After we acknowledge it is writing that cannot be read, how is it that we then go about reading it?
I wrote this question down in my notebook after first seeing Renee Gladman’s volume of collected drawings, Prose Architectures, in a bookshop. I found myself wondering often over this second mode of working—drawing—that seemed to have emerged from Gladman’s long-established writing practice. The marked precision of thought that characterizes her prose, in both her series of speculative novels set in the fictional country Ravicka and in her most recent essays in Calamities, seems initially counter to the form of her drawings. Except for a few identifiable syllables and words, and occasionally the beginning of a sentence or phrase, the drawings take the form of stylized but illegible writing in lines that often cluster to suggest architectural silhouettes or urban skylines. What would cause a writer to turn to a mode of drawing that looks like writing?
I intuited that this second practice made sense in ways I hadn’t worked out yet. The drawings share many of the same concerns and preoccupations found in her prose but are addressed through line, gesture, and space, rather than language. I’ve thought about Gladman’s turn to drawing over several months with an oscillating sense of urgency. This is what I wanted to know: What are we reading or seeing when moving through books of writing containing only gesture and abstraction? What does it mean to write free from language? Read More