“I am not opposed to poems. I love poems. I love people who write poems, passionately. But the SOCIAL ROLE OF POET is a disaster, just like every other social role. The struggle is for the end of roles, for the end of the division of labor, for the end of the gender distinction, for the end of identity as it exists. Free relations, not roles. Poems made by anyone who makes them. No poets.” — Joshua Clover has one point and it’s about rabbits
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For the could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.”) Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
This was a week that shook.
In my immediate circle, the shaking began on Monday with news of a fatal car wreck, a suicide, and the death of a pet. All this amid photos circulating of all those sweet faces on all those dead bodies in Syria. The next day, down the street from my house, a man brought an automatic rifle and almost 500 rounds of ammunition into an elementary school. You might’ve heard. It is true that nobody was hurt. It is true that a brave and compassionate act likely saved many lives. It is also true that everybody was hurt. Children, teachers, parents. It is also true that many lives are, for now at least, wrecked. That kind of intrusion is crippling (and other students, in other nearby schools that were put on lockdown, understandably believed their own schools had been invaded). Antoinette Tuff’s courage should doubtless be cause for praise. It should relieve us that her breathtaking kindness exists in this world. Still, we tremble.
I heard the scripture quoted above at church this morning. It’s filed in the bulletin under “Lesson.” Not for anything could I tell you what the lesson is, but I’m pretty sure this week taught it to me. There’s a lot in those eleven verses. There is a mountain no beast can touch. There is blood that speaks a word that’s better than the word spoken by the blood of a man who was killed by his brother. What does better mean in that context; what is the word spoken by blood. The opening is especially uncanny in its long list of everything that is not, but that, seemingly, was, given that the last item, the voice, had hearers who responded. And then just when it seems all tidied up at the end with the comparatively bland phrase “an acceptable worship with reverence and awe,” we’re suddenly back in the fire.
“I get so very tired of having to talk about literature. I didn’t begin writing because I wanted to sit in a room and discuss the subjectivity in Wordsworth and Ashbery; I began writing because I had made friends with the dead: they had written to me, in their books, about life on earth and I wanted to write back and say yes, house, bridge, river, hair, no, maybe, never, forever.” — Mary Ruefle (via Amber Sparks)
now I am famished for peace
now I watch a 90 year old movie to
witness dead people talking singing
riding horses samsara
I’ve been walking the border of sleep to find you
dreaming around the circumference of
a hole in the ground
the bravest thing sometimes is
how the morning is greeted
fight for the money or
fight for the soul the saying goes
but another goal is to
fight for neither
A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds. To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their relations. It is to fabricate a beneficent God to explain geological movements. In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification. Comparative rates of flow on these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or, on the contrary, of acceleration and rupture. All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage. READ MORE >
Pyramids. The only desirable tombs. Monoliths, obelisks, this ancient geometry of form. The way energy floats, fuck the new age bullshit sometimes you cannot deny that this is reality. The scent of immortality. Endless lust buried in this cold earth. Aesthetics as holy gods. No competition, only artifice. Beautiful, beautiful artifice. Something to look forward to. Something accountable. My own private structural system. Cold night howls. The expulsive glossolalia’d voice; I AM GOD.1
It’s time we cut out the bullshit. It’s time we start making something that either lifts us into the air or at least moves us forward. Accelerate through fiction and into a new reality. Nothing is perfect but it can always be new.
1#45, excerpted from Errors; or Dreams I’ve Never Had
New York Tyrant/Tyrant Books has recently brought two more important texts into the world.
If you’re familiar with the work of these authors, you don’t need me to tell you it is awesome (as in inspiring awe) and wonderful (as in screaming waffle-irons). If you’ve never held an object from Tyrant Books in your hands, I suggest you find a remedy. First lines are below.
White cone descended in sound blister
—Jack Gilbert, 1925-2012
I say moon is horses in the tempered dark,
because horse is the closest I can get to it.
I sit on the terrace of this worn villa the king’s
telegrapher built on the mountain that looks down
on a blue sea and the small white ferry
that crosses slowly to the next island each noon.
Michiko is dying in the house behind me,
the long windows open so I can hear
the faint sound she will make when she wants
watermelon to suck or so I can take her
to a bucket in the corner of the high-ceilinged room
which is the best we can do for a chamber pot.
She will lean against my leg as she sits
so as not to fall over in her weakness.
How strange and fine to get so near to it.
The arches of her feet are like voices
of children calling in the grove of lemon trees,
where my heart is as helpless as crushed birds.
I think you have a duty to contribute, to go on contributing to what Gore Vidal calls “book chat.” For certain self-interested reasons, you want to keep standards up so that when your next book comes out, it’s more likely that people will get the hang of it. I have no admiration for writers who think at a certain point they can wash their hands of book chat. You should be part of the ongoing debate.
Why? Because they’re awesome. Because they are crash courses in thrilling storytelling. Because they are almost incomprehensible enough to be published by a hip indie lit journal. Because they save me the time and money required to read actual superhero comics, which are mostly garbage anyway (with all due love and respect to their creators: I know you guys are mostly doing your best with a ludicrously difficult format and schedule). Because I have a lot of fondness for characters I enjoyed as a child. Because they are so bad and so beautiful. (I’m also in it for the pouches.)
Superhero Wikipedia pages are insane because hero comics are insane. Understanding the conditions and constraints under which any story is produced will of course help you better appreciate said story, but in the case of hero comics it’s really the only way to understand most of what happens. Here are the key facts: 1) Hero comics are published on a monthly schedule. 2) Hero comics serve two consumer bases: teenage boys, who remember nothing, and nostalgic adults, who remember everything. 3) Hero comics almost always take place on what seems to be a present-day Earth. 4) Though comic book movies have never been bigger business, actual comic book sales seem always to be on the verge of collapse.
Well, there are two ways to look at having a career. One way to look at it is as though there’s a finite amount of attention and praise in this world to be earned and enjoyed, and thus look upon other writers as enemies or Darwinian competitors. The other way is to imagine you’re one of a bunch of lucky people riding a cosmic wave into the shore. Writing is hard. Writing out of anger and resentment is even harder. The best reason to help other writers is to remind yourself why you’re writing anything in the first place: to share something.
I’ve devoted some time to determining whether a sound is rain, wind, or traffic. Maybe old people, or at least old monks, can accept a sound without an apparent source. Because the source does not change the sound itself. A reality check is a more serious thing than a wake-up call.
Nor, as it pertains to the arts, is “realistic” an at-all useful descriptor of a work. There was a period of art and letters called Realism, but the Modernists and Post-Modernists who rejected the Realistic mode were not rejecting the attempt to record reality; they rejected the way the Realists thought they were doing it. They thought the Realists didn’t get the representation of reality right. Hence fragments, streams, layers and meta-layers, lists, cuts.
When people say, “I don’t like realistic novels,” I can’t figure out what they mean. What kind of novels are they talking about? I would put it to you that they don’t know, either.
The fundamental error in the thought and literature of the West is the conception of dreaming as the opposite of reality. Dreams are not metaphors, wishes, or fantasies. They do not contain symbols or hidden truths. More to the point, reality is not accessible to us; our senses filter and ferment it, and organize it so that we may survive. Dreams, we experience in total. What we perceive in a dream is the dream itself. READ MORE >
When I read interviews with fancy, famous writers, I am somewhat bewildered. These writers discuss craft and process and influence in near-spiritual terms as if they exist on an alternate plane where they are perpetually able to articulate profundity. There’s writing and there’s being a writer and the more success you achieve, the more you have to spend your time being a writer—being interviewed, writing op eds and essays, getting your picture taken, coming up with pithy lists of what you are reading or cooking or how you are spending each hour of the day and maybe, just maybe, writing new books. All this business of being a writer must have some purpose. There must be an audience with an insatiable desire for the marginalia and minutiae of famous writers or it might be that this is part of the game—write book, sell book, sell book, sell book.
There is writing and there is being a writer and you can’t have one without the other. Helen Dewitt, author of Lightning Rods, alludes to this in a comment on the Paris Review blog when she notes that, “the industry requires the professional to put writing on hold not just for a day or two, or a week, but for years,” and that after he wrote Freedom, “Franzen then had to do a roadshow to shift copies of the artifact. The fact that his editor saw him as the most important writer of his generation did not mean that his editor thought his time would better be spent (gasp) writing.”
It must be exhausting being a writer, all that blah blah blah. I read interviews with fancy, famous writers and wonder, “Do they ever watch television or are they spending that valuable time thinking up intelligent answers to interview questions?”
But these operations do not occur in neutral territory, Kaye was quick to point out. Burroughs treats all conditions of existence as results of cosmic conflicts between competing intelligence agencies. In making themselves real, entities (must) also manufacture realities for themselves: realities whose potency often depends upon the stupefaction, subjugation and enslavement of populations, and whose existence is in conflict with other ‘reality programs’. Burroughs’s fiction deliberately renounces the status of plausible representation in order to operate directly upon this plane of magical war. Where realism merely reproduces the currently dominant reality program from inside, never identifying the existence of the program as such, Burroughs seeks to get outside the control codes in order to dismantle and rearrange them. Every act of writing is a sorcerous operation, a partisan action in a war where multitudes of factual events are guided by the powers of illusion … (WV 253-4). Even representative realism participates – albeit unknowingly – in magical war, collaborating with the dominant control system by implicitly endorsing its claim to be the only possible reality.
From the controllers’ point of view, Kaye said, ‘it is of course imperative that Burroughs is thought of as merely a writer of fiction. That’s why they have gone to such lengths to sideline him into a ghetto of literary experimentation.’