Roof Books, $12.95 (paper)
Of the five pieces in Strand, Craig Dworkin did not write the third—Starke R. Hathaway and J.C. McKinley did in 1942. They are the authors of The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a series of true–false statements still frequently used by mental-health professionals. Dworkin reproduces these statements as unindented prose: “I enjoy stories of adventure. Sometimes I feel as if I must injure either myself or someone else. I read the Bible several times a week. . . .” Dworkin didn’t quite write Strand’s first piece either: “Shift” is a chapter from an undisclosed geology textbook with keywords transplanted from a linguistics textbook, also undisclosed. The fourth piece is a procedural form “based on the mesositic of John Cage and Louis Mink,” wherein an unspecified translation of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty is given the treatment. The fifth piece, “Dure,” is 28 pages long and uses about six pages of citations identified in the “Sources” section at the end of the book. Only the second piece, “Ar,” seems wholly imagined and arranged by Dworkin. Strand therefore asks the reader to reconsider if not abandon the notion of authorship as both the imagining of the words and of their arrangement, as Dworkin mostly only does the second in this book. Some readers will find this a cop-out; others will find it interesting, or else irrelevant—all language is borrowed to some extent, and Dworkin’s only more so, etc. That said, Dworkin’s shifting of words from their original, intended contexts sometimes generates intensely layered, fine-tuned effects but sometimes seems less artfully deployed, especially in “Legion”: is the language of psychological diagnostics being mocked, demonized (Mark 5:9, “My name is Legion”), or merely recycled? This ambiguity of intent stems from the fact that Dworkin lets other voices speak through him, but we don’t hear much from Dworkin himself, aside from a vivid absence that raises more questions, such as when does arrangement alone involve enough risk, enough commitment, enough writing?