Thoughts on ScaredText by Eric Baus
I love this book. I’ve read it twice, and have thought about how to talk to others about it. Really, I’ve thought about how to assure other people that they in fact should absolutely read it. This is a little difficult because Eric’s book is somewhat like a unicorn: you have to approach it with an open heart, and it will certainly reward you. I should mention here that while there are plenty of creatures in Scared Text (bees, snails, doves, beetles, eels, elephants, and others) there are no unicorns. Anyway, here is the best way I can describe why you should go out and read this collection:
There’s a syndetic structure to Scared Text—a cross-referential of not only phrase, but of tone and ideation. Baus chooses to begin his text with “Glass Ear” which itself begins, “Approach the smallest ghost after he has turned his back. A buzz of definition surrounds him” and concludes with “There is no such thing as ‘there is no ghost.’” In a way, this describes the book: there is indeed a “buzz of definition” which surrounds it. Yet like some weird poem-fractal, this buzz surrounds nothing—it scales all the way down to the sentence and unfolds with equivalent coherence to the entire book.
Scared Text as a plastic whole reads almost tactilely. Because there’s no narrative or symbolism or allusion it must be read exactly as itself. And it pulses. Words and phrases don’t so much as echo each other, as they pneumatically pull on one another; perhaps another way to imagine this is to see the entire text as a network with certain characters (and I use this term loosely) like “Minus” and “Iris” along with some others as well simultaneously occupying multiple locations. Scared Text does a really neat thing for me: it somehow points to a way of non-local non-sequential cognition, as if the entire text should be read simultaneously if only our minds could become so elastic.