As We Know seeks to invert gendered trajectories of appropriation and editorial intervention as these have played out in the famous cases of figures such as Dorothy Wordsworth (whose Grasmere Journals get appropriated extensively, without attribution, in her brother William’s poems) and Emily Dickinson (whose posthumously edited corpus has produced any number of recalibrated iterations—from Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd’s early disciplining of the text, to Susan Howe’s emphatically personal My Emily Dickinson, to Roni Horn’s sculptural objects). Here Amaranth Borsuk has taken a summer diary project of Andy Fitch’s and reshaped 60 passages into a form of collectivized confession or constructivist collage. As We Know takes as its model an iconic project of first-person daily notation: Robert Creeley’s 1972 text A Day Book (with its cover design by pop artist Robert Indiana). Embracing Barthes’ call for a “corrected banality,” Fitch and Borsuk present the most unmediated-seeming idiom—the diurnal, journalistic record—as itself the consequence of both methodical and whimsical extraction. By positioning erasure procedures at the origin of, rather than in response to, a published text, As We Know foregrounds the tensions of authorship in a work that reveals material the author (or editor) might otherwise hide.
Roland Barthes introduces us to this remarkable book: a “corrected banality.” I can imagine no better spokesperson than the one who announced the death of the author, for As We Know is truly a work of “destroyed origin,” in which “all identity is lost.” Borsuk takes hold of Fitch’s notebooks, filled with their gorgeous banalities, and forges them into a graphic sprawl that belongs to no one of no gender. And yet, we read these confessional fragments with as much eagerness as we bring to the secrets of our best friend, or the stars, or our selves. This “I” who speaks, who can never be known, lets language spin its own brilliant tales. “I” or “we” are enraptured.
Part day book, part accounting ledger compounded of morning into evening, part calendar of days removed from the A train and S-bahn, Andy Fitch and Amaranth Borsuk have unwritten most of their days, and thus outlined their lives, sometimes by crossing out, sometimes by adding a little cinnamon and cardamom to tomorrow, sometimes by simply not saying, “it’s definitely going to rain.”
Amaranth Borsuk and Andy Fitch’s collaborative work, As We Know, is the daybook of a singularly personable fiction—a graduate student preoccupied by an unraveling dissertation, a Chaplinesque flaneur, a connoisseur of people and cats and “[s]emi-wild daisies looking breeze blown / as they wilt / and some / Floating / construction along water’s edge.” Re-imagining memoir as a palimpsest of erasures, As We Know invents a new kind of Personism that, remarkably, feels more human, more intimate, and more buoyantly alive precisely because of its artful subtractions.
Amaranth Borsuk’s and Andy Fitch’s As We Know is beautifully set adrift within the lines of a diary from April to June, cross-wired (10 AM-as-hingepoint) in three locations: New York, Home, and Berlin. Deftly keen, the language here moves within the realm of sensorium and sensation, open lines and strikeouts: a “platform smells like caramel. / This split / in my crotch is now comforting…” This brilliant collaboration in which “The one who writes / doesn’t know any more than the other,” proceeds with subtle cultural critique: “The whole idea of being a hipster is just / showing yourself through signs.” Meditating in a world of Whole Foods, Mom, black flats, books, old tennis rackets, and discarded computers, the “one who writes” is compellingly reflective “(as an American, I could beat up at least 10 European Kids / I’ve never gotten / in a fight)” throughout this arrestingly honest and poignant book.
Amaranth Borsuk’s most recent book is As We Know (Subito, 2014), a collaboration with Andy Fitch. She is the author of Handiwork (Slope Editions, 2012), and, with Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen (Siglio Press, 2012). Abra, a collaboration with Kate Durbin forthcoming from 1913 Press, recently received an NEA-sponsored Expanded Artists’ Books grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago and will be issued in 2014 as an artist’s book and iPad app created by Ian Hatcher. Amaranth teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at The University of Washington, Bothell.
Andy Fitch’s most recent books are Sixty Morning Talks and (with Amaranth Borsuk) As We Know. Ugly Duckling soon will release his Sixty Morning Walks and Sixty Morning Talks. With Cristiana Baik, he is currently assembling the Letter Machine Book of Interviews. He has a collaborative book forthcoming from 1913 Press. He edits Essay Press and teaches in the University of Wyoming’s MFA program.