Fictional Fuels

Dichotomies can sometimes delight.

Gass's essays rarely pursue a single line of thought, and they offer not a progression of ideas so much as an experience, all feints and nuance, and with the argument itself vanishing within the sportive accretions of his prose. But then that play of mind is itself the argument, and where the theorist believes that language can cripple, the novelist knows that it may set you free.
This is Michael Gorra in an introduction to On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry. Strange that he marshals an opposition such as novelist to theorist to account for the generative power as a struggle against restraint. Funny, I mark Gass as working under the sign of Copia. Whatever the case may be, Gorra's words spur us on to read Gass.

And so for day 1679
19.07.2011

Lists and Syntax

There is a sequence of three words captured in one line in a poem ("July") by George Miller that are evocative all on their own

mud growth sanctuary
In recollection they seem to irrupt but in context they flow from a description of a forest
O heat trees silence lush
mud growth sacntuary
Their position at the end of a two line stanza makes them dangle in the imagination; a question arises at to just how mud leads to growth and how that provides sanctuary. There is here an enigma. The mystery of how linkages are forged is expressed in a poem ("The World as Language") later in the collection (Sancho). Miller writes
Each thing a word awaiting syntax
There the "elastic Listener" is likened to the Divine. But I like to shift to an ecstatic reader who completes the process initiated by the elastic listener whereby
And words not things
but meshings of relation
patterns of concern
mud growth sanctuary: meshings patterns concerns

And so for day 1678
18.07.2011

The Hand Knows.

Paul Bertolli from introduction to Cooking by Hand

Any good cook knows how to dose salt in the right proportion to food by the way it feels in the hand. Take that dose, put it into a measuring spoon, and it may come up fractionally short or overfill the brim. When a cook creates a recipe to fit standard weights and measures, the measures themselves creep in to exert control over the cook's better instincts. Precision is lost.

[…]

Following a recipe does not absolve the cook from cooking.
And he makes much of the necessity to observe the time of ripeness.

And so for day 1677
17.07.2011

On David and Florence

History turning to an account of reading for pathos. A statue becomes emblematic of the city.

Those who are more astute, of course, brave the long lines outside the Accademia in order to see David in his authentic and inimitable glory. Living as he does now in a tribune, one might expect him to have taken on an expression of arrogance, yet in fact — and despite the change of circumstance — his look of vulnerability seems only to have intensified over the years. Perhaps this is due to old age, a lingering ache in his left arm, or in the second toe of his left foot, which a vandal broke in 1991. To invent such a motive, I know, is to assume that the statue has an identity distinct from that of the Biblical figure it represents, or even the marble from which it was hewn; indeed, it is to assume that the statue has a consciousness. And what might such a consciousness — at once freighted and fragile — possibly resemble? What kind of memory would stone possess? We can only imagine.
For some readers, this stands as a surrogate for the Anglo-Florentine colony that is the subject of David Leavitt Florence, A Delicate Case. But we are not sure.

And so for day 1676
16.07.2011

Mycelial Meditations

Harryette Mullen. Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary.

Usually small detached pieces succeed each other without connection but these three aptly for small poems about fungi are thematically connected like strands of mycelium.

Paramedics check vital signs as
emergency-room doctors prepare for
the arrival of amateur mycologists.

Often they are immigrants, who've gathered,
cooked, and eaten toxic death-caps resembling
tasty wild mushrooms of their native land.

Within a small family of survivors
the cost of a grandparent's funeral
is divided between two credit cards.
And so for day 1675
15.07.2011

Twisting Branching Trail or Escape

Carl Phillips. Reconnaissance

A tree is being mapped here under the auspices of the "maple".

skies beneath which the leaves spiraled like what
looked like forever, mapling even the steeper

shafts in memory, parts the light all but missed,
"Enough, Tom Fool, Now Sleep"

And this breathless seeping of syntax
the folded black-and-copper
wings of history begin their deep unfolding, the bird itself,
shuddering, lifts up into the half-wind that comes after—
higher—soon desire will resemble most that smaller thing,
late affection, then the memory of it; and then nothing at all.
"Steeple"

Reconnoitre : early 18th cent.: from obsolete French reconno├«tre, from Latin recognoscere ‘know again’

And so for day 1674
14.07.2011

Reading the Body Language of Listening

"To Listen" with Phil Hall from The Little Seamstress

 To listen—they lean forward—kids do
when you read to them—they list
 they know how to listen
The dictionary invites us to compare the verb "to list" with the verb "to heel"; both nautical terms both expressing inclination but from different reasons.

And so for day 1673
13.07.2011

The Verge of Absurdity

When mechanics meet dialectics, it's hard to tell who or what is screwed and who or what is screwing. Our vulgarity is in keeping with our source text.

How hypocritical to go upstairs with a an you don't want to fuck, leave the one you do sitting there alone, and then, in a state of great excitement, fuck the one you don't want to fuck while pretending he's the one you do. That's called fidelity. That's called civilization and its discontents.
And pages and pages later, we learn that the relation between mind and body is more complex than simple inversion of do and don't.
Some tall thin poets write short fat poems. But it's not a simple matter of the law of inversion. In a sense, every poem is an attempt to extend the boundaries of one's body. One's body becomes the landscape, the sky, and finally the cosmos. Perhaps that's why I often find myself writing in the nude.
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong who leads us to muse about the metaerotics of wearing a silk dressing gown and using a fountain pen.

And so for day 1672
12.07.2011

Long Live Velcro

Casual? Inconsequential?

Three bold explorations sexual encounters are worth revisiting.

Midi Onodera TEN CENTS A DANCE (PARALLAX) (1985)

"Also, the scenes as they are cut together form a progression. The first scene is the negotiation. The second scene is the sex act The third scene is an abstracted version of the sex act Three different levels of communication. So you see, in that light, it would have been totally illogical for me to start by having the two women in bed, proceed to two men in bed and to end with a man and woman in bed."
The Body Politic (interview) March 1986

"Confusion, underlying meaning and unspoken truths are often associated with the dialectic of sexual communication. Mingled with the intensity and unpredictability of a “one night stand,” they generate unique sensations – mixed emotion, risk, and excitement. The film employs formal devices in a manner that is exceedingly simple, yet very effective. Its subject matter, sexuality and communication, gains depth and poignancy through the artist’s decision to shoot the film’s three scenes for projection in a “double screen” configuration. By this means, Onodera finds an elegant solution to dealing with the potentially sensationalist subject matter of her film. The separation which the two screen projection imposes on the film’s viewing is the touching evocation of the aloneness which is the common experience of all humans and of the space between us we hope to bridge."
http://midionodera.com/1985/ten-cents-a-dance-parallax/

if you are lost… this synopsis by davisprof from 2004 on imdb helps you picture the content and the form: "Ten Cents a Dance (from a Rogers & Hart song sung by a dancer/prostitute) explores three sexual interactions in three ten-minute segments. In the first a lesbian and bisexual woman discuss the possibility of sex over dinner at a Japanese restaurant. In the second two gay men have (simulated, PG-rated) sex in a public toilet. In the final segment a man calls a sex phone line and gets off. His female phone partner talks dirty but actually ignores him, painting her nails and lying about her appearance. These somewhat cynical accounts are very funny in presenting the ranges of failed love. They are also photographed spectacularly. The subtitle Parallax refers to the shift in image when cameras look from two slight different directions. Each of the three segments is a single take without cuts, filmed by two cameras, not quite on the same sight line. These slightly off images are then projected together on a split screen. The chaste image contrasts beautifully with the varying degrees of lust portrayed in the scenes. A beautiful, hilarious, and finally thought-provoking film."
Bette Gordon Variety (1983)

"Recent film writing and theory have suggested that the basic condition of cinema is voyeurism — an exchange of seeing and being seen — so that the cinema manages to be both exhibitionist and secretive. These active and passive components of voyeurism, which are part of the cinema in general, are the focus of Variety. [… the protagonist, Christine, works in a ticket booth to a porno theatre …] We never see the pornographic movies; we hear only Christine's description. […]There is no representation of Christine having sex in the film. She has sex by speaking it and by voyeuristically following the patron. She describes what she sees on the screen at first, but goes on to describe what she wants to see, constructed from her own desire. ("Variety: The Pleasure in Looking" in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality)
Erica Jong Described in the novel Fear of Flying (1973)

"The zipless fuck is absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no power game."

If you stay with the protagonist and her adventures, you come to believe that the Zipless Fuck is a Kantian notion subject to the many distorting effects of empirical conditions. Of course every good discussion has a sequel: How to Save Your Own Life.


And so for day 1671
11.07.2011

Guilt and Self-Touching

Kate Millet "Beyond Politics? Children and Sexuality" in Pleasure and Danger edited by Carole Vance [1982]

If we did not have the great power of autoeroticism, we would never come to any conclusions, form any tastes, or find many sources of energy, not only erotic but creative — the self, the psyche, or the mind as it reaches out to the world in works, ideas, or things made by the hands in art or craft. But all too often autoeroticism goes under the nasty name of masturbation in the patriarchal family. Thus named, masturbation is practiced for the rest of a lifetime in secret guilt and shame, or is "rehabilitated" by those providing therapy.
Questions of shame aside, when I hear the word of "masturbation" the focus is genital and when I hear the word "autoeroticism" the image is of any part of the body in contact with other parts of the body; it's an expansive notion.

And so for day 1670
10.07.2011