My third publication of fiction in approximately ten years, an excerpt from my novel. It's a very nice journal put out by some alums of the prestigious UMass MFA. Contribs include Kate Schapira, Paige Taggart, Clara Sabater, Anthony Madrid, Francesca Capone (some great compressed-text works), and Liza Birnbaum.
Available by mail order and in extremely selective bookshops. Plus I have one extra copy that I'll let you borrow if you promise to read it with gloves on.
Their hearts gave out. Alas, the heart is not a metaphor--or not only a metaphor.
[I don't usually editorialize, but mere minutes after I had selected the above, I saw it in a subway ad for Robert Gober at MoMA. He offers a strangely backhanded appreciation:
I wrote this piece on Darren Bader recently:
Some day I hope to make it from behind the paywall. In this case I think if you're a free registered user you can access it as well.
If you're in London:
. . . the dustcloud in which the buggy moved not blowing away because it had been raised by no wind and was supported by no air but evoked, materialised about, instantaneous and eternal, cubic foot for cubic foot of dust to cubic foot for cubic foot of horse and buggy, peripatetic beneath the branch-shredded vistas of flat black fiercely and heavily starred sky, the dustcloud moving on, enclosing them with not threat exactly but maybe warning, bland, almost friendly, warning, as if to say, Come on if you like. But I will get there first; accumulating ahead of you I will arrive first, lifting, sloping gently upward under hooves and wheels so that you will find no destination but merely abrupt gently onto a plateau and a panorama of harmless and inscrutable night and there will be nothing for you to do but return and so I would advise you not to go, to turn back now and let what is, be.
Anyone who bar-codes their employees isn't likely to be the forgiving type.
One can hardly imagine that lions would be more efficient predators if they lavished large amounts of their time and energy on placating nonexistent beings from other worlds. And what about the gazelles? Would they have any chance of escaping the cheetahs if they kept being diverted by parades of spirits, elves, or angels?
With one week left in my term at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, it seems a good time to update the selections from my novel in progress:
The newly added sections include two people joking tastelessly about a death, a reflection on meaning and loss, and a reflection on a pop song.
I went on into the dreadful rocks. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. Some were like horrid-grinning men; I could see their faces as if they would jump at me out of the stone, and catch hold of me, and drag me with them back into the rock, so that I should always be there. And there were other rocks that were like animals, creeping, horrible animals, putting out their tongues, and others were like words that I could not say, and others like dead people lying on the grass. I went on among them, though they frightened me, and my heart was full of wicked songs that they put into it; and I wanted to make faces and twist myself about in the way they did, and I went on and on a long way till at last I liked the rocks, and they didn't frighten me any more. I sang the songs I thought of; songs full of words that must not be spoken or written down. Then I made faces like the faces on the rocks, and I twisted myself about like the twisted ones, and I lay down flat on the ground like the dead ones, and I went up to one that was grinning, and put my arms round him and hugged him.
It was true we Bug Motels were a by and large soapless society, but I flew to my private bathroom and pried away, from the center of the mirror, a hockey puck of Dial I had stuck there long ago so I wouldn't have to look at my nose. "Here it is," I panted. "Is good work." She let go of O's dreambox, which banged against the pipe. "Sufferin cheeses," O said through her teeth, "get me outa here." "I'll hold her headbone," I offered, "I'm strong as a little French horse and I got experience." . . .
And then that personage herself elbowed me out of the way, carrying mounds of foam. "O yeah, the old soap trick, why didn't I think of that?" I muttered. "Because is too easy. You are heroical type," she explained, in that scratchy, ironical contralto that, as long as I knew her, refused to hurry itself for any calamity. "You climb pear tree, leap over wall, maybe break neck, without first to try gate. Charming, I know this type well."
Today it seems to me that we can count on the fingers of one hand all the people who have really meant anything to us in the course of our lives, and very often this one hand protests at our perversity in believing that we need a whole hand in order to count them, for to be honest we could probably make do with a single finger.
"This slump of yours--pretty bad?"
I nod. "I can't seem to get anything right. I can't seem to shake it."
"Problems in bed . . . with the wife?"
I look over the side of the boat at the water.
"That happened to me with my second wife. Her name was Wendy. Wendy the Witch. Except it wasn't no slump that kilt my wiener. It was sober vision. I dried up and there she was. Arf, arf."
"Well, Thelma's no witch. And I'm sober."
"I wasn't saying nothing about your wife." He puts a hand on my shoulder. "I was just telling you what happened to me."
"I don't want a divorce."
"I didn't want one neither."
"But I thought you said she was a witch."
"Well, yeah, but I couldn't afford no divorce." He pauses. "So, I killed her."
I stand up straight and look him in the eye.
"Right out there"--he's pointing out into the Sound--"I dumped her right out there. Didn't nobody miss her. Who misses a witch?"
For the first time in a while, I've updated the Fiction area of the site, at left. I've added a place for excerpts from my novel-in-progress The Bottom of the Top:
I've begun with a rather eventful visit to a coffee shop; selections will be added and rotate from time to time.
This Saturday, February 15, I'm reading excerpts from the work I've been doing here in Provincetown, on the bill with current FAWC fellow poet Naomi Mulvihill:
RISD is hosting a panel discussion this Thursday, February 6, on ekphrasis. I'm on it:
Thanks to my friend Sam Leader, another fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, for the invitation.
Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses. This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man's equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours. Our loss, therefore, is limited to that one fleeting instant, since no one can lose what is already past, nor yet what is still to come--for how can he be deprived of what he does not possess? . . . When the longest-lived and the shortest-lived of us come to die, their loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any man can be deprived is the present; since this is all he owns, and nobody can lose what is not his.
An irony that frequents gamblers who are and are not addicted to gambling? They are and are not very good.
The sun was like another language. The sun was like a shout in the sky. The sun was like the landscape. The sun was alive, like an animal. It was a dull knife. It was a clock, a tunnel, an eye. The sun was a year long. It was like breathing. It was official. It rocked back and forth like a lamp.
"Do you know if you've done the autopsy on Hickey, Gerald?"
"Let me check . . ." Hoke waited for almost two minutes before she came on the line again. "No, not yet. But they might get to him tonight. Evans is supposed to get a part-time pathologist in tonight to help out with the Descanso Hotel victims. We've been pretty busy around here."
"Okay, but just ask him to check--when he does the P.M. on Hickey--and see if the man had piles. And if so what kind of suppositories he was using."
"You mean like Preparation H?"
"That, or whatever. Whether he had piles or not, I mean hemorrhoids."
"I've made a note. Where should he call you?"
"I don't know where I'll be yet, but tell Doc I'll call him back about this later on."
"You spell 'Moseley' with an e, don't you?"
"That's right. Most people leave out the second e. And thanks a lot."
Hoke looked at his Timex. It was only 3 p.m., but he couldn't face the idea of reading files for another hour and a half. There were times, he knew, when he could no longer look
at the outside world from inside the asshole. This was one of those times.
"Did you know," I continued, feeling other voices clawing out my trachea, "that just to discover the state of things as they presently are, let alone to predict the future, is a problem so computationally complex that to solve it even approximately would require a thousand Crays working in tandem?" And as I spoke, I noticed the wrong mental image blooming across the radar screen of my mind, wrong because although I knew very well that Crays referred to supercomputers, I pictured instead a thousand long-necked birds. Craning their necks? Or is cray a type of bird? Or was I just thinking about cranes? Like herons? "Forget," I added, "about forecasting; even nowcasting is near impossible."
Well that was fun. Here are the results:
Thanks to John, John, Laura, Asha, and Shimon, whose show is up at the Vanity East through January 12.
In exactly one week, I'll be in LA, and I'll be taking part in a panel discussion on painting at 356 Mission, aka Ooga Booga #2, aka the Vanity East:
Other participants include Laura Owens; apparently we may also be telling fortunes, serving coffee, or playing cards. TBD. A big thanks to Asha Schechter for the invitation.
She stared at them, and then returned to the radio and left them there abandoned to each other's vacancy like three children met in a summer bungalow colony where the plumbing in each ugly cottage is the same, the beds sagged in discouragement, used only for supporting sleep, where the heat of the sun serves only to excuse the appearance of white-skinned parents in offensive states of undress while they pretend that there is something new under this sun and they have come to find it; while the children know that there are no new secrets, and so they are satisfied to keep the old ones from each other.
Beginning Tuesday, I'll be a resident in fiction writing at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA:
The fellowship lasts for seven months, through April 2014.
Two things for the fall season:
1. I co-wrote these videos with Josh Kline, on view at 47 Canal, New York, through October 13.
2. I conducted an interview, also with Josh, in Frieze.
Unfortunately at this point the interview's still for subscribers only.
Now we're getting to the part where I actually kill myself. This occurred at 9:17 PM on August 19, 1991, if you want the time fixed precisely. Plus I'll spare you most of the last couple hours' preparations and back-and-forth conflict and dithering, which there was a lot of. Suicide runs so counter to so many hardwired instincts and drives that nobody in his right mind goes through with it without going through a great deal of internal back-and-forth, intervals of almost changing your mind, etc. The German logician Kant was right in this respect, human beings are all pretty much identical in terms of our hardwiring. Although we are seldom conscious of it, we are all basically just instruments or expressions of our evolutionary drives, which are themselves expressions of forces that are infinitely larger and more important than we are. (Although actually being conscious of this is a whole different matter.) So I won't even really try to describe the several different times that day when I sat in my living room and had a furious mental back-and-forth about whether to actually go through with it. For one thing, it was intensely mental and would take an enormous amount of time to put into words, plus it would come off as somewhat cliché or banal in the sense that many of the thoughts and associations were basically the same sorts of generic things that almost anyone who's confronting imminent death will end up thinking. As in, 'This is the last time I will ever tie my shoe,' 'This is the last time I will look at this rubber tree on top of the stereo cabinet,' 'How delicious this lungful of air right here tastes,' 'This is the last glass of milk I'll ever drink,' 'What a totally priceless gift this totally ordinary sight of the wind picking trees' branches up and moving them around is.'
We are not yet dead.
At some point we will stop joking about it and become afraid.
We do not have the inner resources that would allow us not to be afraid.
Nor the wit to say we are in the antechamber to heaven.
We will be in the wheelchair circle, where we said we would never be.
That expression where the mouth is frozen open--is that what is called a "rictus"? Is that Latin? Does it refer to that expression only after death? What is it called when one is in the wheelchair circle still alive enough to drool?
Dude. Slow down.
I was getting worked up.
I could tell.
The new Mousse is out, issue no. 39:
I have a piece on network painting and poststructuralism in it. When/if it appears online I will egocentrically repost.
In order to deploy his plastic signs, Klee wove a new space. Magritte allows the old space of representation to rule, but only at the surface, no more than a polished stone, bearing words and shapes: beneath, nothing. It is a gravestone: The incisions that drew figures and those that marked letters communicate only by void, the non-place hidden beneath marble solidity. I will note that this absence reascends to the surface and impinges upon the painting itself. When Magritte offers his version of Madame Récamier or Le Balcon, he replaces the traditional paintings' characters with coffins. Invisibly contained between waxed oak plans, emptiness undoes the space composed by the volume of living bodies, the arrangement of clothing, the direction of the gaze and all the faces that are about to speak. The "non-place" emerges "in person"--in place of persons and where no one is present any longer.
One more week:
He took off his leisure suit, his gun, his handcuffs, and sap, and tossed the equipment on the top of his cluttered dresser. He switched on his small black-and-white Sony and poured two inches of El Presidente brandy into his tooth glass. "Family Feud" was on the tube, and for the hundredth time Hoke wondered about the definition of family in America. There were five family members on both teams, but no mothers or fathers. Instead, there were various uncles and cousins and spouses of the cousins, plus one teenage kid who bore no resemblance to either family and had probably been borrowed from neighbors for the program.
There was a knock on the door. Hoke sighed and hid the glass of brandy behind a photograph of his two daughters on the dresser.
Dates, timetables, property registers, place-names, all the codes that we cast like nets over time and space—in order to reduce or master differences, to arrest them, determine them—these are also contretemps-traps. Intended to avoid contretemps . . . they produce misunderstanding, they accumulate the opportunities for false steps or wrong moves.
The "information age"—a term irreverently tossed to and fro by many critics of contemporary life—is not simply that moment when computers come to dominate, but is instead that moment in history when matter itself is understood in terms of information or code. At this historical moment, protocol becomes a controlling force in social life. . . .
What has been overlooked is that the transformation of matter into code is not only a passage from the qualitative to the quantitative but also a passage from the non-aesthetic to the aesthetic—the passage from non-media to media.
Language is "without end product." Every utterance is a virtuosic performance. And this is so, also because, obviously, utterance is connected (directly or indirectly) to the presence of others. . . . One would need to reread the passages from the Nicomachean Ethics on the essential difference between poesis (production) and praxis (politics) with very close connection to the notion of parole in Saussure (Saussure, Course) and, above all, to the analyses of Emile Benveniste (Benveniste, Problems) on the subject of utterance. . . . In this way one would establish that the differential characteristics of praxis with respect to poesis coincide absolutely with the differential characteristics of verbal language with respect to motility or even to non-verbal communication.
Another little bit of writing, a review of a show in New York by Dave Miko and Tom Thayer:
New writing on the Old South: an interview with the author of a bio on my home state's Senator Strom Thurmond:
We feel then that in the cases in which "I" is used as a subject, we don't use it because we recognize a particular person by his bodily characteristics; and this creates the illusion that we use this word to refer to something bodiless.
The prolific achievements of Minimalism have long dominated accounts of the scope and aim of late twentieth-century sculpture, an orthodoxy that takes no small part of its authority from an interpretation of Marcel Duchamp that treats his early readymades as radical, yet foundational, works of postwar sculpture. This narrative insists, to the point of exclusivity, on the mass-produced nature of Duchamp's readymades. . . . [This] dominant but blinkered account of the readymade tends to unfold in a rather neat art-historical progression that begins with Pop art, leads into Minimalism, enters Conceptualism, and exits finally with the challenges of both Pictures generation photographic-based work and Institutional Critique.
The Giant, as always, set two huge shot glasses, as tall as Ender's knees, on the table in front of him. As always, the two were filled with different liquids. The computer was good enough that the liquids had never repeated, not that he could remember. This time the one had a thick, creamy looking liquid. The other hissed and foamed.
"One is poison and one is not," said the Giant. "Guess right and I'll take you into Fairyland.". . .
He tried to guess what kind of death each one held. Probably a fish will come out of the ocean one and eat me. The foamy one will probably asphyxiate me. I hate this game. It isn't fair. It's stupid. It's rotten.
And instead of pushing his face into one of the liquids, he kicked one over, then the other, and dodged the Giant's huge hands as the Giant shouted, "Cheater, cheater!" He jumped at the Giant's face, clambered up his lip and nose, and began to dig in the Giant's eye. The stuff came away like cottage cheese, and as the Giant screamed, Ender's figure burrowed into the eye, climbed right in, burrowed in and in.
The Giant fell over backward. The view shifted as he fell, and when the Giant came to rest on the Ground, there were intricate, lacy trees all around. A bat flew up and landed on the dead Giant's nose. Ender brought his figure up out of the Giant's eye.
"How did you get here?" the bat asked. "Nobody ever comes here."
Ender could not answer, of course. So he reached down, took a handful of the Giant's eyestuff, and offered it to the bat.
The bat took it and flew off, shouting as it went, "Welcome to Fairyland."
At this moment I went over again the profound generalization and truth that had dawned upon me earlier. Forgetting the injustices and seeming injustices which one suffered from one's parents during childhood and youth must be the major part of any maturing process. I kept repeating this to myself, as though it were a lesson I would at some future time be accountable for. A certain oblivion was what we must undergo in order to become adults and live peacefully with ourselves.
These were the ways they answered to each other:
the serpent split its tail into a fork;
the wounded sinner drew his steps together.
The legs and then the thighs along with them
so fastened to each other that the juncture
soon left no sign that was discernible.
Meanwhile the cleft tail took upon itself
the form the other gradually lost;
its skin grew soft, the other's skin grew hard.
I saw the arms that drew in at his armpits
and also saw the monster's two short feet
grow long for just as much as those were shortened.
The serpent's hind feet, twisted up together,
became the member that man hides; just as
the wretch put out two hind paws from his member.
And while the smoke veils each with a new color,
and now breeds hair upon the skin of one,
just as it strips the hair from off the other,
the one rose up, the other fell; and yet
they never turned aside their impious eyelamps,
beneath which each of them transformed his snout:
he who stood up drew his back toward the temples,
and from the excess matter growing there
came ears upon the cheeks that had been bare;
whatever had not been pulled back but kept,
superfluous, then made his face a nose
and thickened out his lips appropriately.
He who was lying down thrust out his snout;
and even as the snail hauls in its horns,
he drew his ears straight back into his head;
his tongue, which had before been whole and fit
for speech, now cleaves; the other's tongue, which had
been forked, now closes up; and the smoke stops.
The soul that had become an animal,
now hissing, hurried off along the valley;
the other one, behind him, speaks and spits.
Strom hung an enlarged photograph of Will in his Senate office and made copies of a letter his father had written to him in 1923, when he graduated from college. Titled "Advice," the letter listed rules to live by:
Remember your God.
Take good care of your body and tax your nervous system as little possible.
Obey the laws of the land.
Be strictly honest.
Associate only with the best people, morally and intellectually.
Think three times before you act once and if you are in doubt, don't act at all.
Be prompt on your job to the minute.
Read at every spare chance and think over and try to remember what you have read.
Do not forget that "skill and integrity" are the keys to success.
Visitors to his Senate office received a copy.
"I wonder why the oracle would write a novel."
My long-delayed Frieze-on-Ambien piece, just in time for opening of the fall season:
[Long book, long summer, long gap between posts.]
It turns out that bliss--a second-by-second joy + gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious--lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (tax returns, televised golf), and, in waves, a boredom like you've never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it's like like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Constant bliss in every atom.
"Do you always carry that about with you?"
"Only when I'm wearing my diamonds," said Philbrick.
"Well I hope that is not often. Good gracious! Who are these extraordinary-looking people?"
Ten men of revolting appearance were approaching from the drive. They were low of brow, crafty of eye, and crooked of limb. They advanced huddled together with the loping tread of wolves, peering about them furtively as they came, as though in constant terror of ambush; they slavered at their mouths, which hung loosely over their receding chins, while each clutched under his ape-like arm a burden of curious and unaccountable shape. On seeing the Doctor they halted and edged back, those behind squinting and moulting over their companions' shoulders.
"Crikey!" said Philbrick. "Loonies! This is where I shoot!"
His material was solid. He had strong food metaphors. Strong sports metaphors. Strong driving metaphors. He quoted Wittgenstein and Seneca. He spoke slowly, in nested clauses, repeating certain words and phrases in a way that had you guessing which word or phrase would appear next, and pleasurably satisfying or thwarting your expectations along the way. He returned often to the notion of pure, blissful Experience and the way it was papered over, distorted, and misconstrued by language. And how language was also the only way that said Experience could ever be truly understood.
The proliferation of communication doesn't automatically enliven debate, but instead often forecloses it.
The resulting confusion favors those already in a position to exploit it.
I love the corrupt part of anybody's art.
Yet an important point is being made here: the production of theory is also a practice; the opposition between abstract "pure" theory and concrete "applied" practice is too quick and easy.
Towards the middle of the day and at midday I happened to be on and got on to the platform and the balcony at the back of an S-line and of a Contrescarpe-Champerret bus and passenger transport vehicle which was packed and to all intents and purposes full.
Those who are truly contemporary, who truly belong to their time, are those who neither perfectly coincide with it nor adjust themselves to its demands. . . . Precisely because of this condition, precisely through this disconnection and this anachronism, they are more capable than others of perceiving and grasping their own time.
In the bath, completely alone, I talk to Harris. I put him at ease, ask him with perfect calm, Are you feeling a little crazy?
An essay I wrote on Michel Houellebecq was published today in the Los Angeles Review of Books:
She had a parrot, very pretty, all the most approved colours. . . . He exclaimed from time to time, Fuck the son of a bitch, fuck the son of a bitch. He must have belonged to an American sailor, before he belonged to Lousse. Pets often change masters. He didn't say much else. No, I'm wrong, he also said, Putain de merde! He must have belonged to a French sailor before he belonged to the American sailor. Putain de merde! Unless he had hit on it alone, it wouldn't surprise me.
"You don't ever happen to have seen my parrot, by any chance, do you?"
Accentuating the natural heaviness of his gait, like the oldest monkey of the tribe, he went toward them breathing heavily, waited for a salute which did not come, and announced, "I'm coming with you," in a tone that needed no reply. One of them gave a start: obviously they were used to doing their business in peace, going into the crime scene without letting anyone else approach the perimeter, taking their absurd little notes on their hand-held terminals. But what could they do? Object? They could do absolutely nothing, and one of them handed him a mask. As he put it on, he became aware again of the reality of the crime, and even more so on approaching the building. He let them go ahead, walking a few steps ahead of him, and noted with a vague satisfaction that the two zombies stopped dead, afraid, at the entrance to the house. He joined and then overtook them, strolling into the living room, albeit uncertainly. "I am the living body of the law," he said to himself.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Far more dreadful are social milieus, with their supple texture, their gossip, and their informal hierarchies. Flee all milieus. Each and every milieu is oriented towards the neutralization of some truth.
The Association for Ontological Anarchy calls for a boycott of all products marketed under the Shibboleth of LITE--beer, meat, lo-cal candy, cosmetics, music, pre-packaged "lifestyles," whatever.
The concept of LITE (in Situ-jargon) unfolds a complex of symbolism by which the Spectacle hopes to recuperate all revulsion against its commodification of desire. "Natural," "organic," "healthy" produce is designed for a market sector of mildly dissatisfied consumers with mild cases of future-shock & mild yearnings for tepid authenticity. A niche has ben prepared for you, softly illumined with the illusions of simplicity, cleanliness, thinness, a dash of asceticism & self-denial.
"I had a stepbrother, Odell Carson Mingus was his name. At that time I thought he was square. He believed in Jesus Christ and God and all. After his wife left him, he preached shyly in church, read, meditated, spoke very seldom and lived a secluded life. I felt hipper even though he was older than me. But when he got sick it came to me he had a death wish in his mind, he was planning and premeditating his own death. When I saw him in the hospital the death mask was on my brother. But at the last minute he changed his mind, he wasn't so sure he wanted to go. He cried out, 'Help me, Charles, I don't want to die!' because he knew where I thought I was--my pride in having the greatest answer to life's secrets. I didn't even go to church like my family and here--look, all you Christians!--my brother was saying 'Help me, Charles!'--to no one but me. I said, 'Odell, it's up to you. You can change it if you want to.' But after that I didn't see him. They'd only let my mother in though I knew he was frightened and wanted me with him. All his church friends came to the hospital and sang and prayed. I remember a black nurse came out and saw them and she was ashamed--ashamed of her colored people's faith. I think I could have saved him if I'd been there at the end. . . . But later when I mistakenly thought it was my time to leave, I heard my dead brother's voice. A bird came to my window sill and sat. I knew his sound. This same bird had followed me around for quite a while. My body didn't move but I went closer to the window in my spirit form to listen to this bird's calling. I heard my brother's voice! 'Better get back there to your body before something else does! Return to your bed and return in your time--' And so it was that was finally my brother who saved me."
Jones's special, comic character, is unusual for the chopping up of motion and the surrealist imposition: a Robin Hood duck, whose flattened beak springs out with each repeated faux pas as a reminder of the importance of his primary ineptness. . . . One of Jones's key inventions is the animal who is a totally invulnerable, can't-possibly-be-stopped adversary, a mysterious force like rain that is always surrounded by a hush that is a mixture of the awe, revelation, instinctive reverence of a soon-to-be victim just before he is maneuvered off the cliff or into a distant puff of smoke miles away in the desert.
[Just in time for the end of summer I remembered I was in the summer issue of Tank magazine, from the U.K.:
So-called flash fiction, print issue only. A very special thanks for the opportunity to Emily Speers Mears.]
[I keep trying to read Contempt but I can't make it past the first page. It's too sad.]
During the first two years of our married life my relations with my wife were, I can now assert, perfect. By which I mean to say that, in those two years, a complete, profound harmony of the senses was accompanied by a kind of numbness--or should I say silence?--of the mind which, in such circumstances, causes an entire suspension of judgment and looks only to love for any estimate of the beloved person. Emilia, in fact, seemed to me wholly without defects, and so also, I believe, I appeared to her. Or perhaps I saw her defects and she saw mine, but, through some mysterious transformation produced by the feeling of love, such defects appeared to us both not merely forgivable but even lovable, as though instead of defects they had been positive qualities, if of a rather special kind. Anyhow, we did not judge: we loved each other. This story sets out to relate how, while I continued to love her and not to judge her, Emilia, on the other hand, discovered, or thought she discovered, certain defects in me, and judged me and in consequence ceased to love me.
He uncorked the wine, let it breathe, drank a few glasses of it, spent a few minutes contemplating his favorite page of The Illustrated Picture Book of Sex, which showed the girl on top, then placed the plastic bag of reds beside his bed, lay down the Ayn Rand book and unfinished protest letter to Exxon, tried to think of something meaningful but could not, although he kept remembering the girl being on top, and then, with a glass of the Cabernet Sauvignon, gulped down all the reds at once. After that, the deed being done, he lay back, the Ayn Rand book and letter on his chest, and waited.
However, he had been burned. The capsules were not barbiturates, as represented. They were some kind of kinky psychedelics, of a type he had never dropped before, probably a mixture, and new on the market. Instead of quietly suffocating, Charles Freck began to hallucinate. Well, he thought philosophically, this is the story of my life.
And since it is true to say that in the midst of the contemptible obsession with money, and the colourless frigidity of the vulgar thoughts that fill our lives, the actions inspired by a genuine passion seldom fail to produce their effect.
Sex was like being in the midst of a long pornographic dream from which I awoke to find Kate sleeping next to me, breathing.
It's an easy thing to take your own private sickness and claim everybody else has it too, so it isn't really a sickness after all.
Two upcoming events in Los Angeles:
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Sarah Manguso and Domenick Ammirati
ARTBOOK @ Paper Chase
7174 Sunset Boulevard
Sarah Manguso is the author of five books, most recently the memoirs The Two Kinds of Decay, which has been published in five countries, and The Guardians, which is forthcoming in 2012.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Ed Johnson in conversation with Domenick Ammirati
Kristi Engle Gallery
5002 York Boulevard
Ed Johnson received an MFA from Art Center College of Design. His paintings are currently on view at Galerie Catherine Bastide in Brussels and, in a solo presentation, at Kristi Engle Gallery in Los Angeles.
Michele Abeles at 47 Canal, opening Wednesday, April 6, 6–8 pm:
"We lack resistance to the present." Information is precisely this resistance, this friction.
New/old content at right, under Other Projects: Judi, the lecture I wrote last October for a collaborative project with New York–based artist Judi Werthein, whose work Cosa is currently on view at Y Gallery, New York.
Joana was always an unhappy girl, he said, as I now recalled, sitting in the wing chair; he repeated these words several times. I did not see it that way, for the Joana I had known was a happy person--at least she was happy in the fifties, I thought, and up to the mid-sixties, at any rate until the time when she was deserted by the tapestry artist. It was only then that unhappiness and misfortune closed in on her, I thought. John, however, had known her only as an unhappy girl whom he wanted to make happy, though he had not succeeded, I thought. He said several times, I wanted to make Joana happy, but I failed. The whole helplessness of his situation was summed up in this sentence, I thought, sitting in the wing chair.
Called to Mr. Ganzfeld's office about midmorning on Tuesday, Jerry found him sitting at an oval desk wearing his balsa nose and trimming the hair on a doll's head. "Smell this, Chung. Smell the hair." He handed Jerry the doll's head. "We've been getting complaints."
"It does have an odor. Like laundry starch."
"Someone has been fucking my sheep. As every shepherd down the ages has learned, if you fuck them too much, the hair gets a stink. Who is it who's fucking my sheep? It's that new man, Billy Pong. You know him?"
"Ping. I see him around. We talk a little."
"Find out if he's the one. There's a bonus in it."
"I'll keep an eye on him."
"You find out who's been bestial with my wooly girls and I'll take you hunting at my country place. That's a promise."
Even in a bisexual society the politician is very often something less than an integral man.
But immediately the philosopher loses this well-intentioned simplicity. Why? Ironically, he himself indicates the reason for this, in an apologue on Heraclitus who used to take shelter in a baker's oven. 'Einai gar kai enthautha theous'--'here, too, the gods are present,' said Heraclitus to visitors who were astonished to see him warming his poor carcass like an ordinary mortal. . . . 'Auch hier nämlich wesen Götter an.' But Heidegger is taken in as much as those naive visitors, since he and his epigones do not expect to find Being except along the Black Forest Holzwege. Being cannot reside in ordinary beings. Everywhere, there is desert.
I was very kindly invited to participate in this:
November 19th (Friday) at 8pm
National Arts Club - Grand Gallery
In conjunction with Alan Licht’s current show Cross Promotion at AVA and Diapason, the artist has organized a special evening of live press release readings. A variety of writers, editors, artists, musicians, curators, and normal people have been invited to read a favorite press release aloud, be it good, bad, or bizarre.
Michael J. Schumacher
Monica de la Torre
The National Arts Club is located at 15 Gramercy
Park South in Manhattan (20th st btwn Park Ave & Irving Place).
The event is free and open to the public.
Lolita ill. Lolita dying. Her skin was scalding hot! I took her temperature, orally.
[Too great a book to pick just one quote . . .]
You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
I conceived a lecture cum performance for my friend Judi:
Wed., Oct. 13, 6:15 pm
Parsons's Johnson Design Center
66 Fifth Ave.
I'm loath to describe it too much except to say that I took up the problem of addressing Judi's concerns with global flows of capital and information and tried to deal with it in an odd and maybe slightly provocative way. Given its school setting, it has a pedagogical angle as well, so it might be good for students, if you happen to have any to recommend it to. Afterwards we will go out for a drink, though I may avoid eye contact for fear of glimpsing how you really felt about it.
Hope to see you there.
Duration: momentary. Nature: changeable. Perception: dim. Condition of Body: decaying. Soul: spinning around. Fortune: unpredictable. Lasting Fame: uncertain. Sum Up: The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion.
Then what can guide us?
I foresee that man will resign himself each day to more atrocious undertakings; soon there will be no one but warriors and brigands; I give them this counsel: The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past.. Thus I proceeded as my eyes of a man already dead registered the elapsing of that day, which was perhaps the last, and the diffusion of the light.
There came an hour inevitably when she knew with a chill what she had feared and why; it had taken, this hour, a month to arrive, but to find it before her was thoroughly to recognise it, for it showed her sharply what Amerigo had meant in alluding to a particular use that they might make of Charlotte for their reaffirmed harmony and prosperity. The more she thought, at present, of the tone he had employed to express their enjoyment of this resource, the more it came back to her as the product of a conscious art of dealing with her. He had been conscious at the moment of many things--conscious even not a little of desiring and thereby of needing to see what she would do in a given case. The given case would be that of her being to a certain extent, as she might fairly make out, menaced.
You want to look at why your colleagues are cowards? Do you have two kids, one of whom has autism? Do you have a house? Are you married? Do you work in a university? All I have is a kitty cat. My cat is the one who kills all the birds in the neighborhood, so I'm left sweeping up all these dead birds with a broom. Then I look at my cat and think, "If it was big enough, it would kill me."
As for Jonsen and Otto, unable by other means to rouse the dormant animals, they collected their men and with big levers managed to tilt the cages, spilling the beasts out onto the deck.
But not even so would they fight--or even show signs of resentment. As they had lain and groaned in their cages, so they now lay and groaned on the deck.
They were small specimens of their kind, and emaciated by travel. Otto with a sudden oath seized the tiger round its middle and hauled it upright on its hind legs: Jonsen did the same by the more top-heavy lion: and so the two principals to the duel faced each other, their heads lolling over the arms of their seconds.
But in the eyes of the tiger a slight ember of consciousness seemed to smolder. Suddenly it tautened its muscles: a slight effort, yet it burst from the merely human grip of Otto like Samson from the new ropes--nearly dislocated his arms before he had time to let go. Quicker than the eye could see, it had cuffed him, rending half his face.
Unexpected development: a three-page online preview of my novel, in manuscript form:
Visiting critic at Art Omi:
Starting late on a midsummer party, she'd expected half her list to have other plans but it turned out people were avoiding the big-city crowds this year for fear of terrorist attacks and were delighted at the invitation. The chef was talking about a fourth boar and the temp agency hired to manage the parking said the field usually occupied by the sheep Jeffrey had purchased years ago to qualify for the family-farm deduction would have to be cleared away for the overflow. It all appeared to be coming together. Everything but the fireworks.
Ransom himself did not wait; he took a jocular tone about their encounter, asking her if she had come to New York to rouse the people. She glanced round the room; the backs of Mrs Burrage's guests, mainly, were presented to them, and their position was partly masked by a pyramid of flowers which rose from a pedestal close to Olive's end of the sofa and diffused a fragrance into the air.
'Do you call these "the people"?' she asked.
Two events this week in which I am implicated:
(1) A part of my anatomy is on view here:
in the work of Michele Abeles.
(2) I edited this:
for the artist Mary Ellen Carroll.
They lapsed into silence, thinking of all the reasons folks in Harlem didn't pay bills. And they thought about the eight-seven thousand dollars taken from those people so poor they dreamed hungry. "If I had the mother-raper who got it I'd work his ass at fifty cents an hour shoveling shit until he paid it off," Coffin Ed said.
"There ain't that much shit," Gravedigger said drily. "What with all this newfangled shitless food."
It's actually pretty funny.
The life I have been telling about was lived between 1932 and 1940. Here are the loves with which I have been preoccupied while writing it. . . . May they serve the purposes of this book.
I looked at him and realized just how ugly he was. His face was somehow much too big for his head; his crude features sprawled everywhere to no good effect. "Why do you think they chained us together?" I asked for no reason other than to make conversation.
"I guess that thar warden guy has got hisself one of dem senses of humor," Patrice said.
Patrice looked at me and then at the sky. "Atlanta," he said. "That don't sound so bad. Dem's some purty gals in Atlanta."
"What did you do?" I asked. "Why did they put you in prison?"
"I stole me a fuckin' car. Twere the finest midnight blue Buick deuce and a quarter with cream yeller insides you ever laid yo sad darkie eyes on, boy. And then I drove the thang into my girlfriend's living room, the lyin' cheatin' bitch. What about you?"
"Apparently it's illegal to be black in Peckerwood County."
"If it ain't, it oughta be." He focused his eyes on the sky again. "Atlanta. If'n I had me some money I could be Charlie Potatoes in Atlanta."
Somebody had to do it:
"Quote TK from Salinger's agent about surviving manuscripts":
New writing for a new year:
It's a screed on the fate of the exhibition catalogue, originally conceived for Dexter Sinister's First/Last Newspaper project in Performa last year. Thanks to D and S for publishing it in this form.
“I was never meant to be a Cadillac dealer or any other kind of dealer, Father,” said Julian.
“That sounded to me as though—you’re not a frustrated literary man, by any chance, are you? God forbid.”
“Oh no,” said Julian. “I’m not anything. I guess I should have been a doctor.”
“Well—“ the priest stopped himself, but his tone made Julian curious.
“You won’t think this sounds awful? No, of course you won’t. You’re a Protestant. Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve had my moments of wishing I’d taken some other life work. That doesn’t sound bad to you, because you weren’t brought up to believe in the true vocation. Well, I guess I better go inside. I keep forgetting I’m an old man.”
“How about a drink?” said Julian.
“I will if it isn’t too late. I’m fasting.” He looked at his big silver watch. “All right. I’ve time. I’ll have one with you.”
“Oh, Scotch. Fine,” said the priest. “Do you like Irish whiskey?”
“I certainly do,” said Julian.
“I’ll send you a bottle of Bushmill’s. It isn’t the best Irish whiskey, but it’s good. And this stuff is real. Ed Charney sent me a case of it for a Christmas present, heaven only knows why. I’ll never do anything for that one. Well, your very good health and a happy New Year. Let’s see. Tomorrow’s St. Stephen’s Day. He was the first martyr. No, I guess we better stick to happy New Year.”
“Cheerio,” said Julian.
Electronic culture makes us ask (again) whether it is now obsolete or timely to write. It arrives on the scene after writing has lost some of its instructional character, utilitarian necessity, or auratic quality. Of course, writing has always been thought to be that which is belated, secondary, excremental, and it does not stop with but actually infiltrates electronics and all the programs that involve us. Still, there is a sense in which writing has been obsolesced, divested, leaving us with the question of what to do with the remainders of writing. In my case, I would not hesitate to assert that I am writing for writing because it has died. This is why, at least in part, writing is necessarily bond up with mourning. Yet there are many ways to mourn and to encounter the spectral experience in which technology plays a considerable part.
went to see this movie:
was disappointed to discover it was not based on a story from this magazine:
notes from a salon on institutional branding
--everyone hates the term “branding”
--Focus Gallery, Detroit—posters by Ed Fella (sp?)
[anarchy symbol] 1868 for Int’l Workers Union Guiseppe Fernelli
“anarchy as order”
[Manscript?] socity – Albers created a logo circular on a wall
Nike ID—how to customize yr shoes
=> “mass customization”—?? types of modularitly—cool diagrams
--building as icon—testifies to the uses of architecture in a postmodern context
=> who designed the Gugg font?
=> why does Art Basel typeface seem [corporate?] in an art context?
--check out logo etc. for D’Amelio Terras
--look up logos etc. for Evergreen, Grove, Olympia
--“out of focus group”
movie review overheard in pizza shop
1 (to 3): you see that movie, para . . . paranoid . . . ?
2: paranormal activity
1: paranormal activity, right
3: it's good?
1: supposed to be pretty scary
3: is that the one with milla . . .
2: no, they made it in their house, for like fifteen hundred dollars. it's made like seven million
3: it's not the one with milla . . . jovavich?
2: it's like a bootleg.
3: oh, you mean like blair witch.
3: blair witch! that was the boringest movie i ever saw in my life.
1 and 2 shake heads, groan
The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child. The case, I may mention, was that of an apparition in just such an old house as had gathered us for the occasion—an appearance, of a dreadful kind, to a little boy sleeping in the room with his mother and waking her up in the terror of it; waking her up not to dissipate his dread and soothe him to sleep again, but to encounter also, herself, before she had succeeded in doing so, the same sight that had shaken him.