Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I'm moved by, & sympathetic to, Josh Corey's post on the difficulties of blogging – what with, you know, parenthood, teaching, trying to do real writing – & his simultaneous reluctance to jettison the blog. I hope he doesn't, because I've found much food for thought in his Cahiers.
The glumness displayed in my last post has dissipated a bit, largely because I've just made the decision to forego a bit of travel that had been weighing heavily on my mind: neither an academic nor a personal trip, but something rather in between, which would have been kinda fun & kinda useful, but a pain to the tush schedule-wise & something of a financial burden. Hard to pass up, in the end, but deciding to pass on it actually makes me happy.
In the midst of teaching Uncle Tom's Cabin, which I'm finding surprisingly engrossing. I confess – for once I'm not rereading the book along with the class (tho I did read it just a few weeks ago); the texture of Stowe's prose is just too icky for me; but as I'm turning thru the book, I keep finding more & more for us to talk about. It's really a fantastically rich (& of course problematic) novel, in terms of rhetoric & argument, of ideology, even of narrative structure. Maybe not in the end a good book, but a vastly teachable one.
I suspect much of the discussion time in my graduate workshop this evening will be devoted to Kent Johnson's Day, his "retread" of Kenneth Goldsmith's Day, the dogged typing-up in 836 pages of every word of a single issue of the New York Times. In an upping of the conceptual ante, Kent & the folks at BlazeVox Books have simply slapped new stickers on existing copies of Goldsmith's book, announcing the work as Johnson's & adding BlazeVox to the publishers' credits. (You can watch BlazeVox's Geoffrey Gatza actually doing this, interspersed with hits – er, "puffs" – on a handsome little pipe, on a video here.)

I've known Kent for maybe 15 years now; he contributed an excellent essay to the Upper Limit Music LZ collection – that was back around the time the Yasusada business was in the works – but we've been in only intermittent touch since. I admire gadflies, & Kent is the best gadfly contemporary American poetry has. (I don't count William Logan, whose brand of nay-saying has little to do with Carlyle & lots in common with the teabaggers – & is light-years away from Johnson's Wildeanism.)
Trying to get something done on my own poems. The long sequence of Zorn-inspired shorts, "Torture Garden: Naked City Pastorelles," moves rather slowly, but lately I've been turning out somewhat longer things under the repeated title "Hope and Change." Hard to miss the irony there, but I suspect utopian flashes linger in the interstices.


Vance Maverick said...

Best wishes. You may find solace or stimulus in some of the Babson Boulders, of Gloucester.



jTh. said...

I've found some of those profound reliefs in my entire life have come from backing out of travel plans. I mean, I can't even think of anything else that's even come CLOSE. (But then again, I've never had children.)

Belated b-day nod, by the way, but I thought I'd hear from you first. ;-)

Steven Fama said...

For "dogged typing up" it'd be more accurate to say, "dogged running through an optical scanner text converter machine," because the latter is what in fact Kenny G. actually mostly did in Day.

It's incredible to me how the myth that he typed it out gets repeated and repeated. The fact of how it actually was done may not change how you think or feel about the work, but de facts are de facts....

Mark Scroggins said...

Absolutely right, Steven. I only happened on his piece "confessing" to OCR a few days ago. I think the myth gets repeated, as he himself intimates, because in the absence of traditional "composition"/inspiration/creativity we want to substitute some kind of dogged labor (ie there's a labor theory of value underlying most of these evaluations).

Of course, having done a bit of scanning myself, I can testify that there's plenty of labor involved even in scanning & reformatting large amounts of text.