Exercises in Style

Exercises in Style

Book - 2012
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The plot of Exercises in Style is simple: a man gets into an argument with another passenger on a bus. However, this anecdote is told 99 more times, each in a radically different style, as a sonnet, an opera, in slang, and with many more permutations. This virtuoso set of variations is a linguistic rust-remover, and a guide to literary forms.
Publisher: New York : New Directions, 2012
Edition: Augmented, alternative edition, New & expanded edition
ISBN: 9780811220354
Branch Call Number: FIC QUENEAU 2012
Characteristics: xviii, 262 pages : illustrations, music ; 19 cm
Language Note: Translated from French
Additional Contributors: Wright, Barbara 1915-2009


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Dec 16, 2016

As the title suggests, the concept of writing a mundane story 99 different ways seems at first more like a writing workshop exercise than a good idea for a book, and indeed some of the 99 feel unnecessary. However, Queneau's mathematical demeanor, creativity, and wry sense of humor make this very clever and entertaining. Barbara Wright's translation is a remarkable accomplishment by itself, and she makes some substantial contributions of her own (with Queneau's approval); one of these, the "Opera English" chapter, is my favorite thing in the book. If you find the idea of representing the story element of a crowded S bus at noon by an ensemble of passengers singing "All hail Phoebus meridian! All hail the S quotidian!" as funny as I do, this comes highly recommended.


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