Volumes

By Beckett, Tom | Chicago Review, Summer-Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Volumes


Beckett, Tom, Chicago Review


Chicago Review's interest in experimental fiction continued throughout the late-1970s and the early-1980s, even as the magazine published mainstream fiction by the likes of Edmund White, Stuart Dybek, Stephen Dixon, and Frederick Busch. There was a special section on "Very Short Fiction" in the Autumn 1978 issue, a set of essays on "Recent Fiction Et Cetera" in Spring 1980, and successive issues in 1982 and 1983 devoted to "In/Re/Novative Fiction." The latter included Samuel Beckett's "As the Story Was Told" and an essay on his novel L'Innommable, which was first serialized in Chicago Review in the Summer 1958 issue. Gilbert Sorrentino, John Mella, and Beth Tashery Shannon also made appearances in these issues. Tom Beckett's "Volumes" appeared in the 1982 installment of "In/Re/Novative" fiction. At the time, Beckett was editor of The Difficulties, a journal of Language-centered art. His work had also appeared in Sun & Moon and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E.

He thought of how the word 'volume' might refer to a book, say, or to a level of sound. She was asking him if they had ever really watched each other. He could not imagine what she was talking about. They could not assimilate everything that was happening as it was happening to them. She could not deal with the absence of windows. The visitor spoke without gesturing. Remarks relevant to good posture were exchanged. She adjusted the hem of her skirt. He excused himself to pee. The visitor was not conscious of the tongue inside his mouth.

Homemade instruments.

They spoke of how clothing cued social attitudes. The catalogue was incomplete. There was an abstracted quality to the manner of address. Pillows lining the couch. No one could decipher exactly what the announcer was attempting to say. It was a question of diminished returns. There was not an appropriate context. At one point in his life he had dressed as a woman. Almost like an epileptic fit. The authorities made every effort to stop the operations of "the book".

The Fisher-Price record player & the stereo going on at once: Goldilocks & Harry Partch.

She spoke of an almost obsessive preoccupation with certain figures of speech. The literature tends to describe the process in terms of simple mechanics. She crossed her legs. He felt uncomfortably tight. Teas steeping in the pot. He found himself thinking. The visitor writes 'occasional' verse. They were all lost in thought. She wondered if he wanted to 'make it' with her. The structure contains more than one point of egress. It was baffling. She stood forth, as it were, in the fluorescent light.

She thought of asking him about something other than what they were talking about. The visitor really watched. Imagine absence without being relevant. He tried to come to some sense of the spaces he moved in. How could one deal with remarks without gesturing. It had been a long time since any of them had peed. Everyone was conscious of the tongues inside their mouths.

Homemade instruments.

They spoke, so to say, to the point. Every effort was abstracted from the context that had been so painfully proposed before. Arriving, he thought of how the word 'volume' might refer to a quantity of occupied space. She was dressed as a woman ought to be. Almost like "the book." The authorities made several attempts to appropriate the announcement. The quality of the catalogue was questioned. No one could decipher the address.

The Fisher-Price record player & the stereo going on at once: Goldilocks & Harry Partch.

He spoke uncomfortably. The visitor thought about her legs. They were all lost in mechanics. She wondered about the teas. The structure stood occasionally. He wanted to make it simple. Terms are certain speech. The figures are steep. It was tight. Baffling point. Light verse. Lost in fluorescence.

He thought of how the word 'volume' might refer to a level of sound. There was an abstracted quality to their manner of address. …

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