LLA Reads Spotlight: IGNATZ

February 17, 2016

At Louisville Literary Arts, we all love to read. But our interests in literature are as varied as hats on Derby Day. Some of us gravitate toward poetry, while others prefer an epic novel. A few of us love reading creative nonfiction. In this space, we recommend recent books we've read, and hope that you'll find something just right for your reading list.

 

Adam recommends: IGNATZ by Monica Youn (Four Way Books, 2010)

 

​​Genre: Poetry

 

In reading Monic Youn’s second volume of poetry, Ignatz, it is clear that one is encountering art that is not only accessible, and freewheeling, but also astute in emotion and intellect. Ignatz, which was a 2010 National Book Award finalist, is based on George Herriman’s famed comic strip, Krazy Kat, which mixed surrealism, playful gags, and poetic language. The strip ran from 1913 to 1944, and was the darling of William Randolph Hearst, as well as of intellectuals and artists, such as de Kooning, Mencken, Kerouac, and E.E. Cummings, who wrote the introduction to the first collection of the strip in book form.

 

Youn’s style in this volume puts particular emphasis on jump cuts, a technique heavily employed by George Herriman in the iconoclastic Krazy Kat strip. These jump cuts, in Youn’s hands, create a sense of substantive discontinuity; rapid changes of scene; situations which challenge the audience; and a general and pleasant twisting of the medium’s forms and conventions.

 

Thus, Youn makes no attempt to suspend the reader’s disbelief, as she refigures poetic themes – love and loss, sublimity and violence – which have otherwise become routine. Ignatz is genuinely wonderful, and written such that you need not know a thing about the Krazy Kat strip to be engaged.

 

Reading Ignatz is an experience of intelligent emotions, and so a kind of déjà vu. Here, the cartoonish, is neither surreal, per se, nor foreign, but speaks to the border between the magical and the mythical, while simultaneously speaking to a real variation on situations and feelings we recognize perfectly, as  in “Ignatz Oasis”, which begins “When you have left me” and ends:

 

The sun commences

its gold prowl

 

batting at tinsel streamers

on the electric fan.

 

Crouching I hide

in the coolness I stole

 

from the brass rods

of your bed.

 

The power of Ignatz is the way Youn uses these characters, twice removed from of us by virtue of both their cartoon-ness and their animal-ness, to defamiliarize otherwise familiar experiences into experiences that attain, in Bill Brown’s words, “a new kind of presence” in our comprehension of the world. In other words, the world of Krazy Kat becomes an object through which a both a new and an old relation to objects, and personal histories, is being voiced.

 

If you would like us to consider recommending your book, please contact LLA Reads editor Alice, who will let you know how to get your book to our readers.

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