:: Buzzwords Archive: August 2012. Click here for the latest posts.

A writer in reverse (published 30/08/2012)

Ned Beauman on Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story:

Reviewing a biography of Borges for the New York Times in 2004, David Foster Wallace took issue with “the idea … that we can’t correctly interpret a piece of verbal art unless we know the personal and/or psychological circumstances surrounding its creation”. For a writer as good as Borges, he argued, “the stories so completely transcend their motive facts that the biographical facts become, in the deepest and most literal way, irrelevant.” Foster Wallace had no interest in the project of picking through a writer’s work to underline all the places where it seems to correlate with real events. Which must have made it all the more frustrating several years earlier when, in just this sense, he had to write a biography of himself. Legal worries surrounding his first story collection Girl with Curious Hair forced him to write a 17-page memo to the lawyers of Viking Penguin explaining the original sources of almost every detail in every story – he became, as DT Max puts it, “a writer in reverse”. The task was almost unendurable – and he didn’t think a complete account of his life would be any more fun. As he once pastiched it, “‘Dave sat in the smoking lounge of the library, pensively taking a drag from a cigarette and trying to think of the next line.’ Who wants to read that?”


This is one reason why Wallace’s complaint about the Borges biography could never apply to this one: people care about the author of Infinite Jest as a person in a way that no one ever really cared about the author of Ficciones as a person. It’s true that Wallace never intended to set himself up as some sort of generational sage. But it’s also true that, as a devotee of self-help books and Alcoholics Anonymous, he was far more hospitable than most postmodern intellects to the idea that from someone else’s advice or example you can learn specific and articulable things about how best to live your life. So it makes sense that his bereft readers would like some reassurance that Wallace’s final act was not – as Edouard Levé wrote of his own imminent suicide – “the most important thing [he] ever said”.

Being slower (published 29/08/2012)

Interview with Javier Marías, in which he discusses translation and the joys of slow writing:

“One of the things I’ve tried to do,” says the Spanish author Javier Marías, dragging cheerfully on the latest in a long line of cigarettes in the middle of a Barcelona heatwave, “is to allow to exist, in a novel, the time that doesn’t have the time to exist.” He gestures impatiently with the smouldering end. “That is … when things are happening we don’t really know what’s going on. You can spend a whole night doing something, having an argument with your well-beloved, for instance, and in the end, the only thing you will have that shall stay in memory will be a glance, or a minute, or some sentence, or some image, or how the light of dawn at a given moment was entering through the window. In a novel, you can make those things have their real duration – the one they shall have, maybe, almost, for the rest of your life.”

Initials MM (published 28/08/2012)

Marie Mathématique, Serge Gainsbourg’s collaboration with Jean-Claude Forest (via @darrananderson1).

Under Vertigo’s spell (published )

J. Hoberman on the lost futures of Chris Marker:

I called Marker a “filmmaker” but it would more accurate to term him a “film artist.” His oeuvre encompasses movies, photography, videos, TV series, CD-ROMS, computer games, and gallery installations. Some of these might be considered memento mori, often for the film medium. Others propose cinema as a model for historical consciousness. “We can see the shadow of a film on television, the longing for a film, the nostalgia, the echo of a film, but never a film,” is a characteristic Marker observation; one of his favorite aphorisms is borrowed from George Steiner: “It is not the past that rules us—it is the image of the past.”

At once unsentimentally au courant and fixated on that past, Marker was the Janus of world cinema. His unclassifiable documentaries treat memory as the stuff of science fiction, a notion he shared with his early associate Alain Resnais. Hardly a Luddite, Marker thrived on technological paradox. A half-hour succession of still images evoking motion pictures as time travel, La Jetée could have been made for Eadweard Muybridge’s nineteenth-century zoopraxiscope.

[via A Piece of Monologue]