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Book Review :: Rationalism by Douglas Luman

Rationalism by Douglas Luman book cover image

Guest Post by Nicholas Michael Ravnikar

When a computer scientist plies the tools of his trade to critique Fascist propaganda through the vehicle of contemporary poetry, the result can be hit or miss. But Douglas Luman’s Rationalism solemnly invites its reader to collaborate in a gleeful travesty of authoritarian structures.

Luman’s slim volume comprises 31 mistranslations assembled from an archive of Fascist architectural magazines, along with an epigraph, an elucidating (if too brief) endnote on his research, and an acknowledgments page that meditates on the rise of Trumpist populism as a symptom of the same system that underwrites police brutality. The untitled pieces in the collection largely suggest a tone and structure that echoes the sonnet without its various preordained formal concerns for rhyme and measure. The beams that fall through the cracks cast shadows of narrative fragments.

Released per Luman’s wishes under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 copyright, the text can be freely adapted and shared under the same license. Thus, the mereology of structures one encounters – letters, words, phrases, lines, sentences – appear even more as bricks and spandrels in need of the reader’s interpretive tuckpointing for restoration or renovation.

A playful engagement with Plato’s republican enjambment of political theory and metaphysics and a serious indictment of right-wing totalitarian regimes’ propaganda, Rationalism more than returns on the small price of admission with recurring tours of the ruins that compose it.

Rationalism by Douglas Luman. Sublunary Editions, September 2021.

Neurodivergent and currently without income, Nicholas Michael Ravnikar writes poems, plays, and fiction. Previously employed as a college prof, copy editor, bathtub repair technician, substance abuse prevention agency success coach, and marketing specialist, he lives in Racine, Wisconsin with his partner and their children. Connect with him on social media or get his free chapbooks at bio.fm/nicholasmichaelravnikar.

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