Thursday, December 4, 2008

what kind of good is the best good if you are going to open the spaghetti do it now i have to be at the sand farm in 15 min & my hair is leaking light

** (people can win a copy of EVER by talking shit here)



Sean Kilpatrick pushes another piece into my top 5 favorites of the year Progress: A Play in _ Acts. I mean, I want to stop talking about the dude, but he won't let me. Such as here is a part from the play that makes me squish ink:

An arm sticks out, aiming a pistol straight up.

CHARACTER A: I'm pregnant.

CHARACTER B: Congratulations. Who's the father?

CHARACTER A: I'll never tell.

CHARACTER B: When you straddle a cannon the whole ghetto perks up.

The gun recedes. Several shots sound.


That's a man, read the rest.





Another recent hero is Brandi Wells. Read her new blog post about a poem she published in her school journal causing a call for censorship. It's a great poem. The poem was also published here at decomP, you have to scroll down: We have been dating so long I feel like I can tell you anything.

Brandi is doing really strong work esp. lately, it makes me happy when I see her new words. The letter from her school reminds me of what school feels like. I thought I missed it. Maybe I do.





I have a big post about the apparent wish for democracy in literature in me coming soon, thinking about it last night kept me up until 630, I thought I would remember what I wanted to say but now I can't remember, I hold my hands in fists when I am sleeping.

Everything is not good. It's ok to be critical.

And it's funny, Ryan and I are just talking about this right now: for all the good you talk about in public, it is the things that are shit talk or are negative that garner the attention. If people didn't like negativity, they would make 100+ comments on the presence of a Kitchen Reading Series. But they don't. What people like is to see other people cut the skin off each other's faces. Me too. Fine.

I am going to figure out what I mean and talk better later.

Why can't the air be made of Mexican food.







Last night finished reading Jesse Ball's forthcoming THE WAY THROUGH DOORS, it is magical and filled with doors and tunnels and stories within stories and is exactly what I needed to read. My review will be coming out in Spring but for now let me say that this book is important and new and old and beautiful and many things, and if you have liked anything of Jesse's before, or like Calvino or Marquez, you are going to be in for it.

There is a definitive thread in the book that says something on par with the idea that: 'Nothing is incidental.' There is a lot of wild energy and new unraveling and dream terror and old wit and maps and drawings and enchantment and etc. in this book. I can't stop thinking about it.






I heard something today about an unreleased chunk of a large unfinished novel that he had given to a very small lit mag to be published right before his death will be coming out early next year. Knowing that is out there and coming makes me feel like I can sit up in this room and listen to the humidifier and put my socks on when my feet are cold.







Let's always be talking about something else.








Like my 3 favorite google searches ending here today:

1. keeping people from touching your infant
2. pink ball in dog's vulva
3. poems about who gives a shit about a little girl

27 comments:

Brad Green said...

Democracy in literature is generally achieved through a sort of tyrannical text. I'm talking about meaning, of course. Maybe you're not. What is literature about if it's not about meaning of some sort?

I look forward to that post.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

democracy in literature is the end of literature, is what i mean. though i probably am talking about something different than what you are talking about, i'm not sure.

my question for your comment is: how can there be a text that has no meaning? meaning meaning any of: implied applied shat eaten licked uplifting 'surrealist' languagey christian narrativized dicklimped american organdonored or otherwise?

Brad Green said...

re: democracy in literature. I bet we're talking about different things. I'm talking about meaning, import, resonance...etc. But I'm interested in what you mean? Ha! Worth? Value?

Perhaps texts that have an ultimately individual meaning don't have a meaning at all, or at least any sort of meaning that has worth.

I know those are dangerous words, especially the worth. But everything hinges on that perhaps. I'm trying to work out a lot of this in my own personal aesthetic right now. I don't know how we get away from assigning value. Editors do it all the time. Writers assign worth with each letter or word they put down. Take the HTMLGIANT example of a string of letters (nksdjfsjdfsjdf). It was argued on there that meaning resides in that. If it does, then it's a meaning that only one person can understand and ultimately that meaning has no value in the world that we live in. Meaning is only rich when it's democratic. Literature is never, and should never be, democratic in how it assigns value.

A single word by itself is rather sad. Throw a word into a sentence and perhaps it begins to strut a bit. Lodge it in a paragraph and perhaps it gets a little bad ass. I keep saying democracy, but perhaps it's just context that I'm referring to.

One can assign a meaning to anything. So you're right that a text can't exist without meaning, but a text that has meaning without context is...well, let's assign value to it now: drivel, crap, bubble-gum bullshit.

Great literature is never so insular. The meaning in great literature extends out broadly, but what's common in that reaching meaning is that it applies to many people. Those works that are the strongest apply to the things that we all have. That's the same basic set of emotions.

The texts that mean the most in these fashions convey their meaning in tyrannical fashion. I think that anyway. Right now.

Things can change, but it seems fairly basic, fairly ground-level. This has turned into a long comment, so I'll stop here.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

this whole topic is so abstract, its hard to say anything that doesnt sound ridiculous. i am glad you are thinking about things. i don't know how to think about things right now anymore.

burrito boy said...

don't even get me started on air made of Mexican Food. I'm surrounded by maize and they can't even make a fucking tortilla here. The only chips we can get are imported from some place where the writing is all in arabic so god knows where. You can slip some lye in with the twin peaks care package so I can make diy tortillas, but then it would all risk confiscation I'm sure. The black beans we're set on, been farting for weeks.

matthew said...

i dont think that the number of comments something gets is an accurate indication of its value or the effect it is having on people and also, most of the posts with lots of comments are just a small number of people arguing, so the large number of comments is misleading

i really enjoy the posts about things like kitchen reading series, brandi wells, and sean kilpatrick but often don't comment on it because all i would say is something like "yes" which maybe i should start doing

yes

Brandi Wells said...

thanks for the link

BLAKE BUTLER said...

lye it is burrito boy

matthew, you're right, i'm just being a fuck

hi brandi

peter b. said...

in his new book charles simic says something about the word broom being an index of ideas. or something like that.
Maybe that applies somewhat to what I think one of you might be talking about.

Michael Goroff said...

When you say democracy, I think of a majority assigning meaning to a piece of work and saying that this is meaning because the majority say it is so. But maybe I am only thinking in terms of meaning because of what Brad said. Now I forget what you wrote in your post. But yes, who cares about meaning, really. People put such emphasis on meaning, what does this fucking shit represent, etc, etc, as if the text itself had all the answers to life, decoding this puzzle of meaning will elevate us to a higher plane, all that bullshit. No. Individual affectation. So much resides under the meaning, next to it, besides it, within it, that meaning ends up making no real difference, especially democratically-decided meaning, that is all garbage, I think.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

i can't remember what i was talking about anymore, but i think it was about something

i agree michael, i think

Brad Green said...

A text may not have "all the answers to life" but it can elevate an ordinary moment into something sublime. A text can change a life. Haven't you ever read something that totally alters your world-view?

Meaning isn't necessarily the same sort of meaning that literature professors try to get their students to understand. In today's Indie Lit world, that sort of meaning is often obscured by a lack of coherency in the surface text. I use the term coherency now from this Darby Larson blog post. This sort of surface confusion refuses a reading that renders those sort of deeper meanings, because that type of meaning must be constructed. One can consider that sort of meaning "garbage" but it has been present in literature since literature first eeked out a letter onto a page.

What I've complained about before is the heaping together of random events and calling that literature. It's not. It's just typing. Literature arrives on a page when the words are supported by coherent thought and reach into our hearts and minds. Things can leap. They can be wild, but a growing number of writers now just resort to scribbling down completely off the wall things that don't progress, at least for me, toward any discernible meaning.

What bothers me is the reduction of Literature into any old random thing. Literature should not be devalued in that way, especially in this world where the majority of the culture doesn't even care a whit about literature any more.

It's entirely possible I just don't understand what's going on here in this scene. I hope that's the case because I'm certain my understanding can change.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

brad, what confuses me with you is your seeming insistence that if something does not have clear, palpable meaning, then it must be something dashed off, w/o thought, that it has no construction or artifice.

william gass spent 30 years writing the tunnel. some of it is very dense and could be mistaken as something 'thrown down on the page' if ornately.

narrative sense is not the primary indicator of an author's care.

in fact, to me, it may be the opposite.


but these things are all so vague and unpalpable. really, the terms you use are as impossible to define as nonsense. they are all words.

Brad Green said...

That's not exactly what I mean, Blake. I appreciate you saying it though because it helps to clarify the issues in my own head.

There is a resonant love in each of Gass's sentences, not only in The Tunnel, but all his other works. That attention is so evident that even though the meaning may be obscured, one knows it's there.

A better example is Finnegan's Wake, I think. A highly obscured text, but rife with meaning, both on the surface and underneath.

I don't know. As I said before, I'm trying to understand, to learn. I'm appreciative that so many writers are so open and willing to communicate.

It would probably be more clear if I were to approach some of these texts directly, but honestly, I'm a little afraid to because everyone runs a journal. I'm a newish writer, feeling for my own voice and aesthetic, trying different things. As I stumble around here, I worry about making a statement that will make the road that much harder.

So I refrain from critically analyzing specific texts and/or writers on public forums. I know, I'm weak. My balls are shriveled little prunes. All I want to do is get better at my own writing and read better writing on the Internet. Others may feel the same way, but don't comment because of the same fears I have. Hopefully, I'm commenting in such a way that I'm not ruffling the wrong feathers. Sorry, Mr. Patterson. I'm doing this at the expense of clarity, I think. That you entertain the discourse at all speaks volumes. I appreciate it.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

hm, you like the tunnel, yeah, so i would be interested to see a text you think does not do anything.

i dont think editors would exorcise you if you analyzed a text you think did not work. if they did, they are sad editors. which, unfortunately, at least a handful are.

email me an example? i am curious

Brad Green said...

Ok. I'll send you a link or paste something into an email to you later tonight after the kids go to bed and I can think quietly in the dark with a cup of Rum with a capital R.

Justin said...

You misspelled the grandmother.

Darby said...

I had a similar mindframe even a couple years ago of learning. I poured over teh best american series and analyzied the shit out of them and tried to get underneath everything, because, and I still feel like I'm coming at everything autodidactically (?) because I was never a lit major, never 'studied' anything in academia or was put through the same trenches that I feel everyone else got to go through, so I always felt, feel at a disadvatnage, so I said, okay I'm going to teach myself contemporary lit, and I was so preoccupied with getting to the meaning of text, to the absolute author intention, that I kind of burned myself out I think. I started hating lit. The only time I enjoyed it was when I could just relax and not worry about what everything meant and just experience it, let the words go through you and play with it and throw whatever meaning you want at it, and don't question it or say, what is this supposed to mean. To allow yourself to read and leave the meaning open, when you can find joy in that, is when I think you can truly experience literature. Otheriwse you are treating it like math. This metaphor and this metaphor all equal this allegory and ta da, I get it! A+! It's gotten to the point where I don't want to get anything anymore, at least not completely. I want stuff where there's always something there everytime I go back to it. i want stuff that I like and I have absolutely no idea why. Throw away author intention. the author isn't sitting next you while you read. The author gave you the writing to do whatever you want with it. I think if you ever 'get' an entire piece of fiction, if you become somehow merged with the intention of the writer, then it becomes incredibly uninteresting. the interesting exists in the mystery, and maybe because human emotions are themselves mysterious. I've fallen in love lately with the idea of authors witholding meaning deliberately, that they keep something for themselves, i love that. i want all authors to hide in their fiction like that, and then all fiction to just float through people's heads and then some readers will have completely different undeniable interpretations than what the author had.

i don't know what democracy in literature means, i will have to wait for Blakes soliloquy (?)

peter b. said...

3. poems about who gives a shit about a little girl

Brad Green said...

Blake sent me a response to my email I sent last night and the words he put in there have greatly increased my understanding. In the nomenclature of Tao Lin: I have a 'medium' level of understanding now as opposed to a 'low' level of understanding. Blake suggested some authors for me to read and I'll be taking him up on those. So, this is just a public thanks to Blake for taking the time to elaborate on the aesthetic that I've been troubled by and educate me on the different ways a text can affect a reader.

It was much appreciated!

peter b. said...

good stuff. I look forward to reading this more carefully when I have a chance. thanks

peter b. said...

what authors were suggested?

Brad Green said...

david marksons's wittgenstein's mistress, diane williams (any), gordon lish's epigraph, ken sparling's dad says he saw you at the mall, noy holland's the spectacle of the body, ander monson's other electricities, brian evenson's the wavering knife

BLAKE BUTLER said...

yw, brad, i am glad it made any sense at all, as zonked as i was... i'll be interested to hear what you think of any of those books

BLAKE BUTLER said...

peter will you write the who gives a shit about a little girl poem

Darby said...

jeez did I actually write that comment last night? I was out of it.

jereme said...

the number of comments are not indicative of importance. i concur.

but...

check the logs. how many people come back to read the new comments compared to the kitchen press (or similar) post?

it is all about metrics

good conversation occurs in the comment section of the critical posts.

look at the one i did on tao. people started discussing shit and having discussions and shits.

sunday air in my neighborhood is made of chorizo grease. the smell is thick and fierce. i instantly puke upon smelling if hungover.