A Response to Mary Miller


Earlier this month, Adam had posted a note saying that Big Other was reviewed by Mary Miller in the July/August issue of the American Book Review as part of its special cluster on lit blogs. I found Miller’s account to be both problematic and unnecessarily snarky, and I had waited a bit to see if anyone was going to chime in…no one has responded thus far, so I’ve decided to take the bait.

My first (and most specific) objection to Miller’s review was her unfair and misinformed reactions to j/j hastain’s energetic posts and book reviews. Miller states:

[Some] posts made me feel like I was in a theory class and seemed out of place. For example, j/j hastain’s ‘A Proprioceptive Description (Naropa’s Violence and Community Symposium),’ begins ‘proprioception does not come from a singular or specific organ within the body, but from a sort of strange collective (the nervous system), this account will be necessarily fragmented—parts pouring from parts.’ I wasn’t sure what to make of this.

Some of j/j hastain’s other posts also turned me off. Here’s one more example of j/j’s writing: ‘I am feeling very excited to be engaging with you re this little interview in support of and co-investigation (with you) re your new book Narrative and Nest (Pre-Natal Architectures & Narrative Rituals).’ What’s j/j doing here? And why?

The term “proprioception” doesn’t strike me as particularly theoretical. It’s a simple physiological term that j/j actually defines right away. Proprioception, as j/j notes, does not come from a singular or specific organ within the body; proprioceptors, which are located within muscle or nerve tissue, respond to stimuli arising within the body…proprioception then is the body’s own sense of itself by the movement of its own tissue.

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ABR reviewed Big Other

Here, as part of a larger feature on “Book Blogs.” (The review is by Mary Miller.)

(To read the whole thing, you need Project Muse access, but even without it you can read some of the thing.)

(The feature was edited by Brian Carr, and includes reviews of HTMLGIANT and NewPages and The Rumpus and The Millions and The Nervous Breakdown and Bookslut and The Barking and MobyLives. Also, one of those reviews is by Paula Bomer.)

An Interview with Yuriy Tarnawsky, Part 3

Yuriy reading at Chicago’s Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (1974).

Part 1 | Part 2

[Please note that I’ve updated both of these posts with photos that Yuriy sent me.]

I’d like to ask a few more questions about Three Blondes and Death, if you don’t mind. Perhaps the most memorable and complicated aspect of that novel is its syntax. I’ll quote a short passage to illustrate:

It’d been unusually warm all that spring. The vegetation was much more advanced than usual. It really looked almost as in the middle of June. The grass was thick. It was bright green. It covered the earth like a bright layer of paint. The paint seemed shiny. It seemed still wet. It seemed to have been poured out of a can and to have spread over the earth. It seemed to have spread by itself. The earth therefore seemed tilted. (13)

How did you arrive at such a style?

Oh, yes, that syntax! You can’t imagine how much grief and pain it cost me.

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