Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lines from Chris Kraus

Schizophrenics aren’t sunk into themselves.  Associatively, they’re hyperactive.  The world gets creamy like a library. 231

Anyone who feels too much or radiates extremity gets very lonely.  227

“Schizophrenia,” Géza Róhreim wrote, “is the magical psychosis.”  A search for proof.  An orgy of coincidences.) 226

Capitalism’s ethics are completely schizophrenic; i.e., they’re contradictory and duplicitous.  Buy Cheap, Sell Dear.  Psychiatry tries its hardest to conceal this, tracing all disturbances back to the Holy Triangle of Mommy-Daddy-Me.  “ The unconscious needs to be created,” Félix wrote in Mary Barnes’ Trip. A brilliant model.  226

If art’s a seismographic project, when that project meets with failure, failure must become a subject too.  217

How I like to dip into other people’s books, to catch the rhythm of their thinking, as I try to write my own.  Writing around the edges of Philip K. Dick, Ann Rower, Marcel Proust, Eileen Myles and Alice Notley.  It’s better than sex. Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill--getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind.  207

the ideal reader is one who is in love with the writer & combs the text for clues about that person & how they think--- 132

The rest was history, or, Chris had gotten one thing right: beneath his reputation at the Mudd Club as the philosopher of kinky sex, Sylvère was a closet humanist.  Guilt and duty more than S&M propelled his life.  109

To initiate something is to play the fool. I really came off the fool with you, sending the fax, etcetera.  Oh well.   I feel so sorry we were never able to communicate, Dick.  Signals through the flames.  Not waving but drowning.  91

Accepting contradictions means not believing anymore in the primacy of “true feelings.”  Everything is true and simultaneously.  87

The Bataille Boys saw beatitude in the victim’s agonized expression as the executioner sawed off his last remaining limb.  33

Chris Kraus, I Love Dick.  Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1997, 2006.

Who Loves Me not by Chris Kraus

Half-way into Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick.  Noticed that former student Robbie B, now librarian at New Hampton, had read it (Goodreads notification? which I never look at) and then it turned up on the back shelves as I was rearranging back there in the alcove.  Book first published in 1997.  Way back then.  From now (Paris attacks, Daesh, etc) doesn’t it feel even more dated.  Those heady days of Deleuze and Bataille.  Even refers to the Bataille Boys a couple of times.  I thought I could tell Scott (and Paul H) to read it, that it would plug onto his disseration as perfectly as a Lego.  And since it is from that far back, how did I manage to miss it?  And would anyone who didn’t know much about all that theory be that interested in it?  Would Paul read it?  I don’t think so---as removed from his world as possible and far too self-enclosed, like a hothouse, a small academic coffee house gossipy closet drama.  

Friday Nov 20  

After Kraus I should change my character’s name from Andrew to Andrea Campéon, or Angela.  Would that do anything of value to it?  

Kraus just praised my method---reading lots of books and writing around the edges of them.  Quote coming.  In spite of that I’m really ready for this book to end and really tired of it, tired of her brilliant, brainy and clever whining about all of it, her love for Dick just isn’t as wonderful and she wants it to be and the rest is, finally, pretty tiresome.  I’ll give the New Yorker writer from this past April, Leslie Jamison, the public and last word and then privately I’ll disagree.  I guess my disagreement will be proof positive of Kraus’s great success.  

“How I like to dip into other people’s books, to catch the rhythm of their thinking, as I try to write my own.  Writing around the edges of Philip K. Dick, Ann Rower, Marcel Proust, Eileen Myles and Alice Notley.  It’s better than sex. Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill--getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind.”  207  You’d think Goodreads or somewhere would inscribe that over their lintel.  

Now at 227 & heck, Kraus has turned it all up and around and I love the book again, can’t stop reading it, don’t want it to end.  The best.  What a book.  

“You said: ‘I’m sick of your emotional blackmail.’” 232

whole book is that.  A cabinet of curiosities.   

After Kraus instead of making Andrew into Andrea, better to just take that character out all together.  

Maybe I am mildly schizophrenic?  Have I ever wondered that?  see page 232 ff  Now I am really really tired of the book, so ready to have it over, trying not to rush it.  Too much.  But enough already, let’s put this unexquisite corpse into the grave.  

Finished the book around 1 pm.  Sigh of relief, impatient relief.  Lunch.  After lunch, in the mail, issue of Parabola, Winter issue on Free Will and Destiny.  Kraus’s book has a Foreward and an Afterword.  Isn’t that some sort of warning?  I liked it in the Foreward where Eileen Myles pays Kraus a huge compliment: “Chris knows (like Bruce Chatwin knew) how to edit.”  15.  I wonder.  Maybe in a line-by-line way, maybe, as Myles explains, in a drummer’s pacing way, knowing how to go everywhere and “make it move.”  But maybe not so much in a don’t tire the reader too much way.  Chatwin would have, I’m absolutely positive, shortened Kraus’s 260 page book by at least thirty to fifty pages.  Minimum.  Now that Parabola is here, like a godsend, I can read it cover-to-cover as the perfect antidote to having spent the past week on Kraus’s Dick.  I mean Kraus’s Love.  Well, Kraus’s I.  There it is:  what if she had called the book, from the first, Dick Loves Me.  Would it have been a better book, a better feminist book, much less a period frozen in amber-time and much more of a timeless work?  Or is my very suggestion a sure backslide on my part into the leaden sludge of patriarchist helpfulness?  It is a fascinating cabinet of curiosities, a narrative collection of odd people, trendy oddities, topical themes and obsessions from the 90s, as these floated around in various currents and eddies of the academic and artsy worlds Kraus herself floated around in.  
It seems so dated now.  This is what some parts of those worlds really did feel like back then.  A fragile time-capsule. 

I do like the way Leslie Jamison ends her terrific essay on Kraus.  

"A story that flashes “back and sideways” keeps its emotional pulse live: “To organize events sequentially is to take away their power,” Kraus writes. “Emotion’s not at all like that. Better to hold onto memories in fragments, better to stop and circle back each time you feel the lump rise in your throat.” Taken together, Kraus’s books summon these “contradictory, multiple perspectives” on an even broader level: they approach a recurring consciousness from different angles, dip into the trajectory of a life at different moments. They preserve a certain electricity by refusing to resolve these life materials into a single, coherent narrative. They are all windows to the same exhibit, all doorways to the same club under the same full moon, all promising and winking and opening their legs at once. They are all committed to the live wire of feeling (Ahhh, feelings), committed to circling back to what makes the lump rise in the throat, what makes the heart beat faster; committed to keeping emotions forceful by refusing to slot their evocations neatly into any genre, refusing the divide between authenticity and artifice, refusing to distinguish between reality and performance. It’s all lumpy. It’s all performed. It’s all real. "  "This Female Consciousness"

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Interview with my other writer

What made you become a writer?

I think I began writing to find a place of solitude.  I craved silence where I could be away from the battles I felt were going on all around me, and the war, the great war, that had ended as I was born and which no one talked about but which I could sense was still in the bodies and minds of the adults in my life.  My parents fought various silent battles with other family members.  I felt in the middle in ways I could not name and could not comprehend.   I remember reading James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans when I was ten years old, and I didn't understand much of it, but I still finished it.  I remember reading Hudson’s Green Mansions and being enthralled by the mysteriousness of it, even while, again, I understood little of it.  In my father’s store when I would go into the large meat locker, turn out the light and stand in the black super cold air for as long as I could among the hanging carcasses of beef.  Then when I turned the lights on I would see the slabs of fat, bone, red flesh and muscle, very dark pearls of dried blood, those cows had been cut in half and I could see inside their rib cages as they hung upside down by legs tied together and hung over big metal hooks from the ceiling.

Like everyone born in 1944. I am a child of WWII.  We could feel that “something had just happened” although no one would or could talk about.  Later, when we were about thirteen, we saw photos of the concentration camps in Life magazine.  I can still see those black and white images of bodies piled high.  Only many years after that did I see Goya’s whole series on the horrors of war from an earlier century. 

How do you work?

I work by stealing any chance I can find to sit and write more on what I’ve started.  But starting is difficult because it is so easy to imagine what you want to create but not so easy to find the right way into it.  After I feel started, what comes next plays on my mind all the time and I need to get it down when and as soon as I can.  If I have a big stretch of time for writing I will try to write steadily but this may involve stretches of pausing, even long stretches, to feel my way into what needs to come next.  I often also write things that I hope I might be able to patch in to the work later on after I get a sense of how the whole is shaping up.  There then is a back and forth effort in drafting and redrafting.  I never can write for more than a few hours at a time because my attention fades. 

Do you know the end of your novel when you start writing?

I know only the beginning.  Or an image of a person in a specific location.  From there I wonder about the situation and how it might unfold.   I just start writing to see where it will take me.  I have often wanted to use a murder story as a framework for finding what I really want to have develop.   It gives people gravitas that they, otherwise, might not have. I’ve not yet done this but the notion appeals to me.  I never know the end until I’ve reached it.  But finding that point can be a tricky question.  Knowing how to cut yourself off becomes crucial.  

What inspires you?  Who or what is your source of inspiration?

I have to see a place in front of me. A place I imagine or remember from which I can then continue dreaming. One of my stories starts with the memory of a time I was in Buenos Aires and the hotel room has stayed clearly in my mind.  The room, the lobby and the street.  From there I imagine my character engaging in an action that sets the story going.  

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

Everyone makes it up, so advice is difficult to give.  Write what you want to write, how you want to write it.  Use anything that helps you find this.  Use everything, use nothing, find whatever keeps you going.  There are lots of difficult moments that are typical for all writers so you need encouragement to keep going.  Ultimately your work becomes so precisely yours that no advice is helpful.  

The following question appear in Patrick Modiano's novel Paris Nocturne.  

Would you prefer to be part of the revolution or contemplate a beautiful landscape? 
         Always I have wanted most to contemplate a beautiful landscape.  ​The revolutions seem interesting enough but from a great distance, great enough to see the landscape that frames them, either the fields or the perspective of history. 

Which do you prefer?  The depth of torment or the lightness of happiness?

​         In my earlier years I thought I preferred the depth of torment but that was a mistake I learned to see through and correct and now I know that the lightness of happiness is what I prefer and have always, really, wanted to prefer.  ​

Do you want to change your life or rediscover a lost harmony. 

​   Again, there has been an arc or trajectory over the years, from the illusion of wanting to change, through the experiences of what that entailed and how those attempts never quite panned out, to the sense that the ever elusive lost harmony continues to pull me forward into some unknown.  ​

What could a lost harmony really consist of?

​     Not knowing this is what makes the loss so appealing and the harmony so meaningless and meaningful, as if both possibilities could somehow co-exist in a paradise of paradoxes.  ​

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Interview with Writer J P Jones

J P Jones has published four novels.  See link below to his Facebook page.  His fifth novel will be out early next year.  He lives in Washington, DC.  

Why write novels?   

Because I am very opinionated and my ideas don't fit well with any group's thinking.  (Clevinger!)  So I write about the world in a way to illustrate the world that I see.   When I began writing, I very much wanted to write about people, places, and events that I thought no one else was writing about.  In essence I write because I disagree to some degree with everyone and feel a deep need to express my opinions.   My father was always politic and agreed with everyone.   When I was in my late adolescence I decided that I would never do that. I wouldn't argue with people - at least not very much -  but I would ALWAYS state my opinion.  And, after 40 years in the DC metro area I hate Fed gov't employees who, if they have any opinions (which usually don't), seem incapable of expressing them.   They are all around me and seem to live and die while making no difference whatsoever in this world.  That would drive me crazy.  Thousands and thousands of little nebbishes, commuting to their jobs, eating lunch in the cafeteria, and going home in grid-locked traffic.

How do you work? 

I work by sitting at the computer and forcing myself to keep writing until I get something going, occasionally stopping to think out a situation or character.  I usually do this thinking at a window where I look out but take no cognizance of the scenery.  I'm totally inside my head.  Sometimes I do this thinking while staring at a wall.   (As my brother used to say:   "Thinking about something is hard so people do so little of it."   He came up with inventions that were patented.  

How does an novel originate?

I start with an idea that I want to write about:   Tunis - the limitation of liberal attitudes about race in DC -  Cumberland and its people who didn't leave to find a job in the metro areas- what would have happened to me in Vietnam -  how modern young people react to a crime that touches them.   

Do you know the end of your novel when you start writing?

Often I know only the end of a story and figure out how to get there.   In one case, I just started writing to see where it would take me.  I have always used a murder investigation to hang my story on.   It gives people gravitas that they, otherwise, might not have.  I've written short stories that don't use crime.   I don't think those stories would interest anyone but me - and possibly not even me very much.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Advice:  Look for some central idea about a person or place that you feel no writer is addressing, then explore it.  Find what's unique in your thinking/life/experience.  Don't rely on other writers to give you guidance on any central point in your story.  If you can't come up with a central idea, then forget it.  If you have to do research, do it, then forget most of it.  Don't make the work a showcase of all you know about a certain subject.   I made this mistake on the first draft of my book about Vietnam, which included a first part about a court-marital in WWII.  I deleted all that voluminous crap Don't make it a travelogue, either. I made this mistake on my first draft of the Tunis story. I deleted all those trips to other cities in my second or third draft.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Unknown American Source of Beckett's Fiction

Tuesday afternoon Oct 20

found this terrific link between Kenneth Burke’s novel and Beckett’s Unnamable--in The Believer from 2006  

"Towards a Better Life is the longest piece in this collection, a sort of one-sided epistolary novel with a flamboyantly solipsistic narrator. Ostensibly, the story is about the narrator’s relationship with the ex-friend to whom the epistles are addressed, but the discourse seldom escapes the confines of his own mind; instead of relying upon external images or events to explain his emotional state, the narrator writes in carefully balanced aphorism and analysis, something like Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable from the point of view of Jane Austen."    by  Dan Johnson 


Katherine Anne Porter took a few copies of Burke’s new novel to Paris to have Sylvia Beach sell them in Shakespeare and Company.  Beckett bought a copy there perhaps five or six years later.  

This last is my invention but I did check the timelines and I think it quite possible.  It is so wonderful I just know it must be true.  Or at least "true."  Remember,  as Chinua Achebe says, all stores are true.