Union of Intersections

Robert Scholes's opening sentence to "Afterthoughts on Narrative" from Critical Inquiry autumn 1980 is worth working through again on a May Day and any day:

Narrative is a place where sequence and language, among other things intersect to form a discursive code.

Narrative has other purposes. One of them being the generation of noise. Another the inducement of forgetting.

Narrative is sometimes taken to be story, sometimes plot. The term slips between the telling and the told. It is with precision that one arrives at thinking about narrative as being about placement and narration about placing.

And so for day 138

Triplets and Beyond

Such good prose! Susan Stewart from the first chapter of On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection draws the reader in to a debunking of authenticity and speech:

The utilitarian vision of an ordinary language perfectly mapped upon the material needs of the everyday is a vision of language before the Fall: speaking from the heart or from nature as the vox populi is mythically able to do. Thus the folk are seen to rise in one voice because of their lack of consciousness of difference. Such theories of language can be placed amid other Western cults of the primitive: the celebration of madness in romanticism and modernism, the cult of the child, the cult of the pastoral — cults that have never been held by the mad, the child, or the folk themselves.

Not once in that whole passage does she say that words are never ever adequate. It is not an indictment against language but against fools.

And so for day 137

Necessary Luck

The Ottawa Citizen reprinted (Saturday, January 21, 1989) an essay "Our clever but shallow 3-minute culture" by Michael Ignatieff which had previously appeared in the British newspaper The Independent. The introduction pits depth against randomness:

With great insight and originality, Canadian-born journalist and author Michael Ignatieff describes and decries a society that has replaced depth and narrative with cleverness and randomness.

I have encountered elsewhere the trope of tension between narrative in opposition to the workings of chance. There (in an article by Marie-Laure Ryan) I was struck by the invocation of coherence. Here there is a hint that some of us use narrative for purposes other than those described by Ignatieff:

Right across the media, we have replaced narrative with flow, connection with disconnection, sequence with randomness. The cost is to our memory. Narrative is a mnemonic device: stories help us to remember meanings through time. When narrative goes, amnesia begins.

Narrative has other purposes. One of them being the generation of noise. Another the inducement of forgetting.

And so for day 136

Producing Transformations

From a photocopy of a work by Eli Zaretsky the catchword in the formwork reads "Capitalism and Personal Life" [could be a chapter or a running head for the title of a whole book] and the page number is "63". I quote here leaving out a bit from the middle:

In the United States the split between the traditions of personal liberation and of social transformation began to occur in the early twentieth century. The rise of corporate capitalism led to the emergence of forms of personal life that were seen as independent of the mode of productions. The split was accelerated by the domination of the American left by the Soviet Union and the emergence of a model of socialism based simply on the planned expansion of goods production. [...] The development of corporate capitalism in the United States, where the overwhelming majority of the population depends on wages in order to survive, entails the development of a separate personal life. This in turn sets new tasks for a socialist movement — tasks that the Communist Party barely began to address, and that have only recently begun to take political form.

Now to quilt and restore the elided section:

Currents based upon the new sphere of personal life such as psychoanalysis and bohemia tended to play down or ignore the importance of the economy. For this reason the Communist movement has downgraded these currents as "petit-bourgeois" or "middle class." But the idea that personal life could be transformed directly through the transformation of production had its major relevance in pre-industrial societies like Russia and China where the family as a whole was still a unit of commodity production.

Immediately mediated. A recapturing of personal time is the ecological idea that may reform the relations of production in the twenty-first century.

And so for day 135

A Taste for Algebra

From a file folder from the early 1990s a typescript of a single paragraph with heading:

Identity & Dichotomy

Has it ever struck you that when one colour associated with X is taken up by Y, it means something Z? How and when characteristics cross-over from one character to another as a narrative unfolds depends upon the play of identity formation. Both the cross-overs and the identity formation are shaped by the logical type of dichotomy from which they arise. Contradictory dichotomies (A/not-A) give rise to identities dependent upon the demarcation of space. They do not permit flexible appropriation/alienation of characteristics. Contrary dichotomies (A/B) offer more fluid boundaries and result in stories that accentuate temporal factors. Such considerations are valuable for not only examining the arch-Canadian theme of the two solitudes but also the social construction of gender.

Evident influence of the classic article by Nancy Jay "Gender and Dichotomy". A certain sensitivity to initial conditions. In rereading the scheme all these years later I am struck by the order: space first; time second. And in a very unAristotlean fashion I wonder what lies between contradictions and contraries. How does the passage from space dominance to time happen? A hint may be there in reading the slash of suture and the double movement of appropriation and alienation.

A gesture of child's play comes to mind: drawing a line with the index; drawing a stave with a rake of fingers.

And so for day 134

Feather Tales


care for the rage

attention to the tread

straying into the wagging

courage tales where

felines collect a surfeit of tongues

from eager children wanting to know

how to co-replicate the rooster’s many sounds

including dirt scratching

across the glee of languages

And so for day 133


courage at the edge of a mouth

with pluck

an elusive inwardness behind the glowing screen which has a drawing power similar to a husky or sultry voice

surmised Stephanie Strickland in a talk given in 1997 about work in electronic space and "the book come to resemble an album". Album in the sense of packaging plus vinyl. Album in the sense of scrapbook of images and words, a commonplace treasure hoard. Objects to be pored over and bases from which to performance launch. air guitar or memory work. Space of liner notes. Noted space.

mixed mongrel courage "like riding melodies through silence" assured that haunted by the memory any extra letters, any different voicings of the same grapheme will achieve the mutter that matters

And so for day 132


It’s about tumbling, tuck and roll. Dawdling actually, duck walking. A hugging of the ground downhill like a log on the loose. A piercing view of the sky from hanging upside down from a limb. And the spinning and the jumping and the skipping.

Twirling through positions like an everyday glass of water giving the voice a drenching. Refreshing vision with the panting of joy.

No teetotum take all. Never quenching run singing into flight.

Soar into childfest simplicity. Roar. Worm wiggle giggle.

And so for day 131


Tinder tender.

Warren Tallman essaying on Creeley

For if muttering is a way of counting, counting is a way of telling [...] In the heat of the telling there is an expansion of the voice and that expansion leads to discovery so that more enters into voicing than was either in the telling or the things told.

Exit is a noun that exists.

And so for day 130



first word in column three of page 7 of The Globe and Mail of Monday September 7, 1973 in an article with a Marshall McLuhan by-line entitled "Understanding McLuhan -- and fie on any who don't"

cut lure



Compositor’s revenge?
Proofreader's slight?

And so for day 129


H.D. in The Wise Sappho mentions the "tortured and torturing sea". A befitting description of any writing encounter with language where the voice becomes shaped like driftwood that snags upon the mind.

And so for day 128

Yes to "No" when there is no "Yes"

In Frogs into Princes: neurolinguistic programming TM Richard Bandler and John Grinder suggest that in certain practices a minimum of three options are necessary to operate out of choice. It is suggested that operating with only one way is robot like. Operating with two creates a dilemma. Three is the minimum for genuine choice.

Going meta: the choice to create options is sometimes a simple decision of counting to one and not beyond. Exercising choice is not simply reacting to an expansion of options. Controling the selection is not the same as selecting.

And so for day 127


Georges Hugnet and Virgil Thomson find a fine way to translate a line from the portrait of Bernard Fay by Gertrude Stein.

An article is a and an and the.

is rendered

Un article est un et une et le.

Parsing is a Paris fashion. And syntax has its reversals.

Le, la, sont et l’est un article.

and further back translation

The the are and a is an article.

Thomson and Hugnet help show the sides of “is”.

And by some metamorphic shift we spot Donne poetizing on the mingled bloods in the body of the flea. Yoko Ono Fly.

And so for day 126

To Verb

Hovering over lines from Rene Ricard from in an INANOUT Press publication patching over a passel of bad dreams with a phrase aptly broken

Every night. At the age of


I learned how to fly.

and pasting in the title here ++ what every young sissy knows about dreams ++

getting the noun phrase verbed: what does the dreaming is what every young sissy knows

such magic in numbers!

And so for day 125


A longish ramble from a journal entry dated July 26/05

I had been wanting to use a quotation from the preface to Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul but completion of the book and careful re-reading of the sentence have led me to problematize what he endorses in such heart felt fashion. I am quoting from memory. "Metamorphosis requires our artful participation." It is the possessive pronoun "our" that makes it unravel for me. I was quite willing to entertain an analogy between multimedia and metamorphosis — at least of a psychological variety. "Artful participation" seemed a roomy concept able to accommodate modes of physical interaction and cognitive processing — in the manner of a constructivist intentionality. The passive [sic] pronoun tripped me up but alerted me to the vital question of whose metamorphosis. There is a thematics of ownership coupled to this celebration of agency. In very lively ways quite beyond copyright or intellectual property regimes issues of ownership crop up in the context of agency. A peculiar perhaps notion of ownership becomes accessible to theorizing. That which is owned is that which is in my control for a while. Aside: my copy of Edmund Gosse's Aspects and Impressions is printed in such a fashion that the individual essays may be excised. That is they may be removed without affecting the integrity of the remaining essays because the printing does not have the next essay beginning on the verso page of the previous. The age of photocopiers has introduced a different book design practice. Who cares if a piece from before or after gets caught in a reproduction?

I like that turn of phrase "completion of the book" for reading end to end. And very much, the telling substitution of "passive" for "possessive". And the aside brings home the point about reproduction and acquisition in an oblique meditation on white space.

And so for day 124


Tony Peake in the biography of Derek Jarman on the filming of The Tempest

The lighting was kept as low as possible, the camera as static, so that not only would the action seem to emerge, dreamlike, from the shadows, it would also unfold within each shot 'as within a proscenium arch'.

I am struck by the progression of from film through dream to theatre.

And so for day 123

More on Diversity and Moral Character

Norman Brosterman in Inventing Kindergarten

No two days in the kindergarten week were exactly the same. Gifts and occupations changed, music and games were varied, nature walks and gardening were included, and daily themes rotated — unity in diversity was the basis of Froebel's system.

The intended result of this all-encompassing instruction was the creation of a sensitive, inquisitive child with an uninhibited curiosity and genuine respect for nature, family, and society; a reasoning and creative child who would later have few problems learning the three Rs or anything else, while gracefully incorporating all manner of diverse knowledge and experience into a unified and supply life. Equivalence and balance were kindergarten's foundation, expressed in all things and at all times [...] the ultimate lesson of kindergarten was straightforward: the world (nature), mathematics (knowledge), and art (beauty) were interchangeable, and their perceived borders were misleading, artificial constructs. A chair might become numbers, numbers act, and art either or both.

I remember being encouraged by my parents to count, recount and enchant.

And so for day 122


Jane Jacobs's characterization of the doubleness of cheats in Dark Age Ahead hints at a connection between lying and the unbridled wish for more of the same:

Greed becomes culturally admired as competence, and false or unrealistic promises as cleverness.

Pages later one can own a wanting more that is not a wanting more of the same:

The key to postagarian wealth is the complicated task of nurturing economic diversity, opportunity, and peace without resort to oppression.

And one is invited to do so with clever competence.

And so for day 121


From Humanism and Democratic Criticism by Edward Said:

That deployment of an alternative identity is what we do when we read and when we connect parts of the text to other parts and when we go on to expand the area of attention to include widening circles of pertinence.

[Compare with Ricoeur's notion of reading as providing an expanded self.]

From Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight by Shoshana Felhman:

Reading is an access route to a discovery. But the significance of the discovery appears only in retrospect, because insight is never purely cognitive; it is to some extent always performative (incorporated in an act, a doing) and to that extent precisely it is not transparent to itself. Insight is always partially unconscious, partially partaking of a practice. and since there can never be a simultaneous, full coincidence between practice and awareness, what one understands in doing and through doing appears in retrospect: nachträglich, après coup.

[Pair with a view of Said's description of re-reading and parsing as deployment of an alter-native.]

And so for day 120


Todd May in his book on Deleuze with particular style uses punctuation to vivid effect: a small arrest and then the flow resumes. Pages apart one instance of the form calls out to its other incarnations. Take for example:

Machines do not fill lacks; they connect, and through connecting create.

And pages and pages later:

Cities are not matters of function; they are matters of connection.

Rereading very carefully, one comes to understand that functions and connections are not opposed to each other. Matters of function and matters of connection are. And so the imagination is pushed to entertain connection as gratuitous function. Characterizing matters as of use-value type and of non-exchange value type comes close to connecting functions and connections.

And so for day 119

Vector Sector

There is something of boyhood memories of an advertising campaign that crossed cereals with gasoline ("Put a Tiger in Your Tank") in this line full of internal rhyme:

There's a Vector in your Sector.

A sector has a circumference and is akin to description; a vector with its magnitude and direction is akin to a question. A simple pairing for generating stories.

And so for day 118

Slithering sentence

I like how this sentence whispers its theme in a grammatical pile up that forces attention to the parsing. I like how the italicized words form a scheme of their own: can - should - is.

We live in a time when a strong feeling that what can be known should be known too easily elides into a blind faith that what can be known not only is known but furthermore is known by those best able to make use of what they know.

A fine sentence turned by Michael Joyce in remarks for a panel at the "Information, Silence, and Sanctuary Conference" held at the University of Washington in May 2004.

And so for day 117

Time Gate

Todd May in Gilles Deleuze: an introduction has a passage that recalls for me Benjamin's invocation of the jetztzeit:

If we think temporally with Bergson, the world is always more than it seems, always fraught with differences that can actualize themselves in novel and unfamiliar ways.

What if we think spatially in terms of Cantor dust and Peano curves? We develop a patience of a different sort.

And so for day 116

Spring haiku

one ice-rival pearl

precocious snowdrop snout

sniffing light's return

And so for day 115

Pleasant imperfections

I juxtapose two quotations. One seems to comment on the other.

Roland Barthes in the preface to Sade / Fourier / Loyola reaffirms for us (in case we forgot) that "The text is an object of pleasure."

Chapter 4 "Perfection" from David Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined contains the following observation:

The imperfection of the Web isn't a temporary lapse; it's a design decision. It flows directly from the fact that the Web is unmanaged and uncontrolled so that it can grow rapidly and host innovations of every sort. the designers weighed perfection against growth and creativity and perfection lost. The Web is broken on purpose.

Local perfections and global pleasure. There is a certain type of pleasure that delights in exploring and tracing out "imperfection". For imperfection read materiality.

This fascination with the pleasures of materiality of course can be applied to the rhetoric of multimedia. To compose with graceful degradation in mind. These are the values of wabi sabi.

And so for day 114

Card trick

Found inscribed on an index card:

The nucleus of a narrative

would be a description

plus a question.

The hand writing is loose and the "nucleus" looks like the German word "Nachen" — sailing vessel.

And so for day 113

Hermetic theft

Shoshana Fehlman in a book on Lacan writes

Each time the analyst speaks, interprets in the analytic situation, he gives something asked of him. What he gives, however, is not a superior understanding, but a reply. [...] the interpretative gift is not constative (cognitive) but performative: the gift is not so much a gift of truth, of understanding or of meaning: it is, essentially, a gift of language.

I am reading here the story of an economy of theft. What is stolen to give the gift? When I first read this passage I tripped over the idea that a reply could lead to a gift of language. Something of the reply seemed caught in an imaginary relation of hilarious specularity. Rereading allowed greater specificity to come: a gift of language is not a language gift but a gift from language. The performance perforates. It is not only not constative it is also not constitutive.

Both call and reply are given through language. And indeed a reply is a form of call. This is not so reductive as it may seem. We can ask who or what asks the analyst to give. The reply is in a sense an interrogation of the who or the what this is asking. To interpret is to interrupt so that interrogation, questioning, gifting, giving, may take place there.

And so for day 112


Through the cackle crackle of screen or page came the reversal that turned to pur from rup. A sequence reversal but not a mirror projection: the letterforms stay intact (different places, same orientations). And now, and here, a palindrome-like but not quite with full tack, a reduplication twist stirs the air.

purr chirrup

Chasing a vertigo of symmetries as shimmering as “fish fur” mentioned in the universe of a Julian May novel are, briefly, cat and verb.

And so for day 111

Breath Control

[Reprise with variation]

"Don't talk with your mouth full."

The child mumble-hummed the cadences of speech with a mouthful of wet crunch. The precision was admired by the adult. A closed mouth. Using one's head to resonnate round food lumps. So precise an understanding that could distinguish talk from directed sound through the presumption of articulation.

"Nice control of the epiglottis."

"What's an epiglottis?"

A piece of cereal spilled out and clung to the lip. A hand raised to push it back in and wipe the spread of an impish grin as curiousity lept out.

"A trap that prevents choking.

And so for day 110


Phyllis Webb in Sunday Water: Thirteen Anti Ghazals invites the reader to

Hear the atoms ambling, the genes a-tick
in grandfather's clock, in the old bones of beach.

driftweed is perhaps what the beach washes up but wave upon rushing wave yields the homophony of beech, the tree, the grandfatherly tree, an appropriate chronometer planted for generations to ponder perhaps imagine the felled timber be lost at sea, driftwood to driftweed indeed.

And so for day 109


Thich Nhat Hahn, Calming The Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism

At that retreat, I offered a nonsectarian version of the Three Refuges, the traditional Buddhist affirmation. I offer this version to you here.

I have great confidence in the capacity of all beings to attain great understanding, peace and love.

I have confidence in the practice, which helps us to walk on the path of great understanding, peace and love.

I have confidence in the community, which is committed to the practice of understanding, peace and love.

Elegant: the people, the way, the people of the way. Out again to the people.

Notice the subtle migration of the adjective "great".

And so for day 108