Wednesday, February 4, 2009

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I interviewed Jesse Ball for Bookslut. I love what Jesse says. If I haven't mentioned it enough, everyone with an interest in interesting new fiction should read The Way Through Doors. It is magic. More on that in my Believer review which will be out in May.



Sean Lovelace wrote a long and very kind review of EVER on his blog, including photo representations of selected sentences. This is the kind of review you write for.



If I don't stop bumping my arms and legs and other errant appendages on shit accidentally several times a day I am going to (a) be a very sore and bruised old man and/or (b) slit my face.



Finished reading Zizek's 'Violence' last night: it feels really good to be reading philosophical documents again after so long. This one in particular is fun and constantly packed with ruminations that continue to build. The last chapter on 'divine violence' is something I would hand out to a writing class: it discusses the manners by which applying meaning or intending meaning in a text or other artwork becomes both ridiculous and obscene. He quotes a passage from G.K. Chesterton which comes down to the idea that people want to applying meaning to ideas because what they are truly afraid of is a four word phrase: "He was made Man."





Last night I began reading 'Finnegans Wake' via a page or two before bed. I have had this book for so long and never more than flipped to random sections, but my amazement last night at staring at the pure iconography and gibberish invention and the sheer blocks of new inch by inch throughout made me decide I will require this injection. If anyone wants to join me in the reading you can do 3 pages tonight and then we will go forth on the 1 by 1s.




Secret Chiefs 3 playing a John Zorn Masada songbook = the way Zorn is meant to be played. Forgot about this one for a while but am in the enjoyment hemisphere again.



I hope this person who has mistaken my email for 'Troy's' email, and who keeps text messaging me from her cell phone, keeps it up. It is becoming a motivator of light. The last msg, from yesterday evening:

Subject: Hoe I tried to call

Hoe I tried to call u back and it went to voicemal.
-i.love.troy.*





No Colony is sharing table 673 with Publishing Genius and NOO Journal at AWP next week (next week?). Dang. Come do a look.

Issue 002 has just arrived and will be going to out to purchasers on the jump tip.

33 comments:

sasha fletcher said...

i saw zorn last year doing a tour for the dreamers. he would cue solos and the ikue mori would play the solos sped up and backwards and that would be the base for the next solo. it was amazing.

Brad Green said...

The last chapter on 'divine violence' is something I would hand out to a writing class: it discusses the manners by which applying meaning or intending meaning in a text or other artwork becomes both ridiculous and obscene.

I'll pick this book up just to read about that for sure. Thanks for writing about it.

I know these questions aren't popular, but I want to ask anyway because I'm curious.

Is a reaction to a text ridiculous or obscene? Is a reaction an attempt to derive meaning? Is it only obscene to attempt to convey meaning?

BLAKE BUTLER said...

hi brad,

i am actually kind of extrapolating from zizek, as he is mostly speaking of history and violent acts, though i think actions in history are relatable to artworks, and thus the parallel is apt.

here is a direct quote:

"The legacy of Job prevents us from taking refuge in the standard transcendent figure of God as a secret master who knows the meaning of what appears to us as meaningless catastrophe, the God who sees the entire picture in which what we perceive as a stain contributes to global harmony. When confronted with an event like the Holocaust or the death of millions in the Congo over these last years, is it not obscene to claim that these stains have a deeper meaning through which they contribute to the harmony of the whole?"


Moving from this, it seems not an overstatement that meaning then, if not applied in the larger circumstances, is applicable to great art, in that to me, great art is a divinely violent act.


Now, as to whether circumscribing your own meaning to an object: well, if that's what you want to do, that is what you want to do. But the idea that you will be unfailingly wrong in your assumptions, no matter how they are rendered, to me makes the process feeble at best.

Brad Green said...

Now, as to whether circumscribing your own meaning to an object: well, if that's what you want to do, that is what you want to do. But the idea that you will be unfailingly wrong in your assumptions, no matter how they are rendered, to me makes the process feeble at best.

How would such an assumption be wrong? They could only be wrong if something else is right. Right?

BLAKE BUTLER said...

Tell me the meaning of the Holocaust.

Brad Green said...

Sorry. I don't want your comment thread to devolve into another pit or pat discussion. These types of things just interest me because I can't understand why someone would write if the words don't mean anything or could mean anything instead of a particular thing.

Huh?

BLAKE BUTLER said...

On the other hand: tell me the meaning of an egg.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

It is not that the words don't mean anything. It is that why are their words on paper if there are more flexed ways of saying them?

BLAKE BUTLER said...

I like discussion Brad, it's cool.


I want you to tell me the meaning of something though.

Brad Green said...

The meaning of the Holocaust? I'd say that event is ripe with meaning. From the individual who suffered to the nation that lost. There's meaning there. It means something private to an individual. It means something more to the race, the nation, whatever larger group you want to define. As the meaning gets larger within the confines of the group, it becomes a more democratic process so that the "accepted" meaning is arrived at via consensus, the same way the world is built, the same way a text is built.

Meaning tends to leak outside the container.

What does the Holocaust mean? It means what the majority says it means. That's the closest thing we have to being right, I think.

Brad Green said...

The meaning of an egg is to be fried. With sharp cheddar and perhaps bacon. A bit of white gravy adds additional meaning to the egg as well.

Brad Green said...

Meaning is also related to power. The New York Times book review can define more meaning than my blog can. My blog can define more meaning than my son's Star Wars coloring book. Perhaps. Maybe on a good day it can.

I know you dislike power discussions, but they're relevant. The meaning of the Holocaust is determined by the most powerful group dictating that meaning.

Molly Gaudry said...

Finnegan's Wake? I think I'll try this one out with you. It's time. Thanks for reminding me to be a better reader.

M.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

I gotta be honest, Brad: I think your way of thinking that 'whoever holds the most power is the one with the right interpretation' is not only wrong, but it's kind of disgusting?

I don't mean that as a personal attack against you, but if I felt that way, I would not be able to try to create anything. It is why I don't vote.


your meaning of the egg is an exact example of what i mean: in that, that is an application, and not a definition. exactly.

in response to your statement:

"As the meaning gets larger within the confines of the group, it becomes a more democratic process so that the "accepted" meaning is arrived at via consensus, the same way the world is built, the same way a text is built."


Zizek's quote of Badiou in relation to politics I think is the best response here:


"It is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognizes as existent."


I would take the power of your son's coloring book over the New York Times book review ten days a week.

Seriously, can I have it?

BLAKE BUTLER said...

awesome Molly, let's read!

Adam R. said...

oh shit, oh fuck, hoe now there is theology here too

no one does that

BLAKE BUTLER said...

haha i hate you adam

which means i luff you

zizek says that too


goddamn it i am blogging about zizek, someone chop my fingers off

BLAKE BUTLER said...

perhaps 'disgusting' is harsh, though maybe not.

definitely 'dangerous'

Brad Green said...

I gotta be honest, Brad: I think your way of thinking that 'whoever holds the most power is the one with the right interpretation' is not only wrong, but it's kind of disgusting?

I didn't say I liked it. It's just that the world appears that way to me. How else does it function?

Application vs definition. That's an interesting concept. I could see definition being completely supplanted by application in just about everything. Very process oriented and modern-feeling. I actually like it quite a bit. It feels less totalitarian than what I've been talking about.

Then of course certain applications become standard and accepted. The same protocols of power come into play. Perhaps power is the wrong word. It can be talked about just as readily in terms of influence. Influence is less hammer like.

If Cormac McCarthy invents a word, it'll likely be "accepted" more readily than if I invent a word. Would you really say there's no difference between the word Cormac McCarthy invented and the word I invented? Would they be equal?

No. They wouldn't be. Cormac McCarthy would chew me up and spit me out. From my position that seems like a power struggle. From his it's a normal motion that requires little effort, like brushing his teeth.

McCarthy's word becomes correct or right. Mine would not be.

It's a bad system, destined to oppress most within it. I don't like it, but I think it's there. Wishing it were otherwise does not make it so.

Brad Green said...

Blake, it is disgusting. I agree with you.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

i think you will find much greater rewards when you take the emphasis of power off of others and either (a) forget it or (b) allow it to channel through you


cormac mccarthy was making up words long before he was 'accepted'

and the word still existed and held power with those who saw the power


i don't know, just make word n shit

Brad Green said...

Thanks for entertaining the discussion Blake. I'll ponder more what you said, especially the last comment. You're right. Victim phenomenon to a degree.

Off to lunch now. I'll not be having eggs since I've lost the ability to properly interact with them for the time being.

Jonny Darko said...

I liked this post a lot. And the discussion that followed. I think I agree with the Zizek idea as it applies to writing. Writing that tells you what everything is "supposed" to meaning is always didactic in the extreme, not to mention trite and obvious. And in poetry it is the equivalent to death or something.

I'm going to take out Finnegan's Wake and have a go at it. I've never gotten past the first sentence. It's the kind of writing that's probably best taken in small dose like you suggested.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

thank you for fun as well brad. i will eat eggs and think of fetuses and rum.


hi jonny, yes, i can't imagine reading it except in short ones, there is so so much to eat

Brendan Garbee said...

I just ordered your book, "ever." If my rent check bounces as a result, I am blaming you.

the existence of genocide obliterates meaning, from what I can tell. nuclear bombs make the struggle to find meaning obsolete. the only thing a human can do now is try to live and thrive in spite of horrors beyond imagining. so, if pushed, I'd say that the meaning of the holocaust is to fall in love, and to be gracious and always kind to strangers.

christopher higgs said...

Awesome that you're reading Zizek and posting about him! I haven't got around to reading Violence yet, now I'm stoked.

Also, thanks for the Zorn link, I don't have that one.

DOGZPLOT said...

673... cool. im 661. i think aaron is 659.

Molly Gaudry said...

I'm picking up my copy tonight -- exciting!

Darby said...

I am on page 280 of Finnigans Wake after having a strong go at it about four years ago and then page by page slowly slowly crowly since then. Everyone should lick every page at least once.

Darby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BLAKE BUTLER said...

thanks brendan! i hope it doesnt bounce.

chris, i just picked up the newly released 4-pack of his, excited.

barry, this is going to be good.

darby, i think i tried to read it straight thru once too, but didn't get past 10 pgs or so. that you made it so far is amazing. i am finding the book really is all it is cracked up to be.

Brandi Wells said...

i am excited about the next no colony 2.

Laura Carter said...

I just read that Zizek, too. It's interesting to contrast Zizek's opinion (channeled from Benjamin) that language is inherently violent to Hannah Arendt's opinion that only muteness is violent, kind of like saying that language saves us from violence somehow....