In Furniture Music, Montreal luminary Gail Scott chronicles her years in Lower Manhattan during the Obama era, in a community of poets at the junction between formally radical and political art. Immersing herself in a New York topography that includes St. Mark’s Poetry Project and the Bowery Poetry Club, Scott writes from a ‘Northern’ awareness that is both immediate and inquisitive, from Obama’s election to Occupy Wall Street and Hurricane Sandy. Here, readers are situated in conversations around citizenship, gender performance, class, race, feminism, and what it means to write now. Scott’s project is polyvocal, also resonating with the voices of a host of earlier writers and philosophers, notably, Gertrude Stein, Viktor Shklovsky, Walter Benjamin. The result is a staggering work of insight and hope during a critical time in American politics and art.
Scott offers a portrait of this stretch of history as it occurs, interweaving, layering and overlapping commentary, events, lines from other writers (a combination of Scott’s own reading, attending readings and further in-person interactions), politics (the newly-minted President Barack Obama, for example, as counterpoint to our then-Conservative Prime Minister), language, translation and multiple other threads, interwoven across a text akin to the journal-lyrics of the (since) late New York School poet Bernadette Mayer. Scott seeks, as she offers at one point, a new way of thinking about prose through interacting with experimental poetry and experimental poets.
Scott is adept at using staccato sentences to create immediacy... the swirl of language invigorates more often than it frustrates. For readers willing to take the plunge, this is worth it.
Gail Scott’s prose works are laboratories for concocting tales about cities across language/genre/gender boundaries. Her 2021 poetics, Permanent Revolution (Book*hug Press 2021), engaging with radical prose writers across the continent, was short-listed for Le Grand Prix du livre de Montréal. Other acclaimed city novels include The Obituary (Coach House Books 2010), a fractalled tale of suppressed diversity in post-millennial Québec, also a Grand Prix finalist; Heroine (Talon Books 1987), about radical art and politics in turbulent 80s Montréal; and My Paris (Dalkey Archive Press 1999), about a sad diarist looking for a lost avant-garde in 90s Paris. Her translation of Michael Delisle’s Le désarroi du matelot was a Governor General finalist. She won major studio grants (Le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) for New York and Paris. She was an invited writer at Brown, UCSD, University of Alberta, and Université de Montréal, where she taught creative writing for fifteen years. Scott lives in Montréal.
Publication: October 2023
ISBN# 9781950268863 (6 x 8.5, 176pp, paperback)