I’m jealous. So jealous I’m too ashamed to write out all my a’s. Who needs a’s anyway when you’re feeling a straight b? Flat, no capitals. Jealous of Gass, jealous of not letting the bile get out. I self-labeled myself the eternal cultural optimist and one must live up to one’s label nowadays or find no place in society’s shelves; shelf or be shelved, although that sounds better than it means. Such is the story of my life that I have self-censored what probably is my only real aptitude in it: a mild inclination to sarcasm, well-founded in an all-out hatred for ‘the way things are’. I am a self-made man in being the bottle for my own bile – only releasing some of its steam at moments of social stress such as dinner parties or occasions where I’m forced to listen (to dumb people, I wanted to add but one only ever listens to dumb people because only dumb people have a tendency to speak on public occasions).
So, as a matter of self-preservation, I need to find a way to reconcile both bile and optimism, so as to avoid bliss-less eternity too. Here goes the argument. Its form is to neutralize -1 and +1 to leave just N.
I hate that Thomas Pynchon did not win the Nobel Prize. It’s not so much that I particularly care who gets it. But Pynchon not getting it means that my scarcely read dialogue with his masterpiece Gravity’s Rainbow published here will remain just that: scarcely read. Nobody will discover my insights, nor the post-perfectionist style which I perfected precisely to be able to write them in, and be able to forward such discovery pointing out to the forwardees how I started this intriguing series of literary collage in tempore non suspecto (i.e. before any wide publication of Mr. Pynchon being hot as far as being a possible recipient of this most elusive of prizes).
Instead, they gave it to a Swede. Go figure. From looking at the possible candidates and recent winners, I would guess that the price to pay for winning the Nobel prize of literature is that one has to be prepared to live far longer than is healthy for the spirit. Maybe one should write a book about writers who have outlived their writing but are in a fierce competition to look as if they are about to die for as long as possible a time. On the one hand, you don’t get the prize if the committee does not feel like you might not be around the next year to get it. On the other hand, there are at least ten people who might get it and who all look like they might not be around next year. Outliving those who are about to die therefore seems to be the key capacity to get the prize.
[The same cannot be said for other prizes such as those of Peace and Economics but, as we all know: it’s more immediately apparent whether a certain action or research has advanced peace or the field of economics than it is whether a book or a poem has lasting value. The former is a matter of one to a couple of years whereas the latter normally would take a couple of centuries at least. One can only hope for the Nobel prize committee that the average life expectancy of writers goes up to 200 years or so soon.]
The essence of my today’s hatred is a counter-factual. This means my hatred is of a purely academic nature. In fact, I hope Mr. Pynchon never gets the Nobel prize for if he never were to get it my dream will remain unchallenged meaning that I can die happily in the belief that it might have come true if only …
The upside of this is that I need to feel under no compulsion to live any longer than I really want to.
Take that, Tomas Gösta Tranströmer!
“…yet there is no avoiding time, the sea of time, the sea of memory and forgetfulness, the years of promise, gone and unrecoverable, of the land almost allowed to claim its better destiny, only to have the claim jumped by evildoers known all too well, and taken instead and held hostage to the future we must live in now forever. May we trust that this blessed ship is bound for some better shore, some undrowned Lemuria, risen and redeemed, where the American fate, mercifully, failed to transpire…” (Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice)
I read a quote once that said the only way you’re going to be able to read Proust is if you want to be reading Proust. I think the same can be said for Infinite Jest. You don’t read it because you want to see “what happens,” but because you enjoy the book’s voice and texture and the weird world it’s creating.
I’ve dipped in and read some of the Infinite Summer posts when I’ve checked on the schedule, and this seems to be the difference between those who enjoy it and those who don’t: the latter want some kind of payoff, either plotwise (in which case they’re terminally disappointed) or, since the plot-based satisfaction so obviously isn’t going to happen, morality-wise (the whole “read it because it will make you a better person” line). The morality aspect seems like a stretch to me, but it might serve a valuable purpose of motivating someone to keep reading until they learn to enjoy the type of novel Infinite Jest is.
And if they don’t? Well, maybe it’s just not their thing. I don’t have any particular stake in whether big thick postmodern novels are people’s thing or not — for me, the value of Infinite Summer is that it’s exposing people to that kind of thing so that they can make an informed decision on whether it’s their kind of thing (even if the conscious goal of the project is more ambitious and therefore dubious than the humble goal of figuring out a way to get people to try something because maybe they’ll like it).
Via IMDB, I stumbled across the following fun fact: Shane Jones’s Light Boxes, published by Publishing Genius, recently had its movie rights purchased by Spike Jonze. This is a huge deal for Publishing Genius, which my friend Adam Robinson founded a few years ago, and will hopefully give PG and small presses more generally closer to the amount of credibility they deserve.
The series would cover notoriously confusing or strange topics and be called the “Seriously, WTF?” series. Titles might include David Lynch: Seriously, WTF? or Quantum Physics: Seriously, WTF?
These books would represent an advance over the “For Dummies” and “Idiot’s Guide” series insofar as they recognize that the obstacle to understanding lies in the object being examined rather than in the reader.
This had to be one of the most tedious torrents ever to create. A friend of mine completed the download today, and near as he can tell they are all fully functional and complete.
For those without Demonoid access … pity.
Reading this article on Obama’s reading habits, I was struck by how traditional his choices were — and at the same time how enthusiastic he seemed to be about them, how deeply he seemed to engage. He seems like a true believer in the Great Books paradigm, and his rhetoric matches, with all his talk of meeting contemporary challenges with timeless truths.
In such an anti-intellectual country the impact is probably small, but I think the fact that he is so resolutely, traditionally, and apparently contentedly Western in his thinking was one aspect of the “normalization” process that made Americans able to swallow the idea of a man with such an unusual name and background as president.
Though the Bay Area is teeming with high quality bookstores — Green Apple, Moe’s, Pegasus, Booksmith, Modern Times, etc. — I was wondering last night, while following the Reeses-pieces path I laid so that I might find my way out of the labyrinth that is Green Apple, why I’ve yet to find a really quality theology/religion bookstore. With Moe’s as the only notable exception, most of the good stores only seem to care about alternative & eastern religion, with very token gestures toward Christian theology. This makes sense, of course, considering where I’m living, but we do have the GTU around here. Don’t those students ever need to sell their books? I only recently learned of the University Press Bookstore in Berkeley, even though I’d walked by it dozens of times, so it’s possible (given I’m only prone to browse theology, and not actually read it) I’ve simply overlooked such a place. Any Bay Area natives or former residents know of such a place?
I could probably find my answer via Google or Yelp, but what’s the fun in that?
Also … anyone, is Meillassoux’s After Finitude worth my time?