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Showing posts from July 15, 2012

on definition

Law and mathematics both developed under the steely eye of the definition. History and literature developed behind definition’s back, which is why both have a ludicrous bent. To understand the power and essence of definition, one must free oneself from its seeming inevitability – one must slip out from literature and history, rather than approach it from law and mathematics. Of course, once upon a time, definition was not such a power. The idea that norms or numbers form a system, and that the system is coherent and consistent, and that coherence and consistency are systematic – these ideas, granted, were in the air, but they weren’t taken for granted. This is not to tell the familiar story of the dreamtime of the folk – it is, rather, that what a definition is, and why it should have such power, had not yet been systematically developed. Which is to say that the system as a concept had, itself, not been systematically developed. There was the moon, stars, tides and the sun –

metaphysics of paper4: fallen leaves

The waste books (there’s a Russian word for this, the “fallen leaves’ genre,   - Opavshelistika -- seem to leave behind some anachronistic, animal trail in the modern system of literature. That system connects the media and the university in a total environment of writing that conditions the very notion of the “writer”: he’s a journalist, a pundit, a poet, a novelist. In the twentieth century, the writer’s most important work is to produce texts that can be taken up by the cinema, or by television. The writer in the press produces opinions. Literature informs the conversation in the press and the classroom, and prefers its readers to be in the classroom or as members of a bookclub. It prefers, above all, to see literature as a social function – from this point of view, solitude is unmasked as bourgeois mystification, or as a psychological aberration. This system has a place for the aliens of literature who write the Opavshelistika, but it is in the nature of the system that t

Arles - travelogue - don't bet your life on posterity

He didn’t know that it was a Santa Fe sky, say the sky of June 3, 1993, same lowslung clouds, same flat earth, same encircling hills, same high blue sky above the clouds, that he was seeing in that summer of 1888, when he was bothered by the mistral and the rent and the need to suppress his sexual instincts – the year he lived on half cooked chickpeas and cheap alcohol – because Van Gogh never set eyes on New Mexico. I however recognized it instantly, hanging there in the distance outside the bus window as we swept by the acres of sun flowers and made the turn into Arles from Tarascon, where we’d go off the train. Arles it turns out was not the tourist mecca A. and I feared it might be – seems they had all oiled off to the festival in Avignon – and we settled in for our jaunt nicely after a small blowup at our hotel -- they tried to palm off a room to us that was deficient in the usual room things – handles on doors, lampshades, and size, with the bathroom competing