Friday, December 24, 2010
This year Xmas has flowed around and past me, leaving me largely untouched and un-annoyed--I REALLY don't like the American Xmas--the total infantilization of consumer desire. In past years I could not wait for it all to be over... this year all the seasonal celebrations seem to have been absorbed by the bi-hemispheric-whole-Earth Solstice (both return of light, and of sleep and dreams) , the eclipse...
the flowering of poems, the rhizomatic subterranean spread of PoemTrees, the discovering of a truly Magical Hat, the ever emerging powers of Spirit-Stick-who-walks-with-me.
To all my many Friends--those close in body as well as spirit, those distant and unseen, but alive in imagination... which belongs to no one, not to me, nor any single man or woman or species, but flows through and animates all living Things (and all Things, live!), even as we in turn flow though time from year to year!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Haywire, a novel by Thaddeus Rutkowski
Review from uncorrected proofs
"Composed of 49 flash stories narrated by the son of a Polish-American artist father and a Chinese mother"
"My brother and sister and I were riding in the car while our father drove. "
Who drives the fragments of narrative in Rutkowski's coming of age novel, drives them like nails into the narrator's textual consciousness.
Our Father ...
Who gives incomprehensible orders out of which compulsive sexual fetishes naturally follow--natural, that is, in that they share with the Father a robust textual force while remaining themselves, opaque, inexplicable--habits acquired or inherited or inflicted, whose beginnings are sometimes noted, but whose psychic genesis is neither explored nor revealed. Yet in the aporia of the perpetually absent presence of the Father we find their hidden coordinates precisely in that state of being hidden, the unwritten text which, in another novel, a different kind of narrative, might offer clues of motive, offer possible explanations for the symptoms, for what becomes of the fetishes of sexual bondage (the dominate features of the middle sections of the book) after the narrator's marriage and the birth of his daughter. They seem to have been tied and left dangling heels over head, bent like question marks without answers.
Rutkowski likes to employ non sequiturs to move the reader forward, as in the following example. The narrator has rather confused, but persistent writerly ambitions. He attends a residential workshop or writer's retreat. He amuses himself burning pages of his bad writing. ".. I couldn't incinerate the pages in my room," he says, "So I took my embarrassing printouts down the road to a clearing, put them on the ground and touched a lit match to them. While I was burning my papers, a resident writer happened to walk by. He must have seen the smoke, but he didn’t' ask about it. All he said was, 'This road we're on in a good route for biking."
This is an effective device. Things are always just 'happening' like this. It's how his father works in the opening chapters. Keep in mind, a child doesn't experience a parent's actions as random--inexplicable, yes, but not random. The meaning must be there. Somewhere. Everything in a child's world (as in our dreams) is overdetermined. Overdetermined and utterly mysterious. I found this a strong point in Rutkowski's style. He withholds interpretation. That takes admirable disciple. Dream-like sequences are interwoven at several points in the memory narratives, also without explanation, and with no bridge, no passages of transition. The associative power of the negation is a real power, far more than any explanation, no matter how canny, how wise. We are left with a chimera of unread, and unreadable possibilities hovering over... or under, the text.
He suffers from schoolyard bullies and bigots, who single him out for his Asian features. His mother--her character, her image--is left largely undeveloped--but the roughest sketch. This is true of all the characters. We have brief encounters--the stoner brother, some of the narrator's early lovers, but only the father rises out of the text, and then--as a kind of ghost memory who he fumbles to make real for his daughter when she asks what he was like--long after his death. Fumbles and fails... summoning no story, no incident (though the first third of the book is filled with incidents that might do--but how could he? How could he impose this Father on her... whose hope resides in being free of him?) Does he realize that in declining the challenge, he is risking doing exactly that? ... by conjuring the mystery? The undeciphered parental text that is the source of all ghosts?
Haywire is written in three main parts, each consisting of short, titled chapters, some of which might stand alone as independent fragments. The prose is spare and functional, well suited to the dream-like accounts of memory and exposition. I wonder if it might gain in power by further condensation. It seemed a bit long at almost 300 pages, but I was not unhappy at having read it. While a reviewer might easily point out imperfections, I see no reason to do so, as they are of a kind that go hand in hand with testing out certain limits. What Rutkowski has attemped here is worth the risks he took. May this lead to more, and still more accomplished work in the future.
Monday, December 20, 2010
On Larval Subjects
Graham’s universe is a universe in which entities defy any neat categorization into the domains of “the subject” and “the object”. Rather, we get an entirely different understanding of objects, where objects can no longer be neatly reduced to physical things (where’s the solid clod that is a “celebration”) and where objects can no longer be treated as what is opposed to or stands opposite to a subject. Indeed, we’re no longer quite sure what constitutes a subject. Where before we thought we knew quite clearly what a subject is, now we find that we’re a bit puzzled. And if we are puzzled, then this is because relations are generative of a new, higher level, object.A wheel of brightness raised against the night for all to see....
If this is the case, then we are forced to substantially rethink, for starters, our ethical and political concepts. Hitherto, in the domain of ethics, we thought we knew what we were talking about when we talked about the good life, praise and blame, and ethical principles. We we thought we knew that we were talking about the actions of an individual person. Yet if Graham’s thesis is right, if it is true that relations are generative of higher level objects, we can no longer be quite sure. This entity composed of Levi+Computer is one entity. Levi apart from the computer is another entity. Levi with a gun or a knife is yet another entity. A couple is yet another entity. A girl and her dog or hawk is yet another entity.
I'm going to put on the Derby Bowler, the aluminum tab neckpiece, my long ceremonial coat and read a poem on the street, Spirit Stick in hand, as I offer a Soltice poem--a Soltice gift for PoemTree. Don't forget, as half the planet turns toward light, half is turning toward dark. Remember to include them both, light and dark, north and south--the Solstice is twofold, a twofold gift of life and sleep.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
For Emily's 180th birthday, copy one of your favorite of her poems and tie it to a tree near where you live. Take a picture and post it on FaceBook.
Here's the poem I tied to PoemTree on Passyunk
Behind Me - dips Eternity -
Before Me - Immortality -
Myself - the Term between
Death but the Drift of Eastern Gray,
Dissolving into Dawn away,
Before the West begin -
'Tis Kingdoms - afterward - they say -
In perfect - pauseless Monarchy -
Whose Prince - is Son of None -
Himself - His Dateless Dynasty -
Himself - Himself diversity -
In Duplicate divine -
'Tis Miracle before Me - then -
'Tis Miracle behind - between -
A Crescent in the Sea -
With Midnight to the North of Her -
And Midnight to the South of Her -
And Maelstrom - in the Sky -
Monday, December 6, 2010
Frances Madeson, Cooperative Village
There is a thread, dark skirting on despair, underlying the humor of this wonderfully disturbing book. The word 'hysterical' comes to mind, cropping up in all its several semantic fields. The Frances of the narrative is driven by a desperation so acute that seeing a corpse through an entire wash-and-dry cycle in the cooperative Laundromat passes for a rational response to life in the Village: life conditioned by a level of obligatory artifice suffocatingly upbeat and right-minded--a thoroughly dehumanized 'liberalism.'
This is a deeply political book, but it's a politics that engages the disembodied cultures of what Joe Bageant has called the American Hologram, and cuts across the anachronistic distinctions of left and right, liberal conservative, progressive reactionary, an urban parallel to the literature of deconstructed suburbia, or perhaps, what happens when that same suburban misappropriation of the pursuit of happiness invades, infects and perverts the city with what is euphemistically termed, ‘gentrification:’ the construction of sterile islands, pale ghosts of the gated communities to which the real masters have retreated, suspended above the soil of earthly existence and embodied human life and community by threads, cables chains and shackles of convention everyone agrees to pretend are invisible.
Cooperative Village is an account of how Frances, by every choice she makes, conscious or unconscious, goes about cutting her way out of the web. How perfectly appropriate, that in the end—in the view from the web… she vanishes from existence… or non-existence. This reader wishes her well, that beyond the automatic gates and doors of the Cooperative Village—she may find there is still the possibility of real life on this good earth.