Saturday, May 30, 2009
Takin' It To The Seats

First glimpse of the Rent Party tour Internet Request Night ballot, and the current voting percentages. No Barrytown, no IGY, no Brooklyn. But then about halfway down. . . .

Aja 1.32%
Any Major Dude Will Tell You 1.10%
Any World (That I'm Welcome To) 0%
Babylon Sisters 0.66%
Bad Sneakers 0.88%
Black Cow 0.66%
Black Friday 0.66%
Bodhisattva 3.30%
The Boston Rag 3.96%
The Caves of Altamira 0.44%
Chain Lightning 4.19%
Deacon Blues 0.44%
Dirty Work 0.66%
Doctor Wu 18.28% (!!!!)
Do It Again 0.44%
Don't Take Me Alive 1.98%
Everyone's Gone to the Movies 0.22%
Everything Must Go 0.44%
Everything You Did 1.98%
The Fez 0.22%
FM 0.44%
Gaslighting Abbie 0%
Gaucho 0%
Glamour Profession 0%
Godwhacker 0%
Green Earrings 0%
Haitian Divorce 0.66%
Here at the Western World 0.66%
Hey Nineteen 1.54%
Home at Last 0.44%
I Got the News 0.44%
Janie Runaway 0%
Josie 0.22%
Kid Charlemagne 4.41%
The Last Mall 0%
Lunch With Gina 0%
My Old School 2.20%
My Rival 1.98%
Night by Night 1.98%
Parker's Band 1.98%
Peg 6.39%
Pretzel Logic 1.32%
Reelin' in the Years (Club Mix) 0.22%
Reelin' in the Years (Dry and Heavy) 14.32%
Rikki Don't Lose That Number 0.88%
The Royal Scam 9.25%
Show Biz Kids 3.30%
Sign in Stranger 0.44%
Slang of Ages 0.22%
Things I Miss the Most 0%
Two Against Nature 0%
Your Gold Teeth 4.85%

Songs not on the ballot, with my disappointment registered in bold:

Almost Gothic
Blues Beach
Book of Liars
Change of the Guard
Charlie Freak
Cousin Dupree
Daddy Don't Live in that NYC No More
East St Louis Toodle-oo
Fire in the Hole
Green Book
Jack of Speed
King of the World
Midnight Cruiser
Monkey in your Soul
Negative Girl
Only a Fool Would Say That
Pearl of the Quarter
Razor Boy
Third World Man
Through With Buzz
Time Out Of Mind
Turn that Heartbeat Over Again
West of Hollywood
What a Shame About Me
With A Gun
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Worldly wisdom from Mr. Munger, equally a propos of ghosts as of business success: "Reality is talking to anyone who will listen."
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Long Zadie Smith essay on Joseph O'Neill's Netherland and Tom McCarthy's Remainder. I'm reading the O'Neill as slowly as I can. Smith seemingly read a different novel than the one I'm reading, and I don't agree with her claim that

Netherland sits at an anxiety crossroads where a community in recent crisis—the Anglo-American liberal middle class—meets a literary form in long-term crisis, the nineteenth-century lyrical Realism of Balzac and Flaubert.

Critiques of this form by now amount to a long tradition in and of themselves. Beginning with what Alain Robbe-Grillet called "the destitution of the old myths of 'depth,'" they blossomed out into a phenomenology skeptical of Realism's metaphysical tendencies, demanding, with Husserl, that we eschew the transcendental the metaphor, and go "back to the things themselves!"; they peaked in that radical deconstructive doubt which questions the capacity of language itself to describe the world with accuracy. They all of them note the (often unexamined) credos upon which Realism is built: the transcendent importance of form, the incantatory power of language to reveal truth, the essential fullness and continuity of the self.

The "literary style" that offends Smith is easily observed in many recent Canadian literary bestsellers. It infests Ondaatje's Divisidero, Adamson's Outlander, and Anne Michaels' The Winter Vault, and these books are almost unreadable because of it. Every object -- tree, river, rock, notebook, card game, W.H.Y. -- is relentlessly allegorized, transmuted from a thing-in-the-world to a literary device. The world becomes text, endlessly embroidered by the novelist. But I disagree with Smith's assertion that this kind of writing has any relationship to the realism of Balzac and Flaubert. Such writing is better described as a species of mannerist prose, whose ostensible realism is easily distinguished by the baroqueness of its description, lapidary detail so thick that you could cut it with a knife.

Smith carefully parses Joseph O'Neill's prose, and pounces on sentences that sidle toward mannerism. "Even the mini traumas of a middle-class life are given the high lyrical treatment, in what feels, at its best, like a grim satire on the profound fatuity of twenty-first-century bourgeois existence. The surprise discovery of his wife's lactose intolerance becomes 'an unknown hinterland to our marriage'; a slightly unpleasant experience of American bureaucracy at the DMV brings [the protagonist] (metaphorically) close to the war on terror. . . ." But when Smith extrapolates from these "high lyrical" sentences in order to claim that the whole book is founded upon a kind of lyrical Realism, she does a disservice to the plain style in which most of Netherland is written. O'Neill's descriptions of cricket grounds, or the more obscure commercial corners of Brooklyn and/or Staten Island, or the list of attendees at a cricket club party, are not lyrical at all; they are prosaic and matter-of-fact, and operate largely through the accumulation of small discrete details, much in the manner of Barth, Pynchon, Foster Wallace and DeLillo: writers who, at least in Smith's version of American literary history, have never been given a fair shake, have "been relegated to a safe corner of literary history, to be studied in postmodernity modules, and dismissed, by our most famous public critics, as a fascinating failure, intellectual brinkmanship that lacked heart."

As the LOLcats say, O RLY? Contra Smith, it seems to me that these writers, like Smith herself, have enjoyed both popular and critical success, and have been mostly praised by "our most famous public critics." (B.R. Meyers, who once went after DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy in the Atlantic, is neither famous nor significant and can't be who Smith is thinking of).

I admire Smith's own writing; I once drove non-stop to Seattle through some of the worst fall weather I have ever experienced in order to get to meet her and to get my books signed (ZADIE [noticing dustjackets wrapped in Brodarts]: Oh. Are you a book collector? CJB: No, I'm a book reader. And I like yours a lot.) Her essay is well written and granular in its analysis of O'Neill's and Tom McCarthy's prose. But she's wrong about Netherland's quality, wrong about American postmodern writing's success in the marketplace, and totally wrong about realism's continuing relevance as an artistic mode.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

San Francisco's Michael Manning, another erotic comic artist I admire, who generously contributed to my friend Robin Fisher's fundraising anthology of dirty comix benefiting Little Sister's ongoing battles with Canada Customs. It's hard to make erotic works that simultaneously serve aesthetic ends. Mr. Fuseli and Ms. Reage unquestionably succeeded. So too have Robert Crumb, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, and Gilbert Hernandez.

Erotic drawings by Jess Fink. Via Robin Bougie's blog. Find Chester 5000, Ms. Fink's impeccably drawn 100+ pp. totally NSFW Victorian robot sex magnum opus here.
Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Case for Working With Your Hands

"An economy that is more entrepreneurial, less managerial, would be less subject to the kind of distortions that occur when corporate managers’ compensation is tied to the short-term profit of distant shareholders. For most entrepreneurs, profit is at once a more capacious and a more concrete thing than this. It is a calculation in which the intrinsic satisfactions of work count — not least, the exercise of your own powers of reason."

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