shorter american memory (1988)
All Americans are also ambiguous. In 1937, Henry Beston assembled and edited an anthology of various historic sources titled American Memory: Being a Mirror of the Stirring and Picturesque Past of Americans and the American Nation. The gist: to weave historical documents together to 'evoke the emotions and motives of those who made our memory.' From this commonplace histrionic babble, Rosmarie Waldrop crafts her delicious comic critique, Shorter American Memory. Originally published in 1988 by paradigm press (a year after The Reproduction of Profiles, Waldrop's stunning reworking of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations) Shorter American Memory applies a playful array of abbreviating manipulations to Beston's collection. Unlike Waldrop's more familiar signature of mixed original composition and embedded citation, Shorter American Memory is strict detournement—the entire work consists of politically subverted, procedurally reprocessed fragments from the hegemonic narrative of American Memory. The twenty-two prose-poem revisions fall between disjunctive textual synthesis and nuanced hypotactic collage. Hear Waldrop read selections of Shorter American Memory at PENNsound here, or enjoy a small sample: We holler these trysts to be self exiled that all manatees are credited equi distant, that they are endured by their Creditor with cervical unanswerable rims, that among these are lightning, lice, and the pushcart of harakiri.