Wednesday, July 29, 2009

sunshine or noir

william t. vollmann's epic new book IMPERIAL beats out infinite jest by a solid 200 pages or so. given that it took me an entire summer in college to tackle the latter, i have no idea when i'll find time to read the former. but sam anderson's review in nymag intrigues:

"I was sitting on the train one day chipping away at William T. Vollmann’s latest slab of obsessional nonfiction when my friend Tsia, who incidentally is not an underage Thai street whore, offered to save me time with a blurby one-sentence review based entirely on the book’s cover and my synopsis of its first 50 pages. “Just write that it’s like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker,” she said, “but with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz.” This struck me as good advice, and I was all set to take it, but as I worked my way through the book’s final 1,250 pages, I found I had to modify it, slightly, to read as follows: Imperial is like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz, if Robert Caro had been raised in an abandoned grain silo by a band of feral raccoons, and if Mike Davis were the communications director of a heavily armed libertarian survivalist cult, and if the two of them had somehow managed to stitch John McPhee’s cortex onto the brain of a Gila monster, which they then sent to the Mexican border to conduct ten years of immersive research, and also if they wrote the entire manuscript on dried banana leaves with a toucan beak dipped in hobo blood, and then the book was line-edited during a 36-hour peyote séance by the ghosts of John Steinbeck, Jack London, and Sinclair Lewis, with 200 pages of endnotes faxed over by Henry David Thoreau’s great-great-great-great grandson from a concrete bunker under a toxic pond behind a maquiladora, and if at the last minute Herman Melville threw up all over the manuscript, rendering it illegible, so it had to be re-created from memory by a community-theater actor doing his best impression of Jack Kerouac. With photographs by Dorothea Lange. (Viking has my full blessing to use that as a blurb.)"

the nytimes offers a more informative, if less flavorful, synopsis: "The book is a little like the Imperial Valley itself: pathless, fascinating, exhausting. Its two great themes are illegal immigration — the struggle of countless thousands of Mexicans to sneak into the United States through the Imperial Valley — and water, which has transformed the valley, or parts of it, from desert to seeming paradise but at great environmental cost."

powerhouse books (a small publishing co. with an awesome storefront/gallery space in their DUMBO office) will release a companion set of vollmann photographs taken during his 12 years of research

(vollman's tome coincides with a new pynchon release (INHERENT VICE) partially set in recent ND haunt, topanga canyon. check out wired magazine's "unofficial thomas pynchon guide to LA")

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

have wild imaginings, transformative dreams, and perfect calm

aaron rose's in-croy-able roadtrip photographs take the lomo aesthetic to a whole new level. i am dying to know what camera and film he is using to create these.

the artist himself. the only thing that could make this series cooler would be if that were actually barry o.

bold visionaries knew this

in june, dave eggers offered to personally email anyone who feared that print was dead. now he's announced that the 23rd mcsweeney's quarterly will be a:
"one-time-only, Sunday-edition sized newspaper—the San Francisco Panorama. It'll have news (actual news, tied to the day it comes out) and sports and arts coverage, and comics (sixteen pages of glorious, full-color comics, from Chris Ware and Dan Clowes and Art Spiegelman and many others besides) and a magazine and a weekend guide, and will basically be an attempt to demonstrate all the great things print journalism can (still) do, with as much first-rate writing and reportage and design (and posters and games and on-location Antarctic travelogues) as we can get in there. Expect journalism from Andrew Sean Greer, fiction from George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, dispatches from Afghanistan, and much, much more. We're going to try to sell this thing on the street in San Francisco, but it'll also go out to our subscribers and be in bookstores all over--sign up now to ensure you see it."

it sounds like mcsweeney's will also publish the business model behind the paper in an (admittedly quixotic) attempt to resurrect a dying breed of dailies like the recently retired rocky mountain times. check out the rumpus interview with eggers here.

in other mcsweeney's news, ND pal lucas k. published a parody of palin's resignation speech on the website yesterday. if you haven't read the full text of her speech yet, i highly recommend doing that first here. the overblown rhetoric about providence is marginally less depressing if you imagine her composing the speech in the setting below (that crab does not look like it would just "go with the flow"):



- - - -

Dear World,

I appreciate speaking directly to you, the people I live above, as your God. People who know me know that besides faith and family, nothing's more important to me than the world I created in seven days. Serving her people is the greatest honor I could imagine in the world. The one that I created, I mean, as God.

Earth's mission? − to contribute to the Universe. It's really strategic IN the universe as the air crossroads OF the universe, as a gatekeeper of the universe. Bold visionaries knew this: Earth is a really important planet. This planet, blessed with air, water, wildlife, minerals, New Jersey, AND oil and gas. It's energy, you know what I mean? EN-ER-GY. I gave you energy.

So to serve the Earth is a really intense responsibility, because I know in my soul that Earth is of such import in our very volatile universe. And you know me by now, I promised a couple thousand years ago to show MY independence...that's why I rested on the seventh day. That was foreshadowing.

All in all, I think pretty much everyone can agree that I did my job to the best of abilities. My Earth accomplishments speak for themselves. I worked tirelessly for the Earth. Think of all the great stuff I've made in my time as God:

− Fire

− The Renaissance

− Mario Batali

− the iPhone

People rag on me a lot. I mean a lot of people love me, but generally I get a lot of flak. It's pretty insane − my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with other people's PETTY grievances instead of progressing our planet now. I know I promised no more "lording as usual," but THIS isn't what anyone had in mind for EARTH.

Generally, I now think I can do more for the planet as just a guy who used to be God instead of the guy who currently is God, you know what I mean by this? Life is too short to compromise time and may be tempting and more comfortable to keep your God-head down, plod along, and appease those who demand, "Sit down and shut up," but that's the worthless, easy path − that's a quitter's way out. You can't sit down and shut up when you're God, which is why when I'm not God anymore, I can stand up and do other stuff, like not doing stuff, which is also important, yes?

You betcha.

And besides, a problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic for me to just hunker down and "go with the flow." So by stepping down as God I'm avoiding the flow, which makes me a better God. This makes sense for a lot of reasons, reasons of which I will not go into now for fear of giving in to pressure. And I am not one to "give in to pressure from other people."

I'm not really a "person" anyway.

So, as of tomorrow, my assistant Ashley will step in as God. I think it is obvious she will carry out my duties admirably and goodly. And it is my promise to you that I will always be standing by, ready to assist. We have a good, positive agenda for Earth.

In closing I'd simply like to repeat the words of General MacArthur, a great, big General of the United States Army many years ago. He said, "We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction."

And that's exactly what I am doing here today.

Monday, July 27, 2009

you'll come to know this about me

UPDATE: AP didn't see CP's post below. doubles deleted.

some new flickr photos documenting time spent in venice, martha's vineyard and topanga at el ranchito de los pintos. i think an album of topanga photos will be in the works soon...

i will hold my house in the high wood

recent additions to ND flickr gallery:
the 4th at obed dagget, MV

sequoia camping trip

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

guess i must be having fun

proud to post this video from ND pal Miles Fisher. i think you'll get the reference. check out the website to fulfill your inevitable urge for more fisher, download his album for free and check out some ASP photos.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

good old neon

Message: 3
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 2009 16:05:26 -0700
From: unreliable narrator
Subject: Re: wallace-l: Oblivion Group Read: Good Old Neon (and
apologies for excessive length)
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=WINDOWS-1252; delsp=yes;

Hi everyone and thanks for reading what follows (or just deleting it and politely never referring to it again). To say I am nervous would be an understatement oif maximalist/hysterical realist proportions.
And thus all this is correspondingly overwrought and way too long. So there you have it, straight up front. As my French teacher used to say--on attaque!

So first of all, kind of self-evidently there's this whole narrative trick with "Good Old Neon," if by "trick" you mean "breathtaking, gobsmacking tour-de-force reversal of your received expectations about first-person narration and a general unravelling of the rug of narrative itself, leaving you openmouthed and holding just a big pile of kinked-up yarn in one hand and the sharp end of the string in the nerveless fingers of the other." Which I do.

But beyond noting this kind of flabbergastingly obvious technical end- game move on Wallace's part, I'm also nursing a current theory, based on my having yesterday both finished Infinite Jest then immediately started it again (page 17!), that in "Neon" he offers a kind of redaction of one of IJ's central themes: e.g., fradulence masquerading as excellence, per JOI's perceived ability to master one discipline after another and then discard it without its having ever mastered or disciplined *him,* so to speak ("Where Is The Master Buried?"), or without its having apparently informed his character or entrained him in behaviors reflecting some kind of increased sensitivity of the old moral compass, etc.

Though I may have abandoned this idea completely once we get through the story (and I promise to try to keep spoilers out of it, for those who are still Infinitely Summering). Finally, I apologize in advance for the way in which the Wallace sentence has colonized my writing-- of course all my imitations are pale, attenuated, and just plain
*bad* versions of his, but they're also completely helpless and slavish at this point, so there's not much I can do about it other than hope it passes quickly.

Right. So "Good Old Neon" starts out with various first-person reminscences of a young white guy who has always been accomplished in a bourgeois way, beginning with his achievements in school, but who hasn't necessarily been able to enjoy the fruits of his labors (which already makes me think of the E.T.A.'s insistence on teaching tennis prodigies not just how to succeed, but how to succeed and still feel a modicum of joy in the practice of the sport). Alas, this narrator hasn't had Schtitt's mentoring--instead we're led as readers to this terrific sense of his *aloneness*, his anomie or alienation, which more on that word later. The first example he gives us of his dissociative fraudulence is of his groping a girl in her parents'
basement and "not even really feeling the soft aliveness or whatever of her breast because all I was doing was thinking, 'Now I'm the guy that Mead let get to second with her.'" (141) I love, LOVE "or whatever," which lets us know that in fact he really *doesn't* know what it felt like, because he wasn't there; but also "soft aliveness," which lets us know that he *did* notice what it felt like--so already we are very nicely situated inside an epistemological double-bind, which is presumably exactly where Our Man wants us.

(Also, if you're me and you're obsessed with punctuation, you'll notice that Oblivion uses single quotes throughout, which quirk the list has discussed very thoroughly already I'm sure--but, just in case it hasn't been remarked already, don't you think it implies that the whole BOOK is somehow in double quotes, as in, it's an utterance

So the allegedly fraudulent narrator goes on to encapsulate quite efficiently what sounds like a very thoroughgoing case of dysthymia, with shadings into a commentary on the plight of postmodern literature and culture, if you have an overly heightened ear for such things, which sadly some of us do: "[I] wasn't happy at all, whatever happy means, but of course I didn't say this to anybody because it was such a clich?--'Tears of a Clown,' 'Richard Cory,' etc.--and the circle of people who seemed important to me seemed much more dry, oblique and contemptuous of clich?s than that, and so of course I spent all my time trying to get them to think I was dry and jaded as well, doing things like yawning and looking at my nails and saying things like 'Am I happy? is one of those questions that, if it has got to be asked, more or less dictates its own answer,' etc." (142) The etceteras and the withering tossed-off short category (which is of course also riotously funny--like his painfully familiar list of "things I tried" on the same page) are two of the narrator's little shorthands/strategies to signal his dysphoria/ennui. But then, zut alors, at the end of the same graf, he springs it on us, that this whole thing is uttered somehow posthumously by a narrator who has already committed suicide: "I know this part is boring and is probably boring you, by the way, but it gets a lot more interesting when I get to the part where I kill myself...." (143). Well okay then.

The narrator then gives a painfully funny blow-by-blow of his attempt at, quote, psychoanalysis (which is kind of weirdly dated; why not call it psychotherapy? what's DFW doing here?) which leads him into precisely the same kinds of double-binds he's already encountered, ones again very familiar to any listers who work a sobriety program and/or those who really grokked the AA bits of IJ: "I was trying to show him that I was at least as smart as he was and that there wasn't much of anything he was going to see about me that I hadn't already seen and figured out. And yet I wanted help and really was there to try to get help." (143). There's a problem in symbolic logic which has pretty much exactly these parameters and for the life of me I can't remember its name or anything about it (so much for *that* semester of college tuition). What I think of instead is Philip Reiff's statement concerning Freud's famous hysterical patient Dora:

"This is not to say that Dora?s own insights were incorrect; they were at once correct and yet untherapeutic. Freud is not interested in all truths, and certainly not in Dora?s, except in so far as they block the operation of his own. Because Dora?s insights are part of her illness, Freud had to hammer away at them as functions of her resistance to his insight. Her truths were not therapeutically useful ones."

In which case the narrator, by definition, is unable to see his
problem: Because if he could see it, he wouldn't have it. (According to the rules of the psychoanalysis language-game, anyway.)

On 144 we get "alienated" (wasn't Matt just asking about this?): "[I] finally came out and told him about being a fraud and feeling alienated (I had to use the uptown word, of course, but it was still the truth) and starting to see myself ending up living this way for the rest of my life and being completely unhappy." Unfortunately Dr.
Gustafson (the analyst) walks into exactly the logical cul-de-sac the narrator fears he will: "the fraudulence paradox" (147-8).

But right before that, there's quite a little interlude between the narrator's resignation over Gustafson's "big reductio ad absurdum argument" (150) and the unveiling of said insight--an interlude during which the narrator first of all decides to go ahead and let the analyst have his big insight, because "[I] liked the way in which he seemed genuinely pleased and excited at the idea of being helpful"--and during which he suddenly notices the framed prints, a Wyeth and a C?zanne, hanging behind the analyst's desk. NB that he 'fesses up quite brightly to the fact that he wouldn't have known it was a C?zanne without there having been corroborating text on the framed poster; and though I have the feeling this has already been chattered about here and elsewhere I will nonetheless perseverate in saying, I think the perspectival eccentricities of this particular C?zanne image--the apples and the table--are no accident. Or the Wyeth.

The narrator then recalls having been in an intro logic class in college (cough*Amherst*cough) where "We only got to paradoxes like the Berry and Russell paradoxes and the incompleteness theorem at the very end of the term." A wee bit of Wiki + Wolfram convinces me that I am completely unable to recapitulate those for you here in any kind of meaningful way, and all I can really say is that they demonstrate in an elegant mathematical fashion that, basically, you can't pick up the chair upon which you yourself are standing. I.e., this is water.
(But then there is a tidy amateur-friendly breakdown of the Berry paradox on page 167-168.)

So then the narrator next plunges parenthetically into a childhood memory of having not only broken one of his stepparents' prized possessions but of having successfully framed his sister Fern for it via the simple expediency of actually telling the truth, but in such a forced and hammed-up way that he--well, here, let him say it (148):
"By lying in such a deliberately unconvincing way I could actually get everything that a direct lie would supposedly get me, plus look noble and self-sacrificing, plus also make my stepparents feel good because they always tended to feel good when one of their kids did something that showed character." (Avril Incandenza much?--and further, on 149, per how the stepparents are more concerned with honesty than with infractions, cf. Hal's concern that the Moms is going to be much more bothered by his secrecy than by his addiction.)

He admits that the flaw in his calculation was not thinking about how it would feel to know that he'd made Fern suffer: "The only part I'd neglected to anticipate was Fern's reaction to getting blamed for the bowl, and punished, and then punished even worse when she continued to deny [it]....It's horrible to be regarded as a fraud or to believe that people think you're a fraud or a liar. It's possibly one of the worst feelings in the world." And then a really important bit: "And even though I haven't really had any direct experience with it, I'm sure it must be doubly horrible when you were actually telling the truth and they didn't believe you."

(And here is where I personally find the gap in the narrator's sealed- up Ziploc-baggie-watertight language-game of alienation: He most certainly HAS had direct experience with it, because I think his feelings of fraudulence stem not from *being* fraudulent but from not being *seen*. When all along you *do* try to speak or represent your authentic truth, but you are in what dialectical behavioral therapy likes to call an invalidating environment, it would be logical to interpret the situation as favorable toward the environment rather than yourself--a childhood coping mechanism we all know well, e.g.
the Moms cannot possibly be the micromanaging nutbar she seems, so I'm clearly just a bad kid.)

Again on 150-151, just as the narrator is about to let the analyst make his big speech, he parenthizes off again into yet another delectable disquisition, which is actually not (I think) a disquisition but which is actually the point (I think) of the story, this time a speech on time and thought, deserving to be quoted at

"I know that you know as well as I do how fast thoughts and associations can fly through your head....enough material can rush through your head in the little silences...that it would take exponentially longer than the whole meeting just to try to put a few seconds' silence's flood of thoughts into words. This is another paradox, that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person's life are ones that flesh through your head so fast that
*fast* isn't even thr right word...." and on through the rest of that magnificently etiolated sentence, ending, "and yet we all seem to go around trying to use try to convey to other people what we're thinking and to find out what they're thinking when in fact deep down everybody knows it's a charade and they're just going through the motions."

I.e. one interpretation of this phenomenon is: I am (we are all) fraudulent. And another might be: This language-game is inevitably going to leave us feeling lonely and misunderstood (even by ourselves); the speech-acts of *language* are fraudulent, betraying the felt life and thought itself, but because I am a good child I will blame me rather than my mother. (What Would Kristeva Do?)

(My own parenthetical to assert that precisely this, when stylistically enacted, is why I love Wallace's work: "What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant." But he *tries.* And the result is anything but boring, Dale Peck.)

By p. 152 you should be feeling very pleasantly completely lost. I think that's right. I've made this totally unhelpful non-chart to fail to guide us in our happy bewilderment:



1. the fraudulence paradox
a) (150) you can't be a fraud if you admit you're a fraud
b) (147) the more you try to be liked, the less likeable you will be
c) (147) "But here was the other, higher-order paradox, which didn't even have a form or name--I didn't, I couldn't." (cf. again the AAers' paradox in IJ, that you want to stop using but you don't stop using so obviously you don't want to stop using except that you do, and so forth ad nauseam, literally)
d) (153) "I pretended to myself that my loneliness was special....
[but] we've all got it. In spades."
2. (150) the non-sequential time/thought paradox 3. (151) the closely related paradox of having to use language to express the inexpressible (i.e. non-sequential time and thought)
4.(152) "the really central, overarching paradox," which is how are we able to comprehend any of this via our admittedly not only flimsy but fundamentally inadequate mediated communication techniques.
5. (152) "Not to mention...if I really did kill myself, how can you even be hearing this? Meaning am I a fraud. That's OK, it doesn't really matter what you think." (Cf. again the Program's insistence on not needing to know/understand in order to practice.) AND
(155) "corollary to the fraudulence paradox"--always desperately hoping to get busted whilst simultaneously priding yourself on your unbustability


And yes I realize that was not at all actually useful and this is taking way too long. Okay.

An accellerando follows, which, happily, also takes place in the story right about this time, as if Wallace knows that he is on the verge of spazzing out the reader for good. And it's this signal sentence which kicks us off again--these little driblets of information in which Our Man specializes, just enough shards of narrative to keep you dangling along: "All I'm trying to do is sketch out one little part of what it was like before I died and why I at least thought I did it, so that you'll have at least some idea of why what happened afterward happened and why it had the impact it did *on who this is really about.*" Emphasis all mine. Because who *is* this really about? What *about* the Death of the Author?

(And the sly question on 153, "How much time would you even say has passed, so far?" Which reminds me of an occasion when I apparently sat bolt upright in bed and, still asleep, asked my partner, "How tall were you when you were little?" and he, desperately amused but trying not to laugh and wake me, though a minute, and then answered, "About three feet tall," which answer apparently satisfied me, and I fell back into bed without further comment.)

By this time Dr. Gustafson goes ahead and delivers the expected ineffectual paradox-buster. We learn that Fern's eyes are green (suspiciously incestuous details of her physical appearance, to be explained later), and there's a terribly moving description of going from loving a sport in its heady physicality to just worrying all the time about one's performance in that sport (156). Neal (we've finally been given his name, though he's careful to say on 153 that he was given it as well--"it was on my birth certificate when I got adopted," and thus somehow distanced from him) further describes his fakery as a charismatic Christian, feigning speaking in tongues (which I myself did as a small guilty girl, peer-pressured into "being filled with the Holy Ghost") and being slain in the Spirit.

He concludes with his mendacity in jogging (oh, but like who
*doesn't* speed up when someone's watching?!) and, most tellingly, during meditation. Frankly this is the part (158-160) that really gets me where it hurts, as a former Zen student. Neal avers that through "sheer force of will I'd always force myself to remain totally still with my legs crossed and back perfectly straight long after all the other students had all given up and fallen back on their mats shuddering and holding their heads." It amuses me still when people who haven't practiced meditation view it as lazy navel- gazing etc., just like people who think riding a horse isn't work, after all you're just sitting up there, how hard can it be? I secretly desire to kidnap those people and force them to sit zazen for a week, and/or ride ten hours a day.

Anyway Neal's instructor (Master Gurpreet) is Indian and the kind of meditation they're doing sounds more Hindu than Buddhist (prana,
e.g.) but the agony Neal describes is completely familiar to me, and rather makes me cackle internally ? la the Boston AA Crocodiles.
Neal's narrative unreliability I think lies in the fact that he thinks he's not doing the meditation "correctly," because he's only
*pretending* to do it correctly--which is in fact, sorry Neal, you are doing the meditation correctly. Because there's not really a wrong way to do it. Because if he'd kept doing it for a few more weeks, or months, or years, or decades, eventually "keeping totally still and in the correct posture and having a deeply peaceful and meditative expression on my face" would have worked a kind of inevitable alchemy on him. And perhaps was already doing so. I think.
And so do the lineage of Buddha ancestors. But ANYWAY.

Then there are a couple of patently transparent dreams ("I'm not saying it was subtle or hard to figure out") and Neal's seemingly random insertion of his stepmother's posthumous gift to him of a family pocketwatch with the motto RESPICE FINEM (161), which means basically "Think it through," as they say in the Program--that is, consider the consequences; think about your impulse all the way through to the end before you get all gung-ho about it, and Neal takes this to be a sign that his stepmom saw right through him the same way that Master Gurpreet did, in his sarcastic certificate- addressing. And he concludes his Crimes of the King style litany of fakery with his career in advertising (Mr. Squishy! Veals & Vinal,
etc.) and then on 162 blessed white space in which to catch our breaths.

Then Gustafson and Neal interfact further, both during life and afterward "outside linear time and in the process of dramatic change." Yay for the bardo! Pages 164-165 give a spare, pithy retelling of Gustafson's one genuine insight: that it's only ever either either Love or Fear which guides our choices. This overlaps on
165-166 with the insight of a rejected girlfriend (Beverly- Elizabeth), who accuses Neal of having an amazing ability to perceive, yet one utterly without care. Which then overlaps, again almost soundlessly--they're not so much parenthetical remarks as overlapping ripples in a pond--with another section on time/thought/ the afterlife and what it does to these. It's creepy, incoherently lovely prose.

On 168-169, Neal realizes, during an insomniac viewing of the TV show Cheers (IJ again) that he has to, you know, eliminate his own map.
(Which I have also felt while watching reruns of Cheers in the middle of the night, but for possibly different reasons.) But again with the sneaky insertion, look: "You're thinking here's this guy going on and on and why doesn't he get to the part where he kills himself and explain or account for the fact that he's sitting here next to me in a piece of high-powered machinery telling me all this if he died in 1991." Narrator shell-game!

There's some amazing stuff I'm now going to pass over without comment. But you, don't you do that. You comment! Especially on those brilliantly tortuously convoluted paradoxes in Neal's suicide note to Fern (173). Even though this whole process, with our readerly awareness of an author and his fate, has been achingly painful up even this far, and now becomes outright excruciatingly painful. I.e., "Basically I was in that state in which a man realizes that everything he sees will outlast him. As a verbal construction I know that's a clich?. As a state in which to actually be, though, it's something else, believe me."

Or, "I'd somehow chosen to cast my lot with my life's drama's supposed audience [double possessive!] instead of with the drama itself." Which we can read and ache through, and weirdly, at the same time, just like Neal, invested or maybe *infested* is the right word, with that terrible double-consciousness, we can read and hurt over, and at the same time admire the wild headlong rush of a sentence ending, "...and instantly kill me," followed by a brilliant terse run- on with not one but *two* usage errors, a one-two punch sentence which nails the paragraphs structurally and brings it *home*: "Self- loathing is not the same thing as being into pain or a lingering death, if I was going to do it I wanted it instant. DAMN it feels good to be a gangsta.

Except, it doesn't feel good enough.

So Neal takes his self-conscious self out into his car, Benadryl'd to the suicidal gills yet still anticipating the perceptions of others ("This is the sort of shit we waste our lives thinking about"--right, gentle reader? Wallace nudges us into agreeing) and then the accellerando begins for real, via the device of the hearer being *in* the lethally speeding car with the teller (178: "Because listen?we don't have much time....").

Page 179 is just killer. Text and footnote both. Neal at last acknowledges the fallacy of his supposed paradox: "Of course you're a fraud; of course what people see is never you."

More sneaky stuff has been happening. Neal has been talking to someone, a You, telling us/him/them that he, Neal, knows that the You really wants to know what it's like to kill himself/yourself/ ourselves (but come on, it's *himself*, I should just man up here and use the third-person masculine): and that he also knows the You thinks that he, Neal, is going to try to talk him out of it. But that he, Neal also says it would totally be okay not to do it, even though it doesn't hurt and is over instantly. All this obviously makes more sense when Wallace writes it: top of 178, top of 180. I just wish he'd listened. To Neal. Because even after the years of "literally indescribable war," the firepower still wasn't apparently (contra p.
181) quite enough. Dammit.

And now of course 180-181 is where the narrative rug just comes all to yarn-tangle in our stupefied hands. Because suddenly here's a character named David Wallace, inserted casually amidst a catalogue of others, perusing yearbook photos and thinking dimly (as we are invited to reconstruct it, though it's very pointedly not in the
text) something along the lines of: Hey, I remember that guy?what was it we used to call him, yeah, it was Neon! Good old Neon. Whatever happened him again, did he--wait, that's right, he died in a fiery single-car accident, now why on earth did he do that, that guy had everything going for him, I wonder what it felt like, everything seemed so effortless for him in school, academics and sports, he never screwed up at Legion ball, he always had a quick put-down for me, and damn his sister was totally hot. (Which in retrospect explains why Neal had this like prurient interest in his sister's developing figure--the interest was actually "David Wallace"'s interest, from a distance, in Neal's "witchily pretty sister").

"if only in the second his lids are down...." (= the time it took for "David Wallace" to think all this, all blooming forty pages of it)

And it has already been explained by several that [--> NMN.80.418] represents presumably: Neal's initials; '80 being the acme of his seniority; .418 being his batting average; and --> being some kind of fancy symbolic operator which again I should be able to remember from Philosophy 210: Logical Thought, but I can't.

Isn't this just a *magnificent* story? It's so deeply, conflictingly, implicatingly, pleasurably wounded--the up-front statements of fraudulence only bring the narrator closer to the reader, somehow, like Orin's transparently transparent pick-up lines reel in the Subjects despite themselves....And speaking of preemptive declarations of facility and fraudulence--Dear LORD this is so inappropriately, sickeningly long that I practically have ABD stamped on my forehead. I really apologize. But thanks again for your patience and I can't wait to hear what you smart people think about all this. Now: "Not another word."

Except PS only: thanks also for letting a confirmed lurker play along. :o)

self-organizing emergent patterns

so this is what sufjan has been up to for the past two years. i left brooklyn a month before the performance at BAM, but heard rave reviews that inspired my first bout of nyc envy.

THE BQE- A Film By Sufjan Stevens from Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo.

The BQE is available as a double-disc format (CD/DVD), which includes the original 16mm/8mm film (in widescreen "triptych" display), the original motion picture soundtrack, a 40-page booklet (with extensive liner notes and photographs), and the stereoscopic image reel (playable in all View-Master® viewers).

The limited edition vinyl is available as a double gatefold and includes the soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl, a large-scale 32-page booklet with liner notes and photographs, and a black-and-white version of the 40-page Hooper Heroes comic book.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

cut the last sentence

rick moody can write leafy connecticut suburbs as skillfully as post-apocalyptic new york city, but i'm excited to hear that his latest novel (working title THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH) promises to be more of the latter, ALBERTINE NOTES variety. also "montese crandall" sounds like a character in a flannery o'connor story....what luck. novel should be out spring 2010. interview, plus moody's "13 rules of revision" here:

NT: Let's talk about your newest novel. Unless you are superstitious, could you talk about what it is about and how long you've been working on it?

RM: Not superstitious, really, but it's a hard book to talk about. It began in two ways: 1) I really love bad, old horror movies, the b-film variety, the drive-in variety, especially from the late fifties and early sixties, which was the period of horror films that I watched a lot as a kid. I just loved them. In this novel, I wanted to try to make my own one of these films, so I picked a particularly embarrassing example, THE CRAWLING HAND (1963), and began adapting it. 2) Meanwhile, I wanted to write a book about the desert, because I have been spending a lot of time in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona in the last ten years. Or, if not a book ABOUT the desert, at least a book LOCATED in the desert. Then (3) if those things weren't enough, I allowed a name from my book to be auctioned off by a first-amendment-related charity in California. The winner, he who paid the top dollar, got to have his name in my book. The winner was one Montese Crandall. Upon having control of this name, which I loved so much, I had to create a context for him in the novel, so he became the narrator and controlling intelligence thereof. In ways that will become clear when you see it. Well, there's another factor, too. (4) I wanted to write a novel in the style of the novels I first loved when I was a teenager, viz.,Vonnegut/Brautigan/Robbins/Pynchon/Dick/Heinlein. It's a sub-literary genre in some cases, but I never care about that sort of thing. I want write into the condition of my early enthusiasm, you know? Anyway, the result is a 900 page comic novel about a disembodied arm set in the desert in 2026.

Friday, July 10, 2009

knit on!

hope everyone has a rad weekend. team ND will be in topanga, soaking up rays, crushing waves, and communing with nature.
fort ticonderoga mix

fergus and geronimo - tell it (in my ear)
kurt vile - freeway
the hot tickets - dancing with francis
devendra - get off your high horse
the love language - providence
tuneyards - providence
cat stevens - miles from nowhere
fleetwood mac - i know i'm not wrong
dan rossen - waterfall (judee sill cover)
the oh sees - ship
ganglians - voodoo
dirty projectors - temecula sunrise
highlife - f kenya rip

one word for your fans? astronaut.

jon carling's drawings remind me of untold hours spent in my mom's libraries as a kid. contemplating purchasing the bobby d. "tarantula '66" print for the promise of personalized envelope and extras. nothing beats mail art.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

the native american word for internet

the only thing these videos have in common is that they're awesome.

"Streaming Gradient" by Jen Stark from Jen Stark on Vimeo.

(note rod stewart's amazing line at the beginning ~40second mark "you've met string have you?")