Friday, September 07, 2007


Fidget is Kenny Goldsmith's transcription of every movement made by his body during thirteen hours on Bloomsday (June 16) in 1997. Originally commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art as a collaboration with vocalist Theo Bleckmann, Fidget attempts to reduce the body to a catalogue of mechanical movements by a strict act of observation.

Kenny read parts of the book at the Writers House on September 21, 2000, and the event was webcast live; we have a recording of the live webcast. On Kenny's PennSound page there are links to another reading of the book.

Recently Janine Catalano wrote an account of the September 2000 event at the Writers House. Here is a passage from Janine's piece:

The piece starts off with beautifully descriptive phrases, detailing body parts taking on unexpected autonomous functions (“Left nostril conforms to the shape of finger”) and their specific, directional twists and turns. At times strings of phrases can be envisioned as a body completing a sustained movement, but focus constantly jumps, shifting from external motions to internal mechanisms and back again. Even during the first hour of his exercise, while lying almost motionless in bed, a pervasive sense of unrest, to the point of frenzy, seeps into certain moments. Goldsmith vacillates between excitement verging on that of a sports commentator during a pivotal play and meditative tranquility of an introspective yogi.

However, despite Goldsmith’s professed interest in the “concretization of language” on the page, as the reading progresses it creates almost the opposite effect on the listener, producing a disjunctive aural ephemera, or what critic Marjorie Perloff, phoning in with a question after the reading, describes as the “broken ribbons” she hears in Fidget. The descriptions become increasingly reductive, focusing more on interactions between body parts than their isolated movements. Reading from the 5:00 section (his day having started at 10:00), Goldsmith’s language has evolved into a mesmerizing series of words and phrases that sound like disjointed commands. Later in the twilight hours of his experiment, while drunk and looking at the sunset in his own Joycean sojourn, subjectivity becomes less subtle and the first person which was so carefully edited from the initial sections peppers the text. Poetic phrases (“and the eyes from whence I came”) and nonsense statements (“achievement: hair”) beautifully intermingle in scenes in which both the original experiment and Goldsmith’s body itself seem to lose their rigidity and meld into their surroundings.