Haunting Hauntology

Frances King, Georgia and Paul Smalera. “Nostalgia is the Ultimate Privilege.” Quartzy, 17 December 2017 2017:

Philosopher Jacques Derrida coined the term Hauntology in 1993 to describe nostalgia for an impossible future — a possible future that has since been overtaken by the events of reality. A sort of “what if” reverie, it is also a wordplay on the philosophical term ontology, or the study of the nature of being.

Hauntology is probably the first major trend in critical theory to have flourished online,” Andrew Gallix writes in the Guardian. “Today, hauntology inspires many fields of investigation, from the visual arts to philosophy through electronic music, politics, fiction and literary criticism. At its most basic level, it ties in with the popularity of faux-vintage photography, abandoned spaces and TV series like Life on Mars.”

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Pretty Vacant Or Spiky-Haired Situationists?

Empire, Kitty. “Pretty Vacant Or Spiky-Haired Situationists?” The Observer (The New Review section), 19 November 2017, p. 36.

. . . Were the art school games of canny old hippies behind punk? Sometimes, but perhaps more in theory than practice. An essay in Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night by fanzine writer Tom Vague retraces McLaren’s appetite for destruction back through the situationists, the lettrists, psychogeography and a tiny late 60s Notting Hill faction called King Mob (a reference to the Gordon Riots of 1780).

Authors Richard Cabut and Andrew Gallix have skin in the game; Cabut is an ex-punk (“In the summer of 1977 I am 17 – perfect”) who became a playwright, while Gallix is at the Sorbonne and edits a free-ranging literary webzine called 3:AM (“whatever it is, we’re against it”). The book’s title (Modernity Killed Every Night) quotes Jacques Vaché, friend to the surrealist André Breton. But Punk Is Dead isn’t end-to-end cultural theory; there’s a lot on clothes. Three strands unfurl — papers, essays and first-person accounts. Cabut and Gallix have included historical documents — such as Penny Rimbaud’s 1977 essay, Banned from the Roxy, newly annotated by the Crass drummer — while Gallix argues that punk started ending when it acquired a name. Jon Savage is here, and Ted Polhemus and Vermorel (again).

As that list attests, punk can be a tiresomely Boy’s Own narrative, to which former Slit Viv Albertine’s 2014 memoir was a potent corrective. With the exception of Judy Nylon’s introduction and the reminiscences of go-go dancer turned drummer Dorothy Max Prior, however, this collection is let down by its dearth of female voices. Perhaps the notion to take away from both books — indeed from punk itself — is the one of endless possibility. As an interview with the punk turned philosopher Simon Critchley attests, punk unleashed ideas. It palpably changed suburban teenage futures, rather than ending them.

Book of the Year

Booker Prize-shortlisted novelist and playwright Deborah Levy has kindly chosen my Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night as one of her two books of the year.

Levy, Deborah. “Books of the Year.” New Statesman, 17-23 November 2017, p. 41:

I thoroughly enjoyed Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night (Zero Books). Edited by Richard Cabut and Andrew Gallix, this anthology of essays, interviews and personal recollections reflects on the ways in which punk was lived and experienced at the time. Gallix flips his finger at those who see nostalgia as an affliction and rightly attempts to promote the fragmented and contested legend of punk to “a summation of all the avant-garde movements of the 20th century … a revolution for everyday life”.

Rebuked

O’Sullivan, James. “Electronic Literature’s Contemporary Moment: Brezze and Campbell’s ‘All the Delicates Duplicates’.” Los Angeles Review of Books, 7 November 2017:

Almost a decade has passed since 3:AM Magazine founder Andrew Gallix, writing in the Guardian, proclaimed the imminent death of electronic literature, that is, literature with an inherently computational aesthetic. There was some merit to Gallix’s argument, his concern being that the form’s emphasis on multi-modality was such that the word would eventually get lost. In many instances — say, where play is accentuated — this has indeed been the case. But today, for every work of e-lit that is more game than literary game, there are those pieces where language remains essential. All the Delicate Duplicates, the latest brainchild of Mez Breeze and Andy Campbell, is a superlative example of the latter, and thus a serious rebuke of Gallix’s assertion.

Electronic literature can be a lot of things — literary games, hypertexts, interactive fiction, generative poetry, bots — but it is always more than the product of digitization; ebooks, which merely mimic print on a screen, typically don’t count. E-lit relies on computational affordances for creative expression, privileging language within a constellation of modalities. Still, resistance to its charms endures.

Responding to Gallix’s provocation in a piece published in the Electronic Book Review, Dene Grigar*, current president of the Electronic Literature Organization, points to those barriers that have marginalized e-lit in classrooms and popular culture, arguing that resistance to the form emanates from “deeply-held views of the proper relationship between humans and machines, of what constitutes the good, the beautiful and the true, and of the nature of art.” (…)

(…) But the achievements of Duplicates are not just contextual. If Breeze and Campbell are to be commended for any aspect of their ambition, it should be for their efforts to juxtapose the literary and the digital in a manner that genuinely advances the field and forcefully responds to naysayers such as Gallix that, no, electronic literature is not dead, it is everywhere, it is thriving, and it is literary. Ten years ago, the future of electronic literature was legitimately being questioned. Ten years from now, I expect that we will be reflecting on the present moment as that which saw the form truly begin to build on the work of its pathfinders — to borrow from Grigar and Moulthrop — and progress toward its potential, both as an aesthetic experience and as an act of expression capable of permeating the public consciousness. There is little doubt that such reflection will place much focus on the work of Mez Breeze and Andy Campbell, the pathfinders of their day.

[* She accused me at the time of misquoting her in my Guardian piece, which is absolutely not true. I quoted her verbatim, and — sensing that what she had written might be misconstrued by some of her colleagues — had even gone to the trouble to double-check that I had permission to quote anything from the email in which she had answered my questions.]

Slow Writing Revisited

Tranter, Rhys. “Andrew Gallix on the Virtues of Writing Slowly.” RhysTranter.com, 28 October 2017:

Since interviewing Michelle Boulous Walker about “slow philosophy” earlier this month, I have been thinking about the way we approach writing within institutional or commercial settings. It seems I am not the only one. Lauren Elkin has posted a link to a piece by Andrew Gallix where he reflects on the benefits of writing at a slower pace:

[B]ack in February, I expressed concern at the accelerating pace of publishing and called (half-jokingly) for the creation of a Slow Writing Movement (SWM), modelled on the Slow Food phenomenon. Word processing probably enables people to write faster than ever, and the internet provides the sometimes dubious means of instant publication.

As a result, what often passes for fiction today would have been considered no more than an early draft only a few years ago. In truth, however, the digital age has simply compounded a problem caused by the increasing hegemony of one school of writing (the Ionic) over another (the Platonic).”

Andrew Gallix, The Guardian

Sketching a brief history of Ionic vs. Platonic writing, Gallix identifies a social/economic bias that sets the quick work of the “hack” against the slow, patient verse that privilege can afford. But his central point remains crucially relevant in a digital age of around-the-clock productivity: perhaps a Slow Writing Movement can make us stop for a moment to catch our breath?

 

Without the Book Before You

Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read a Book?”, The Second Common Reader

To continue reading without the book before you…

Kate Briggs, This Little Art, 2017

‘Has it never happened, as you were reading a book,’ asks Barthes, in an essay from 1970, which I quote in Howard’s translation, ‘that you kept stopping as you read, not because you weren’t interested, but because you were: because of a flow of ideas, stimuli, associations? In a word, haven’t you ever happened to read while looking up from your book?’