Even though I quit my job of eight years I am not unemployed though I am certainly not overemployed and there are things I should be doing but today it feels impossible to do them. I have been scooping the internet too hard and now my voice is stuck in this breathless Tweety Drescherian whine. I went for a run and then took a bath even though I tell myself I care about California water issues. It’s my hippie landlord’s fault for installing, in the 1970s, a bath with no standing room. Now I’m going to get a haircut. What will my kids think? They’re so ashamed of their father. I finally opened the 80-oz pickle container I bought in a moment of ecstatic hysteria from Safeway last month. Part of the problem is that after reading this terrific interview I decided to give veganism a shot even though it’s a colossal pain in the ass. Then I realized that there was a whole breathless funny vegan hemisphere of the internet that wanted tapping and so I hit it. Now it’s 4:24 p.m. Time for a haircut? Can I buy a vegan pot cookie from you?
I’m in a book club with a whole bunch of pseudonyms: Jeremiah’d, Paulie Groundphones, Li’l Broheim, Shampoosie, et al. Maybe their pseudonyms should be taken from the book we’re reading, instead of from the jovial thin air above, since the book is already populated by hundreds of perfectly named minor characters. But I’d want an hour with Hilary Spurling’s Invitation to the Dance to produce halfway decent analogues for each of my book club’s members. Last night was one of our most rollicking meetings to date: The spirits flowed liberally, and by the time Shampoosie had to leave for her engagement, the atmosphere had (sonically speaking) pleasurably devolved into this sort of vibe:
I got vague half-permission to record the meeting’s minutes here. I was astonished by how much beer I’d been served, and how easily it flowed into my massive gullet. Just before he was shrouded and bundled off to bed, Li’l Broheims, our hosts’ beatific infant son, staggered around the cacophony clutching a baguette nearly as tall as he was, grinding fine cheeses and flatbreads into the fine carpet. Maybe a less-hungover observer than I am could turn a nice analogy comparing Li’l Broheims to a drunken British soldier like those depicted in Anthony Powell’s Valley of the Bones, the book we’d met to discuss.
But not this guy. Because I AM TOO HUNGOVER TO DO ANYTHING. Which is all I wanted to say in the first place. So today being a low-volume work day I’ve just sat here hitting the internet harder than I have in a long time. 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., I’ve probably stood up three or four times, once to retrieve a pallet of Thai food from the overpriced (dance-club atmosphered) restaurant next door.
Among the many things I clicked on today, I finally had the chance to read Elif Batuman’s review of Mark McGurl’s book on the rise of MFA culture, “a study of Planet MFA conducted from Planet PhD.” Then I read Molly Young’s review of James Franco’s debut collection, which in turn linked me back to Batuman’s review of the 2004 and 2005 Best American Short Stories. I don’t have anything interesting to say about any of these book reviews. In both of Batuman’s essays, Joyce Carol Oates comes off as an exception to the rule of timid, tepid, guilt-imprisoned contemporary short fiction. In both essays, Don Quixote is the canonical first novel that successfully performed the literary innovations that four hundred years later are still being called innovations. And in both essays, she urges fiction writers to expunge the guilt and shame in being a contemporary writer in the face of global suffering, to shun the imperatives to write about
(A) nostalgic and historical subjects; (B) external, researched subjects, also sometimes historical; © their own self-loathing; and/or (D) terrible human suffering
[N.B. as a lover and collector of typos, that copyright symbol is about as awesome as it gets—unless it’s some kind of metadroll joke I’m too hungover to get?]
[Pointless Full Disclosure: I recently purchased from this writer her “favorite red chair, as well as two lamps, an ottoman, a saucepan, a carpet steam-cleaner, some geranium-scented laundry detergent, and approximately eight pounds of rice.” I’m also babysitting her car for a few months, it seems SUPER relevant and important to add. Buying a writer’s soap or borrowing her car unfortunately doesn’t transmit any of her intelligence to their new owner — although I wonder if some reptilian part of my brain wants to pretend that it does. The same goes of course for adopting a great writer’s dog, something I also did with no improvement to my critical faculties. Or, shit, I bet lots of editors, myself included, egoistically and falsely absorb some of the brilliance of a piece they’re editing, even if their edits mostly involve the introduction of typos and tautologies. The connection between leading a good life and thinking and writing well — I wonder how big that gap needs to be. It fluctuates. Brilliant assholes; generous buffoons; everyone in between. Eating Elif’s rice won’t help me think clearly about literature. Neither, apparently, will getting an MFA.]<—– (<(“the ghosts of deleted paragraphs rattle their chains from the margins.”)>)
[Once I’ve fully left my job, I wonder if I’ll start writing Tao Lin–style fan fiction about Keith Gessen, or hosting this blog on a domain with my full name on it, etc.]
[What would that last “etc” refer to, I also wonder? Going on the Tao Lin diet? Buying my own car? Moving to Alaska to teach comp at Juneau Community College with Gerhard Richter’s Daughters? Starting a weekly jogging club with Benjamin Cheever, Sam Frank, and Haruki Murakami?]
[Please don’t make me try to say anything else about anything I’ve read. Please don’t say nasty things about me on the internet. Or about Ariana Reines.]
[Paul Groundphones recently demanded that I read Jacob von Gunten as soon as humanly possible, which I did, and I can’t think of a better example of a work of art that’s feels simultaneously both “pointless” and essential; that’s quite so beautiful in its pointlessness. I love the wry, skillful incompetence of Walser’s narrators. I haven’t finished the novel yet. I’ve never read Stendhal.
- My novel will read like a press release — for life itself!
- What do you guys think about psychoanalysis!
I work for a small nonprofit theater company; a theater festival in the Hague (Den Haag), Netherlands, inexplicably invited members of our company to a festival they are putting on but all the senior members of my small theater company got lockjaw syndrome and painful-butt disease so by the luck of the draw I got to travel to the festival with my colleagues and coworkers Breadstixxxxx and Quintiple-Deez, I’ve changed their names to protect their names, I haven’t slept in 20 hours, these last three clauses are true.
Over the next five or six days I will be “liveblogging,” that is to say “breathlessly typing up my pointless notes” on my time here at the pointlessly occluded roman a clef literary music festival that I am simultaneously at and not at in the Hague. War crimes joke.
We landed two hours ago. I tried for fifteen minutes to sleep but sleep never came. I won’t tell you if I went to the bathroom or not. (I did.) I have abandoned sleep, I’m going to just power through the evening and sleep with the Dutch. When they’re sleeping. I don’t mean have sex with them. I mean sleep when they sleep. I did sleep with fourteen or fifteen people on the plane, not in the bathroom but in the little aisle between my row of seats and the cabin separator wall behind it, men and women, a few consenting children, I also made love to a couple handicap devices, like blind-person canes and arm braces.
HALF-ELF: [exhausted] No apologies for heavy/gross/fake-occluded-personal blog, right?
OTHER, FIERCER HALF-ELF: [hale] Right!
Breadstixxxxxx came over to say hi to me at my seat and had written on his hand in ink Dat kinkt geweldig which he thought from watching Flight of the Conchords with Dutch subtitles meant “That would be great.” He had a draught of drambuie after dinner. I drank nothing but water on the plane. The flight passed quickly as I read the entire New York Times and then an entire (complimentary) UK Guardian cover to cover in the first must have been four or five hours of the flight. Intensive newspaper reading on long flights is good: the aridity dries the paper as you read so by the time you land the newspaper has turned to a delicate, sloughed-off epidermal crinklesheet.
Guilt about air travel’s deletirious effects on the environment. Guilt about my going on such a fun-sounding junket-seeming trip despite the fact that I self-lobotomized at age 14 and have done nothing to deserve this hotel room and will do nothing but think about myself the entire time I’m here. Guilt about guilt, guilt about self-consciousness, guilt.
Ethical dilemma when obese Dutch woman and husband wanted me to trade seats with their son so he could sit next them in my aisle seat. “Is he sitting in a middle seat?” He was. “How old is he?” Thirty-three. I rejected their offer. I spent the rest of the flight in intimate contact with the giant woman’s elbow, other aspects of her right side. She ate everything that was put in front of her. I am also overweight, but not as much as she is. I also don’t have a 33-year-old Dutch son. I felt bad when, at the end of the flight, the flight attendant confirmed that she’d want a wheelchair to get out of the terminal. She could walk, nevermind, what
At baggage claim there was a stoner delegation from CA clearly engaging in marijuana tourism. They were gentle, fine. Four of them plus a guitar.
Juice bar in airport called Juggle Juice.
Sleep = Slaap
Het is half elf’s morgen = it’s 10:30 a.m.
Arts = doctor
two = twee
Lunch = Lunch!!!!
—I haven’t had a drink since Saturday.
—You sound like an alcoholic.
—I know. It still feels good not to drink. I’m going to keep going with it.
—Good! That’s good.
—Every time I make a proclamation like this I immediately undermine myself, but I sort of want to become totally straight-edge: no booze, no drugs, no meat, no stimulants, no sex——
—you should allow yourself coffee. And sex.
—Maybe sex but no coffee. I am going to be 100 percent clean and talk like a stoner. I’m going increase acid and pot jokes by 112 percent.
—I think they’re funny.
—What’s an acid joke? Or a pot joke? Pretending to be high?
—More like pretending to be the kind of guy who thinks the current situation would be “so crazy” if we were high. Which, actually—
—isn’t an imagined scenario at all. That’s actually what you’re thinking.
—Kind of. But I exaggerate it for the joke. [Paws. Pause. Prawns. Pornography under a tree in a State Park. Soft chili. Your knees. Ad nauseum. Ad mauseum. Bistro BlackBerry. My bad.] It will be hard to go to rock shows without hoisting beers.
—No way, dude. That’s the best place. There are always buttoned-up punk-rock weirdos who don’t consume anything except unrefined spelt kujaxx they dumpstered out of satan’s halo or whatever
—Right! Awesome. Then I’m all set.
[The camera zooms slowly, inexorably (“steadily”) (“nervously”) in on dude’s breast pocket. Using “special effects,” the camera penetrates the fibres of dude’s flannel breast pocket, revealing a small composition notebook and a pen. Scrawled on the front of the notebook in black ink: DIARY. We don’t notice that the scene has switched to animation, or that the background has fallen away, so now a cartoon composition notebook floats on a perfect black background. Awesome music. The word DIARY starts to jiggle and shiver in the way that animated but static text does (cf text in title sequences of The Simpsons, Dr. Katz). The I in DIARY tumesces like a cock or a flower, it’s ambiguous. It grows up and then bends over like a stamen, dude, slowly planting itself down on the other side of the A. For a hot moment, the A is covered in an arc. An arch. Maybe it flash-embellishes itself into an arc d’triomphe. Then the original base of the I lifts off the ground, wiggles, falters, and starts detumescing back over to the right side of the I, until it’s returned to its original size, and the word reads: DAIRY. The phrase should begin in black ink on a reddish background, but by the end of the metamorphosis the word is milky white, on the same reddish background. Awesome music. The notebook’s cover opens of its own accord. The page is blank, but as the rich basso profundo voiceover begins, his words appear in blue ballpoint upon the lined pages. His pace is measured, if not ponderous. What the fuck!!!]
PROFUNDO NARRATOR: I read the news. Every week. It enriches me. I love to be informed. But I read it [to be continued…]
BITCHY LITTLE TUB OF MOISTURIZING CREAM: I went to college!
[No one says anything. They studiously ignore her.]
B.L.T.M.C.: I majored in English! I’m a philosopher! I’m hot!!! [Pause] I’m sexy. I’m desirable. I’m great. [Pause] When I had that skiing accident last year, my entire left leg was in a cast. I would lie on top of my duvet, utterly naked but for this snow-white cast, just glistening in the soft light of my reading lamp, waiting for a bookish cretin to crawl up the fire escape and make love to me. [Pause] I was going to say something less gentle than “make love,” but I see there are some children in the audience. [Stupid pause] I’ve gained a lot of weight since then. I wasn’t really eating after the ski accident. [Pause] I was so hot, can you imagine me? Naked but for my leg cast? Totally prone? Supine, in the best sense of the word. Waiting for my porcine caregiver to ascend those steel ladders and… give me care.
They would bring me Jamba Juice, Vanity Fair, and marijuana lollipops. Life was fine. I watched a lot of YouTube clips. A lot of Hulu.com.
I have heartburn.
If the complaint about porn is that women are treated like meat, then the problem with UM/UM [unattractive men/unattractive meat] television is that meat is treated like meat.
Anyway, worth a look.
(I wonder too what old CTY makes of this oldish Harper’s piece on “The Food Network at the frontiers of pornography”?)
I was camping in the Sierras this weekend with a Crude Futurist who told a story (can’t remember the provenance) of a Brooklyn-raised African American man talking about his experience of Election Night 2008 in Fort Greene: [I’m paraphrasing] All the white people who moved to this neighborhood showed for the first time that they actually cared about something other than food.
(no violence meant here to Meatpaper or Plebiscite. I’m just laterally riffing. I care about food, too, and think it’s important. But the quote from the Ft. Greener still struck me as a tidy damnation of my entire existence. Literature is just as pointless as food, art, the rest. Sex, death, drugs, commerce, Internet, everything else. It’s important to care about something other than food, but it’s also possible to study and write about food without wasting your time. Same goes for noun declensions of dead languages, and the craft of sock puppetry. It’s interesting, actually, maybe, how “POLITICS” can make any/every-thing else seem pointless by comparison. And there’s of course a difference between the mindless chichi consumption (of consumption) going on in Ft. Greene vs. the relatively political analysis of food, “food politics,” etc, going on in, say, Meatpaper. I’m not trying to imply that dude was damning hilarious smart articles about Food TV — I don’t think he was — he was damning people who move to your neighborhood and are food-obsessed yuppies. These are separate issues that got connected through my free-associative bloggy style. I love you guys. Chris hey help me for I have written myself into a lazy corner and I can’t get out and I am going to post this before I delete it.
- apolitical art
- political art
- is there any sort of sense that one is “better” or “worse” than the other
- “food politics”
- Pollan v. Wallace
- Reichl v. Ying
- the imperative for people to be engaged in the communities they live in
- the importance of cynicism
- the destructiveness of getting stuck in a cynical mode
- yuppies/gentrification/blinkered existences amid “suffering”
- accidental yet inexusable condescension
- desire (sex, food)
- etc (drugs, babies)
- discipline (martial arts, Yaddo)
- knowledge (the library of congress, obama’s e-mail newsletters)
- selflessness, generosity (dude)
- community service with and without condescension
- gluttony, selfishness
- shellfishness, spumoniïsm
two quotations from the nyt:
White excitedly showed sketches for his contribution to Meatpaper magazine’s party at Camino the following night: a pig’s head stuffed with a terrine of tongues. (“Blah Blah Beats the Nodes Out of the Snot-Rags,” p. A57)
In effect, anybody with money can circumvent the Legislature by putting something to a statewide plebiscite, something that has happened 71 times in the last decade, according to Mark Baldassare, the head of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan research firm. (“Headline’s Mouthterpiece Theaterbones Makes Goodly One More Time,” headline page C16)
If you guessed why every article in the Sunday Times reminds me of my colleague “Plebiscite“, you;ve guessed correctly! what
I have a cold and cannot think straight. I just made a funky, “downtown” variation on this soup, it’s healing me I hope.
I cannot complain
************* [deeper inside the cavity]
Many more odes on this theme [of motorcycles] would follow, and they have been derided by some (the Language poet Ron Silliman has called Seidel a “rich boy formalist… principally known as a collector of expensive motorcycles”), but in his enthusiasm for these machines, Seidel is making good on Rimbaud’s dictum: “We must be absolutely modern.” Curiously, the more Seidel writes about Ducatis the more French he sounds. (Christian Lorentzen on F. Seidel in The National)
Rimbaud’s dictum made me think: Dumbo’s rectum? Dumbeaux’s rictum? Dalrymple’s dimpled cloud, reflected in a rictus? His poutered victim?—– What????
(via “the inimitable Justin Taylor” (quotation marks mine))