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Showing posts from November 27, 2022


  This is a paragraph from an essay Musil wrote about Bela Belazs’s famous book about film, Visible Man: The observations that I will add in the following concern these contact and luminal surfaces. The question of whether Film is an independent art or not, which is the entering point for Balazs’s effort to make it one, incites other questions that are common to all the arts. In fact film has become the folk art of our time. “Not in the sense, alas, that it arises from the spirit of the folk, but instead in the sense that the spirit of the folk arises from it,’ says Balazs. And as a matter of fact the churches and the cults of all the religions in their millennia have not covered the world with a net as thick as that accomplished by the movies, which did it in three decades.”   As is so often the case with these Viennese intellectuals, Musil is astonishingly sensitive to the changes being wrought by modernity – with the wisdom; of nemesis perched on the apocalyptic battlements. H

writing is not hard. It is the easiest thing in the world.

      Tennyson, famously, was averse to the word "scissors". Something about the s-es. I don't know if Tennyson had a lisp. When I was a child of six or so, I did. Scissors would be a treachery. My own aversion is for the word "craft". How I hate to hear "craft" applied to writing! The "craft" of the story, poem, whatever. It repulses me, with its overtones of some genteel, antiquated hobby. Engineering, that would be alright, I suppose. Art, design, plumbing, all of that, which puts writing where it should be, in the world where people build, repair, create fixes, mob up, make spaghetti, help their kids with homework, and are alternately illuminated and tired. Craft comes from the early modern guild economy, the fierce nostalgia for which has fed the fascism and reaction of the 20th and 21st century. (Even though I should add that guild organizations, from doctors to profs, have endured to our day with more vigor than unions. Alas.)  

at the center of the city, the insane asylum

 The city, like the labyrinth, hides its center through a multitude of false routes to the center. And once in the center, the city hides its exits by imposing its one way streets, while the  art of the labyrinth is all in dead ends. The homology between the city and the labyrinth doesn’t stop there – for at the center of the labyrinth, to get the narrative going, to motivate its structure, there is a monster – and at the center of the city, there is a crime, At least, this is the city as viewed by German expressionists. I’ve just watched Fritz Lang’s last film from the Weimar German period, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, made after M. The film was made, I’ve read, in Hungary. It was written by Lang and his wife, Thea von Harbou. They split up conjugally and artistically after the film came out – or rather, was repressed by the Nazis in 1933. Lang went to Hollywood, Harbou, apparently with a new lover in tow, made a couple of films under the Nazis. The compromises one makes. To retur

Memory's dream

  In 2003, an editor named David Barker started commissioning a series of short books on albums, which he called   33 ½. It was a genius idea: Mark Polizzati on Highway 61 Revisited, Warren Zevon on Dusty in Memphis , Jonathan Lethem on Fear of Music , etc.   It is a rather brilliant conceit, which takes up the album as a complete unit. It has rather unravelled – the album that is – since 2003. This was something we all knew was coming with the download/upload Web. Even before the Internet – the B.I. years, as they will eventually be known – peeps were making tapes that bound together different songs to create a different unit of experience. I remember many of those tapes fondly, although if I held one in my hands this morning, I would not know what to do with it – I don’t have a tape player, and haven’t had one since I got my first PC, back in the back of…. Albums are excellent memory objects. I would be easy for me to write, say, short stories infused with my memory about Bob Dylan