“When I begin to think at all I get into states of disgust and fury at the way the mob is going on (meaning by mob, chiefly Dukes, crown princes, and such like persons) that I choke; and have to go to the British Museum and look at Penguins till I get cool. I find Penguins at present the only comfort in life. One feels everything in the world so sympathetically ridiculous; one can’t be angry when one looks at a Penguin.”
– John Ruskin, letter to Charles Eliot Norton, 4 November 1860
Robert Smithson, A Sedimentation of Mind: Earthworks, 1968
A great artist can make art by simply casting a glance. A set of glances could be as solid as any thing or place, but the society continues to cheat the artist out of his “art of looking”, by valuing only ‘art objects’.
Andrea Scrima, Rev. of The Walk by Robert Walser, The Rumpus 23 July 2012
Throughout Der Spaziergang, walking coincides with the act of writing, of telling a story; it also serves to deflect attention from the essential matter at hand, which becomes clear in the book’s closing pages. And so writing becomes a means of escaping life, its method continuous postponement.
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick Chapter 110
For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books.
“Also, because it’s my town out there, I’m conscious of the possibility that the person I bump into might be myself.”
– Geoff Dyer, “Ship Write,” Guernica 4 September 2012
Geoff Dyer, “Ship Write,” Guernica 4 September 2012
Like Death in Venice or The Great Gatsby, Heart of Darkness is not just a book but a modern myth — everyone has read it, even if they have not done so personally.
Lee Rourke, “A Conversation with Lee Rourke” by Amber Lee, Necessary Fiction 4 September 2012
How do you decide when a piece you’ve written is “finished” enough to publish?
When a good editor tells me it is. I’m not precious about my writing, or literature in general. Good writing needs a good editor to turn it into a good book. But, you know, it’s never really “finished” as I truly believe fiction doesn’t work. So, it’s never what I want it to be. It never happens in the way it should. Luckily I let go of it, and allow it to exist as yet another failed novel.
Scott Esposito, “Negation: a Response to Lars Iyer’s ‘Nude in Your Hot Tub’,” The White Review September 2012
I do not know whether I have anything to say, I know that I am saying nothing; I do not know if what I might have to say is unsaid because it is unsayable (the unsayable is not buried inside writing, it is what prompted it in the first place); I know that what I say is blank, is neutral, is a sign, once and for all, of a once-and-for-all annihilation.
— Georges Perec, W, or the Memory of Childhood
[…] One important thing Perec helped commodify was negation. Negation was a huge thing in the 1960s, when Perec began to write. It informed and empowered the groups then fighting against capitalistic culture. … Perec was one of those writers who, in part, made literature from the irony and ridicule of consumer society. … Yet there is much more to these books than a critique of mass culture. These are books built around missing pieces, feelings of emptiness, unsolvable quests. The same irony that ridicules Anne’s fad diet [in Life A User’s Manual] also gestures toward a heavy, existential sense of void. (Dieting is perhaps the single most widespread, obsessively unsolvable, mass-produced quest of post-capitalist existence.) For instance, in Things the protagonists go to Africa to find a meaning to life that they can’t in France. In A Void the absence of the letter e comes to represent the absence of some essential quality in modern life that gives rise to malaise. Reading Perec, one senses an artist self-consciously working on a grand scale to generalise this quality of negation to as many forms as possible — an effort to exhaust negation. Such ambitions are of a piece with the Oulipo manifestos, despite the fact that the manifestos are written with a clear sense of optimism. Aware of the exhaustion of art’s old forms, Oulipo strove to find new paths for the novel. Perec’s optimism in the face of negation is due in large part to how he fought to make negation itself an engine for innovation.
Alec Niedenthal, “Literature, Materialism, and the Present Conjuncture: an Interview with David Winters,” HTML Giant 6 August 2012
[…] We might say that literature is the self-effacing object of criticism, its object whose total existence is the mark of its vanishing. So perhaps a materialist criticism needs to begin to defile and, as you say, humiliate literature because it cannot touch it — because, for it, literature is not. In its stead we find a formal aperture, a hole that invokes what has gone away, that allows criticism to begin. What is in question would then be a discourse that has lost its object. But because literature is already a loss — a loss of the world, at the site of representation — criticism could be called the loss of a loss, the loss of what itself already annihilates the world on whose border it hangs. This is where I find the utopian kernel in criticism, that it can lose the loss of which literature is culpable: the loss of the everyday object, that stagnant dumb stuff which modernism once tried to recuperate by convincing itself that the object already and always is marked by art. It is only through this double loss that a new object, an object beyond the literary Ding, can be brought to bear upon thought — not the form already contained in the mundane but the mundanity of literary form itself.