Object in the World

April 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

Donald Barthelme, “Not-Kowing,” Not Knowing: The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme (1997)

Mallarmé’s work is also, and perhaps most importantly, a step towards establishing a new ontological status for the poem, as an object in the world rather than a representation of the world.

The Bugles of Silence

March 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

Léon Bloy, “Le Musicien du silence” (1893)

I [the composer Pouyadou] could point you to important pieces written for a set of completely voiceless trumpets that I call the bugles of Silence, after the model of the unrecoverable buccins that once overthrew the walls of Jericho [via].

The Other Novel

March 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Lydia Davis, The End of the Story

I’m afraid I may realize after the novel is finished that what actually made me want to write it was something different, and that it should have taken a different direction. But by then I will not be able to go back and change it, so the novel will remain what it is and the other novel, the one that should have been written, will never be written.

Faulkner and Failure

March 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

William Faulkner, “William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12″ by Jean Stein, The Paris Review 12 (Spring 1956)

None of my work has met my own standards.

The Tip of the Bull’s Horn

March 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tom McCarthy, “Writing Machines,” London Review of Books 18 December 2014: 21-22

In ‘Literature Considered as a Bullfight’, Michel Leiris compares the writer to a toreador. Imagine a bullfight without the bull: it would be a set of aesthetic manoeuvres, pretty twirls and pirouettes and so on — but there’d be no danger. The bull, crucially, brings danger to the party, and for Leiris, that’s what the real is: the tip of the bull’s horn. He, too, disappoints by offering candid confession and exposure of personal peccadillos as examples of dalliances with the bull-horn — i.e. Oprah literature. But Leiris’s conceit is rich in ways that even he seems not to realise. Think about it: if a matador is gored, the bullfight, the entire spectacle, suddenly comes to an appalled halt; what the bull’s horn brings to the party is not just danger but also the possibility that the party itself could be catastrophically interrupted. If the bullfight is an analogue for literature, and if the bull’s horn is a vision of the real, then what the real represents is an event, something that would involve the violent rupture of the form and procedure of the work itself. The real, here, is no longer anything like a fact or a secret. It doesn’t depend on any putative correspondence between the writer’s work and the empirically understood world. And it certainly has nothing to do with authenticity.

. . . The matador is gored, the real jumps out and punctures the screen or strip of film, destroying it. This is a real that happens, or forever threatens to happen, not as a result of the artist ‘getting it right’ or being authentic, but rather as a radical and disastrous eruption inside the always and irremediably inauthentic; a traumatic real; a real that is psychoanalytic as much as literary: the real that Lacan defines as ‘that which always returns to the same place’ and as ‘that which is unassimilable by any system of representation’. The challenge isn’t to depict this real realistically, or even ‘well’, but to approach it in the full knowledge that, like some roving black hole, it represents (though that’s not the right word anymore) the point at which the writing’s entire project crumples and implodes.

What We Can’t Articulate

March 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tom McCarthy, “Kafka and the Crash of the System: An Interview with Tom McCarthy” by Jonathon Sturgeon, Flavorwire 26 February 2015

In a way, all of my books are about this kind of quest for the now, to close down the buffer zone of consciousness and self-awareness and irony or language or whatever. Just to close that down and occupy “the now” — which is an impossible or unrealizable fantasy. I guess that’s what Present Tense Anthropology ™ would be. But U. never achieves it. All he ever achieves is buffering. That space of delay and separation. . . . Nothing is less contemporary than contemporary art or fiction. Than art that has something to say about the now. I think the whole point of the now is that it’s precisely what we can’t articulate.

Zombie Art Form

March 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tom McCarthy, “Tom McCarthy by Frederic Tuten,” BOMB 131 (Spring 2015)

FT Every few years or days, we hear the cry that the novel is dead. But then something comes along to prove that it is not only alive, but that it manifests itself in full vitality and beauty. May I ask you what you think of this statement? I believe we share a common feeling that it is not the novel that is dead, but the lack of imagination that invests it.

TM No, I think the novel is and always has been dead, and this is the very precondition of its perpetual regeneration. Don Quixote is a novel about how novels don’t work (the hero tries to enact all these episodes from books, as though to test their propositions, and he, they, flunk each time); about a fundamental, systematic dysfunction written right into the medium’s core. And that’s more or less the first major novel! It’s a peculiarly zombie art form, with all the goriness, the cannibalism, and so forth that that term implies (it’s not as though you need to cut open Ulysses‘s stomach to see what it’s been eating: it’s got everything from Defoe to Sacher-Masoch dribbling down its chin!). The novel stumbles onwards, ineluctably, gorging and disgorging its own death, its own deadness. So the novel’s not just dead — it’s undead. The type that matters at least: the committed, engaged, self-aware novel that wrestles with the contradictions of its own condition. The middlebrow novel, by contrast, the type that doesn’t acknowledge or address this situation, but just ambles along happily believing that a naive, uncritical realism could ever work in the first place, let alone now — that would be undead too, but in a way that somehow doesn’t seem to really matter.

Tom McCarthy, “Tom McCarthy: A Kafka for the Google Age” by Tim Martin, The Telegraph 19 March 2015

“I don’t think we need to abandon the form of the book just because the internet has been invented,” he says. “Most other media formats work: you get an iPhone and it does something, and if it doesn’t do that thing, you take it back for a repair. But the book is deliberately set up not to perform a certain function, to systematically frustrate. It’s always been a dysfunctional medium, and since it never works, it never stops working.” He grins. “So I’m perfectly happy writing books.”

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