On Titles from Karen Green, Ben Schott
By Karen Green
Karen Green is primarily known as a visual artist, and with the publication of Bough Down, it is safe to say that we can simply call her an artist, one of our very best. Working in smallish prose poems arranged beside small, rectangular collages, Green recounts the graphic details of her husband’s suicide: “I worry I broke your kneecaps when I cut you down. I keep hearing that sound.” She is open about the intimate details of her marriage, about the frustration evoked by these details: “I want him looking for his glasses, trying not to come...I don’t want him at peace.” She is honest about the role of pharmaceuticals in both her husband’s suicide and her coping process: “I have driven myself back there, looking for us, and I have tried some drugs...No longer do I wear the Visitor patch above my heart.” Something of a cottage industry has sprung up around Green’s husband, David Foster Wallace—posthumous books and collections, re-issues, biographies, critical studies—and whereas these publisher cash-grabs and literary grave-robbings might irk readers, Bough Down reframes such efforts (and frustrations about them) as being largely beside the point. Few human endeavors are more worthy of attention and admiration than the working artist shaping his or her grief through art. “Some people would rather die than be understood,” writes Green. “Not me.”
By Ben Schott
Blue Rider Press, 2013
In Schottenfreude, the author of Schott’s Original Miscellany offers a collection of German neologisms footnoted with contextual examples from literature, related English terms, or other commentary. Readers of a certain age will recall comedian Rich Hall's “sniglets,” defined as “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should.” Schott works in this tradition, though his variation is to create any word he feels should exist in German, and could. Examples include “Witzbeharrsamkeit,” or “Unashamedly repeating a bon mot until it is properly heard by everyone present” and “Sonntagsleerung,” or “Sunday-afternoon depression.” That the words are clever German neologisms commented upon via footnotes cannot be disputed. Depending upon levels of enthusiasm for German or linguistics, however, readers may have differing opinions on the degree of humor or interest the book sustains.