October 2007 Archives
Josh Glenn, who I interviewed last week about his book Taking Things Seriously, may have solved the puzzle of what "little nameless object" is produced by the factories that secured the family fortune of a wastrel in Henry James's novel The Ambassadors.
Normally this would merit a short item in Notes and Queries or The Explicator. But in this case, the proposed solution to "the Woollett Question" appears as an article at Slate.
Next challenge: Figure out what the stolen "little object" was in Norman Mailer's Barbary Shore.
(crossposted from CT)
Something just occured to me while reading this item about an event sponsored by N+1, pointed out by a friend.
There is one (and probably only one) advantage to being a critic and essayist who lives in Washington, DC: I can completely ignore both Gawker and Wonkette.
It's not much, but it's something.
One week after my column tried to launch the butt-ugly word "Islamophobofascism," the Young Americans for Freedom invite a leader of the British National Party to speak at Michigan State University as part of David Horowitz's latest round of publicity stunts.
I'm not sure how you get to label yourself a "British nationalist" while also having an enthusiasm for the swastika, but squaring that particular circle has been BNP's major achievement.
Aside from proving my point -- thanks, MSU YAF! -- this incident has had the interesting effect of heightening the contradictions (to use an old idiom) within the wingnutosophere. Chances are this tendency will continue and deepen. Horowitz has been a useful idiot for the right wing. But some of them crave red meat and he's just tofu.
Word from Chicago has it that Adam Kotsko turned in the manuscript of "Zizek for the Theologians" (not the actual title but that's the gist of it) to Continuum a few days ago.
It'll be out in about six months. During which time, ZIzek will publish at least five new volumes, possibly including a 500 page book work on American Idol as the key to Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity.
I am certain that Adam has been aware that this is inevitable, making it all the more impressive that he found the will to complete the task.
Immediately after sending my column over to be published yesterday, I went downstairs to find that a finished copy of the latest N+1 production had arrived in the mail. At one or two points in the piece, I refer to it as a pamphlet. But with the thing in hand now I can see that is not quite right. "Booklet" is more accurate.
As you may recall, the economy was supposed to have collapsed as of two weeks ago today. Right now, you should not be able to afford a loaf of bread with a wheelbarrow full of $1000 bills.
I understand that bread baskets have been sent to headquarters in Virginia by ex-members. The sarcasm is tinged with philanthropy. LaRouche's true believers are in serious trouble; their economy is collapsing, anyway. The group is being forced to come up with money for the IRS, and facing renewed investigation by the FEC, in the wake of events described by Avi Klein in a major article appearing in the new issue of Washington Monthly.
Suppose there were an Iranian cult combining Islamism and Stalinism, with a history of terrorist attacks, that had enjoyed friendly relations with Saddam's regime, back when.
Why, that's something that the American right would fund a special TV network just to denounce 24-7, isn't it?
Not so fast. Daniel Pipes and Max Boot think the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) is just sadly misunderstood. Get the backstory at the Campaign for America's Future.
(crossposted from CT)
Quick Study participates in -- which is to say, feeds into -- a new blog aggregator:
Which you might want to check out and bookmark. An interesting range of material synthesized into one site. It offers RSS feeds for both posts and comments, which you will find linked on the right side of the page.
The current post will also show up there -- pointing people towards where they already are.
Thanks to Henry Farrell for linking to today's column, which tries to launch the term "Islamophobofascism."
I have great hopes for this expression. It embodies a special quality, for which it seems necessary to coin another neologism: "meta-stupidity."
UPDATE: Googling suggests that this may actually be the first use of the term "Islamophobofascism."
A while back, I came up with another word, "phalloblogocentrism," only to discover later that Michael Berube had already used it.
I offer the following pair of quotations in hopes of fostering the emergence of a self-conscious and creatively mentating Surrealist faction within the LaRouche Youth Movement. Because seriously, kids, you are Surrealists, of a kind, whether you know it or not.
A relationship must exist between these two documents -- and it's not a case of conscious influence, since the chance of either figure reading the other is just too small. I am not qualified to make a diagnosis of what's going on here. But somebody should definitely look into it.
So, here goes:
I've been devoted to Joy Division since 1981 without ever being very interested in the lives of any of its members. Why did Ian Curtis kill himself? It never seemed that important to find out. Even after reading the section on the band in Simon Reynold's Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, none of it took. It's an excellent book, but I don't remember a thing from it about Joy Division.
It's probably inevitable that such a legendary suicide would end up as part of the "aura" of the music -- to borrow and mangle that term. But it's also a distraction. The records themselves would be plenty atmospheric even without knowing that.
Well, now I take it all back.
The last thing we saw at the Shakespeare Theater was a production of Hamlet, in modernized form. Characters used cell phones. The prince did not, alas, deliver his soliloquies into one. If you are going to mess these things up, you might as well go overboard.
Yesterday we went there for a matinee of The Taming of the Shrew, which Rita will be describing for the Washington Ear at some point and will need to preview a second time. Once was enough for me. It's a clever staging -- the afternoon was enjoyable enough at that level -- but if the play itself is in any way preferable to a sitcom, I fail to detect why that might be.
To be fair about it, I'll have a look at Northrop Frye and Marjorie Garber at some point soon, to see if what went on that I missed. But for now, the most striking thing about the performance was the reminder that the Shakespeare Theater folks seem to feel obliged to make certain things palatable when, for contemporaray sensibilities, they really aren't.
Excellent points in an interview at Yahoo:
What type of content or features do you consciously avoid?
Anything that doesn't interest me. The endless debates about the unprofessionalism/ superficialitity/decivilizing nature of blogs, for instance. The fact that I have maintained one for more than five years speaks for itself, I think; readers are free to criticize or enjoy or deplore what they find there. The grading of local book reviews was another trend I was happy to skip. I work an unrelated day job and am trying to finish a book. I'm not going to spend what little free time I have on debates and publications that don't get me fired up....
What advice do you have for the budding writer-slash-lit-blogger?
Follow your passions. Writing about things to curry favor or get attention ultimately is a zero-sum game.
Here's the whole thing. (My appreciation for the vote of confidence.)
The secret of GWB's success -- for a while there, anyway -- was that he was so comfortable playing the role that Phil Nugent nails as, "Sure, he's a different kind of cop and he doesn't play by the book--but he gets results!"
So what's up with the lame duck's recent lameness?
Due to bad scheduling on my part, I'm not able to make it to Chicago, as planned, to take part in John Holbo's session on e-publishing, also featuring blogging mega-stars Adam Kotsko and Scott Eric Kaufman. I'm already far behind on a couple of things and travel would make it worse. Even if I would get to hang out with the blogging mega-stars.
(How I do love that expression. As the saying goes: In the blogosphere, everyone is famous to fifteen people.)
My essay on Charles Schulz in the column today is not -- repeat, not -- a review of David Michaelis's Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. Not every piece of writing that discusses a book is a review of that book.
One day I will give up trying to make the point, since it's clearly hopeless. The idea that there are genres in short nonfiction prose does not seem to matter to very many people. But damnit, I've spent a lot of time trying to understand how the different forms operate, and how to work in them. So the difference means something to me, for all the good it does to stress this.
My review of the biography will be out in a couple of weeks, probably. As for the essay, working on it was an occasion to revisit some work by Umberto Eco that I want to write about again soon. He has a funny, sardonic piece about what he calls the "fourth dimension" of Italian literary culture that seems curiously apropos in the age of digital publishing and litbloggery.
The dollar will collapse no later than one week from today. As of noon on October 15, you will not be able to buy a loaf of bread for $100,000. That's the optimistic scenario. The crash may come sooner than that. It might be Thursday. It sounds like Thursday will be bad.
Yeah, things are heating up again in LaRouche-land. The Youth Movement kids haven't been out in force singing on Capitol Hill much over the past two or three months. But it's clear that supporters are now being pushed into a frenzied state, more even than usual. At the website where ex-members get together, plans are being made to send one true believer a loaf of bread as soon as the deadline for disaster passes.
No doubt it is an utter and total coincidence that The Washington Monthly will soon publish an in-depth article on recent developments in the organization.
How many times have I listened to the Pixies in the course of twenty years? Many, many times. Some bands you go to for meaning, some for sound, and some for both. In the case of the Pixies, though, I've never paid any attention to the lyrics. "This monkey's gone to heaven" is a pretty infectious chorus, but there's not much esle to say about it. I love the Pixies, but it was strictly about the feel of the music.
So, anyway, while doing some housekeeping over the weekend, I was blasting "Debaser" and actually noticed the lyrics to "Debaser" for the first time:
Got me a movie, I want you to know
Slicing up eyeballs, I want you to know....
Don't know about you
but I am un chien andalusiaa
How did I never hear that before? (The lyrics are a bit higher in the mix in the YouTube clip.) Presumably the extra syllables are necessary to make it scan.
The film itself is available here. Ah oh ho ho....
I've started a Facebook group for any readers of Quick Study who would care to join.
Because this isn't a traditional sort of political or literary blog -- communist trucker hats and No Wave funk being more typically part of the menu here than publishing news or meditations on what may lurk behind Hillary's cold, dead eyes -- the public for it is never going to be huge. I have come to accept this. Not thrilled, but resigned.
But after several months, Quick Study seems to have a steady audience of several hundred people per week. It looks like a few dozen of you come around every day or so, with an occasional spike of traffic going beyond that (such as the 2000 or so people who visited in one day when Andrew Sullivan linked here last month).
Anyway, in the spirit of building "community" (as the buzzword has it), I figure the group will be a way for people to see what one another look like.
If interested, just type "Quick Study" into the search engine in Facebook. You might be able to go to the group's page directly here, but I can't be sure. Somebody please try it and let me know. Either way, it will ease me up the slope of the learning curve that much more.
Last week, I met Todd Gitlin in the studio at Inside Higher Ed's world headquarters on K Street to record an interview about his new book, The Bulldozer and the Big Tent. (The "studio" is actually the publisher's office, since it has the best acoustics. Podcasting has become a routine if not a regular thing for us; here's the backlist. I'm still getting used to the format itself and trying to think about its potential as a way to supplement my column, since merely duplicating content of a written piece in audio (or vice versa) isn't very interesting or appealing.
At TPM Cafe, Gitlin expresses what seems like surprised appreciation to his interviewer "for actually having read the book." Given journalistic norms, that probably means I'll never get a steady gig again, and certainly not in radio or TV.
But in consequence of this peculiar tendency, I have notes indicating that Henry's netroots essay is quoted on page 184 and then again on page 185.
(crossposted from CT)
A development at the intersection of social networking and literary magazinary (magazinage? something like that): The Facebook Review, "the first and only literary review that uses Facebook as its means of publishing, of marketing, and of editing." (Not clear what "marketing" would mean in this context, but then there are a lot of things about Facebook that I don't quite get yet.)
More information is available at its homepage, but you have to be signed up with Facebook to see it.
I asked Jacob McArthur Mooney, the managing editor, if there were any example or model he could point to as an example of what the format might look like. And there isn't:
In essence, the individual issues will look a lot like Facebook events with discussion threads each containing a work and (hopefully) several responses to that. This might look kind of ugly to those who have trouble letting the two traditions (social networking and the literary review) comingle. That is sort of the point.
The first issue is in the preparation now. I'll post an update here when it is actually out. Or up, or however you'd put it.
Time to update the blogroll here -- not right this minute, but soon. Meanwhile, let me recommend Quiet Bubble, "a blog about arts, letters, culture, and life in the South, written by an amateur critic* living in Jackson, Mississippi." I'm not seeing a name for that amateur critic, but anybody who quotes Manny Farber on a regular basis is okay by me.
A recent "Quick Hits" roundup there seems like a good introduction. This looks like a blog with an archive that will reward the loiterer.
* Once again, R.P. Blackmur: "Criticism is the formal discourse of an amateur." Etymology governs meaning even more than usual in this case.
Sometimes a bit of apt characterization will exhaust a topic:
Vanity Fair - the magazine about celebrities who wish they were intellectuals, and intellectuals who wish they were celebrities....
Source: Henry at CT
That's Young Marble Giants playing in the background. I happened to be listening to a cut when this was filmed, so it turned out to have a soundtrack.
A friend passes along the following under the heading "Forthcoming from Random House":
Against the Machine by Lee Siegel
Lee Siegel, one of the country's most controversial critics, here argues that a technology and market-driven mobocracy has emerged that threatens democracy, cheapens culture, and degrades the value of the individual. This is an eloquent and vigorous call for the subordination of technology and capital to the timeless needs of humanity, a Life and Death of Great American Cities for the contemporary mediascape.
Good to see that he feels up to writing about himself in the third person again. The cod psychoanalysis must be working.
I have three email accounts. Two of them used to be nearly perfect about filtering spam -- almost none of it ever showed up in the inbox. Those happy days are gone. But the accounts are still okay, so far, if not perfect. The number of subject lines from spammers I have to see in a given day is rising, to be sure; but spam is not a majority of what appears in their inboxes.
The third account is a disaster.
Siva Vaidhyanathan's work in progress is a book that will address "three key questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google? How is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge? and, How has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states?" It seems likely this will add more to the sum of human knowledge than, say, Jacques-Alain Miller's papal bull a while back.
With support from the Institute for the Future of the Book, Siva has started blogging the project as he goes. And he doesn't sound entirely comfortable doing so, which if anything makes the experiment more interesting:
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog