His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com



In the book trade, a term used to describe discoloration to pages, often endpapers, where newspaper clippings or other papers have been laid in and, through time, stained the adjacent pages...

...Metaphorical "ghosting" of books created by the passage of the act of reading.

Other people's words 

If I often quote others in this space, it's because I'm trying to remind myself of something, have been reminded of something, or simply have encountered a sympathetic thought better expressed by someone else. William Gaddis, in a 1982 interview, says something here that strikes me:
"Have I said I enjoy writing? Some high moment and I probably did, but it's nearer what Pascal, was it he? as I have it at second hand, said about no man differing more from another than he does from himself at another time."
-- rather echoes the Heraclitean remark about the stepping again into the same river: "it is and is not." My own words are often as foreign to me from one day to the next.


"It was his lot to only fulfill himself halfway. Everything in him was truncated: his way of life, like his way of thinking. A man of fragments, himself a fragment."
-- E.M. Cioran


If I were to put a single image on this site, it would be one by Sean Scully, I think.


Reading. Blogs. Concrete. 

Awhile ago on Spurious there was a lovely post about opening a book and leaving it open in a room: "Often I will lay a book like Blanchot’s The Last Man open in a room as though the room itself could read it – lay it there and come to it, read a few pages and then return later that day or the next." Recently, at In Writing, the reverie of a dweller at the threshold. I like the way these texts speak to each other; I can imagine the two dwelling, unknown to each other, in the same apartment building -- perhaps across the street from Rachel Whiteread's House.
They're both fine weblogs, and despite my early assertions about not being interested in any sort of community of "bloggers," I'm not so ignorant of the outside world as to fail to mention that wch should be mentioned. Regarding community, I was wrong.


Difficult Fourth Title 

Reading over my past few blogs I cringe a bit at the quality of prose. I must remind myself from time to time that this project is related to the sketchbook, and there will be scribbling and ugly lines. Also, that some of these sketches shd be followed up with lengthier, more fully realized pieces. Today the sketching suits me, though I'm somewhat uneasy that I haven't written seriously in a bit, just little pieces here and there. Wch is ok in its way. But [...]. Morton Feldman wrote an interesting essay about how he became a composer. He decided it was time to get serious about his work, and realized he needed the right chair; called up Robert Rauschenberg, who often went out scouting for scrap, and they went out chair hunting together. Rauschenberg found a beat-up wicker chair that found its way into a painting; Feldman found a sturdy old oak office chair with the word "Universal" on a brass plaque on the back. At the time of the writing (1980s) he still had it. His point was that a lot of the work is simply being ready for it. Waiting. Sitting down at his desk, he'd straighten papers, sharpen pencils. He might work for two straight days; other times, maybe sharpening pencils was enough. I have an aesthetic / intellectual appreciation of waiting, coupled, though, with a sometimes short fuse.
Watched crap tv last night, feeling vaguely unsettled and unable to approach my desk; rain came as a relief. So perhaps tomorrow I will sharpen my pencils, refill the Esterbrook, and go to the reading room at the library and start something new, and for the time being call it "difficult fourth title" - wch is a brilliant title Stereolab thought of, not me, but probably falls within the bounds of fair use.

So on Gilmore Girls last week, Rory and Paris come running into a building after a cloudburst and a girl says "Is it raining outside?" --to wch Paris replies "No, it's National Baptism Day. Get your tubes tied, idiot." Hell. To think that someone gets paid a lot of money to write my interior monologue. And does a better job of it.


silent comotion 

"silent comotion" -- a line from choreographer Trisha Brown's notebooks as part of an exhibition of her work. Co-motion or commotion? There's a looseness and unself-consciousness of the writing; writing not as writing but as a movement towards work, a working process. Trying out ideas for a piece, noting:

... It worked. (More notes). It worked. Same process. [...] It didn't.
[...] It got more beautiful towards the end. Rigid tho.


2nd image
Saw *** where the image was enough in evidence to cause me to scrap that idea.

3rd image
[...] So scrapped that idea.


Note on "Homemade" performance (1966):

I used my memory as a score.


Talking with a friend, going over same ground a lot of the time. He's frustrated by the fact that there's no audience, little audience for what we do, what we read, what we view. Not in the sense of "hey look - praise us" but that there's little discussion, little sense of community. (Not to whine or mention that Sven Birkerts, among many others, could use a good punch in the nose. I mean the whole wrist soldered to forehead, "Alas! This post-literate culture..." business. Get over yourselves. So it's hard to make a living reviewing books, unlike the days when Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe roared like lions. Come on now; it's not like you're living in a refugee camp. "Go chop wood," as a friend's dad used to say.) I can be anonymous here in regards to persons and place because no matter where you're reading this, it probably applies...
But there are threads. A few hundred years ago Novalis wrote "We search for the Absolute, and find only things." Not that we're searching for the Absolute; what a pity it'd be to find. And our words won't last long; I'm not losing too much sleep over that. But oh this world: at least during the Reagan years we had what looks like a small comfort now: the possibility of global nuclear annihilation. (Yes, that's extremely anthropocentric. So shoot me). Now it just seems like a slow slide into the American Gulag of the 21st century. But as Borges pointed out -- the only line I have ever underlined in a book -- "Like all men, he was simply given bad times in which to live."
So these threads exist; sometimes it's enough to get us through the day, maybe longer. About a year and a half ago, I was at a reading where a young woman read; it must have been one of her first times. The nervousness simply radiated from her like a strong damp draft, just put you on edge. And she stands in front of the mic and looks at it, then down to her papers, is seemingly frozen in place, though almost vibrating. I'm totally engaged, thinking this presence/absence, this suspension, is ________; I could calculate such an opening for effect, but this is REAL and NOW; absolutely present. I'm feeling pretty objective about witnessing this; I can fairly dismiss any sympathetic chords being struck, having been there before & still feeling awkward / lost in front of people at times; can also dismiss the fact that may I feel more for her because she vaguely resembles Simone Weil. She starts, stops, starts to read, haltingly. At that point she is the greatest poet in the goddamn world, I thought. And I'll stand by that. The work was personal and deeply felt, but without the taken-for-granted sense of a personal, inviolate "I" delivering the words in some suburban Orphic fashion; no lumbering down the path towards finding one's "true voice"; there was a sense of language as a construct, of its deep strangeness, the way it attracts us and is yet totally removed. Tenuous, feeble at imes, there's a connection. Or let me spell it "connexion" to allow that x there; the cross, x or + as it figures in Beuys's work, signifying a unifying point of two different, possibly oppositional energies. [I draw a line. Another makes a composition.]

There are many letters I haven't written, many I haven't sent, simply due to the sense of gravity in writing, a too-strong urge for clarity and control, to not be misread. That's a sullen loss. And maybe sharing a cup of coffee, by chance or intention, with a friend is purely an ephemeral thing. There are a lot of things I forget. But it's also a real part of the work we all do, the working; a sort of collective, dialogic notebook where talk of the weather or sports slips in between the larger questions. A small comotion.


One long run-on sentence 

by someone who stutters

"in the gap" 

Talking to J. yesterday, who feels as vaguely hopeless about writing these days as I do, but in a different way. I mean that we’re probably both wrong about things, just in different ways. What’s the rush to publish these “younger poets” have, for example? Besides youth and ambition. Not that I’m exactly old, and a streak of the puritan denies me any overt ambition & lays guilt down like weedkiller when it sprouts.

And poetry, what’s the deal with that? The privilege the word “poetry” confers upon certain types of writing, where I’ve seen only limits. The prose of Cixous, Beckett, need I mention Blanchot; Ann Quin, Arno Schmidt -- seems to offer some sort of possibility. “Anything can be in a novel.” Who wrote that?-- Gertrude Stein? An interesting case herself.

Part of it is a wariness of all too facile definitions. I’ve been resistant to the designation “poet” as of late, as my own writing has gone afield from that, although fragments of poems embed themselves in the work. “It’s a book, and leave it at that” said K. to me. And I confessed to T. last night my suspicion that a concern for repudiating genre (wch is not to say toward the general; “hybrid” might be a more fitting term, shd you require one) is just as pathetic as worrying about sonnets and pantoums, character development and royalty percentages.

Yet I’ve looked again at Barrett Watten’s Conduit, Susan Howe’s work, and back yet again to George Oppen and Claude Royet-Journoud. Anne-Marie Albiach. Joan Retallack. So there is possibility beyond this stillborn, “post-Language” new lyricism, new brutalism (the stick roughly the size and shape of Ron Silliman up Ron Silliman’s ass lately), or whatever the kids on the poetry block are calling it these days. Rachel Blau du Plessis once said an interesting thing about feeling that we haven't fully had modernism yet. A comforting thought.

Ultimately -- at the beginning and the end, there’s the notebook, or the journal. That wch is ephemeral, that wch can be -- runs the risk of being -- discarded.

Leslie Scalapino’s R-hu baffles me in a pleasantly intriguing way; it was commissioned by the publishers, as if they said “Leslie, here’s a notebook. Fill it up and we’ll publish it.” It veers between prose and poetry, there’s a review of another book, critical writing, discussion of earlier work, etc. I didn’t intend the above remark in a flippant or dismissive way -- indeed, it’s an exciting and fascinating concept, were a publisher to actually do so. R-hu's a fascinating, somewhat problematic hybrid work and refuses to let itself be dismissed.


I woke up one day last week and, replacing my usual day off ritual of making coffee, putting on some music, looking out the window and, perhaps, scribbling a little -- a situation wch always runs the risk of dissolving into an aimlessness without joy -- I watched Godard’s For Ever Mozart. I don’t have much access to later Godard, sad to say, so any commentary here is bound to be somewhat ill-informed... but there always seems to be marvelous flaws in his work; exposed edges, seemingly gratuitous pieces. And like so much of the work I’m attracted to, there's the sense of sticking two or more things together that don’t quite fit & see what the tension creates -- if it creates tension -- or what happens in the gap. I’m thinking now of MG’s “parataxis notes,” wch I’d like to review.

I have to watch For Ever Mozart again. Likely more than twice. I understand this movie is considered by many to be unsuccessful, even a bit of a failure. It’s a problem one faces with any artist who is constantly producing work; what work, then, is truly representative? Only after a long period, say a lifetime, can one posit changes. Without clear breaks, phases or periods as we critically understand them -- or as critics frame them -- how does one isolate a work? Can one? What’s the definitive Stereolab album (besides Transient Random Noise Bursts...?) The definitive Fall album?-- Perverted by Language? Hex Enduction Hour? Grotesque? Or a dark horse, like Dragnet or Totale’s Turns? (And why only the earlier stuff? you might ask. Bad as a damn film critic on Godard, aren’t you?!) Or the definitive Scalapino book.

It’s easier with a William Gaddis, say, with many pauses between books that took many years to write. The Recognitions and Agape Agape are separated by more than 40 years; yet the latter, later and much thinner book is the one he started around the same time or after the first, and, sporadically, worked on for his entire life; it would be fair to say that the final published version isn’t the book he was working towards for most of his life, but merely a version of that book. Only impending death brought closure. And still, a writing beyond the end. Notes. Scraps. The gap.


I have no idea how it was presented in France, but Hélène Cixous’s Jours de l’an, a “poetic fiction”... “related to the species of the poem” and translated into English by Catherine A.F. MacGillvray as FirstDays of the Year has been given the generic classification(s) of “literature / literary theory” by the University of Minnesota Press. The book is simply astonishing. I would like to say, without appearing to flatter myself too much, that my own writing owes a certain debt to it; its thinking changed me, and showed me not exactly a model for writing, but an example of how writing can be.

Both the city and county libraries have copies of the book; in the city library, it’s shelved with French essays and criticism; in the county library, it’s in the fiction section. This reveals the problems of pigeon-holing, but also a unique charm of the work. I’d like to think that the author would be amused, if not pleased, by these different cataloguing decisions.

May -- they say -- will bring the US publication of Cixous’s Writing Notebooks. My copy’s on order, and as much as I seem to be unenthused by what they call “the state of literature,” I’m very much looking forward to it.


Holy Saturday 

In the Catholic tradition, Christ is dead; Mass is not celebrated on this day. When I was a boy, my family attended a large church, a cavernous, structure, late Romanesque in style; coming out of the library across the street one Holy Saturday, I decided to enter the church alone. It was dim inside, unlit except for the single sanctuary lamp burning. The area behind the altar was shrouded in purple; the silence was palpable; deep violet, almost black.

This memory has always stayed with me, and has left a certain mark; it was as if the veneer of ritual and obligation had become a meaningless, foreign thing. I was struck for the first time by the mystery and silence that lies at the heart of the spiritual impulse (dare I say experience?) Terror dwells there too. Terror. Calm. Quiet. Dissimilar because they are different words, but there is a thread that runs through them.

While no longer a practicing Catholic, Holy Saturday holds a special resonance, even a place of reverence for me. I still frequent churches in the off-hours just to sit in the quiet. I stopped in my local church Saturday; the sunlight was shining through the stained glass, and people were there, busy decorating the church for the Easter vigil that night. Some other time, perhaps. (Did my discomfort with narrative begin even then, with unending annual repetitions of the Easter Story, The Christmas Story?... Or was it the drama? Like I love listening to opera; just don’t care much for going to one).

At the end of Mark, the earliest of the synoptic Gospels, we leave the apostles at the scene of the tomb on Easter morning; the tomb is empty, there is no body. The original last words of the gospel were “and they were terrified.”

The heart of silence and terror at the center of the early Christian movement; the silence and terror that precedes any question of faith.

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