Those of you who know how much I enjoy Kenneth Goldsmith’s work will appreciate how excited I am for this forthcoming book. From the publisher’s description:
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.
Here’s The Awl’s recent interview with Goldsmith, who’s currently taking the semester off from his teaching gig at UPenn (where he curates PennSound) to serve as poet laureate of the Museum of Modern Art. You may also know him as the mastermind behind ubu.com or, as Kenny G, the host of deliciously weird shows on WFMU for over 15 years, or as the author of Uncreative Writing or several books of conceptual poetry. (For a good time read the product descriptions.)
The video embedded above records a performance of the section on JFK’s assassination from Seven American Deaths and Disasters. Spoiler: JFK gets shot in the first 10 minutes. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it, even if you don’t make it to the end. More of KG’s work here.