|. . . 2002-06-04|
|Astoria, Oregon, 2002|
|- photo by Juliet Clark|
|. . . 2002-06-05|
|. . . 2002-06-06|
People differ. People recognize.
One proposition, then the other, slapped across the yap like a big stinking dead cross-eyed fish.
|. . . 2002-06-07|
How different was this letter from the other! Though perhaps not so well written; for one does not shew so much wit in suing for pardon as in venting reproaches, and it seldom happens that the soft, languishing style of a love-letter is so penetrating as that of invective.I think I understand what Visible Darkness is getting at with links. I wish I didn't.
It's more relaxing when I can pretend that it's just you (out there) and stuff (out there) and my function is to point -- or, more precisely, to place a marker and leave. I'm happiest (happy in a secure stable confident way; not most gleeful or most driven) lending people books or showing them movies or playing them music that they like, and as much as I may strive to instigate and encourage their enjoyment by my own overbearing example, I'd be betraying the Code of the Autodidact if I denied the value of a library card and time alone in the stacks. (Not that linkin'-logs have much in common with libraries -- they're more like kids trying to impress each other with what they got for Xmas. A weblog's sidebar [or sidepage] list of favorites provides a closer equivalent to browsing someone's bookshelves than do the links in a weblog proper.)
And when I feel especially sickened by the tawdry deceits of "expression," as I occasionally and currently am, that's what seems safest: publish, point, disappear.
[Naturally, I've turned for publishing relief to someone who's not at all bothered by melancholy or guilt, or even by tawdry deceits. Grammont's introduction to the court of Charles II is challengingly crowded with new characters (and just as densely packed with notes). But the introductions are not without Hamiltonian charm; for example, to "Montagu, no very dangerous rival on account of his person, but very much to be feared for his assiduity, the acuteness of his wit, and for some other talents, which are of importance, when a man is once permitted to display them."For better or worse or richer or poorer, I can't maintain dignified silence for long. A call (no matter how illusory) for response will rarely call in vain, and while I've lately preserved a model pout here, I've written plenty in email, comments, and mailing lists.
And with the next two chapters, we find ourselves comfortably settled on the high plateau of cheerful self-satisfied amorality whereon the remainder of the Memoirs will amiably amble.]
Even responding, I'd rather point to already published sequences of words than generate new ones; for example, by drawing a line from "Words' true work is to restore life itself to order" to "Sharp as mud." But, as a critic who prefers an informal style and primary sources close at hand, I may well find myself tempted into more active engagement against Ricoeur's formula that "Conversational speech presents; writing represents"....
|. . . 2002-06-09|
Since the biggest problem with biographies are the biographers, why not just get rid of 'em?
In an email message a while ago, Jessie Ferguson fantasized one approach to erasure: "I still want to write a biography that passes no judgments at all and raises no questions it isn't equipped to answer." And I imagine something like the "Chronology" in a Collected Works, except busting out all over with source documents like a microwaved popcorn bag....
That sounds nice.
An easier approach, which could be said to be even more honest, being even less interpretive, is just stringing the blatantly heterogeneous source material together, like in The Sammy Davis, Jr., Reader, 500 pages of Gerald Early's selections from memoirs, interviews, and journalism.
Which is nice.
Having an actual example brings on a couple of new thoughts, though, which just goes to show that examples are worthwhile:
You need a fairly wide variety of voices and publication genres for a biographical compilation to work; else all you've got is a reprint of someone else's book (not that there's anything wrong with reprinting someone else's book). For some biographical subjects, you might be able to get sufficient variety out of letters and diaries. Outside such knitting-brow circles, the approach will skew you towards the kind of people who get talked about in memoirs, interviews, and journalism: that is, to show-biz celebrities. And performers just don't tend to be very interesting. Their work can be interesting, but as people, with few exceptions, they fall within a pretty narrow range of affection-craving self-dramatizing technique-obsessed personalities.
Sure, there are noticeable differences between performers. Those more-or-less unique aspects are what passes for interest in memoirs, interviews, and journalism, and what incited Early's hard work on Sammy Davis, Jr. But there are even more similarities between performers, and the constant background noise of those shared aspects starts (to me, anyway) to get numbing after a while.
My memory is that the race-traitor routine kicks in solid during the junior high years. And that it was substantially more direct and heart-breakingly destructive than any gender divides introduced by puberty.
When they see themselves as a group, humans act as if their main job is to maintain the group, and, members of the group having consciousness and all, internal variations of behavior and thought are seen as a more present danger to group solidarity than any threats from the outside could be. It's an often demonstrated problem with few known solutions, 'cause for obvious reasons there's not a huge amount of pressure for it to be solved.
This particular variation, which has the desirable side-effect of keeping a underclass persistently under, isn't uncommon among colonized peoples. It's one of the complaints the more skeptical Irish made against Irish nationalists at the previous turn of a century, for example. There are many other examples.
The ray of hope for most colonized groups is the one that's directed back and down at the land behind them. There's always the dream of reclaimed soil, re-established traditions, and reborn language. Anti-assimilationist pressure is justified by hope for a regained (if mythical) glory.
What helps keep American racism such a stable system is African-Americans' near unique status as an imported colonized people: Europeans, finding North American natives more suited for extermination than colonization, kidnapped and relocated an entire nation's worth of labor. The backwards gaze is drowned in the Middle Passage. There's nowhere to retreat to but where we're at, and we're all in the same place. The only glory we can hope for is still, nerve-rackingly, to be sought in the future.
2015-12-19 update from Josh Lukin:
"Hughes judged that if Zora Neale Hurston, 'with her feeling for the folk idiom,' had been its author, 'it would probably be a quite wonderful book.' Baldwin, however, 'over-writes and over-poeticizes in images way over the heads of the folks supposedly thinking them' in what finally was 'an "art" book about folks who aren't "art" folks.'"
|. . . 2002-06-10|
|The opinions expressed herein are
strictly those of the Muse, and
should not be taken to represent the
views of the editor or publisher.
|. . . 2002-06-11|
Why, this is blooming buzzing confusion, nor am I out of it.
In keeping with the theme, some scattered reflections on identity:
It's not only a matter of theater or of literary pseudonyms. The territory of ethics -- ethical responsibility, ethical education -- lies here, in this contested or unnoticed no-ego's-land between self-image, conscious intent, and expression. If good intentions pave the road to hell, that's just because good intentions are standard-grade asphalt; given surveying and cartographic tools, other roads are possible.
|. . . 2002-06-12|
I got my act together and it closed in Boston
My characteristically glum affect skewed yesterday's scattered reflections, but that's what happens with scattered reflections....
As far as I know, pseudonymous publication did begin as a way to avoid persecution. But as authorship became established as a central marketing and critical unifier, pseudonyms became something more like theatrical roles, or like writing fiction, or hoaxes, or drag names: an assumption of a voice explicitly "not yourself" that permits the existence of what "you yourself" could never have made or imagined making, thus changing the boundaries of "you yourself."
I feel especially foolish for not making that step since it's a tenet of neuraesthetics that form causes content. Or, as Visible Darkness puts the fallacious contrary:
"Facts are objects to be mined and refined, and are not created through social interaction. "
|. . . 2002-06-13|
Coming this fall: Birth Control for Smart People
Shocking Worldwide Self-Esteem Surplus:
|"My Greatest Mistake" : 447 results||"My Greatest Achievement" : 2,110 results|
|"My Greatest Failure" : 187 results||"My Greatest Success" : 818 results|
|634 results||2,928 results|
|. . . 2002-06-15|
Grin & plummet
|That's what I've always felt about nervous breakdowns, if you're not really whacked out, or schizophrenic; basically, you're making a decision that is so hard that you need the excuse of neurosis. I think nervous breakdowns were much more common in the late '50s and early '60s, and the world is more hip about those things today, so that people can make decisions without claiming that excuse. But it works both ways; it was a great advantage having nervous breakdowns.|
|-- Thomas M. Disch|
Possibly related: Samuel R. Delany's mild dismay when noting that depression is often a sign that one's life should change in some drastic fashion, and that the blanket prescription of antidepressives some-subset-of-often delays that necessary change, some-further-subset indefinitely.
Not entirely unrelated: This present mental institution's third (of a projected five) anniversary approaches.
|. . . before . . .||. . . after . . .|