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Showing posts from June 8, 2008

knots books savages you me

Pass this on First things first this weekend. We have to congratulate North on that Mars landing. Excellent! A triumph for cosmonauts and psychonauts. Second: LI was rather proud, this week, of our application of the tunnel, Victor Turner’s symbol of the middle passage - the cunicula through which the acolyte passes – to reading. Alas, we seemed to awaken no responding echo! But never one to hesitate before the obscure connections of weird history, we’ve been thinking about books. There’s a great and obscure pattern connecting the adventure, the greater porousness of social hierarchies, and the quantitative increase in reading in the 17th century. These are the subsurface portents of the obscure pattern in which capitalism and the culture of happiness emerge in one another’s arms in the eighteenth century. The question of the book was the question dividing the savage from the civilized. In Enrique Florescano’s National Narratives of Mexico, he shows how the histories of the Indi

The Human Limit: Notes from Far Off

In the Human World, a chapter of the Chuang Tzu, there's a story upon which I've often reflected: Carpenter Shih went to Ch'i and, when he got to Crooked Shaft , he saw a serrate oak standing by the village shrine. It was broad enough to shelter several thousand oxen and measured a hundred spans around, towering above the hills. The lowest branches were eighty feet from the ground, and a dozen or so of them could have been made into boats. There were so many sightseers that the place looked like a fair, but the carpenter didn't even glance around and went on his way without stopping. His apprentice stood staring for a long time and then ran after Carpenter Shih and said, "Since I first took up my ax and followed you, Master, I have never seen timber as beautiful as this. But you don't even bother to look, and go right on without stopping. Why is that?" "Forget it - say no more!" said the carpenter. "It's a worthless tree! Make boats o

congratulations, Margaret Jull Costa

LI is a little late with this news. But going through the book blogs today, we were happy to see that Margaret Jull Costa won an award for her translation of the Maias – and Natasha Randall, who we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, was on the short list for her fantastic translation of Zamyatin’s We. We are no expert on 19th century novels in Spain and Portugal, but we have managed to read a few. Eca de Queiroz’s The Maias takes a deep pleasure in just going on – describing the static rituals of the Portugese upper class, that contrast between a frivolous public politics and a deeply strategized private politics of love affairs. Queiroz has affinities with Zola, but he doesn’t have Zola’s love for the tabloid and tawdry. One can’t imagine Queiroz making up a list of words used in the working quarters of Lisbon for fucking. Costa is supposedly going to translate the bulk of Queiroz’s work. And what could be more important than that? Of course, Daedelus is having trouble coming up

the point outside the painting

LI is like ‘poor Atabalipa’, the Inca emperor. When we open a book, we want to hear voices: hints, whispers, cries, the banjo opera, and every sigh, and every sudden silence. We want something to arise from the pages. So, when we began this series of posts about 17th century figures, some of whom – Mothe de la Vayer, for instance – might not be today’s headliners, we went looking to one of our long time favorite books, Foucault’s Les Mots et les Choses, thinking that our theme – the failure of an ethos of volupté to move from the hypocognizable to the hypercognized – or, in plain English, the failure of a lifestyle oriented around volupté to accrue a fully ethical standing under capitalism – could settle, so to speak, within that text, find a niche there. Roberto Calasso, in The Ruins of Kasch, alludes to a marvelous word – intersigne – to refer to coincidences in the social world. Out of such coincidences, the paranoid weaves his dreams. Gravity’s Rainbow is, for instance, premised o

a cunicular affair

Hannah Hoech - Denkmal 1 I am the passenger... And now, the act you have all been waiting for, ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Victor Turner! (A friend of LI’s once described going to a whorehouse in Nueva Laredo when he was a teen and watching a magic act, which consisted of an indifferent magician piercing himself and his assistant with a big needle, then making objects disappear, while the M.C. kept up a deadly chorus of applauso, applauso, applauso in an effort to rouse up the drunk Texas fratboys sitting at the tables, mulling over their choices of fuck. Sometimes, that image comes over LI as we think of this blog.) I want to pull out a few of Turner’s concepts to make clearer what I mean by the adventurous turn. In some famous papers in the sixties and seventies, Turner (who worked with his wife, Edith) constructed an elaborate anthropological theory around Arnold van Gennep’s notion of rites de passage. This is from the paper, Dramas, Fields and Metaphors: “He [Arnold van G

Seducer/victim

... que tu vois en Dom Juan, mon maître, le plus grand scélérat que la terre ait jamais porté, un enragé, un chien, un diable, un Turc, un hérétique, qui ne croit ni Ciel, ni Enfer, ni loup−garou According to his biographer, Alistair Hannay, Kierkegaard first attended a performance of Don Giovanni when he was 22. It was the same period in which, according to his journal, he was deeply interested in the Faust myth. Hannay quotes a journal entry from Kierkegaard four years after having seen (and reseen – he went back repeatedly) – Mozart’s opera: In some ways I can say of Don Giovanni what Elvira says to the hero: “You murderer of my happiness’ – For to tell the truth, it is this piece which has affected me so diabolically that I can never forget it; it was this piece which drove me like Elvira out of the quiet night of the cloister. Much latter, in Berlin, when Kierkegaard went to a performance of Don Giovanni, he compared the singer of Elvira to “a certain young woman” – Regina,