The Infinitely Possible

Roland Barthes, “Ecrire,” Oeuvres complètes, ed. Eric Marty, 5 vols. (Paris: Seuil, 2002), 4:422–423. Originally published as the preface to Roger Druet and Herman Grégoire, La civilisation de l’écriture (1976)

Even as I reflect on what I should write (as is happening at this very moment), I feel my hand move, turn, connect, dive, rise, and often enough, as I make my corrections, erase or even obliterate a line. This field expands until it reaches the margins, thus creating, out of seemingly functional and minuscule traces (letters), a space which is quite simply that of art. I am an artist, not because I represent an object, but more fundamentally, because, as I write, my body shudders [jouit] with the pleasure of marking itself, inscribing itself, rhythmically, on the virgin surface (virginity being the infinitely possible).

Locus of a Secret

Maurice Blanchot, “Joubert and Space,” The Book to Come

… Joubert had this gift. He never wrote a book. He only prepared himself to write one, resolutely seeking the right conditions that would allow him to write. … He was thus one of the first entirely modern writers, preferring the center over the sphere, sacrificing results for the discovery of their conditions, not writing in order to add one book to another, but to make himself master of the point whence all books seemed to come, which, once found, would exempt him from writing them.

… [Ending a list of similarities between Joubert and Mallarmé] [T]he feeling that literature and poetry are the locus of a secret that should perhaps be preferred to anything else, even to the glory of making books.

… He seems to have been a failure. But he preferred this failure to the compromise of success.

Detour in the Orthodoxy

This interview with Clémentine Deliss was published in 3:AM Magazine in December 2005:

Detour in the Orthodoxy: Andrew Gallix Interviews Clémentine Deliss

3:AM: I gather that Metronome was primarily an arts magazine. Why did you decide, after nine years, to launch into fiction with a new publishing house called Metronome Press?

CD: Metronome has always worked with fiction. The very first issues included texts of fiction rather than criticism or theoretical texts written by art critics. The intention has been to create a detour in the orthodoxy of a person’s work whether they are an artist, critic, or writer. There is no point in replicating the same identity that one carries as a professional within the context of Metronome. Metronome is there to create a short-circuit between professionals working in different fields of aesthetic practice, and in many cases, in different urban locations (spanning Africa to Europe). The spark or trigger that awakens professional curiosity is potent when a moment of differentiation or otherness is recognised by the participating interlocutors (there can be no complacency with regard to the intersection of different theoretical discourses within art). So fiction in the context of contemporary art practice sets up a certain field of expression in contrast to the more standardised forms of writing we find in art magazines. Metronome is an organ, not an art magazine as such. To set up Metronome Press is to build on the ongoing interest in fiction and translation, nothing more. There is no exception to the rule.

London launch of Metronome Press at the Arts Club: Tom McCarthy & Louise Stern

London launch of Metronome Press at the Arts Club: Tom McCarthy & Louise Stern

3:AM: Metronome Press is “dedicated to developing fiction and new styles of writing in relation to contemporary art practice”. Why are you so interested in the art/writing interface? Is the distinction between the two worlds disappearing?

CD: I am interested in experiments related to interpretation. Metronome is an interpretational tool rather than a vehicle for the promotion of artists’ works. Metronome Press has a similar attitude. It has not been set up within a literary field, but within the context of writing produced in relation to art production. Our challenge is the art world, and its discourse, not the literary world. We do not deny that visual artists can produce good literature, nor do we exclude the input of writers within our framework, but our main area of investigation is research and experimentation in art practice.

3:AM: Three of the first four novels in the collection are by writers (Tom Gidley, Tom McCarthy and Phyllis Kiehl) who also have artistic activities. Are they primarily artists who write on the side, or is writing integral to their artistic vision? Did you encourage any of them to take up the pen for the first time, or were all three already writers as well as artists?

CD: Phyllis Kiehl and Tom Gidley are primarily visual artists. Both have written in the past, and have now produced novels. They were writers before I knew them. I had published Phyllis Kiehl’s short stories in several earlier issues of Metronome (4, 5, 6, 7), and Tom Gidley had written a lot for Frieze in the past. I knew that Gidley had withdrawn for a while in order to write a book, and so I contacted him when we set up Metronome Press to see if he was interested. Phyllis was working on Fat Mountain Scenes whilst she and I were living in Paris. By publishing Fat Mountain Scenes, she was able to place her novel within the art context prior to the literary world of publishing.

3:AM: How did you come across Tom Gidley, Phyllis Kiehl and Tom McCarthy’s works?

CD: As I said above, I knew Tom Gidley and Tom McCarthy had both finished novels and whilst I had not read them, I was curious to follow up the hunch that fiction within art practice might be the way forward. And Phyllis as I said earlier, was in the process of writing her first novel as we both moved to Paris. It all made sense and their inclusion in the first collection of fiction produced by Metronome Press is a sign that perhaps there is a further interest out there. We are keen to receive manuscripts, scenarios, novels, etc., from artists.

London launch: Phyllis Kiehl & Tom Gidley

London launch: Phyllis Kiehl & Tom Gidley

3:AM: In the US, it is quite acceptable for writers to play music and do art (or vice versa), but not so much in Europe. Is this something that should be encouraged?

CD: It’s always interesting to enter different territories. Today there is an important shift in the way we view art as an aesthetic field or set of practices, rather than as differentiated compartmentalised art productions (theatre/dance/visual arts/literature/film, etc). But you have to be lucid about whatever crossover you are ready to experiment with, and the context in which you are doing it. For Metronome Press to take on the airs of a literary publishing house in Paris, with all the history this city has, would be suicide! However, for us to work within art practice using fiction as a means of expression, and encouraging artists to experiment with other styles of communication, seems a logical step to take in today’s world.

3:AM: Do you see Metronome Press as a French, English or Anglo-French venture? It is based in Paris, but the first four novels are in English and one of your web addresses is a UK address…

CD: Metronome Press is based in Paris. It has no nationalist identity. It relates to those locations where we live (and that is necessarily subjective) and to those locations where we have worked.

3:AM: You are republishing Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler’s The Young and Evil which had originally been published by Obelisk Press in 1933. How did this come about?

CD: Thomas Boutoux and I loved the book. It is languid and tight at the same time. A perfect combination of erotic thinking and scenic or episodic action with a touch of historical information on the art scene of the early twentieth century. We were fortunate to be able to secure the rights and reprint an edition that is laid out exactly as the first edition was. There are cheap versions from other publishers, but the graphics that Charles Henri Ford had developed are rarely respected.

3:AM: The latest issue of Metronome mixes fiction and erotica as a homage to Maurice Girodias‘s Olympia Press. Do you see Metronome Press as the heir of the Olympia Press?

CD: Metronome Press is inspired by the system that Girodias had developed. If we could have a hotel too and a bar like Girodias we’d be happy! Let’s hope, however, that we don’t enjoy the multiple bankruptcies that characterised Girodias’ professional career!

3:AM: Do you think the anglophone literary scene in Paris is about to enjoy a revival?

CD: I don’t think that is the issue. Everyone and everywhere is anglophone these days. But we do hope that Paris will open up even more to the international situation it has always nurtured.

Present Absence

Lars Iyer, “Impossible Literature,” interview by Antônio Xerxenesky, 3:AM Magazine 6 February 2013

In The Savage Detectives, perhaps more than in the work of Vila-Matas and Bernhard, melancholy blossoms into a kind of promise. The disjunction between Modernism and the present, between Literature, capital ‘L’, and Politics, capital ‘P’, becomes utterly unbearable. For me, that unbearableness allows Literature to appear in its impossibility, as a kind of present absence, as a kind of disappearance, and along with it the vanished legacy of Modernism.

Impossible Literature

Lars Iyer, “Impossible Literature,” interview by Antônio Xerxenesky, 3:AM Magazine 6 February 2013

Andrew Gallix suggestively distinguishes between two kinds of belatedness. There is the belatedness already present in Don Quixote: the novel as a ‘fallen’ form, coming in the wake of older forms. And then, there is the romantic and Modern dream of the ‘Literary Absolute’, which expresses belatedness with respect to a total work of art — like Mallarmé’s conception of The Book, for example. Such belatedness, for me, holds in particular for those Modernist vanguards which sought in some way to link art to politics, which sought to change life, to change the world. As I argue in my manifesto, the conditions for such vanguards have vanished, and with them a whole dream of Literature, with a capital ‘L’.

That Something Itself

Samuel Beckett,”Dante…Bruno. Vico…Joyce,” 1929

[Apropos of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake] Here form is content, content is form. You complain that this stuff is not written in English. It is not written at all. It is not to be read — or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something; it is that something itself. [More.]

Fifty Shades of Grey Matter is Here!

My story “Fifty Shades of Grey Matter” features in Fiddleblack‘s first annual anthology — Apparitional Experience — which is devoted to ghostless ghost stories. It goes on sale today and is available here.

Fifty Shades of Grey Matter” is described, on the website, as “a completely pure example of concept horror” that is “worth the cover price alone”.

From the website:

A response to the idea of “ghost stories without ghosts,” this anthology includes stories by John McManus, Todd Grimson, Andrew Gallix and other authors familiar to fans of Fiddleblack’s hard-to-parse self-definitions (antipastoralism and concept horror). The collection’s twelve stories are nothing if not equally enunciative, atmospheric and carved sharply into floorboards and muck-spattered glass. No, there’s nary an actual ghost involved, but this work is clearly haunted.

Apparitional Experience is built by twelve writers investigating on their own terms, examining nostalgia and risk, and how these elements can reconfigure our perceptions of self against place, how we’re sometimes duped into rationalizing our own existence. Here, our ghosts are not the reappearing spectral dead. Our ghosts take the shape of people and relationships once lost or forcibly forgotten, faded missions and feelings, and motivations no longer there. The writers of Apparitional Experience have written something for the fallen dreams, in a sense, for the very possibility of loss of control in our everyday lives, and the isolationist thoughts that possibility might bring.

This anthology demonstrates twelve interpretations of these elements from authors with rather different bodies of work all converging at a single dark center. John McManus characterizes rural perversity, and Mark Welborn walks us down a beautiful, densely haunted hiking trail. Joe Ricker and Charles Dodd White independently reinvigorate conventions for the modern Southern Gothic. Elias Marsten gives us rote antipastoralism, Kevin Catalano brings us an example of hyperintensive horror without limits, and Nicholas Rombes channels a particularly asphyxiating H.P. Lovecraft to counter a dark and new journalistic account of the Great Recession by Daniel Roberts. Bringing in the book’s final third is a dizzying piece of Thomas Ligotti-inspired work by Adam S. Cantwell, followed by an astringent body horror narrative by Karin Anderson. Todd Grimson’s woozy three-part flash fiction recalls David Lynch, and, to close, worth the cover price alone, is a completely pure example of concept horror by Andrew Gallix.

Apparitional Experience, as you may find, does not make for light reading in any sense of the phrase. There is much more to fear in the natural world, fear enough that these authors do not ever find true mirrors to the supernatural in their work. Rather, they discover that there are no ghosts. There is nothing out there past the concrete, past the trees. In the face of that person you hate and fear, there is no evil spirit, no broken. There is nothing all around us. Nothing at all.

The Materiality of Language

Maurice Blanchot, “Literature and the Right to Death”

My hope lies in the materiality of language, in the fact that words are things, too, are a kind of nature — this is given to me and gives me more than I can understand. Just now the reality of words was an obstacle. Now, it is my only chance. A name ceases to be the ephemeral passing of nonexistence and becomes a concrete ball, a solid mass of existence; language, abandoning the sense, the meaning which was all it wanted to be, tries to become senseless. Everything physical takes precedence: rhythm, weight, mass, shape, and then the paper on which one writes, the trail of the ink, the book. Yes, happily language is a thing: it is a written thing, a bit of bark, a sliver of rock, a fragment of clay in which the reality of the earth continues to exist.