The Sleepiness of the Text

I found this passage from The Pleasure of the Text gratifying:

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.)

This passage, from David Owen’s NYer profile of the inventor Saul Griffith, was less cheering:

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.

The iPad uses way more power than the Kindle. I guess that makes the Kindle, or other e-readers that use e-ink, the greenest (and least-pleasurable?) way to read. I guess people have been thinking about this already. I’m sleepy.

(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.

personal webdiary

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”

P.S. Ariana Reines’s Tumblr.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3KNGgWIOx4&feature=related]

I haven’t had time to watch this all the way through, but they seem like they’re both talking really slowly the whole time: kinda comprehendible!!

Thom Pain (Based on Nothing)

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have $15, then this is not optional:

You must go see Will Eno‘s Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) opening March 13 at the Cutting Ball theater.

Click “here” to buy “tickets”!

I saw Tragedy: A Tragedy when it was at the Berkeley Reperatory Theater last year, and it was brilliant. His self-interview in the Believer was one of the best things that magazine published that year. Go to this fucking show!!!!

An Interview with Fleshspotte

A national magazine flew me to Florence to interview this Welsh bubblegum noise band called Fleshspotte. The magazine took care of all my expenses. I had sex with each band member (there are four), then flew home and wrote this profile. The national magazine (glossy, renowned) killed the piece. I was going to try to sell it to the Utne Reader, or PawHunkies, or Mother Jones, or MeatSpace, or the Labia Quarterly, or AngerBlog Monthly, or ShameSpiralz, or Cat Fancy, or the New York Times Magazine, or Labial Frottage Nudity dot com, or Andrew, Stop It! (UK), or Sassy, or Andrew, You’re Hurting My Feelings, or Crude Futures, or George, or Salon, or the Atlantic, or the Daily Beast, but then I figured: Hey! Why not give it to Good Jobbbbbb: The Online Journal of Success?

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Fleshspotte knows noise. These four gay Danish guys all went to Harvard and Juliard and the Welsh School of Fashion and the Fashion Institute of Technology and the London School for Economists (where, famously, Mick Jagger and Muriel Spark both lost their virginity– to each other), and Wheaton, and Wharton, and Whimpleton, and Skronksville Community College, and Labial Stop It Andrew I Feel Like This Is Directed Toward Me, Even Though I Can Already Hear You Assuring Me It’s Not, and Yale (actually, only the drummer, Bløckfro, went to Yale, and he dropped…in! For a cuppa. He wrote a tiny, fake thesis on Magnus Mills.)

I caught up with the group for grouper and coffee-toffee BlandishMints® (to clear the grouper aftertaste from our young and pouting moufs) at a Danish or Welsh–style tavern on the outskirts of town. There was a really groovy decor in the cafe, and all the waitresses and baristas looked like Jon Kricfalusi’s “Sody Pop.”

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After we had eaten, I had the great opportunity to ask these shredly tuna-poppers some questions.

GOODJOBBBB: So, how’s your new record

DOWAJJAHH: it’s cool, i’m proud of it

GJ: What else

MOUTHRAH: i like it too

GJ: Cool, you play guitar?

M: Yeah, bass

GJ: Cool, what are your influences lol

M: I like sock-monkeys

D: Yeah, we all listen to a lot of grant green, esp. the best-of

GJ: That’s interesting, bc I don’t hear a lot of jazz in your sound

D: Yeah

M: yeah, i can see that

G: so, is tour really hard

M: we haven’t been touring, but we’re looking fwd to it, I love it, sleeping in the road, sometimes I think that’s what the beatles meant “why don’t we do it in the road,” are they talking about touring

g: i never thought of that

m: neither did i

g: ummmmmmmm so this is going to sound weird but where do women fit into your songs

m: the back door! lol

l: dude no let me answer that we actually do consider ourselves feminists coming out of a strong tradition of welsh punk and jazz having solidarity with the feminist movements both in denmark and stretching all the way to the far east of wales — if you look at the early early jazz/punk records from danish or welsh groups like sister axe, beat nappsty, titty and the napsters, and chewy chewstonia, all those guys, whether it’s there in the lyrics, in the modalities, or even a shout-out in the liner notes, there’s a really rich tradition of feminist and post-feminist ideology in their work

g: i always read that engagement as being ironic and sort of satirical

l: that’s certainly an element, that’s certainly present in that work, but that’s not what we’ve taken from it. we love da ladies ruff ruff lol

g: this has been so much fun, can I come back and interview you again?

d: no lol

26 Valencia

On Valencia St. just now: attractive semi-rocker work-out lady (27?) and mean-looking/strong-looking short-necked fitted-cap guy walking down the street together, on their way to or from awesome weekend sex that their pit bull sits in their one-bedroom’s kitchen in order to avoid. I was surprised to hear that the woman (blonde) had a thick accent. It could have been Eastern European or Brazilian; it was hard to tell from the one fragment I heard her say:

“They were brown-shing!”

Pretty sure this word was brunching. Bronching. Made me happy.

***

Who is Bohumil Hrabal? Bad “netiquette” to link to literary essays you haven’t (yet) read? [UPDATE: please read the Whitehead. It’s hysterical.]

***

On Friday, walking back to the office from a mail/salted-nuts run, I saw the 26 bus coming down Valencia. Even though I was 2 blocks away from my desk, I still had to suppress the urge to board and pay the fare, since it’s such a rare delight to see the 26 coming in the direction you’re walking. Just then, a crazy guy, who also saw the bus coming, started dancing on the sidewalk and shouting, “26 letters to the word!!!” I was impressed.

Speaking of “26”, you can read Part One of 2666 by Wednesday night no problem. 160 pages. Do so, and join Tommy’s Book Club! I wonder if Tommy is mad that I’m jocking his book club so hard on this mangy square of the Internet’s carpet.

In college, there was an intranet thing called MyBlackboard where you posted discussion questions for classes. Also, I’m feeling more and more the deeply regrettable impulse to just post everything I think and smell and eat onto the internet, for better or worse, why not, maybe someday I’ll be stranded at the Santa Teresa airport and wish I had my notes for Part One of 2666 online. So, without further delay, I’m going to type out my notes to Part One of 2666 in the interest of remembering and clarifying things. If you’re planning on reading the book, or if you think I’m not illiterate, or if you hate me, or if you don’t care about me, I urge you not to read these notes, or this blog, or El Pais. Page numbers are from the ARC.

I see now that it would be pointless to type out all these wee fripperies. Instead, I’ll just “share” a smattering of thoughts that will be useless to anyone but my insomniac bachelor pit-bull, who is called Pouncey.

Is there a strain of homophobia running through 2666? What about the derision that Pelletier and Espinoza have for the publicity director at Bubis, Archimboldi’s German publisher? “That faggot is the closest thing to an eel I’ve ever seen,” Espinoza says, and Pelletier agrees with him despite himself (25). Later, “They discovered, or believed they discovered, that the bond between the Chilean professor and the dean’s son was more socratic than homosexual, and this in some way put their minds at ease, since the three of them had grown inexplicably fond of Amalfitano” (130). Why would Amalfitano’s homosexuality mitigate their fondness for him? Perhaps this is just realism — that is, these are real and honest homophobic feelings that these particular European literature professors  have.

There aren’t many references to music, which makes the few that do appear relatively dramatic, cinematic even. In particular: The African drums that can be distantly heard from Espinoza’s Madrid apartment, and the Salzburg hotel’s “constant musical hubbub in the hallways and on the stairs, sometimes louder and sometimes softer, as if the musicians never stopped humming overtures or as if a mental (and musical) static had settled over the hotel” (36).

I couldn’t agree more with Wyatt Mason re: the wonderful, evocative effectiveness of the occasionally “statistical” or quantitative narration.

Natasha Wimmer’s translation is awesome. The sentences are long and lucid and lyrical. They’re funny, melancholy, and sharp. Politics, literature, sex, philosophy, etc etc etc all feel alive and real in the characters and in the narration, and the dialogue… works.

“Nothing is ever behind us.” (Morini reading Liz Norton’s email, 44)

The “rigorously academic standpoint” re: which of Pelletier or Espinoza is a better lover is brilliant and hysterical (and of a piece with Mason’s “statistical” observation above). I had to look up corpography COPROPHAGY [thanks to “reader” “Threadbare” for alerting me to this heinous typo], which is, literally, the eating of shit. (Has any writer ever described a grin as “corpographic COPROPHAGIC”?)

Lotsa classical references — both E. and P. are Ulysses (46), Gorgons, etc —  I’ll let Tommy sort these out. 😉

Savage Detectives–style invented (?) artistic movements: The New Decadence; English animalism (53)

Rodrigo Fresán is an Argentinian novelist and was a friend of Bolaño’s. FSG published his novel Kensington Gardens, which Natasha Wimmer also translated. I was excited to recognize him making an appearance in a scene near the Peter Pan statue in London, thinking I’d made a nice discovery (60). Then I went back to check the Believer article (also translated by Wimmer)  I see that in a footnote, he says:

In 2666 I show up as myself in Kensington Gardens taking notes for my novel Kensington Gardens. I show up again as myself in his book of short stories, El secreto del mal.

Who cares? Well, this is interesting maybe in part because of the way Bolaño includes real writers in his work alongside fictional ones. Archimboldi, for instance, is compared to Günter Grass, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, and so on. This is maybe even more important in the Savage Detectives, which is stuffed with “the names of internationally eccentric poets & writers,” some of them fictional, but many real.

What is a “Pottery Lane musician”? (33)

Fun Spanish slang: badulaque: a “fool of no consequence” (67)
(is this for real? could easily be fictional slang)

More on narrative style:

And then all they managed to say was: stop the cab right here, we’re getting out. Or rather: stop this filthy car, we’re not going any farther. (74)

This happens a lot in Bolaño’s sentences, where one way of saying something is reported, to give you the gist, which is immediately followed by what they really said, for the sake of accuracy. Why not just say what they really said? It creates a richer effect. In this way, you feel like you’re getting both the summary and transcript; the story and the language, the content and the style. Maybe. I don’t know. Tommy? [Sips tea with fury; glares at the other book-club members]

The beating of the Pakistani cab-driver (75): maybe this can be linked with the homophobia questions above. What of the ugliness of P. and E., and, maybe to a lesser extent, Liz Norton? It’s unsettling, to say the least, to have your protagonist display such brutal acts of xenophobic violence. [Stomach makes involutary growling sound; crosses arms over gut; drinks and chews tea-dregs; farts silently. Glares at other book-club members]

I’ve never heard of Azuela, whose novel Mangy Parrot is referenced

“he’s a typical Mexican intellectual, his main concern is getting by.” (121) This is followed by Amalfitano’s amazing riff on shadowless intellectuals on shrinking stages with indescribable mines or caves behind them. “A person can go out reasonably relaxed, with his shadow on his heels, and stop in a park and read a few pages of Válery. And so on until the end.”

PRI vs. PAN? Time to learn about Mexican politics. “…the silhouettes of industrial warehouses, the horizon of the maquiladoras.” (130)

A lot of dreams are described in this section, and the characters’ dreams echo each other’s. Sometimes fantasies or reveries, daydreams are described, which can be as surreal and involved as the dreams.

Rafael Dieste book hanging on a clothesline, not to dry, evoking “deep, boundless sadness” in Amalfitano (134) = awesome

“A person can speak a language badly or not at all and still be able to read it. In any case, there were lots of dead women” (138). That pair of sentences astonished me….

I sort of hate having read reviews of this book before starting it, because it’s so deft and gradual the way it leads into the murders. You do have the sense that the whole book will revolve around Norton or the literary mystery of the reclusive author, Archimboldi — and who knows, maybe it will. But I wanted to be more suprised by the growing focus on the murders. The Part About the Critics feels like it’s preparing you to read 2666 by having you read about people whose lives are devoted to an author and his books so that the non-literary business of the murders has all the more impact. Maybe? But I shouldn’t conclude anything until I see where the rest of the book actuall goes. [Spills scalding tea all over poorly ironed khakis, vomits tinily into breast pocket of Oxford shirt]

coincidence and fate in 2666 — cf the coincidence of Liz Norton going to the Johns retrospective, and Johns’s comments about coincidence in the Swiss asylum. Also holy shit the self-portrait with the hand of the artist? But I’m outta steam. See you Wednesday.

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