New Star Blogs

Michael Turner’s 9x11 by the Numbers


The last time Michael Turn­er pub­lished a book of poet­ry, Bill Clin­ton was Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States and San­dra Bul­lock starred in a cyber mys­tery called The Net. The last time the author pub­lished a book was 2008’s 8x10. Turn­er sug­gests 9x11 is also “based on a con­ceit” which is  9/11, which the author points out gets its title not after a par­tic­u­lar space (the WTC, Ground Zero) but by time (Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001). Ever the inno­va­tor of gen­res and for­mu­las for sto­ry­telling, Turner’s excite­ment about his new poet­ry book is all about time and space. “What inter­ests me is how time is spa­tial­ized — turn­ing time (9/11) into space (9x11), as Wag­n­er attempt­ed to do in his opera Par­si­fal (1882).”

Num­bers don’t lie and look­ing back­wards, one can eas­i­ly detect a sequence in regard to his last two books. “8x10 is a visu­al exper­i­ment. Anoth­er exper­i­ment in the book is based on what has been described as its sub­trac­tions: what is not vis­i­ble because it is not pre­sent­ed lit­er­al­ly in the writ­ten text — name­ly, names (iden­ti­ty), places (space) and times (day, month, year).”

Read­ers famil­iar with 8x10, will recall that each “sto­ry” is titled by a dark­ened box in an 8x10 grid. “The box­es that are not dark­ened,” Turn­er explains, “that are skipped, add up to a mul­ti­pli­er (x) that links the num­bers 8 and 10. This mul­ti­pli­er — this “unknown val­ue to find,” as described in 9x11 (“x”) — is the under­ly­ing fig­ure that uni­fies the sto­ries in the way chap­ters are said to uni­fy a nov­el. But there are oth­er (poten­tial) uni­fiers in 8x10 — recur­rent ref­er­ences to those “sev­en tree-lined ridges,” etc. — but they are nowhere as pow­er­ful as the mul­ti­pli­er.”

Why did the author do this? “Because I want­ed to con­vey what I saw at the time as an emer­gent dis­place­ment (evic­tion, migra­tion) brought on by the unseen flow of cap­i­tal, the “unseen hand” of the mar­ket — a dis­place­ment that would invari­ably result in incar­cer­a­tion, deten­tion, like what we are see­ing today, par­tic­u­lar­ly in North Amer­i­ca and Europe.”

Michael Turn­er is the author of sev­er­al acclaimed books includ­ing Com­pa­ny Town, Hard Core Logo, Kingsway, Amer­i­can Whiskey Bar, and The Pornographer’s Poem which was award­ed the Ethel Wil­son Fic­tion Prize 2000. Bruce McDon­ald direct­ed a film based on Hard Core Logo; he also direct­ed a live tele­cast dra­ma­tiz­ing Turner’s nov­el Amer­i­can Whiskey Bar in 1998, which aired on CityTV. 


9x11 will be released on Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2018 at Massey Books at 7 pm. All are wel­come.