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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

Writing Surfaces

Selected Fiction of John Riddell

by (author) John Riddell

edited by Derek Beaulieu & Lori Emerson

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2013
Short Stories (single author)
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    Publish Date
    Jun 2013
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    Publish Date
    Feb 2013
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In Writing Surfaces, derek beaulieu and Lori Emerson present a collection of John Riddell’s work. Riddell’s poems and short stories are a remarkable mix of largely typewriter-based concrete poetry mixed with fiction and drawings. Riddell’s oeuvre fell out of popular attention, but it has recently garnered interest among poets and critics engaged with media studies (especially studies of the typewriter) and experimental writing.
Riddell is best known for his short fiction pieces “H” and “Pope Leo: El Elope,” a pair of graphic fictions written in collaboration with, or dedicated to, bpNichol. However, his work moves well beyond comic strips into a series of radical fictions.
Riddell’s work embraces game play, unreadability and illegibility, procedural work, non-representational narrative, photocopy degeneration, collage, handwritten texts, and gestural work. His self-aware and meta-textual short fiction challenges the limits of machine-based composition and his reception as a media-based poet.
With media studies increasingly turning to “media archaeology” and the reading and study of antiquated, analogue-based modes of composition (as typified by the photocopier and the fax machine as well as the typewriter), Riddell is a perfect candidate for further appreciation and study by new generations of readers, authors, and scholars.

About the authors

John Riddell’s first published story appeared in 1963 and his work continued to appear in little magazines like Kontakte, Ganglia, Descant and grOnk. An early associate of Ganglia magazine, he later became a contributing editor of grOnk and then in 1975, co-founded Phenomenon Press with Richard Truhlar. He has had visual work in exhibitions in Europe and Canada and his published books include How to Grow Your Own Lightbulbs and Transitions (Mercury), a/z does it (Nightwood Editions), Criss-Cross (Coach House Press), E clips E (Underwhich Editions), and Shit (Letters).

John Riddell's profile page

derek beaulieu is the author of five books of poetry, three volumes of conceptual fiction, and over 150 chapbooks. His critical edition (co-edited with Gregory Betts) of bill bissett’s RUSH: what fuckan theory will be published in 2012. beaulieu teaches at the University of Calgary, the Alberta College of Art, and Mount Royal University.

Lori Emerson is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She writes about and teaches electronic literature (especially digital poetry), experimental American and Canadian poetry, the history of computing, and media theory. She is co-editor, with Darren Wershler, of The Alphabet Game: a bpNichol Reader (2007).

John Riddell is the author of Criss-Cross (Coach House, 1977) and numerous other volumes of visual poetry and prose. An early editor of grOnk, Ganglia, and Phenomenon Press, his work has been included in magazines like Kontakte, Descant, and Ganglia from the 1960s to the present.

Derek Beaulieu's profile page

Lori Emerson is Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at The Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Literature, Communication, and Culture. Her writing has appeared in many journals, including Postmodern Culture and Essays on Canadian Writing. Emerson has guest-edited a special double issue on bpNichol for Open Letter: A Canadian Journal of Writing and Theory, and she has made available many of Nichol’s sound poems and performances through her creation of an online audio archive for the University of Pennsylvania’s PennSound project.

Lori Emerson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Riddell's experiments remain radical, whereas much similar work from the period seems dated. Writing Surfaces thus recovers Riddell's reputation while reframing his oeuvre in a contemporary context.

Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press, March 23, 2013, 2013 May

A timely and compelling presentation of graphical writings whose archaeological media specificity reminds us of the ways literary works engage generatively with the material conditions of their production. Hints of early conceptualism, the writing-under-constraint techniques of OuLiPo, features of concrete poetics, and procedural aesthetics are all in play in/on/across these pages. beaulieu and Emerson have done a real service in bringing John Riddell's work back into view so that it may get the critical recognition and discussion it deserves. Riddell's synthesis of movements and tendencies exemplifies the rich activity of Canadian poetics in the late 20th century while demonstrating a distinctly original sensibility.

Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies, UCLA, author of<i>The Visible Word, Stochastic Poetics</i>, etc., 2013 January

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