An afternoon’s reading of Bolo’Bolo by “P.M.” leaves the reader wondering what the New York State Council on the Arts is doing giving public money to Columbia University to publish such books. A futuristic Utopian tract, Bolo’Bolo is as inane as it is self-indulgent. Its author, P.M., a slave to every cliche of the untutored stylist, boldly decries (a la Parisian literary theory) the “deal” the “Planetary Work Machine” has wrought upon us whilst it builds on “its inner contradictions to expand its control and to refine its instruments.” Desperately, “every worker makes his or her own little extra-deal, depending on particular job and specific situation,” but then all “has been standardized, rationalized, anonymized.” What, alas, can be done? P.M. advocates the destruction of industry and the state through sabotage and violence.

The new order will lead to “direct relations of material exchange between farmers and city-dwellers,” who will adopt a new language—”a strictly subjective . . . reality of dreams”— that P.M. has conveniently outlined in his (or her) text(e). The reader must wend his way through the twisted prose of “trico” and “taku,” of “kana,” “yalu,” “pali,” and “tega,” each symbolic of the simplified transactions of the new age. P.M.’s cuneiform economics, after 20 or 30 pages, ceases to be amusing; it becomes an overwrought bore, and the reader marvels only at the perseverance of even the proofreader (who, incidentally, appears to have neglected his work).

Now all this is too pathetic to be offensive, so why grouse? If a stray overeducated Manhattanite envisions a mind-numbing utopia, surely that’s no cause for indignation. But there remains the question of how the New York State Council on the Arts spends tax money. Were there a State Council on Political Utopias (and the idea is probably now in committee somewhere), P.M. might legitimately apply to them for public largesse. But Bolo- Bolo deserves no consideration as art, not even as that dubious sort of “political art” so abundant today. No matter how capricious and bizarre our aesthetic standards have become, I can only wonder what justification the dons at Columbia University had in mind when they brought out Bolo’Bolo with public money intended for the arts. Taxpayers are entitled to an explanation.


[Bolo’Bolo, by P.M.; New York: Semiotext(e)/Columbia University]