The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess by Andrei Codrescu (Princeton University Press) begins with a long essay on the life of the Dada art movement. Some of the language is a bit obscure, but Codrescu writes well enough that you want to keep reading. The real joy of the book comes in what follows the text: a 150-page glossary of terms related to Dada, such as (the) American woman (Peggy Guggenheim), audiences and how Dadaists and communists viewed them, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Lenin and Tzara, and Zurich, the Swiss town where Dada was born. Zurich is also the historical anchor of the book: there, between 1915 and 1917, Lenin, the daddy of Communism, wrote political essays at the quiet library; and Tzara, the daddy of Dada, wrote poetry and hung around cafés with his artist friends.
The glossary contains an entry on pseudonyms, the names adopted by writers, artists, revolutionaries, tyrants. Codrescu suggests that this privilege of adopting names, which has belonged to artists for so long, should be taken up by the readers of his book. Reading will become much more interesting, he proclaims, once you adopt a reading pseudonym and shed the intellectual baggage carried by your name. “A pseudonymous reader just might slip like a spy through the net and lose hermself in the words.” And who won this figurative chess match between Lenin and Tzara? The Soviet Union collapsed almost twenty years ago; Dada is present in fashion, in design, in music and art, in aesthetic trends—everywhere, all the time.
The cover of The Posthuman Dada Guide is appealing in a (carefully) slapped together kind of way, and the size—4x8'' or 8x4''—lends emphasis to the “guide” aspect.