Goldsmith was invited to participate in dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, Germany, 2012. In 2012, dOCUMENTA(13) published his Letter to Bettina Funcke as part of their "100 Notes—100 Thoughts" book series.
Praise for Seven American Deaths and Disasters…
"...it’s like nothing he’s done. It knocks the air from your lungs."
-The New York Times
"This book feels both like an important historical document and a beautiful example of what the Great American Novel might look like today."
-The Paris Review
"It mingles the language of radio and TV commercials with sometimes bumbling, sometimes heroic reports from journalists filing their first draft of history. 'Seven American Deaths and Disasters' is of a piece with Mr. Goldsmith's provocative literary aesthetic."
-The Wall Street Journal
"The high priest of what he calls Non-Creative Writing, Goldsmith continues
producing books from found texts—in the case of Seven American Deaths and
Disasters, he transcribes radio transmissions announcing famous deaths and other
bad news. His new book is a textual equivalent of Warhol’s Death and Disaster
paintings, ripped from the front pages of the Daily News."
"Goldsmith's material, unmistakably real, refuses to remain in a literary frame."
"Kenneth Goldsmith is always ahead of the curve! Just when readers were becoming used to his “boring” transcriptions of weather or traffic reports, he here reverses the game by turning his attention to the extraordinary: seven cases of assassination, murder, sudden death, or terrorism and how such unforeseen events have been handled by the feckless and unaware media. Seven Deaths is a real page-turner: you will feel you’re there, living through the horrific events as they unfold."
-Marjorie Perloff, author of Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century