prince of parataxis


Parataxis is Édouard Levé’s best friend. Parataxis—also John Ashbery’s best friend—concerns the placement, side by side, of two sentences whose meanings don’t transparently connect. Parataxis, however, as concept, has leached its glories onto the landscape at large; any reader of contemporary culture is contaminated by paratactic energies, a stylistic phenomenon that Levé defends in his penultimate book, a work of unrepentantly naked yet stylistically errant autobiography, Autoportrait. He writes: “Raymond Poulidor is one of the least sexy names I know. I like salad mainly for the crunch and the vinaigrette.” Levé is a French writer and photographer whose work had overtones of the Conceptual (for one project, he photographed American towns that “share a name with a city in another country: Berlin, Florence, Oxford, Canton, Jericho, Stockholm, Rio, Delhi, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Mexico, Syracuse, Lima, Versailles, Calcutta, Baghdad”). He is most famous now for having committed suicide in 2007 a few days after giving his publisher a slim novel called Suicide, written entirely in the second person, and addressed to a “you” who has already slain himself: “To portray your life in order would be absurd: I remember you at random.”

more from Wayne Koestenbaum at Bookforum here.