Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Feverish Laziness


"A puppet, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king."
----R.I.P The Hardest Working Man in Show Business

What do you think, what percentage of the music you listened to in the last week would have been impossible without him? For me, at least %70, maybe more. Maybe not Charles Ives, but Clipse and The Velvet Underground, Blonde Redhead, that Diplo mash-up and all of the other stuff, yep.

Time, plenty of time, but also an absence of things to say, or perhaps only an absence of saying.

Quitting smoking (too many -ings) for the first time in, oh, since the hospital month twenty years ago [that will end the things you don't know about me broadcast]. And so "I" disobeys "me"--an em-dash separates 'em-- more than usual.

Lots of excellent reading, though. So perhaps, after a few months of hearing myself talk too frequently, the intake/outtake valves are just switched. About a hundred pages into Against the Day, and so far nothing but everything, too many names, theme webs and the torch of narration passed from character to character. Anarcho-syndicalists (distinctly far from any poetics) and the Archduke Ferdinand. Secrets about secrets about nothing. I've been thinking that what I love, or one of the things I love, about Pynchon is one of the things I love about Notley--that digging around the interred structures of the left-behind (preterite is Pynchon's word) of history and worldsystems, the lumpens and enthusiasts and ghosts come too early or too soon or both or not at all. And a willingness to keep tossing out language until something catches--the zinger somehow shifting the magnetic orientation of all of the merely ecumenical language, the cliches, the schtick. Go in fear of nothing written, they say.

Read Inger Christensen's Alphabet (recom'd/mentioned by Johannes, who has been, despite our disagreements, an excellent source of recommendations). I love the furious horizontality of it, its refusal of spurious nature/culture borderlines, and the way that the language of absolute north turns both utopian and apocalyptic. Images of natural harmony and the total absence of life whipped into a kind of emulsion. For what is more harmonious than nothing, really? The whiteness of the summer sky: a wintersummer. I remember thinking a great deal about what the particularities of summer light-- corrosive, diffuse, blindwhite--could do in Bergman's B&W films, and how far it is from any of the valences that light takes on in American films post-noir. Sort of a similar thing here.

Also another recommendation by way of Johannes:--Monica de La Torre's translation of Gerardo Deniz's poems. [It's worth mentioning that the two Lost Roads books I have--this one, and Kamau Brathwaite's Trench Town Rock--are beautifully, lusciously produced, advocates of the plain style chap be damned. And yet, still relatively cheap. How do they do it?] As for the poems--baroque, decrepit, concupiscent, one side of the mouth talking to the other side about how best to address the snorkelists in the audience. Echoes of Vallejo, too, to my ear: the latinate, scientific diction, the rhetorical podium-effects. Insistence on the body, on the base and material. Pathos of the classifier, the lepidopterist, trying to de-shambles nature in the middle of a war, Shambhala it, alakazam! When I came across this passage, with the wonderful phrase "feverish laziness," in Michel Foucault's lectures "Society Must Be Defended," I couldn't help but think of Deniz:

After all, the fact that the work I described to you looked both fragmented, repetitive, and discontinuous was quite in keeping with what might be called a "feverish laziness." It's a characteristic trait of people who love libraries, documents, references, dusty manuscripts, texts that have never been read, books which, no sooner printed, were closed and then slept on the shelves and were only taken down centuries later. All this quite suits the busy inertia of those who profes useless knowledge, a sort of sumptuary knowledge, the wealth of a parvenu--and, as you well know, its external signs are found at the foot of the page. It should appeal to all those who feel sympathetic to one of those secret societies, no doubt the oldest and the most characteristic in the West, one of those strangely indestructible secret societies that were, I think, unknown in the early Christian era, probably at the time of the first monasteries, on the fringes of invasions, fires, and forests. I am talking abou the great, tender and warm freemasonry of useless erudition. (4-5)
This is also, of course, a quote about Pynchon.

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