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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Big Other Reaches One Million Page Views!

One Million Dots (detail) / Robert Barry. 1968

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Approximating Diapason (Spuyten Duyvil, 2012) by j/j hastain & t thilleman


In Approximating Diapason, hastain and Thilleman engage in an epic correspondence, creatively paralleling, intersecting, and intertwining their very distinct poetic vocabularies and intelligences. What results is a collaborative treatise on the metaphysics of creativity, the physics of the compositional page, the philosophy and ethics of form, the ontology of ghosts and gods, and the future of the mythographic imagination. But this is just scratching the surface. Much is exchanged and archived in this wide-ranging and interdisciplinary compendium—dreams and their interpretations, drawings and their ekphrastic elaborations, photo-collages as exegetical annotations, allegorical visions and their exfoliating significations, snippets of verse and poetic prose, expressive typography, neologistic harmonizations, memorable autobiographical illustrations, aphoristic declarations (such as “because words are arbitrary capacities, they are really equivocal chambers of the before and after of meaning”), revelatory images (such as “infinite, flopping-but-severed mermaid tails washing up on the shores”), and evidence from both Western and Eastern thought, from sources both scientific and occult—and what holds such sheer disparateness together is the conviction, from both writers, that writing is born from a deep engagement with multiplicity and cosmic diversity. At times, this highly syncretic book reads as if it were out of some science fiction novel narrated in dialogue, as if we were reading characters from another planet conversing about such subjects as aesthetics, psychosocial politics, or new gendered embodiments—but then we realize (with shock, wonder, and gratitude) that they are, indeed, of this world. Alternately, it reads as if it were a monumental transcript prepared for a time capsule, an edifying text for when the aliens come—but then we realize that we are, in fact, the aliens, and that this book has been saying to us all along: welcome to our world.

Publication Date: May 02 2012
ISBN/EAN13: 1881471012 / 9781881471011
Page Count: 346
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 8.5″ x 8.5″
Language: English
Color: Full Color with Bleed
Related Categories: Literary Collections / Letters

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

https://bigotherbigother.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/tunneling-gass-dipiazz1.jpg?w=300

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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Guest Post: Carrie Hunter–J/J Hastain and the Biomimetic Unicorn

In a womb-shaped wormhole, j/j hastain examines postmodernities of gender through the central iconography of the unicorn. If a wormhole is phallic, a womb-shaped phallus situates us at the beginning of a new gendering. Here we encounter the erotic as path, as activism; birth into the new virginity. The earth moves, “a tectonic-mid,” not letting the new arise so much as a concurrency with it (17). The omen, the portent “turns psychic roughage/ into emotional and physical/ alcoves” (19). We are slowly introduced to the unicorn, not the well-known unicorn of classical myths, but as a new unicorn born out of a new site of gender depolarizations. Here we have the classical view of feminine purity mixed with the phallic horn. Amongst the multiple representations of gender depolarizations, we see the “femme swagger,” (23) “female semen,” (54) and “the vascularity of surplus/ and need” (58). How the vein is both phallic and womb-reminiscent as it carries one thing to the other is receptacle-like.

“like plasma

as

savory gelatin” (60)

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