Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bernadette Mayer | Story

Bernadette Mayer
New York City, USA: 0 to 9 Books, 1968
[38] pp., 28 x 22 cm., staple-bound
Edition size unknown

In collaboration with her brother-in-law Vito Acconci, Bernadette Mayer ran 0 To 9 magazine from 1967 to 1969, publishing seven mimeographed issues in editions of between 100 and 350 copies, and selling them for a dollar each. The more than seventy artists, poets and composers who contributed to the periodical include Robert Barry, Ted Berrigan, Clark Coolidge, Morton Feldman, John Giorno, Dan Graham, Dick Higgins, Les Levine, Sol LeWitt (the first publication of his influential text Sentences on Conceptual Art), Lee Lozano, Jackson Mac Low, Adrian Piper, Bern Porter, Yvonne Rainer, Jerome Rothenberg, Aram Saroyan, Robert Smithson, Alan Sondheim, Gertrude Stein, Bernar Venet, Hannah Weiner, Emmett Williams and Jasper Johns (whose stencil paintings gave the magazine it's name).

"Vito and I created 0 To 9 as an environment for our own work, which did not seem to exist anywhere else," Mayer later noted, and the pair both self-published standalone projects under the 0 To 9 banner (see previous post for Acconci's Four Book). 

The title Story refers to the many stories (or "like-stories" as Mayer has called them) in the slim volume, but also to the random insertion within the text of synonyms for the word "story", such as "anecdote", "scenario", "lie", "report", "tale", and "myth".

“This is the first book I ever published. I published it myself. It’s called Story. It has no page numbers. It’s about thirty pages. The way it came into being was I wrote a story that was about falling down, tripping and falling down. It was nicely written, experimentally so, but it seemed dull. So I tried to figure out what to do with it; and being a twenty-year-old person at the time, I went overboard and made a structure that is like a diamond shape where I accumulated other texts. I was very interested in American Indian myths at that time so I included a Kwakiutl myth about hats and about smoking; their description of a hoop and arrow game; and then an Italian folk tale about fourteen men who went to hell; another Italian tale about a man who sold cloth to a statue; then from Coos myth texts, a story of the five world makers, and the man who became an owl. Then I accumulated some lists from the dictionary of other words for beginning, middle and end. There’s a recipe for true sponge cake, there’s a 19th-century letter about etiquette, a couple of quotes from Edgar Allan Poe, and an article by the biologist Louis Agassiz about coral reefs.

Each of these things I thought was relevant to the diamond-shaped nature or accumulation of the story…. As I was saying to Clark Coolidge, there is some aspect of this work that I can’t remember (as to how I did it). I took the longest work which was the story I’d written about falling, and I made that begin at the beginning and end at the end. Everything was going on in the exact middle of the work, and at the beginning and end only one thing was going on and it was gradually accumulating and decreasing. To make things worse, I decided to interrupt the text at random moments with all the words I could think of that would mean story…. There are fifty-one…anecdote, profile, life-story, scenario, love-story, lie, report, western, article, bedside reading, novel, thumbnail sketch, talk, description, real-life story, piece, light reading, confessions, dime novel, narrative poem, myth, thriller. It was interrupted at random. The confluences were amazing. All of a sudden it would say detective story, and the section that was randomly chosen to be a detective story really became one. Or could become one in the reader’s mind. Probably more so than in my mind.”
- Bernadette Mayer, 1989

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