United States by Laurie Anderson is the book accompaniment to her mammoth performance art piece entitled “United States Live”. Although I have known about the box set recording of this piece since it was first issued in 1984, I recently bought the five-LP collection and learned that it had a book version. The book is comprised of photos, drawings and slides from the multimedia piece. Most of the book’s 231 pages are in black and white, and the picture quality is rather poor by being blurry and grainy, although this probably was Anderson’s intent. Without prior knowledge of Anderson’s performance piece the book is rather senseless, and even the audio version on five LPs is itself rather limiting in that the vital visual component of the show is absent.
The linguist in me liked the two bilingual pieces, in German and French, although I cringed at the minor mistakes found in both texts. I wonder if the errors found their way into the original show. (“Voices on Tape” omitted umlauts from several words and had some verbal inconsistencies.)
I have a CD of Anderson reading stories, The Ugly One with the Jewels, so I know the sound of her voice and delivery. I could thus “hear” her reading the following piece, “Dog Show”:
I dreamed I was a dog in a dog show.
And my father came to the dog show.
And he said: That’s a really good dog.
I like that dog.
And then all my friends came and I
No one has ever looked at me like this
for so long.
No one has ever stared at me like this
for so long
for such a long time
for so long.
The book I read was actually an interloan copy from the Ontario College of Art. It had been rebound, and the spine of the book looked like this: