Friday, April 21, 2006

for Bill Knott

A reader draws attention to an article, wherein these two:


The only response
to a child's grave is
to lie down before it and play dead


I wrote under a pen name
One day I shook the pen trying to make the name come out
But no it's
Like me prefers clinging to the inner calypso

So I tossed the pen to my pet the
Wastebasket to eat
It'll vomit back the name
Names aren't fit
For unhuman consumption

But no again

It stayed down

I don't use a pen-name anymore
I don't use a pen anymore
I don't write anymore
I just sit looking at the wastebasket
With this alert intelligent look on my face

UPDATE: Fuck that other shit; Bill Knott has a blog, see here.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Jenny Diski (via):  "We’ll all go down babbling about some Rosebud or other..."
But nostalgia is a treacherous thing. It can make you teeter dangerously as you walk that thinnest of lines: on one side a clear-eyed assessment of how it was for all manner of people, on the other the pit of sentimentality. Merry Christmas everyone, and bless us one and all. The older I get, the less certain which side of the line I am on. Even less certain which side of the line I should be on. There’s something about nostalgia and its close cousin sentimentality that gives me the horrors, but also something that makes me suspect it needs a lot more serious attention than I’ve been prepared to give it. It’s a Wonderful Life enrages me – it’s not a wonderful life mostly, and James Stewart’s character is tragic, offered a simpering view of the good he has done to make up for never having got away from the town he longed his whole life to leave. A kind of Judeo-Christian-Islamic afterlife instead of, rather than after, life. Then again, while I rage at the movie, tears stream down my face. Got to get this sorted out before the last of the brain cell bubbles finally bursts...(more)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

around Spivak

Having shilly-shallied the night away, more or less with Spivak, over here.  One ought not to write on that about which one knows, relatively, little. But sometimes one does.

Some intriguing contributions, thus far, and more on the way.  The carnival lasts all week. Your comments more than welcome.

Monday, April 17, 2006

rocking toward a free world

About the new new Neil Young album, Living With War, with the instant classic, "Impeach the President". Did he sleep during these three days or what? And has there ever been a "President" more fittingly judged by pop culture, ever. (UPDATE: Interview with Neil Young here, courtesy of Dialogic. And much more on the making of the album at Daily Kos.)

Of course the pop-culture-wars have always been structurally cartoonish (an increasing awareness of which is now reflected, with an irony that will, soon enough, become tired with itself, but also never vanish or in principle be finished). The culture "wars" are fraught with polemic on both sides (that's what pop does! it excites!). To be merely popophoric here, in any simplistic sense, will clearly not suffice.

But in relentlessly thematizing oppositions (often by exploding the unspoken, or under-spoken, because embarrassing), pop also, and precisely by risking the naturalization of these borders–that is, by taking political and popular speech too seriously, or rather, simply at its word–cannot help but raise the question of its own remove from the realm of political judgement. Pop strives to be about the questioning of taste, as abstracted from the sacred. The naiveté and forgetfulness pop embodies, and invokes, by taking political and popular speech (they are the same) at their very word, is precisely what makes those who insist on taking pop at its word–who so identify with caricatures and cartoons–so ridiculous.

Boy is it "fun", though. This will to mob-identification and distraction. The will to ceremonial 'wartime', the false eros of state-sanctioned murder, how enormously difficult to re-direct. Centuries of genetic memory and language are against it. Without re-questioning the filiations of 'friendship' and 'brotherhood', at their very (Christian) root and concept, such re-direction–or so some would argue–may go precisely nowhere.

(Of course one side in this ideologue-passion cartoon war is utterly repellent, and nowhere near approaching the league of Neil Young, whose work ultimately transcends the pop horizon altogether.)

via Rising Hegemon (via Cursor)

For the freak economies of interest. Something far more interesting.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


A dear friend of mine has a good poem, published in the latest issue of Cannibal. So you should totally go over there and buy a copy.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fresh Fetish

Following on from here.

An opening section of Paper Machine (recently translated into English by Rachel Bowlby), may be enough to give any honest blogger pause. The book is an excellent, extraordinary collection of short pieces, well suited even for those predisposed–through lack of exposure–to short attention spans when it comes to Derrida. So many of these later publications are extremely rich indeed:
It was well before computers that I risked the most refractory texts in relation ot the norms of linear writings. It would be easier for me now to do this work of dislocation or typographical invention–of graftings, insertions, cuttings, and pastings–but I'm not very interested in that any more from that point of view and in that form. That was theorized and that was done–then. The path was broken experimentally for these new typographies long ago, and today it has become ordinary. So we must invent other "disorders," ones that are more discreet, less self-congratulatory and exhibitionist, and this time contemporary with the computer. What I was able to try to change in the matter of page formatting I did in the archaic age, if I can call it that, when I was still writing by hand or with the old typewriter. In 1979 I wrote The Post Card on an electric typewriter (even though I'm already talking a lot in it about computers and software), but Glas–whose unusual page format also appeared as a short treatise on the organ, sketching a history of organology up to the present–was written on a little mechanical Olivetti.


Even the computer belonging to the "great writer" or "great thinker" will be fetishized, like Nietzsche's typewriter. No history of technology has wiped out that photograph of Nietzsche's typewriter. On the contrary, it is becoming ever more precious and sublime, protected by a new aura, this time that of the means of "mechanical reproduction"; and that would not necessarily contradict the theory of mechanical reproduction put forward by Benjamin. Some computers will become museum pieces. The fetishizing drive has no limits, by definition; it will never let go.


Today, everything can be launched in the public sphere and considered, at least by some people, as publishable, and so having the classic value, the virtually universal and even holy value of a public thing. That can give rise to all sorts of mystifications, and you can already see it, even though I have only very limited experience of what happens on the internet. Say about deconstruction, these international Web sites welcome and juxtapose extremely serious discussions, or ones that are publishable, and then chitchat that is not just dreary but also without any possible future. (It is true, and don't let's ever forget it, that that can also happen at conferences or in journals, academic and otherwise.)....A new freeing up of the flow can both let through anything at all, and also give air to critical possibilities that used to be limited or inhibited by the old mechanisms of legitimation–which are also, in their own way, word-processing mechanisms. (Derrida, 29-32)

And from the suitably brief chapter entitled, "Sokal and Bricmont Aren't Serious":
Le Monde asks for my comments on Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont's book Impostures intellectuelles, although they consider that I am much less badly treated in it than some other French thinkers. Here is my response:

This is all rather sad, don't you think? For poor Sokal, to begin with. His name remains linked to a hoax–"the Sokal hoax,"–as they say in the United States–and not to scientific work. Sad too because the chance of serious reflection seems to have been ruined, at least in a broad public forum that deserves better.

It would have been interesting to make a scrupulous study of the so-called scientific "metaphors"–their role, their status, their effects in the discourses that are under attack. Not only in the case of "the French"! and not only in the case of these French writers! That would have required that a certain number of difficult discourses be read seriously, in terms of their theoretical effects and strategies. That was not done.

As to my modest "case," since you make a point of mentioning that I was "much less badly treated" than some others, this is even more ridiculous, not to say weird. In the United States, at the beginning of the imposture, after Sokal had sent his hoax article to Social Text, I was initially one of the favorite targets, particularly in the newspapers (there's a lot I could say about this). Because they had to do their utmost, at any cost, on the spot, to discredit what is considered the exorbitant and cumbersome "credit" of a foreign professor. And the entire operation was based on the few words of an off-the-cuff response in a conference that took place more than thirty years ago (in 1966!), and in which I was picking up the terms of a question that had been asked by Jean Hyppolite. Nothing else, absolutely nothing! And what is more, my response was not easy to attack.
Plenty of scientists pointed this out to the practical joker in publications that are available in the United States, and Sokal and Bricmont seem to recognize this now in the French version of their book–though what contortions this involves...

I am always sparing and prudent in the use of scientific references, and I have written on this issue on more than one occassion. Explicitly.

...One of the falsifications that most shocked me consists in their saying now that they have never had anything against me...So in France, Sokal and Bricmont added my name to the list of honorable philosophers at the last minute, as a response to embarrassing objections. Context and tactics obligent! More opportunism! These people aren't serious.

As for the "relativism" they are supposed to be worried about–well, even if this word has a rigorous philosophical meaning, there's not a trace of it in my writing. Nor of a critique of Reason and the Enlightenment. Quite the contrary. But what I do take more seriously is the wider context–the American context and the political context–that we can't begin to approach here, given the limits of space: and also the theoretical issues that have been so badly dealt with.

These debates have a complex history: libraries full of epistemological works! Before setting up a contrast between the savants, the experts, and the others, they divide up the field of science itself. And the field of philosophical thought. Sometimes, for fun, I also take seriously the symptoms of a campaign, or even of a hunt, in which badly trained horsemen sometimes have trouble identifying the prey. And initially the field.

What interest is involved for those who launched this operation in a particular academic world and, often very close to that, in publishing or the press? For instance, a news weekly printed two images of me (a photo and a caricature) to illustrate a whole "dossier" in which my name did not appear once! Is that serious? Is it decent? In whose interest was it to go for a quick practical joke rather than taking part in the work which, sadly, it replaced? This work has been going on for a long time and will continue elsewhere and differently, I hope, and with dignity: at the level of the issues involved. (Derrida, Paper Machine, 70-72)

There would also be a short chapter entitled, "My Sunday 'Humanities.'"

Saturday, April 08, 2006

No Pasarán....Peace to the Cottages!

when bloom, when,
when bloom the, hoomendibloom,
hoohedibloo, yes them, the

Hoo–on tue. . . when then?

When, whenwhen,
manywhens, yes mania–

-from Paul Celan, "Huhediblu", translated by Joshua Wilner*

Following on from here, a new post for Long Sunday.

*If anyone happens to know where the *full* translation may be found online, I would be most grateful.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Happy Deathday


America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back
it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I'm a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they're
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don't really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers'
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I'm nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

-Allen Ginsberg, courtesy of (with a reminder from s lot). Moby Lives has more.

As does Greil Marcus in The NY Times (courtesy of s lot).

Monday, April 03, 2006

more music!


• John Berger on undefeated despair and sharing time "between moments." And more, on Chirac's address to France (via Bat).

Decline, The speaks its mind on "the philosophy of pop" conversations, inadvertently causing Mark Greif to be the second most blogged-about writer after Zizek.
Indeed, one must be absolutely clear about this point: the Philosophy of Pop, if it is anything, is not the juxtaposition of our "top 5 albums for a desert island." Does it fucking matter if you like Counting Crows or not?
Indeed, it does not. A most tasteful polemic; read the rest.

• More fallout: Mountain 7 weighs in twice, here and (more seriously) here. The music critics (or those who would speak for the critics) demand to know why a "philosophy" is called for. I'm not sure the distinction is absolute, though it may be worth commenting on further.

• The Beiderbecke Affair issues the perhaps necessary "you're-full- of-shit, Matt,-if-only-I--could-understand-a-word-of-it" rejoinder (see comments).

• A new issue of the very excellent Janus Head

Nolan Stewart

There is an element of both Chinese and Japanese landscape painting in Nolan Stewart's artwork. When I venture that it recalls Qi Bashi, he replies by comparing himself to Rembrandt, but it was late at night and we had had some wine.

If I remember correctly, it was Rembrandt's patience that truly became synonymous with his name, or something of the trembling infusion of time into "ordinary" objects. Which for me never fails to recall a certain anxiety as well, one that in Nolan's work may even resonate in something of a distinctively contemporary manner. On the level of cells and auto-immunity, no less.

That is, there often seems to be a deliberate confrontation or staging taking place between the artist and such forces (at once cancerous, internal and inescapable)–namely, what might appear at first glance as an attempt to master them(selves). Though with this last statement I'm not at all sure he would agree.

Citing the playful and serious rebellion of his primary influence, one of whose trademark gestures is a radical re-working/re-casting of the question and politics of time, Nolan is inclined to emphasize the meditative balance between serendipity and (what I would call) Thoreauvian attention to detail in his work, the poetics of chaos, or the gesture of love toward the madness of the (originary) event, you might even say, especially if you had had some wine. But above all his work is aesthetically coherent, provocative and pleasing. In the artist's own words, then:
My work is process based, created by the visual record of physical interaction with a surface. I start by making large, physical, gestural, body sized, spontaneous, explosive mark(s). Then balance these marks with, time consuming, meditative, slow, careful, small and detailed marks. This process evolved form the examination of repetitive mark making. Just small, meditative marks would result in a very calm unbalanced physical record. In order to create a balanced image something large, involving the whole body and not just the hand is necessary. The directness and simplicity of the work allows the speed of the process to be easily read, this invites the viewer to experience the meditative pace of the work. Sometimes the image created looks like microscope photography, stellar clusters.

For a sampling and a link to his webpage please see The blog (not) beyond, where such things accumulate.

One shouldn't complicate things for the pleasure of complicating, but one should also never simplify or pretend to be sure of such simplicity where there is none. If things were simple, word would have gotten around, as you say in English. There you have one of my mottos, one quite appropriate for what I take to be the spirit of the type of 'enlightenment' granted our time. Those who wish to simplify at all costs and who raise a hue and cry about obscurity because they do not recognize the unclarity of their good old Aufklarung are in my eyes dangerous dogmatists and tedious obscurantists. No less dangerous (for instance, in politics) are those who wish to purify at all costs."(Limited Inc., 119)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

looking for the re-storable in Eliot, part two

From "Tradition and Individual Talent:"
Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, "tradition" should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity.

Similarly, from "The Possibility of a Poetic Drama:"
By losing tradition, we lose our hold on the present; but so far as there was any dramatic tradition in Shelley's day there was nothing worth the keeping. There is all the difference between preservation and restoration.

-T.S. Eliot, in The Sacred Wood

And how to read these remarks today, with the proper 'historical sense', no less? Is it not the case that reducing them to apparent rubble with snide remarks about unifying narratives, nationalism, or even Europe would fall rather grossly beside the point? And not least of all because 85 years have now passed?  "A writer always addresses himself to a community of others, both living and dead..."  "Ruins...what else is there to love, really?"

looking for the salvageable in Eliot, part one

Of an ill-formed series taking issue, circuitous and oblique, with Terry Eagleton; why not? Lots of people bash New Critics; these people don't always entirely convince. Fight for yourselves, New Critics! Here then, is potential ammunition (beware of smug, ye Agambenians):

From "Tradition and Individual Talent:"
The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him. Consequently, we must believe that "emotion recollected in tranquillity" is an inexact formula. For it is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning, tranquillity. It is a concentration which does not happen consciously or of deliberation. These experiences are not "recollected," and they finally unite in an atmosphere which is "tranquil" only in that it is a passive attending upon the event. Of course this is not quite the whole story. There is a great deal, in the writing of poetry, which must be conscious and deliberate. In fact, the bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him, "personal." Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things...

To divert interest from the poet to the poetry is a laudable aim: for it would conduce to a juster estimation of actual poetry, good and bad. There are many people who appreciate the expression of sincere emotion in verse, and there is a smaller number of people who can appreciate technical excellence. But very few know when there is expression of significant emotion, emotion which has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet. The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living.

-T.S. Eliot, in The Sacred Wood

See what you have gone and ruined, even smugger age of (hyper-cyber-crypto-uber) analysis.

Spivak blog-event

Long Sunday will be reading Spivak in April, and you are certainly welcome to join in.

on classicism and critics

A blockquote (from Michael Holland's Blanchot Reader):

Nevertheless it is impossible to ignore the preoccupations of a number of critics, whose passion is expressed not only in opinions drawn from everyday convention, but also through hasty and superficial theories, which are the vacuous mirrors of their own disarray. The are unstinting in their warnings and their advice. They aim, with that fine zeal which comes of living for the moment, to reform genres, impose subjects and mould the whole of intellectual life according to the dictates of their current preferences. What do they want? Must writers and artists become the illustrators of whatever happens to be the theory of the day? Theirs are the precepts of fragile minds, eager to imitate rather than to be.

[...] When one sees those critics who talk endlessly of a return to classicism reserving their praise for the most mediocre and insipid efforts, the product of unstudied imitation, one wonders what weakness of imagination, what banality of form is to be found, for them, in the works of the great creative periods, which were all great periods of rupture. What on earth, to their minds, are these classics that they admire and wish to imitate? And what can this imitation be, if they conceive of it as sterile observance, as the preservation of a form whose justification has vanished? Whereas it is crystal clear that classical works only found themselves in harmony with an almost interminable duration because they appeared to come from somewhere higher than their time, tearing through it and burning it up with an extreme concentration that united in itself the past, the present and the future.

To this the reply from some quarters is that there are many weaknesses in these novice works, and that there is even an element of imitation in their experiments. That is quite possible and also perfectly natural. How can one expect a serene and definitive perfection from artists who set themselves formidably difficult problems, in an effort for which they deprive themselves of all the facilities of realism? In addition to the fact that they are not all equally talented and that some of them, incapable of creating forms, are content to borrow those that recent models place at their disposal, it goes without saying that their endeavours lay them open to all sorts of failure, error and even unconscious repetition. The ambition they are confronting threatens to destroy them at every instant. They are to some extent belittled by the difficulty of their task.  (Blanchot, "The Search for Tradition", 1941)