Monday, February 26, 2007

How Was Louisville?

Very nice, thank you. I spent a good deal of time over the weekend with some old friends and acquaintances, talking, eating & drinking, catching up – and there were even some intellectual moments, as well. A few highlights:

Panel-wise –
•a panel on Jewish-American modernism, with old pal Norman Finkelstein delivering a highly poised essay on Reznikoff & prophecy, Dan Morris speculating on the links between Marjorie Perloff’s assimilated-Jewish Vienna upbringing (as told in her memoir, The Vienna Paradox) & her propensity for writing on avant-garde texts, and Merle Bachmann reading a highly informative chunk of her forthcoming book on early 20th-c. Yiddish literary culture
•a panel on poetry & performance, where Phil Metres’s very intelligent but subdued paper on Lev Rubinstein had to compete with Michael Magee’s screening of various Flarf performances (via YouTube, on the overhead projector)
•my own fellow panelist, one Cynthia Hall, delivering a paper arguing Dylan’s “Desolation Row” as a thorough rewriting of The Waste Land (I was convinced) in a Kentucky accent that made me feel as though I were back in my Aunt Charlene’s dining room for Sunday dinner once again

Lecture-wise –
Well, I missed the big reading, & gather I didn’t miss much – Sherman Alexie delivering 45 minutes, not of poetry or of prose, but of mediocre stand-up comedy (someone sourly suggested, “why don’t we just get Chris Rock next year?) – but I made it the big closing “theoretical” lectures by Mladen Dolar & Alenka Zupancic, both of the U of Ljubljana. I suppose that institutional link, as well as the fact that Matthew Biberman invoked Slavoj Zizek in introducing both of them, led me to assume they’d be Zizek-lings of the worst sort, but I was pleasantly surprised by Dolar’s talk on “voice” and “stone” from Hegel to Beckett (starting with the Temple of Memnon in Hegel going down thru the rock at the beginning of Sartre’s Nausea to Molloy’s sucking stones). The fact that Dolar delivered the entire lecture in one of the most soporific tones I’ve ever encountered (to an audience nodding off from 3 days of conferencing) probably lessened the impact of his funniest line: “Not surprisingly, Molloy finds de stones haff no taste, provide no flavor. De stones suck.” I myself found attention wandering during Zupancic’s talk on comedy & evil, which dealt with various treatments of the Third Reich in comic cinema (To Be or Not to Be, The Great Dictator, Mein Hitler); the best moment her closing strictures on the “culture of happiness” in American society.

Social-wise –
•a truly sybaritic multi-course dinner with Alan Golding & his wife Lisa Shapiro, Dee Morris, Lynn Keller, Norman Finkelstein, Barrett Watten, & Carla Harryman, topped off with a pint of micro-brewed stout that had been aged in bourbon casks: something like sweet alcoholic espresso.
•the annual Golding/Shapiro Party. This year Alan worked a poetry reading into the festivities, so one could hear Norman reading some of the astounding, delicate new things the Martians have been giving him; Bill and Lisa Howe ripping through an in-progress new visual text; yours truly stumbling his way breathlesssly through one of the newish things on the latest Fascicle; and Lisa S. revealing a previously unknown talent for rather beautiful sound-poems (the first sounding a bit Polynesian, the last arrestingly cantorish). Later on, trying in vain to follow (with maybe one too many drinks aboard) Matthew B’s exposition of how one can use a Rodechenko-like Vincent motorcycle gear to explain Lacan’s perennial triad.
•Lovely conversations with various previously-met and/or fallen out of touch with people – the Howes, Kristin Prevallet, the Oppen scholar Stephen Cope, Mark Cantrell, etc.
•And Norman & Alice’s Maltese Tchotchke was there!


Norman Finkelstein said...

My other dog is a Doberman. Really.

E. M. Selinger said...

Is a Maltese Tchotchke like a Maltese Falcon for Jews? "A sap for you I wouldn't play," etc.?

Sounds like you had a blast--I'll see you there next year, inshallah--