January 21st, 2010 / 5:22 am
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‘Late-Night Special’: A Conversation between Dennis Cooper and Blake Butler

Dennis Cooper and I met outside of PS122–the East Village-ish space for his glorious Jerk–and stood in the cold and talked for a while. Eventually, Blake Butler and Justin Taylor showed up (he’d be listening–a conversation between him and Josh Cohen is forthcoming). We were in no little rush, since Dennis had to be back at the theater in forty-five minutes. I wanted to do the interview in a Subway. No one thought that was funny. Eventually we ended up in some ill-lit restaurant chosen on a whim. Dennis ordered a quesadilla. He eventually finished it. Dennis is a vegetarian.

I listened. I recorded.

There was such bad music playing in there.

This is a pretty long conversation.

AN: For you guys, what are the borders, if any, between poetry and prose?

BB: Well, you know how I feel about this. I’ve ranted about this before. I think great writing is great writing. I don’t understand–all of the great fiction that I love is based on sound and is beautiful sentences. You can read books for fun, but all of the books you return to, that extend over time, are poetry, or are poetically formed, so, for me, I don’t really care to define the difference. There might be some kind of criterion

DC: I feel the same way. I came out of poetry. It seems to me that there’s a pressure put on language when it has to hold your attention, like fiction does. Poetry has this whole–I mean, you read Ashberry or something, it’s completely floaty, it doesn’t have to have this forward momentum necessarily, but fiction always has to have forward momentum, so that puts a pressure on the sound. There’s a streamlining effect or something. But coming out of poetry, I don’t ever think about that. I don’t care. But I just feel sometimes when there’s paragraphs, and when there’s some sort of narrative somehow in it, that there’s a streamlining that happens. And I try to fight it, basically.

BB: And it seems like there are good examples that do it the other way. Like Beckett. If you broke up Beckett, a lot of that could easily be called poetry. Frank Stanford. That’s a novel. The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, that’s like a novel to me, but it’s called poetry just because it’s broken up and unpunctuated.

DC: Also, the best fiction, I think, thinks about the connection between paragraphs like the connection between stanzas in a poem. I always do. This is a way to cause some kind of negative but operative space to happen between the paragraphs. Which I think is really important.

BB: So Dennis, what made you stop focusing as much on poetry, and made you write novels more often?

DC: Well, I started with fiction, but it was just so bad. I always wanted to write novels, but I couldn’t do it for a long time. I had really big ambitions from the beginning. So the poetry: I was able to get the knack of doing that. I was basically publishing poetry to get my chops together. It was just sort of a transition. I still write poetry once in a while.

BB: Do you think poetry’s easier? Harder? Not any different?

DC: I think a really great poem is really hard. But just strictly because it’s shorter it’s easier. I know what a great poem is, and I can’t write one. I don’t know the form well enough. Again, Ashberry just writes stuff up really fast, and I don’t know how he does it. I always think of him as the perfect example.

AN (mumbles and stutters a lot): Earlier you were describing to me how your fiction writing takes a lot out of you. Is it the same with poetry?

DC: No, no. It’s just a little thing. Sometimes in a novel there’s an effect you want to have, but in poetry, it’s just like: I’m going to do that. Poetry is more emotional for me. I have a specific thing I do in poetry that’s kind of like this loneliness, kind of a weird disconnection. Poetry is for specific things for me.

BB: I started writing poems, too, and I guess it was typical in like finding the beats and then expanding from the beats and then figuring out how to talk more loosely, with a looser tongue, whereas when you read a novel it seems more amorphous in how it was formed, more difficult. You learn ways to speak–the way you speak inside yourself in poems, because like you said, it’s a smaller act, even though it’s harder, in a way. But then once I got to a certain point of seeing the way words can go together, it kind of was a natural progression to want to make a larger object, once I started to understand the bits and pieces. So, not to say maybe that fiction and poetry are the same thing, but that great writing is found in a lot of the same tenets.

AN (stupidly, stuttering a lot): Do any of you find any value in the term prose-poetry?

DC: We were talking the other night about the HTMLGiant anthology, whatever might happen. I was thinking of people who might be included in it, and then I was thinking Mike Young. And I thought, well that’s poetry not fiction, but you know, I always think of his stuff as not being poetry. I mean that’s prose-poetry, right? That’s exactly what you’re talking about. But to me they’re like little fictions.

BB: I think the thing that maybe breaks it up for me is maybe, well, when Mike does those kinds of poems, they usually build into a cycle, and then together they form a book. So I like the idea of books more than I like the idea of a novel or short story collection. That, to me, gives more power to each individual piece.

AN (stuttering severely): You guys write in a sort of prose-poetryish [what the fuck?] kind of way, and there’s a very poetic rhythm, and you use a lot of poetic techniques. But there are still characters, and there’s some semblance of a plot. You can pick the meat of the plot out of the poetry of it. What value do you guys see in plot coming out of sentences?

DC: Energy. That’s all. Moving the eye along, tricking the eye. It’s just a way to trigger and experiment with the reader’s attention span to me.

BB: The sound for me kind of dictates the plot more than the plot dictating the sound. That keeps the plot from becoming a predictable story, even though there’s that motion to keep the reader instead of it being this language for-itself. It has a confine, but it creates its own confine, rather than being placed in order in that way. I think a good example I would wonder about with you, Dennis, is Period. That book, to me, is just one of the most perfectly formed objects in that way. There’s an outside structure that’s very clear, but then interiorly those sentences build also within each little section. Was writing Period different than writing the other books in the cycle?

DC: It was the hardest. It has this big problem, which I never could solve. It has this one problem. That section with the online stuff. It works okay, but that’s the part where the novel becomes too opaque and its machinations are a little more shallow than in the others. It pulls you through the puzzle, but I know that part just doesn’t work ideally.

BB: So how did you reckon with it being in there?

DC: It had to be there. There was no choice.  Different parts of the novel have to connect up in very particular ways. I call the process rhyming–things have to rhyme. It’s less like a narrative gradually adding up than a series of things rhyming and forming a whole in a formal way. It was part of that structure, and it had to be there.  If that makes any sense at all.

BB: Visually rhyming? Structurally?

DC: It’s hard to explain. You set up something, and it can be like a sound or a visual cue or it can be structural or narrative in essence, and I create a sequence of these things, and they’re imbedded throughout the novel as details or words or phrases, and they create resemblances. Ideally, if you read the novel, you start to notice the resemblances, and the resemblances suggest references and blah blah blah.

BB: Image repetition?

DC: It can take the form of a lot of different things. I’m sorry I can’t explain it well.  Creating that system is really laborious and kind of intricate, and it’s as hard to characterize swiftly as it is to do, I guess.

BB: In Period that seems to be more present. Those elements are very clearly defined, at least some of them, and then the other things go around them.

DC: Well that’s the bare bones book of the cycle, the one where the game is on the surface level. That whole book is all about the Dagger stuff, the notations and observations and manipulations of time that character makes. His game is the key to it. That’s like the switchboard.

AN: Leading into the next question, the structural rhyming you talk about seems to be present in the way you deal with the body.

DC: What do you mean?

AN: There’s a sort of flattening of the body, a de-ritualizing. Anyway, you both deal with the body in very singular ways. It’s sort of reflective of how you both deal with sentences. How do you both approach the body in writing?

BB: That’s pretty much all I talk about. I can’t get over bodies and houses. I think all of my favorite of my own writing and reading all comes back to this–well, Dennis, I’ve always wanted to talk to you about mazes. I don’t know why I can’t get over the mirroring of rooms internally and rooms outside, and the way those feed back and forth. I think that appears endlessly in, at least, books that have a depth to them in narrative.

DC: Where do you think that came from? Can you isolate it?

BB: The way I started talking about it in Ever is particularly when my grandmother, when she was getting old and dying, her husband died–my grandfather–and she thought he was still in the house. She had one house she lived in and another house next to it that she filled with antiques, and she would stay up all night and watch through the window this house. And then she thought there was a person there, and then she thought there was a woman living in the attic who was telling her to leave this house. She kind of set up in her life this mirroring. Houses inside of bodies, and bodies inside of houses. When my grandmother died, the end of her presence as an active person in my life–I think a lot of my writing comes from my mother, and a lot of my mother comes from her. Those relationships are more important to me than anything else. Even when I’m not talking about rooms or bodies, it always does come back to that. My mom is probably writing my books through me. I feel that my grandmother is writing through my mother. I don’t feel like I write. I just feel like I’m typing. It’s a compilation of bodies, and that’s why I can’t stop talking about bodies.

DC: There are strange similarities between my process and Blake’s. This novel I’m working on now is all about bodies as houses as mazes as language construction and vice versa. That’s all it’s about. Those bodies, their structures, the spaces inside of those bodies, all of my work is about that.

BB: It’s inexhaustible, really. You have bodies, also, as sexual objects, objects of sexual violence. I haven’t really gotten into violence–mine is all internalized. What got you interested in writing intensely about sex?

DC: I’ve never been able to figure that out. I mean, I read Sade really young, etc. With Sade, it was just like, if he could do this, I can do that. I really have no idea. I’ve never had any weird thing happen to me. There was never any strange event. There were a lot of serial killers when I grew up. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a simple things. There was just a point where I realized I can do create a novel and a sequence of them just from thinking complexly about the human body.

BB: It’s an obsession, a fascination.

DC: The violence takes it apart, and there’s nothing there, so then that prioritizes the consciousness or the mind, which is never available. I realized I could do this whole alternative religion thing, and that seemed like a huge area. If I take the body, and I look at the way emotions work inside of the body, and if you add sexuality to it then there’s this weird power, and wanting to simultaneously stop the power and surrender to it, and then you add violence into the mix, and the violence arms the surrender/stop obsession. When I found that combination, it just seemed giant. And it has been. I never stopped writing about that. My work’s not about erotica. People always think my work is about perversion, or sadism, or gayness, but it’s completely uninterested in that stuff. To me, it was really convenient I was gay because I could write about two male bodies, and they make a perfect system. If I were straight, it would’ve been much more complicated. If it’s two males, who have the same body–it’s this kind of doubling, this balance. That’s what really interested me about it.

AN: Would you say that your treatment of bodies is mirrored in your treatment of the sentence as an object?

BB: Books are kind of a mirroring of the same thing. Words inside of sentences inside of paragraphs inside of pages inside of books. It’s all a series of encapsulations. The fun thing, for me, about writing, is almost like programming a computer game or something. Finding those patterns, what you were saying, Dennis, about the rhyming, manipulating that not as if creating a story but as if I were creating a puzzle. It’s just a playful creation.

DC: I really get that whole rhyming and mirroring thing in Scorch Atlas very clearly. The divisions and stuff. I thought, he’s doing this thing too, I totally know what this is. It’s a weirdly similar process for me. To me, on one level, the style is the skin, and then there’s the sentences and words, which form the internal organs, and the punctuation and rhythm in general is the skeleton, and paragraphs are the body parts, etc. And in my stuff, the cycle especially, books are bodies, and the way the cycle is structured is it’s a single body being dismembered. Closer is the body, and then the damage that happens in its narrative destroys the body of the next novel, and so on, and the structure of the each subsequent book has to physically reflect that damage, and that attacking and diminishing and surviving and healing and so on goes all the way through that cycle.

BB: It’s like a skeleton.

DC: Yeah. You get to Period and there’s virtually nothing left. It’s a body and novel on its deathbed, almost a ghost. So Period is less a body than a magic trick attempting to create the illusion of a body. That’s the only way the book would work–if it played this ridiculous trick. There’s kind of an interplay with The Sluts, because I was already working on The Sluts while I was working on Period. There are no real characters in Period apart from George, and he’s only real because his name can’t be spelled backwards coherently. And who’s dead.

BB: So many books that I read, like Dennis’s, that were about bodies, made me feel something about my body. And reading was less of a going-to-the-movies type thing, and more of something that spoke to my body rather than my brain. That’s where some of the power has been lost in books–because it’s become so popular to tell stories, and to have these narratives that are more story-based than what we were talking about at the beginning. Which to me is the foundation of books.

AN: How does all of that happen on the level of the sentence?

BB: The sentence is the cursor, but it has to build. You can take one sentence and put it on the page and have it be powerful, but within the realm of the paragraph, it takes on a different kind of force. That’s why I was saying that having a prose-poem by itself can be strong, and it can be good writing, but it gathers even more power in the accumulation.

DC: And that’s what poetry is. A sentence can be really intense. There’s this Kathy Acker book where she does this whole thing, and then she just stops and says, “I want all of the above to be the sun.” And I was just like, fucking God, how did you do that. You can make a sentence blow someone away. But you can’t make every sentence blow someone away.

BB: Gary Lutz has an interesting way of thinking about that. He’s one of the few writers where maybe every sentence can blow you away. I was reading an interview with him where he said that instead of thinking of the sentence as ideas or narration, every sentence is a conclusion or resolution, where every one of his sentences is a story in itself, in a way. Which is why it takes him ten years to write a book. Or one story a year. And you can read that story over and over again and have no idea how that story was put together.

AN: Blake, I want to ask you a couple of things about the sleep book. Are you still writing with sound in that book? How is the prose happening?

BB: It’s interesting writing non-fiction. Especially since I’ve never done it on a book-length level. Yeah, it’s still coming from sound, but it’s almost coming quicker, because I’m not talking about things that don’t exist totally. I’m talking about things that are inside me, but that I’ve never said, in a way. I’m using the sound to find the best way to say what I want to say, and even in that I have found myself talking without knowing what I’m talking about, which has caused the book to skew. I don’t even think it’s a book of nonfiction necessarily. There are structurally fictional areas that almost sound like something that would be in Ever or any of my other books, but that are still, to me, operating on nonfictional terms. It’s also been interesting, in writing nonfiction, that I’ve been researching. I always said, fuck researching, I just want to talk about what I know intimately myself. But I wrote a lot and then started to do research. Plugging that research into what I already knew allowed me to then go back into the sound part and then give it this other science aspect. I was reading Parables for the Virtual by Brian Massumi, and he’s talking about how nonfiction has died because people have made it into “the essay,” but how nonfiction could be revitalized by taking elements out of totally different fields and such as math, or game theory, and placing them in the middle of this system, and allowing the system to change around it. Which I was doing. And when I read that, it made me even more interested in that idea. And I’m using philosophical ideas, which I’m incorporating in my own way. I’m sure when the book comes out people will tell me, you misread Deleuze here. Of course people are going to say that, because whenever anyone says anything philosophically they get told why they’re wrong. But for me I don’t really care what that is. I’m taking the sentence and I’m putting it in the middle of my system and letting the sentences change around it. So it’s still sound and it’s still out of the body but it’s in this other kind of nether area that has made the book itself turn into a nether area.

DC: So it’s one voice throughout the book?

BB: No. It changes a lot. It has a voice to it. So many books about about how insomnia is hard, and here is how you can cure it. I don’t even know if the book is about insomnia anymore. It’s something else.

AN: It sounds like the process of writing you’re describing is pretty similar to how you write fiction.

BB: It’s totally the exact same. The only thing interesting is bringing in those outside elements and dropping them in, seeing the way my mind works in reaction to them.

AN: The fact that you’re appropriating them makes sense, since they’re coming from inside you.

BB: It feels the same, but it actually feels more exciting than anything I’ve worked on in a while. That might just be because it feels like a different area. Dennis, you have this nonfiction book coming out. You always get this scabby look about it.

DC: It’s not a form I’m ever going to master. I think some things I say in it are kind of interesting. But it’s not a natural form for me. I learned how to do it properly. I know how to fake an essay or review or whatever. I just don’t feel like it has any relationship to my fiction, which is a form I think I understand. When it’s all real life, I can’t write like I write. I could never think about nonfiction the way you’re thinking about it. It’s just not my medium.

BB: It’s unusual. I never thought I could do it until this subject came up.

AN (stuttering stupidly): Do sleep and sound have a relation?

BB: Oh yeah. Maybe that’s what the whole book is about. God, don’t get me started on that. I’ve had sleep trouble my whole life. It kind of develops a way of approaching the world differently. Basically, the state of insomnia is, in a philosophical sense, the self being infiltrated by another presence. You’re constantly seeing your body turned out, like you do in sleep, in dreaming. You can’t control it, but there’s something inside of you that’s playing through your mind. When you’re awake, you start to see these things in a conscious light, in real air, in a way that is very unique. That sleep trouble is probably what guides me to the kind of art that I like. I’ve been going back through all of my older books, and finding that all the lines I would highlight were in some way related to sleep. It’s in almost every book. You can’t pick up a book that doesn’t touch the concept of sleep. And insomnia isn’t the opposite of sleep. It’s the absence of sleep. They’re kind of intertwined more than they are at odds. To me, it’s a consciousness thing, more than it is a restful or awakening thing. Your body starts to take in sound differently. I’ve been talking a lot about holes and tunnels in the body and the way that sounds come into you when you’re aware of it and the way sound comes into you when you’re not aware of it. And how much you can control that. You just become attuned to different kinds of sound when you’re tired. You know what I mean? That’s just an identity thing. A lot of writers have sleeping trouble for the same reason. They get caught up on little things.

AN: Sounds fascinating. And Dennis, the cannibalism book?

DC: Which is barely about cannibalism now.

AN: Is fiction cannibalistic to you?

DC: I suppose. I mean, if I think about that in practical terms–it’s something eating itself. I think of editing and revising and stuff as a kind of self-consumption, I guess.

AN: How do you guys want the body of a reader to respond to a sentence of your own?

DC: Depends on the work.

BB: Well it’s nice that they’re even taking it into their body, first of all. That’s the big problem is getting them to get the sentence in. As long as it gets in there, I’m pretty happy.

DC: There’s this review of Bresson’s films which says something like, “Nothing I’ve ever seen has convulsed me to the depths of my entire being like this.” That’s the goal, but I don’t know. I always think about other writers. Like, it would be cool if someone read this novel and then decided they want to write something.

AN: I guess I could ask, what are the best sentences, to you, doing to your body?

BB: I talked about this recently. For a long time there was this narrative-as-dream thing. I think that’s going away because people have reckoned with that. People have said, I know I’m reading a book, and you don’t have to hide it. I like to feel manipulated by it. I like to feel pressed upon by it. I have a horrible memory for names and words. If I can remember the way I felt–like maybe I read a paragraph and put the book down. With some of my favorite books I can remember where I was sitting. And how the air was around me. Even more than sentences itself, it’s the aggregation of how they came upon me at a time. Even though I’ve talked a lot about Wallace: his books are alive because there’s this consciousness. I can’t think of anyone else who’s created a book that is a brain thinking, speaking, telling you exactly what is there.

AN: Not in a cerebral sense.

BB: No.

AN: An actual, living thing.

DC: Also, like, the best sentences ever written in the world.

BB: Just these things that leave you in awe of books. More than a story–just like, how the fuck did you do that.

DC: It’s really basic and deep. Like, wow! Fuck! I don’t even know what the effect is. It’s overwhelming.

BB: There’s a real duality. Some books I love get me inspired. But then there’s books like Infinite Jest where I just think: how can I ever try to write after reading this?

AN: I’m content just having this book in the world.

BB: Those are just as valuable. And even if those make you quiet for a while. And when you come back you have that inside of your body. Your mind has been changed by that experience. The best part of it is the conversation.

AN: For me, Wallace could never be a stylistic influence. I could never think, I want to write like this. It’s an organism. A living thing that stands by itself. I incorporate it more as a way of being-in-the-world. Rather than a way of thinking about writing, or a new way of writing. It’s not a specific stylistic element.

BB: Not compartmentalized. Just a part of your experience.

AN: Gets right in your skin. And then your organs. Fills up the whole house.

DC: I tried to imitate him. I thought, how did he do this? I started working with longer sentences. Before I read him, I didn’t like long sentences. You can’t get that effect with a short sentence, man. So after I read him, my sentences got a little longer.

AN: How did it work out?

DC: My sentences are nothing like his. I could never touch that particular genius. But I realized that you could construct one sentence and have consist of fifteen different sentences, and those sentences could work and fight with each other inside in a single space.

BB: There are sensory things in Period, again. When the boy is lying in the ditch and thinking about the environment coming over him. That, to me, felt Wallaceian.

DC: Could be. I don’t remember, but it could be.

BB: You don’t want to be Wallace, but you want to create new environments inside of the household.

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127 Comments

  1. David

      Alec! This interview is totally amazing! Thank you so much! This is such a help, you don’t even know it. Again, wonderful work, a true gift.

      Blake, I was especially fascinated by your part here: “I was reading Parables for the Virtual by Brian Massumi, and he’s talking about how nonfiction has died because people have made it into “the essay,” but nonfiction could be revitalized by taking elements out of totally different fields and such as math, or game theory, and placing them in the middle of this system, and allowing the system to change around it. Which I was doing. And when I read that, it made me even more interested in that idea.” I’ve been wondering, – thinking about how to explore – exactly the same thing myself. In terms of sculpting non-fiction (and moreover the actual research content of non-fiction) in ways that draw on other fields, like architecture, or game systems, or algorithms, or even transportation systems that shuttle you down chutes of thought and research. But do you think that this kind of, um, modelling, I suppose, can discuss itself non-fictively as a model – like I mean, say you structure a piece along the lines of a carousel, for argument’s sake – or rather to express it, would I need to turn to yet another model – so, in the example I’ve given, to explain the carousel structure, I’d need to devise a new structure again, explicate the carousel, say, through an elevator structure or something? I’m not sure if I’m making sense. Let me try again. Like, in your non-fiction book, would you say that the turn to philosophy, for instance, at particular moments is the part where the status of your book as non-fiction is most manifestly elaborated – so that the particular importation of other field-models used to structure it announces itself at those moments? If so, do you think what concerns you (and I know you say above you don’t care but like all ‘don’t care’ statements they indicate a kind of resolution not to care) is that people may well say you’re misreading Deleuze because they aren’t reading for what you do with Deleuze? And, extending on from that, do you think a non-fiction can thus only explain the coherence of its outside structure by devising a new structure to explain its use? Say, in this instant, and having not read your book, just as an example I’m plucking out of the air, the mobilisation of philosophy as a kind of set of pegs for the tarpulin of your prose which have to be hammered in? In that event, do you think that this modelling is at the end fictional craft? Or, alternately, would you argue that the modelling, though inevitably metaphorical, is transforming your text into a type of discipline, in the sense of a discrete body of knowledge that stamps all the items it imports with its own imprimatur, and which will never be able to represented exactly one to one with itself? Sorry if this is convoluted beyond all retrievable sense. But if you can make head and tails of it, I’d love any insights you might have.

      I’m sure when the book comes out people will tell me, you misread Deleuze here. Of course people are going to say that, because whenever anyone says anything philosophically they get told why they’re wrong. But for me I don’t really care what that is. I’m taking the sentence and I’m putting it in the middle of my system and letting the sentences change around it. So it’s still sound and it’s still out of the body but it’s in this other kind of nether area that has made the book itself turn into a nether area.

  2. David

      Alec! This interview is totally amazing! Thank you so much! This is such a help, you don’t even know it. Again, wonderful work, a true gift.

      Blake, I was especially fascinated by your part here: “I was reading Parables for the Virtual by Brian Massumi, and he’s talking about how nonfiction has died because people have made it into “the essay,” but nonfiction could be revitalized by taking elements out of totally different fields and such as math, or game theory, and placing them in the middle of this system, and allowing the system to change around it. Which I was doing. And when I read that, it made me even more interested in that idea.” I’ve been wondering, – thinking about how to explore – exactly the same thing myself. In terms of sculpting non-fiction (and moreover the actual research content of non-fiction) in ways that draw on other fields, like architecture, or game systems, or algorithms, or even transportation systems that shuttle you down chutes of thought and research. But do you think that this kind of, um, modelling, I suppose, can discuss itself non-fictively as a model – like I mean, say you structure a piece along the lines of a carousel, for argument’s sake – or rather to express it, would I need to turn to yet another model – so, in the example I’ve given, to explain the carousel structure, I’d need to devise a new structure again, explicate the carousel, say, through an elevator structure or something? I’m not sure if I’m making sense. Let me try again. Like, in your non-fiction book, would you say that the turn to philosophy, for instance, at particular moments is the part where the status of your book as non-fiction is most manifestly elaborated – so that the particular importation of other field-models used to structure it announces itself at those moments? If so, do you think what concerns you (and I know you say above you don’t care but like all ‘don’t care’ statements they indicate a kind of resolution not to care) is that people may well say you’re misreading Deleuze because they aren’t reading for what you do with Deleuze? And, extending on from that, do you think a non-fiction can thus only explain the coherence of its outside structure by devising a new structure to explain its use? Say, in this instant, and having not read your book, just as an example I’m plucking out of the air, the mobilisation of philosophy as a kind of set of pegs for the tarpulin of your prose which have to be hammered in? In that event, do you think that this modelling is at the end fictional craft? Or, alternately, would you argue that the modelling, though inevitably metaphorical, is transforming your text into a type of discipline, in the sense of a discrete body of knowledge that stamps all the items it imports with its own imprimatur, and which will never be able to represented exactly one to one with itself? Sorry if this is convoluted beyond all retrievable sense. But if you can make head and tails of it, I’d love any insights you might have.

      I’m sure when the book comes out people will tell me, you misread Deleuze here. Of course people are going to say that, because whenever anyone says anything philosophically they get told why they’re wrong. But for me I don’t really care what that is. I’m taking the sentence and I’m putting it in the middle of my system and letting the sentences change around it. So it’s still sound and it’s still out of the body but it’s in this other kind of nether area that has made the book itself turn into a nether area.

  3. David

      Alec! This interview is totally amazing! Thank you so much! This is such a help, you don’t even know it. Again, wonderful work, a true gift.

      Blake, I was especially fascinated by your part here: “I was reading Parables for the Virtual by Brian Massumi, and he’s talking about how nonfiction has died because people have made it into “the essay,” but nonfiction could be revitalized by taking elements out of totally different fields and such as math, or game theory, and placing them in the middle of this system, and allowing the system to change around it. Which I was doing. And when I read that, it made me even more interested in that idea.” I’ve been wondering, – thinking about how to explore – exactly the same thing myself. In terms of sculpting non-fiction (and moreover the actual research content of non-fiction) in ways that draw on other fields, like architecture, or game systems, or algorithms, or even transportation systems that shuttle you down chutes of thought and research. But do you think that this kind of, um, modelling, I suppose, can discuss itself non-fictively as a model – like I mean, say you structure a piece along the lines of a carousel, for argument’s sake – or rather to express it, would I need to turn to yet another model – so, in the example I’ve given, to explain the carousel structure, I’d need to devise a new structure again, explicate the carousel, say, through an elevator structure or something? I’m not sure if I’m making sense. Let me try again. Like, in your non-fiction book, would you say that the turn to philosophy, for instance, at particular moments is the part where the status of your book as non-fiction is most manifestly elaborated – so that the particular importation of other field-models used to structure it announces itself at those moments? If so, do you think what concerns you (and I know you say above you don’t care but like all ‘don’t care’ statements they indicate a kind of resolution not to care) is that people may well say you’re misreading Deleuze because they aren’t reading for what you do with Deleuze? And, extending on from that, do you think a non-fiction can thus only explain the coherence of its outside structure by devising a new structure to explain its use? Say, in this instant, and having not read your book, just as an example I’m plucking out of the air, the mobilisation of philosophy as a kind of set of pegs for the tarpulin of your prose which have to be hammered in? In that event, do you think that this modelling is at the end fictional craft? Or, alternately, would you argue that the modelling, though inevitably metaphorical, is transforming your text into a type of discipline, in the sense of a discrete body of knowledge that stamps all the items it imports with its own imprimatur, and which will never be able to represented exactly one to one with itself? Sorry if this is convoluted beyond all retrievable sense. But if you can make head and tails of it, I’d love any insights you might have.

      I’m sure when the book comes out people will tell me, you misread Deleuze here. Of course people are going to say that, because whenever anyone says anything philosophically they get told why they’re wrong. But for me I don’t really care what that is. I’m taking the sentence and I’m putting it in the middle of my system and letting the sentences change around it. So it’s still sound and it’s still out of the body but it’s in this other kind of nether area that has made the book itself turn into a nether area.

  4. O.B. De Alessi

      Really, really superb stuff, all of you. I got so much into it while reading it I actually became kind of emotional. It’s really something when interviews do that, I suppose.

  5. O.B. De Alessi

      Really, really superb stuff, all of you. I got so much into it while reading it I actually became kind of emotional. It’s really something when interviews do that, I suppose.

  6. O.B. De Alessi

      Really, really superb stuff, all of you. I got so much into it while reading it I actually became kind of emotional. It’s really something when interviews do that, I suppose.

  7. David

      Oops, sorry, ignore that hanging citation at the bottom there. I copy-pasted it into the comment box for easier reference as I typed and forgot to erase before posting.

  8. David

      Oops, sorry, ignore that hanging citation at the bottom there. I copy-pasted it into the comment box for easier reference as I typed and forgot to erase before posting.

  9. David

      Oops, sorry, ignore that hanging citation at the bottom there. I copy-pasted it into the comment box for easier reference as I typed and forgot to erase before posting.

  10. Amelia

      I’m interested by the old “great writing is great writing,” which is sort of a cop-out and sort of not. I get it, that these different genres can be broken into concepts of language or feeling and judged accordingly (of course, calling a piece of art “great” assumes judging it, which some might have a problem with but I have no problem with). I think about the idea in terms of visual art, which I know less about, but still see that while great art is great art, there are reasons why we break art into categories like impressionist and cubist etc. We make these distinctions partly for organization’s sake, but perhaps more for the way we can achieve a more precise understanding of the individual piece, in grouping it with pieces we’ve deemed similar.

      All that said, it’s not the responsibility of the artist to categorize themselves while they’re working. It’s the responsibility of critics (and by “critics” I mean “everybody else”) to use these distinctions in ways that make the work take shape to them. The way our minds work is through categorization and comparison and the labels are a part of that. It’s a little irresponsible therefore to call oneself a poet or non-poet or even to say one is trying poetry or fiction, but it’s on the same level as throwing an orange peel on the ground, i.e., who cares.

  11. Amelia

      I’m interested by the old “great writing is great writing,” which is sort of a cop-out and sort of not. I get it, that these different genres can be broken into concepts of language or feeling and judged accordingly (of course, calling a piece of art “great” assumes judging it, which some might have a problem with but I have no problem with). I think about the idea in terms of visual art, which I know less about, but still see that while great art is great art, there are reasons why we break art into categories like impressionist and cubist etc. We make these distinctions partly for organization’s sake, but perhaps more for the way we can achieve a more precise understanding of the individual piece, in grouping it with pieces we’ve deemed similar.

      All that said, it’s not the responsibility of the artist to categorize themselves while they’re working. It’s the responsibility of critics (and by “critics” I mean “everybody else”) to use these distinctions in ways that make the work take shape to them. The way our minds work is through categorization and comparison and the labels are a part of that. It’s a little irresponsible therefore to call oneself a poet or non-poet or even to say one is trying poetry or fiction, but it’s on the same level as throwing an orange peel on the ground, i.e., who cares.

  12. Amelia

      I’m interested by the old “great writing is great writing,” which is sort of a cop-out and sort of not. I get it, that these different genres can be broken into concepts of language or feeling and judged accordingly (of course, calling a piece of art “great” assumes judging it, which some might have a problem with but I have no problem with). I think about the idea in terms of visual art, which I know less about, but still see that while great art is great art, there are reasons why we break art into categories like impressionist and cubist etc. We make these distinctions partly for organization’s sake, but perhaps more for the way we can achieve a more precise understanding of the individual piece, in grouping it with pieces we’ve deemed similar.

      All that said, it’s not the responsibility of the artist to categorize themselves while they’re working. It’s the responsibility of critics (and by “critics” I mean “everybody else”) to use these distinctions in ways that make the work take shape to them. The way our minds work is through categorization and comparison and the labels are a part of that. It’s a little irresponsible therefore to call oneself a poet or non-poet or even to say one is trying poetry or fiction, but it’s on the same level as throwing an orange peel on the ground, i.e., who cares.

  13. Blake Butler

      hi david,

      i think the concept can work a lot of ways. in some instances when i used deleuze or something it came up as a way of thinking formally about things going on, which works in a pretty traditional essay-style even if the ideas used are a little out of the box. other times the method comes as just dropping in an odd phrase or fact that seems to intuitively fit but for no clear reason and then seeing how those lines bleed together, and what forms around it. i think that the more i started doing this latter method, the more i saw the text turning into something that felt really different, and got me excited.

      as far as misreading and pegs, yeah, i think i am more interested in the language and the ideas as they are appropriated in a body, rather than necessarily ‘what delueze meant when he wrote that’ or whoever, etc. while of course the original texts have a logic and a method behind them, i think there is just as much utility in the appropriation of those language that carry the ideas for other means, and part of the fun is the reinterpretation, or repurposing if you will, even when the idea is used in context as if it is not being repurposed. a toolshed rather than a rubric, or something. fun and delving rather than debate.

  14. Blake Butler

      hi david,

      i think the concept can work a lot of ways. in some instances when i used deleuze or something it came up as a way of thinking formally about things going on, which works in a pretty traditional essay-style even if the ideas used are a little out of the box. other times the method comes as just dropping in an odd phrase or fact that seems to intuitively fit but for no clear reason and then seeing how those lines bleed together, and what forms around it. i think that the more i started doing this latter method, the more i saw the text turning into something that felt really different, and got me excited.

      as far as misreading and pegs, yeah, i think i am more interested in the language and the ideas as they are appropriated in a body, rather than necessarily ‘what delueze meant when he wrote that’ or whoever, etc. while of course the original texts have a logic and a method behind them, i think there is just as much utility in the appropriation of those language that carry the ideas for other means, and part of the fun is the reinterpretation, or repurposing if you will, even when the idea is used in context as if it is not being repurposed. a toolshed rather than a rubric, or something. fun and delving rather than debate.

  15. Blake Butler

      hi david,

      i think the concept can work a lot of ways. in some instances when i used deleuze or something it came up as a way of thinking formally about things going on, which works in a pretty traditional essay-style even if the ideas used are a little out of the box. other times the method comes as just dropping in an odd phrase or fact that seems to intuitively fit but for no clear reason and then seeing how those lines bleed together, and what forms around it. i think that the more i started doing this latter method, the more i saw the text turning into something that felt really different, and got me excited.

      as far as misreading and pegs, yeah, i think i am more interested in the language and the ideas as they are appropriated in a body, rather than necessarily ‘what delueze meant when he wrote that’ or whoever, etc. while of course the original texts have a logic and a method behind them, i think there is just as much utility in the appropriation of those language that carry the ideas for other means, and part of the fun is the reinterpretation, or repurposing if you will, even when the idea is used in context as if it is not being repurposed. a toolshed rather than a rubric, or something. fun and delving rather than debate.

  16. Blake Butler

      yeah, i probably dodged the question, mainly because it doesn’t matter to me: i agree, categorizing is for the birds, i mean the critics.

  17. Blake Butler

      yeah, i probably dodged the question, mainly because it doesn’t matter to me: i agree, categorizing is for the birds, i mean the critics.

  18. Blake Butler

      yeah, i probably dodged the question, mainly because it doesn’t matter to me: i agree, categorizing is for the birds, i mean the critics.

  19. Amelia

      Any moment not spent in active creation is spent as a critic. (Either you are the bird or you’re watching it.)

  20. Amelia

      Any moment not spent in active creation is spent as a critic. (Either you are the bird or you’re watching it.)

  21. Amelia

      Any moment not spent in active creation is spent as a critic. (Either you are the bird or you’re watching it.)

  22. Blake Butler

      must be tiring

  23. Blake Butler

      must be tiring

  24. Blake Butler

      must be tiring

  25. Blake Butler

      oh ps, please welcome the by now quite familiar Alec Niedenthal to the giant house!

  26. Blake Butler

      oh ps, please welcome the by now quite familiar Alec Niedenthal to the giant house!

  27. Blake Butler

      oh ps, please welcome the by now quite familiar Alec Niedenthal to the giant house!

  28. David

      that’s really interesting. i really agree with you about the idea of a toolshed rather than a rubric and love that articulation of it. and yes, yes, fun and delving, absolutely, rather than debate. i really agree too on the utility of appropriation, i think that knowledge’s ability to allow that happen, to be re-purposed like that, is almost like the literary element of knowledge generally, maybe? i was wondering though whether that literary act is in itself fictive or non-fictive (because ‘literature’ of course is not defined by fiction or non-fiction and can be either). i became tangled a bit above but what i’m wondering: do you think it is a necessarily fictional operation, even in a non-fictional text, to engage in that kind of re-purposing, a kind of re-making up of the material (which is not to say the claims made thereby become any less true but they depend more on reassigning the symbolic signification of the words)? or would you argue it’s more like what happens when a technical or even an academic discipline arranges certain resources or materials that originate elsewhere (resources and materials that could, and perhaps even, do have a more ‘natural’ home in quite different bodies of knowledge) into its own coherent system by stamping its own imprimatur upon them and so turning the words into discrete terms of application in the context of the field of inquiry being undertaken? by which i mean, would you see that method as involving re-metaphorization or re-literalization of the material, if you follow me? and if it’s different things at different times, do you think that the two sit in tension with one another as different modes of saying it slant, to draw on Dickinson’s dictum? or what possibilities or frictions do you think emerges in a text between those two different methods? i’m very interested to know what you might think about this as it really touches on a lot of things i’m trying to work out in terms of achieving certain analytical and also certain literary effects.

  29. David

      that’s really interesting. i really agree with you about the idea of a toolshed rather than a rubric and love that articulation of it. and yes, yes, fun and delving, absolutely, rather than debate. i really agree too on the utility of appropriation, i think that knowledge’s ability to allow that happen, to be re-purposed like that, is almost like the literary element of knowledge generally, maybe? i was wondering though whether that literary act is in itself fictive or non-fictive (because ‘literature’ of course is not defined by fiction or non-fiction and can be either). i became tangled a bit above but what i’m wondering: do you think it is a necessarily fictional operation, even in a non-fictional text, to engage in that kind of re-purposing, a kind of re-making up of the material (which is not to say the claims made thereby become any less true but they depend more on reassigning the symbolic signification of the words)? or would you argue it’s more like what happens when a technical or even an academic discipline arranges certain resources or materials that originate elsewhere (resources and materials that could, and perhaps even, do have a more ‘natural’ home in quite different bodies of knowledge) into its own coherent system by stamping its own imprimatur upon them and so turning the words into discrete terms of application in the context of the field of inquiry being undertaken? by which i mean, would you see that method as involving re-metaphorization or re-literalization of the material, if you follow me? and if it’s different things at different times, do you think that the two sit in tension with one another as different modes of saying it slant, to draw on Dickinson’s dictum? or what possibilities or frictions do you think emerges in a text between those two different methods? i’m very interested to know what you might think about this as it really touches on a lot of things i’m trying to work out in terms of achieving certain analytical and also certain literary effects.

  30. David

      that’s really interesting. i really agree with you about the idea of a toolshed rather than a rubric and love that articulation of it. and yes, yes, fun and delving, absolutely, rather than debate. i really agree too on the utility of appropriation, i think that knowledge’s ability to allow that happen, to be re-purposed like that, is almost like the literary element of knowledge generally, maybe? i was wondering though whether that literary act is in itself fictive or non-fictive (because ‘literature’ of course is not defined by fiction or non-fiction and can be either). i became tangled a bit above but what i’m wondering: do you think it is a necessarily fictional operation, even in a non-fictional text, to engage in that kind of re-purposing, a kind of re-making up of the material (which is not to say the claims made thereby become any less true but they depend more on reassigning the symbolic signification of the words)? or would you argue it’s more like what happens when a technical or even an academic discipline arranges certain resources or materials that originate elsewhere (resources and materials that could, and perhaps even, do have a more ‘natural’ home in quite different bodies of knowledge) into its own coherent system by stamping its own imprimatur upon them and so turning the words into discrete terms of application in the context of the field of inquiry being undertaken? by which i mean, would you see that method as involving re-metaphorization or re-literalization of the material, if you follow me? and if it’s different things at different times, do you think that the two sit in tension with one another as different modes of saying it slant, to draw on Dickinson’s dictum? or what possibilities or frictions do you think emerges in a text between those two different methods? i’m very interested to know what you might think about this as it really touches on a lot of things i’m trying to work out in terms of achieving certain analytical and also certain literary effects.

  31. Blake Butler

      i think it is more important to be true to the body of the text you are creating than true to something outside it. so, in what you are asking, there are certainly parameters or potential signifiers of error in the way you handled these appropriations, but it is more on the new terms rather than on the borrowed terms, if that makes sense? i guess in that way it resembles more the framework of a fiction, where you are creating something but it still demands an internal integrity, which both hits with and against the actual world, recreating something about it in a created space. but also, since what we’re talking about here is ultimately to be called ‘nonfiction’ there is a certain kind of other lens put upon it, one that changes the rules even of fiction i think, and could potentially open a lot of doors in the way of consciousness (at least that’s what i am hoping to aim at). this makes it both a lot more fun, and at least as i’ve been doing it has been for me defining terrain i hadn’t played with.

      in the book i’m working in, there are certain areas where the speaking could, and likely will, be called ‘fiction’ in that it is creating its own space, even if that space is derived from human interaction, even more so than one does in a novel. there’s a blurring there, and i think maybe this is what massumi was talking about in the context of affect, that ends up hybridizing the text body in such a way that it is many things at once, which is definitely re-metaphorizing and re-literalizing, all within the body of a text that is based on human thought rather than parables or narratives.

      i wish i knew of more work that does what i’m talking about here. john d’agata’s new book kind of nails it, as does a lot of the stuff in his two anthologies of essays. i’ve become kind of ravenous lately for this kind of supposedly termed ‘creative nonfiction’ or ‘lyric essays,’ which are again two terms that don’t really get at all what’s on the game. it’s a living text.

  32. Blake Butler

      i think it is more important to be true to the body of the text you are creating than true to something outside it. so, in what you are asking, there are certainly parameters or potential signifiers of error in the way you handled these appropriations, but it is more on the new terms rather than on the borrowed terms, if that makes sense? i guess in that way it resembles more the framework of a fiction, where you are creating something but it still demands an internal integrity, which both hits with and against the actual world, recreating something about it in a created space. but also, since what we’re talking about here is ultimately to be called ‘nonfiction’ there is a certain kind of other lens put upon it, one that changes the rules even of fiction i think, and could potentially open a lot of doors in the way of consciousness (at least that’s what i am hoping to aim at). this makes it both a lot more fun, and at least as i’ve been doing it has been for me defining terrain i hadn’t played with.

      in the book i’m working in, there are certain areas where the speaking could, and likely will, be called ‘fiction’ in that it is creating its own space, even if that space is derived from human interaction, even more so than one does in a novel. there’s a blurring there, and i think maybe this is what massumi was talking about in the context of affect, that ends up hybridizing the text body in such a way that it is many things at once, which is definitely re-metaphorizing and re-literalizing, all within the body of a text that is based on human thought rather than parables or narratives.

      i wish i knew of more work that does what i’m talking about here. john d’agata’s new book kind of nails it, as does a lot of the stuff in his two anthologies of essays. i’ve become kind of ravenous lately for this kind of supposedly termed ‘creative nonfiction’ or ‘lyric essays,’ which are again two terms that don’t really get at all what’s on the game. it’s a living text.

  33. Blake Butler

      i think it is more important to be true to the body of the text you are creating than true to something outside it. so, in what you are asking, there are certainly parameters or potential signifiers of error in the way you handled these appropriations, but it is more on the new terms rather than on the borrowed terms, if that makes sense? i guess in that way it resembles more the framework of a fiction, where you are creating something but it still demands an internal integrity, which both hits with and against the actual world, recreating something about it in a created space. but also, since what we’re talking about here is ultimately to be called ‘nonfiction’ there is a certain kind of other lens put upon it, one that changes the rules even of fiction i think, and could potentially open a lot of doors in the way of consciousness (at least that’s what i am hoping to aim at). this makes it both a lot more fun, and at least as i’ve been doing it has been for me defining terrain i hadn’t played with.

      in the book i’m working in, there are certain areas where the speaking could, and likely will, be called ‘fiction’ in that it is creating its own space, even if that space is derived from human interaction, even more so than one does in a novel. there’s a blurring there, and i think maybe this is what massumi was talking about in the context of affect, that ends up hybridizing the text body in such a way that it is many things at once, which is definitely re-metaphorizing and re-literalizing, all within the body of a text that is based on human thought rather than parables or narratives.

      i wish i knew of more work that does what i’m talking about here. john d’agata’s new book kind of nails it, as does a lot of the stuff in his two anthologies of essays. i’ve become kind of ravenous lately for this kind of supposedly termed ‘creative nonfiction’ or ‘lyric essays,’ which are again two terms that don’t really get at all what’s on the game. it’s a living text.

  34. David

      lot of thought-food here, thanks heaps, blake

  35. David

      lot of thought-food here, thanks heaps, blake

  36. David

      lot of thought-food here, thanks heaps, blake

  37. Blake Butler

      what are you working on david?

      also, any books that do this kind of thing for you?

  38. Blake Butler

      what are you working on david?

      also, any books that do this kind of thing for you?

  39. Blake Butler

      what are you working on david?

      also, any books that do this kind of thing for you?

  40. magick mike

      this interview makes me uncomfortable

      i like all three people involved very much

      but

      it is like dennis cooper interview from bizarro land

      i am not saying that is a bad thing, inherently, but having read every other available dennis interview a million times this seems so fucking different i don’t even know what’s going on.

  41. magick mike

      this interview makes me uncomfortable

      i like all three people involved very much

      but

      it is like dennis cooper interview from bizarro land

      i am not saying that is a bad thing, inherently, but having read every other available dennis interview a million times this seems so fucking different i don’t even know what’s going on.

  42. magick mike

      this interview makes me uncomfortable

      i like all three people involved very much

      but

      it is like dennis cooper interview from bizarro land

      i am not saying that is a bad thing, inherently, but having read every other available dennis interview a million times this seems so fucking different i don’t even know what’s going on.

  43. Blake Butler

      why so mike?

  44. Blake Butler

      why so mike?

  45. Blake Butler

      why so mike?

  46. magick mike

      I don’t really know, like, it seems like Dennis is talking about his work in a way that I’ve at least never seen him do before? I think maybe I’m just pissed that the only credence that Dennis is willing to give his plots here is their capacity to instill energy into a piece. Dennis’s work has never been about his sentences for me, personally (though I know he has addressed his working at the level of the sentence before), it’s been about the fucking divine level of the subaltern body (which he does mentions here) and how fucking affecting that divinity is, the level of obsession, the emptiness of characters. I understand parallels between the ideas that attract me and the way the words work, I like that, but something about how he talks about his own work here seems like he’s just answering questions as mirrors of your answers (which, your answers are Blake Butler answers, no bizarro land there [that’s not a slight, just qualifying for the following sentence here]), but this interview is weird to me because it’s almost Dennis giving Blake answers and that kind of freaks me out, it’s like a sublimated translation. Maybe it’s entirely me here, and maybe it’s my absence except for rare occasions from Dennis’s blog for the last year, but this shit just weirds me out for some reason? I don’t know, maybe I need to reread this closer or something.

  47. magick mike

      I don’t really know, like, it seems like Dennis is talking about his work in a way that I’ve at least never seen him do before? I think maybe I’m just pissed that the only credence that Dennis is willing to give his plots here is their capacity to instill energy into a piece. Dennis’s work has never been about his sentences for me, personally (though I know he has addressed his working at the level of the sentence before), it’s been about the fucking divine level of the subaltern body (which he does mentions here) and how fucking affecting that divinity is, the level of obsession, the emptiness of characters. I understand parallels between the ideas that attract me and the way the words work, I like that, but something about how he talks about his own work here seems like he’s just answering questions as mirrors of your answers (which, your answers are Blake Butler answers, no bizarro land there [that’s not a slight, just qualifying for the following sentence here]), but this interview is weird to me because it’s almost Dennis giving Blake answers and that kind of freaks me out, it’s like a sublimated translation. Maybe it’s entirely me here, and maybe it’s my absence except for rare occasions from Dennis’s blog for the last year, but this shit just weirds me out for some reason? I don’t know, maybe I need to reread this closer or something.

  48. magick mike

      I don’t really know, like, it seems like Dennis is talking about his work in a way that I’ve at least never seen him do before? I think maybe I’m just pissed that the only credence that Dennis is willing to give his plots here is their capacity to instill energy into a piece. Dennis’s work has never been about his sentences for me, personally (though I know he has addressed his working at the level of the sentence before), it’s been about the fucking divine level of the subaltern body (which he does mentions here) and how fucking affecting that divinity is, the level of obsession, the emptiness of characters. I understand parallels between the ideas that attract me and the way the words work, I like that, but something about how he talks about his own work here seems like he’s just answering questions as mirrors of your answers (which, your answers are Blake Butler answers, no bizarro land there [that’s not a slight, just qualifying for the following sentence here]), but this interview is weird to me because it’s almost Dennis giving Blake answers and that kind of freaks me out, it’s like a sublimated translation. Maybe it’s entirely me here, and maybe it’s my absence except for rare occasions from Dennis’s blog for the last year, but this shit just weirds me out for some reason? I don’t know, maybe I need to reread this closer or something.

  49. Blake Butler

      hm. since it’s a conversation it might feel different than other ways, but i think dennis, in what i know of his speaking, has always been about sentences. action comes from the sentence, or as he says above, it’s about maintaining a level of interest that moves through the book rather than just sound or just plot. that seems definitive to his work to me.

  50. Blake Butler

      hm. since it’s a conversation it might feel different than other ways, but i think dennis, in what i know of his speaking, has always been about sentences. action comes from the sentence, or as he says above, it’s about maintaining a level of interest that moves through the book rather than just sound or just plot. that seems definitive to his work to me.

  51. Blake Butler

      hm. since it’s a conversation it might feel different than other ways, but i think dennis, in what i know of his speaking, has always been about sentences. action comes from the sentence, or as he says above, it’s about maintaining a level of interest that moves through the book rather than just sound or just plot. that seems definitive to his work to me.

  52. magick mike

      Yeah, I mean, I understand that in terms of his work, but just for me I don’t want to think about the sentences as much as I’m thinking about his ideas, which I think just demonstrates the he pulls off sentences really fucking well with the energy/movement. And his combination of narrative with “experimental” moves (here I will say particular attention to sound is one of those moves in order to differentiate from hyper-mimetic best-sellers or whatever) is what drew me to him in the first place (well, okay, first was the “oh hey this dude is violent and gay, cool” but what kept me was the combinatory experience of narrative/non-narrative moves), so I don’t mean to demean that element or anything, and it certainly seems definitive to me as well, no argument there. But it’s a weird thing for me, for instance, the interview with Bob Gluck that was reprinted in Enter at Your Own Risk, there’s very much a part of that interview that deals with a sort of idea of darkness and danger, things that are in Dennis’s work that are not inherently part of the sentences (maybe they are in a way that I totally can’t recognize), and there’s more of himself instead of aesthetics (though I know Dennis has always written as an aesthete, it’s seemed to me like the aesthetics are there to justify the self, another thing that I like). I mean I don’t know what the fuck I’m arguing with here this is Dennis talking about Dennis so maybe I’m the one who’s being a fucking weirdo? Haha. I don’t know. There’s probably just not been anyone to ask him these specific questions before and that’s why the answers seem different, they’re simply new.

  53. magick mike

      Yeah, I mean, I understand that in terms of his work, but just for me I don’t want to think about the sentences as much as I’m thinking about his ideas, which I think just demonstrates the he pulls off sentences really fucking well with the energy/movement. And his combination of narrative with “experimental” moves (here I will say particular attention to sound is one of those moves in order to differentiate from hyper-mimetic best-sellers or whatever) is what drew me to him in the first place (well, okay, first was the “oh hey this dude is violent and gay, cool” but what kept me was the combinatory experience of narrative/non-narrative moves), so I don’t mean to demean that element or anything, and it certainly seems definitive to me as well, no argument there. But it’s a weird thing for me, for instance, the interview with Bob Gluck that was reprinted in Enter at Your Own Risk, there’s very much a part of that interview that deals with a sort of idea of darkness and danger, things that are in Dennis’s work that are not inherently part of the sentences (maybe they are in a way that I totally can’t recognize), and there’s more of himself instead of aesthetics (though I know Dennis has always written as an aesthete, it’s seemed to me like the aesthetics are there to justify the self, another thing that I like). I mean I don’t know what the fuck I’m arguing with here this is Dennis talking about Dennis so maybe I’m the one who’s being a fucking weirdo? Haha. I don’t know. There’s probably just not been anyone to ask him these specific questions before and that’s why the answers seem different, they’re simply new.

  54. magick mike

      Yeah, I mean, I understand that in terms of his work, but just for me I don’t want to think about the sentences as much as I’m thinking about his ideas, which I think just demonstrates the he pulls off sentences really fucking well with the energy/movement. And his combination of narrative with “experimental” moves (here I will say particular attention to sound is one of those moves in order to differentiate from hyper-mimetic best-sellers or whatever) is what drew me to him in the first place (well, okay, first was the “oh hey this dude is violent and gay, cool” but what kept me was the combinatory experience of narrative/non-narrative moves), so I don’t mean to demean that element or anything, and it certainly seems definitive to me as well, no argument there. But it’s a weird thing for me, for instance, the interview with Bob Gluck that was reprinted in Enter at Your Own Risk, there’s very much a part of that interview that deals with a sort of idea of darkness and danger, things that are in Dennis’s work that are not inherently part of the sentences (maybe they are in a way that I totally can’t recognize), and there’s more of himself instead of aesthetics (though I know Dennis has always written as an aesthete, it’s seemed to me like the aesthetics are there to justify the self, another thing that I like). I mean I don’t know what the fuck I’m arguing with here this is Dennis talking about Dennis so maybe I’m the one who’s being a fucking weirdo? Haha. I don’t know. There’s probably just not been anyone to ask him these specific questions before and that’s why the answers seem different, they’re simply new.

  55. jereme

      “BB: I talked about this recently. For a long time there was this narrative-as-dream thing. I think that’s going away because people have reckoned with that. People have said, I know I’m reading a book, and you don’t have to hide it. I like to feel manipulated by it. I like to feel pressed upon by it. I have a horrible memory for names and words. If I can remember the way I felt–like maybe I read a paragraph and put the book down. With some of my favorite books I can remember where I was sitting. And how the air was around me. Even more than sentences itself, it’s the aggregation of how they came upon me at a time. Even though I’ve talked a lot about Wallace: his books are alive because there’s this consciousness. I can’t think of anyone else who’s created a book that is a brain thinking, speaking, telling you exactly what is there.”

      this is why you are my favorite flame.

  56. jereme

      “BB: I talked about this recently. For a long time there was this narrative-as-dream thing. I think that’s going away because people have reckoned with that. People have said, I know I’m reading a book, and you don’t have to hide it. I like to feel manipulated by it. I like to feel pressed upon by it. I have a horrible memory for names and words. If I can remember the way I felt–like maybe I read a paragraph and put the book down. With some of my favorite books I can remember where I was sitting. And how the air was around me. Even more than sentences itself, it’s the aggregation of how they came upon me at a time. Even though I’ve talked a lot about Wallace: his books are alive because there’s this consciousness. I can’t think of anyone else who’s created a book that is a brain thinking, speaking, telling you exactly what is there.”

      this is why you are my favorite flame.

  57. jereme

      “BB: I talked about this recently. For a long time there was this narrative-as-dream thing. I think that’s going away because people have reckoned with that. People have said, I know I’m reading a book, and you don’t have to hide it. I like to feel manipulated by it. I like to feel pressed upon by it. I have a horrible memory for names and words. If I can remember the way I felt–like maybe I read a paragraph and put the book down. With some of my favorite books I can remember where I was sitting. And how the air was around me. Even more than sentences itself, it’s the aggregation of how they came upon me at a time. Even though I’ve talked a lot about Wallace: his books are alive because there’s this consciousness. I can’t think of anyone else who’s created a book that is a brain thinking, speaking, telling you exactly what is there.”

      this is why you are my favorite flame.

  58. David

      at the moment ive been working on this essay to do with horror film and one of the things ive been trying to do in it is play off a very heavy research-based, philosophical footnoting system and a free-flowing, (hopefully) eloquent analogical essay section (in this actually, i’ve been very influenced by DFW who was THE master at this type of thing). ive been actually thinking of it like chutes the reader can disappear down should they so choose and see the essay’s wiring from the backroom, if i’m doing it right, that is.

      i haven’t read d’agata. you mentioned him on your best books of the decade too, i’m going to buy as soon as im done here. um, let me think. for me, jo ann beard’s ‘the boys of my youth’ is an amazing instance of ‘creative nonfiction’ i still havent quite ever been able to work out, truly a ‘how the fuck did you do that?’ book. she also wrote this even more amazing essay that DFW put in the best american essay anthology he edited (which has its highs and lows, but this is a high high) simply called “werner”, i really recommend that. what else? oh, joan didion is unparalleled in her ability to do this as well, so amazing her cross of the observational and imaginative eye. nicholson baker’s human smoke was inspiring to me on this count too – as i think he has been to you. people criticised baker for getting a few of his facts wrong, and he did, sometimes fairly seriously (like implying that the Jews may well have been deported by boat if not for the blockade and tying that to the holocaust) but what i adore about his book is that it is the only text i’ve read that restores atrocity to the idea of necessity and refuses to countenance the notion of ‘no alternative’. so inspiring and profoundly moving. and moreover, it absolutely does something which i have never seen a proper history book do, and you know that’s because baker is a writer of fiction. what else? gosh, there seem a lot. roland barthes, especially his book on love: “a lover’s discourse”. anne carson’s essays and philosophical books. georges bataille. gary indiana’s fiction and non-fiction. also, come to think of it, the cinema of Errol Morris too – who is just remarkable at merging fictional and non-fictional registers in this way that allows these totally breathtaking insights into the way people can build rooms in their mind and lock things in and out. what others have you read recently, blake, that you really loved? i’m always after exciting new creative nonfic.

  59. David

      at the moment ive been working on this essay to do with horror film and one of the things ive been trying to do in it is play off a very heavy research-based, philosophical footnoting system and a free-flowing, (hopefully) eloquent analogical essay section (in this actually, i’ve been very influenced by DFW who was THE master at this type of thing). ive been actually thinking of it like chutes the reader can disappear down should they so choose and see the essay’s wiring from the backroom, if i’m doing it right, that is.

      i haven’t read d’agata. you mentioned him on your best books of the decade too, i’m going to buy as soon as im done here. um, let me think. for me, jo ann beard’s ‘the boys of my youth’ is an amazing instance of ‘creative nonfiction’ i still havent quite ever been able to work out, truly a ‘how the fuck did you do that?’ book. she also wrote this even more amazing essay that DFW put in the best american essay anthology he edited (which has its highs and lows, but this is a high high) simply called “werner”, i really recommend that. what else? oh, joan didion is unparalleled in her ability to do this as well, so amazing her cross of the observational and imaginative eye. nicholson baker’s human smoke was inspiring to me on this count too – as i think he has been to you. people criticised baker for getting a few of his facts wrong, and he did, sometimes fairly seriously (like implying that the Jews may well have been deported by boat if not for the blockade and tying that to the holocaust) but what i adore about his book is that it is the only text i’ve read that restores atrocity to the idea of necessity and refuses to countenance the notion of ‘no alternative’. so inspiring and profoundly moving. and moreover, it absolutely does something which i have never seen a proper history book do, and you know that’s because baker is a writer of fiction. what else? gosh, there seem a lot. roland barthes, especially his book on love: “a lover’s discourse”. anne carson’s essays and philosophical books. georges bataille. gary indiana’s fiction and non-fiction. also, come to think of it, the cinema of Errol Morris too – who is just remarkable at merging fictional and non-fictional registers in this way that allows these totally breathtaking insights into the way people can build rooms in their mind and lock things in and out. what others have you read recently, blake, that you really loved? i’m always after exciting new creative nonfic.

  60. David

      at the moment ive been working on this essay to do with horror film and one of the things ive been trying to do in it is play off a very heavy research-based, philosophical footnoting system and a free-flowing, (hopefully) eloquent analogical essay section (in this actually, i’ve been very influenced by DFW who was THE master at this type of thing). ive been actually thinking of it like chutes the reader can disappear down should they so choose and see the essay’s wiring from the backroom, if i’m doing it right, that is.

      i haven’t read d’agata. you mentioned him on your best books of the decade too, i’m going to buy as soon as im done here. um, let me think. for me, jo ann beard’s ‘the boys of my youth’ is an amazing instance of ‘creative nonfiction’ i still havent quite ever been able to work out, truly a ‘how the fuck did you do that?’ book. she also wrote this even more amazing essay that DFW put in the best american essay anthology he edited (which has its highs and lows, but this is a high high) simply called “werner”, i really recommend that. what else? oh, joan didion is unparalleled in her ability to do this as well, so amazing her cross of the observational and imaginative eye. nicholson baker’s human smoke was inspiring to me on this count too – as i think he has been to you. people criticised baker for getting a few of his facts wrong, and he did, sometimes fairly seriously (like implying that the Jews may well have been deported by boat if not for the blockade and tying that to the holocaust) but what i adore about his book is that it is the only text i’ve read that restores atrocity to the idea of necessity and refuses to countenance the notion of ‘no alternative’. so inspiring and profoundly moving. and moreover, it absolutely does something which i have never seen a proper history book do, and you know that’s because baker is a writer of fiction. what else? gosh, there seem a lot. roland barthes, especially his book on love: “a lover’s discourse”. anne carson’s essays and philosophical books. georges bataille. gary indiana’s fiction and non-fiction. also, come to think of it, the cinema of Errol Morris too – who is just remarkable at merging fictional and non-fictional registers in this way that allows these totally breathtaking insights into the way people can build rooms in their mind and lock things in and out. what others have you read recently, blake, that you really loved? i’m always after exciting new creative nonfic.

  61. jereme

      mike, i wonder if the same questions were posed individually to the two, DC and BB, if the answers would be different.

      i think the BB answers would be mostly the same. But the DC answers might be vastly different.

      he does seem to just agree in this interview until a topic is picked he likes?

      i don’t know much about DC so i don’t know. It’s just the way i read the tone of his answers.

  62. jereme

      mike, i wonder if the same questions were posed individually to the two, DC and BB, if the answers would be different.

      i think the BB answers would be mostly the same. But the DC answers might be vastly different.

      he does seem to just agree in this interview until a topic is picked he likes?

      i don’t know much about DC so i don’t know. It’s just the way i read the tone of his answers.

  63. jereme

      mike, i wonder if the same questions were posed individually to the two, DC and BB, if the answers would be different.

      i think the BB answers would be mostly the same. But the DC answers might be vastly different.

      he does seem to just agree in this interview until a topic is picked he likes?

      i don’t know much about DC so i don’t know. It’s just the way i read the tone of his answers.

  64. magick mike

      @jereme:

      to be honest that kind of is how i feel too, though i kind of thought i “do” know “a lot” about dennis (or his work at least) based on how much time i’ve spent with hit & obsessing over interviews & shit, but this interview makes me be all like MAYBE NOT

  65. magick mike

      @jereme:

      to be honest that kind of is how i feel too, though i kind of thought i “do” know “a lot” about dennis (or his work at least) based on how much time i’ve spent with hit & obsessing over interviews & shit, but this interview makes me be all like MAYBE NOT

  66. magick mike

      @jereme:

      to be honest that kind of is how i feel too, though i kind of thought i “do” know “a lot” about dennis (or his work at least) based on how much time i’ve spent with hit & obsessing over interviews & shit, but this interview makes me be all like MAYBE NOT

  67. David

      mike, i think that part you maybe feel is not forefronted in this conversation is a discussion of “ethics” in dennis’ books. one of the most interesting things dennis has ever said was in an interview with richard canning where he remarked: “Ethics has been the center of all my books from the beginning. I guess the subtlety of my approach or my buying of those issues has been misunderstood. People think people who are moral and ethical don’t entertain the ideas of the things they find horrifying. That’s the difference: I want to understand their power. Otherwise there’s no point to it.” For me, the really intriguing thing here is not to think of this, in any way, as a qualification of the darkness and danger of Dennis’ work but to put forward ethics as an experimentalism with the forbidden that eschews embrace. It’s not brought up so much in this interview I don’t think simply because the questions and orientations between two authors here tend to relate to questions of craft. However, I would insist that ethics is aesthetic for Coop, precisely in the sense of that experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with. In other words, I think I would argue that Dennis kind of figurates at both levels, and ethicalises language to boot.

  68. David

      mike, i think that part you maybe feel is not forefronted in this conversation is a discussion of “ethics” in dennis’ books. one of the most interesting things dennis has ever said was in an interview with richard canning where he remarked: “Ethics has been the center of all my books from the beginning. I guess the subtlety of my approach or my buying of those issues has been misunderstood. People think people who are moral and ethical don’t entertain the ideas of the things they find horrifying. That’s the difference: I want to understand their power. Otherwise there’s no point to it.” For me, the really intriguing thing here is not to think of this, in any way, as a qualification of the darkness and danger of Dennis’ work but to put forward ethics as an experimentalism with the forbidden that eschews embrace. It’s not brought up so much in this interview I don’t think simply because the questions and orientations between two authors here tend to relate to questions of craft. However, I would insist that ethics is aesthetic for Coop, precisely in the sense of that experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with. In other words, I think I would argue that Dennis kind of figurates at both levels, and ethicalises language to boot.

  69. David

      mike, i think that part you maybe feel is not forefronted in this conversation is a discussion of “ethics” in dennis’ books. one of the most interesting things dennis has ever said was in an interview with richard canning where he remarked: “Ethics has been the center of all my books from the beginning. I guess the subtlety of my approach or my buying of those issues has been misunderstood. People think people who are moral and ethical don’t entertain the ideas of the things they find horrifying. That’s the difference: I want to understand their power. Otherwise there’s no point to it.” For me, the really intriguing thing here is not to think of this, in any way, as a qualification of the darkness and danger of Dennis’ work but to put forward ethics as an experimentalism with the forbidden that eschews embrace. It’s not brought up so much in this interview I don’t think simply because the questions and orientations between two authors here tend to relate to questions of craft. However, I would insist that ethics is aesthetic for Coop, precisely in the sense of that experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with. In other words, I think I would argue that Dennis kind of figurates at both levels, and ethicalises language to boot.

  70. magick mike

      @david

      okay, that works for me, and i think probably explains what makes it weird to me, as former discussions with dennis regarding craft it seems like do always tie craft to “ethics”, and you’re right, the issue of “ethics” are largely absent here.

      “experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with”

      I think that sort of nails what it is that I like most about Dennis’s work, thank you for saying what I’ve never been able to.

  71. magick mike

      @david

      okay, that works for me, and i think probably explains what makes it weird to me, as former discussions with dennis regarding craft it seems like do always tie craft to “ethics”, and you’re right, the issue of “ethics” are largely absent here.

      “experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with”

      I think that sort of nails what it is that I like most about Dennis’s work, thank you for saying what I’ve never been able to.

  72. magick mike

      @david

      okay, that works for me, and i think probably explains what makes it weird to me, as former discussions with dennis regarding craft it seems like do always tie craft to “ethics”, and you’re right, the issue of “ethics” are largely absent here.

      “experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with”

      I think that sort of nails what it is that I like most about Dennis’s work, thank you for saying what I’ve never been able to.

  73. paul boshears

      Hey Blake,

      Continuing from the Facespace – Breton’s surrealist revolution was supposed to be the result of our finally being able to unify the narrative of dreams:

      “[T]hat is the dreams of sleep, is not inferior to the sum of the moments of reality, or, to be more precisely limiting, the moments of waking) has still today been so grossly neglected. I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams.”

      For example. He even pines for a day when we will have sleeping logicians and sleeping philosophers.

      I’m going to be taking a class with Massumi this summer and I welcome a discussion of what you’ve read (I’ve only read his translation of D+G).

  74. paul boshears

      Hey Blake,

      Continuing from the Facespace – Breton’s surrealist revolution was supposed to be the result of our finally being able to unify the narrative of dreams:

      “[T]hat is the dreams of sleep, is not inferior to the sum of the moments of reality, or, to be more precisely limiting, the moments of waking) has still today been so grossly neglected. I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams.”

      For example. He even pines for a day when we will have sleeping logicians and sleeping philosophers.

      I’m going to be taking a class with Massumi this summer and I welcome a discussion of what you’ve read (I’ve only read his translation of D+G).

  75. paul boshears

      Hey Blake,

      Continuing from the Facespace – Breton’s surrealist revolution was supposed to be the result of our finally being able to unify the narrative of dreams:

      “[T]hat is the dreams of sleep, is not inferior to the sum of the moments of reality, or, to be more precisely limiting, the moments of waking) has still today been so grossly neglected. I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams.”

      For example. He even pines for a day when we will have sleeping logicians and sleeping philosophers.

      I’m going to be taking a class with Massumi this summer and I welcome a discussion of what you’ve read (I’ve only read his translation of D+G).

  76. Alec Niedenthal

      Thanks David. Yeah, I see aesthetics, for Dennis, as constitutive of ethics. He is looking evil in the eye, embodying evil, both on the level of the sentence and the idea, precisely because the sentence and the idea exchange freely with one another. Focusing on Dennis’s aesthetics, then, would–to me, at least–be simply another orientation from which to approach the ethics within his work. Plus, you’ve got the dynamic of a conversation.

      And this was part of a larger project on the poetics of prose, which I guess I should have mentioned.

  77. Alec Niedenthal

      Thanks David. Yeah, I see aesthetics, for Dennis, as constitutive of ethics. He is looking evil in the eye, embodying evil, both on the level of the sentence and the idea, precisely because the sentence and the idea exchange freely with one another. Focusing on Dennis’s aesthetics, then, would–to me, at least–be simply another orientation from which to approach the ethics within his work. Plus, you’ve got the dynamic of a conversation.

      And this was part of a larger project on the poetics of prose, which I guess I should have mentioned.

  78. Alec Niedenthal

      Thanks David. Yeah, I see aesthetics, for Dennis, as constitutive of ethics. He is looking evil in the eye, embodying evil, both on the level of the sentence and the idea, precisely because the sentence and the idea exchange freely with one another. Focusing on Dennis’s aesthetics, then, would–to me, at least–be simply another orientation from which to approach the ethics within his work. Plus, you’ve got the dynamic of a conversation.

      And this was part of a larger project on the poetics of prose, which I guess I should have mentioned.

  79. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      David’s comment, yes, esp. this:

      “However, I would insist that ethics is aesthetic for Coop, precisely in the sense of that experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with. In other words, I think I would argue that Dennis kind of figurates at both levels, and ethicalises language to boot.”

      It frustrates me that our language itself, at least the language currently available to me, doesn’t seem to allow for us to discuss the inseparably of Dennis’s thematic and ethical concerns and his use of language, sentences, form, etc… even to say, “the ‘content’ is inseparable from its delivery,” or something like that, which is the way I’ve sometimes talked abt such things, creates a problematic directionality from content into language and also makes it seem as one exists independently and is expressed by the other, rather than them existing only in and through one another, which I think is more accurate. I’ve written a little bit abt the ethical project in Dennis’s novel and have been bothered by the fact that in so doing I’ve maybe over-separated it from the text. But… I don’t always know how to talk abt things w/o isolating them …there are times I do very much want to write or talk abt what some would call a text’s “content.” I’m never sure how to navigate this. I keep wondering whether having a more developed vocabulary re: sentences, language, form, (I feel like I don’t know how really to talk abt these things), etc makes this easier or not.

  80. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      David’s comment, yes, esp. this:

      “However, I would insist that ethics is aesthetic for Coop, precisely in the sense of that experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with. In other words, I think I would argue that Dennis kind of figurates at both levels, and ethicalises language to boot.”

      It frustrates me that our language itself, at least the language currently available to me, doesn’t seem to allow for us to discuss the inseparably of Dennis’s thematic and ethical concerns and his use of language, sentences, form, etc… even to say, “the ‘content’ is inseparable from its delivery,” or something like that, which is the way I’ve sometimes talked abt such things, creates a problematic directionality from content into language and also makes it seem as one exists independently and is expressed by the other, rather than them existing only in and through one another, which I think is more accurate. I’ve written a little bit abt the ethical project in Dennis’s novel and have been bothered by the fact that in so doing I’ve maybe over-separated it from the text. But… I don’t always know how to talk abt things w/o isolating them …there are times I do very much want to write or talk abt what some would call a text’s “content.” I’m never sure how to navigate this. I keep wondering whether having a more developed vocabulary re: sentences, language, form, (I feel like I don’t know how really to talk abt these things), etc makes this easier or not.

  81. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      David’s comment, yes, esp. this:

      “However, I would insist that ethics is aesthetic for Coop, precisely in the sense of that experimentalism with danger which is, in a way, about forging a critical aesthetics of thought in relation to those things considered too difficult to safely create with. In other words, I think I would argue that Dennis kind of figurates at both levels, and ethicalises language to boot.”

      It frustrates me that our language itself, at least the language currently available to me, doesn’t seem to allow for us to discuss the inseparably of Dennis’s thematic and ethical concerns and his use of language, sentences, form, etc… even to say, “the ‘content’ is inseparable from its delivery,” or something like that, which is the way I’ve sometimes talked abt such things, creates a problematic directionality from content into language and also makes it seem as one exists independently and is expressed by the other, rather than them existing only in and through one another, which I think is more accurate. I’ve written a little bit abt the ethical project in Dennis’s novel and have been bothered by the fact that in so doing I’ve maybe over-separated it from the text. But… I don’t always know how to talk abt things w/o isolating them …there are times I do very much want to write or talk abt what some would call a text’s “content.” I’m never sure how to navigate this. I keep wondering whether having a more developed vocabulary re: sentences, language, form, (I feel like I don’t know how really to talk abt these things), etc makes this easier or not.

  82. David

      Tim, you know I think that the resistance of words in that way is kind of fascinating, because it forces you to violate the concepts almost in order to establish the linkages you wish to assert. I mean to say that I don’t think it depends necessarily on a more ideal vocabulary as there is inevitably a more responsive vocabulary to be had – although, obviously, greater and lesser facility in that respect does lend its own fluency, tempo and availability to one’s expression and saddles one with related issues of frustration and the fear of either undermining or overmining that which you’re addressing. But I find that struggle for eloquence to be incredibly eloquent in itself – and it’s also very much what Dennis deals with in terms of the almost stunted mime-like mimetic poetry of his tongue-tied, stupefied teens. So in terms of over-seperating form and content just by talking about them like that, that isolation has been falsely problematised by post-structuralist orthodoxy, I think, as an exclusionary binary, but that just dissolves the issue away, into a kind of carousel of one-is-the-other, rather than speculates upon, the paradoxical tension that the inseperability of two discrete registers, hell, even entities, like content and form, their spatiotemporality, involves. For that reason, I think that Dennis is exactly right to say that his approach to ethics is entirely about subtlety and why he is not being a bit self-congratulatory in saying so. His work is about the shifting sands of bodies in spaces and spaces in bodies and the terror of time’s duration for both. Hence, also his fascination with paragraph and sound.

  83. David

      Tim, you know I think that the resistance of words in that way is kind of fascinating, because it forces you to violate the concepts almost in order to establish the linkages you wish to assert. I mean to say that I don’t think it depends necessarily on a more ideal vocabulary as there is inevitably a more responsive vocabulary to be had – although, obviously, greater and lesser facility in that respect does lend its own fluency, tempo and availability to one’s expression and saddles one with related issues of frustration and the fear of either undermining or overmining that which you’re addressing. But I find that struggle for eloquence to be incredibly eloquent in itself – and it’s also very much what Dennis deals with in terms of the almost stunted mime-like mimetic poetry of his tongue-tied, stupefied teens. So in terms of over-seperating form and content just by talking about them like that, that isolation has been falsely problematised by post-structuralist orthodoxy, I think, as an exclusionary binary, but that just dissolves the issue away, into a kind of carousel of one-is-the-other, rather than speculates upon, the paradoxical tension that the inseperability of two discrete registers, hell, even entities, like content and form, their spatiotemporality, involves. For that reason, I think that Dennis is exactly right to say that his approach to ethics is entirely about subtlety and why he is not being a bit self-congratulatory in saying so. His work is about the shifting sands of bodies in spaces and spaces in bodies and the terror of time’s duration for both. Hence, also his fascination with paragraph and sound.

  84. David

      Tim, you know I think that the resistance of words in that way is kind of fascinating, because it forces you to violate the concepts almost in order to establish the linkages you wish to assert. I mean to say that I don’t think it depends necessarily on a more ideal vocabulary as there is inevitably a more responsive vocabulary to be had – although, obviously, greater and lesser facility in that respect does lend its own fluency, tempo and availability to one’s expression and saddles one with related issues of frustration and the fear of either undermining or overmining that which you’re addressing. But I find that struggle for eloquence to be incredibly eloquent in itself – and it’s also very much what Dennis deals with in terms of the almost stunted mime-like mimetic poetry of his tongue-tied, stupefied teens. So in terms of over-seperating form and content just by talking about them like that, that isolation has been falsely problematised by post-structuralist orthodoxy, I think, as an exclusionary binary, but that just dissolves the issue away, into a kind of carousel of one-is-the-other, rather than speculates upon, the paradoxical tension that the inseperability of two discrete registers, hell, even entities, like content and form, their spatiotemporality, involves. For that reason, I think that Dennis is exactly right to say that his approach to ethics is entirely about subtlety and why he is not being a bit self-congratulatory in saying so. His work is about the shifting sands of bodies in spaces and spaces in bodies and the terror of time’s duration for both. Hence, also his fascination with paragraph and sound.

  85. David

      oh and thanks alec! again, beautiful interview.

  86. David

      oh and thanks alec! again, beautiful interview.

  87. David

      oh and thanks alec! again, beautiful interview.

  88. Alec Niedenthal

      Thank you so much, David.

  89. Alec Niedenthal

      Thank you so much, David.

  90. Alec Niedenthal

      Thank you so much, David.

  91. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I like this a lot:

      “But I find that struggle for eloquence to be incredibly eloquent in itself – and it’s also very much what Dennis deals with in terms of the almost stunted mime-like mimetic poetry of his tongue-tied, stupefied teens.”

      And this is helpful and clarifying:

      “the paradoxical tension that the inseperability of two discrete registers”

      …I think as I am beginning to better understand what draws me in texts, I think various tensions have something to do with it, something abt the relationship between the artifice and surface of the thing and whatever is running beyond or beneath it or something.

  92. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I like this a lot:

      “But I find that struggle for eloquence to be incredibly eloquent in itself – and it’s also very much what Dennis deals with in terms of the almost stunted mime-like mimetic poetry of his tongue-tied, stupefied teens.”

      And this is helpful and clarifying:

      “the paradoxical tension that the inseperability of two discrete registers”

      …I think as I am beginning to better understand what draws me in texts, I think various tensions have something to do with it, something abt the relationship between the artifice and surface of the thing and whatever is running beyond or beneath it or something.

  93. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I like this a lot:

      “But I find that struggle for eloquence to be incredibly eloquent in itself – and it’s also very much what Dennis deals with in terms of the almost stunted mime-like mimetic poetry of his tongue-tied, stupefied teens.”

      And this is helpful and clarifying:

      “the paradoxical tension that the inseperability of two discrete registers”

      …I think as I am beginning to better understand what draws me in texts, I think various tensions have something to do with it, something abt the relationship between the artifice and surface of the thing and whatever is running beyond or beneath it or something.

  94. Sean

      DC: “I know how to fake an essay or review or whatever.”

      Thanks for this. I fake things I don’t know really how to do (Like HTML posts?) and so it felt good to see that said aloud there.

      I like this form, sprawling. I like all these new interview forms.

  95. Sean

      DC: “I know how to fake an essay or review or whatever.”

      Thanks for this. I fake things I don’t know really how to do (Like HTML posts?) and so it felt good to see that said aloud there.

      I like this form, sprawling. I like all these new interview forms.

  96. Sean

      DC: “I know how to fake an essay or review or whatever.”

      Thanks for this. I fake things I don’t know really how to do (Like HTML posts?) and so it felt good to see that said aloud there.

      I like this form, sprawling. I like all these new interview forms.

  97. Blake Butler

      a sleeping logician sounds good. i need to reread some breton essays perhaps

      man, studying with massumi? that sounds incredible, you’ll have to tell all

      you should buy his parables of the virtual, it’s incredible

  98. Blake Butler

      a sleeping logician sounds good. i need to reread some breton essays perhaps

      man, studying with massumi? that sounds incredible, you’ll have to tell all

      you should buy his parables of the virtual, it’s incredible

  99. Blake Butler

      a sleeping logician sounds good. i need to reread some breton essays perhaps

      man, studying with massumi? that sounds incredible, you’ll have to tell all

      you should buy his parables of the virtual, it’s incredible

  100. keith n b

      david, have you read hermann hesse’s ‘the glass bead game’? if so, how does that measure up with your own thoughts on the mutability, or lack thereof, of bodies of knowledge?

  101. keith n b

      david, have you read hermann hesse’s ‘the glass bead game’? if so, how does that measure up with your own thoughts on the mutability, or lack thereof, of bodies of knowledge?

  102. keith n b

      david, have you read hermann hesse’s ‘the glass bead game’? if so, how does that measure up with your own thoughts on the mutability, or lack thereof, of bodies of knowledge?

  103. alan

      Thanks to everyone involved, this is one I’m going to come back and back and back to.

  104. alan

      Thanks to everyone involved, this is one I’m going to come back and back and back to.

  105. alan

      Thanks to everyone involved, this is one I’m going to come back and back and back to.

  106. MoGa

      Thank you for this. And for the comments here, too.

  107. MoGa

      Thank you for this. And for the comments here, too.

  108. MoGa

      Thank you for this. And for the comments here, too.

  109. Paul Curran

      Fascinating interview and comments. Congrats on your first official post, Alec.

  110. Paul Curran

      Fascinating interview and comments. Congrats on your first official post, Alec.

  111. Paul Curran

      Fascinating interview and comments. Congrats on your first official post, Alec.

  112. David

      hi keith, no, i’m sorry, i can’t say i have read that hesse or actually any hesse before for that matter. i’m curious, what’s it like? i’m gathering it’s of some interest to you?

  113. David

      hi keith, no, i’m sorry, i can’t say i have read that hesse or actually any hesse before for that matter. i’m curious, what’s it like? i’m gathering it’s of some interest to you?

  114. David

      hi keith, no, i’m sorry, i can’t say i have read that hesse or actually any hesse before for that matter. i’m curious, what’s it like? i’m gathering it’s of some interest to you?

  115. keith n b

      roughly speaking, the book is a mock-history of what’s called the glass bead game, which is an attempt to unify all of knowledge by distilling the essential nuggets of any field of inquiry into compatible thought-tokens, so to speak, which through various transformations of logic or ana-logic can lead into deeper understandings of the ideas involved or illuminating unforeseen results. here’s an excerpt which might sum it up best:

      “Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical or mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibnitz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts.”

      it’s an amazing idea, which apparently existed before hesse, but also becomes highly questionable as to an actual possiblity given, as you said, that ideas are constrained and defined by the context or lexicon in which they originate or are appropriated and re-used. reading your thoughts above, as well as the one below regarding the resistance and violation of language, echoed much of what i’ve been thinking about regarding knowledge and literature. what you said, “the literary element of knowledge,” has been on my mind, particularly, if you suspend real and not-real, or non-fiction and fiction, then knowledge and literature appear to be invovled in almost the same activity. the only thing distinguishing factor between knowledge and literature is the epistemic criteria, and depending on what those are that distinction can become very thin. i had an essay published last year attempting to articulate these thoughts in relation to some contemporary fiction, and i’m still trying to work out the consequences (if there any) of those thoughts. although i wish i had been aware of the distinction between re-metamorphizing and re-literalizing that you pointed out above, which would perhaps have enabled a more refined treatment of the matter. what fascinates me so much is the microcosm-emergence phenomenon of a (more or less) self-contained system, whose elements nonetheless might have orignated in other spheres, whether real-world correlates or other fields of knowledge, and the multi-perspectivism that results from the storehouse of all these lenses, all these ways of seeing that can’t be reduced to one another, and also the possibilities intrinsic to what might be illuminated in our experience given the appearance or construction of new or reconfigured lenses.

  116. keith n b

      roughly speaking, the book is a mock-history of what’s called the glass bead game, which is an attempt to unify all of knowledge by distilling the essential nuggets of any field of inquiry into compatible thought-tokens, so to speak, which through various transformations of logic or ana-logic can lead into deeper understandings of the ideas involved or illuminating unforeseen results. here’s an excerpt which might sum it up best:

      “Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical or mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibnitz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts.”

      it’s an amazing idea, which apparently existed before hesse, but also becomes highly questionable as to an actual possiblity given, as you said, that ideas are constrained and defined by the context or lexicon in which they originate or are appropriated and re-used. reading your thoughts above, as well as the one below regarding the resistance and violation of language, echoed much of what i’ve been thinking about regarding knowledge and literature. what you said, “the literary element of knowledge,” has been on my mind, particularly, if you suspend real and not-real, or non-fiction and fiction, then knowledge and literature appear to be invovled in almost the same activity. the only thing distinguishing factor between knowledge and literature is the epistemic criteria, and depending on what those are that distinction can become very thin. i had an essay published last year attempting to articulate these thoughts in relation to some contemporary fiction, and i’m still trying to work out the consequences (if there any) of those thoughts. although i wish i had been aware of the distinction between re-metamorphizing and re-literalizing that you pointed out above, which would perhaps have enabled a more refined treatment of the matter. what fascinates me so much is the microcosm-emergence phenomenon of a (more or less) self-contained system, whose elements nonetheless might have orignated in other spheres, whether real-world correlates or other fields of knowledge, and the multi-perspectivism that results from the storehouse of all these lenses, all these ways of seeing that can’t be reduced to one another, and also the possibilities intrinsic to what might be illuminated in our experience given the appearance or construction of new or reconfigured lenses.

  117. keith n b

      roughly speaking, the book is a mock-history of what’s called the glass bead game, which is an attempt to unify all of knowledge by distilling the essential nuggets of any field of inquiry into compatible thought-tokens, so to speak, which through various transformations of logic or ana-logic can lead into deeper understandings of the ideas involved or illuminating unforeseen results. here’s an excerpt which might sum it up best:

      “Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical or mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibnitz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts.”

      it’s an amazing idea, which apparently existed before hesse, but also becomes highly questionable as to an actual possiblity given, as you said, that ideas are constrained and defined by the context or lexicon in which they originate or are appropriated and re-used. reading your thoughts above, as well as the one below regarding the resistance and violation of language, echoed much of what i’ve been thinking about regarding knowledge and literature. what you said, “the literary element of knowledge,” has been on my mind, particularly, if you suspend real and not-real, or non-fiction and fiction, then knowledge and literature appear to be invovled in almost the same activity. the only thing distinguishing factor between knowledge and literature is the epistemic criteria, and depending on what those are that distinction can become very thin. i had an essay published last year attempting to articulate these thoughts in relation to some contemporary fiction, and i’m still trying to work out the consequences (if there any) of those thoughts. although i wish i had been aware of the distinction between re-metamorphizing and re-literalizing that you pointed out above, which would perhaps have enabled a more refined treatment of the matter. what fascinates me so much is the microcosm-emergence phenomenon of a (more or less) self-contained system, whose elements nonetheless might have orignated in other spheres, whether real-world correlates or other fields of knowledge, and the multi-perspectivism that results from the storehouse of all these lenses, all these ways of seeing that can’t be reduced to one another, and also the possibilities intrinsic to what might be illuminated in our experience given the appearance or construction of new or reconfigured lenses.

  118. Alec Niedenthal
  119. Alec Niedenthal
  120. Alec Niedenthal
  121. Thomas Moore

      ah man, that Pansy Division song brings back memories. Superb interview btw Alex.

  122. Thomas Moore

      ah man, that Pansy Division song brings back memories. Superb interview btw Alex.

  123. Thomas Moore

      ah man, that Pansy Division song brings back memories. Superb interview btw Alex.

  124. HTMLGIANT / Kareem Estefan Gets “Jerk” Right at BOMB

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