J. R. Carpenter – The Gathering Cloud


Uniformbooks, ISBN-13: 978-1910010150, English, 112 pages, 2017, UK

To grasp the essence of this book it’s compelling to understand how it has been written: it is the printed version of a digital literature artwork. The text is made out of extracts from Luke Howard’s classic Essay on the Modifications of Clouds (1803) mixed with cuttings from online articles and books about media and environment, pairing them down in hypertextual hendecasyllabic verses. It’s definitely a ‘performative writing’, especially because in the online version graphic animations are coupling the text and its hypertextual extensions, rendered in the printed versions as static prints and linked words in grey. The author’s register wisely mixes the terms and their different meanings and domains they belong to, both literally and graphically. So the clouds are interpreted as poetic as well as scientific and technological objects, crossing their representation and perception over a couple centuries. There’s a constant presence of animals, symbolically grounding the whole work to the organic world. Drawing on the history of meteorology, the seamless mix of elements, renders in a diversified and illuminated way the metaphor of the computer ‘cloud’ networks and the author’s commentary on the climate change. The metrical sequence of facts, notes, observations, and comments retains the poetic spirit intact while chronicling the history of now. With an insightful preface by Jussi Parikka, this book represents the kind of rewarding hybridity in writing and concepts that we’d expect much more often in contemporaneity.