Snatching some time to read in the interstices: Ron Silliman's The Age of Huts (compleat); I've known Age for yonks, thru the old yellow Roof edition. "Sunset Debris" and "The Chinese Notebook" are old friends. And I've become very fond of "Ketjak" now. (The recursive structure assures it that by the time you finish the poem, you're either very fond of it, or driven to active loathing.) I have the typically anal project of working thru Ron's big poem Ketjak (not the short "Ketjak"), as outlined in the preface to Age of Huts, in order of its parts: Age of Huts, then Tjanting, then The Alphabet. That's what, maybe 1500 pages of elegantly processed quotidianity? Should keep me off the streets for awhile.
Mostly thru Beckett's How It Is. One of those books that when you lay it down, you can't pick it up again, if you know what I mean. Oh, it's brilliant all right – I wouldn't want at all to sell the thing short of brilliance. But it's frankly the single most painful read I've ever essayed. The unpunctuated paragraphs are one thing, forcing you to read at pretty much speaking pace, pausing to internally punctuate & repunctuate at every turn, looking for where the pauses ought to (or might) fall. But while that's a painstaking process (a painful process?) not unfamiliar to the reader of contemporary poetry, it's the bleakness of the "action" that really does it for (to?) me. In a few words: Conveyance: standard Beckett blind mud-crawling; Diet: canned good of dubious provenance & sell-by date; Communication media: fingernails in back, digit in arsehole, can-opener to buttocks, sharp knocks to the skull. And other nastinesses, not least of which is the intrusion of "Love" into this hellish scenario. Kathy Acker, by comparison, is sunshine & lollipops.
Observations on the state of modernist studies, having read thru almost 200 job applications:
•James Joyce stock remaining high, with no perceptible dips; still King of Hill•historicism the order of the day; even the crustiest formalists apt to swath their readings in a decent chiton of historical context or anecdote•William Faulkner holding steady – who woulda thought?•Langdon Hammer of Yale the busiest dissertation director in the land; how does he find time to chair the department and write James Merrill's biography?•the Edwin Rolfe renaissance still failing to materialize, despite all of Cary Nelson's best efforts•poetry, alas, the big loser: by my admittedly unscientific estimate (ie, I don't have the notes in front of me), something like 15% of dissertations