Thursday, July 9, 2009


Q. What's the point?
A. It's a simple word game, invented by Tom Phillips, where you take a text and erase everything except a few words forming random phrases the author never intended. This site uses Ann Coulter's weekly columns, as they appear on the web (left). No text is added, but it's okay to use part of a word (right, where Hispanic becomes panic).

Q. Who is Tom Phillips?
A. Tom Phillips is a British artist and poet best known for A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel (first exhibited 1973). After reading about the cut-up technique of William S. Burroughs, he found a used copy of a 1892 novel, A Human Document, by W.H. Mallock, and began a project of crossing out or painting out most of the text, leaving chance phrases. The result, a key work of concrete poetry, has been extensively exhibited and published several times in facsimile form. You can find a lot more about Phillips on his site and blog.

Q. Who is Ann Coulter?
A. Ann Coulter is an American writer and pundit, known for conservative political views and a caustic persona. Trained as an attorney, she writes a syndicated column, is a best-selling author, and is frequently seen on American television. You can find out more at her site and in the Wikipedia entry.

Q. What is a "humument"?
A. It's Phillips' contraction of "A Human Document," from the running heads in Mallock's novel. This image, from page 5, shows the origin. Phillips felt that humument "had an earthy sound to it suitable to a book exhumed from, rather than born out of, another."

Q. Why pick on Ann Coulter (if that's what you're doing)?
A. I have a blog recording that odd kind of dream in which you get an idea that seems completely brilliant in the dream. The next morning, you realize how stupid it is. On the Fourth of July 2009 I had this dream:

Everyone was talking about the clever new website that takes Ann Coulter's words and subjects them to the Tom Phillips A Humument treatment — producing random phrases of great wit and poetry.

In the morning, I realized that this idea (though stupid) was easily realized. This site is the result.

Q. Why are there two different images for each Coulter column?
A. Each is half a "treated" Coulter article. Blogger and some browsers have problems displaying tall, narrow image files, so I split each in two.

Q. Who is W.H. Mallock?
A. British novelist William Hurrell Mallock (1849-1923) wrote numerous well-received novels, articles, and polemical works. Today he is remembered, if at all, for his unintentional role in A Humument.

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