[Update 4 October 2014: See the bottom of this post for a bit more.]
This is a response to Dianna Dragonetti’s recent post here, which is itself a response to Janey Smith’s “Fuck List,” originally published at this site. It’s also a response to the numerous comments on Dragonetti’s post. Because it seemed to me that, as of this writing, a lot of the debate over Smith’s post, and the book that’s apparently resulted from it (which I’ve not seen), has taken the form, “Is what Smith did art?” Mind you, I doubt this post will settle that debate, but I hope it provides
- some historical context I think relevant to Smith’s post;
- plus an argument why, at the end of the day, I don’t think that it really matters whether Smith was making art.
I guess I should also note, in passing, that my name was the first name on Smith’s “Fuck List” (thanks to the magic of alphabetization). Since I find myself (along with numerous others) the object of some obscure desire, perhaps I can offer a few thoughts on the subject.
…but then got ran over by a bus and died. No im totally kidding! but you really did get the flu and couldn’t join me.
The talk was at Housing Works, and it included two other speakers: David Gordon and Michael Kunichika.Your expectations were unclear: talk about Russian writers who, though they left us long ago, remain potent presences for readers and writers today. From Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Vasily Grossman and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, we’ll learn about obsession, madness, realism, fables, and more, in an event with all the drama and pathos (well, at least some of the drama and pathos) of the great Russian novels themselves.
Here are all the texts I would have sent you, in chronological order and without clarifying who said what, because color-coordinating via SMS goes a step too far:
truth-seeking urgency intrinsic in russian lit
antithesis to beckett & writers who focused extensively on beauty of language
falling in love w/ english language, less plot driven urgency
dostoevsky similar to conrad in terms of truth-seeking urgency
multivocality of dostoevsky
there is no right, just different truths
dostoevsky threw the best literary parties (metaphorically speaking, as a creator)
proust s parties were too long, and maybe the guests were wearing better clothes
abstract psychological curiosity in motives, including abnormalities–>russian approach
going in depth for big questions, characters not being introverted
serialization of lengthy works, such as ‘war & peace,’ adds towards creating a broader debate. they become part of the broader debates occurring during their time
some compare the creation of microcosms of russian lit to ‘the wire’
comparing to british office, where they look at the camera at moments of despair but the viewer cannot do anything to help // to embarrasing dostoevsky characters
nabokov disliked dostoevsky for his “bad writing”
dostoevsky had a v diff approach to writing from nabokov: almost got executed literally, then was told he had another five years
that is also why dostoevsky did not pursue inanimate writing, unlike tolstoy (?)
nabokov didn t like music!
neither did dostoevsky !! (probably diff reasons)
saul bellow s ‘dean of december’–>similar urgency in truth-seeking (someone from the audience)
can reading a book be so vivid it appears like a different life?
if yes, it depends on willingness of writers to go to great lengths in creating characters who go too far, embarrass themselves/ are visceral
perhaps a key element that helps bring about the urgent truth-seeking: religion s role for the writers
religion, like their fiction, was trying to explain what goes on beyond the physical
nabokov s direct ancestor was dostoevsky s jailor. weird how he was not willing to cut him any slack, considering
dostoevsky was crowd-pleasing oriented bc he lived off writing
I. Two Days After Whateverdaythegrammystookplacethisyear
I was taking about sex with a new person when I said I was annoyed choking is not on the table as an option. Then I said my ex’s name and remembered how she loved it.
“Oh, I know,” came his Freudian drip. I then punched him pretty hard on his arm, but without being violent. I was kind of upset, but I also knew he didn’t mean to hurt me, his tongue just worked faster than his brain in that moment.
The weird thing is, Billy was probably the victim in all of this. During a time we were trying to be over I surrounded myself with friends who weren’t shared, friends who didn’t let me respond to her manic pleas for reciprocity. So I saw the blocks of texts arrive, and I ignored them, but not because I wanted to ignore them. I was still forcing myself to not respond. That’s when it happened. I know because we eventually got back together and she never told me. But one day I went through her phone and saw her bragging texts about Billy and how he fucks like a rabbit and how the best part of it was that Billy was my good friend. She was bragging about it, but how unfortunate was that? She, who I successfully ignored, intentionally turned to someone else to hurt me for ignoring her. “Positional play is the maneuvering of opponents into the forced clarification of their (but not your) tactical lines of action,” and that was what she was doing. But we all got played in the end, thankfully including her.
Sometimes we do things for unclear reasons. Maybe because they feel good. Is that a reason? I think so, especially when I do the things. Is it worse when the sex is perfect with an idiot or when the sex is boring with a genius? I dunno, but I hope to have less of it and try to make it meaningful.
There is this mix I was listening to recently and it is very good, but I have a problem with it: it closes with a juxtaposition of Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” and Britney Spears’ “Everytime.” Hopefully, I need not clarify why that poses a problem, but if I must let me say I have a problem with myself for feeling sorry for Britney, when she was the one doing things for unclear reasons because they felt good. “This song is my sorry,” is a fucked up lyric to be used in a pop song when it is truly personal, and in Spears’ case at that time it was. 
You might remember my friend “Billy?” You probably don’t, so here. We grabbed lunch together last week, it was pretty fun. We got Ramen and talked about stuff on a broad scale: the things we are doing for money, the people we have been getting naked with and, naturally, cultural ephemera. An ephemeron we addressed for example was the Grammys ceremony and how we felt about some of the performances and awards. Of course neither of us was able to watch past the first half, or perhaps nothing of note happened in that half. We shall never know!
What we do know: Billy is dating someone seriously, and she is taking him a lot more seriously than he is her. She is “intense” and “confrontational.” She senses what they both know. Basically what he is saying is that he is not up for it. He likes her, but she feels for him in ways he doesn’t. I tell Billy to tell her that he knows her intuition is right. To stop playing along and pretending he doesn’t see what she is right to notice their “thing” is missing.
Must we pass over in silence what we cannot speak about?
THE *REAL* GRAMMYS, HAPPENING EONS BEFORE THE SUPERBOWL
I watched them with my friend who will not be told when she must cease thinking about Beyonce’s net shorts. (“i hate how everything moves so quickly. it’s like just because a few days have passed doesn’t mean i’m not still thinking about the grammys. sure, not MOST of the grammys. but i’ll be thinking about her netted costume for a WHILE. why does the internet want everyone’s brains on fast forward?”)
I could not believe how fortunate it was that I happened to be near a television! I was casually complaining about life to a dear friend on a Whateverdaythegrammystookplacethisyear when all of a sudden… Beyonce! I never fully get how award shows work, their purpose and how the selection process works for who gets nominated for what. But if they start with Beyonce, I am totally mesmerized and willing to watch with full attention and the occasional loud “OH MY BEYONCEEE!” There were multiple of those, and people on the receiving end of Beyonce’s electric chair were electrified, as expected, jumping up and down their couches everywhere, unless they lived on the West Coast, and thus were penalized for their decision .
The *Real* Grammys seem to be organized by a panel of Ladies… who Love Cool J. Why is he the presenter? Why do they keep Doin’ It (feat Leshaun)? The sartorial negligence of the Cool James was apparent as he momentarily shared a stage with an immaculately dressed First Husband of America. Let’s just say there were no ZZZs in Jay-Z’s perfect outfit, and even less ZZZs were there to be found in the way the Presidential couple looked like while performing together during the *Real* Grammys, intoxicating everyone with their intoxication.
The deep blue sea of sartorial hmmms deepened further when our favorite Neptune decided to hide his crown under a hat, and all of humanity wondered: “Pharrell. Why!” He was still perfect, and at least wasn’t being ridiculous like those dudes who must have been sweating balls in their anonymity protecting helmets.
But looks and looking supa dupa fly are not all that matters in music these days. The young musicians have set up the bar mad high, where only Lordes can fly, and your prepackaged Dark Unicorn won’t fly you there despite its hypnotic beat (gah, this hasn’t happened to my brain (?) since when Gwen Stefani was cheerleading) that encourages obsessive repeat-play.
If the producers of your album aren’t Illuminati, you might have to join a circus. In the words of pop-princess (does she keep being princess until Madonna dies?) Britney Spears: “There’s only two types of people in the world: the ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.” Pink misunderstood the distinction and thought being observed was synonymous to entertaining, but acrobatics are all the ZZZs Jay-Z was missing that night. Except for her thigh strength, which so wow, very anti-ZZZ!
Anyway, time to get serious-y. Let’s address the thing that agitated most of us about the *Real* Grammys: Kendrick Lamar—who was, is and will always be objectively the best in everything for which he was nominated—didn’t win anything. Then the band (is Macklemore a band? or just that dude with the two-year old Freeman’s Alley barbershop hair a solo thing?) made the crass, gross error of trying to recognized their (his?) inferiority by sharing the thought with all their fans. This literally felt like a violent slap to everyone: (1) the people who might have thought Mackleduders deserved to win stuff, (2) the people who wanted Kendrick to win stuff and were frustrated he didn’t, and (3) let’s not even think about all the other very sensitive and insecure artists who were both nominated and lost and not even publicly recognized by the true winner of stuff they lost as the ones worthy of winning.
To think this band (or dude? I really have to find out at this point!) would even consider considering publicly sharing a private message he sent which should have been private, because eww band or dude, get a publicist! The negative criticism they (or “he,” whichever is correct!) have received is totally deserved. Bad apologies are in poorer taste than not apologizing at all, and this one was a very selfish and self-aggrandizing one. The reason this “apology” really sucked was the way it was portrayed and whored out via social media. There is a Kendrick song called “Real.” It is greatly introspective and reflective, further showing where in the “real nigga” doctrine Kendrick falls: he is not obsessed with appearances in a way consuming his music’s production.
The song stresses the importance of showing up, of being “real” in a way that is vulnerable:
The reason why I know you very well/ cause we have the same eyes can’t you tell?/ the days I tried to cover up and conceal/ my pride, it only made it harder for me to deal
[*end of serious-y chunk*]
Speaking of #Unapologetic, sources close to the Barbadian queen of pop Rihanna have revealed to TMZ the star watched the show at the comfort of a new planet she recently purchased. While she is considering Stay-ing there a while, TMZ has learned that Rihanna used telepathy to support her bestie (hmm. Cara?) close friend Katy Perry during her Grammys performance. “Where have you been?” thought Katy in the secret illuminati witchlanguage she shared with Rih, and then she felt the transcendental high-five from afar.
Then everyone bought things and companies were so, so happy! Well, almost everyone bought things. Mostly women who wanted to wear all the beauty products that made their stars look like stars. Men would have to wait for a sports event, like last year’s Beyonce performance at the sports thing which made Janet Jackson a star.
In conclusion, the *Real* Grammys didn’t really change anything, but that’s okay. Because the Grammys rarely do that. It is mostly public opinion that shapes who the big figures are in culture, and all the individuals who are nominated for these awards have acquired a level of respect as artists significant enough to see Taylor Swift going hard to Kendrick live, which is fine and great and super, but remains besides the point. When our cultural curators shift our attention to something silly, even if this silly something is endearing and well-intentioned, they (the curators) have taken our attention away from something else.
Who chose the direction to focus on Swift—and more extensively—before showing us an enthusiastic Hova? Probably the same exact person who gave Macklemore the award. It wasn’t me. But if it were me directing, I would have focused on the performance exclusively, out of respect to the person on stage. If a majority of the population only likes stuff because other people like it, then please save the stuff I like from getting Grammys!
III Nine Days After Whateverdaythegrammystookplacethisyear
He felt sad, he said. It was the morning after he stopped hating himself for being kinda in the gray area for so long in private. The night before he had send me a text: “It’s over. A little back and forth but we both agreed it was checkmate. Broke up in Central Park, lol. It went so well/ was our first real convo. Probably the best convo we ve ever had. I feel surprisingly sad.”
I was really proud of him. And of me, for challenging him to be upfront about his lack of genuine want in his relationship. But I also felt meaningless. I wasn’t even able to arise in my person the decency Billy was finally able to come up with for his new ex.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent, I guess.
 I know this with certainty, because this was the first song Spears wrote. She wrote it with a woman named Artani, who then went on a Greek reality-talent show, called “Fame Story,” which everyone in Greece watched at the time because we were trying to not focus on our faltering institutions as a nation.
Artani was dealing with a breakup while Britney was trying to face the new Justin Timberlake as an ex, who had released “Cry Me A River.” The song was personal, and “Everytime” was a vulnerable response to it, but how vulnerable was it really, when it was a pop song and it was created for everyone? Doesn’t that take away from it in serving a purpose as being a meaningful apology? I think it did/ does/ forever will.
I don’t know if you have realized it, but if you look carefully at The Dick Van Dyke Show, you might notice that the star-couple does not share a bed. In fact, married couples did not sleep in the same bed until 1952 on American television, which is totally ridiculous. 
Things change in our culture and many weird things we are unsure we want to welcome suddenly become our reality. Here comes the Verysmartphone 5.3, with all of the internets for you to have and carry with all the time! The facebooks, the twitters!! Everything. And ew, you have Snapchat? What are you, a weird pedophile or, like, a huge slut?
Well I am neither, and I love Snapchat.
My entire immediate family lives in a country far, far away, in a small place called “Greece.” I don’t get to see them often, so it was great to have my mom and sister come visit over Christmas. We fought so much! It was amazing. But also, I made my sister download Snapchat. This has been the best thing for our relationship since I have emigrated from Greece and away from my family.
My sister is the kind of person who does not use social media the way I do. It is not a place for her to bitch about how adulthood is probably when you start washing your french press before you need to reuse it. We have a different sense of what is publicly acceptable as an extension of one’s self. This is where Snapchat comes in, I think. She is no longer preoccupied with appearing a certain way, even to me. There is a vehement liberation from the anxiety or stress some feel over the perfection a “permanent” record of a picture or note “must” leave; it is a weird empowering liminality that arrives with the immateriality of the Snapchat application.
An important detail to emphasize is that my sister is also not the kind of person to gchat or verbally engage with me meaningfully online. She might be more of a visual communicator. I do not know for sure, but that is what the past month has shown me. And I am so happy in this little unimportant—yet so, so important—discovery. I can look at the video she sent me of her walking towards her boyfriend’s Ducati, and I can feel close to her. I still haven’t met her boyfriend, but I kinda know how he makes her feel and this technology has given me a sense of intimacy I didn’t know was possible. (Sister’s boyfriend is also the President of the Ducati Club in Greece, and for that alone, from my standpoint, they’re meant to be!)
With Snapchat, my sister can have separate beds in a public sphere, and if that is what she wants it should be respected. But it is nice to no longer feel as away from her as I really have been.
 First shared bed thing was actually in 1947, but the couple was married IRL and it was before TV was really TV, just in case someone wants to split hairs.
Johannes Göransson said on Facebook that one thing he doesn’t like about the “list”-based idea of criticism is: “that you can’t challenge it. You’re not allowed to say: No this list is mediocre or whatever. Then you’re not a nice person.”
Here’s a list of books I’ve only read four of but find especially aesthetically pleasing. Be a nice person.
Brandon Brown – Flowering Mall – Roof Books
Dana Ward – This Can’t Be Life – Edge Books
Graham Foust - To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems – Flood Editions
Roger Luckhurst – The Shining – BFI Publishing
Vladimir Nabokov – The Eye – Vintage
Lindsey Wixson is primarily known in the fashion industry for her unique look: her dramatic lips, playful pout and her trademark gap between her two front teeth. The public narrative Wixson and her representatives have crafted for her is a rather detailed one, even providing information about the dreams and aspirations of the young woman had she followed a different path. During her childhood Wixson wanted to follow a culinary or legal career.
Her professional goals became exclusively fashion-oriented in the brief outpour of success that occurred after Steven Meisel chose her for the cover of Italian Vogue. After the cover, Wixson was booked for two luxury brands, Prada and Miu-Miu, both as exclusives. Ever since, she is a widely recognized face and prominent model.
In an interview with WWD, Wixson discussed how she understands her path and her ascend to success. She single-handedly cites reading a Reader’s Digest (RIP!) in a bathroom when she was 12 as the catalyst for her pursuit to become a model: “It was about how Bill Gates — the millionaires — got big. It was talking about how they took the chance and they took their opportunities and they took it to a whole other level.”
Do you ever look around at the world, noticing the people surrounding you? Wondering how they understand their existence, how their brain functions and to what degree their understanding of things is similar to yours?
I do. That is why this video-mosaic of the famous model Lindsey Wixson is possibly the most fascinating thing I have seen in the recent past. It bewilders me to see her and her responses to reporters asking her questions about her experience and opinions as she is preparing for fashion shows. Within about a minute, Wixson manages to fit these gems:
The colors today are gonna wake up. They’re going to be, like, ‘WAKE UP, GUYS!’
BEAAAAUUUTIFULLLL! Oh my god, look at this dress! It’s Roberto Cavalli, it’s crazy!
It’s over the top, glamour, period-retro
I would like to become a pilot.
I feel like a woman from Mars… Obviously, I am, like, taking over the world. Pedal to the medal!