Big Other Reaches One Million Page Views!

One Million Dots (detail) / Robert Barry. 1968

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Big Other’s Birthday Tribute to William H. Gass, 2012

Photo by Frank Di Piazza

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.

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Janey Smith’s “Literary Pillars”

1. AA Bronson, File Magazine, Queer Zines (with Phillip Aarons).
2. Adam Parfrey, Apocalypse Culture, The Manson File.
3. Alfred Jarry, Adventures in ‘Pataphysics: Collected Works 1
4. Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Diaries.
5. Bob Flanagan, Slave Sonnets, Fuck Journal.
6. Brandon Stosuy, Up Is Up, But So Is Down: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992 (with Dennis Cooper & Eileen Myles).
7. Burgo Partridge, A History of Orgies.
8. Cookie Mueller, Ask Dr. Mueller: The Writings of Cookie Mueller.
9. Dennis Cooper, Little Caesar series, the George Miles Cycle.

10. Diter Rot, 246 Little Clouds.
11. Dominique Laporte, History of Shit.
12. Eileen Myles, Cool For You, Not Me, The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art.
13. Garth Williams, Baby Farm Animals.
14. Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye, Blue of Noon, The Accursed Share, Vol.1, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939
15. Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.
16. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle.
17. Harriet Ann Watts, Three Painter Poets: Arp, Schwitters, Klee.
18. Harry Matthews & Alastair Brotchie, Oulipo Compendium.
19. Jacques Derrida, Futures: Of Jacques Derrida.
20. Jaycee Dugard, A Stolen Life: A Memoir.
21. Jean Cocteau, My Contemporaries.
22. John Riddle, Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance.
23. John Marr, Murder Can Be Fun #13 – Death at Disneyland
24. Kathy Acker, Great Expectations, Blood & Guts in High School, Don Quixote, Hannibal Lecter, My Father.
25. Kenneth Koch, Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?: Teaching Great Poetry to Children.
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Anatomy of a Flash: Janey Smith (Guest post by Keith Nathan Brown)

Provocateur and DIY punk mistress, Janey Smith, eschews the conventional channels of publishing for a more personal guerrilla method in order to reach her readers.  Case in point, a couple months ago I received an email alluding to a published piece of mine, to which a pdf was attached, Smith’s debut collection of fiction, Very Ape.  Being vaguely familiar with Smith’s work I scanned a few pieces, and one in particular, ‘I Want To Be A Camera,’ seized my attention.  Our interview appears after the flash.

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