Fifty Gestures of Love, in honor of William Gass (continued)

25 remaining, & here they are, picking up where we left off, with Tolstoy & his disgraced Natasha

26) The Prince has immersed himself in war work, Napoleon’s on the march, and Natasha attempts suicide, arsenic, then spends weeks in bed. Only her old friend Pierre, our hero more or less, can wring from her an agreement to meet.

27) Pierre’s no innocent himself, though rather a bumbler, badly married, an embodiment of how the good in Russia has gone sour, but Natasha always liked him and when they meet, in the parlor, they’re chummy a while.

28) But finally Pierre has to ask, “Could you really love… that evil man?” aware even as he asks that he’s bumbling again, sounding full of hoke, and yet at his question Natasha undergoes another of those reality-replenishments. Continue reading

Gertrude Stein Strikes Again

It has been quite a few months for Gertrude Stein. Since Kathy Bates’ appearance as her in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Dalkey Archive Press has experienced record sales of Stein’s “The Making of Americans,” a 925-page behemoth. The Seeing Gertrude Stein Exhibit has been in San Francisco and Washington DC and on Feb. 28th The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde opens at the Met in NYC. Now Yale University Press has just released Ida: A Novel and Stanzas in Meditation: The Corrected Edition. The history of the latter is fascinating:

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Gunpowder, urine, & the post-production of the long poem

In “The Longing of the Long Poem,” Peter Middleton notes that long poems “resist the support institutions of poetry” since such texts, lacking the easy iterability of lyrics, are “[e]xpensive to print; tricky to handle digitally; too long to be read in their entirety at poetry readings; too big for anthologies; much too big for little magazines to be able to publish anything but short sections; almost always too long to teach within the constraints of a timetable; [and] exorbitantly demanding of a reader’s time.”  While, at 40 pages, my long poem, The Philosophy of Decomposition/Re-composition as Explanation (Delete Press, 2011), is not nearly as long as the works that Middleton discusses, I’m thrilled, nevertheless, that Delete Press decided to give my extended project, a mash-up/re-mix/collage of Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition” and Stein’s “Composition as Explanation,” its wonderful and creative support.

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#AuthorFail 10: Laura Goldstein

Um, well, this is embarrassing: if you checked this post this morning between 9 am – 9:26, you would have found an incomplete entry: devoid of this snappy opening, and truncated, it the main text, from its full form.

Could it be that #AuthorFail has had its first fail?  Would this then equal success.

I feel miserable, I mean happy…I mean, well, something else.

As Jean Francois Lyotard notes in The Inhuman, the sun will burn out one day.  Thus, all human activity is under the sign of this eventual catastrophe (no, I don’t think he considers widespread space colonization). I wonder if the sun will fail in its great and final task, to burn into nothing.

When you look into the sky today, enjoy the steaming ball of ambivalence–before that, enjoy this serious failure of a column from Laura Goldstein.

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Joy to the Reader When Reading Gass’s The Tunnel

How can I contain myself? (But perhaps the question is: how could Gass both contain and not contain himself to have done what he did?) Having had The Tunnel to go back to every morning was like having the one you love next to you, to be transfixed and freshened, to be, as that worthy words man said, surprised by joy and impatient as the wind. (First post on approaching The Tunnel)

In the end (and there can’t be an end to such a work that reverberates on itself and the whole of literature, philosophy, and history), Gass’s explication of Kohler’s consciousness is all tongue, all logos, but a logos of the highest order. Is there pity and terror? Is there sentimentality? Many monsters have their sweet side and though some have called Kohler a monster, I would just call him a guy who tells the truth of his story, no matter the lies of old age one tells to lessen the pains of the past. At the center of his thoughts is the idea of the fascism of the heart, with Kohler himself as the case study.  He gives us his life in many slices of pie (sugar and sweets, such as ice cream and cake abound in the book). He also heaps us with shit, with the staged, and with something surfacely sentimental, but wholly human:

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For Your Consideration IV – Gass/Stein/Music

“Why hadn’t I known long before reading Stein–was I such a dunce?–that the art was in the music–it was Joyce’s music, it was James’s music, it was Faulkner’s music; without the music, words fell to earth in prosy pieces; without the music, there was only comprehension, and comprehension may have been analysis, may have been interpretation, may have been philosophy, but it wasn’t art; art was the mind carried to conclusions ahead of any understanding by the music–the order, release, and sounding of the meaning. Not just because of a little alliteration, the pitter-patter of metrical feet, a repetition like a chant, or rhyme concealed the way Poe’s letter was–in plain view–but because of complex conceptual relations made audible.” (128)

– William H. Gass, from “Three Lives” in A Temple of Texts

One   Two  Three

Bob Brown and the Readies/Bibliomania for the masses

My humble bigother debut…

Craig Saper-curated TypeBound exhibit catalog cover


Tomorrow, University of Central Florida Text/s and Technology Prof Craig Saper visits Lake Forest College. I’m psyched.

His topic is Bob Brown, the largely unknown super-modernist-friend-of-GertrudeStein/pulp magnate/inventor of a future-feeling reading machine that startlingly predates/predicts the new media technologies that are unsettling the act of reading from its pre-Gutenberg roots.

Why knot?

Saper’s editing a series of new Brown editions for Rice University Press–namely Words, The Readies, and Gems–along with publishing a long overdue Brown biography. Bonus, at least the first two are free to read (follow links above).  You can buy the old-fashioned versions if you prefer.

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Plankton’s “Fashionable Grocery List”: SpongeBob SquarePants & Poetic Innovation

Fear of a Krabby PattyFear of a Krabby Patty 2

In the Season Four SpongeBob episode “Fear of a Krabby Patty” (which was coincidentally nominated for a 2005 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program), the dastardly Plankton disguises himself as a psychotherapist with the hope that SpongeBob will unwittingly divulge the secret recipe for the coveted Krabby Patties to him.

Plankton: I’ve laid out some words on cards here. These words are common kitchen ingredients. I want you to arrange them in any order you choose. It could be a poem or a secret formula. I don’t know…oh yes! A secret formula. Good, let’s do that!

In the end, SpongeBob arranges neither a poem nor a secret formula but an impossible piano that comedically falls onto Plankton’s tiny body.

Fear of a Krabby Patty 3

But what if SpongeBob, taking Plankton’s cue, had actually “arranged” a poem based on these words and images of “common kitchen ingredients”? What would it look like?

I’d like to suggest that these questions implicit in “Fear of a Krabby Patty” index some of the most striking innovations in Twentieth-Century poetry. The first is the use of objets trouvés. While it may seem silly that one could build a poem using a list of words like “tomato,” “celery,” “pepper,” and “onion,” this is not at all unlike what William Carlos Williams did in his poem “Two Pendants: For the Ears.”  Here is the oft quoted stanza in question:

   2 partridges
   2 Mallard ducks
   a Dungeness crab
   24 hours out
   of the Pacific
   and 2 live-frozen
   from Denmark

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