The Book-Beyond-The-Book

January 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (2015)

…this not-Report you’re reading now, this offslew of the real, unwritten manuscript… (p. 115)

I’d begun to suspect — in fact, I’d become convinced — that this Great Report was unplottable, unframeable, unrealizable: in short, an in whatever cross-bred form, whatever medium or media, unwritable. Not just by me, with my limited (if once celebrated) capabilities, but fundamentally, essentially, inherently unwritable. . . . Even when I reasoned these last, deranged notions back out to the fringes of my mind, I was still left with the immovable fact of the thing’s unwritability. This filled me with anger, and a feeling of stupidity, and sadness, too — grief not for an actual loss but, worse, for a potential or iaginary one: this beautiful, magnificent Report: this book, the Book, the fucking Book, that was to name our era, sum it up; this book that left the format of the book itself behind, this book-beyond-the-book. . . . (pp. 115-116)

A Normal Novel

January 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

Adam Thirlwell, Interview by Alex Clark, The Observer 25 January 2015

One problem with writing is to find something that survives its finishing, that still feels as ruthless or nasty or mischievous as when it was begun. The finished object is always neater than expected. The dream is of this entirely impolite object, a gruesome and difficult toy. And then always once you’ve finished it, it turns out to be a normal novel

Ink Polluting Paper

January 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (2015)

Still sitting at my desk, looking down at the laptop, at the picture on its screen, the streaks and clusters taking shape as the oil spread slowly inland, I saw ink polluting paper, words marring the whiteness of a page.

Nudisme Redux

January 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin have produced a notebook replica of Nudisme, the blank literary journal featured in Jean Cocteau‘s Orphée (1950). It can be purchased for $12 in the US and Canada.

Girlfriend in a Comma

December 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Gustave Flaubert

I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon removing it.

Unaltered By Perception

November 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Nicholas Rombes, The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing

For I’ve come to see, in retrospect, that there was a void at the heart of the films that Laing destroyed, and that through his description of those films he was attempting to fill, somehow, that void, as if talking about the films might fill in the meaning that they themselves lacked. I also came to understand that Laingn didn’t think of the destroyed films as “lost treasures” at all, but instead as something more dangerous, as expressions of pure nothingness. A nothingness that goes beyond nihilism, beyond philosophy, a sort of absence that’s so seductive and so powerful that to look upon it is to corrupt a part of your soul (p. 67).

“…I’d watched them, all right, and seen something in them that should never be seen, and I’m not talking about a real-life killing on camera or a dangerous, evil idea convincingly expressed by an otherwise sympathetic character or anything like that. What I mean is that there was something there, in between the frames, something that wasn’t quite an image and wasn’t quite a sound. It was both and neither of those things at the same time. In other words, an impossibility that, because it expressed or represented a new way of being, had to be destroyed. An extreme, undiluted truth, that’s what I’m talking about” (p. 69).

As Laing looks down at the picture I think about the missing children, the ones in the news, and that Laing’s reasons for destroying the films only made sense if you believed there was such a thing, as he had called it, as undiluted truth because in fact, well let’s face it, we’re luckless when it comes to truth because there’s just no way to grasp it without polluting it or mucking it up with ourselves, as if the observer effect didn’t only apply just in physics, but in metaphysics as well because, sure, you can coax it out, the truth, but the moment it shows or reveals itself to you it’s changed in response to being detected, and maybe that’s what Laing meant, after all, that somehow, against all reason, the films in question had actually managed to capture the truth unaltered by perception and that’s why they had to be destroyed… (pp. 60-70).

The shoebox seemed to vibrate there on my lap, like a dying wasp, and I imagined opening it right there and unleashing a terrible fury and blaze that was meant for some apocalyptic future, like some carefully erased sentence slowly re-appearing across the page (p. 76).

See also Guillaume Apollinaire, Yves Bonnefoy (here and here), Stan Brakhage, Karl Ove Knausgaard (here and here), Steven Millhauser (here and here), and Simone Weil.

A Kind of Other-ing

November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Simon Critchley, “Cult of Memory: Simon Critchley Interviewed” by Daniel Fraser, The Quietus 2 November 2014

One moral of Memory Theatre is that it is a kind of parable of writing. Here is someone who writes and then goes crazy and then that writing becomes a sort of monumentalisation of death in this fantasy of total recall where everything would become meaningful at the moment of the extinction of one’s life in death. Which is a very reassuring picture of writing, writing helps us to remember but in many ways writing should be pushing us towards that which we can’t remember, that which escapes memory, that which really haunts us. Or again to push us towards something which actually involves other people rather than this masturbatory activity of writing which can lead to catastrophe.

I think there is a way of writing, a kind of Derridean theme: you can try to write in a way which encourages a certain otherness in the self, a certain self-distancing, and Memory Theatre therefore is a negative example, something to be avoided. However, Memory Theatre is also importantly a universe without love, this is what an existence without love looks like and love is also a kind of other-ing. It engenders a disposition in you which is orientated towards something which you cannot control or recollect. It is the same way I see psychoanalysis which again is not premised on a fantasy of total recall, it’s about an orientation towards something which is in you that is maybe not in your conscious memory, and is not really memorialisable in any way.

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