29 May 2006

Readings and such

While I'm trying to think up something remarkable and insightful to say about eccentric, gifted new wave groupettes vs old guard elitist, boring & mundane groupettes vs proud, charming, irritating & eccentric individualists vs "tribes" vs "kibbutzes" vs conscious collectives vs unconscious collectives vs task vs process vs chlorinated swimmings pools, socioeconomicpolitical stratispheres, homogenous & incompatible hemispheres, offbeat universities in the Midwest, subway systems, sentences & narratives & the relevance of my cultural roots in old Russia & my Electrac attachment to my past father, I'd like to follow Mark Wallace in announcing a reading in NYC. It's on Thursday this at the KGB Bar, East Village, 7 - 9 pm. Tis the second in the Mad Hatters' Review Poetry, Prose & Anything Goes Reading Series, and features Edwin Torres (the "experimental" theatrical/performance poet) and lyrical "innovative"/"avant-garde" prose-narrative writer Dawn Raffel. We will also present an actor reading selections from our journal, issues 1 through 5, a live saxophonist playing original abstract music, & for a reasonable price, signed posters depicting a torture victim of The Homeland Security Dept. of the US of Ameerica (our issue 5 cover art). Admission is free For details, please proceed to MHR.

Thanks for listening!


We’re ready for our close up, Mr. DeMille

[Thanks to all for the scintillating and complex views, and for the several glimpes into the classroom. I’m always happy to hear what my colleagues are up to…]

What’s that old Hollywood saying...something like, if you want to send a message, go to Western Union…? And we all love moving pictures.

Not sure, as per Lance Olsen’s (I'm using last names for readers) recent post, what unifies any of the people on this blog—except that fact that we are on the blog. Follow?

An I.Q. test is a test of how well you take an I.Q. test, and if so, then the GREs are a test of well, you guessed it, how well you take the GREs. And, a dissertation becomes a test (word “test” used broadly) of how well you comport to the various institutional rules that govern what constitutes a dissertation in your particular field, at your particular moment, with your particular committee etc. Roll over, Pierre Bourdieu, and dig these rhythm and blues.

In other words, I’m with Kass on focusing on “power.” Of course, Kass Fleisher and I had the same dissertation director at SUNY Binghamton (now called Binghamton University, in its privatized phase), although we were a few years apart. I can’t pin this down for sure, but knowing the Bingo scene, Kass and I were probably relative anomalies from the still to some degree John Gardner -influenced zeitgeist going on that-a-way.

[I deliberately do not want to be John Gardner…can’t ride a motorcycle, not much of a hard drinker, etc, and found The Art of Fiction to be real snoozer.]

Lance’s point about affiliation in an important one. We may not all be academics, or small press/journal editors, or even however-you-want-to-define-it “innovative” writers, but we are still, of course, on this blog. We’re all passing this test of how well we write on a blog rather well, it seems. But, how’d we get here?

Invitation from Lance and Ted Pelton perhaps (?), who, I believe, both came up with the idea while at a Colorado writing festival with Jeffrey DeShell. Maybe the seed emerged at an earlier meeting, AWP in Austin, the &NOW Festival at Lake Forest College? A number of us are alums of a short-lived list serve from the late 90s (Prosaics…was it called?), which was kind of like this blog, but not quite so public. [Like multicolored legos, we’ve got plenty more connections I won’t bother to enunciate here.]

If it ain’t writing until it’s read (as Doug Rice notes), then perhaps there is the public internet aspect to muse upon…? Is there anybody out there? Clearly, a few, maybe more. Do we have the visitor stats for the blog thus far? But otherwise, perhaps we are still engaged very much in a tribal enterprise. Seems to me, though, that tribes are often eradicated, marginalized, or, if things carry on long enough, given points on lucrative casinos.

Watch the ball bouncing over the roulette wheel; ignore the keno zombies staring cold and catatonic over the empires of the senseless.

I’d be very interested to know about affinities this group shares, about articulations, even tentative, that can offer a way to point toward some collective interrogation of the contemporary writing landscape.

For my part, I’ll venture a very tentative hypothesis that what makes members of a group like this coalesce is some collective recognition, albeit drawn from myriad different experiences, of what makes art signal difference from whatever definition of traditional/mainstream/narrative/sentence-based/etc stuff it is not.

We may not, and should not, all agree of any of the specifics of how this occurs, but to shoot back to an earlier idea (Bourdieu’s)—we are to some degree acculturated into our likings, and for some (and here’s a problem), such aesthetics are markers of “privilege” (education, exposure, leisure time). A trap in the radical possibilities of our broadly defined aesthetic? Production for producers? Rewarded with symbolic capital (academic jobs…) for not engaging in a certain type of self-promotional capitalist game? Pick a card, any card.

Let me throw out another possibility for what our stuff is not—for the most part, we don’t control the means of widespread distribution for our work. Even our most financially successful enterprises can’t compete with most of the cookbooks Joe Amato probably reads.

I dropped out of the Culinary Institute of American at 17, and since have never made a b├ęchamel again.