...a startling collection of essays, novels, artist books, and poems, edited by Lucy Ives, makes clear that Gins didn’t go for rote lyrical (or anti-lyrical) celebrations of language or comforting social narratives, but had more pressing goals. Employing a language equal parts phenomenology and microbiology, domestic-architectural intimacy and linguistic voracity, Gins’s literary ambition was nothing short of immunity ... Gins writes with an environmental foresight and formal virtuosity that can feel prophetic. Her texts—even with their midcentury cadences and wry urbanity, their suburban pathos and ludic conceptualism; Gertrude Stein seems the mothership, here—describe the perceiving reader/writer body’s interface with its environment as a kind of lungs, in which each thing, every particle, is taken in and breathed back out. Strange, then, how this writer-architect celebrated for attempting to design immortality magnifies in her writing the molecular moment, the myriadly coded present in all its tactility, puzzles of smell, and many small moves: reading, writing, eating, waiting, scratching, breathing. In a world tilted toward future gains, to futures in every sense, Gins’s literary oeuvre feels deeply anchored in the extant and its most proximate locales of isolation and communion.
...expertly edited and introduced by Lucy Ives ... No matter how abstract the text becomes, Gins never forgets our body reading ... It’s the gaps and fallibility of language that give it power in the hands of a reader willing to be confused; a reader willing to make meaning as both a writer and a reader, fully embodying the book. In these uncertain times of social isolation, when many of us will spend more time with a book, Gins’s writing captures what we crave from that experience—one that is physically and mentally all-encompassing. While The Reversible Destiny Project may not have succeeded in giving Gins or her partner eternal life, The Madeline Gins Reader does. With each reading we embody her words and write Gins anew, giving her life within the pages of the book and ourselves. 'I've read enough. I'll read more. I held the manuscript in my hand. I shook it. Not a word came out.'
The Saddest Thing Is that I Have Had to Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader, edited by the novelist and critic Lucy Ives, is a gift: it brings back into print a great deal of work that has long been unavailable – including fiction, poetry, essays – as well as previously unpublished texts. It also makes a strong case for Gins’s importance as a writer and poet ... Her attention to both the sensuality and silliness afforded by wordplay is apparent in the exuberance of her writing but, just as importantly, a strain of melancholy runs throughout ... One of the real surprises and delights of The Saddest Thing Is that I Have Had to Use Words is the inclusion of early poems from the 1960s and ’70s, which have not been previously published ... This work didn’t quite fit into the literary landscape when it was written, and it doesn’t quite fit now. That’s because Gins was never concerned with being hyper-contemporary, nor with commenting directly on the day’s news. She was dedicated to a lifelong exploration of duration and ephemerality. While her architecture remains better known, that’s only one part of the story – this generous selection of texts is an opportunity to engage with the full scope of her thinking.
The book as a form of technology might not defeat death but it can create a space for re-tooling our sense of what it is to be human ... This is a tall order, but Gins’s inquiry gains its power from an approach similar to that of her architectural theory: the book, like the building, provides the opportunity to question habitual concepts of being human, re-designing technology to better cultivate human assets ... Exploratory, playful, participatory: these are the 'design-elements' Gins employs to interface with the permeable form of being-human that she imagines for us. To this list I must also add generosity, as she delivers to us a version of ourselves, and of language, that is fluid and abundant. The editing and publishing of The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had to Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader reflects this generosity, fluidity, and abundance. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other attributes more crucial to cultivate in our present time.
Gins’s writing is not straightforward. Meaning leaps out of word adjacencies as fully formed images; often the reader inserts word, impressions, and associations in the attempt to make sense of fragments of phrases. The effect can lead to blurred vision, even as the compositions themselves remain precise. This is perhaps the point—that understanding arises from the act of perception. Gins was a master of wordplay ... The conceptual vibration of the poetic and fiction works is elucidated by two essay sections Ives pulled from the archive ... For Gins, one’s surroundings exert force on one’s being and, through focusing one’s attention on certain places, one can in turn exert force on those same surroundings. That is to say, perception is transitive, a medium for action ... Gins was there with all the rest of the artists who have been absorbed so readily into the art market and institutionalized, but her work will live on longer.
Everything becomes sticky, sensitive, and sentient; in Gins’s world, to read is to become atmospheric — words pass through you and shimmer in a mist of meaning ... Madeline Gins was an artist and writer obsessed with the phenomenological experience of writing — both in the intimate experience of reading as much as its capacity to serve as a social art form. A succinct but graceful introduction by Ives locates Gins perfectly in that heady post-war art scene of New York ... for Gins, words are nothing if not physical. It’s their physicality that protects them from perfect comprehension ... The inherent confusion of language is of course her tactic, for to reach full clarity is to resume gravity. And that’s why experiencing Gins’s writing in print — at long last — is so necessary. The Madeline Gins reader feels like how I imagine living in a Reversible Destiny house feels — like floating, like hovering, really, in a cloud of mist. While stuck inside your familiar four walls, lockdown is the perfect time to dive in.
This wide-ranging, energetic anthology of poetry and experimental fiction, with an authoritative introduction by Ives...shows how Gins (1941–2014) explored the possibilities of literary form and its relationship to content ... Gins’s playfulness emerges in unattributed quotes from modernist literature (Beckett, Woolf) along with graphic design elements, such as a thumb protruding from the side of a page. At one point, Gins writes, 'Words are moving over me.' A long section of imperatives—by turns ominous, hilarious, trivial—appears in all caps separated by white space. Stimulating and consistently surprising, this is a treat for those interested in interdisciplinary artists such as John Cage.