I’m in a book club with a whole bunch of pseudonyms: Jeremiah’d, Paulie Groundphones, Li’l Broheim, Shampoosie, et al. Maybe their pseudonyms should be taken from the book we’re reading, instead of from the jovial thin air above, since the book is already populated by hundreds of perfectly named minor characters. But I’d want an hour with Hilary Spurling’s Invitation to the Dance to produce halfway decent analogues for each of my book club’s members. Last night was one of our most rollicking meetings to date: The spirits flowed liberally, and by the time Shampoosie had to leave for her engagement, the atmosphere had (sonically speaking) pleasurably devolved into this sort of vibe:
I got vague half-permission to record the meeting’s minutes here. I was astonished by how much beer I’d been served, and how easily it flowed into my massive gullet. Just before he was shrouded and bundled off to bed, Li’l Broheims, our hosts’ beatific infant son, staggered around the cacophony clutching a baguette nearly as tall as he was, grinding fine cheeses and flatbreads into the fine carpet. Maybe a less-hungover observer than I am could turn a nice analogy comparing Li’l Broheims to a drunken British soldier like those depicted in Anthony Powell’s Valley of the Bones, the book we’d met to discuss.
But not this guy. Because I AM TOO HUNGOVER TO DO ANYTHING. Which is all I wanted to say in the first place. So today being a low-volume work day I’ve just sat here hitting the internet harder than I have in a long time. 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., I’ve probably stood up three or four times, once to retrieve a pallet of Thai food from the overpriced (dance-club atmosphered) restaurant next door.
Among the many things I clicked on today, I finally had the chance to read Elif Batuman’s review of Mark McGurl’s book on the rise of MFA culture, “a study of Planet MFA conducted from Planet PhD.” Then I read Molly Young’s review of James Franco’s debut collection, which in turn linked me back to Batuman’s review of the 2004 and 2005 Best American Short Stories. I don’t have anything interesting to say about any of these book reviews. In both of Batuman’s essays, Joyce Carol Oates comes off as an exception to the rule of timid, tepid, guilt-imprisoned contemporary short fiction. In both essays, Don Quixote is the canonical first novel that successfully performed the literary innovations that four hundred years later are still being called innovations. And in both essays, she urges fiction writers to expunge the guilt and shame in being a contemporary writer in the face of global suffering, to shun the imperatives to write about
[N.B. as a lover and collector of typos, that copyright symbol is about as awesome as it gets—unless it’s some kind of metadroll joke I’m too hungover to get?]
[Pointless Full Disclosure: I recently purchased from this writer her “favorite red chair, as well as two lamps, an ottoman, a saucepan, a carpet steam-cleaner, some geranium-scented laundry detergent, and approximately eight pounds of rice.” I’m also babysitting her car for a few months, it seems SUPER relevant and important to add. Buying a writer’s soap or borrowing her car unfortunately doesn’t transmit any of her intelligence to their new owner — although I wonder if some reptilian part of my brain wants to pretend that it does. The same goes of course for adopting a great writer’s dog, something I also did with no improvement to my critical faculties. Or, shit, I bet lots of editors, myself included, egoistically and falsely absorb some of the brilliance of a piece they’re editing, even if their edits mostly involve the introduction of typos and tautologies. The connection between leading a good life and thinking and writing well — I wonder how big that gap needs to be. It fluctuates. Brilliant assholes; generous buffoons; everyone in between. Eating Elif’s rice won’t help me think clearly about literature. Neither, apparently, will getting an MFA.]<—– (<(“the ghosts of deleted paragraphs rattle their chains from the margins.”)>)
[Once I’ve fully left my job, I wonder if I’ll start writing Tao Lin–style fan fiction about Keith Gessen, or hosting this blog on a domain with my full name on it, etc.]
[Please don’t make me try to say anything else about anything I’ve read. Please don’t say nasty things about me on the internet. Or about Ariana Reines.]
[Paul Groundphones recently demanded that I read Jacob von Gunten as soon as humanly possible, which I did, and I can’t think of a better example of a work of art that’s feels simultaneously both “pointless” and essential; that’s quite so beautiful in its pointlessness. I love the wry, skillful incompetence of Walser’s narrators. I haven’t finished the novel yet. I’ve never read Stendhal.
My novel will read like a press release — for life itself!
There were lots of tech-sectory people (pasty, iPad-smooth skin; 29–31; strong core strength wrapped in a thin sheen of Pirate’s Booty softness; boring clothing) holding small dogs on leashes near the two Bauer’s bus stops on 24th St this morning at like 7:15.
There’s no other answer: it must be bring your puppy to Google day!
And yet, it is the very rhythm of what is read and what is not read that creates the pleasure of the great narratives: has anyone ever read Proust, Balzac, War and Peace, word for word? (Proust’s good fortune: from one reading to the next, we never skip the same passages.)
The Internet’s energy and carbon footprints now probably exceed those of air travel… perhaps by as much as a factor of two, and they are growing faster than those of almost all other human activities.
Griffith helped implement the electronic ink technology that the Kindle uses, inspired by the reams of paper he saw glutting Australia’s landfills. Now he’s working on wind power, sponsored by Google, to offset the Internet’s damage to the planet.
(Did anyone else find the photocollage illustration of Griffith—crazy hair, large/athletic/eccentric genius—along with a few superficial details of his life — child sports prodigy, professor-parents, MacArthur grant…—to be reminiscent of David Foster Wallace? I haven’t finished the piece yet (I hate reading reading diaries that obsess over or even mention how much of a work the writer has or hasn’t read, how sleepy the writer was while reading what he’s writing about, or how sleepy he is while writing, or where he was when he read the thing he’s writing about, or at what hour,what he was eating. In other words…) (Griffith lives in the Mission.)
And he also shares with Wallace the ability to extend his considerable what I think of as “formal” intelligence beyond its normal boundaries—to places of deeper feeling and compassion. In Wallace’s case, this meant applying (or maybe combining) a linguistic and philosophical and deductive/(mathematical?/rigor and) intelligence toward (or with) a sensitivity to suffering, sadness, pain, (art); Owen’s thesis in his profile (not that I’ve finished it) is that Griffith is the rare inventor who considers the social, political, cultural, and environmental obstacles to a problem’s solution, rather than focusing exclusively on technology.
Just bought a $1 used copy of Rogue Male on the Internet based on a one-sentence zero-argument recommendation from a respected reader-colleague-friend (“Read Rogue Male!”). Found out after I placed the order (shipping from Texas cost three times as much as the book) that it was reissued in 2007 by NYRB Classics. I have had this experience before: buying or reading a book and then feeling quintuple-vindicated in my purchase/effort/enjoyment when I find out it’s received the peacock-feather-in-the-face blessings of being brought back into print by Sir Edwin Frank. ¶ I’m pointlessly quitting coffee again; yet another Day Three over here. Feeling it. ¶ Was on a vacation that merged into a camping trip followed by a jocular family emergency punctuated by a quick change of mailing address. I moved in with my girlfriend. This is a major life step. There are two arc-less stories from the past week—one about a 6 a.m. manual-transmission driving lesson, one about my dog’s violent past—that I want to tell but can’t, on the off-chance that the owner of the car I learned on, or my new landlord, watch this space for updates in my life. Hi, fellas. I’m sorry. ¶ The tube connecting my mind and the world that contains my mind has narrowed because I’ve denied it coffee. ¶ The camping trip was great but microecos precluded any attempt to “blog” it here by alerting me to the fact that our camping trip was already blogged—hard—circa 1860:
We had intended to observe Sunday, as we did not the last one, but both my companions wanted to come down to a warmer level and my rheumatism advised the same thing, so we came over the summit and on about twenty miles. The summit is about 10,300 feet; there is snow in banks for some distance, then we sink into a canyon on one of the upper branches of the Stanislaus River and follow down that. We leave the volcanic region and get into one of granite. The canyon rises in steep hills on both sides, two or three thousand feet above the river. We camped at an altitude of about six thousand feet, where it is warm and pleasant. Today, although Monday, we are having our “Sunday,” and are spending the day in washing our clothes, writing, etc. [William H. Brewer via microecos]
I’m sorry I haven’t been posting photos of my new apartment or any of the several spectacular bowel movements I’ve had these last few days. Also been meaning to post photos of my cereal bowl with wet spoon once I’ve drained it of all milk and Golden Flax Crunch; figure you guys would also want to see a few shots of my dog’s spayed genitals and maybe etc etc. ¶ I think I’ll be out of the woods regarding caffeine withdrawal by Saturday. Love, “Quilty”