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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars uncategorizable and wonderful
As the author of the world's longest palindrome and other literary feats, Perec's phenomenal linguistic skills and imagination remain incomparable. His works, however, on not merely experiments within the constraints of language; I am not as impressed with his ability to write a 300-page novel without a single letter "e" as much as his endearing sense of humor...
Published on April 16, 2001 by Alessandro

versus
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars book
It is just really a mediocre book, not dramatic or very interesting or compelling.
not heavily thought provoking but, is insightful
Published 4 months ago by alan


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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars uncategorizable and wonderful, April 16, 2001
By 
As the author of the world's longest palindrome and other literary feats, Perec's phenomenal linguistic skills and imagination remain incomparable. His works, however, on not merely experiments within the constraints of language; I am not as impressed with his ability to write a 300-page novel without a single letter "e" as much as his endearing sense of humor and humanity. "Species of Spaces" stands as a critical piece of his oeuvre in that it serves as a primer of sorts for his other major works, like a meta-text or map of his other works. Beyond this function, though, lies a vision of what literature can be, beyond genre. Perec explores the spaces we inhabit, beginning with the most evident, the page itself on which he writes (and you read), and "zooming out" into ever grander scales: the apartment, the street, the city, the country, and the universe itself. He does not cease to inscribe himself in each of these spaces, for the crisis that drives this book is that Perec does not exist except in language, on the page, in the apartment, in the street, etc. Every act of writing is an existential re-affirmation, made poignant by the author's circumstances (Perec was the son of Holocaust victims). The darkness of his own history is mitigated, however, by these attempts to capture the here-and-now in writing.
This is a perfect book for the writer seeking inspiration, since the way Perec does not use language as a clunky tool but rather plays with it, tests its limits. Literature seems then not a struggle for self-expression but an exercise in creativity. Perec's approach is refreshing, original, and terribly underappreciated.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars humane and intimate, February 18, 2006
Perec's work reminds me of a potted plant on a windowsill of an old apartment, a free-growing natural form set in an urban environment. It's like seeing that one tree outside your apartment window, the one that reminds you that not everything has to hold to the grid. His style reminds me somewhat of Glenn Gould's interpretations of Bach.

The best two pieces are a review of an old 19th century travel guide to London and an interview where Perec describes his experience serving as a paratrooper during France's Gaullist period.

Lyrical, measured, and humane; a great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Inspirational, March 8, 2010
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This review is from: Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
After reading some of Perec's other, less notable work, this book fell into my hands during an analysis of modern architecture and space dynamics. His consideration of the individual's interaction within spaces and the identity prescribed by such spaces is enlightening and stimulating. This was a very enjoyable read and is an excellent translation of the original French.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books., July 30, 2012
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This review is from: Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
After my second reading of "Species of Spaces" a couple of years ago, I decided I should read it once a year. As another reviewer says, Perec makes the everyday so interesting, and it makes us question the ways we interact with our immediate everyday world.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars virtuoso, January 6, 2006
humor, imagination and wit combined at their best in a unique exploration of ordinary things. a profound and pleasurable book to read, flowing like a letter from a friend.
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19 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All hail the Wondering Boy Poet, September 14, 1998
By A Customer
A welcome addition to the under-translated oeuvre of an incomparable writer. Species of Spaces is a collection of essays, fictions, and verbal bagatelles showcasing a Parisian who "never wanted to write the same thing twice." Perec fuses quotidian concerns with psychological imperatives, and takes you to places you've never been before. Perec's work is the infra and ultra of literature's spectral continuum. And he's gut-busting funny, too.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll try to think like this, July 11, 2010
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This review is from: Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
What a joy reading these placid small thoughts. The everyday was never so interesting until Perec showed how. I'll be keeping this paperback. I'll be opening it whenever I feel a slump in my own writing. He's a real inspiration for writers of all kinds--those doing high minded literature and those of us doing the good old historical fiction Westerns.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Master of language as game and play, November 10, 2013
By 
Glenn Russell (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
When Georges Perec was 45, he said in an interview how writing from him was his way of living, that he couldn’t imagine a day without spending some hours writing, writing from him being a kind of struggle where he tries to undo the words and letters, sentences, paragraphs and book and reorganize them as a kind of game and play, as serious game and play . He went on to say how the books by authors he loved when he was in his 20s were like pieces of a puzzle but there was still space between the pieces and in those spaces is where he could write. He also went on to say how he would like to write everything in every way possible: including children’s books, science fiction, detective novels, cartoons, comedy, drama and film scripts and that at the end of his life he would like to have used all the words in the dictionary and also to create some of his own words. One can imagine all of the books Georges Perec would have written if he lived to be 86 instead of 46.

Has there ever been an author who celebrated language more than Georges Perec?-- language as celebration and as game and play? So, with all this in mind and as a way of reviewing this marvelous book, I will cite a few quotes from the first essay, Species of Spaces, along with my brief comments. For readers unfamiliar with this 95 page essay, the author addresses spaces moving from the micro to the macro: The Page, The Bed, The Bedroom, The Apartment, The Apartment Building, The Street, The Neighborhood, The Town, The Countryside, The Country, Europe, The World, Space.

The Page -- “This is how space begins, with words only, signs traced on the blank page. To describe space: to name it, to trace it, like those portolano-makers who saturated the coastlines with the names of harbors, the names of capes, the names of inlets, until in the end the land was only separated from the sea by a continuous ribbon of texts. Is the aleph, that place in Borges from which the entire world is visible simultaneously, anything other than the alphabet?” Amazing. To view the Borgesian aleph, that all-seeing sphere, that omni-vision eye, as the a b cs, the alphabet, from which all words are created. And once words are created, is there any object or space, concept or material reality, large or small, gross or subtle, that cannot be labeled, marked, identified, described or categorized by words?

The Bed – “We generally utilize the page in the larger of its two dimensions. The same goes for the bed. The bed (or, if you prefer, the page) is a rectangular space, longer than it is wide, in which, or on which, we normally lie longways.” Again, amazing -- to see all the similarities between the page one writes on (or reads from) and the bed one sleeps on.

The Bedroom – “The resurrected space of the bedroom is enough to bring back to life, to recall, to revive memories, the most fleeting and anodyne along with the most essential.” This is certainly true for me: I can’t visualize the large upstairs attic bedroom of my youth without recalling emotions and feeling I had when a child: the fear of the shadows cast on the walls at night, the sense of wonder when the sun streamed through the windows on a winter’s morning, the unsettling feelings when looking at all those odd ceiling angles, etc.

The Apartment – “It takes a little more imagination no doubt to picture an apartment whose layout was based on the functioning of the senses. We can imagine well enough what a gustatorium might be, or an auditory, but one might wonder what a seeery might look like, or a smellery or a feelery.” Such is the whimsy of Georges Perec.

The Street – “Observe the street, from time to time, with some concern, for system perhaps. Apply yourself. Take your time. . . . Note down what you can see. Anything worthy of note going on. Do you know how to see what’s worthy of note? Is there anything that strikes you? Nothing strikes you. You don’t know how to see. You must set about it more slowly, almost stupidly. Force yourself to write down what is of no interest, what is most obvious, most common, most colourless.” One could take the author’s words here as a mini-course in creative writing and creative seeing and living. As Georges Perec said in his interview, the empty spaces he leaves after his death are an invitation for others to continue the play and game of language and writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars !!, November 21, 2012
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This review is from: Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Note before review: My rating is based on only Species of Spaces, not the supplemental readings. If the supplemental readings were included, my rating would be somewhat lower, maybe four stars, or three on a bad day.

First, on Species:
It's been about a month or two between when I read this piece and now, but it's stuck with me the whole time. Perec pays close attention to everything around him, zooming out from the page he writes on the the whole of the universe, and along the way he observes things as simple as a man locking his car to go to the store, the number and types of places he has slept in, and what happens to the picture and the wall its hung on, all in an inviting, friendly voice. Part of this inviting friendliness comes from him inviting you to do the same as him. Observe the world, he says. Make exhaustive lists, for they are the only way to truly see the world around you. Perhaps I'm biased because I like to do similar observation exercises (and have done so both before and after reading the piece), but there are certain things you cannot notice without these type exercises. And Perec gives you just enough in Species to entice you to look around your own city without boring you with actual full examples of exhaustive lists, making this slimish work a quick, enjoyable, and eye-opening (literally or figuratively) little read.

On the Rest:
About half of these things are interesting, some just to look at (like the list of foodstuffs eaten in one year) and others for their content (the humor of A Scientific Friendship..., the very interesting pieces on memory), but the rest seem there just to show the range of Perec's untranslated work. I ended up taking long breaks in reading because of this, reading maybe a piece a week. Luckily, the book ends on possible the most positive note, attempts at translating some of Perec's word games (as well as some similar English language puzzles written by the translator to illustrate the effect of the puzzles in French), which is just a heck of a lot of fun.

On the Translation:
Wonderful. It's hard to tell this was translated, except when Sturrock (the translator) adds a needed illustrative footnote. Also, what he does with the puzzle section at the end is fantastic, really going the extra mile to make the book as accessible as possible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ah Perec... Be still my heart, October 14, 2012
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This review is from: Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
An incredibly lovely, poetic, and systematic inquiry into space. Starting with the space of the page and progressing to the bed, bedroom, house, street, town... Perec peels the world like an onion making a tasty enchilada.

Highly recommend!
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Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics)
Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) by Georges Perec (Paperback - March 20, 2008)
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