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Archive for January 2010

irish fordism:

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A sizable percentage of the patrons one night are working behind the bar the next night. And vice versa.

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January 28, 2010 at 12:56 am

“no water but only rock”

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He dreams of getting mugged, missing appointments, fighting with someone and hurting them quite badly at first but by the end getting severely injured himself, being told off by both adults and children, getting caught in compromising positions, walking around with his fly open, and forgetting what he was going to say at a key moment.

Secular society’s lack of any viable purification rituals leaves everything up to the dream, and dreams don’t really work, not like that.

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January 24, 2010 at 9:16 am

kitchen table

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Full force, he suddenly sees it: the animal strangeness of spending an entire Saturday sitting at the kitchen table, typing revisions into a piece that was begun in 2000. Others are walking and looking, soon they’ll be eating and drinking. He, on the other hand, is in keystroke dialogue with a younger version of himself at once cleaner and less intelligent but somehow braver for it.

A cat drips from a bush out back and scatters towards home. Back at the table, state-sponsored classical music trickles out of his laptop’s speakers.

The structural stress of his line of work is abstract but profound – at once ridiculous and, unfortunately, utterly real. Everything else follows, as if fatally, when one takes it too seriously. That is to say, when one takes it at all.

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January 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm

style indirect occupé

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Another word for confession is anti-theodicy. Justify the ways of man to God. But then there’s the problem of prepositioning, of answers without questions, and ultimately of authorship.

He thinks of Satan and his real thoughts after the Fall. But who put the thought in my head? Who made the drive that drove the thought? Did He who made the lamb make me?

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January 20, 2010 at 2:47 am

intensity

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A realist in the fullest sense of the word, he knows that the real reason Satan’s story starts, if it were real, is not because non serviam ex nihilo’d itself into his horny head, but because he was the sort of guy who wanted something absolutely fucking amazing to happen every single night. Only this time it did.

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January 20, 2010 at 2:33 am

more flight

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The conceit of this virtual world is that you fly from place to place. There are resorts and shopping malls, sectors devoted to polymorphous sex and others where you can worship the god (or gods) of your choice. Condominium complexes range around amusement parks and zoos full of dinosaurs – a entire world where adult infantility reigns supreme beyond the darkest (brightest?) dreams of Houllebecq.

At first the flying goes fine – he is soaring about a zone of chain restaurants, then a meticulously reconstructed Mayan temple. But soon enough, as he heads out over a beach where thousands of volleyball teams are holding a massive double-elimination tournament in the nude,  he starts to slow down. He slows down… or the frame rate of the world he is in slows down. He seems to hang in place for seconds at a time and then lurch a few meters forward. Eventually he comes to a complete halt, his eyes locked on nothing but the sun and the deep blue sky.

He hasn’t the bandwidth for this sort of thing, he lives too far from the central servers.

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January 15, 2010 at 2:25 pm

dream

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He is co-teaching a seminar with one of his colleagues. Just before the session is about to begin, she asks him to produce his handouts, the images that he has chosen to distribute. But he only has one copy with him, and so he lies and says that he had thought he would show them a Powerpoint presentation (he never does Powerpoint presentations) but there is no computer in the room. He even takes a memory stick out of his pocket to underscore the point.

She scolds him – It’s your job to check the room before you teach. You know that. Look at the copies that I’ve made. You can’t just pass around a single copy of the images – there are thirty students in the class! He responds, first, by saying that no, yes, he’ll just pass around the single copy that he brought, he’s done that sort of thing before and its fine, and next by standing up and walking out of the room. On his way out, he tells her he is going to make copies. But then he calls her a foul name just loud enough for the students, now starting to fill the room, to hear.

He leaves the building and goes to the Modern Language Association conference, which as it happens is being held this year at the nearby State Fairground. Offseason rates. Tents, corn dog stands, beer stands, hay… After some time wandering around with a pack of friends, academics acting like Nebraska teenagers, he realizes that he’s past due to go back and finish the seminar. It’s a three hour seminar, and he had planned upon leaving to return after the break at the middle. But now there are only thirty minutes left…

As he flies through the air, over the tents and attractions, and then sparse winter forest, he thinks to himself that this is the first time he has ever flown in a dream and that he’s not sure he really knows how to do it, feels safe doing it. He clips branches and flies slower than he might, and when he has made it back to the classroom he discovers that everyone – his colleague, the students – is already gone.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

canonicity

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When a certain book becomes a treasured object, when he wakes in a sweat about having lost it like he does about his passport, the stack of cash, or his Macbook Air.

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January 15, 2010 at 1:07 am

what katie roiphe missed

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It occurs to him, suddenly but while reading Handke, how much fiction writing must have changed – or at least should have changed – since the advent of ubiquitous pornography.

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January 15, 2010 at 1:05 am

fb

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The facebook update, and the low round of applause it brings: symptom of our meager times and meager, parent-applauded selves. “I visited the toy shop and didn’t buy anything!” Thumbs-up! “I am here where I am and can you see?!” Thumbs up! All of them! “I ate my whole dinner tonight!” Yay for you!

Desperation that inhibits work, or bends work back to the banal patter of mice running through the walls, clapping while they stop to gnaw.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:55 am

anomaly

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A beautiful but aging woman in front of Waterstones across the street from his office. She is talking on her mobile phone. Statuesque, perhaps an actress, perhaps a famous one. (He wouldn’t know). But impossible to imagine her ever having sex with anyone, so dignified is her beauty. In fact, her dignity makes the desire to have sex, let alone the practice of having sex, seem like a symptom of some sort of genetic anomaly, a mineral deficiency. Only deformed people do or want to do it, he walks away thinking.

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January 15, 2010 at 12:46 am

inwit

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He types:

The single word facebook post: Haiti. The reconstruction of the steps that this takes. The electronic immortality of the post.

But he can’t think of what else to say, let alone a title for the post. Armenians or the Albanians. But that’s too long a story to tell. And why bother? He has lost access both to sanctimony and its self-reflexive inversion. Or so it seems, fleetingly.

Instead he putters in his now usual morning circles – a cigarette outside, coffee, email, repeat. All the while he is resolving to resolve to be more efficient in the mornings – to be out the door or at least at work on something within an hour of waking.

Perhaps if, upon waking each morning, he turned on the television news, that would give him a better sense of time, would moor his mornings against the world outside, and he would get out the door more swiftly.

Then he writes his own facebook post, a link to a book review that he has written for a magazine.

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January 14, 2010 at 9:10 am

handke / letraset

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Handke does advert-people a few times in TWoftheW:

Walking across the city. In the gaps left open by the masses of cars there are still a few isolated individuals, ashen pale or flushed, in incompatible states, and these people have subjected themselves to politics or world history, and amid the technological din they go around posing (like the figures shown in architectural drawings) at the foot of gigantic buildings, which are the essential while they are mere incidentals; moving through this catastrophe as through an underground hangar, I try to breathe everything in through my eyes, to preserve within me the forlorness of these people.

Here’s another:

Advertisements for houses in artificial villages (“domaines“). The accompanying sketches show the latest conception of paradise: a father beaming from ear to ear as he strolls down a garden path with a child on his shoulders; slanting beach umbrellas; outside the house, slim young men arrange chairs for a party: “Here you will live from year’s end to year’s end as if you were on vacation” (none of the figures in these sketches has both feet on the ground – they are much too happy for that)

Brilliant, that last parenthetical bit. Hard to say just where the interest in these figures comes from, though I’ve tried before. One shouldn’t talk about fiction in general trying to do things, i.e. awarding the genre itself with desires and aspirations, but I do believe / pretend that it has been trying to enact a nearly impossible foreground / background reversal for quite awhile now. These ad-people

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January 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Posted in ads, aggregate, fiction, handke

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At 10 years old, he was more eloquent than his parents’ friends. They would say, “God, how eloquent! How well informed!” But he was just repeating what he read in Newsweek. And look, now, what it’s all come to.

***

Sympathy and schadenfreude for the ex-teenage savant. They get what they deserve, these next Einsteins and Beethovens. But that can’t be right.

***

His parents wanted him socialized, and socialized in a way that they could understand. They would not send him to a school that served quiche, for they said, rightly, that there was no way that their son would eat quiche for lunch.

***

One morning, when his grandmother was staying to keep an eye on him, he vomited into a bucket in the basement, a bucket that his best friend (who had slept over the night before) had already vomited into. His grandmother had to smell it on them: the mingled puke, the Canadian Club. But she never said a word as she served them pancakes and bacon.

***

They gave intelligence tests at his school. When he asked them what it might mean that he had attained what was listed as the “maximum score” they changed the subject. Earlier that day he had put away the folding chairs and folding tables from Bingo the night before, and still smelled of the lingering smoke during the meeting about his scores on the test.

***

Once he blew a no-hitter (albeit against a black school, a Newark school) with two outs in the seventh inning. His future wife didn’t understand why he was so upset. Someone had finally hit the slider.

***

He recently described himself to someone as “too eloquent for [his] own good.” And then wanted to explain, in detail, just what he meant.

***

He would make his friend lose track meets. They would drink and he would lose, come in tenth or eleventh. He keeps people late; that is another one of his skills.

***

One of the things that he is most ashamed of is breaking a beer bottle in a children’s playground. He wonders if toddlers ended up with glass in their hands and feet. His friends shook their heads, and one told her parents. It was graduation and they were bound for different high schools in the fall.

***

Eloquence can be harnessed into lying, but not without loss of consonance on other occasions.

***

Years later, someone (just back from Iraq, Marine infantry) told him that he had fingerfucked Liz in the backseat of a car. There were only seventeen kids in his graduating class. It was a dying Catholic primary school, at least back then.

***

Fantasies of return. But he’d only give his little speech and then go home. No one would stay after to talk.

***

The only way he could imagine himself on television is making a grand apology for a grand sin.

***

Even now, his grandmother defers to him. She knows his type, and keeps her distance, conversationally. She also fixed his coat with needle and thread. The pockets, the buttons…

***

At confession, rather than admitting to masturbation, he would tell the priest that he said mean things to his mother. Which was a lie.

***

The cats miss him. They purr and fleece against him when he comes around.

***

Depending on the specific circumstances, rationalization of his behavior can take up almost all of his mental energy. Nothing, or almost nothing, left for work or care.

***

On a Florida highway, on the first day of a new decade, his father apologized to him for how he brought him up. “I always wanted you to be the best, at everything, but I did it wrong. I know that now.”

***

Just now, while smoking outside, he decided he would write “Last night while smoking he saw a fox on the street and thought ‘I am hungrier and faster than him.'” But as he finished the thought about what he would write, a fox ambled by, perhaps the same, but definitely fatter and slower than the night before.

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January 12, 2010 at 3:56 am

zzzzzz

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Sticks all over the damn place, but perhaps the most effective carrot driving me to finish the book right this minute is the idea that if it were published and then I was promoted, I would be in a good position to jockey for a bigger office, an office big enough for a couch. If I had a couch, I wouldn’t have to take my writing-naps on the cold, hard, fairly dirty floor.

Sure I feel bad about having writing-naps in the middle of the day. I don’t get to do it that often, and now only uncomfortably, but back in the day – back when I can remember writing fluidly – they were an essential part of the process of composition. I’d get stuck, then sleep or even just lie there with my eyes closed for half-an-hour, and things would as if automagically rethread themselves, recombine into eloquence.

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January 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Posted in academia, writing