Who writes America best?
The new La Petite Zine is live & alive with fireworks from Matthea Harvey, Molly Brodak, Cathy Linh Che, Anne Cecelia Holmes, Taryn Schwilling, Colleen McCarthy, Jean Valentine, Lyall F. Harris, Montana Ray, Robyn Art, Jane Lewty, Carol Muske-Dukes, Stacey Tran, Stephanie Ford, Leanna Petronella, & Joanna Novak. Boom.
Someone I dearly love alerted me to this op-ed which ran yesterday in the NYTimes. At the grave risk of preaching to the converted I want to say a few things about it. Continue reading “Franzen v. Internet v. Love v. Iskandrian”
There’s a scene in that movie High Fidelity (based on the Nick Hornby book, I guess, which I didn’t read) where John Cusack’s character reveals to Dick, his record store employee (played quite brilliantly by Todd Louiso), that he (Cusack) was in the midst of reorganizing his record collection–in autobiographical order.
I’ve always loved that idea. Continue reading “Not A-Z, but I-Me”
Do you have nostalgia? Do you have nostalgia for “life before the internet”? What makes you nostalgic? Does what makes you nostalgic actually exist, or did it ever?
I wasn’t going to write this, feeling like the last thing anybody needs is another post explaining or defending or extolling paper, but then two events became bridged in my mind and I felt like I would be restless until I wrote them, about that bridge, so there you have a little apologia for what follows, which is that I moved some months ago to a new house, and recently found myself sitting on the floor late at night amidst boxes filled with folders and smaller boxes, and several folders were marked MISC and contained all kinds of paper, critical essays that I wrote during college and grad school about Emily Dickinson and Auden and post-structuralism and William Blake, and pages from the first novel I wrote, and pages from the first “novel” I wrote, and notebooks filled with other writings, and long letters never sent, and then I opened a box within a box and it was filled with floppy discs, each one labeled with the year and some vague tags, like “teaching stuff” and “post-mod essays” and “stories/summer” and “Needle,” and I just held those floppies like they were quaint artifacts from my Victorian childhood, realizing that I had no means of accessing their contents, and then stacking them neatly back into their smaller and then larger box, and returning to the piles of paper feeling a kind of profound agitation with regard to permanence or the myth of permanence, and remembering standing outside of the office where I worked just a couple blocks from the World Trade Center Continue reading “This again, not this again”
Generally my least/most favorite part of any interview with any artist, and interviews with writers in particular, is when s/he’s asked “who are your influences.” It’s my most favorite because I’m a sucker for superlatives, all those kinds of “favorite book/food/animal” type inquiries. But it’s my least favorite because the answer is often a let-down, or something bordering a cliche, or someone so far-flung that I find myself questioning the subject’s veracity. Which I don’t really want to do. I mean, it’s an interview, not an interrogation, and I’m no arbiter of anything, as much as I might want to think I am.
In any case, I think there are interviewees who probably feel pressured by that question–they want to sound smart, and interesting, and relevant:
“Well, lately I’ve been reading a lot of Derrida with Yo Gabba Gabba on mute, and the overlaps are pretty incredible…”
“Obviously I owe a debt to Pynchon, and to a certain extent, Dostoevsky. But I’d be dishonest if I didn’t credit Bazooka Joe in some way…”
“Oh, I’ve been in an all-consuming back-of-cereal-boxes phase. General Mills, mostly. And I’m re-reading Proust’s A la Recherche for the fourth or fifth time.”
You get it. That mix of high and low, theory and novel, pop and baroque, that says I’m an intellectual, I’m legit, I’ve read things, but I also know how to breakdance.
I’m thinking about how DFW watched a lot of television as a kid.
I’m wondering what we mean, exactly, and Eliot/Bloom notwithstanding, by influence. Beyond the page, beyond the book, beyond all art, what informs your work, that you are conscious of? Do you ever try working against those forces? What’s your objective correlative, and how does it function? Like the bay leaf in the pot that flavors everything vaguely but needs to be removed before eating? You could eat it, but it wouldn’t taste very good? But maybe it needs to be eaten and it needs to not taste good, so that it can be evacuated?
Every once in a while, I fixate on word usage and hatch wild theories about why a certain word or phrase becomes trendy in conversation. We’re all aware, I presume, of the privileged place “literally” has achieved in our lexicon. It is used most often, it seems, to denote emphasis. I’m not the only one interested in its abuse/overuse. But, like a 70-year-old tweed-clad professor with a pipe and a penchant for pretty coeds, I’m curious about what its popularity might suggest about “the times.” Maybe we are entrenched in an Age of Hyperbole, where everything must be biggened and baddened in order to be heard or believed (see Fox News, etc.). Maybe “literally” signifies some kernel of steadfast truth amidst all of that shouting, a counterpoint to the sensationalism. Or perhaps “literally” is a response to the Age of Irony for the same reasons, where we intend it to denote sincerity. Since my guess is that we’re in the twilight of that age, and are now seeing the quick waning of its companion age, Post-Irony, my hope is that we’ll hear a lot less “literally” and a lot more good, dramatic pause.
A while ago, Lily pondered the flâneur in this post, and in the comments section Ken referenced Nassim Taleb, and it seems that interest in the flâneur, like the figure of the flâneur itself, meanders around the consciousness of many of us, possibly. There is something perennially appealing and perhaps romantic about the flâneur–the apartness, the deliberate purposelessness–and I remember that it took, for me, reading Benjamin’s The Arcades Project to understand Baudelaire (the man and the work) in a more complete and meaningful way. Some years ago I wrote an essay (whose title is the title of this post) that sought to explore the idea of text-as-city and reader as flâneur, and then, by extension, the work of writing as its own kind of flânerie. (Really wanted to publish it as Flânerie O’Connor, but then I would’ve had to punch myself in the face really hard. And also get it published.) Anyway, here are some excerpts/cut-ups from that essay:
First The New Yorker, now Wikipedia (via The NY Times):