Last week at Big Other, Paul Kincaid put up a brief but intriguing post in which he asks to what extent various factors surrounding a text influence the way we think about it or its author. He gives the following example:
The program I use for databasing my library pulls down information from a wide variety of sources ranging from the British Library and the Library of Congress to Amazon. More often than not, this can produce some very strange results. I have, for instance, seen novels by Iain Banks categorized as ‘Food and Health’, and novels by Ursula K. Le Guin categorized as ‘Business’. In all probability, these are just slips by somebody bored, though you do wonder what it was about the books per se that led to such curious mistakes.
Paul’s musings raise many interesting questions. For one thing, we might wonder whether the factors he’s describing are indeed extraneous or external to texts. Because I can imagine a good post-structuralist immediately objecting that texts more porous than that, and that it’s all just a sea of endless texts slipping fluidly into one another.
Me, I don’t have a problem with treating texts as discrete and coherent entities, but I admit the situation is complicated.
I suggest all you Harper’s/New Yorker haters get on Lewis Lapham’s Quaterly boat. Personally, I can’t believe I’ve been out to sea so long since parting ways with The Believer, although I do still find myself running fuzzy fingers sidelong across her stilted bow anytime I see one in port.
Anyway, so umm… O yeah click of his graph for Vonnegut’s writing lesson, in which he compares the plight & plot of protagonists in popular books, film & teevee, to that of Cinderella, Gregor Samsa & the kingshit himself, Hamlet.
A few years before Kurt Vonnegut died, I paid a visit to the studio of Joe Petro III of Lexington, Kentucky. Petro was Vonnegut’s late-life collaborator on several series of silkscreened art based upon Vonnegut’s drawings, some of which were new, and some of which were elaborations upon the drawings he had incorporated into middle-period-and-later books such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, and Hocus Pocus.
Petro generously offered me a tour of his studio, where, in addition to his work with Vonnegut, he had completed work for the likes of Ralph Steadman and Greenpeace. The Greenpeace work had caused him some problems, so he was a little nervous about people knowing where he lived. Nonetheless, he wanted to do his part to champion the work that had become the passion of Vonnegut’s late life, so he consented to an interview, and then he consented to put me in touch with Vonnegut, who had indicated that he, too, was willing to yammer with a nobody such as I was, so long as that yammering was about drawings and silkscreenings. READ MORE >
1. Reading includes Brett Elizabeth Jenkins (poetry here) and Christopher Newgent (genius) in Indianapolis. Friday, July 23rd, 7:30, Calvin Fletcher Coffee Co. While In Indy, you could drop by Kurt Vonnegut’s house (his baby hand print in the concrete of the steps) or not. And so it goes.
3. Does anyone else read two books at once? Has worked for me lately, and glows best if the two books are vastly different (i.e. I am now reading David Shields death book and Harrison’s desperate prose poem letters to Yesenin). I weave them, usually chapter/chapter and it stays fresh and maybe the compliment/contrast in my brain and also so far the Harrison book is kicking Mr. Shield’s ass.
23. Fuck twitter.
*contest ends May 26 8PM (PST)
In the comment section, write your own version/introduction to Vonnegut’s famous drawing — though you must re-appropriate the drawing so that it’s not an asshole — like, it could be a diagram on how to cut a pizza, or a drawing of the big bang, etc. It should be roughly the same word count as the original portion above, and you do not need to mimic Vonnegut’s style.
I will choose the winner based on creativity of re-appropriation and actual writing. Your piece must end with a colon (get it? asshole/colon, hey Onion, call me…). Please no ‘blast entries,’ just one entry per person.