:: Buzzwords Archive: February 2013. Click here for the latest posts.

The Missing Links (published 21/02/2013)

The New Statesman on “Literary Starbucks,” a trend “where publishers are seeing writers adopting more ‘neutral’ language and avoiding cultural idioms in order to appeal to foreign readers and editors”. * A cartoon adaptation of Kafka‘s A Country Doctor. * Ben Kafka on Roland Barthes and the jouissance of writing: “I am an artist, not because I represent an object, but more fundamentally, because, as I write, my body shudders [jouit] with the pleasure of marking itself, inscribing itself, rhythmically, on the virgin surface (virginity being the infinitely possible)” (Barthes). * Must we mean what we say? * Anthony Burgess reveals what Finnegans Wake is all about. * Revisiting Nabokov‘s Laughter in the Dark. * Marcel Duchamp‘s music, 1912-15. * A Philip Glass documentary by Peter Greenaway. * Gary Lutz on “sentential art“. * Colour footage of Winston Churchill‘s funeral, 1965. * A review of Deborah Levy‘s Black Vodka. And another one here. * Deborah Levy‘s winter walk on Hampstead Heath. * Louis Althusser MP3s, 1962-63. * Ben Marcus answers the questions he once put to David Markson. * Essex girl. * Lars Iyer interviewed in The Rumpus. * Stephen Mitchelmore reviews Lars Iyer‘s Exodus. * Lars Iyer interviewed in Totally Dublin: “My work mourns the passing of a certain conception of philosophy, literature and politics; the passing of a certain hope. But remembering what was once possible is itself a form of hope, and a writing which mourns is still a kind of writing”. * The essay: an exercise in doubt. * On Joseph Epstein‘s Essays in Biography. * Simon Barker (aka Six)’s extraordinary punk photographs. Read Michael Bracewell‘s article, then rediscover 3:AM‘s interviews with Bracewell and Barker. More here. * Punk as Fuck exhibition. * Michael Layne Heath interviews David Markey and Jordan Schwartz about We Got Power!, the L.A. punk zine anthology. * Iggy Pop documentary, 1986. * Sexy lit mag covers. * Twitter users’ unintended poetry. * Dead people’s last Tweets. * A conversation with Béla Tar: Finnegans Wake, what can you do with it in another language? You can’t do nothing! You can’t understand. That’s the reason why I think that literature is always limited. If somebody lucky is writing in English, there’s a bigger audience. But you know a Hungarian writer, there’s only 10 million or 15 million people reading it”. * The Ruin and the Word. * Ned Beauman waits for his UPS man. * On loss and regret. * On Clarice Lispector. * China’s invisible artist. *Welcome to hipsturbia. * Mark Twain takes his top off, 1883. * Julian Barnes: “I’m convinced that a high anxiety level is the novelist’s normal condition”. * The man who tried to change the soul of Paris. * Maurice Blanchot died 10 years ago. * Jean-Luc Nancy’s tribute to Blanchot. * Jonathan Littell on Blanchot. * Blanchot on Giacometti and writing.

#currentlyreading (published 20/02/2013)

Joe Banks’ Rorschach Audio: Art & Illusion for Sound. From the publisher’s website:

Rorschach Audio is a work of contemporary cultural scholarship and an exploration of the art and science of psychoacoustic ambiguities. Part detective story, part artistic and cultural critique, Rorschach Audio lifts the lid on an array of fascinating and under-examined perceptual and political phenomena. Rorschach Audio is essential reading for everyone interested in air-traffic control, anechoic chambers, artificial oxygen carriers, audio art, bell-ringing, cocktail parties, cognitive science, communications interference, compost, the death penalty, Electronic Voice Phenomena, evangelism, evolutionary biology, experimental music, ghosts, the historiography of art, illusions of sound and illusions of language, lip-reading jokes, nuclear blast craters, predictive texting, singing hair, sonic archives, sound design, steam trains, tinnitus, the Turing Test, Victorian blood painting, visual depth and space perception, ultrasonic visual music, ventriloquism, voices and warehouse fires and robberies.

Further: Rorschach Audio archive / ‘The cemetery of sound’, an essay by Joe Banks / film of the Disinformation Rorschach Audio exhibition at Goldsmiths College (2008) / Banks lectures at Hull Time Based Arts (2004).

Drawing a blank (published )

In the Guardian, Andrew Gallix writes on the impossibility of reading:

In theory, the novel could thus be anything, everything, the novelist wanted it to be. The problem, as Kierkegaard observed, is that “more and more becomes possible” when “nothing becomes actual”. Literature was a blank canvas that increasingly dreamed of remaining blank. “The most beautiful and perfect book in the world,” according to Ulises Carrión, “is a book with only blank pages.” Such books had featured in eastern legends for centuries (echoed by the blank map in ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ or the blank scroll in Kung Fu Panda), but they only really appeared on bookshelves in the 20th century. They come in the wake of Rimbaud’s decision to stop writing, the silence of Lord Chandos; they are contemporaneous with the Dada suicides, Wittgenstein’s coda to the Tractatus, the white paintings of Malevich and Rauschenberg, as well as John Cage’s 4’33″.

He continues:

Literature (for the likes of Mallarmé and Blanchot) takes linguistic negation one step further, by negating both the real thing and its surrogate concept. As a result, words no longer refer primarily to ideas, but to other words; they become present like the things they negated in the first place. When critics objected that Joyce’s Finnegans Wake was unreadable, Beckett responded: “It is not to be read – or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something; it is that something itself.” Unlike ordinary language, which is a means of communication, literary language resists easy, and even complete, comprehension. Words become visible; the bloody things keep getting in the way. From this perspective, the literary is what can never be taken as read. In a recent article, David Huntsperger gives an interesting contemporary twist to this debate. He views the opacity of some contemporary novels as a healthy corrective to our “clickthrough culture, where the goal of writing is to get you from one place to another as effortlessly as possible, so that (let’s be honest here) you can buy something”.

Linked in (published 18/02/2013)

‘Silicon Valley, literary capital of the 21st century’ by James McGirk, which considers David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Jennifer Egan, David Mitchell and Dennis Cooper, and begins:

Technology seeps into our imaginations, changes the way we think and the way we write. The novel may seem like a relic, a low-bandwidth version of virtual reality better suited to the 19th and 20th Centuries than today. But beneath its grim monochrome interface (a.k.a. “pages”) it glows like the neon-piped suits in Tron. Contemporary fiction is nearly as much a product of Silicon Valley as the integrated circuit.

Fiction, on a crass, fundamental level, isn’t much more than a container for a story. Most stories have already been told (by William Shakespeare — or at least it feels that way), so the challenge of writing fiction is to find a new way to contain a story. This experimental impulse is tempered by a reader’s ability to decode what is going on. As readers have grown more accustomed to following hyperlinks and leaping about the Internet, their ability to understand information out of sequence has changed too.

Consider three popular, experimental novels and the technology of the era: David Foster Wallace’s (1996) Infinite Jest was written at the dawn of the Internet Age. The Internet was in an ugly growth spurt then. Amateurs created most online content. Big chunks of the Internet blossomed and died seemingly overnight. It was common to see gaping holes where content was no longer compatible. Following hyperlinks from page to page felt jarring (particularly given how slow most connections were). Wallace wanted to compress information in the Infinite Jest but he didn’t want to disrupt his timeline. So he chose endnotes to digress with — a fairly conventional device, although one not often used for fiction. He even said (to The New Yorker): “I pray they are nothing like hypertext.”

The young men in women’s clothes (published )

The Sohemian Society presents Chaps in Skirts!, Neil McKenna author of Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England:

28th April 1870. The flamboyantly dressed Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton are causing a stir in the Strand Theatre. All eyes are riveted upon their lascivious oglings of the gentlemen in the stalls. Moments later they are led away by the police. What followed was a scandal that shocked and titillated Victorian England in equal measure.

It turned out that the alluring Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton were no ordinary young women. Far from it. In fact, they were young men who liked to dress as women. When the Metropolitan Police launched a secret campaign to bring about their downfall, they were arrested and subjected to a sensational show trial in Westminster Hall.

As the trial of ‘the Young Men in Women’s Clothes’ unfolded, Fanny and Stella’s extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores were revealed to an incredulous public.

With a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives, Fanny and Stella is a Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth-century London. By turns tragic and comic, meticulously researched and dazzlingly written, Fanny and Stella is an enthralling tour-de-force.

Upstairs at The King and Queen, 1 Foley Street, W1
18th February, 7.30 / Admission £3

#currentlyreading (published )

Lars Iyer’s Exodus. From the publisher’s website:

With philosophy professors being moved to badminton departments and gin in short supply — although not short enough — the two hapless intellectuals embark on a relentless mission. Well, several relentless missions. For one, they must help gear a guerilla philosophy movement — conducted outside the academy, perhaps under bridges — that will save the study of philosophy after the long intellectual desert known as the early 21st-century. For another, they must save themselves, perhaps by learning to play badminton after all. Gin isn’t free, you know.

Further: ‘Impossible literature’, Antônio Xerxenesky interviews Lars Iyer for 3:AM / ‘Literary melancholy’, David Winters’ 2011 interview with Iyer / ‘Kafka’s beard’ & ‘Neck & neck with the apocalypse’ Anna Aslanyan reviews Spurious & Dogma / Iyer interviewed by Kevin Breathnach for Totally Dublin, Grant Maierhofer for HTMLGIANT & Juliet Jacques for New Statesman / Iyer in Full Stop / 10 literary frenemies / ‘Nude in your hot tub, facing the abyss (a literary manifesto after the end of literature & manifestos)’.