“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, December 25, 2006

pleased with my own self

Casting our eye over the last year, LI feels … good. This has been, of course, a terrible year in the set of terrible years that have made up this decade of complete and utter failure. Our failure to achieve the economic viability of even the lowliest bottomfeeder, which we used to justify, in a half assed way, as the price of art, is no longer justifiable by any criteria. We will long remember and long regret the various outrageous stupidities that have threaded themselves in our moment-to-moment, especially as it looks like we are headed towards streetcorner destitution as surely as the stunned ox slipping down the greased chute is headed for the butcher’s blade. But I would like to think that every life has its little Camelot moment, yes? And so I look back at LI’s past year and a half and like God looking at the green and blue globe he dreamed up on one of eternity’s slower nights, I can say: it is good.

I’ve been five and a half years at the blogging biz, and looking over my back pages, I obviously took some time to figure out what I was doing. For a writer of more traditional narratives, as well as one of more traditional discursive texts, blogging is difficult. It is a text type in the literature of spontaneity that gives us Jules Renand’s journals and Horace Walpole’s letters – not to speak of Malcolm Lowry’s – , which is a literature I have a fondness for. In any work that aspires to literature, one is looking for the real right thing, the moment in which urgency and the mediation of artifice form a more perfect union. And every romantic soul, from Shelley to the Beats, has longed for a way of casting off the mediation, of making good on the adage, first thought, best thought. Unfortunately for the romantics, mediation is indispensable. The path to the urgent moment is necessary, even if, from the subjective viewpoint, it is secondary and always irritating.

But so speaks the classicist mickey within. Of course, LI is living in a society in which boredom is considered the worst quality – to say that a book is boring is to say it has committed a capital offense. Myself, I think the liquidation of boredom in the aesthetic realm is intimately connected to the Gated Community ethos in the social realm, in which the unbought graces of life now come out of a high end catalogue, and are called “pre-owned”. If you don’t know how to be boring – its time, its place, its subtle effects on the unconscious, what it is for, what it tells you about time and solitude – you’ll make a fucking twist of everything. It will just be Man and his faithful tv-set tracking across the void. LI is not for man and his tv set tracking across the void. We are against that shit.

I’m not excursing here – boredom is of course just the thing about spontaneous literature. To have a boring bit of exposition in a novel is tolerable, given other qualities of the novel, and its ultimate interestingness. To have a boring bit of exposition in a letter, however, is much less tolerable. Still, the premise of a letter or a journal is intimacy, which forgives many things. The great letter writers – say, Byron – visibly have a lot of fun writing their three sheets. I’ve been reading the letters of Henry Adams, lately, and it is obvious that the young Adams was modeling himself on letter writers of the past – more than anybody else, Walpole. Obviously, there are parallels between Horace and Henry – both coming from great political families, both being acute observers, and both feeling, acutely, their lack of power as a sign of some failure of character. Adams, in any case, pushes the entertainment too much to the fore. When that happens – when a certain hard to define threshold is crossed – the letter ceases to be intimate, and thus violates its own contract.

Blogging begins by pissing on that contract. I’ve noticed that those who blog for friends start out strong, but quickly peter out. That’s because, well, here it is and don’t say I said it: Hegel is right about some things. The Spirit does obey a pattern – or at least, produces one – and it goes badly with people who try to cross da Spirit. Blogging derives from intimate literature, but is as cold as a motherfucker, in the end. And here’s the paradox: just because LI is so out of sorts with the Spirit of the Age, a pterodactyl among canaries, blogging has been good to us. The reason for that is that complaining – especially complaining from one’s whole existence, complaining that is rooted in a total failure to fit in, in a total complaint levied at the basic social system – is one of those transitional speech forms. It provides a passage from intimacy to anonymity. I have poured more anger and moaning into the ears of debt collectors on the other end of the phone – or, say, the bureaucrats who periodically threaten to turn off my power – than I would dare to do even with a lover. Of course, this is partly cause I’m half mad, but I’m not the half mad guy who talks to himself on the bus. Yet.

But complaining itself is only transitional. And it moves to two extremes – either monomania, or extreme dispersion. Complaining about one thing over and over, or complaining about everything.

Which gets me to why LI is pleased with the past year. It is no secret that, of course, I am a monomaniac. I have the same hardon against the Bush administration that Jeremiah had against the worshippers of Baal. But Jeremiah – or lets say one of the Isaiahs, who are my fave prophets – the Isaiahs were clever prophets. They saw the wickedness of one kingdom or king in terms of a whole vision of what the world is like. They saw early and plainly that the world is balanced between paradise or hell, and one gesture can send it either way. That gesture is the prophetic fiction – the only time anybody listens to the prophet in the Bible, in Jonah, the prophet is naturally pissed off. It is much more fun to predict fire and brimstone than to have people listen to you, change their ways, and avert the fire and brimstone. Dire is sexy – everybody mocks a reformer. But backing up to the point: in the last year and a half I think I’ve successfully found the bigger poetic themes, the motifs I want – madness, the supremacy of war, magic, the synthesis of Michelet’s witchcraft and Marxism – to organize my random bitchery.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

What if tv is the carrier tone from the black obelisk to the future whatever? What then?

roger said...

Frankly, anonymous, then, then I am fucked!

Brian said...

A worthy series of accomplishments, roger. You have indeed found your muse, a muse that even the poorly educated, not very well-read can strugglingly enjoy.

As for income, well...I make a decent income, and it's amazing how easy it is to spend it even more rapidly than you earn it.

roger said...

Brian, thanks! Some of my posts, it is true, use some heavier cultural or philosophical references than others. Not every post is for everybody. But I do try to avoid too much technical terminology. And I also try to avoid one of the great vices of the theory and academic blogs, which is a form of cliquish criticism. You take someone like, for example, Zizek, you imagine all the people you hate enjoying him, then you criticize him for the vices of this imaginary audience. I think that the projection of an audience is inevitable when you read someone, but I think, too often, it just becomes an in-group indulgence.

To give another example: I just had a job to review two books on the sixties. One was written by a man who hated the sixties, hated all those New Lefties, and seemed to take the standard Alan Bloom line. Well, I immediately fell into reading not what he was writing, but the echo of the things I thought he supported. And I had to consciously say, this is a shitty way to read a book. So I cleared my mind to an extent, and I think I found a dynamic in the text I would simply have overlooked if I hadn’t bracketed my prejudices. This is an intellectual exercise that resists the pack mentality of blogs – but that pack mentality is harder to resist when it is your pack.

However, this brings up another, harder problem with blogs – inevitably, over time, you tend to develop your own symbols and tics. Every good blogger does this. But the symbols and tics, over time, can make it a lot harder for somebody new to understand you. On the one hand I think: screw it. You can’t explain from Ground zero every time. On the other hand, I don’t want to become so caught up in my own shit that I’m just talking clique-talk.

it said...

I'm quite certain you'll outlive all of us - and I speak as one who frequently falls prey to all of your blog donts...

Long Live LI!

Amie said...

"If you don’t know how to be boring – its time, its place, its subtle effects on the unconscious, what it is for, what it tells you about time and solitude – you’ll make a fucking twist of everything. It will just be Man and his faithful tv-set tracking across the void."
LI, i love this. the Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami says somewhere that he is not with overwhelming, captivating or capturing pan audience, he would rather prefer if they could take a nap during a movie...

even if i was capable of a retrospective glance at the 'past year' i am loathe to. the eyes and the view goes dim, and it hurts. as if one was losing one's sight, had sand and glass lining the eyelids that made themselves felt with each blink.

and yet, during this year with its seemingly never-ending spool of murder and mayhem, i somehow stumbled across LI...the reels are what they are (?) but one starts to pay attention to how they intertwine and unwind, and think of how they might be spliced otherwise. thank you.

roger said...

IT and Amie - thanks for the kudos! Although I suspect there are a few tomato throwers lurking in the aisles.

I agree - this has been an incredibly low year, the year-of-legalizing-torture year. I couldn't punch the system in the nose, since it doesn't have one, and really - when was the last time I punched somebody in the nose? But at least I could rave and squeal like some stray Gadarene swine - to revert to Pig metaphysics for a moment.

Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

It would be philistinism to neglect to offer kudos! And these things in my satchel are not tomatos, Roger. They're pate de foie esqurial in the traditional round containers.

winn said...

If it's hard for people to understand starting fresh, they should do what I did when I found LI- sit down one sunny afternoon and read the whole thing.

It takes about eight hours, more if you slow down to think about it.

It has been a good year for invective!

Arkieology said...

Thanks for the notes on Jonah, as I was pondering a Jonah problem today.
I like your site and your listed influences except for Marx. I got to your site on a search for Huxley Arnold Darwin, and stayed because your take on the Bush administration and your historical perspective are dead on. Substitute Silvio Gesell for Marx and I think you would be even more so. Marx had nothing of relevence to say about production or distribution after his early concept of alienation. Marx considered himself a scientist and dedicated his masterpiece to Darwin. I was doing some thinking about Aldous Huxley and was reminded that his brother Julian wrote the introduction for Teilhard de Chardin's "Phenomenon of Man", a much more scientific view than Darwin or Marx. My site is jaspersbox.com which is dedicated to the subject of monetary reform and the institution of a basic income. Keep up the good work, as I think the opposition to this war, and perhaps to the war machine may be gaining ground. And even if not, it does not excuse one fron the duty to work against it.