“I think it was [he] who pointed out how lovely I was. Until that time, I think, it was safe to say that I had never really been aware of my own timeless brand of loveliness. But his words smote me, because, of course, you see I am lovely in a fluffy kind of way. Who would have it otherwise? I walk, and let’s be splendid about this, in a highly accented cloud of gorgeousness that isn’t far short of being, quite simply, terrific. The secret of smooth, almost shiny loveliness, of the order of which we are discussing, in this simple, frank sort of way, doesn’t reside in oils, unguents, balms, ointments, astringents, moisturizers, liniments, embrocations or balsams; to be rather divine for just one noble moment, it resides, and I mean this in a pink, slightly special way, in one’s attitude of mind. To be gorgeous and high and true and fine and fluffy and lovely, all you have to do is believe that one is gorgeous and high and true and fine and fluffy and lovely. And I believe it of myself, tremulously at first, and then with rousing heat and passion, because, stopping off for a second to be super again, I’m so often told it. That’s the secret really.”—Stephen Fry (via prufrockslovepoem)
“We love each other like brutes. Gorgeously
and twilled. Any geography is hard. The skin
ends where skin ends.
It’s mapless. I want to be borrowed, to be
assembled, again. To feel a tug on the other
side of the string.”—Kimberly Grey, “Saudade,” published in Gigantic Sequins (via nps2013)
“So I added midgets and I added stale bullets. I added monkeys; I added incongruous elements.”—
Incongruous elements, like, other than stale bullets, midgets, and monkeys? Rube Goldberg, who died 43 years ago today, describes something positively Rube Goldbergian in an interview for Radio Smithsonian. The full transcript is available on our site.
“She’s passionate in a doomed way; passionate about these tiny moments of routine she’s still managing to enjoy. Passionate about her morning coffee or the way she climbs the stairs. Yet one can clearly see that the light’s been taken out of her and she doesn’t want to get back to it. She can’t allow herself that love or openness because there’s too much pain.”—Juliette Binoche, on her role in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Bleu: Trois Couleurs (via heliophobus)
I posted my Top Ten of books that came out this year on the store blog.
This almost makes me weep.
If only - in this small corner of the world*, I had staff who had a pick list like this. If only - I had one customer walk in and want just one title on this swoonworthy list. I’ll grant that they may have heard of Coetzee, but few would consider choosing him over “a nice holiday read by the beach type of book, you know?”. And if only - it was my book shop, and I wasn’t just the manager of it, and I wasn’t told by the owner that my taste in books is too esoteric and too literary. Ah … if only.
*a small, small corner in tropical Queensland Australia - a world of bare skin, surf, perpetual blue sky and “nothing too heavy”. Even the shop’s address on Sunshine Beach Road mocks me.
About modernity in general—about what it is that has made us moderns no longer stuff for the social—I doubt there is anything new to say. The topic, like the thing itself, is exhausted: not over (never over), just tired to death. All that needs restating here—and Baldwin Spencer’s great photos of the longest continuing human culture are the proper accompaniment—is that the arrival of societies oriented toward the future, as opposed to a past of origins, heroisms, established ways, is a fact of history not nature, happening in one place and time, with complex, contingent causes. Personal religion (that strange mutation) and double-entry book-keeping being two of them. And by modernity is meant very much more than a set of techniques or a pattern of residence and consumption: the word intends an ethos, a habitus, a way of being a human subject. I go back to the sketch I gave in a previous book:
‘Modernity’ means contingency. It points to a social order which has turned from the worship of ancestors and past authorities to the pursuit of a projected future—of goods, pleasures, freedoms, forms of control over nature, new worlds of information. The process was accompanied by a terrible emptying and sanitizing of the imagination. For without the anchorage of tradition, without the imagined and vivid intricacies of kinship, without the past living on (most often monstrously) in the detail of everyday life, meaning became a scarce social commodity—if by ‘meaning’ we have in mind agreed-on and instituted forms of value and understanding, orders implicit in things, stories and images in which a culture is able to crystallize its sense of the struggle with the realm of necessity and the realities of pain and death. The phrase Max Weber borrowed from Schiller, ‘the disenchantment of the world’—gloomy yet in my view exultant, with its promise of a disabused dwelling in the world as it is—still sums up this side of modernity best …
‘Secularization’ is a nice technical word for this blankness. It means specialization and abstraction, as part of the texture of ordinary doings; social life driven by a calculus of large-scale statistical chances, with everyone accepting or resenting a high level of risk; time and space turned into variables in that same calculus, both of them saturated by ‘information’ and played with endlessly, monotonously, on nets and screens; the de-skilling of everyday life (deference to experts and technicians in more and more of the microstructure of the self); available, invasive, haunting expertise; the chronic revision of everything in the light of ‘studies’.
This does no more than block in the outlines: descriptively, there would be many things to add. But from the present point of view only two motifs need developing. First, that the essence of modernity, from the scripture-reading spice-merchant to the Harvard iPod banker sweating in the gym, is a new kind of isolate obedient ‘individual’ with technical support to match. The printed book, the spiritual exercise, coffee and Le Figaro, Time Out, Twitter, tobacco (or its renunciation), the heaven of infinite apps. Second, that all this apparatus is a kind or extension of clockwork. Individuality is held together by a fiction of full existence to come. Time Out is always just round the corner. And while the deepest function of this new chronology is to do work on what used to be called ‘subject positions’—keeping the citizen-subject in a state of perpetual anticipation (and thus accepting the pittance of subjectivity actually on offer)—it is at the level of politics that the Great Look Forward is most a given.
”—T. J. Clark, For A Left With No Future (via jacobwren)
Autonomy is a tricky term to handle because in the field of art it has come to denote almost the opposite of what it set out to name. Literally, auto / nomos means to determine one’s own laws. When art slowly but surely pried open a new social space for itself in nineteenth-century European society, on the basis of aesthetic principles laid out by Kant, Hegel, Diderot and others, it was in the name of giving itself its own laws. Its “conquest of space,” as Pierre Bourdieu calls it, was about wresting art from the overarching control and hindrance of religious and political authorities, carving out a separate sphere for itself where it could develop in keeping with its own internal logic. This space of autonomous art determined the art of modernity. Of course, the autonomy was only ever relative — but it was effective, and jealously guarded. In fact it still is. Incursions from other fields were repulsed vigorously. Indeed they still are. This autonomous sphere was seen as a place where art was free from the overcodes of the general economy (its own, utterly unregulated market notwithstanding) and the utilitarian rationality of market society — and as such, something be cherished and protected. This realm of autonomy was never supposed to be a comfort zone, but the place where art could develop audacious, scandalous, seditious works and ideas — which it set about doing.
However, autonomous art came at a cost — one that for many has become too much to bear. The price to pay for autonomy are the invisible parentheses that brackets art off from being taken seriously as a proposition having consequences beyond the aesthetic realm. Art judged by art’s standards can be easily written off as, well… just art. Of contemplative value to people who like that sort of thing, but without teeth. Of course autonomous art has regularly claimed to bite the hand that feeds it; but never very hard. To gain use value, to find a usership, requires that art quit the autonomous sphere of purposeless purpose and disinterested spectatorship. For many practitioners today, autonomous art has become less a place of self-determined experimentation than a prison house — a sphere where one must conform to the law of permanent ontological exception, which has left the autonomous artworld rife with cynicism.
I’ve been reading Morrissey’s Autobiography recently and absolutely loving it, but even at four-hundred-and-something pages I want more. And so I wondered (what if… what if…) what would the 1980s have looked like if Morrissey and the others had decided to write plays instead of songs?
“Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.”—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (via petrichour)
“Jacques Lacan reminds us, that in sex, each individual is to a large extent on their own, if I can put it that way. Naturally, the other’s body has to be mediated, but at the end of the day, the pleasure will be always your pleasure. Sex separates, doesn’t unite. The fact you are naked and pressing against the other is an image, an imaginary representation. What is real is that pleasure takes you a long way away, very far from the other. What is real is narcissistic, what binds is imaginary. So there is no such thing as a sexual relationship, concludes Lacan. His proposition shocked people since at the time everybody was talking about nothing else but “sexual relationships”. If there is no sexual relationship in sexuality, love is what fills
the absence of a sexual relationship.
Lacan doesn’t say that love is a disguise for sexual relationships; he says that sexual relationships don’t exist, that love is what comes to replace that non-relationship. That’s much more interesting. This idea leads him to say that in love the other tries to approach “the being of the other”. In love the individual goes beyond himself, beyond the narcissistic. In sex, you are really in a relationship with yourself via the mediation of the other. The other helps you to discover the reality of pleasure. In love, on the contrary the mediation of the other is enough in itself. Such is the nature of the amorous encounter: you go to take on the other, to make him or her exist with you, as he or she is. It is a much more profound conception of love than the entirely banal view that love is no more than an imaginary canvas painted over the reality of sex.”—Alain Badiou, In Praise of Love (via ounu)
“Time, she says, on all sides. Without shore. We drown if we set foot in, though we’re bound to. As incurably as proton and neutron are bound to the dim world of the nucleus. And once we learn to breathe in the crash of water desire rushes in, takes hold of our smallest gesture as of a sail. But at the edge of the picture we fall. And are born. In all directions.”—Rosmarie Waldrop, from Reluctant Gravities (via jacobwren)
"Where people once wrote and collected letters, in the near future, when we die, someone will have to print and collate our dissolute online footprints: social-networking profiles, emails, saved chats, message board posts, online journals, the detritus of mediocre, embarrassing lives.
Like going back to the land as a protest against industrial civilization, going against the tide of social networking is already an archaic form of dissent that means giving up your outlet for subversion….
There was a time when an interaction couldn’t be followed up by a text message—when the Puritans left Europe to come to America, good-bye was good-bye, possibly for forever. People didn’t piddle around making offensive verbal blunders and then sending corrective, clarifying emails. They knew it would be almost impossible to breach the silence of distance. They were more careful and more passionate. In our bright era of constant communication, good-bye means “I’ll see you on Gchat in a couple of hours.” The dreamtime past of writing a letter, of stopping by unannounced without texting first, of not being able to track each other down instantaneously but instead having to cope with painful, soul-confronting solitude—these activities are now the kitsch realm of grandmothers and punk rockers.”
"At a punk show promoted entirely on Facebook, the attendees milled around awkwardly, sad Internet trolls, socially maldeveloped from their big, distended web personalities. Show-goers and promoters alike came off as distinctly unsure of themselves, hesitating to approach those they’d known only as avatars on message boards or as pretty faces easily voyeured on social-networking sites. The promoters sat in a corner drawing up a real-life flyer for the event that was already half over—engaged in constructing an actual physical artifact to provide posthumous proof, in case hard drives or Facebook’s central server are accidentally wiped clean."
“is the fire real
is what fire real is the fire real? are you carrying it?
what fire are you talking about the fire inside you
where is the fire oh it’s just a little fire
kept it small
kept it hidden
you know what
what the freedom of birds is an insult to me
where are you going you know where
please don’t do anything to birds
I’m coming over Carry the fire
WHAT FIRE you’ll see”—
“We require just a little order to protect us from the chaos. Nothing is more distressing than a thought that escapes itself, than ideas that fly off, that disappear hardly formed, already eroded by forgetfulness or precipitated into others that we no longer master. These are infinite variabilities, the appearing and disappearing of which coincide. They are infinite speeds that blend into the immobility of the colourless and silent nothingness they traverse, without nature or thought. This is the instant of which we do not know whether it is too long or too short for time. We receive sudden jolts that beat like arteries. We constantly lose our ideas. That is why we want to hang on to fixed opinions so much. We ask only that our ideas are linked together according to a minimum of constant rules. All that the association of ideas has ever meant is providing us with these protective rules – resemblance, contiguity, causality – which enable us to put some order into ideas, preventing our “fantasy” (delirium, madness) from crossing the universe in an instant, producing winged horses and dragons breathing fire.”—
“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”—Ernest Hemingway (via infinite-paradox)