The Gray Book
Aris Fioretos, The Gray Book (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 152 pp.
The absence-of-color gray and the semiotics of the absence-of-quantity zero are the lead actors in Fioretos's play with words and moods. His text is situated in a region beyond criticism and this side of literature, neither fiction nor fact, but not as not one and not the other--more like a ghost story in which there are neither ghosts nor terrifieds, a tragedy of tears without sorrow: things forgotten but still felt in a memory that cannot recollect. It is a rare form of writing inspired by passages that Fioretos quotes and folds into his text like veins in marble: Homer and Beckett, Bataille and Edgar Poe, Jane Austen and Kafka, and a Miguel de Unamuno I've never heard of--"a book densely, downy in duplicity," says Fioretos, "thus unclouding and expelling; the double-dealing demonry of / gray / that matches semblances and parity with disparity . . . explaining that you don't get anywhere by calling things names." There remains for us, the readers, to follow behind, apprehensive like blind men tapping their world into existence. This is not a book of narratives. It leads nowhere and offers no information. Rather than reading it, one feels it, thinks it, while struggling to remember where in the flow of gray text one can find oneself as other than a mirror image clouded by the familiarity of unrecognized thoughts.
Wayne Andersen, painter, corporate art consultant, and architect of the King Khaled Mosque in Riyadh, was professor of art history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1965 to 1985, and on occasion visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, and Yale Universities. His books include American Sculpture in Process, Gauguin's Paradise Lost, and the autobiographical My Self.