[ No, this post isn’t about the current state of Politics in the “greatest nation that’s ever existed”, or The Vatican. But it is me being, as usual, angry and amused, reductive, pessimistic, excited, juiced up, judgmental, and making sweeping generalizations about humanity, our plight, our collective cultural soul, blah, blah — note: I am a big fan of the Tour de France, absolutely care and absolute also do not care about the cheating. And I will be following as much of this year’s Tour as I can.
I think, really, that I care more about the Tour de France than I do about humanity ]
In less than 48 hours the 100th edition of the Tour de France will begin with huge fanfare. Does it matter that Lance Armstrong finally came clean (in his way), admitting he’d cheated his way, coldly and methodically (Armstrong headed up, according to USADA, “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”), to his record 7 consecutive tour titles? READ MORE >
“She comes to a rest in shadow. Above her is an overhang of chickenwire and tins. She freezes. Above her is a terrible shape, a jagged many-limbed thing, a tree tangled from the composites of aerials and tv innards, plastic extrusions like growths in its multipart trunk, thorns of glass and shattered plates. Its branches splay – finger after finger of tubing, and intricate wicked ribbing. Dangling from them like dirty dank foliage, like the skins of victims, are dish clothes, and umbrellas’ countless ripped canopies. Nylon in dinged colours.”
“I used to compare everything in poems to metallic sheets of mica, the transparent fragments that flake off so easily. I never say I’m a poet; I just say “writer” and no one ever asks “a writer of what?” Once a man told me he was in the business of prosthetic limbs and I was speechless.”
— Stephanie Balzer, The Destroyer Vol 1.2
“We had a president living here once,
After he was president.
A famous animator lived here too.
We’d see him feeding the ducks.
This used to be a big duck town.
Ducks had a real voice.
Then one night they left for New Haven.”
— from “A Little Background” by James Haug, Connotation Press
It made me very happy to read the various responses to Part 1, posted last Monday. Today I want to continue this brief digression into asking what, if anything, the New Sincerity was, as well as what, if anything, it currently is. (Next Monday I’ll return to reading Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose and applying it to contemporary writing.)
Last time I talked about 2005–8, but what was the New Sincerity before Massey/Robinson/Mister? (And does that matter?) Others have pointed out that something much like the movement can be traced back to David Foster Wallace’s 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (here’s a PDF copy). I can recall conversations, 2000–3, with classmates at ISU (where DFW taught and a number of us worked for RCF/Dalkey) about “the death of irony” and “the death of Postmodernism” and a possible “return to sincerity.” Today, even the Wikipedia article on the NS also makes that connection:
I wasn’t surprised that my Monday post, which was ultimately about reading & applying some ideas from Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose, mostly generated conversation about Tao Lin and the New Sincerity. I knew that would happen even as I wrote it. So I thought I should take a post to clarify my thoughts on “the whole NS thing.” What follows will be a mix of fact and personal reflection.
I’m in the early stages of developing an online CW class. I’m thinking an intro class. Anyone taken one? Advantages? Entanglements? I wouldn’t mind hearing some anecdotes. Was it synchronous or asynchronous? Did it matter to you? Face-time versus online time—what IS the difference, to you? What can ‘physical’ time offer online could never? What can online offer over physical?
I’m asking big picture questions here, sure. As I said, I’m in the early stages. One key aspect of early stages: Do I want to do this? I feel it could be innovative and high quality, but I could be wrong. I haven’t taken or taught an online CW class. You?
—or at least those who responded a while back when I asked folks to name “the hottest litmag in the room.” As of that moment. And now, after the jump, I’ve compiled the responses.
By far the clear number one was …
Yesterday I was walking around Brooklyn on my cell phone and I walked so far I ended up in Big Sur. Who knew Big Sur is so close to Brooklyn? I was like, This has to be the shittiest Big Sur it is so shitty.
I was on the phone with my Aunt Shira and she felt deprived of information as to why I don’t have a baby. I was like, Do you want to know why? There is an Ann Lauterbach poem that might help you understand. It helps me understand maybe a little. She was like, Is Ann Lauterbach Jewish?
The poem I’m talking about is called “Indictment Without Subject” and it doesn’t really help me understand why I don’t have a baby, but it’s a neat poem.
In it Ann Lauterbach uses repetition to convey reproduction in machinelike, rather than biological terms. She writes:
The bourgeoisie tribe makes babies.
The babies cry I want.
The babies cry more.
This is how it learns to count.
Lauterbach’s language suggests that the tribe’s baby-making is a capitalist action: a product of and for conspicuous consumption, rather than a biological urge. They “make” babies like a factory makes a widget. The babies’ first words in the poem are not Mommy or Daddy, but “want” and “more.” Rather than establishing a dynamic of a parent teaching a child, the tribe instead consumes its children by “learning to count” them.
When I think about Lauterbach as a female poet, I wonder how her consumerist portrayal of reproduction reflects upon women as childbearers and mothers? Nowhere in the stanza do we see any natural imagery, conveying childbirth as a biological action. The act of birthing and child-rearing are not described as women’s work, nor is there any joy in the process. Rather, it’s the collective “it” that churns out babies. Any reproductive ineluctability in this poem arrives out of an industrial, rather than a biological basis. The act of making babies—and the paradigm that encourages this as indispensable—is rendered a manufactured social signifier.
Can making art be as satisfying as making babies?
Is it selfish to deny your Aunt a niece?
Is there pressure on female artists to have it all?
Is there pressure on male artists to have it all?
Would you rather feel the pressure to have it all than the pressure to have only one thing?
Do you talk to your family?
Howz your biological clock doing?