After Lazarus

Man, turns out Only Revolutions, at 360 pages, was an easy read, yeah? I mean, as compared to three million pages. But it is Richard Grossman, so maybe three million pages is just the right amount [ see below ]. As some of y’all know, I’m always pushing that seventy-page sentence fragment from his The Book of Lazarus as maybe the most beautiful piece of prose in the English language (like I know any other languages — it just sounds ‘grand’ to qualify it like that, I guess). At least that piece of writing which I’m most jealous of. Anyway, cue the trumpets, here’s the blockquote:

Breeze Avenue, by Richard Grossman

The American Letters Trilogy, begun in 1989, comprises The Alphabet Man (1993), The Book of Lazarus (1998) and Breeze Avenue. The subjects of these books are the spiritual states of three American poets who live in their own hellish, purgatorial and heavenly worlds respectively. The final work, nearing completion, describes salvation in terms of a vast wind that moves through a quasi-infinite space, propelling forward disparate meanings, identities, processes and events.

Breeze Avenue is not properly a novel but rather a highly integrated ‘streaming poem,’ existing primarily as a massive form in cyberspace that disgorges narrative, music, architecture, art, dance, philosophy, religious and political thought, and many forms of verse.

Sections of Breeze Avenue draw upon information from Egyptology, architecture, metaphysics, software development, screenwriting, geology, Vedic, Greek, Asian and Biblical studies, graphic, fabric and product design, ornithology, meteorology, performance art, linguistics, film production, astronomy, politics, literary and social theory, material science, acoustics, choreography, musical instrumentation and composition, computer animation, cryptology, sleep theory, mathematics, artificial intelligence, astrology, entomology, photography, engineering, archaeology and lexicography. Documents are produced in Latin, Yiddish, Egyptian, Mongolian, Hebrew, Chinese, Lisu, Sign Language and Sanskrit, as well as in English.

There are twenty-six forty-five (as of 2.05.07) ‘elements,’ or distinct texts within Breeze Avenue. The unabridged version of its printed form is three million pages in length and will be permanently installed in a reading room in Los Angeles. Case-bound in four thousand volumes, each consisting of seven-hundred fifty a thousand pages, the book will be displayed on floor-to-ceiling shelves, surrounding a central reading area.* Within the same building, other galleries will exhibit installations, objects, texts and videos connected with the work.

Twenty-three of the twenty-six elements have been written (in the sense that they can be programmed or produced once the software design begins). The three unfinished elements will be inserted into the database at a future date. Replacement volumes containing late-arriving elements will then be reprinted. This will pose no problems, as the novel, absent the missing elements, stands as a complete work, and the number of reprinted volumes will be relatively few.A website will display the entire three million page document and allow readers to interact with, manipulate, reconstruct, download, purchase and be included in the work. The Breezagon, a special feature of the project, will allow individuals to acquire art from a pool of one hundred million objects.

Breeze Avenue will spawn seven works of art, four other published books, and various performances, concerts, architectural projects and films.

The Breeze Avenue contents include, among other elements:

A prose-poem epic whose protagonist is a male prostitute who ascends to heaven and guides the sun through the sky;

A glossary of every humorous word in the English language, illustrated by Pierre Le-Tan. The product of fourteen years of reading dictionaries;

A 37-foot high pyramid covered with hieroglyphs, to be erected in Palm Springs;

The documentation and mapping of a suburb of homes that squeeze their inhabitants through the movements of interior walls;

A hundred-poem sonnet cycle transformed into eye charts;

A musical instrument composed of automobiles moving in phalanx;

A drawing scrolling through the longest poem ever written, taking eighty-five years to complete;

A poem created by birds in an aviary;

A novel concerning a degenerate scrabble player, the victim of an elaborate hoax;

A ‘torah ball,’ inscribed with the Ten Commandments that will roll down a Colorado mountain in twenty million years, re-creating the Mount Sinai experience;

Artificial universes that embed religious canticles through the positioning of stars. Plans are being developed to have the canticles sung in planetaria;

A brain building that emits opera, utilizing a libretto of people talking in their sleep;

Poetry created on a Scrabble board;

The longest short story in the world;

Poetry created in ASL and then translated into classical Chinese;

365,000 photos of clouds, documenting the daylight history of a portion
of sky in Minnesota over the period of a year;

A filibuster that occupies 100,000 pages of text and requires 130 days of continuous speech to deliver.


* my bold, not his.