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

The Missing Links (published 15/02/2013)

William Faulkner, 1956: “The writer’s only responsibility is to his art”. * Fiona Shaw and Simon Critchley talk about nothing. * All hail The Organist. * An interview with Christine Schutt: “The trick I’ve employed in the last five years is to have characters chatter away and then in the next draft take out every other line. Oddly enough, the speech has more life, more surprise”. And also: “Again, a lesson from Gordon Lish, whose method is to write one sentence strong enough to live by, and then to query this same sentence for its most powerful or interesting or provocative word. In the next sentence you either embrace the word or reject that same term, and so then you move on, sentence by sentence”. * The consecution of Gordon Lish. * A review of Gary Lutz‘s extraordinary Divorcer. * New issue of [out of nothing]. * Nicholas Rombes on Zero Dark Thirty. * Alien phenomenology. * B. S. Johnson on video. * Deborah Harry wrestling on stage, 1983. * Deborah Levy‘s cultural highlights. * Stardust: “Whether the human race spreads to the stars, or we remain on Earth and the crust of our planet is blasted away into space when the Sun swells into a red giant…either way, our supernovae-forged atoms will be cast back out into the galaxy that created them. Some may not find comfort in that, but there is still a remarkable poetry in it”. * Lars Iyer: “For me, what writers up until the period of late modernism could rely upon was the prestige implicit in the idea of literature. What contemporary writers, in my view, need to contend with, is the marginality of literature within our culture. Kafka did not believe in religion but he could still believe in art. That same belief in art today, if not grotesque, is based upon a great capacity for denial”. * Lee Rourke: “Why is everyone flagrantly writing in cafés?” * Six rooms for Enrique Vila-Matas. * Susana Medina‘s wonderful Red Tales is reviewed here. * Sheila Heti: “The problem with a lot of contemporary novels is that you feel they don’t know why they’re making up a story. They’re just making up a story because that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re a writer”. * On Rilke‘s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. * When Man Ray met Lee Miller. * Andy Warhol‘s Polaroids. * David Lynch on his favourite photographs. * Bowie nights at Billy’s, 1978. * Michel Foucault on the archaeology of knowledge, 1969. * Adam Biles interviewed: “I was actually extraordinarily reluctant to write about Paris. As a setting for books it has been overdone, wrung dry, and is extremely difficult to write about without lapsing into cliché. Most writing about Paris is pretty horrible, a fervent box-ticking exercise. Eiffel Tower — check! Croissants and coffee on a terrace at dawn – check! Allusions to Hemingway, Miller, the Beats — check, check, check! I would be damned before pissing into that swamp”. * Alone in America. * Literary feud in Tallahassee. * David Winters reviews Martin Hägglund‘s Dying for Time: Proust, Woolf, Nabokov: “Our lifetimes, too, are traversed by ‘nothingness,’ since every moment we live through ‘must extinguish itself as soon as it comes.’ Time is always passing away, each successive second negating the one before, such that ‘the present itself can come into being only by ceasing to be.’ In this sense, ‘extinction is at work in survival itself.’ Thus the epiphanies we find in Proust do not transcend time. Rather, these memories retrieve the ambivalent rhythms of persistence and disappearance that animate actual life. Proust’s real revelation is not that memory makes us immortal, but that life is at all times destructible”. * Love will tear us apart. * An interview with Peter Hook. * An extract from Unknown Pleasure, Peter Hook‘s Joy Division memoir: “It all started with the Sex Pistols. I saw them twice in 1976 — two gigs weeks apart at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester — Bernard Sumner (our guitarist) and I went together with a couple of friends to the first gig, and at the second gig I bumped into Ian Curtis, who would become our lead singer. They were only on for half an hour, but when they finished, we filed out quietly with our minds blown, absolutely utterly speechless, and it just sort of dawned on me then — that was it”. * Punk at the Met. * Sid on Nancy: “Even has sexy feet”. * Why love hurts. * On Erwin Schrödinger. * Literature’s weirdest relationships. * On uncreative writing. * How to be a critic: “[A] book to me is primarily a verb, not a noun, an event first and only secondarily an object”. * How literature saved his life. * When Ian McEwan‘s faith in fiction falters. * A brief history of the wah-wah pedal. * On D’Annunzio. * Shooting unfilmable books. * Foreign subcultures. * Agamben on Blanchot. * Who is David Bowie?. * Takovsky online. * The passion of the concept. * In praise of depressing books. * A review of Stig Sæterbakken‘s Self-Control. * An interview with Nico Vassilakis. * Asemic writing. * Talks on curatorial and urban practice, including Clémentine Deliss. * An interview with the Bush Tetras. * Steve Almond‘s smutty Valentine. * John Cage. * Brian Dillon on Light Show and the essay.

Pic: Elliott Erwitt‘s Acropolis Museum, Athens [via].

Possibilities of text (published 13/02/2013)

Wonderful conversation between Oulipian Daniel Levin Becker, translator Chris Clarke and editor Michael Barron, on the publication of the new edition of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. Here’s a snippet:

Daniel Levin Becker: Is it possible that language is more fun when used to describe something banal?

Chris Clarke: I don’t know if it’s necessarily more fun because it is used to describe something banal, but I think the banality of that something allows the fun to show through. It highlights its playfulness, or at least it weakens or eliminates those other attributes of a text that could captivate us. Perhaps more than the banality, at least in the case of Exercises in Style, it’s about repetition. I don’t think the banality of our jostling bus ride would have been enough to make this playfulness apparent to the extent that it is here — it’s also greatly exaggerated and contrasted because of the repetition. This seems to have been clear to Queneau as well, as even from the beginning there was an attempt to work by accumulation. The first batch, begun in May of 1942 (according to his 1963 Preface), consisted of twelve exercises, and apparently was to have the name Dodécaèdre, the French word for dodecahedron. These didn’t end up being published at that time, but when he took the project up again the following year, the initial publication included fifteen exercises, and so on from there, always in groups. The effects of repetition on humor have been written about plenty, but I don’t know that his point could have been made on banality alone.

DLB: Excellent point about the repetition. I guess banality alone is only rarely effective as a creative conduit, and more often there’s something in the surrounding rhythm of it that makes it work. (I’m thinking of the record review chapters in American Psycho, which for some reason I’ve been re-reading/referring to often in the last couple of months; they’re hilarious because they’re so numb and deadpan, but they wouldn’t be if they weren’t sandwiched between awful grotesqueries.)

Michael Barron: Chris, you say that there is no such thing as ideology-free writing, that everything has a semblance of style. I am curious to know how a style in the French, say ‘Promotional,’ actually changes when rendered in English. I am also curious to know from both of you which exercises from the contributions by contemporary writers struck you as the most true to Queneau’s vision? And from there, I am wondering if you think that Queneau had a certain umbrella style that pervades all of his exercises?

CC: I thought the new contributions were a lot of fun. To me, closest to Queneau’s method might be Frederic Tuten’s ‘Beat.’ I thought Shane Jones’ ‘Assistance’ added a neat bit of insight into the narrator, in the same way that Queneau’s ‘There were oodles…’ does. As far as style crossing over from language to language…well, it’s one of the goals of the translator to find the closest equivalent (s)he can. Of course, no two languages operate the same way, so it’s perhaps never a perfect transaction, but it’s something translators are very conscious of. Something like ‘Promotional’ and its French counterpart ‘Publicitaire’ are always going to have some little differences to them, some of them because of differences in the language and the way style works in those given languages, some because of cultural differences. In this case, a radio ad is going to have a different ring to it in a North American (or British) context than it would in a French context, just as much as it will be read differently now compared to how it would have come across 65 years ago. Also, in this case, the very last line in the French text is a riff on the slogan of a French battery called Wonder, which was so popular that it spawned a variety of parodies, including the slogan of a newspaper. The English reader isn’t going to see that in the English text, as the reference is no longer physically there, and even if it were, he likely wouldn’t react the same way because he doesn’t necessarily have the same cultural references at his disposal. In cases like this, the intertextuality can’t quite be the same.

DLB: This is much easier to answer given your comments on repetition, in that what’s feeling particularly germane and “true” to Queneau’s umbrella style isn’t any particular literary quality or sense of development, but a relatively transparent, almost self-effacing relation to the anecdote — enough preservation of the banality that the given “style” comes into some relief, but not too much. Harry Mathews’s gallicization plays it close in that way; Frederic Tuten’s ‘Beat’ strays a little further out, but it also feels pretty faithful to the baseline repetition. Maybe Marcus’s ‘Nothing’ and Lethem’s ‘Cyberpunk’ come in a bit behind. The others are so stylized (a funny word to use in this context) that they don’t really accomplish the same thing. Which is not a condemnation, of course, since following Queneau’s lead is pretty limited in terms of what it’s possible to do with this text.

The Enemies Project: Camarade IV (published )

Held at the Rich Mix Arts Centre on February 9th 2013, the fourth in the Camarade series and the first event of the Enemies project saw thirteen pairings of British and European poets read original avant-garde and literary poetry collaborations for a remarkable evening of contemporary poetic performance:


3:AM‘s S.J. Fowler introduces the evening, dedicating it to Anselm Hollo.


George Szirtes & Carol Watts.


Peter Jaeger & Tim Atkins.


Holly Pester & Daniel Rourke.


Sophie Mayer & Astrid Alben.


Kirsty Irving & Ryan Van Winkle.


Todd Swift & Paul Perry.


Alex Niven & Joe Kennedy.


Stephen Watts & Marek Kazmierski.


Lucy Harvest Clarke & Stephen Emmerson.


James Wilkes & Christodoulos Makris.


Roddy Lumsden & Carrie Etter.


Daniel Barrow & Ollie Evans.


Chris McCabe, Tom Jenks & Sophie Herxheimer resurrect Ubu.

Sound & vision (published )

Test Center are taking advance orders for Chris Petit‘s Museum of Loneliness. From the blurb:

Museum of Loneliness is a 12″ LP by Chris Petit composed of specially-recorded readings from his novels Robinson (1993), The Hard Shoulder (2001) and The Passenger (2006), and from his recent project The Museum of Loneliness. Backed by field recordings and soundtracks from his films Asylum (2000) and Content (2010), the album was smeared and spored by Mordant Music. Front cover and inner sleeve artwork is by Emma Matthews.

The album will be released on 1st March 2013 in an edition of 600 copies and is available for pre-order now.

A special edition of just 15 copies is also available, in which each copy includes a previously unpublished Museum of Loneliness pamphlet with holographic material by Chris, as well as an exclusive DVD of Content and a print of a painting by Emma.

#currentlyreading (published 12/02/2013)

McSweeney’s 42, the ‘multiples’ issue. From the McSweeney’s website:

With the help of guest editor Adam Thirlwell (author of Kapow!, Visual Editions), Issue 42 is a monumental experiment in translated literature — twelve stories taken through six translators apiece, weaving into English and then back out again, gaining new twists and textures each time, just as you’d expect a Kierkegaard story brought into English by Clancy Martin and then sent into Dutch by Cees Nooteboom before being made into English again by J.M. Coetzee to do. With original texts by Kafka and Kharms and Kenji Miyazawa, and translations by Lydia Davis and David Mitchell and Zadie Smith (along with others by John Banville and Tom McCarthy and Javier Marías, and even more by Shteyngart and Eugenides and A.S. Byatt), this will be an issue unlike anything you’ve seen before — altered, echoing narratives in the hands of the finest writers of our time, brought to you in a book that looks like nothing else we’ve ever done.

Further: Adam Thirlwell explains multiplying translation / Paris Review on how a translator can have more fun with an untranslatable writer / Readux on the art or re-re-re-re-translation / Here & Elsewhere‘s review / That Other Word discuss McSweeney’s 42.