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The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess (Public Square) Paperback – February 22, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st edition (February 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691137781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691137780
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 4.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #770,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This Zagat-sized handbook, a Dadaist chop suey showcasing the astonishing intellectual range of English professor and NPR commentator Codrescu (New Orleans, Mon Amour), is arranged alphabetically and topically, which permits one to dip in or to read it all. The occasionally outrageous encyclopedic juxtapositions of entries give a firsthand experience similar to the effect of Dada cutups and collages. The human and so-called posthuman are concepts best understood via Codrescu's imagined 1916 game of chess in Zurich between Tristan Tzara, the founder of Dada (the art of the absurd), and Vladimir Ilych Lenin, avatar of the anti-Dada ethos of communism. Exactly how this fictitious game, played on the metaphoric chessboard of history—with the author rooting for Tzara —informs the rest of this book is murky. Yet, wending and blending their way through it all are dozens of people and subjects, among them Ben Franklin (who, like Lenin, bristles at the royalist aspects of chess) and a Belgian eccentric named Paul Otlet (who more or less envisioned the World Wide Web in the 1930s) and much else, japing and serious. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"One of our most prodigiously talented and magical writers."--New York Times Book Review

"Can't decide whether to cry or laugh? Laugh at absurdity, laugh at hardship, laugh at poverty, says Andrei Codrescu in his maddening, enlightening, self-contradictory, highly amusing new book. . . . [Codrescu] has rolled into one slim guide a postmodern self-help manual, a history lesson, a love letter to dissident poets, a hard jab at communism and a veiled autobiography. . . . The guide is, beneath it all, a mournful celebration of the achievements of pre-communist Romanian Jews, such as Tzara and modernist painter and architect (and Dadaist) Marcel Janco."--Carly Berwick, Los Angeles Times

"Any reader looking for a quirky, polemical, provocative introduction to Dada might like to try Andrei Codrescu's Posthuman Dada Guide, in which the author's key terms are alphabetically listed and 'hermeneutically filleted'. His linguistic glee also means that this dictionary can easily be read cover to cover."--Peter Read, Times Literary Supplement

"This Zagat-sized handbook, a Dadaist chop suey showcasing the astonishing intellectual range of English professor and NPR commentator Codrescu, is arranged alphabetically and topically, which permits one to dip in or to read it all. The occasionally outrageous encyclopedic juxtapositions of entries give a firsthand experience similar to the effect of Dada cutups and collages."--Publishers Weekly

"A hard-edged, rapier-like volume, perfect for sliding into a back pocket of skinny hipster pants or stabbing into the complacent underbelly of bourgeois (or bourgeois-bohemian) society. It offers a headier-than-usual tour of the early-1900s avant-garde, sprinkled with sex appeal for the would-be MySpace-age revolutionary. . . . As art theory, the Guide could even be preferable to a college seminar on modernism. . . . [Codrescu] also places Dada on a broader historical stage than it usually receives, mingling it with world politics."--Eli Epstein-Deutsch, Village Voice

"Even for professional provocateur Andrei Codrescu, he of the playful intelligence and sardonic wit, this new book is quite something. It's out there--a chronicle of an imagined chess game between V.I. Lenin and Tristan Tzara, the founder of Dada, set in the cafe culture of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916, amid the ferment of bohemianism and revolution. It's a scholarly work, with extensive footnotes; it's a work of imagination; it's a guidebook to a strange new era. It's a call to remember humanity in a post-human time, and an incitement. To read it is to light a mental fuse."--Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune

"A profoundly provocative look at dada. . . . If you're vaguely familiar with Codrescu's NPR essays or other writings, than you already know that this is a book laced with wit and humor. He makes an erudite topic easy--and pleasurable--to follow."--Robert L. Pincus, San Diego Union Tribune

"A dictionary, a history of art movements, a manifesto, and a joke book; [The Posthuman Dada Guide] traverses high and low, seeking answers to our most persistent confusions about art, culture, and identity. . . . By the end, the reader has come to grips with Codrescu's stoic, but darkly hopeful, vision for a future that is no future at all."--D. Scot Miller, San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Codrescu's analysis of the chess game is written with attitude--itself a Dada-like performance--balancing critique with reinvention, aiming to reveal Dada's place in 'posthuman' life. This guide is true to its title, fitting comfortably in a pocket, ready to be deployed at the slightest provocation."--Alan Lucey, Bookforum

"Erudite, witty, often demented, Codrescu's book is an excellent introduction to the matter and spirit of dada."--Justin Clemens, The Australian

"A delicious book. . . . A fascinating mix of history, common and obscure . . . rigorously intellectual without being stuffy or dogmatic, serious without being solemn and . . . obviously and sneakily playful at the same time."--Michel Basilieres, Toronto Star

"Peppered with warnings not to make Dada a guide for living, the Guide makes it all the more alluring. Readers of this book acquire a delicious complicity with Dada. I can't stop intoning it. Dada dada dada dada. This is a subversive book."--Helen Scully, ArtVoices Magazine

"Ever want to run naked across a convention floor, pie-hit a bishop, or show up at a job interview in a firecracker hat, screaming poetry until security guards haul you away? Andrei Codrescu's The Posthuman Dada Guide may not be the literal how-to that the title implies, but it will definitely give you the historical and philosophical basis you need to justify a stunt to your cell mates while the authorities figure out what to do with you. . . . Fascinating and indispensible."--John-Ivan Palmer, Rain Taxi Review of Books

"He's all over the place, and no place in particular--almost the perfect definition of Dada. Best read as a poem pretending to be prose (both Tzara and Lenin were pseudonyms, after all), The Posthuman Dada Guide gives a barbaric yawp in the best tradition of Walt Whitman--and, in its own peculiar way, it's just as American."--Ben Steelman, Star News

"A roller-coaster ride of essay(s) and grab-bag of ideas, history, and recollections, The Posthuman Dada Guide is an appropriately loose and shifting piece. It is informative and entertaining."--M. A. Orthofer, Complete Review

"The chess game (both fictitious and ongoing) puts politic and parody at one and at war. The scene is a fast flashing, nonlinear montage taking us in, through and out of the 20th century and delivering us into the 21st, spinning. . . . It is recommended that you carry this guide with you at all times. Consider reading it aloud in the most public of places. . . . The perfect prescription against the posthuman condition--that place where our senses are all too well rehearsed and clearly limiting."--Katherine Anders, Baton Rouge Advocate

"[A] literary event, a spectacular splash of intelligence and erudition, of clean style and magical impressionability."--Nicholas Catanoy, World Literature Today

"While it takes its cue from an imaginary game of chess, the book is in fact a witty pointer into the real fabric of contemporary art and politics . . . refreshingly 'un-theoretical' in its approach, and Codrescu's writing is utterly pleasurable."--Cosana Eram, Vetiver blog

"By combining . . . vivid personal accounts with brilliant literary theory, The Posthuman Dada Guide becomes more than a review of the Dadaism's history. It represents a spiritual and intellectual journey in itself, a guide, as Codrescu states at the book's beginning for instructing posthumans in living a Dada life."--John Nizalolwski, Magill's Literary Annual

More About the Author

Andrei Codrescu (codrescu.com) was born in Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania. His first poetry book "License to Carry a Gun" won the Big Table Poetry award. He founded Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Books & Ideas (corpse.org), taught literature and poetry at Johns Hopkins University, University of Baltimore, and Louisiana State University where he was MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English. He is a regular commentator on NPR's All Things Considered since 1983, has received a Peabody Award for writing and starring in the film "Road Scholar. In 1989 he returned to his native Romania to cover the fall of the Ceausescu regime for NPR and ABC News, and wrote "The Hole in the Flag: an Exile's Story of Return and Revolution." He is the author of books of poetry, novels, essays; the most recent are "The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess," (2009) "The Poetry Lesson" (2010) and "whatever gets you through the night: a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments" (2011), all published by Princeton University Press.

Customer Reviews

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This is a neat trick; this is a great little book.
Mike
At the heart of the book is the chess game played between Tristan Tzara, "the daddy of Dada", and Vladimir Lenin, "the daddy of Communism".
R. Hardy
This book is a brilliant examination of the origins & perils of DaDa, the characters, their exile.
Bob J. Baker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mike on April 19, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Codrescu brilliantly and humorously shows how productive the "anti-art" of Dada was - and is. He makes the best case I've read for the movement's historical importance and continued relevance, and he does it with sustained ebullience. Dada's stress on nonsense never made so much sense. By making Dada clear and useful, Codrescu risks betraying Dada's own principled stance of opposing all principles, but he remains true to Dada's negations while affirming them. This is a neat trick; this is a great little book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. B. Dawson on April 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I expected this slim volume, suitable (almost) for carrying in your hip pocket, to be more a work of sardonic humor or a collection of essays about the absurdity of modern life. Instead, Andrei Codrescu has put together a book that traces the Dada Non-Art Movement from its beginnings during WWI to the present. It's also a work of sardonic humor (which is very funny when Codrescu wants it to be), but rather than a series of brief essays, the book follows its themes across almost an entire century. He lets us know that Dada, which eschewed the future and art, had the unintended impact of begetting all manner of art movements, from Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism to the literary style wrongly known as "post-modernism" -- Vonnegut, Barth, Heller, Barthelme, etc.

In the end, Codrescu assures us, art can remain a redemptive force in a world in which the Posthuman has overtaken all other movements and philosophies. As we watch our world steadily become digitized, the general stance of Dada might be exactly what we need. I love this book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michele Bowman on March 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
While most people might have heard of the term "Dada," few could actually muster up the courage to define it. What's great about this book is not only its design - it's lovely and small and features provocative art and really nice fonts - but also its willingness to explain Dadaism with Dadaism. Without getting too wacky.

I admire Codrescu's book for two reasons: One, he makes history fun - with loads of examples and insider stories and a sense of humor that is light yet heavy at the same time. He is not afraid to stick it to us "posthumans," reminding us that in our penchant for better iPods, faster Googling, and wireless boob jobs, we are placing the world "in parentheses" (maybe a reference to the structuralist "brackets" of Saussure that one would place actual things in so that the words that we chose to represent those things could be further studied) and are thus missing out on a lot of life.

My second reason for liking this book is that it made me want to seek out the nonsensical, play it up, enjoy life a little. Dada was all about liberating us from our cultural and metaphysical maps that we are so intent on staring at that we miss the scenery. Codrescu reminds us to look up. He does it at the expense of communism, which I can understand in one sense because Dada was born in a place that suffered under dictators who used Marx and Lenin to oppress the masses - the opposite of what communism is supposed to do.

So I guess that's my beef with it: Why you gotta pick on communism, Andrei? You seem to have a radical bent to your philosophy that would inure you to Marxism...Surely you believe that it *could* work and just hasn't or didn't? I don't know that Dada is the answer to the true oppression of the masses. But it was fun learning more about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you are like me, you always pay attention when Andrei Codrescu recites a commentary on National Public Radio. The man's Romanian accent is unmistakable, even though I can't help being reminded of that of Bela Lugosi and thus of Count Dracula. That Codrescu edits the website "Exquisite Corpse" helps reinforce this reference, but one must remember that "exquisite corpse" was a technique used by Dadaists to add words to a composition in sequence, not knowing what had gone before, and winding up with a sentence like, "The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine." In fact, that was one of the sentences they came up with (in French) when they first played the game, and it gave the game its name. Codrescu is devoted to Dadaists and Dadaism, and now has written _The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess_ (Princeton University Press), which is full of tricks. "Posthuman" is a term that came in science fiction twenty years ago; we are posthumans because technological enhancements allow us to be something more than mere biological specimens. So, as the book says, "This is a guide for instructing posthumans in living a Dada life. It is not advisable, nor was it ever, to lead a Dada life." Not only that, but if you are pursuing the goal of living a Dada life, you won't find this a self-help book worth a nickel. What you might find is a bit of history of the early Dada movement and its stars, a meditation on the continuing importance of Dadaism, and a great deal of sly, desultory, and self-deprecating wordplay. Plus, it comes in a handy, long, slim volume that easily slips into the posthuman's pocket for daily consultation. "We need a guide," says the _Guide_, "that is at once historical and liberating. Or just hysterical and tonic.Read more ›
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