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



In JLG's For Ever Mozart, the young woman who wants to stage a play in Sarajevo says "He thinks my philosophy is almost nothing." My sense is that -- or is it merely an imposition of my own sensibility onto this character? -- the phrase hinges on the word "almost." That's the slow, grating burden, the fleeting dream: to have not quite enough of nothing. There's residue; something that resists all attempts at erasure. One is left with only the forlorn act, attempt of slowly wearing away at it -- when even the rain, even light -- leaves a stain.


debris slump 

I've started a new blog as a space to put up or document some writing that's more "primary" material; more finished-type performance works, rather than the notebook-like scribblings I post here.


all apologies 

It's been really hot; my temper is short. Really didn't mean to vent like I did yesterday; I apologize for any exaggerations. I'd like to quote Yogi Berra: "I didn't say everything I said." But, there it is in print. I didn't mean any of it. Except the "Hey, contemporary culture -- fuck you!" part. That, I meant.


as for we who are not surprised by fucking idiots 

From a review in yesterday's New York Times of a show by the Starn brothers: "The Starns have continued to experiment adventurously with the material presentation of photography, but their preoccupations with nature and antiquity have seemed obscure or irrelevant to an art world transfixed by the effects of modern culture and society."
Oh, my -- nature and antiquity. The shame! Yeah, we really need something on the order of a critical-creative re-examination of the Powderpuff Girls instead. Maybe a sculpture of Reagan constructed out of burnt-out lightbulbs. Or a synthesis of comic book and cultural criticism: "Madonna Kabbalah." It's not like I'm shaking the dust off my tweedy lapels as I rise from my chair when I say "Hey!-- contemporary culture: Fuck you!" Well, ok, maybe a little.


as for we who "love to be astonished" 

Lyn Hejinian's My Life is one of those books where it's easy to say "needs no introduction." But if you don't know it, find it, read it. [Excerpt here.]
She started with a simple idea: at the age of 37, to write an autobigraphy of thirty-seven chapters, each consisting of thirty-seven lines. Each is prefaced by an inset line that may or may not set the tone: "A pause, a rose, something on paper."
As in life, there are many repetitions, and as lines repeat, they are transformed. The repetition, the disjunctiveness, &c have caused inevitable comparisons with Stein, and the book works in the that way certain Stein texts are supposed to work like Cezanne: single brushstrokes building up an abstract, yet recognizable image -- or rather, the effect of the image, a real-time representation. Eight years later, she revised it, adding eight chapters and eight lines to each previous chapter; this year has seen a new manifestation of the project, with a "sequel," My Life in the 90s. I haven't read teh new one, but My Life is a fine book and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Incomplete introduction complete... For awhile now, someone has taken it upon themselves to enter the book as a weblog, one sentence per day. It does and does not do justice to the book; the blog speaks well to the openness and dailiness of the work, but fails to give you the concentrated effect of these lines cohered into chapters; the fractional dissonance of a life reduced to a book -- a book that, in turn, continues to manifest itself in the world in strange and beautiful ways. My reservations aside (wch can be reduced to read the book!) -- I can't think of a better text to dispense in this form, so even if you know the book, take a look.


One so-called Language poet (as opposed to so-called "so-called 'Language poets'"; ie, he published in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine [now available online {go on back, click the highlighted text} at the wonderful resource that is Eclipse]) keeping a weblog worth noting is Nick Piombino; one thing I like very much about fait accompli is the presence of a lot of notebook material, some dating back 20 years or so. It's interesting to me to see this material in evidence, being put to some use; sometimes, it seems, as document, sometimes as (part of the) ever-evolving work.


The Tulse Luper Suitcases: Part 2 (2 + coda) 

92 objects to represent the world: an umbrella, broken glass, a movie camera

“There is no such thing as history, there are only historians.”

The message blinks in the center of the screen in Morse code. The message scrolls across the screen as text similar to the text you are reading now...


“You are a prisoner of a fictitious history.”

Permanent prisoners and permanent jailers. Narrative. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman who loved unwisely...”

Imprisoned at Vaux, a madwoman is cast as Tulse Luper’s wife; she can be anyone, and he’s locked in an iron mask so that no one can see his displeasure.

[Throughout the films, Greenaway’s drawings and paintings; a series of visual lists].

Banquet scene, recreated from 17thC.; musical pun: the orchestra plays “La Folia,” perhaps the most famous subject for variations in baroque times (Corelli’s are notable)

lines repeat
lines repeat
lines repeat / are layered

text / sound / image

paragraphs/ scenes repeat

Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc plays in the Strasbourg theater, under German occupation, where Tulse Luper is again held prisoner. He begins to lose the ability to distinguish between cinema and reality. In 1940, TL writes a play, The Baby of Strasburg, wch is made into a film in 1993 called The Baby of Macon

Scenes fragmented into overlapping planes of differing resolutions / intensities; planes shift

“Why are there so many words in English?”
“Because the English are greedy.”
Luper, the professional prisoner, again finds himself imprisoned in a town on the coast of France, “safely” disguised as Madame Moitessier’s maid -- no men are permitted as domestic servants, and as a man Luper would certainly end up in the hands of the Germans ...

A century before, a Madame Moitessier was painted by Ingres -- twice. The first painting was abandoned and returned to four times in Ingres’ life. By the time he completed it, the second portrait had been finished, and the first was that of a young woman no longer young. The current Madame Moitessier is obsessed with Ingres, and has TL pose for drawing students. The students have a choice: paint Luper as a woman, and betray the evidence of their eyes, or paint Luper as he is and betray Moitessier. With shifting allegiances, even opportunism becomes compromised.

Luper writes a play, The Draughtsman’s Contract...


Amazingly rich, self-referential, working on so many levels... Ultimately, there’s nothing I can write, no way to describe the experience of this film or way to do it justice. That’s not a disclaimer; just letting you know I’m ok with that, and the inability to go back and see it again (at least for several years). Even taking these notes does a sort of disservice to memory: like going on a trip and taking photographs, time goes by and you don’t have the memory of the beach, the mountain, the street you walked down to have coffee, but the memory of looking at a photograph of a beach, a mountain, etc. That there was so much else going on at the same time.

These notes will probably stay up for a few days, a week -- however long until I rewrite them or edit them into a single post. Cinema will continue, of course. Good paintings have been done after Malevich’s Black Square -- some very fine black paintings, too -- but that’s pretty much the end all and be all of painting. Working from the opposite end of the spectrum, Greenaway might well have finished off cinema, completing the work Godard started.

Thanks to B., who, via e-mail correspondence, sent the following excerpts from a Salon.com interview with PG:
"In a sense I think it's already too late: Cinema is an old technology. I think we've seen an incredibly moribund cinema in the last 30 years. In a sense Godard destroyed everything -- a great, great director, but in a sense he rang the death knell, because he broke cinema all apart, fragmented it, made it very, very self-conscious. Like all the aesthetic movements, it's basically lasted about 100 years, with the three generations: the grandfather who organized everything, the father who basically consolidated it and the young guy who chucks it all away. It's just a human pattern."
"Now is the time I think we should dump narration, we should no longer simply slay the whole vocabulary of cinema for the whole purpose of telling stories. I'm not against narrative, I enjoy storytelling. I do think that cinema has so much to offer outside the slavery of narrative. I would continue to push in that direction, though John Cage suggested if you introduce more than 20 percent of novelty into any artwork, you're going to lose 80 percent of your audience. And I want to go on making movies, so -- without any sense of condescension or patronage -- we have to work at a certain pace, otherwise I'm going to disappear into the outer darkness and never make another movie. And I want to make mainstream movies. This might sound very strange, but I don't want to live in an ivory tower, I don't want to be an underground filmmaker. I want to make movies for the largest possible audience, but arrogantly I want to make them on my terms."

“There’s no such thing as content any more, only language.”
Remarked Peter Greenaway. It’s ironic to hear people speak of characters being flatly, or broadly, “played” in any of his movies: it’s not the point. At. All. Greenaway is a “dominatrix of form” as B. remarked, rather accurately. P. Adams Sitney placed The Falls in a section on structuralist film in his book on experimental / visionary cinema; again, not inaccurately. His movies are about many things, but structure’s a biggie. The films of his that don’t work so well for me don’t manifest it as clearly. There’s this gnawing sense one has during A Zed and Two Noughts that there are multiple structures being played out in different ways, and they can -- and do -- intersect at many points; most importantly, the viewer’s mind. It’s not affect or frippery, but there’s a level of engagement his work demands that I appreciate. I’m about the last person to cry out about the merits of technology, but in The Tulse Luper Suitcases he finally has the ability to make visually apparent what’s going on textually. Yet people hammer a nail into the wall and hang a hat on it; PG’s all about sex, it’s about excess, it’s indulgence, self-indulgence, what a sad view of humanity... Mostly the sex, though.
- “... fucking...”
- “Don’t call it that; say “making love.”
- “Copulating.”
- “What’s that?”
- “Sex, without the frills.”

Oh, and narrative. People love their images, but they must needs have their lovely stories too.


All of the above, and ninety-two percent of this blog may not be true. But this is...
Last week, to get out of myself, take the air rather than the gaspipe, so to speak, I did a sort of touristy thing. Let’s say I took a boat ride to the beach. Waiting for the boat, a man, foreign to these parts, struck up a conversation with me. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, and he had numerous questions about the climate of the region, which, as staring out the window and going for long walks without an umbrella are sorts of hobbies of mine, I was glad to comment on. Eventually, he asked what I did for a living, and when I told him that I worked in a bookstore, he gestured to my satchel and said “You must read. That’s good, you can probably help people, recommend books to them.” I explained that I wasn’t actually very good at that part of the job, because I mostly read what people don’t want to buy. “Oh, then you must read non-fiction” he said. At the time, I didn’t think of Williams’s line about poetry being news that stays news, or if Awaiting Oblivion is philosophy or fiction, but I had to ask exactly how he came to that conclusion. His response?
“Because people like stories.”


The Tulse Luper Suitcases Part 1 (1) 

notes from last night's screening:

a part, 1 of 3 of a film
92 suitcases, each containing multiple variations of a single object type, together comprising a portrait of one man, Tulse Luper, himself a fragment, or figment...

Opening: rolling banks of frames; actors with placards listng their character's names around their necks, reciting their lines, lines overlapping. As the picture progresses, the division of the screen into rows of frames, frames overlapping frames, frames rising from within frames continues. A common motif, esp. w/ a composition of a background frame, inset action or still ife frame, and three views of various "experts" discussing Luper arranged beneath.

92. 92 suitcases; the atomic number of Uranium, the way that plays throughout the 20thC., even Luper's name: Tulse Henry Purcell Luper, the hint of an anagram, the internal rhyme, the Urs...
Luper as Greenaway alter-ego. (& Michael Nyman using Purcell ground bass figures for the Draughtsman's Contract soundtrack; Purcell, the first great English composer.

Self-referentiality; the overwhelming structural play, & references to past films (Zed and Two Noughts, Belly of an Architect) and character names repeated (Cissie Colpitts, Van Hoyten)...

Many things happening in threes; often, a division of screen into three parts. Sense of edifice; "expert" remarking that many an architect, after completeing his masterwork, being thrown from the roof / falling from the roof. The view of the expert giving commentary, or that of the sometimes narrator (this being a sort of false documentary) often split into three boxes, three different views of the talking head, while action proceeds on the screen above / around...

It seems that Greenaway has returned to the structuralism of The Falls, Drowning by Numbers, and the two aforementioned films; there's excess, sure, but not of the sort in Prosperos's Books or The Cook, The Thief...

And, at the end, the voice of officials referring to Luper? His doubles, other characters --

- He's a liability.
- He should be in the sea.
- He should be in a morgue.
- He should be in an American movie.

Part 2 tonight

blind corner notes 

"The world is too much with us."
Strange, a sort of red thread itself... Writing on fragments and notebooks yesterday, thinking of that line from Cixous's Rootprints: "As soon as there is a part that is journal and a part that is novel in a work, I am on the side of the journal. That is my place.
When I read, I look for the notebooks of the book."
-- and then seeing Part 1 of Greenaway's The Tulse Luper Suitcases, running into a friend and repeating the same old comment about there being too much to read, etc, etc, I come home to find a message on my machine from the bookstore telling me that my copy of Cixous's The Writing Notebooks is in. Just picked it up; only a few glances. It opens with:

"To say that there is a book, here is a book
I feel a book objectively it's madness
it's to

- Here's the book. Here's the book that I
will not write. This is where it begins
Here is the book that I will never
write, I thought,



The notebook... Like the fragment, it shares the position of indicating a greater whole: either additively -- notes towards a project, as sketches; or by subtraction / reduction -- comments, reminders, reportage. Attempts to recover something.
The notebook tells the real story; it works by implication. Even when declarative, it is somehow suspect, subject to revision. If a notebook declares anything, it is its limits, its flawed nature, its impossibility. The richness is in the implication. And, as Meister Eckhart noted, "Only the hand that erases can write the true thing."


...to create a fatal, flawed object.
A local gallery, a gallery no longer here, had several shows by a glass artist named Josiah McIlhenny. (Stay with me. I know; I hear the words "glass art" and start rummaging around for a hammer). McIlhenny was a masterful craftsman, did these finely wrought Venetian-style pieces. Then he made up stories, or false provenances for them. he would make pieces, break them, artificially age them, and then arrange the fragments in vitrines with false historical notes, maps, etc. Only their position in a commercial art gallery clued you in otherwise. Of course, it's impossible to discuss contemporary art without using the words "appropriation" and "recontextualize," but he seemed to play an odd sort of left-handed variation of the game, showing his craft and turning his back on it, playing it very smart but not preening. An interesting gambit: would you care to purchase a false fragment?

I've made the mistake of talking about art as commodity, wch problematizes talking about the visual & verbal arts in one post, then throwing in a loaded word like "false," and end up writing myself into a very real corner.



Am I, perhaps, too entranced by the fragmentary, the incomplete, the peripheral? Is it so that any notebook, letter, found photo, or unfinished piece attracts me? I suppose so--

Not to say I don't value the poetic constructions of a Rae Armantrout or George Oppen or William Bronk, Peter Greenaway or Alain Resnais, brilliant constructors, all --

There's the natural love of the minute & forgotten... Take, for instance, the child's instinct for the bird with a broken wing, a stone picked up and marveled at... Are we talking empathy here? What of Robert Walser's microscripts? [I have a lovely & much-prized catalogue from a show at the Swiss Institute in NYC, Fragments of Imaginary Landscapes, pairing Walser's microscsripts with tiny paintings by Joan Nelson, it's a small book, maybe 4x6" and everything's reproduced at size: a business card with a RW poem and short story on it, JN paintings of 2x3" some details added with a single brush-hair])... but I suppose a stint at the university did me in, put me forever on the side of the fragment; the valorization of craft and technique above all else that universities insist on (what happened to create an entire generation of John Ashbery imitators, anyway?) -- but also the cult(ure) of reviewing, the fascination with the smoothness of object surfaces rather than the thing-ness itself. The fragments of Sappho were the first texts that really struck me, that kick galvanic, finding myself lost in the lingering[ ].
"Words is music. Sometimes you've got a word and it doesn't quite fit but you go with it, you stick it there, the song needs it in a way." (I'm paraphrasing a Mark E. Smith interview, wch I'll have to go back and confirm). The parataxis that's at work in a lot of Fall songs/albums; the break, the disjunct there; the few rough strands that make up a song like "Papal Visit," the jarring, "tuneless" strokes of violin in "Hotel Blodel" that at first seem tacked on, disorienting; eventually become a sort of center. Or Swell Maps' "Little Shop 'Round the Corner." All forty seconds or so of it.

So that was the genesis, the root of it; the love for the small, broken thing:
le petit brisee chose, my broken French. There: did I do it? -- make it precious? Out of the base noise of this world, to take a detail: isolated, it sings. That almost anything can be a madeleine; Proust's remark about travel, that the real challenge is walking the same streets every day and finding something new.

"Precise as a footfall" as R. once noted.

So, question is, do we choose to view the fragment as part of a whole, or an object in itself? The instructive example of the aphorism as a case of fragmentary form: Heraclitus, Novalis, Lichtenberg, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein (?this requires not too much special pleading), Kraus, Cioran. This question's the root of a book, and I'm certain finer minds than mine have addressed it. (Bibliographies, anyone?) I will leave off for now and let these remarks stand, and remain true to the spirit of the fragment here due to constraints on my time, and as a product both of intent and torpor...


waste books 

Shortly after starting this blog, T. sent me a moleskine notebook, knowing of my promise to write all entries in longhand first, and knowing that I'd likely never buy one of the things for myself. (Thanks!) And while not all entries have been written in this (and yes, I've broken the rule 3-4 times), it's a lovely notebook. They always seemed to be rather annoyingly precious to me; the perfect thing for double-mochaccino drinkers to scribble in when they've left their laptops at home. Friends no doubt roll their eyes when I go off about the physicality of writing, the physical fact of it, I will say, and they'll roll their eyes, what a charming eccentric, he's really going to lose it one of these days... I own several manual typewriters, a fountain pen is always at hand and I even have several dip pens, so it would be easy for me to go on about the buttery texture of the papers, the presence of the thing in one's hand, and the pocket in the back that holds index cards nicely. The sound of the nib scratching at the page, the glossiness of the ink right before it dries... But I won't. There's a website dedicated to moleskines, where I came across filo illogico, listed below. Also, some time ago, neatly coincident with the arrival of my moleskine, a post on notebooks at In Writing -- wch also references Lichtenberg's Waste Books. Consider this a belated comment, another thread.

Doubt now, think later, that's the natural order...


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