Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Moving Time Again

The press (which is really me) is moving again. In my New York City perambulations, I first stayed in Bed-Stuy. So I moved to Bensonhurst, where I loved the neighborhood & now I'm moving to Bay Ridge. I've got an unlimited metrocard, so I'll be able to span the boroughs from those verdant shores. R-line UP! Please do come help me with the moving party this Saturday. This time all the heavy lifting will be done by real movers, so it will be more celebration than persperation.

Favorite idea of this morning (a description of Scarry's Resisting Representation): "Looking at problematic areas of expression not at the moment when representation is resisted, but at the moment when that resistance is at last overcome, suggesting a domain of plenitude and inclusion."

Today's teaching menu main courses: Thomas Hardy and William Blake.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Future is Here

Um, uh, well, like. . .
I guess, um, since there was so much inarticulate anxiety in my last post on the ability to think the "now", Ron Silliman has stepped in to announce it: it's Tao Lin's Shoplifting From American Apparel. As in the Jay-Z video , all our pure products are now in place. I've spotted at least four well-placed product names in this video, but I'm sure there are many more, and they glide in among the real places mentioned in the lyrics without any sense of their (the streets and buildings of New York) being any different from a product you can go buy (or try to steal) RIGHT NOW. I guess I will ad- (oops, i forgot the last letter of my word) my own critical bumpersticker here:

In the American literature of today, statement has given way to product placement.

Welcome to 1993. Have a good day.


p.s. i'm aware of the blatant irony of my critique--that my blog is, in some measure, just an ad for little scratch pad press, the Alternating Current co-op press in Cambridge, and at another level, in the Richard Thompson video, an advertisement for the Vincent motorcycle company's "Black Lightning". No matter the tiny extent of reach my favored products can have for an audience, or even that a Black Lightning is a very rare and hard-to-find antique, I am in the literary/arts promotion business just as much as I am a writer or critic. Perhaps the ability to recognize a current moment rests simply on the degree to which we understand our own role in the very thing we hope to grasp, or move away from. As Miriam once wrote about photography--we give assent in the very act of recognition. Perhaps being bewildered and inarticulate can, on its furthest side, be a kind of protest against the demands made on our recognition. On the nearest side, though, to be inarticulate is a tragic loss of affect, sympathy and responsibility.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Ability to Recognize the New

One of the more recent and important questions here at Unbecoming and Undisbecoming has been, "Are we capable of recognizing the new?" Meaning that, as we are capable of seeing and saying, can we effectively describe an important change in attitude, a shift in the productive, generative spirit of our time or the general appearance of a content that demands a new form?

The question arose in regard to Undisbecoming's recognition that Erich Auerbach, in his brilliant work of historical literary criticism, Mimesis, was, despite his immense penetration into literature's relations between the individual and the social, yet unable to understand Virginia Woolf's new approach to narrative, as the previous generation's novels of realist and naturalist inclination suddenly gave way to modernism's destabilized frames of reference.

Unbecoming, clearing his throat, stated that he felt that, given his academic training, the critical models he'd inherited, and his ongoing study of "the classics", he was less equipped to recognize or even be aware of what was emerging as definitive of the contemporary moment in literature and art (and music, too!). But, he thought to himself, he once believed that he had understood what the new would require.

Undisbecoming then said that we didn't even have the language to say what the new looked or felt like.

Unbecoming, as is his wont, then went into a long explanation about his growing discomfort over the texts he was using in his teaching, in that he was uncertain they were going to be the best means for his students to grapple with the current situations, those that troubled us all.

Undisbecoming, with a tear forming, but not from sorrow, then explained how the current conditions could be seen as hopeless, and that, as far as she could tell, it meant that we had to think in terms of catastrophe.

Unbecoming then, once again, began one of his apologias for his attitude towards popular music, film and literature, by saying that it (his attitude) had been formed in a crucible of mistrust over pop culture's history of merciless exploitation, and the means that a music industry has to decontextualize the structures of feeling that a shared & social musical performance creates, in order to make that music mean anything it wanted it to.

They then talked about Flaubert, Stendhal, Balzac, Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence.

Undisbecoming had heard a song wafting from a car on Atlantic Avenue a few days ago and liked it, and Unbecoming was anxious to hear a song that had been recommended to him. They discovered that it was the same song. They listened to it. It was the new jam.

Here are some new books of poetry published by Alternating Current. (PO Box 398058. Cambridge MA 02139)

David Stone. under the el. (2009)
K. Alma Peterson. Befallen. (2009)
Leah Angstman. Some Misplaced Joan of Arc. (2009)
David S. Pointer. Camelot Kid's Triggertopia. (2009)
Jason Fisk. The Sagging: Spirits & Skin. (2009)
Adrian Manning. All This I See Before Me, All This I Cannot Resist. (2009)
Various Authors. Poiesis Number Three. (2009)

Featured lines from Poiesis Number Three by T. Kilgore Splake:

deep in december tides
samper bootsteps crunching
arctic long hite
misty dreams
pretty girl lover
never found
april motorcycle fevers
vincent "black lightning"