Paul Scheerbart’s Perpetual Motion Machine: Some Thoughts on Literature & Energy

Two texts are now sitting on my desk.  They are still and inert — like rectangular paperweights.  I would like to activate them, to mingle their pages.  I would like to set them, if only momentarily, into motion.

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The first text in front of me is a little gem of a book: Paul Scheerbart’s The Perpetual Motion Machine (Wakefield Press, 2011), translated by experimental poet Andrew Joron.  In late 1907, Scheerbart — a visionary German author and artist who wrote, among other things, poetry, essays, theater pieces, and a prodigious amount of fantastic fiction (he called them “astral novels”) — set out to devise, in his laundry room, a perpetual motion machine.  Das Perpetuum mobile, which was originally published in 1910 along with 26 charming diagrams, is a roller-coaster account of Scheerbart’s failed but energetically inspired attempt to set such a machine into motion; it is a fascinating record, as Joron puts it, “of a two-and-a-half-year-long tantrum of the imagination.” Continue reading

Announcing a New Big Other Series: “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies”

Jeremy M. Davies, flexing en route to the cineplex

In two days, I’ll be posting the first installment of a new ongoing series at Big Other: conversations I’ve had with my good friend Jeremy M. Davies about movies, new and old, both popular and obscure. It will be called “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies” (unless we can think of a better title).

This Monday, and on the following two Mondays (the posts will be in clusters of three), we’ll discuss Source Code, Thor, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and many other films (including Sucker Punch, The Man from London, Tron, Tron Legacy, Willow, and Zardoz). In the weeks after that we plan to talk about Captain America, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, as well as movies by lesser-known directors like Jacques Rivette, Eugène Green, Agnès Varda, and Jean-Marie Straub and Danièlle Huillet (Jeremy really likes foreign films). And the new Woody Allen film. We’ll also probably talk endlessly about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, because we both love it just so much. And throughout we’ll discuss the current state of the film industry. And comic books, which are synonymous with cinema these days.

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Stories “Finished” by Lily Hoang

Unfinished is now available from Jaded Ibis Press. Lily Hoang–author of three novels, including the PEN award-winning Changing–invited her favorite writers to send her their scraps. She finished their unfinishables, even offering them to edit and revise what she produced. Some did, some didn’t. This collaborative enterprise is endlessly fascinating because one doesn’t know where the original author left off and where Lily took over, or if the authors edited what Lily made. The exquisite color edition contains art by Anne Austin Pearce. It’s the most unique, most colorful anthology of stories around.

Authors of unfinished writing are Kate Bernheimer, Blake Butler, Beth Couture, Debra Di Blasi, Justin Dobbs, Trevor Dodge, Zach Dodson, Brian Evenson, Scott Garson, Carol Guess, Elizabeth Hildreth, John Madera, Ryan Manning, Michael Martone, Kelcey Parker, Ted Pelton, Kathleen Rooney, Davis Schneiderman, Michael Stewart, J.A. Tyler.

Here’s a book trailer:

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Happy day for small press publishing: Jaded Ibis

Jaded Ibis Press, full-spectrum publisher, who is bringing out cool books by Lily Hoang, David Hoenigman, John Dermot Woods/J.A. Tyler, Janice Lee, Anna Joy Springer, Christopher Grimes, and me (BLANK, w/ tracks from Dj Spooky), got the grand treatment in Forbes.com today.

Let’s see, the last time an indie press was covered in Forbes…oh, yes, never.

My cell is blowing up and I am now drinking Cristal from a beer bong.

Go, Debra Di Blasi.

art and self-restraint: the work of david shrigley

I laughed a little when I found this drawing on the website for David Shrigley, a Glasgow-based artist.

There’s not much to it, but for some reason it’s funny. Also a little unsettling. I realized I was laughing not so much because it’s comedic (though it might be) but because it’s absurd. There’s hardly anything in the drawing, yet it succeeds as a complete work, whole in itself: are we being watched? Should we be afraid that we’re being watched? Should we laugh at the fact that we’re afraid of being watched? Shrigley could have included more in the way of subject – the figure of a person, a building – but would doing so have improved the work itself? He must not have thought so. And I agree, though I’m still intrigued by the reason why he must not have thought so.

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A Sentence About a Sentence I Love: An Anthology, of Sorts

A few months ago, in April, to be exact, I started a series of posts entitled “A Sentence About a Sentence I Love” with a sentence about one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s magnificent sentences. This concentration, or, rather, this obsession with the sentence may have come from my, at the time, recent readings of William Gass’s essays wherein he concentrates much of his attention on the sentence as a primary building block in poetry and prose. Essays by Gass like “The Soul Inside the Sentence,” “The Sentence Seeks Its Form,” “The Architecture of the Sentence,” take as their focus the centrality of the sentence toward the construction of thought, and particularly of thoughts within the parameters of fiction. In “Philosophy and the Form of Fiction,” Gass claims that sentences are “the most elementary instances of what the author has constructed….a moving unity of fact and feeling.” Moreover, sentences

must be sounded, too; it has a rhythm, speed, a tone, a flow, a pattern, shape, length, pitch, conceptual direction. The sentence confers reality upon certain relations, but it also controls our estimation, apprehension, and response to them. Every sentence, in short, takes metaphysical dictation, and it is the sum of these dictations, involving the whole range of the work in which the sentences appear, which accounts for its philosophical quality, and the form of life in the thing that has been made (Fiction and the Figures of Life, 14).

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Happy Birthday, Big Other!

With sites (especially blogs, I’d imagine) coming and going, resembling fairweathered friends with their weighty promises and concomitant lack of follow-through, and with evanescence and disposability, perhaps, being two of the internet’s primary characteristics, an internet year must be to an in-real-life year as what a dog year is to a human year. But it’s not for these reasons I’m happy to say that Big Other is celebrating its first year today.

A year ago, thinking about how frustrating it was to find a place that invited dialogue (and by “dialogue” I mean the concept formalized best, for me, by Paulo Friere, that is, a nexus that allows, encourages, fosters communication characterized by respect and equality, where diversity of thought is encouraged, where understanding and learning are privileged over mere judgment, although conclusions and sound and informed discernment, that is, sound judgment, and maybe even wisdom, may, in fact, result); thinking about how many blogs encourage stereotypes, discord, stupidity, inanity, macho posturing, and self-reflexiveness, blogs that are havens of groupthink, blogs that are really just another kind of mirror, mirror, on the wall, blogs that are really just digitized lint in an electronic navel; thinking about how I wanted something different from all that noise, I launched Big Other with the idea of it being what I, in some kind act of faith, called “an online forum of iconoclasts and upstarts focusing its lens on books, music, comics, film, video and animation, paintings, sculpture, performance art, and miscellaneous nodes and sonic booms,” a place to “explore how we are made and unmade by images, language, and sound; examine computer-mediated worlds; and dance along with various tumults, genre- and other border-crossings, trespassings, transgressions, and whatever, nevermind.” And I have to say that I haven’t been disappointed. Big Other has become all those things for me, and so much more, and by “so much more,” I mean, it has truly become a conduit for meeting many incredible people in person, and so, I really can’t wait to see what comes next for us.

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