elizabeth lane lawley
michael "OC" clarke
e v h e a d
sweet fancy moses
wood s lot
m. melting object
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
"scurrilous, abusive, and seditious"
blogging & the art of reading bookstores
This is a piece about a thing I do, always by myself, usually at night but not always, that does not (primarily) involve my penis. I call it "reading bookstores." This practice, which I practice to a degree that will never be experienced by most -- their nanoscopic attention spans, like yours, would make it unbearable, whereas I find it great fun -- is difficult to describe; a difficulty made more difficult by the gratuitous insertion of irrelevant abuse. But as you will see, or perhaps won't, this abuse is neither gratuitous nor irrelevant. It is abuse you richly deserve for being too busy or bored, or quite possibly stupid, to read the Ziggy Bauman quotes in the immediately preceding post. Only Susan Banga [hi Thora, hi Paul] EGR's official London correspondent -- so named because she corresponds -- not that Gary Turner and Brian Millar and Euan Semple, for instance, do not, but they don't send great whacking chunks of germane quotations, as our Susie
does -- and oh yes, the infamous Don [his site might be more current if I weren't soaking up so much of his time with my apparently pointless self-absorbtion] said "good stuff from Zygmunt," words to that effect -- and oh finally Beat Waydown, but all he sent
was a pic of some x-random wine-swilling wench he taunts me to stay away
from; no worries, Beat, long as I've got Swan; check the blogroll, baby -- were moved to say anything at all about these (to me) fairly amazing statements by Herr Doktor Bauman. Amazing because they correspond (that word again) to psychological perspectives on narcissism -- a topic on which I've been ranting and hinting and trying to explain (to myself if not to you; it's obvious you don't give a shit about personality disorders, which is why I fucking hate you all; drop dead you fucking motherfuckers) for well over a year now -- that is, when the whole subject of narcissistic vampire artists-in-their-own-minds doesn't throw me back into a major depressive relapse -- where was I? -- oh yes, and my man Zygmunt accomplishes this correspondence (as it were) without using any psychological, or even sociological for that matter, jargon. Perfectly readable, fucking profound. But did you read it? Of course not. Because you are lazy and stupid and mean. Next week we'll be discussing borderline personality disorder (BPD to its pals). Until then, you can all blow me.
I don't care. I'll be thumbing through my well-worn copy of the BPD Bible I Hate You, Don't Read Me: Understanding the Bloggerline Personality
With that necessary preamble out of the way, I will now describe a typical session of "reading bookstores," the one this evening lasting some three-odd hours in which I was unable to leave the Boulder Barnes & Noble somewhat in the manner of the people who become trapped by some faux-crypto-mystical force in a church in Buñuel's (to my mind) masterpiece, Exterminating Angel. This is important. Every bit of The Intertext (the initial caps are warranted in this special case) being connected to every other. And without that connection, no culture; without culture, no meaning; without meaning, sdfojwef owin erfin woefin oweirf. See my point? No, of course not. But let's move on.
I began this evening's aisle-crawl in the American History section. As I do not give a rat's ass for American History, or really any other kind -- unless it includes something else besides the deadly boring academic historical historiography of history -- this is an aisle I've neglected for too long, I'm thinking. And the book I came across was the one you see pictured above, which is to say: The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Its colorful cover attracted me as it might a jackdaw. And ideology, hmmmm. Shades of Terry Eagleton. So maybe a Marxist take... but no, the guy's at Harvard. I open up Ideological Origins, find out it was first published in 1967, when the Beatles were singing...
it's getting hard to be someone
it doesn't matter much to me
...then I flip to chapter one, The Literature of Revolution, the upshot of which seems to be that the American revolutionaries sure wrote a whole lot of shit in the year or so preceding the getting out of the guns and the roustulous ousting of King George, the Boy George of his day. Of course the author, being a Harvard historian and all, didn't put it quite that way. But he said something that immediately snared my full and rapt attention...
"The pamphlet [George Orwell, a modern pamphleteer, has written] is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one choses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious, and 'highbrow' than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals. At the same time, since the pamphlet is always short and unbound, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle, at any rate, can reach a bigger public. Above all, the pamphlet does not have to follow any prescribed pattern. It can be in prose or in verse, it can consist largely of maps or statistics or quotations, it can take the form of a story, a fable, a letter, an essay, a dialogue, or a piece of 'reportage.' All that is required of it is that is shall be topical, polemical, and short."
Now, if that doesn't sound like a blog, then fuck me dead. btw, with respect to pamphlets being "short," on the next page, he says short = 5,000-25,000 words; ye sluggards! Those brawny revolutionary lads weren't whining about, gee, well I was gonna read it, and I did bookmark it, and I saved it to print out later, but then the British soldiers came and were raping my wife so you know I had to put it off. No. They were reading and shooting at the same time. Even the wife was reading while she was getting done by the bloody Brit what was having the time of his life until her husband reached the end of a particularly gripping paragraph and shot the bastard, the wife relieved that she could now turn the page, but also a little irked that he couldn't have waited another couple minutes with the musket. Our forefathers and foremothers wrote and read their asses off. Are you kidding? They couldn't get enough. They would have given a left nut or a right ovary for something like the Internet. Even a s-l-o-w low-bandwidth job, the way it was back in the olden days when RageBoy® had to type by candle light and upload at 14.4, if he was lucky. So just fuck all you cybernewbie crybabies, OK? There's too much text? Yeah? Suck it up! No pain, no brain.
But that wasn't really where I meant to go, as usual. I was truly arrested by Orwell's description of pamphleteering. And look! There was a footnote! I asked one of the Barnes & Noble clerks if it might pretty please be possible to photocopy the two pages this note spanned. But she said oh no that's against the law. We can't do that. And I was too lazy to walk the 35 feet to my car and grab my bag with the 16 waycool colored pens and the even waycooler notebook whose every page is printed in a different color. Before I did acid, everyone was saying WOW, you won't believe the colors! And I was like, what? Red, green, blue, yellow. Big fucking deal. What were they on about? Then I dropped.
WOW, I couldn't believe the colors!
And what does that have to do with anything, you ask? Remember where it said up above there somewhere that each bit is a fractal in a bigger fractal? No? I guess that's because I didn't say it that way. It was the bit about The Intertext and how everything is connected to everything else. It's no mystery. But it is. Go figure. I dunno. Just leave me alone, OK?
Yes, well, we have different notions of the law on the wild and wooly world wide web. And Amazon blows the doors off Barnes & Noble when it comes to your fundamental youth-wants-to-know access. Freedom, baby. Information wants to be copied! You see this symbol?
That means we have the right to copy anything we damn well please. That's why all those boys from Boston and Vermont and shit, guess even Washington fought Boy George to the finish. So we could have screen grabbers today. It's right in the goddam Constitution. Look it up. But these fucking publishers with their 3pt typefaces. It's another of their pack of tricks to prevent fair use. Anyway -- I guess I keep digressing, don't I? -- the point is that it's pretty hard to read that third footnote on the second page, as shown above. So I was forced to revert to an older form of plagiarism, to wit: tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard for your viewing pleasure. Here's what it says, referring to that paragraph I left lying around up there someplace...
George Orwell, "Introduction," in George Orwell and Reginald Reynolds, eds., British Pamphleteers, (London, 1948-1951), I, 15. Orwell's spirited introductory essay was sparked by his belief that in twentieth-century society the press does not adequately represent all shades of opinion. "At any given moment there is a sort of all-prevailing orthodoxy, a general agreement not to discuss some large and uncomfortable fact." He looked back to the days of vigorous, highly individualistic pamphleteering with nostalgia, and hoped that people "would once again become aware of the possibilities of the pamphlet as a method of influencing opinion, and as a literary form."
Again, think blogging. Christ, why do I have to point these things out? It practically jumps up off the page and smacks you! And of course in BlogDom we have no orthodoxy or any tacit conspiratorial-like agreement not to write about any uncomfortable facts. That's because we're free, right? Because of all that blood and gore and bayonets and canon balls that'd rip your legs off, Jim. Because we are carrying on the great legacy of freedom bestowed upon us by a bunch of murderous ancestors who were basically highly literate barbarians. What could be cooler than that? Doesn't it just make you quiver in your cube? Doesn't it send a civilized shiver through your inner rube?
Of course the Amazon stuff came later, after I got home -- ah home! I've got two more weeks here before the sheriffs come with the dogs and the tear gas to kick me out so I can blog about homelessness I guess; that'll be amusing. In the store, I could read the footnote just fine. So I was like, hmmmm... I wonder if I could find this introduction Orwell wrote for the British Pamphleteering tome or tomes (seems there are two volumes) somewhere in this very Barnes & Noble. Surely they're not going to have books that obscure and aged, but maybe the intro is lurking about here someplace. About two years ago I know this store had a very cool matched set of Orwelliana, all the essays, as I recall, and he wrote a fuckload of the things. I cross the store, first to the Fiction section -- nothing doing -- then to the Essays & Highbrow Literary Criticism section... and naturally, those books are long gone. But here, let me see if I can scare it up for you. It was an extremely seductive set. Hold on a sec..
I left the covers big because their design is so beautiful. And the colors, my god! But focus now, focus, don't get lost in aesthetics or all is lost! Be strong. Get a grip. Ah, whew, close one, but better now, thanks. And while we're getting refocused here, who could forget Hitchens, who weighs in on every goddam thing it seems, so why not on...
But then, whoa, hold the phone. Though the cover says otherwise, this one is listed at Amazon as The Betrayal Of Dissent: Beyond Orwell, Hitchens and the New American Century. The cover copy says: "In this controversial book, Scott Lucas argues that the exaltation of Orwell, far from upholding dissent against the State, has sought to quash such opposition. Indeed, Orwell has become the icon of those who try to silence public criticism of US and UK foreign policy in the 'War on Terror'."
So oh fuck, what now? But wait, this wasn't about Orwell anyway, or Hitchens' breathtaking glissando to the Right. See? You can get totally lost in the links to links to links, which phenomenon (and it is one) constitutes one of the main ingredients of reading bookstores. Reset. Think. Oh right, we were tracking the secret history (the lipstick traces, if you will) of pamphleteering. And since it's now the middle of the freaking night with dawn reaching out her rosy fingers to conjure morning from all this dam'ned darkness, and time for another cup of coffee, certainly, perhaps some early meds to balance the tightroper tricks and tracks and memorious switchbacks (a loved a long the riverrun) why not (by
a commodius vicus of recirculation) return to our subject with The Marketplace of Print: Pamphlets and the Public Sphere in Early Modern England...
The bubble pops. Pop! Through the hypercontrafactual lens of temporal instability, I am now back in the store last night, and all this tripping through The Intertext has gotten me where? To the Essays & Highbrow Literary Criticism section. Remember? Where there are indeed several volumes of Orwell essays, one very fat Everyman's Library edition, with a fat price tag to match -- putting it rather well out of reach of our fictive Everyman.
...but nothing about pamphlets. The last piece in this literary doorstop, however, does concern Ezra Pound winning the very first Bollingen poetry award, which was more than a little controversial in light of Pound's fascism and anti-semitism. Orwell rips him a new one, though it's done with finesse and restraint I can't begin imagine in myself. What interests me though, is that the Bollingen Foundation also published the complete works of Carl Jung, who had a not-so-minor brush with the more rabid variety of fascismo practiced at the northerly end of the Axis. Carl Gustav, ah good old wise old Carl, who coined the phrase "new age," as I learned from his most recent biographer. I bet you didn't know that. Some people will no doubt think this obscure little factoid is meet and neat and just dandy. You can guess what I think.
So I gave up on Orwell, at least in the store -- you can see the fascination with his pamphleteering screed has continued long into the night and the new day just breaking -- but this is now, and that was then. There was no further thread I could tease to make the thing appear, and even later online, British Pamphleteers has been a right bitch to dredge up. "1 Used & New from �65.00." Ouch. So I quit. I threw in the sponge. I considered the possibility that I was being obsessive, compulsive, acting not altogether um well. But that wasn't the end of the bookstore read; hardly. I was just getting started. For right butt-up-against the Orwell stuff was this odd little book called Hatchet Jobs: Cutting Through Contemporary Literature
by one Dale Peck, of whom I'd never heard nothin. No surprise there. But I don't usually mess with books that have Contemporary Literature in their titles -- I'm counting carbs -- yet something made me pick this off the shelf. Perhaps, again, it was the compelling jacket visual. I opened to an essay called "To P. or Not to P. - Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace." Now it happens that I have this book around here somewhere, the one by DFW that is, and though I've never read word one of the thing, I've read fair bit about it. What I picked up from the Amazon reader comments (this was three or four years ago) was that people didn't know what to make of it, but were cagey about saying so. It seemed it was uncool not to like it, or to say huh WTF? No such reticence plagues Dale Peck, as I was soon to find out. If Orwell seemed over-restrained in castigating Ezra Pound, what a delightful difference was here. What a cannonade of vituperative brain-shagging! As it were. I found myself chuckling a bit. Then laughing. Then outright guffawing and snorking and generally behaving in a manner unbecoming a customer. Consider...
"What makes the book's success even more noteworthy [than it's enormous size, astounding number of copies sold, etc.] is that it is, in a word, terrible. Other words I might use included bloated, boring, gratuitous, and -- perhaps especially -- uncontrolled. I would, in fact, go so far as to say that Infinite Jest is one of the very few novels for which the phrase "not worth the paper it's printed on" has real meaning in at least an ecological sense; but to resort to such hyperbole would be to fall into the rut that characterizes many reviews of this novel. It seemed to me as I read through Infinite Jest's press jacket that most of these reviewers didn't merely want to like the novel, they wanted to write like it. I think, if I'm not mistaken, that the psychological term for this condition is mass hysteria.
As the preceding paragraph should make clear, I found Infinite Jest immensely unsatisfactory, which is a polite way of saying that I hated it."
Of course it goes on, and of course it gets much less polite. It is in short, a hatchet job. Oh my, poor David Foster Wallace. Teach the fucker to have three names. But see, that's my style, because I would never read such a book (don't ask me why I bought it; don't ask me why I bought any of them; I never ever read books). Dale Peck reads the books, seems to know what he's talking about (how would I know?), and best of all, rips the living shit out of everything he touches. Far fucking out! I knew immediately that I needed to buy this book.
But then a trickle of sanity lit up some underdeveloped -- or perhaps atrophied -- portion of my biblio oblongata where dim echoes of Freud's obsolete reality principle bounce around, and I put it back on the shelf. What am I thinking? I thought. This is a book of bona fide literary criticism with blurbs from the likes of Susan Sontag on the back, working Virginia Wolfe into the mix, no less. Out of my weight class. Shit, I never even read Emma or Jayne Air or Withering High (about a school in the midwest, I think, where all the guys are all impotent and the girls therefore turbo-libidinoid). So yeah, I put it back.
I am now totally fried, as is my wont in writing these goddam things, as it's 7:20am and I haven't slept a fucking wink. So I'm going to have to shorten the rest of this a bit, if I can. But it's a long story. Let's see... somehow I kept coming across references (in something else I was not-reading; I forget) to this guy Robert D. Hare, who evidently wrote a "popular" book about antisocial personality disorder. And the reason this interests me, if at all, is that APD's one step "above" pathological narcissists in the hierarchy of personality disorders. And yes, Virginia, there does seem be one. Borderlines are at the very bottom. But this is not as bad as it sounds, I guess, in a way, because wherever I ever so gingerly skimmed this, and damn, I wish I could remember now, it said that borderlines were the only PDs really capable of two things: humor and empathy. Two pretty important things, I'd say. Not such bad trade for being otherwise full-tilt off your fucking rocker. Oh yeah, and the other word for antisocial -- the one, if you recall, one baby-step away from those charming narcissists -- is psychopath. As in Ted Bundy, who'd kill you just to see you die.
I'd taken a look at this book a couple days ago -- I remembered that Barnes & Noble had it, as I've memorized the Psychology section, including all the New Age trash that's infiltrated it; many new books popping up there lately about the spiritual aspects of healing and the religious dimensions of the afterlife. And of course, lots and lots of Bollingen editions of Carl Jung. So I'm a little wary of the "popular" titles, especially one as blatantly sensational as Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Holy crap. But I read a bit of it in the store, and it seemed OK. And really quite refreshing -- simple mayhem -- after all the out-the-angels-come horseshit. Then a weird thought occurred to me. Oh my, it was so funny. I thought: I must buy these two books together just to see the look on the face of the check-out counter clerk. Here, see what it does for you...
Well, we're almost done now, and I was almost finished with my deep reading of Barnes & Noble. But on the way to pay for my purchases with a credit card some minor bank mistakenly gave me, I saw that there was one more thing I needed to do. Here was this extremely interesting looking book about Lenny Bruce, with an audio CD and everything. And on the shelf directly below it, many heartwarming tomes about the Bush family and their profound respect for life and all-around wholesomeness. It occurred to me that Lenny and George -- oh my god, it's Of Mice and Men! -- would benefit (especially George, as Lenny OD'd a long time ago) from a closer association. So I rearranged them, you know, like boy girl boy girl...
And then it was finally time to go home and take my medications. And now it's time to take them again. But I don't mind so much anymore. Depression isn't really that bad (except when it really is), and there are lots of good hobbies a person can have. Like take books for example.
10:28 AM | link |
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"RageBoy: Giving being fucking nuts a good name since 1985."
28 October 2004
||More of Chris Locke's photos
Until a minute ago, I had no photos. I still have no photos to speak of.
I don't even have a camera. But all these people were linking to "my photos."
It was embarassing. It's still embarassing. But I'm used to that.
what I'm listening to...
egr on topica
on yahoo groups
terms of service
It is too late.