Archived entries for writing

Compare and contrast, dude.

The Royal Tenenbaums and Infinite Jest:

Rather than provide a close reading of all 1,079 pages of Infinite Jest, I will look here only at those sections pertaining to the mirror-image of the Tenenbaum family, mostly the Incandenza family.

Is this the only term paper you have for sale? Admittedly, not by Kottke, but the writing is stilted and awkward.

Level up your literature

LRB · John Lanchester: Is it Art?:

Northrop Frye once observed that all conventions, as conventions, are more or less insane; Stanley Cavell once pointed out that the conventions of cinema are just as arbitrary as those of opera. Both those observations are brought to mind by video games, which are full, overfull, of exactly that kind of arbitrary convention. Many of these conventions make the game more difficult. Gaming is a much more resistant, frustrating medium than its cultural competitors. Older media have largely abandoned the idea that difficulty is a virtue; if I had to name one high-cultural notion that had died in my adult lifetime, it would be the idea that difficulty is artistically desirable. It’s a bit of an irony that difficulty thrives in the newest medium of all – and it’s not by accident, either. One of the most common complaints regular gamers make in reviewing new offerings is that they are too easy. (It would be nice if a little bit of that leaked over into the book world.)

If by “difficulty” we mean the sort of linguistic experiment usually associated with avant-garde literature, difficult literature is more unpopular than it is dead. The avant-garde is there, it’s just even harder to find, ironically enough. In a world ruled by PageRank, isn’t popularity equivalent to non-existent? There are exceptions, but I’m not sure that we’re even talking about the same definitions of “difficulty” here. Getting through a few levels of Da Blob is probably difficult in a different way from reading a Ron Silliman poem.

I’d also question the idea that there’s ever been much of a market for experimental literature. What this seems to be is a reverse variation on the canard “they don’t make movies like that anymore,” when in truth the reality is that they never did. I see what the author is getting at here, and at first read it makes some sense, but it’s more clever than right.

(Via Lorcan Dempsey.)

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More books

Three Percent: Best Translated Book of 2008: The Fiction Longlist

Just marking it for reference, but a lot of interesting looking books here.

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Boom, dammit

Flavorwire » Blog Archive » J.D. Salinger is 90 — So Let’s Celebrate:

After the jump a roundup of the films, songs, and noted personalities (Salingerologists?) who have paid homage to the disaffected cannon.

You’ve always got to watch yourself around that disaffected cannon.

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Possible proof

This Modern World | Salon Comics:


Tom Tomorrow owes me the coffee that I just spit all over my desk. Read the whole damn thing.

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Proust Roast Arts and Culture:

“A seven-line, handwritten 1922 poem in which Proust said his servant was ‘tall, slender, beautiful,’ may fetch as much as 12,000 euros, Sotheby’s said. A note that he scribbled to her a few hours before dying in 1922, still stained with the coffee he was drinking, could sell for as much as 8,000 euros. “

That “stained” was making me nervous.

Picasso used this paint

The Dark Ages: in celebration of the little black book – Times Online:

“My friend Robin Hunt, who is a research fellow at University College London studying trust in the digital age, e-mails me his thoughts on the phenomenon: ‘The democratisation of the BlackBerry (and the even earlier adoption of the all-tech iPod by the masses and not just the elite) leaves the posing class with nowhere to go except ‘by hand’. I travelled across Europe with Moleskines because sometimes sitting at a café, even with a shiny silver Mac, isn’t enough; you still look like an accountant. Also, writing by hand makes for such concentration of thought.’ Since the original Moleskine has gone, Hunt says that the new version is ‘utterly fake in a sense. You could say it is the riposte to the web.’ “

Ouch. And yet the Web itself has been responsible for the widespread adoption of said riposte. The ‘Skine (YEAH, baby) has become popular enough that its quality has suffered – the paper is crappier and the bindings split easily. There are better and less trendy notebooks out there.

The difference between Hemingway’s Moleskine and yours, though, is that his had Hemingway’s writing in it.

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“My vocabulary did this to me.”

The Phoenix > Books > Review: My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poems of Jack Spicer:

Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian — poets, and the most knowledgeable and dedicated Spicereans — have brought together all the known Spicer poems in one place and given American poetry an essential book. Not that Spicer is for the common reader. God forbid. His poetry is like a glass of potent spirits; you don’t always have a taste for it, but when you do, it is the only drink that will do. It’s not easy to like Spicer’s work. He can be cutting, nasty, self-pitying to an extreme, the smartest one in the room, and a masterful, cruel putdown artist. That these are strengths is not paradoxical. Spicer was not interested in paradox. Taking dictation from ‘Martians’ allowed him to get away with murder, and after reading him, you may feel that much American poetry is fake, the quality of its emotions bland as baby food.”

I have the Robin Blaser “Collected Books” (from Black Sparrow) but I’m interested in this edition. Spicer is truly an underappreciated influence in American poetry, akin to Robert Duncan. He can be very difficult. I found the automatic writing angle somewhat uncomfortable when I was younger, but some of Spicer’s poetry is sublime:

This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

There’s echoes of the various NY Schools in there. There are some really great collected volumes coming out these days. This is one of them.

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“decorate all these blank white pages”

Bookslut | “Beyond This Universe of Countless Words”:

While some might see this kind of writing as incoherent and lacking focus, the collage extends notions of self, memory, perception, and reflection in ways unique to Whalen’s modernist collage. Significantly, Whalen provides what Kenneth Burke has called ‘strategies for living.’ Such strategies provide readers with a richly textured poem that comments on the force of memory and imagination in the creation of everyday experience. Spiritual and philosophical introspection is often tempered with humorous outbursts of self-awareness, commentary on the concretely situated flesh-and-blood body in space, and historically framed contexts that give meaning to the accident of occasion. Such accidents appear in Whalen’s work in need of redemption from the peculiarities of chance. His work suggests instead that separation is an illusion, that things cohere as experience within a life remembered and continually re-processed and situated in the subtly shifting coordinates we all must ride. Poetry provides an imposed limitation on these phenomenal movements, for it demands translation of perception into a particularly ordered language. Again, in Burke’s terms, Whalen shows us how to expand our capacities of seeing, feeling, and thinking about the world and the particular environments we inhabit.

Particularly perceptive review of Whalen’s work in the the context of the recent Collected Poems. Whalen is by far my favorite of all the Beats. For the most part Whalen seems onto something entirely different than Kerouac Ginsberg Corso et al; his lumping in there is an accident of history.

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Cranky spelling question

I just may be completely unhip, but when did it become sneak peak as opposed to sneak peek? I only see it spelled the wrong way now. Is this some secret lolcatz post-ironic spelling or something?

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