Is there a David Bowie of literature?—such an asinine question, as dumb as asking, “Is there a Virginia Woolf of music?”—arguing against it arguably as asinine as answering it at all, even on its own terms, which is to say, which “David Bowie”? which “literature”?; not to mention the problem of even locating a “there” with any kind of certainty, and of establishing what and/or where or whatever “Is” in this case is.
Thanks, Davis Schneiderman, for inviting me here to participate. It seems your energy, enthusiasm and playfulness have pulled me along in your wake for a while now. How many times have we given readings together, yet I’m still out there in the audience cracking up when you perform? We also wrote a piece together about this new era of author do-it-yourself book promotion. Since I’m a guest here on Big Other, I’ll refer anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on back to your post to explain the game.
You know as well as anyone that book-promotion is one of my anti-talents. I suck at it. It’s almost like taking someone who has played a lot of flag football tournaments and putting her into a rugby game. I don’t know how to get the ball, but then when I suddenly have it, I don’t know what to do with it, and all too soon I’m underneath a big pile of other people.
What is the working title of the book?
The working title was Leave Her Alone, but the title became Something Wrong With Her. The book also has a subtitle (being a memoirish type of thing, they always seem to need one), but I’ve been having trouble having the subtitle come directly from my mouth (or fingers) to another’s ear (or eyes). I’m going to have to get past this (and my aversion is part of what the book’s about). But here’s the cover:
It’s probably too easy a move to begin my very brief remarks about Gass’s use of architecture as a metaphor by trotting out the old horse of a quote about language being the house of Being, before flogging it to death once and for all; but it seems appropriate, nevertheless, to do so, especially when I think about Gass’s positing that the sentence is a container of consciousness. Actually, the quote from Heidegger is useful only when held in contrast with Gass’s ideas about language. Whereas Heidegger placed speech, that is, the continuum of speech, which includes talking, listening, and silence, at the center of his theory of language, Gass does not see writing as a mere supplement to speech. The continuum of writing includes four modes: persuasive, expository, expressive, and literary; and two hybrid modes: argumentative (a fusion of persuasive and expository) and critical (a fusion of expository and expressive) modes. Of these modes, it is the literary that receives the primary focus in Gass’s critical writing. And so, one might perhaps properly say that, for Gass, writing, or, rather, the sentence is the house of becoming. And what is it exactly that becomes in a sentence? For Gass, the sentence is a container of consciousness, a “verbal consciousness, of course, one built of symbols, not sensations; yet one of perceptions all the same: perceptions followed by thoughts like tracking hounds, and infused throughout by the energies of memory and desire, the moods emotions foster, and the reach, through imagery and other juxtapositions, of imagination…” (“The Aesthetic Structure of the Sentence”). Like any house, this container can take any number of forms:
[S]entences must be understood to contain all sorts of unused syntactical space; places that could be filled with more words, but, in any specific instance, aren’t…Sentences are like latticework, like fences, to be left open or prudently closed, their boards wide or narrow, pointy or level, the spaces between them, ditto….A sentence can sometimes give its reader such a strong sense of its overall character that it provokes a flight of fancy, a metaphorical description: it’s like a journey of discovery; it’s like a coil of rope, a triumphal column; it’s like a hallway or a chapel; it’s like a spiral stair. To me, for instance, Sir Thomas Browne’s triplet—“Grave stones tell truth scarce forty years. Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oak.”—with its relentlessly stressed syllables (seven strong to one weak in the first row, seven to two in the second course, and six to one in the last) resembles a wall. I can even locate spots (the weak stresses) where its stones have crumbled. Families come to pieces the way the word does.
Yes, architecture is a theme running throughout William Gass’s oeuvre, not only in his critical work but in his fictions as well, particularly in The Tunnel, where tunnel-as-metaphor is used as the very structure from which the novel is built.
In honor of William Gass’s birthday, here is a list of some of my own touchstones (at least of the moment).
- Proust. All of In Search of Lost Time. Any translation.
- Naked Lunch. Not Burroughs’ absolute best, but his best known…and the most important for historical reasons.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass. Feed your head.
- Empire of the Senseless, Kathy Acker.The ultimate post-colonial fantasy.
- The Castle. Kafka saved my life.
- Omensetter’s Luck. Not Gass’ best-known, but it’s one the best books I’ve every read twice. Period.
- VAS: An Opera in Flatland, Steve Tomasula. One of my partners at &NOW, but one of my idols for making this book.
- Geek Love, Katherine Dunn.We told you we had living, breathing monstrosities.
- Calendar of Regrets, Lance Olsen. Bosch and Dan Rather.
- Moby Dick. My children pretend to be Queequeg.
- A Novel of Thank You, Gertrude Stein. Thank you very much.
- The Silent Cry, Kenzaburo Oe. Two brothers return to their ancestral home…
- Incest, from a Journal of Love, Anais Nin.Better than Miller.
- Funeral Rites, Jean Genet. Eating a cat.
- Double or Nothing, Raymond Federman. The voice in the closet.
- The Lost Ones, Samuel Beckett. The only humorless Beckett work? Federman’s favorite, from when derives the phrase “The twofold vibration.”
- Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino. Marco. Polo.
- Liberty’s Excess, Lidia Yuknavitch. Now I know how Joan of Arc felt.
- The Process, Brion Gysin. The most perfect novel you’ve never read.
- The Sheltering Sky/Let it Come Down/The Spider’s House: 3-way tie. Tea in the Sahara.
- Pinocchio in Venice, Robert Coover. He is the fox and the cat.
- Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, Hunter S. Thompson. Nixon = funny.
- NOX, Anne Carson. You unfold this book; it enfolds you.
- Reality Hunger, David Shields. Not the first to say these things, and that’s the point.
- The Melancholy of Anatomy, Shelley Jackson. You put your inside out…
- Keyhole Factory, William Gillespie. Limited edition from Spineless; forthcoming from Soft Skull. Unbelievably fantastic.
- The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolano. Tales of the disappearing duo.
- The Atrocity Exhibition, J.G. Ballard. The expanded edition includes the interior of a human chest.
- Peter Doyle, John Vernon.An out-of-print gem about Walt Whitman’s lover and Napoleon’s penis.
- The Jiri Chronicles and Other Fictions, Debra Di Blasi. With adfictions and products galore!
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami.Toru Okada’s cat runs away.
- Is it Sexual Harassment Yet?, Cris Mazza. Well, is it?
- Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann. Not The Magic Mountain. Which is why I like it so much.
- Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison. Not her most innovative novel, linguistically, but the one I teach again and again for the way it immediately resonates with undergraduates.
- The Crying of Lot 49. Thomas Pynchon. Not Gravity’s Rainbow. Which is why I like it so much.
Ben Tanzer is everywhere.
And now he is here for the most recent in what has clearly become an occasional series of interviews. That’s right, this Chicago man-about-town and publishing champion submitted to the grueling e-mail mindslog known to you as The Big Other interview.
Davis: Answer a banal question you might imagine a novice interviewer might ask?
Ben: I am wearing pants. Drinking coffee. Listening to The Avett Brothers. And wearing pants. It’s not even like I think of that as a requirement of this interview or any interview. Especially as I sit here at my kitchen table with the heat pouring over me like a wave of steamy goodness. But for the record. Pants on. Completely.
Davis: You seem to publish a book every three months or so, and not one of these is a Green Lantern, if you catch my meaning…
Ben: 2011 was a really good year for me in terms of writing. Having had a series of things come out over the course of the year, I felt self-conscious about it, though I’m proud of all the work. I’m thrilled that there’s interest from publishers and readers, but there’s some discomfort, too. Some of it is about how the release of the work is staggered. You write and write and you don’t know when things will actually pop. I suppose it’s like Ryan Gosling having three movies out this year. And no, I’m not really comparing myself to Ryan Gosling. For example, he’s Canadian, so right there you have that..
&NOW 5 at UCSD as a wild, raucous ride, courtesy of our many participants and the world’s best organizers: Amina Cain and Anna Joy Springer. HERE are some responses. Now, more news:
Three Sea Monsters: Our History of Whose Image, Tod Thilleman. Spuyten Duyvil.
Thilleman, the Maurice Girodias behind Spuyten Duyvil (publisher of my novel Multifesto: A Henri d’Mescan Reader), always intrigues me with his probing take on modernism-into-postmodernism and his careful attention to the rhythmic packaging of language.
In this collection of essays, leading academics, critics, and artists historicize collage and appropriation tactics that cut across diverse media and genres. They take up issues of appropriation in the popular and the avant-garde, in altered billboards and the work of the renowned painter Chris Ofili, in hip-hop and the compositions of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, and in audio mash-ups, remixed news broadcasts, pranks, culture jamming, and numerous other cultural forms. The borrowing practices that they consider often run afoul of intellectual property regimes, and many of the contributors address the effects of copyright and trademark law on creativity. Among the contributors are the novelist and essayist Jonathan Lethem, the poet and cultural critic Joshua Clover, the filmmaker Craig Baldwin, the hip-hop historian Jeff Chang, the ’zine-maker and sound collage artist Lloyd Dunn, and Negativland, the infamous collective that was sued in 1991 for sampling U2 in a satirical sound collage. Cutting Across Media is both a serious examination of collage and appropriation practices and a celebration of their transformative political and cultural possibilities.
Lorraine Morales Cox
Philo T. Farnsworth
Warner Special Products
Eva Hemmungs Wirtén
About The Author(s)
Kembrew McLeod is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Freedom of Expression®: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property and Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership, and Intellectual Property Law, and co-creator of the documentary film Copyright Criminals.
Rudolf Kuenzli is Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of Iowa, where he is the Director of the International Dada Archive. He is the editor of the journal Dada/Surrealism.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted news of all our various goings on and whatnot. But everyone at Big Other has been up to all kinds of great things.
Inspired by Davis’s recent post, I’d like to propose an experimental thread. So, please feel free to experiment in the comments section here.
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.
Lake Forest College and &NOW Books are pleased to recognize José Perez Beduya as the winner of the Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize, now in its third year. He will be in residence on the campus of Lake Forest College from February 1 to March 31, 2011, where he will work to complete his winning manuscript, Throng.
Beduya will receive $10,000 and, upon editorial approval, the finished book will be published by the &NOW Books imprint of Lake Forest College Press, with distribution by Northwestern University Press. He will also take part in the Lake Forest Literary Festival and offer a series of public presentations while in residence at the College.
The Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize is awarded to an author under forty years old with no major book publication. This year the winner was selected by guest judge and poet Jennifer Moxley from a field of six finalists chosen by the editors of Lake Forest College Press / &NOW Books. Ms. Moxley’s latest book is Clampdown (Flood Editions, 2009), which has received enthusiastic reviews in such publications as Ploughshares and The Nation.
Of the winning manuscript, Jennifer Moxley writes, “Jose Perez Beduya’s manuscript-in-progress Throng intelligently layers literary, political, and spiritual registers into a subtly moving work. Throughout Beduya’s manuscript, a shimmering subjectivity—sometimes singular, more often plural—emits an intermittent signal, coming in and out of view like some mysterious lost “other” flashing a pocket mirror against the sun in hope of rescue. Historically and geographically displaced, the desiderata of this gentle “we” yet remains the interconnection between human beings. It is common now in poetry to condemn what’s wrong with the world. This makes sense, since so much is so. Less common are songs of spirit and of the existential urgency that does not fade even when everything else is broken.…. His control of form guides the reader into hearing his music while he carefully unfolds the lyric event of each poem.”
The Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize is made possible by a donation from a local philanthropist who was impressed by the College’s recently established publishing enterprise, Lake Forest College Press / &NOW Books. The previous winners are Jessica Savitz, whose poetry book Hunting Is Painting will be published in October 2010, and Gretchen E. Henderson, whose work of fiction Galerie de Difformité will be published in October 2011.
Emerging prose writers interested in applying for the 2012 residency—in prose or mixed/cross-genre—should send a curriculum vita, no more than 30 pages of a manuscript in progress with a separate cover page, and a one-page statement of plans for completion to: Plonsker Residency, Department of English, Lake Forest College, Box A16, 555 N. Sheridan Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045. The author’s name should appear only on the cover page of the manuscript sample. Submissions must be postmarked by April 1, 2011 for consideration by editors Robert Archambeau, Davis Schneiderman, and Joshua Corey. The guest judge will be announced in the coming months. Please send direct inquiries to email@example.com with the subject line: Plonsker Prize.
The 2011 Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize Finalists and Semifinalists:
Winner: José Perez Beduya, Ithaca, NY – Throng
First runner-up: Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Southbury, CT – Registers Vanishing
Second runner-up: Mary Hickman, Iowa City, IA – Totem
Geoffrey Babbitt, Findlay, OH – Wind on a Hook
Amaranth Borsuk, Pasadena, CA – Handiwork
Claire Elisabeth Donato, Brooklyn, NY – Off to the Nervous Museum
Julie Phillips Brown , Ithaca, NY – The Adjacent Possible
C.M. Burroughs, Pittsburgh, PA – The Vital System
Ryan Downey, South Bend, IN – MAW MAW
Steffi Drewes , Emeryville, CA – untitled
Katherine E. Factor, Idyllwild, CA – Many Had Parasols
Nina Budabin McQuown , Brooklyn, NY – Cruise Ship
Sara Nicholson, Philadelphia, PA – untitled
Robert Ostrom, Brooklyn, NY – Stands Outside
Catherine Theis , Chicago, IL – The Fraud of Good Sleep
J.A. Tyler has new pieces in Word Riot, Prick of the Spindle, decomP, and The Diagram, and three pieces at jmww: HERE, HERE, and HERE. And a review/interview of PEE ON WATER, by Rachel Glaser appears in Rumble. And his novella INCONCEIVABLE WILSON was reviewed at The Collagist.
Northwestern University Press released Davis Schneiderman’s new novel Drain on June 30. More info HERE.
John Madera‘s fiction: “Some Varieties of Being and Other Non Sequiturs” will appear in the Fall 2010 issue of Conjunctions. Check out a preview of the issue’s lineup HERE. His interview with Lance Olsen appears in Rain Taxi Review of Books, Summer 2010. He edited the flash fiction section of the Summer 2010 issue of jmww. Here’s a link to his introduction.
A D Jameson has three new pieces online: “Whisper, Current, Gust” in alice blue review, “Lamentations 1” in Requited, and “The Walls of Uruk”, an excerpt from his forthcoming novel Giant Slugs, in Action, Yes.
Greg Gerke reviewed Kim Chinquee’s Pretty at The Rumpus.
It’s always nice to get a beautiful art object in the mail, and so I was happy to receive Artifice Magazine, Issue One with its classy satin cover and embossed title, and, more importantly (I soon learned), its content, content that mirrors the form in which it’s contained.
Christopher Phelps’s “Word†” is a playful, reflexive piece, drawing attention to itself as an artifact, to its artifice. As such, it’s the perfect introduction to this new journal:
This footnote would like to apologize for being in the rain shadow Word saw,
looking down, relieved to be for a few apical moments,
Susan Slaviero’s poems “Phenomena of Probability” and “Pandora’s Robot” are texts as much marked by their rugged formal textures as for their concern with ribcages and wire-riggings; and with robots. And there’s mention of mermaids in the former and “milkdrowned homunculi” in the latter. From “Phenomena of Probability”:
Theoretically, there’s a way to create a ribcage from guitar strings, to
fashion jawbones from vintage bracelets. It so happens that a female
form is best woven from titanium knitting needles, peppermint hips,
the ends of French cigarettes…
Language is made flesh here; it’s a place where a woman “is a semicolon.” And in “Pandora’s Robot,” after “the brass plate over her sternum” is opened, the robot “let[s] out language. / Let[s] out codes / like apocalypse, alchemy, calculus.”
Please welcome Davis Schneiderman to Big Other. Schneiderman is a multimedia artist and writer whose works include the current or forthcoming novels Drain (Triquarterly/Northwestern), Blank: a novel (Jaded Ibis), Multifesto: A Henri d’Mescan Reader (Spuyten Duyvil), DIS (BlazeVox) and Abecedarium (Chiasmus, w/Carlos Hernandez); the co-edited collections Retaking the Universe: Williams S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization (Pluto) and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game (Nebraska, 2009); and the audiocollage Memorials to Future Catastrophes (Jaded Ibis). His creative work has been accepted by numerous publications including Fiction International, The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, and Exquisite Corpse. He is Director of Lake Forest College Press/&NOW Books, where he co-edits the series The &NOW AWARDS: The Best Innovative Writing; he also directs the NEH-funded Virtual Burnham Initiative. He blogs HERE.
Watch the very much missed Raymond Federman, Davis Schneiderman, and Lidia Yuknavtich boil their books in noodles!
I went to the &Now Conference held in Buffalo, New York, October 14-17, and enjoyed it on a number of levels. First of all, it was great to cross that cold digital divide and finally meet so many people that I’ve been corresponding and/or working with, and/or reading their work for a while, people like Matt Bell, Cara Benson, Blake Butler, Donald Breckinridge, Ryan Call, Mary Caponegro, Kim Chinquee, Rikki Ducornet, Tina May Hall, Lily Hoang, Joanna Howard, Matt Kirkpatrick, Josh Maday, Kendra Grant Malone, Lance Olsen, J.A. Tyler, Bill Walsh, and John Dermot Woods, as well as reconnecting with Brian Evenson and James Yeh. I also had a chance to meet Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Donald Breckenridge, Rikki Ducornet, Shelly Jackson, Steve Katz, Dave Kress, Christina Milletti, Pedro Ponce, Davis Schneiderman, and Steve Tomasula. Have I missed anyone?
And if it was only that, it would have been well worth it, but I also attended many dynamic, energetic, informed, inventive, and stimulating panels and readings. Below are some capsules of some of the events as well as recordings of some of them.