Howe’s 48-page essay is an odd beast, a memoir mixed with notes and queries on American poetry, with Marker as its presiding genius. Digressive, personal, indirect, ranging from Dickinson, Melville, and Whitman, to Vertov, Tarkovsky, and Barthes, Sorting Facts is, generically, perhaps closer to what Montaigne called an “essay” than it is to most contemporary iterations of the form. Readers looking for a more orthodox critical biography of the director will be better served by studies like Catherine Lupton’s Memories of the Future (2004) or Nora M. Alter’s Chris Marker (2006). But for those less interested in a broad, synthetic argument about Marker’s oeuvre and more interested in how writing might pay homage to the experience of watching his films and the fact of his loss, Howe’s essay will be a welcome contribution to a growing corpus of Markeriana. And yet, to say that Sorting Facts is “about” Marker is to do a disservice to the larger questions posed by the essayist and her subject. In the end, Howe’s investigation, like Marker’s, comes down to facts: what they are, how we mark them (or fail to mark them), and what it is in them that sustains or destroys.
There is a nice review of Susan Howe’s essay project Sorting Facts, or Nineteen Ways of Looking at Chris Marker over here. [via LARB]