As usual, I’m reading four or five books at a time (in the car, a few on the e-reader at night, some in that good, old pulp format), but I did just yesterday finish re-reading a decent book on Dada. The Dada phenomena is one of my KEY touch-points (along with punk, horror, science fiction, folk mysticism, etc.) and one that I inevitably return to when I need a psycho/spiritual recharge.
Marc Dachy – Dada: The Revolt of Art (2006) [Translated by Liz Nash]
This particular Dada book is short—VERY short—but a good survey of the subject, with lots of great photos, and enough words about each of the key players (Tzara, Duchamp, Arp, Janco, Hoch, Schwitters, Man Ray…) to remind me why I love them. In addition, there is a short section of poetry excerpts towards the end of the book, which are very enjoyable to read. (To be fair, even Tzara—the best Dadaist of them all—is tough to read in a book length manuscript, but the little, bite-sized bits that Dachy chooses to represent the poetic aspects of the “movement” are very effective.)
If you’ve never read anything about Dada, or only seen short articles online, then I do recommend this book as a starting point. It will get your feet wet, (the concepts behind the movement are convoluted enough to drown in) and should only take the average reader a day or two to get through. If what’s presented is interesting to you, then there are a hundred different, OTHER books on Dada that you can find and read—but be warned, every person involved in the movement seems to have had a different take on what happened, and none of them seem to agree on even simple things, like who came up with the word “Dada” or what the point of the entire thing really was. All in all, reading about Dada, scanning the poems and journals, hearing about the hijinks, seeing all the collages and paintings and sculpted objects and masks and puppets, these things really just make me happy!
—Richard F. Yates