Archive for December 2009
From Peter Handke’s The Weight of the World:
A fine thing: suddenly to forget about one’s history, one’s past, to stop feeling that one’s present happiness is endangered by what one used to be, as a child, as an adolescent, etc.
That is to say, forget the novelization of life. A special peril for literary types, those invested in the novel as a form, whose mental architecture has been rebuilt in the shape of that genre. So what instead?
Do one thing after another as lucidly as possible: smell the bread, smell the schnapps, fold the paper – therein lies salvation.
One thinks first concentration. But it’s not just that, or perhaps not that at all. The lucidity seems to come in fact from relaxation, the escape from a special sort of self-tied knot:
That woman was walking so elegantly, and now, all of a sudden her gait is slovenly, lewd, and vulgar; she’s visibly relieved
These are the opposite of Joyce’s epiphanies. Can you feel the tension in this one despite the tiny form? The turn in regard? The pivot in his consideration across the and now?
Massive changes are afoot chez AWP, and AWP is looking at books, such as Handke’s, for advice on how to manage it. And I don’t mean the blog. You should hear the kitchen table conversations. Lord. Handke is coming with on the big trip, despite the fact there are Other Things To Do.
Just heard back from my favorite secretary at the place where I did my Ph.D. No party this year at MLA “due to recent budgetary modifications.” Yeeouch. Was always my favorite part of the whole thing. And if they’re feeling it badly enough at that place to do things like that, fin du monde elsewhere folks.
I’d try to organize my own in my capacious (but unfunded) room at the Crowne Plaza but it’s so damn difficult to buy booze to take away in pseudo-medieval Philadelphia that it wouldn’t be worth the bother. Literally, it’s basically a matter of walking down the street with pitchers of Yuengling filled from a tap etc. The Marriott bar it is then…
Universities will have to make severe cuts after Lord Mandelson abruptly slashed teaching budgets by millions of pounds yesterday.
Departments are expected to close, degree courses will be scrapped and students will have to pay higher fees.
The Business Secretary said that universities should move from the three-year, full-time undergraduate degree model towards a “wider variety of provision”, such as foundation and fast-track degrees. They will be encouraged to focus more on the skills and knowledge demanded by employers rather than on academia for its own sake. Those that disobeyed the Government by taking on too many students this autumn will be penalised in next year’s grants at a rate of £3,700 per extra full-time student.
One of the only good things to happen to me over the last ten days was to happen upon a discarded review copy of David Shields’s forthcoming Reality Hunger near the office recycling bin. I want to review it myself, and will try to sort that out in the next few days, so I’m not going to say everything I have to say on here and right now. I can’t understand the breathless blurbage it’s received. I know what blurbs are and aren’t, believe me believe me, but still. I should have a chance to ask one of the Major Blurbbers what he was thinking at an Xmas party in a couple of hours. We’ll see.
Just for now: one of the things that Shields does in this book is copy other people’s stuff seamlessly into the book without attribution. Well, almost without attribution. There’s an appendix that starts as follows:
This book contains hundreds of quotations that go unacknowledged in the body of the text. I’m trying to regain a freedom that writers from Montaigne to Burroughs took for granted and that we have lost. Your uncertainty about whose words you’ve just read is not a bug but a feature.
A major focus of Reality Hunger is appropriation and plagiarism and what these terms mean. I can hardly treat the topic deeply without engaging in it. That would be like writing a book about lying and not being permitted to lie in it. Or writing a book about destroying capitalism but being told it can’t be published because it might harm thee publishing industry.
However, Random House lawyers determined that it was necessary for me to provide a complete list of citations; the list follows (except, of course, for any sources I couldn’t find or forgot along the way).
If you would like to restore this book to the form in which I intended it to be read, simply grab a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade or box cutter and remove pages xxx-xxx by cutting along the dotted line.
Who owns the words? Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do – all of us – though not all of us know it yet. Reality cannot be copyrighted.
Stop; don’t read any farther.
Lovely – lots of us agree in principle with all of that. But if reality cannot be copyrighted, Reality Hunger still can be… and is. Right at the front of the book, there it is: Copyright © David Shields, 2010. In this day and age when all sorts of alternative models like creative commons and copyleft are in practice along with alternative means of distribution, it does seem like Shields’s offering is skewed from the start by this rather glaring performative contradiction. Technically, even in copying the above into my post, I am breaking the injunction at the front of the review copy not to “reproduce before publication of the finished book” any of its contents. I’m slightly tempted to start a blog where I post the book as a whole, one of its numbered entries a day. Hmmm…. I’m going to wait by the phone for those Random House lawyers to call.