?

Log in

No account? Create an account
click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 03:52 am
Being clustered and being othered

This is one of those ego-surfing autopilot entries where I just tell you that I've written a little piece about ProQM bookstore in the new edition of 032c magazine, that I wrote about the logobi dance craze from Cote D'Ivoire for my next Playground column, and that Dr David Woodard has filled two pages in the new edition of Spike, the Viennese art magazine, with a review of my Book of Jokes, which is also reviewed in the LA Times (and the Chicago Tribune, if you prefer to read your reviews there).

Or I might mention the curiously interesting (to me, anyway) fact that the book most frequently basketed on Amazon in tandem with my novel is Op Oloop, Argentinian writer Juan Filloy's 1934 novel about a Finnish statistician, and a book Freud apparently liked so much that he sent the author a hand-written letter of congratulation.



I like how different reviews have different fields of comparison and reference, though there are overlaps. The book The Book of Jokes has most been compared to so far, across all reviews, is The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. The LA Times review mentions Robert Coover and John Barth, Joyce and the Arabian Nights. In an interestingly eccentric review on The Endless Bookshelf, Henry Wessells (reviewing my recent music concerts on the Eastern Seaboard as much as the book) notes in my work "a fruitful list of dualities and juxtapositions : want/need, make/destroy, Pygmalion/Moreau, impotent/omnipotent, lament/disinfect, situationist lap-dogs/Beowulf, Valhalla/virus (Wagner/Burroughs) ; the range of associations was broad : from Edmund Wilson to Noh theater, from Beardsley and Wilde and decadence to the machinery of academia (“ bad but intimate poetry ”) and vaudevillean nostalgia."



Meanwhile, in the Spike article, Dr Woodard manages to make the novel sound Firbankian without actually mentioning Firbank, which is quite a feat. Authors he does mention in his review: Lawrence, Miller, Burroughs and, indirectly, Woody Allen and Nietzsche.

Wessells has a theory that my novel reads best when seen in a tradition of "Celtic modes of resistance": "It is not implausible to connect Currie with a Scots literary heritage that reaches from Robert Burns to Ian Rankin, by turns bawdy and visceral, dour and outrageous, and always conscious of being in confrontation with the English respectable other (John Buchan was so driven by the wish to assimilate with the establishment of domination that he must be excluded : contrast Richard Hannay and Dominick Medina in The Three Hostages ). There are analogous strains of Irish, Welsh, and Catholic contrariness (Joyce, Thomas, and Chesterton, to name three authors). It is also not unreasonable to note here that these Celtic modes of resistance form the most interesting portion of literature in English."

He begins this essay on "the function of Celtic humor" with a quote from Adrian Dannatt which delineates some characteristics of the sub-genre: "verbal wit and linguistic dexterity in whatever tongue it might be expressed, a cunning born of a long history of being in the minority, the marginal, maverick even”. This is almost a colonial studies reading of my book (I should say "books", because it neatly links The Book of Scotlands and The Book of Jokes), and I rather like it. I've spent so long othering others that it's rather refreshing to be seen as some kind of other myself. Perhaps I should daub my face with some woad?

27CommentReplyFlag

niemandsrose
niemandsrose
Niemandsrose
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)

Well, there must be a reason you didn't write The Book of Englands...


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 03:41 am (UTC)
2009-1934= O32c

I like your idea about delay, or being insular now, i think is how you put it recently. it reminds me of what john and yoko used to talk about; regarding their output, artwise or publicwise, they talked about "breathing in and breathing out"--sometimes your breathing in things, the world, formulating, ruminating, etc. and then other times you're breathing out, expressing, etc.

btw, i may have missed it around here, have you mentioned a general idea about your next book? it's very understandable if you don't want to give anything way, though...


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 08:42 am (UTC)
Re: 2009-1934= O32c

I have in my mind now the title of the next one, and a very specific idea of what happens, where, and to whom, and with what textures and landscapes and references. But I'm definitely not going to talk about it, because I've noticed I change my relationship with ideas once they're talked about.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
Re: 2009-1934= O32c

hear, hear. not to mention people lifting things (that we writers have likely already lifted from somewhere else), you know. sounds like you've got plenty envisioned there to work with. it's a somewhat mysterious process every time, that's for sure.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 03:53 am (UTC)

Thats a lot of words that don't say much, too much name dropping in reviews is always the sign of a bored reviewer who has to write some trite regardless. You're not bad at dropping a name here and there yourself though. I imagine you feel verified with those types of reviews.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 04:49 am (UTC)
idletigers.wordpress.com

Well, you certainly deal in some of the ribaldry that got refined out of most literature in English by the Renaissance. I wonder - if we accept that old account of the novel as a form growing alongside (possible growing out of) western capitalism, and making large assumptions about the inherent interest of practical protestant man and his material possessions (Robinson Crusoe), I suppose your own books are appropriately timed, given your interest in post-materialism, the end of capitalism, etc.

(Sorry, my response to the Book of Jokes is trickling out in unjoined phases.)

It's also good to see reviewers accepting your books and your songs as part of the same project. Am I right in suspecting that publishing two books has inadvertently handed assessment of your songs to a different type of critic. Music journalists tend to regard wordiness as a kind of amusing eccentricity, don't they?


ReplyThread
idletigers.wordpress.com
idletigers.wordpress.com
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)

(And I agree, it has tended to be the Celts who've done the best job of unrefining our too-refined language.)


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 08:36 am (UTC)

There's certainly an underlying aggression towards property and propriety in my books, and I deliberately inscribe myself in a non-bourgeois lineage. So "the great tradition of the novel", for me (and for The Book of Jokes), goes something like: Homer, Lucian, Petronius, Aesop... then we skip to the Middle Ages and there's Chaucer, The Arabian Nights, The Decameron, Rabelais, then there's a tiny smattering of what provincial old Eng Lit calls "the birth of the novel" in the form of Sterne and Hogg, and while we're in the 18th century also Diderot and Voltaire and their dirty novels of ideas, and then we skip to Alice in Wonderland (the best novel ever written in English), Kierkegaard, Kafka, then to some of the dirty Americans in the 20th century, Miller and Burroughs and so on, but not as much as the American reviews are suggesting. And yes, perhaps there is a bit of Flann O'Brien in there, or even J.M. Synge, if we must be Celtic. And Burns, of course, oor Rabbie.

Am I right in suspecting that publishing two books has inadvertently handed assessment of your songs to a different type of critic. Music journalists tend to regard wordiness as a kind of amusing eccentricity, don't they?

Yes on both counts! This is the part I'm loving the most. Literary critics do so much better a job of getting... well, not pop records in general, perhaps, but mine in particular. That's been so refreshing, to have people assessing the songs who know where they're coming from and what tradition they're in, and why their subversion is legitimate. I'm so used to anxiously priggish music critics saying "by now we have to assume that Momus is something of a perve" that it's like a rush of relief to find people (I think the New Yorker quote on the back of the book was one of the first) mentioning The Decameron and so on. And it's so weird that rock critics would be more prudish and respectable than book critics, but it seems to have become the case, due to rock's success as a vehicle of "aggressive normality".


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 08:57 am (UTC)

Oh, how could I leave Wilde out of my personal pantheon? I think the idea of two criminals breaking out of prison to commit the crimes they've been falsely accused of actually does relate to Wilde's inversions of bourgeois morality, as well as to Synge's Playboy of the Western World (where a man is inexplicably lauded wherever he goes for killing his father).

But just when I'm thinking I'd be happy to be some kind of ersatz Irish writer (I am genetically one eighth Irish), I go "Gogol! Nabokov!" and I'm suddenly Russian.

Edited at 2009-10-03 08:58 am (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)

do you see yourself as much of a celt? I rather had you down as a norseman.

does any pictish literature exist?


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 11:06 am (UTC)

how do you feel about Flann O'Brien?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)

I've only read "At Swim Two Birds", but I liked it, and I'm pleased that Dalkey also has some Flann O'Brien titles in its list. The humour is more gentle than mine -- maybe the best living exponent of that particular genre is my fellow-Berliner Julian Gough.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 11:54 am (UTC)

yeah definitely gentler than yours. I'm still debating whether to try reading the Book of Jokes, after watching you reading an excerpt. (being a gentle soul, I like to think)


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 12:27 pm (UTC)

Oh, I'm also a very tender-minded soul. There's nothing in the novel that doesn't occur to a wary, over-protective parent ten times a day as a potential risk. You could say that the events the novel depicts are simply the worst fears of a rather timid yet imaginative person played out as paranoid comedy. And there's something weirdly comforting about saying -- and ridiculing -- "the worst".


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)

i don't doubt your tender gentleness, don't worry! perhaps i'm too cowardly or squeamish for much contemplating of the worst-case scenario


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)

Well, you have every right to not go there!

Personally, I find the novel a great mood-changer. I giggle immoderately when reading it, and all sorrows leave me.


ReplyThread Parent
count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)

I agree. Woody Allen once said something similar about Bergman's The Seventh Seal. That after viewing this film that deals with such heavy subjects as death, loss, and feelings of loneliness and existential dread in a godless universe, you leave exhilarated and uplifted. If artfully done there truly is "something weirdly comforting about saying -- and ridiculing -- "the worst"."

Edited at 2009-10-03 10:53 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 4th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)

would have thought you'd be interested in Flann O'Brien's journalism under various other pseudonyms. There's an anthology of it, though I forget the title...


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
more eng lit chit chat

any thoughts on Mann, Balzac, Proust, Swift, Lawrence, Tolstoy Gertrude Stein or Mark Twain?

also, who's on your short list as far as lit. crit. goes?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
Re: more eng lit chit chat

A proper answer to that would take three semesters, at least! So I'll give you a silly answer.

Mann: Just know his work through film adaptations, so I can't really comment. Brecht was probably being a bit harsh when he called him "a typical bourgeois".
Balzac: Never read him! I'm somewhat allergic to 19th century realism.
Proust: There's a little skit on Proust in the book, in the chapter built around the phrase "suddenly a shot rang out". Proust's A La Recherche... is allowed to ramble on for quite some time before The Murderer introduces the exciting phrase. I am perhaps less tolerant; I feel suffocated by all that voluptuous fustian.
Swift: Now you're talking! Swift is brilliant, a towering figure in the landscape of my songs and now books. I love Gulliver, his polemics and satires, and even his poems to Stella. It's weird how I love the 18th century so much, and the 19th so little.
Lawrence: I like Lawrence a lot. He's influenced me considerably. His sort of hectoringly sensual prose is very seductive, his wanderlust is compelling, I like the way England can't contain him. Great great great!
Tolstoy: Very mixed feelings. I find War and Peace a bit tedious, but short stories like The Kreuzer Sonata and The Death of Ivan Illych are pungent and great. When I went to see Ron Butlin, when he was writer in residence at Edinburgh University, he sent me off to read Tolstoy's biography, which I did. Something about Tolstoy's guilty puritan zeal, later in life, is a bit annoying. I'm more of a Dostoyevsky man, if you have to choose.
Gertrude Stein: Haven't really read her, have the vague impression that her formal experimentation might get a bit tedious after a few pages. Can I have Djuna Barnes instead?
Mark Twain: I have a lot of respect for really direct storytellers like Twain, actually. I think people have me pegged as the sort of person who'd be raving about, you know, BS Johnson, but actually I admire really compelling folk narrative as much as formal innovation. Or rather, I think you can tell a story simply and directly while messing with larger structural elements, context, references and so on, and have the best of both worlds.

As for literary critics, I don't really read any. Barthes was my philosophical guru for a while, but I think he's a fairly lousy literary critic, precisely because he's such an original thinker and acute cultural critic. Frank Kermode and Malcolm Bradbury have been important to me at various points.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Re: more eng lit chit chat

Oh, and Denis Donoghue. It's so annoying that the BBC haven't put his The Arts Without Mystery up on their Reith Lectures Archive.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
Re: more eng lit chit chat

(i think luckas also called mann the perfect bougeoise writer. he meant the way he captured a certain zeitgeist in germany before you know what)

and i thought you would have appreciated tolstoy's non-violence and soft male image--i know i do. i can understand though the spiritual vibe turns you off.

as for g. stein,she was certainly a mad genius, in cahoots with the likes of picasso; and you're right that genius is not immune to tediousness, unfortunately.

twain was also rather subversive in his politics, as was thoreau (emerson less so, but still spoke out against the mex-us war, and the execution of john brown, among other things) and whitman to a certain degree. whitman is unquestionably the american bard, in all his tender-hearted vision of existence. and i love the fact that, when emerson--in one of his uptight moments--tried to dissuade him from printing the more overtly gay stuff in the 'calamus' section of leaves of grass, whitman flatly refused.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)

Momus, now that you've had some significant critical success as a novelist (arguably more than as a recording artist over the past few years), and the coming decade may well be more literary than musical for you, how do you now relate to the entry below?

http://imomus.livejournal.com/64906.html


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)

It's a fair question, and I'm glad that your memory is good enough to remember a post-literary position I adopted in 2004!

I don't think it's hard to reconcile the stances, really; this just has to be understood as an ongoing dialectic, a conversation I'm having with myself, related to my class background, to British attitudes to class and privilege, and to my particular interest in the visual and performative arts. That piece begins by saying that I'm basically a literary person with a literary education, and that literature has been my religion. It continues by saying "my taste now contains a self-critique -- a critique of myself as a literary person". It ends by saying that I love "performed literature", which restores some texture to text. In between those qualifications, I express reservations about a kind of literary culture I find stale and bourgeois.

If you've read The Book of Jokes you'll know that it's not exactly finely-wrought, high-falutin' literary filigree. I think it's just another way of mounting -- from within literature -- the same kind of attacks I was then mounting from outside it. And I still love performed literature -- last month I turned my book into puppet shows in Berlin and Paris!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 4th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Woad

H. Wessells here: Daub your face with woad ONLY if it is to celebrate (and please send me a batch or the recipe so I can join in). Those of us who, by birth, were n-th generation removed from the roots of Celtic humor always need a good reminder (my wife is Irish).
Pleased to see that you understood I chose my words deliberately, and doubly pleased to read your illuminating comment, "I think it's just another way of mounting -- from within literature -- the same kind of attacks I was then mounting from outside it." It confirms my reading of the last line of the novel.

Not usually shy by nature, but in Philadelphia before your show in Fishtown, you and your Japanese entourage seemed in the midst of a discussion, so I did not do more than greet you. Of course that was before going upstairs where we saw you preface your show with a great remark to the almost empty room, all my life I have had to imagine the things I wanted, now I must imagine myself an audience.
Glad to have been in the real audience there.
I look forward to reading The Book of Scotlands.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Oct. 4th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Woad

Hello Henry, nice to hear from you here, shame you didn't make yourself known in Philly, but thanks for being there -- not many were!


ReplyThread Parent

(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 5th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
Re: Woad

Wasn't it Memorial Day or something? That's the reason the (very sweet) club owner gave me for the no-show. They always have some reason other than "People here think you suck!" or "You're forgotten!", bless 'em!


ReplyThread Parent