Today, when I signed in to my Gmail account after having signed out, earlier, something I rarely do, Gmail sent me to a page where it asked me for my phone number to enable more security for my account. I’d like to provide the exact wording of the request but I’ve failed to replicate the process, even though I’ve tried several times. In any case, I’d declined and skipped directly to my email.
Later, still annoyed by Gmail’s asking to me to provide my telephone number, I posted the following on Facebook:
And so today I find another unadventurous fiction longlist from the National Book Awards: not a single book from an independent press. Ridiculous! Good to see George Saunders’s Tenth of December on there, though. I taught it at Brown last spring and was impressed by its varied innovative approaches, sardonic tonalities, and embedded poignancies. I’m not much for literary art as competitive sport these days but I’d love to see Tenth of December awarded the prize, not only because its literary merit marks it as “deserving,” but because Saunders will undoubtedly give the best speech, that is, unless Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge wins and the Pynch sends Russell Brand to accept the award.
Pick up a copy at Sententia Books!
In this multifaceted collection of dreamscape stories and arabesque concrete poetry, Keith Nathan Brown invokes a wide range of literary and non-literary forms—from poetry to scientific report, from short story to mathematical proof—as a way to explore the gray area between mind and body where selfhood finds its origin. These thirty three fictions, poems and hybrid texts are arranged in thematically-related sets and subsets to simulate a travel guide to “cross-conscious interstates.” Whether induced by illness or intoxication, or inspired by music or meditation, each psychoactive text offers itself as a node in a larger conversation about time, identity, meaning and the human bond. Philosophical in scope, psychological in depth, at turns witty and cerebral, at turns brooding and surreal, Embodied twists language—literally and figuratively—to open up portals of heightened reality and, more importantly, to activate a sense of discovery and awe in the face of everyday existence.
The contributors list at Big Other recently changed and I’m wondering what the new organizing logic is. Before, the list recorded the order in which contributors joined the site. Now it’s something else. At first glance I thought it was now in alphabetical order, but it isn’t. Perhaps it’s arbitrary? But the names seem grouped according to initial letter: A D Jameson, Amber Sparks. But even that doesn’t work, because the list starts and ends with A’s. And not all the J’s are together, and later on there’s a P, then an N, then two P’s. Next I thought that it might be in order of total page views, but then Greg Gerke’s name would be higher up. It’s also not in order of who’s made the most recent post, because it isn’t, and if so it would always be changing. And that would also be redundant, since the posts themselves establish that order. So I just don’t get the list’s logic; I’m hoping this post provokes discussion of this issue, though I’ll concede it isn’t important. But I don’t like things I don’t understand, though I’ll also concede that there’s no real reason why I should understand anything. I’ll also admit that I haven’t been posting much as of late. I’ve been busy with school, but also been trying to figure out what I should post here. Below you can see a photo that I posted; I’ve long thought that it might be cool for this site to have more visual art. I spent most of last year posting links to movies, so I thought I might spend this year posting photos. But Edward is kinda already covering that with his Bluets posts. So I’m left wondering what the new list’s logic is, and what I should post. Perhaps I’ll put up posts like this, metatextual musings on the subject of Big Other? Well, I’ll first wait and see if anyone responds to this post. Thank you for reading.
Here’s the introduction I delivered before John Domini’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on March 21, 2013:
Don DeLillo once characterized his work as a series of reflections about “men in small rooms.” Like those desperate men, vacillating between doubt and action, navigating between the elusive and the allusive, the characters in Domini’s Bedlam also find themselves in these selfsame rooms, like the cold anonymity of motel rooms found in “Over 4000 Square Miles,” a fiction positing representation as transgression, where a battle-fatigued soldier, fueled on cannabis and no small amount of hubris, if not outright fear, visits an in-progress reenactment-for-television of his famed escape from the enemy, and ends up entering the Everglades, intending to wrestle an alligator. There is also the “silent and empty kitchen” of “The Return,” a liminal space, where a recently murdered couple visit a surly former-stockbroker. Yes, the so-called barriers between so-called reality and so-called fantasy in this collection are porous. “Laugh Kookaberry, Laugh Kookaberry,” for instance, features a garrulous demon reflecting on twisted intimacies, and so Bedlam might as well have been called Pandæmonium, referring back to the name of the palace built in the middle of John Milton’s vision of Hell, viz., the “high capital of Satan and all his peers,” in Paradise Lost. “Special Instructions, Special Instructions” finds another man in a small room, this one an office, rejecting the ladder climb. He states: “Why should I weasel around after my own office, and then a larger office, and then another that’s still larger? After a certain point’s reached, they’re only rooms,” believing it more important to “know who you are and exist accordingly.” In “Thirty Spot, Fifteen Back on Either Side,” we find another business man, reflecting on a certain salacious episode in another small room, thinks the following: “he’d wanted to come by means of this experience to a more complete, more substantial idea of himself as an individual. Grissom alone, he’d wanted to see. Grissom as a separately defined person, as an intensely, separately defined person, something as unique and identifiable as a planet in a pale sky.” Domini’s Bedlam, with its ruined men, whether succumbing to PTSD-induced delusions or to their long-arrested imaginations, forced me, after reading it, to temporarily have difficulty distinguishing “suits” from ghosts and other spectralities.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Domini’s books, which include the novels Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery, the former of which, in its Italian translation, was runner-up for the Rea prize, the latter of which was cited in 2009 at the London Book Festival as among “the best of international publishing.”
Here’s the introduction I delivered before Paula Bomer’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on February 21, 2013:
Reading Paula Bomer’s alternately sardonic and poignant stories and novel, I couldn’t help thinking about Akira Kurosawa’s observation that “To be an artist means never to avert your eyes,” because Bomer unwaveringly, relentlessly observes the fumbles, foibles, and failures of mostly women, but also men, on the verge of, yes, breakdowns, nervous and otherwise, but also breakups, crackups, and myriad other fallings apart. She keeps looking and looking, when most people in the name of propriety, but really because of their fear, hypocrisy, and/or the like, would look away; but she also forces readers to watch, using her words as a corrective, much like the Minister of the Interior in the film version of A Clockwork Orange, who employs an “experimental aversion therapy” for rehabilitating criminals, where the “volunteer” is drugged, strapped into a chair, has his eyelids propped open, and is forced to watch violent movies. Make no mistake, these are moral tales, as cautionary and chastising as they are entertaining.
It’s my three-year anniversary at Big Other, and I’m feeling nostalgic, so I thought I’d repost this guide that I made a while back for the 266 articles that I’ve posted here. It’s organized by subject, with a minimum of cross-indexing. Also, I’ve bolded what I believe to be my best posts.
Thank you for reading!
List-making can be a thorough waste of time, and by “waste,” I mean, excess, dross, detritus, and not necessarily something that does not have value, however minimal or otherwise, but sometimes even this excess may prove excessive, especially when you respond to another list, a list that itself produces its own waste of time, among other things, i.e., Flavorwire’s “New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers”: a conservative list as predictable, as it is vanilla, albeit with some colored sprinkles added for a semblance of variety. You might say that Flavorwire‘s staff was working within the confines of including only writers who live in New York. But this is one of the problems with it: The list fetishizes the New York writer, a myth as large as the hammer required to destroy it. (Adding insult to insult, Flavorwire‘s list also misses so many important New York writers.) As one corrective, and I hope there will be many correctives in its wake, here’s a list of writers in alphabetical order who are the most important living writers to me. Alas, the thoroughness of the waste here is not thorough at all, so please feel free to do with it as you would with any waste.
Note: I did not include any of Big Other’s contributors on my list, the omissions silly but perhaps necessary.