Names of the Lion (trans. David Larsen) and Game Show Reversed (kevin mcpherson eckhoff)

I’m counting these two chapbooks as a single book (Names of the Lion is 46 pages and Game Show Reversed is about 20, so they’re equivalent to a short book of poetry).

Names of the Lion is David Larsen’s translation of a list of names for lions compiled by the Muslim scholar al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh. It’s prefaced by a lengthy essay from Larsen giving information on the ibn Khalawayh, the translation, and the original text (excerpted from a longer work). The list of names serves as a cubist portrait of the Asiatic lion, and makes for a beautiful and strange and at times funny (one of the names Larsen translates as “The Fatty”) list poem.

Game Show Reversed is a transcription of all the sentences spoken on an episode of Wheel of Fortune, arranged in reverse chronological order. This is one of the more impressive of these conceptualist works I’ve seen recently — in arranging this game of luck backwards, it becomes a game of fate, and the already absurd enterprise takes on an even stranger, almost mournful tone. There are some very funny moments, and some very sad ones, and even a very uncanny one:

Try not to hit bankrupt. Seven hundred and fifty dollars, top dollar value for this round. Here we go. All right. Correct. Lynda’s a substitute school teacher, enjoys working with special education children as well… and, playing Wheel of Fortune, I assume. I’m going to put this all in book form.

— Jonathan Ball