Sunday, December 28, 2008

November 14 - December 17, 2008

A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf
1957, paperback

Until now I've never read any of Virginia Woolf's books, but luckily the exhibition A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections is changing that. Woolf is an amazing writer and what she wrote in first part of the 20th century bears just as much relevance and importance in the 21st. Woolf's thinking aloud through her writing allows the reader to gain from the path she walks. I find her to be an exemplary companion, I just need to find more quiet corners to spend with her writing so I don't become the skimmer of surfaces she mentions.

Some excerpts:
4- "a woman must have money and a room of her own is she is to write fiction"
13-14- "It is strange how a scrap of poetry works in the mind and makes the legs more in time to it along the road."
-"But the living poets express a feeling that is actually being made and torn out of us at the moment."
15- "My heart is gladder than all these Because my love is come to me?"
18- "a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
24- "I pondered this and that, as one does at the end of the day's work."
35- "What effect had poverty on fiction? What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art?"
27- "Why are women, judging from this catalogue, so much more interesting to men than men are to women?"
30- (footnote 1- Dr. Johnson) "Men know that women are an overmatch for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or the most ignorant. If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves."
31-32- "Drawing pictures was an idle way of finishing an unprofitable morning's work. Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."
34- "When I read what he wrote about women I thought, not of what he was saying, but of himself."
36- "mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action"
53- " write a work of genius is almost always a feat of prodigious difficulty. Everything is against the likelihood that it will come from the writer's mind whole and entire. Generally material circumstances are against it...Further, accentuating all these difficulties and making them harder to bear is the world's notorious indifference. It does not ask people to write poems and novels and histories; it does not need them...Naturally it will not pay for what it does not want."
54- "If anything comes through in spite of all this, it is a miracle, and probably no book is born entire and uncrippled as it was conceived."
57- "The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself."
68-69- "For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice."
70- (Mrs. Nightingale) "Women never had a half hour...that they can call their own."
79- "Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."
80- "Moreover, a book is not made of sentences laid end to end but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes."
83- "She may be beginning to use writing as an art, not as a method of self-expression. Among these new novels one might find an answer to several such questions."
93- "Above all, you must illumine your own soul with its profundities and its shallows, and its vanities and its generosities, and say what your beauty means to you or your plainness, and what is your relation to the every changing and turning world of gloves and shows and stuffs swaying up and down among the faint scents that come through chemists' bottles down arcades of dress material over a floor of pseudomarble."
94-95- "Be truthful, one would say, and the result if bound the be amazingly interesting. Comedy is bound to be enriched."
97- "that she was not a skimmer of surfaces merely, but had looked beneath into the depths."
101- "Clearly the mind is always altering its focus, and bringing the world into different perspectives."
110 - "so long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters..."
115- "...much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people...Think of things in themselves."
117- "A thousand pens are ready to suggest what you should do and what effect you will have."
-"...for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh"
118- " work, even in poverty and obscurity is worth while"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

November 25 - December 6, 2008

Reena Spaulings
A novel by Bernadette Corporation
paperback, 2004

I have wanted to read this book from the moment I learned of it (you can read the 1st three chapters here). Somehow I never ordered online, but finally it found me. The last copy at the MoCAD bookstore, it was in stock due to the Bernadette Corporation being in the intelligent and captivating exhibition Business as Usual. Reena Spaulings is a fictional character in her 20s (but isn't she all of us), a museum guard, a fashion model, a novel, and subsequently an art gallery and an art dealer. She's not one thing, she's many. And she's rarely still, though despite the fast pace the reader still is able to get inside her head. sometimes.

Some excerpts:
Preface- "If you look at a city, there's no way to see it. One person can never see a city."
-"It has to be informed, imagined, by many people at a time. It's an everyday group hallucination."
3- Reena
4- "She is not happy, not sad, not nothing."
-Nobody ever talks in the way it would blow her brains out. Plus she has no desire to interfere with the flows that brought these streams of people, words."
7- "Reena could be a Manet, one of these thinking pictures you can't see through, no matter how long you stare at them."
12- "I am often surprised, not to say a little embarrassed, at how blown-away I can be by the street's beauty after a day in the museum."
15- "A body is a living, breathing image that thinks while exposing itself to others."
16- "What if nothing belonged to anybody?"
31- Manet, Young Lady in 1866
34- "The illusion unravels like in a Warhol, leaving something that's not an illusion."
-"Here is observing for those who can no longer see. Or, for those who can't really look into another person's eyes."
55- "We move through a city that produces boys and girls and extends itself through them."
57- "...thinking of how the sky is shoved to the periphery of the stage by our monuments and monumental buildings."
61- "I think how can we make a beautiful brushstroke with our existence?"
63- "an economy of essences"
65- "his shirts were always blank"
73- (war) "Anyway, there's no point in discussing such things if we can't find a way of talking about them that's as outrageous as the things themselves."
-dandy- "existence consists in the wearing of clothes"
-abstract painting- "opening a blank space in the texture of institutionally recognized meaning. Few artists leave that void empty for long."
76- hands
78- "It's as if an envelop is falling over this place, sealing us up inside."
-"I feel loads of unspoken words showering down on me. Shooting star sentences that will never be translated."
79- "She's an open book but every turned page presents another cover."
82- "New York is an entire library of books about everything and everybody. Reading here is work, and behind every book-filled room is another room of books and the reading never ends."
-"The city is an open structure that works by calibrating every relationship to its programmed expansion and destruction."
-"The city needs Reena and folds her into its architectures..."
-(NYC) 12 million reader-authors
-"There is no New York story, only an endless effort to make us forget that narration is war..."
-Reena's lighting system
84- "Bedrooms are the site of intimacy. What is more intimate, when shared, than boredom."
85- "Boredom like stupidity contains its own treasures."
93-94- "Was Reena pursuing her desires, or was she inventing them anew with each ring of the cash register."
94- "Its exclusivity lay entirely in the mis-relationship between what it had cost and what it actually was. The price here stood in for any and ever other quality."
95-96- 99 cent store
98- "Shopping together is like traveling: an elaborate way of making the couple visible to itself."
99- "'I'm surprised how much birds sing.'"
133- Voltaire- "That which needs an explanation is not worth an explanation!"
136- "...Capitalism, Empire, whatever...there's a general context that not only controls each situation but, even worse, also tries to ensure that, most of the time, there is no situation."
-"That the desert of these times isn't perceived is only one more proof of the desert."
137- "To live in the world means: to begin with the situation, not to deny it. To give consistency to a situation. To make it real, tangible. Reality is not capitalist."
143- Zizek
154- "Funny how individuality makes you generic."
154-155- "Here is an intellectual body of pure capability, but one that is also open, looking to be determined from outside, ready to re-write everything, to co-write, to be written on..."
158- "Better to eat candy like Andy."
165- "People want to be someone. But the really exciting challenge is to become no one."
174- "Everything emblematic of a being-alive that once was, is not available in a variety of prices and quality."
188- "I wanted to go out and see people and talk about everything I saw."
190- "Nothing ever ends until you let it go."
-"Only the impossible is worth the effort."
200- "because in New York we were sweating the evil they would be photocopying in three years time."
201- "You see? Your love is circular. There is nothing like it. It makes us forget how to change."
202- "I'm trying to wangle my way out of obligations because I need long hours to do nothing, which I consider to be a big part of my work now."
-back cover

November 3 - 19, 2008

A Coney Island of the Mind
Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
New Directions Paperback

While I've been to City Lights I've never read any of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poetry. I came across this volume since it was the selection for the reading group accompanying the complex and marvelous exhibition Circa 1958. I didn't make it to the discussion group, but I'm glad to have spent some time with Ferlinghetti's fantastically visual and stunning poems.

Some excerpts/phrases:
9- "under cement skies"
-"bland billboards illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness"
10- "...more maimed citizens in painted cards and they have strange license plates and engines that devour America"
11- "...elephants in bathtubs floated past us out to sea strumming bent mandolins..."
14- "And lost teacups full of our ashes floated by"
17- "where no birds sang"
33- "Frightened by the sound of my own voice and by the sound of birds singing on hot wires"
35- "The pennycandy store beyond the El is where I first fell in love with unreality"
36- "At a certain age her heart put about searching the lost shores And heard the green birds singing from the other side of silence."
38- "painting moustaches on statues"
44- Proust
49- "and I am waiting for someone to really discover America"
52- "and I am waiting for Alice in Wonderland to retransmit to me her total dream of innocence"
57- "I'm going where turtles win"
58- "Lost the war without killing anybody."
-"The end has just begun. I want to announce it. Run don't walk to the nearest exit."
62- "Home is where one starts from."
63- "and noted the close identification of the United States and the Promise Land where every coin is marked In God We Trust but the dollar bills do not have it being gods unto themselves."
64- "I have ridden superhighways and believes the billboard's promises"
-"I am in line for a top job. I may be moving on to Detroit."
66- "I have seen giraffes in jungle jims their necks like love wound around the iron circumstances of the world."
82- "#6 Truth is not the secret of a few"
-museums, constipated
83- "Fortune has its cookies to give out"
85- "'We think differently at night' she told me once"
90- El- third story world
91- "and of that lost book I had with its blue cover and its white inside where a pencilhand had written HORSEMAN, PASS BY!"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to give a book and so much more

Recently I was thinking about sewing re-usable book wrapping bags since I always give people books for holidays. Lisa Anne Auerbach has an even better idea- The Hanukah Book Club- going through your bookshelf and giving some of the books you have to your loved ones since the books will be new to them! This idea developed out of a conversation between her mom and grandmother. As Auerbach writes, "She wrapped up eight used books for everyone and that was that. We loved it. No consumer frenzy. Better, more thoughtful presents. Super fun and no shopping."

Here's the tract the she wrote about The Hanukah Book Club too.
It begins: "Down with Christian Capitalist Consumer Christmas! Enough already with the gifts.
We call an unceremonious end to toasters, flatscreens, cashmere, ice buckets and the like. We giggle and gloat at the funeral of Christmas shopping, and we dance on the grave of unrepentant consumerism. It’s boring and wasteful. The mall is a desperate place. It’s loud and unfulfilling. We have to shake ourselves so we don’t turn into zombies...."
and continues:
"The decision between extravagant and practical is over. Cereal bowls or spa treatment? Socks or gold-tipped knitting needles? A year’s supply of garbage bags or a counter-hogging espresso machine? Are gifts about us or about them? Do we think we’re a better person if we’re spending more money? Or do we think our family will love us more if we show up with eight more useless offerings? ... We might not know what our purpose is as human beings on this planet, but certainly it is not to keep corporate America afloat in our dollars."

Absolutely brilliant.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Buy Books from Bookstores

"Literacy is the cornerstone of any great society. When we stop reading -- and by extension, buying books, discussing art, participating in the life of the mind -- everything else crumbles."

Full story:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

October 19 - November 1, 2008

The Wordy Shipmates
Sarah Vowell
2008, hardcover
14 cards

This is a book about the Puritans, the Separatists and the Non-Separatists, but since it is written by Sarah Vowell it is so much more than that. Vowell positions what took place in the early days of the United States alongside the current wars the United States wages. With her humor and cynicism and wading through history to dredge up the good stuff, her approach also demonstrates how one can fuse one's practice, with one's beliefs in ways that inform the current state of affairs rather than just recount. And the book starts with a drawing by Marcel Dzama. With the recent election we might not be Ronald Regan anymore (p. 62), but we'll see.

Since it is the month of the holiday known as Thanksgiving I point your attention to the following statement: "Days of thanksgiving were earned. They would be appalled by US calendars calling for a holiday...What if we didn't deserve it?" (p. 198) Maybe this year it should have been November 5.

Some excerpts:
1- "The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief. I don't mean thought-provoking. I mean: might get people killed."
6- Middle East
-"Answer: Because Henry VIII had a crush on a woman who was not his wife."
-"(Martin) Luther's point was that, according to scripture, salvation is not a bake sale..."
7- "Luther translated the Bible into German so Germans could read it for themselves."
9- "hot Protestants" (Puritans)
11- The Humble Request, 1630- "Nothing uppity about us, Your Majesty, we're just hobos in the woods."
-Winthrop: "We shall be as a city upon a hill."
12- wrote their own books
-Ralph Waldo Emerson- "The art of writing is the highest of those permitted to man."
13- "The United States is often called a Puritan nation. Well, here is one way in which it emphatically is not: Puritan lives were overwhelmingly, fanatically literary."
14- Reverend Thomas Shepard Jr. to his son: "So I say to you read! Something will stick in the mind, be diligent and good will come of it."
15- John Adams- "Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties..."
16- David McCullough
20- "check out those barbarian idiots with their cockamamie farce of a legal system, locking people up for fishy reasons and putting their criminals to death. Good thing Americans put an end to all that nonsense long ago."
21- General Cornwallis [so that's why that road name near me comes from]
23- the Great Migration 1629-40
24-25- Massachusetts Bay Colony's official seal [Dzama's drawing]- "Indian says, 'Come over and help us!'"
-"The worldview behind that motto- we're here to help, whether you want our help or not- is the Massachusetts Puritans' most enduring bequest to the future United States. And like everything the Puritans believes, it is derived from scripture."
26- 1801 inaugural address by Thomas Jefferson argues for "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations- entangling alliances with none."
30- germs- "The kingdom of death extended from Chile to Newfoundland..."- map at the National Museum of the American Indian
-Squanto- "spoke English because he had learned it in Europe after he was kidnapped by sailors. By the time he made his way back to America, everyone he knew was dead."
34- text at the museum next to the map- "That initial explosion of death is one of the greatest tragedies in human history because it was unintended and unavoidable, and even inevitable. But what happened in its wake was not."
45- MLK Jr. 1957- "So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you 'I love you. I would rather die than hate you.'"
54- John Adams- "The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed for the common good."
56- surveillance
59- Dolly Parton
-Winthrop's sermon, as a supposed early model for the idea of America, became a blank screen onto which Americans in general and Reagan in particular projected their own ideas about the country we ended up with."
-"And looking into the ways the sermon, or at least that one phrase in it [city on a hill] was used, throws open the American divide between action and words, between what we say we believe versus what we actually do."
62- "In the USA, we want to sing along with the chorus and ignore the verses, ignore the blues."
-"City on a hill, though- that has a backbeat we can dance to. And that's why the citizen of the United States not only elected and reelected Ronald Reagan; that's why we are Ronald Regan."
65- Reagan: "...and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here..."
69- Abu Ghraib
74- regularly scheduled voting
81- blank pages
82- ferkins- kilderkin
86- state house, Boston- "one of the oldest upholstered chairs made in New England."
91- plaques in Boston
108- "A cross, to a Puritan, is not a symbol of Christ- it is a symbol of the pope."
112- pamphlet fight!
118- Vacation Bible school- "It was like arts-and-crafts camp, only churchier..."
119- lessons "be true to yourself, be not afraid to defy authority, be willing to die for what you believe in..."
127- "Williams's greatness lies in his refusal to keep his head down in a society that prizes nothing more than harmony and groupthink. He cares more about truth than popularity or respect or personal safety."
128- "...Winthrop is Peter Seeger...Williams is Bob Dylan plugging in at Newport..."
129- Williams "a man who devotes his life to keeping government out of the church- not the other way around."
148- "...Rhode Island was purchased by love."
150- "Williams, like Melville, is a tad too excited, too lonely, too longwinded, too strange."
-Melville- paper mill- "endless supply of paper on which 'I should write a thousand-a million-billion thoughts, all under the form of a letter to you!"
157- "I'm an indoorsy urban woman..."
159- "most useful, or at least the most telling" Algonquin phrases Williams translates: "We understand no each other." "You trouble me."
171- pirate
196- Foxwoods
197- dioramas
198- "When's Thanksgiving?"
-"might be June 15, 1637"
-"Days of thanksgiving were earned. They would be appalled by US calendars calling for a holiday...What is we didn't deserve it?"
236-237- (magazine subscription card) "she is either male property (Mrs.), wannabe male property (Miss) or man hating harpy (Ms.)."
238- plaque text
239- "To get to his city you see her name."
248- JFK: "For of those to whom much is given, much is required."

My own private Alexandria

Paul Chan reads texts to you.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How to Read Like a President
NY Times, November 2, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October 11 - 18, 2008

by J. Nimi
33 1/3 books, 2007, paperback
14 cards

When I met Peter Buck I thanked him for R.E.M.'s introducing me to the music of The Soft Boys and the Velvet Underground. My friend Joel was shocked that I failed to express my love for R.E.M. to Peter Buck. It just seemed a given, I do hope he knew that. R.E.M. for me was like those friends who introduce you to things that help you figure out what you're about as well as share things that they know you will love. J. Nimi does just that in this book on Murmur. I also realize now I don't really know that much about Murmur and, while this book fills in some of that, his discussion of Walker Percy's The Message in the Bottle is his gift, as well as this thoughtful text about Murmur.

A few selections:
xi- "But isn't that how we feel about records we love- that without us, they wouldn't exist? That they continue to mediate your existence, even after you shut off the stereo, shelve the records, "outgrow" the band?
-Francisco Varela: "Every act of knowing brings forth a world."
xii- Richard Brilliant's My Laocoon- "how a personal experience of a work of art can become tainted by what history has to say about it."
xiii- restrain the imagination
-"Murmur is part object...part text...and part performance."
xiv- "Murmur was and is about not understanding things too quickly or too assuredly. An artist wants his or her work to be "understood," but by a particular means also inscribed as a part of that work."
1- recorded in Charlotte, NC
2- Carrboro
12 (being in a band) "is not so much about freedom as it is about the giving up of one kind of burden for another."
43- "the common fear of not being heard"
50- Marat's death
52- "tell now what is dreaming"
55- Lionel Trilling: "The poet...may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather."
56- Thoreau: "each railroad tie was a soul- the passing of a freight train was a night requiem to the railroad ties..."
61-62- Kudzu- James Dickey- "unkillable ghosts"
62- kudzu to a Midwesterner
63- Gerhard Richter
68- Edmund Burke
74- 1st demo tape- sticker, "do not open"
76- David Rothenberg: "The Phenomenology of Reverb" quoting Edmund Husserl: "...once a sound happens, it immediately goes away; and the moment it's over, we begin to forget it. That's what memory, in fact, is: the history of forgetting."
79- Irving Howe: "the Reaganites have largely succeeded in restoring popular confidence in the virtues of capitalism, the mystical beneficence of "the free market," and the attractiveness of a "minimalist state" even though that state, faithfully attending to corporate needs, has never been close to being minimalist."
80- "Coca-Cola didn't sell soda pop; they sold corn, in the form of corn syrup, a product that greatly offset the economic gap created in the wake of the gasoline crisis of the later 1970s."
89- Michael Stipe: "We want our records to be like doors to other worlds."
90- Walker Percy's "Metaphor as Mistake"
90-91- naming
93- Robert Frost, "poetry is what gets lost in translation"
-Eli Khamarov: "poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition."
93-94- MS: lyrics "a blank chalkboard for people to pick up and scribble over"
98- "Murmur is a record that needs to be completed by the listener, but she has written herself out of the picture altogether, not to mention the music."
101- "When you illuminate the sublime, you get a sharper darkness."
108- "For most of history, up until very recently, music was heard only when it was performed."
114- Magritte
125- "But part of projecting yourself into a pop song is the tacit notion that you're able to momentarily leave behind the real narrative that you normally inhabit."
126- strategy

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 8 - 12, 2008

Chicken with Plums
Marjane Satrapi
2006, hardcover
1 card

7- "As someone once said, 'To live, it's not enough to be alive.'"
63- Rumi- The Story of the Elephant
64- "Each one had given his interpretation of the animal according to what he had touched. Life is the same. We give meaning to life based on our point of view."
-"The key to wisdom is doubt."

October 1 - 10, 2008

Fargo Rock City
Chuck Klosterman
2001, hardcover
9 cards

8- "As a writer, there is nothing more flattering than having someone invest their thoughts into something your wrote."
18- "Whenever people look back on their grammar school days, they inevitably insist that they remember feeling 'safe' or 'pure' or 'hungry for discovery.' Of course, the people who say those things are lying (or stupid or both). It's revisionist history..."
25- Brian Eno, "Only a thousand people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but every one of them became a musician."
55- "Sadness and evil are always more believable than happiness and love."
58- metal and interpretation
71- "What music 'means' is almost completely dependent on the people who sell it and the people who buy it, not the people who make it. Our greatest artists are the ones who understand how they can be interesting and unique within those limitations."
72- "Glam is a struggle against normalcy."
73- who has listened to the New York Dolls
105- "The only thing important about art is how it affects people. It only needs to affect one person to be interesting, but it had to affect many to be important."
118- males, loyalty to bands
138- "Life makes art."
221- Americanphile
225- "Hating (and sometimes mocking) music is just as important as loving (and embracing) music."
272- Stone Temple Pilots, Interstate Love Song

Monday, October 20, 2008

August 27 - October 5, 2008

Looking Up Rachel Whiteread's Water Tower
Public Art Fund
Hardcover, 1998
10 cards

Many people who have walked with me in a city know about my interest in water towers. I have given some thought as to why these structures interest me. Partly it's because they signify city to me, there were no such water towers in town I was from. It seems as if they're a tangible expression of time- particularly in Detroit, they're a sign of earlier life and vitality, the towers haunting the sky to some degree. They have a presence in the sky and they also have a function. I try to capture as many as I can in snapshots since each feels unique. Rachel Whiteread also took an interest in water towers and explored, researched and created a project inspired by the water towers of New York. I've had my eye on this book for a while but the truly wonderful Strand Bookstore had it for $5 or so, and thus I found my copy.

Whiteread's tower now seems to be on MoMA's roof. Whiteread chose a trasnslucent material to cast her water tower unlike the dense materials of her casting of house interiors (I saw Ghost this summer at the National Gallery) prevent one from entering the former interior. What is it about water towers that lets us in? I'm still not sure but perhaps in continuing to return to such a question there the answers will become as interesting as the question. I just started thinking about the way water towers are part of networks, relationship which I realize more and more each day underlie many projects and interests of mine.

Some excerpts:
13- Joan Didion, The White Album, "Water is important to people who do not have it, and the same is true of power."
-arid climates, water- "liquid capital"
15- "The skyline of old New York is the engineering consequence of the reserves of water held in upstate regions."
-1998- 17,000 rooftop water tanks in NYC
16- "Human habitations must be protected from their own effects."
17- "In present-day New York City, the politics of land values can be read in the architecture of the skyline. Water, like any other system, is political: power that can be channeled, streamed, diverted and stored."
18- "To look at Whiteread's Water Tower is not only to be reminded of the origins of what we take for granted but also to delve into the functioning of a larger system of which wooden water towers are merely the visible pinnacles."
20-Ilya Kabakov, Monument to the Lost Glove
22- David Hammons
-"the projects in their city locations are 'open texts' which invite many possible readings and individual perceptions."
23- Gordon Matta- Clark
24- 1st research trip- walking
25- Bernd and Hilla Becher
-"The water tower is part of the complex system by which water is collected and distributed. Consisting of a water tank and a tower-like substructure, it fulfills 2 purposes at the same time: storage and the maintenance of pressure."
27- almost disappearing, invisible
-"part of the sky itself"
28- "those who seek it out will find it"
45- Foxwoods
47- "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."

Cabin the Sky
, Luc Sante
89- "Although omnipresent, and comforting, in their omnipresence, water towers have nevertheless managed to avoid dull familarity. You never quite cease to see them..."
-"strictly functional idea"
92- Bechers- "It is the Bechers's mission to document with scientific rigor the architectural remnants of the age of industry."
-"They were never intended to be any more than strictly utilitarian."
-"their abject and uncompromising simplicity."
The Immigrant- Molly Nesbit
99- Gerhard Richter- city of New York
100- Rem Koolhaus- "count the rabbits"
-"to make something not there"
-"she would retreat from the skyline to return to it."
101- J. G. Ballard's Crash
102- Nietzsche
105-106 "She gave peace an urban shape in her inverted tower of water"
106- country moment "When there are no birds singing, and there's no wind, you just get this silence that is absolute concrete, it completely smothers you."
-"But New York is not itself capable of this kind of silence."
-"What is an artist? Neither tourist nor traveler exactly."
-107- "For a large work of art like Water Tower is in effect asking to be held only by the world."
108- "No city on earth, no life on earth, has the scale of sky."
-"Clouds are notoriously silent."
163- Moondance Diner (now closed)
166- RW: "I really wanted to make something that was more like an intake of breath."
170- Robert Leonard: "It reflects the idea of a monument without marking a site that a monument would normally mark as being significant. It is an empty form waiting for meaning to attach itself to it."
171- Trisha Brown: "people didn't look up; artists probably did"
173- Trisha Brown, Roof Piece, Soho, 1972
176- Dan Graham- Two Way Mirror Inside Cube
183- Ingrid Schaffner- "this city's particular capacity to inspire whomever is simply prepared to look."
188- David Zwirner: "Looking for it is almost just as satisfying as finding it."
195- Diane Lewis: "The city is a text...But an existential description of the city as a history is that history has no objective, the art is to give it one, by reading of the city not as a history but as une histoire, a story."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Books are places of identification, receptacles of collected insight. Even if you only read a book once in your lifetime, as it stands on your bookshelf it symbolizes a storehouse of experience on which you repeatedly draw in the process of remembering. A subjective selection of ten favorite books, therefore, represents an intellectual spiritual storehouse in and through which individuals rediscover, nourish and redefine themselves. Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are."

-Bernhart Schwenk writing about the artist the work of Peter Wuthrich

Saturday, October 4, 2008

September 16 - 29, 2008

Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami
2005, hardcover
27 cards

I've been meaning to read one of Haruki Murakami's books for a few years now. A couple of years ago a co-worker recommended The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and, more recently, his memoir that overlaps with running sounds interesting. But it was when Jen recommended Kafka on the Shore and sent me the New Yorker review of the book (Jen reads New Yorkers cover to cover in order, I think she may be up to June right now but I could be wrong) that I decided this was the one to start with.
A meditation on life, Chances are you the reader has not become involved in a murder like part of the storyline, there are moments that may reflect your own grappling with a life lived, or at least that's what this book offered me. Thoughtful insights abound resulting from ordinary life moments as well as a few of the extraordinary variety. And Chip Kidd designed the cover.
4- "Distance might not solve anything."
11- map
15- "You know how it is. When kids start playing together and get completely absorbed by whatever they're doing, they don't care about things like that anymore."
18- clouds- angle
21- "In traveling, a companion, in life, compassion."
-"'I think it means,' I say, 'that chance encounters are what keep us going."
30- map
31- diner
31- "Like the clouds floating across the sky, I'm all by myself, totally free."
32- libraries
36- odor of books
-"This is exactly the place I've been looking for forever."
37- "people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing other half."
-"my point is that it's really hard for people to live their lives alone."
44- cat and name- "I had one, I know I did, but somewhere along the line I didn't need it anymore. So it slipped my mind."
46- cats- creatures of habit
54- (Kafka) "I think what Kafka does is give a purely mechanical explanation of that complex machines in the story...that's his own device for explaining the kind of lives we lead. Not by talking about our situation, but by talking about the details of the machine."
68- (apartment) "Seedy, all right, but at least it had the feel of real people living real lives."
83- (no kids) "But it's not a good ideas to make decisions so soon. There's no such thing as absolutes."
94- "Was the sound of birds I was hearing real?"
99- clinging to something- Goethe- "Everything's a metaphor"
102-103- (Schubert) " that have a certain imperfection to them have an appeal for that very reason- or at least they appeal to certain types of people....You discover something about that work that tugs at your heart- or maybe we should say the work discovers you."
104- "...People soon get tired of things that aren't boring, but not of what is boring."
105- "But solitude comes in different varieties..."
122- (pencilled note, Eichmann bio)- "It's all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. It's just like Yeats said: IN dreams begin responsibilities. Flip this around and you could say that when there's no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise. Just like we see with Eichmann."
127- "...silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear."
141- "...whatever is it you're seeking won't come in the form you're expecting."
174- "People who look normal and live a normal life- they're the ones you have to watch out for."
175- "The more connections, the deeper the meaning."
-"What matters is that you see things with your own eyes."
-"If you try to use your head to think about things, people don't want to have anything to do with you."
176- "Boundaries between things are disappearing all the time."
182- labyrinth
189- "A theory is a battlefield in your head."
191- diner
203- record player and record- "If possible I'd like to listen to the record to hear how it originally sounded."
-"All like the ruins of some not-so-distant past."
210- (song) "One by one the words find a home in my heart."
225- pirate
-"Artists are those who can evade the verbose."
-"If the words can't create a prophetic tunnel connecting them to the reader, then the whole thing no longer functions as a poem."
232- Bob Dylan
235- "My grandpa always said asking a question is embarrassing for a moment, but not asking is embarrassing for a lifetime."
236- pickles
238- diner
240- Colonel Sanders
248- bird- branch- wind- "vision shifts"
253- Bergson- "The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory."
255- "A revelation leaps over the borders of the everyday. A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need is to move from reason that observes to reason that acts."
265- "God only exists in people's minds."
-"If you think God's there, He is. If you don't, he isn't."
276- "Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who's in love gets sad when they think of their lover."
276- painting
278- "All of us are dreaming."
284- "Nakata's like a library without a single book."
292- "People actually prefer not being free."
-Australian Aborigines, fenceless civilization until 17th century
294- "Or maybe I just wanted to keep myself busy, so I set a goal that kept me running around and my mind occupied."
-"If it wasn't for that project, I probably would've withdrawn even further from reality and ended up completely isolated."
299- "the post rain scent in the air"
302- "The world would be a real mess if everybody was a genius. Somebody's got to keep watch, take care of business..."
326- "So when you step into the labyrinth outside you, at the same time you're stepping into the labyrinth inside."
327- "The longer people live, the more they learn to distinguish what's important from what's not."
-"You're in the middle of something wonderful, something so tremendous you may never experience it again. But you can't really understand how wonderful it is. That makes you impatient. And that, in turn, leads you to despair."
332- pickles
334- map- diner
334- "'But what the heck are you looking for?' Hoshino asked after they'd eaten. 'I don't know. But I think-' 'that you'll know it when you see it. And until you see it, you won't know what it is.'"
349- "Believing that art itself, and the proper expression of emotions, was the most sublimed thing in the world, he though political power and wealth only served one purpose: to make art possible."
359-360- "War breeds war."
365- "The process of writing was important. Even though the finished product is completely meaningless."
365- painting
370- letter- secret
373- "Why does loving somebody mean you have to hurt them just as much? I mean, if that's the way it goes, what's the point of loving someone? Why the hell does it have to be like that?"
377- "Can nothingness increase?"
379- "You changed my life...things look different to me now. ... I've started to see the world through your eyes."
382- pickles
390- Truffant- 400 Blows
392- names- "There's no need to call me, she says. If you need me, I'll be here."
405- hold a book
427 (quiet, power) "People that don't get it never will."
432- "Every one of us is losing something precious to us...Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads- at least that's where I imagine it- there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in the library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while..."
-"People need a place they can belong."
435- time

Sunday, September 14, 2008

September 11 - 14, 2008

Deb Olin Unferth
2008, hardcover, McSweeney's
10 cards

Sometimes McSweeney's Book Club's books come in the mail just when you need them, sometimes they accumulate before you get to them. Luckily this one just came in time; a time where I can't go on a vacation, this book's title immediately grabbed my attention. Next I realized I'd read a book by Deb Olin Unferth before and enjoyed it immensely. Hers was one of three books that made up One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box. A perfect solution to the weekend.

Unferth's use of language is amazing. AMAZING I tell you! Sometimes so simply written, but within a few words a web of issues, observations, life, emotion, etc. are captured. This book is told by a number of characters and voices, sometimes identified, sometimes blurring into the others' stories. I've written about truisms in books before and Unferth provides some of those here too, but she also takes on the unanswerable elements of life, acutely observes them, and while offering no answers necessarily, the space she provides for them to rumble around in your own head can offer respite to life's ongoing puzzle and its missing pieces.

18- "Strings of parked cars receded away into a dense thicket of lots."
-"So Gray hasn't come home. The lesson learned her was to not ever, ever look forward to anything. ever. Crush expectation. Count on nothing but your own grave."
-"His own smallness, his solitude, the cul-de-sac of his mind."
-"He'd asked her to marry him almost immediately on meeting her. He knew right away he would love her."
19- "No one should spend their life going through places like this. One's mind and soul may look like this, but to have to see it outside oneself was really just too much."
20- "You never take vacations."
-index and lists
21- "Being in a hotel room does not mean you're on vacation."
23- "The day was invading through the windows and under the doors."
27- "There were also the mirrors, and other inaccurate reflections."
28- barrette
40- "She could be searching, not for something lost but for something not yet seen."
49- "The sun soaped the clouds."
50- "...gathered papers instead of writing them..."
60- "She did not heap up his heart in any way at all."
61-62- (I love you)
62- "You never saw so many normal people sitting around and calmly looking and not looking at each other."
75- "A sickening dream of water."
85- map
88- Esperanto
90- whistle
101- "He was already dying when he arrived."
104- "They walked back to the apartment and took up their lives."
111- " cannot care for every stone on the path."
113- "He felt like a verb..."
115- "But he disliked the city comprehensively..."
122- life story- book- time- "A man could spend a life telling stories."
123- untraining
-"I walk along my own line of footprints, following myself there and back."
125- "I'm a solo show."
-"You know how it is to want something. Desire builds like a little house in your head and it sits there, half-constructed in your mind. Women who want children are this way. Artists are this way about pictures. It doesn't go away. You may forget for a few months but then it's back, the unfinished pieces of what you want. I don't want anything. I'm fine."
130- no big loves- parents' marriage
131- "I had never been close to anyone, not really, and I wanted to try."
133- "Every man has a weakness, she said. Every man has a past."
134- jumping- Becauses
136- "The insane sound of the cicada."
138- "Where do you go when you leave?"
-"Nowhere, it turned out."
140- "There may have been things wrong with him from the start...his unrealized potential, what he hadn't done..."
142- "It's amazing how unobservant people are, how focused they are on themselves and their own crusades."
143- "A man with a book like that is a man with a place to be."
144- Corn Island- the map
146- "People do things like this, they do, and if it doesn't make them happy, at least it keeps them alive."
147- "I remained. Because that, it turns out, is who I am."
-"Leaving, staying, it's all to hard. I'm still walking around these same places. I am itinerant but steadfast. It takes bravery to care for someone....The risk involved is enormous."
-"Maybe everyone goes back. We chase the thing we flee."
154- giraffe
155- "the whole point of marriage being the guarantee that there exists one citizen on earth who is under contract to deal honestly with you."
161- "a papery existence"
167- "A man leaves a place..."
-"stubborn stuck nails that humans are..."
168- office of stamps
172- pirate ship
175- "Have you ever asked her anything at all?"
178- "A vacation is simply, you know, to vacate. The vacationer leaves the homes (leaves the mind), leaves the home empty (except for what he left behind (her)), that's all. No, no, that's not a vacation, if you simply move to a different spot. That's just looking at stuff, familiar stuff."
179- Coney Island
-vacation- writing postcards
182- Aquarium
190- "Sometimes in large churches, people are crushed beneath them and can't pull themselves out. Sometimes people tumble into the sea and are drowned."
202- "You don't surrender what's yours
204- cloud
206 (briefcase) "the rectangular prison of her husband's soul"
208- "There are many ways to see the world."
212- "All life is urgent."
213- bravest walk

July 10 - September 10, 2008

A Mythic Obsession: The World of Dr. Evermor
Tom Kupsh
2008, hardcover
7 cards

If you've been to Baraboo, Wisconsin chances are you've visited The Forevertron (or the Circus World Museum). On my second
trip to Baraboo I visited The Forevertron with Amanda. That day
Eleanor Every invited us into a trailer where we met Tom Kupsh,
the author of this book, Tom Every and Eleanor Every. At the time Kupsh was working on this book, but after our visit to the amazing House on the Rock, this was just one of many serendipitous encounters on that trip. Every and Kupsh, as Kupsh
writes about in the book, worked together on Alex Jordan's sprawling House on the Rock, this book brought the two men together again years after their initial work. While visiting the American Visionary Museum this summer, with Amanda also,
we saw one of Tom Every's birds on the museum's grounds, and
then I found this new book in the bookstore.

A Mythic Obsession documents one man's individual vision and ideas, adding details to the stories that are already out there. Kupsh begins the book with a very apt quote from Rumi, "Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah. It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you." Though in Tom Every's case, we think highly. An important reminder that what we should strive for is living an "uncommon life".

1- related to pirates
6- (Dad patching buildings with old signs) "...always trying to figure out how to do something with what you've got."
-Alex Jordan- boxer- fight
-"disease of all"
10- not attending the prom
15- (date with Eleanor) "We're going to go to the House on the Rock..."
16- "After you tear something down, what do you have to look at? Nothing..."
18- The House on the Rock
22- The Inferno
27- collecting and Alex Jordan and House on the Rock
29-30- Dr. Evermor and the Forevertron story
35- Tom: "I have to make a decision- whether to do this or not."
44- Edison bipolar dynamos
-"He is very proud of his collection, which documents the early history of motors and the generation of electricity; all of these silently play their part in the Forevertron myth."
47- "highball it to heaven"
50- "So they had to have somebody report back in to the rest of the nonbelievers. That's where the telescope comes in."
54- Magnetic Laser Love Guns
66- "fascinated by what he calls the 'spirit' of the tools and machines that he salvages, and he wants us to see them as alive with the spirit of those who made or used them."
-"...I like you, it's just fine the way you are."
-"...his work is not only a new work but also a preservation of the past."
67- "Tom believes that you have to lose yourself in your work to find yourself in your life."
-different time periods- time and place, malleable
-Tom the "Time-Binder"
72- "The Forevertron is all built on hopelessness."
-"He built this piece to heal himself- to take [and use] all the treasures that he found that no one else was going to do anything with- so it was healing."
75- "...Tom set about saying in metal what words and actions had failed to express."
76- birds- fantasies
91- Eagle's Head- Tom: "It's a piece that really brings home the message that everything is in the way that you look at it."
115- "dreams have two components- one is the time scale and the other is the spatial scale"
118- neighborhood- "a time when everything was within walking distance..."
125- "Just as his work is made by joining together a wide variety of components, so too his wide circle of friends seems joined together with him as glue."
126- Happy Hatter- tin foil hats
127- producing artist
128- (Tom) "welcomes everyone and accepts them just as they are
131- Joel la Troll
139- intuitive process
178- handwritten letters
182- "In its best moments, Tom's work invites us to join with him in our common struggle to be free, to excel, to rise above our own frail human condition, and to live an uncommon life."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

August 31 - September 2, 2008

by Philip Shaw
33 1/3 Books, 2008, paperback
19 cards

The first time I saw Patti Smith was on R.E.M.'s Monster tour in 1995. I was in high school. I didn't know much about her yet but I knew that she was someone to find out more about, much like R.E.M. pointed me towards The Velvet Underground. I don't remember the quote exactly but I recall Michael Stipe saying once how when he heard Horses he realized anyone could sing, that he could sing. R.E.M.'s music and interests gave me a perspective beyond the one-traffic light town I lived in. Because of Horses significance to Stipe, the bits I know about Patti Smith, and the concerts of hers I've seen since, I was excited to see that the 33 1/3 book about her focused on Horses.

Philip Shaw's story of musical discovery and research bears some similarities to mine, though his was guided by Ian Curtis and Joy Division and Patti Smith, who he knew first through the Horses cover. The format and approach for 33 1/3 books varies with the author. Shaw writes about Horses as a fan, as well as the necessary invocation of Rimbaud while also discussing it through other texts. As he says, "...Horses is about what happens when we listen as well as read."

3- "...but from Patti Smith I learned that the loss of control, a key word for Ian Curtis, need not lead to a suicidal walk 'upon the edge of escape' (She's Lost Control Again) As Land taught me, the loss of control could lead, equally, to the sea of possibilities."
7- Velvet Underground and Warhol
8- Bob Dylan
9- Robert Mapplethorpe
13- rigor and taking music seriously
-"Elvis Costello line (the attribution is disputed) 'writing about music is like dancing about architecture.'"
15- "unlike other cultural forms, music is where we are most likely to encounter ourselves"
16- "What music offers is the promise of release from the restrictions of everyday life. But such a release is, of course, illusory, and just as ideology works to convince its subjects that they are, in fact, outside ideology, thus rendering itself immune to critique and to the potential for revolt, so music, by concealing its origins in commerce, and by providing a sense of escape from the workaday world, operates as a lure to critical consciousness. To be lost in music, released form the nine to five, is to feel alive, but also, as Sister Sledge adds, to be 'Caught in a trap': for who, once they have experience such freedom, would wish to reflect on it? Might the act of close critical engagement ruin the illusion?"
19- "nothing is more heady in the sense of intoxicating, than the champagne froth of a radical new idea."
22- Benjamin
23- the Situationists
24- "With each song, Smith presents a sort of photographic negative, her characters inhabiting a shadow version of the land of the free."
28- Lacan: "A certificate tells me that I was born. I repudiate this certificate: I am not a poet, but a poem. A poem that is being written, even if it looks like a subject."
-"Patti Smith always distrusted the idea that human beings possess a fixed or stable identity."
29- "Yes, she is a poet, and she is a poem that is written."
-eye patch
30- Rimbaud- self-fashioning
33- Alice in Wonderland
37- Philadelphia Museum of Art
41- Illuminations
44- Piss Factory
-that photograph
49- drawings
52- "death by water"
-"how many tears on your pillow. crocodile or real. watershed."
52- T.S. Eliot
54- "the night stretched like a cloud"
55- (questions) "Perhaps all of these or none of these things."
56- PS: "I had to go to Paris to find myself as an artist, but I came back to New York filled with words and rhythms."
56- close alliance with Lenny Kaye
60- Sam Shepard- PS: Shepard's "whole life moves on rhythms. He's a drummer."
61- street angel
62- "her stress on the act of reading"
63- words, language
66- longing
67- Rimbaud quote- women
70- Artaud
72- Richard Hell: "The art-form of the future is celebrityhood."
76- Gross: "She was a woman who dared to get up on stage and not smile- not aim to please."
77-78- silences
86- Patty Hearst- "I am nobody's million dollar baby."
97- John Cale- mirror quote
98- Horses read as artifact
102- "Again, who is singing here, and to whom?"
106- Lacan, Zizek
121- album "form of memento mori, an artistic meditation on the limits of mortality."
122- Jim Morrison- the task
128- Voltaire- back to England- Louis XV- said to have asked him: 'What did you learn over there?' 'To think, sire.' (penser- to think), to which the King replied, 'Horses?' (panser- to groom horses)"
129- "Horses, then, is about thinking; or rather, it is about allowing oneself to be thought..."
131- Barthes
132- Lacan- child- mirror

Sunday, September 7, 2008

August 22 - 30, 2008

Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America
The Pill versus the Springhill Mind Disaster
and In Watermelon Sugar
1967, paperback
14 cards

One thing that has surprised me this year is the number of books, amazing books, that people have recommended to me this year. The thing is though that these recommendations come about much more casually than I anticipate. This book was suggested by Patrick, who a few years ago led me to reading Patricia Bostworth's biography about Diane Arbus, even though it too was mentioned casually. Have you read any of Brautigan's books? If the answer is no, you should. I'd never heard of Brautigan until now, but once I have of course he pops up in the most unexpected places (the book is in the corner of a photograph of The Kills in the New Yorker supplement Fashion Rocks).

Brautigan is not merely a symbol of hipness or rock 'n' roll, he's a writer who commands language, leading it to new heights and possibilities: "glass whiskers of the houses", "a tattered revolution of old blankets", and the way he describes things (the map drawn with dull pencil). Brautigan's writing also resembles life in the way that the little details add up to make the life lived.

Trout Fishing in America is a book title but also a person, a place, and maybe other things I'm forgetting. This multiplicity reminded me of Reena Spaulings- a book, an artist, a gallery owner and a gallery.

The Pill is a collection of poems. My favorites include: Karma Repair Kit, Xerox Candy Bar, Hey Bacon!, It's Raining in Love, To England, The Postman, A Mid-February Sky Dance, December 24 and The Harbor. In Watermelon Sugar could be described as a love story.

Some excerpts:
Trout Fishing in America
-cover photograph and the back cover
2- "It's sandwich time for the poor."
-"Was it Kafka who learned about America by reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin..."
4- "glass whiskers of the houses"
8- The Kool-Aid wino- "He looked up at me from underneath a tattered revolution of old blankets."
9- "'The dishes can wait'"
14- map
19- Tom Martin Creek- "It's good to name creeks after people and then later to follow them for a while seeing what they have to offer, what they know and have made of themselves."
22- (bookstore) "I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end."
27- "The last thin in the world he had any use for were children."
31- "'Giraffe races at Kilimanjaro!' he shouted"
38- writing on the back of 1st graders
43- (boards over creek)- "...and the creek flowed over the top of the boards, invited like a postcard to the ocean a thousand miles away."
65- (baby and minnows) "We didn't want her to kill any of them because she was too young."
66- (bed leaning against wall) "It stays there for a month. You get used to seeing it and then you go by one day and it is gone. You wonder where it went."
68 and 70- 208 the cat- last cat in the world
104- "'How much are the birds?' I asked."
111- "The Eskimos live among ice all their lives but have no single word for ice."- M.F. Ashley Montagu, Man: His First Million Years
111 and 112- mayonnaise

The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster
8- Items 1-4
11- Xerox Candy Bar- "Ah, you're just a copy of all the candy bars I've ever eaten."
29- map
30- postcard
46- Hey Bacon!
49- "...I wander around the house like a sewing machine..."
53- being drunk, dinosaurs
58- Detroit Tigers
61- It's Raining in Love
78- "There are doors that want to be free from their hinges to fly with perfect clouds."
80- The Postman
81- A Mid-February Sky Dance
94- "God, I hate eating dinner alone. It's like being dead."
98- December 24
105- The Harbor

In Watermelon Sugar
4- "Just call me whatever is in your mind."
3- the tigers
4- that statue of mirrors
27- "'The heard is something else. Nobody knows what is going to happen,' I said."
28- "We who do not have regular names spend a lot of time by ourselves. It suits us."
33- watermelon sugar
40- hands
57- (note) "...and I threw it away, so not even time could find it."
69- "The Forgotten Works just go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. you get the picture. It's a big place, much bigger than we are."
83- "I was so sleepy now that my eyes refused to close. The lids would not budge down. They were statues of eyes."
107- book
110- "'Have you ever read a book?' I said. 'No,' Fred said. 'I haven't but I don't think I'd want to start by reading one about clouds.'"
112- "Everything is reflected in the Statue of Mirrors if you stand there long enough and empty your mind of everything else but the mirrors, and you must be careful not to want anything from the mirrors. They just have to happen."
118- "'Nobody's to blame. She had a broken heart.'"

August 27, 2008

Ralph Waldo Emerson
4 cards

Writers in the previous post's n+1 pamphlet mentioned wishing they had read Emerson earlier and hold him up alongside Nietzche, if not above. As I make my way through Emerson this year it seemed like the time to read "Circles" since it was mentioned by them. Emerson, of course, offers all one could hope and more in his reflection on and about circles.

Brief excerpts:
252- the eye
-"Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning..."
-"Permanence is but a word of degrees."
253- "The new continents are built out of the ruins of an old planet..."
-"New arts destroy the old."
-"Everything looks permanent until its secret is known."
255- "Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations."
256- "Conversation is a game of circles."
257- "Good as is discourse, silence is better."
-"The field cannot be well seen from within the field."
-"Therefore we value the poet."
259- "'The worse things are, the better they are.'"
260- "I am only an experimenter."
261- "People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them."
-"Life is a series of surprises."
-"The simplest words- we do not know what they mean expect when we love and aspire."
262- "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
-"'A man,' said Oliver Cromwell, 'never rises so high as when he knows now wither he is going.'"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

August 26-27, 2008

n+1 Pamphlet Series #2
What We Should Have Known: Two Discussions
2007, paperback
14 cards

I was looking for another book when this and other treasures found me. Six books and three days later I found the book I was looking for in a place I never would have visited otherwise, but that's how the best living comes about. I've always held n+1 the magazine in high regard, but the quality and ideas shared within these two discussions are to be appreciated by any reader or anyone who teaches college students. The initial impetus for the conversations was reflection upon what writers and professors in their 30s mostly wish they would have read as undergraduates, as well as what they wish they hadn't and what they read too late. College freshmen can even get a free copy of this pamphlet by writing the email address on the back cover. It includes lists as well as discussions. Some of my reading this year was reflected in these discussions. I fully agree with the importance of reading Emerson, whom I have just begun to read this year. This is one of many of exquisite statements made, "No book is for you, until it is." Adding to the discussion on page 79, luckily I discovered the Velvet Underground when I was 17, if not 16.

Some selections:
-3- "Books we should have read earlier"- "For me, one thinker I should have read earlier is Foucault."
5- forming a self from reading
7- "books as enthusiasms"- "books that you are lucky enough to find when you are ready to find them."
11- "And what you can't do is ask a school to schedule your enthusiasms, exactly."
12-13- (students) "They pick up teachers and fall in love with them and then abandon them, throw them away like bits of trash or crumpled up paper. But this is what you have to do as a student....And the process is similar when you fall in love, and you want to read the books that the person you fall in love with most likes."
-"reading fiction is all about the tension between the book and you, and the book has to make you want to keep going. If it's assigned to you on a reading list, that tension disappears. So you're not really understanding the book, you're just reading it."
14- "poetry was the most important thing to happen to me in college"
15- periodicals club
18- "What I found that I couldn't very easily do was to sit at home and read Kant's Critique of Judgment, though I tried, and also I had no one to talk to about it."
20- "So books can speak to the world around you, but how are you going to get them to do this for you?"
21- "C.A. Bayly's Birth of the Modern World, which I don't agree with, but at least he'll give you a map. And hopefully then you'll start questioning that map..."
23- "The landscape of the future is completely blank."
27- "Because you're learning, you're being exposed to great things and discovering some sort of enthusiasm in yourself."
28- "...because time is limited in our lives...books that were read instead of other books"
32- "No book is for you, until it is."
-"I'm glad that I didn't encounter the Frankfurt School earlier because I know that I would have been doomed to be a Frankfurt School epigone."
60-61- Kierkegaard's Either/Or
63- "I went to graduate school to make up for undergrad."
64- "Nobody can get a proper undergraduate education. You'll never know in advance what that education should be. Regret is the feeling you have when you finally realize what the education is that you want. Right? And you're always going to come to that after it's too late."
66- Proust
67- "You move through your mistakes toward the absolute...Proust is another great author for regret- the purpose of all this retrospection is to redeem your regrets in whatever ways are possible."
68- "The world is not a text!"
71-72- "The books that one reads tend to take on a sort of naturalness within one's life, so they seem to come to you when you want them, and when you're ready for them. And so for me, the fact that we're on the verge of total civilizational 50 or 60 or 70 at most years- makes me regret the lateness with which I've figured that out."
73- (being dazzled by a boy) "...part of what dazzled me was certainly my sense the he knew about things that I did not."
-"I didn't know at the time that you could have a crush on someone who seemed to embody things that you wanted to be yourself."
76- "...almost everyone in academia feels like an outsider, nobody knows what's going on. Academia's an empty vessel, but the ones who don't realize it end up going all the way and end up in charge."
78- "I could have discovered the Velvet Underground when I was 16, as opposed to 26, and you might say this is a minor matter, but it's a matter of style."
79- "What would have changed?"
-"I wouldn't have been such a stupid idiot, I think, and such a romantic and such a moralist. And maybe I wouldn't have married so early."
81- VU song "Sunday Morning"- theme of this symposium- "You wake up, it's Sunday, what have you done with your life, or week."
-"...Sunday's for doing nothing. But actually you know, Sunday is the day to move on from your regrets."
86- reading in a vacuum- useful framework
87- "your education shifts from this sheer accumulation of stuff, to a posing to yourself of certain fundamental questions, and then in certain ways life becomes very easy thereafter."
89- "many of our ideas about the world still seem to come from the field of classical economics- earth's resources are finite (not seemingly abundant as in classical times)
90- "Emerson instead of Nietzsche"
101- Emerson's Circles
114- advice to young people- keep a journal- read seriously- think about everything that happens
118- courage- remain open to things and serious about them

May 17 - August 22, 2008

The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language
Michel Foucault
1972, paperback
18 cards

150- "Contradiction is the illusion of a unity that hides itself or is hidden: it has its place only in the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness, though and the text, the ideality and the contingent body of expression. In any case, analysis must suppress contradiction as best it can. At the end of this work, only residual contradictions remains- accidents, defects, mistakes."
151- "contradiction, then, functions throughout discourse, as the principle of its historicity."
-"Discourse is the path from one contradiction to another."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

July 25 - August 14, 2008

Michel Foucault
This Is Not a Pipe
25th Anniversary edition, 1982, paperback
11 cards

While I'm just starting this summer to read books by Foucault I was surprised that I had not heard about this one before discovering it on a shelf in a DC bookstore. Foucault takes as his subject Magritte's infamous painting as his subject, discussing it with the complexity that it deserves but in a way that doesn't overwhelm. Foucault discusses two pipes (a 1926 drawing, and a 1966 painting) that both contain the phrase "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," however there seem to be even more. It was surprising to me that he didn't mention the 1964 painting at the Art Institute of Chicago (part of the Bergman collection) also containing this phrase but titled "L'Air et la Chanson." It makes me wonder how many additional paintings with this phrase were made by Magritte and their titles. Foucault's comments on Klee and Kandinsky broadens my understanding of elements of both artists' work.

Selected notes:
Translator's Introduction:
2- de Chirico's "The Song of Love"- Magritte claimed to have realized "the ascendancy of poetry of painting.
4- Borges
9- Magritte: "it is in vain that we say what we see; what we see never resides in what we say."
15- handwritten script
20- "what misleads us is the inevitability of connecting the text to the drawing"
21- "As a sign, the letter permits us to fix words; as line, it lets us give shape to things."
24- "The text must say nothing to this gazing subject who is a viewer, not a reader. As soon as he begins to read, in fact, shape dissipates."
25- "They very things that is both seen and read is hushed in the vision, hidden in the reading."
-"Magritte redistributed the text and the image in space."
33- Klee
34- "The essential point is that resemblance and affirmation cannot be dissociated."
-"the colors that Kandinsky called 'things.'"
36- Magritte: "The titles are chosen in such a way as to keep anyone from assigning my paintings to the familiar region that habitual thought appeals to in order to escape perplexity."
37- "Magritte secretly mines a space he seems to maintain in the old arrangement. But he excavates it with words..."
38- Magritte: "Between words and objects one can create new relations and specify characteristics of language and objects generally ignored in everyday life."
40- "the sort of things that cannot be names and that in fact 'name' themselves bear an exact and familiar name. The painting is the converse of a rebus, that chain of shapes so easily recognized as to be immediately identifiable..."
41- "In order to deploy his plastic signs, Klee wove a new space. Magritte allows the old space of representation to rule, but only at the surface...beneath, nothing."
43- resemblance and affirmation
44- "To me it appears that Magritte dissociated similitude from resemblance, and brought the former into play against the latter."
-"Resemblance presupposes a primary reference that prescribes and classes."
-"Resemblance serves representation, which rules over it; similitude serves repetition, which ranges across it."
46- (resemblance)- "...reveals the clearly visible; similitude reveals what recognizable objects, familiar silhouettes hide, prevent from being seen, render invisible."
-"Resemblance makes a unique assertions, always the same: This thing, that thing, yet another thing
46-47- Magritte: "Only thought can resemble. It resembles by being what it sees, hears, or knows; it becomes what the world offers it."
-"Thought resembles without similitude...."
47- "Magritte's painting doubtless rests here, where thought in the mode of resemblance and things in relations of similitude have just vertically intersected.
48- "Who speaks in the statement?"
49- infinite games
51- mirror- Les Liaisons dangereuses
54 "...Campbell, Campbell, Campbell, Campbell."
57-58- letters from Magritte to Foucault
57- "Las Meninas is the visible image of Velazquez's invisible thought. Then is the invisible sometimes visible?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August 10 - 13, 2008

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs*
*A Low Culture Manifesto
Chuck Klosterman
2003, hardcover
15 cards

Lately I've been mentioning to people that I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's books. Everyone seems to have read this book, if not his others. I was wondering why I missed out on this slice of pop culture. I think I know now. By the time it came out in paperback, every weekend I was driving to Detroit and sleeping on the couches of friends and going to shows; at the time I was the only person living in East Lansing in their mid-twenties who was not married or not enamoured with sports bars. It would be amazing if I ever lived in the same city as my friends. While I bought a lot of books I didn't read too many of them. I think it's good I didn't read Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs because I might not have read the other two Klosterman books I read before this. I might have, but I might not have. He's great at discussing the minute details that form the core existence of people my age (most of us watched Saved by the Bell, have some conscious of Sims, listened to bands like R.E.M. and Billy Joel and the Dixie Chicks, saw Reality Bites, etc.) but as he's written more, he's gotten better at it. The track on cereal is first rate and full of acute observations (that's right- all those creatures wanted to steal cereal- what is up with that?) The front pages includes a CD and the stories song titles and play times. Klosterman draws a distinction between a mix tape and a mix cd, placing the mix tape in a higher category. This book is an enjoyable mix cd, the other two are mix tapes.

-(life)- "...nothing stays the same and that nothing is inherently connected, and that the only driving force in anyone's life is entropy. The second is that everything pretty much stays the same (more or less) and that everything is completely connected, even it we don't realize it..."
-"...I am alone. And that everyone is alone. I guess I am not a morning person."
-"an evening book"
-"The goal of being alive is to figure out what it means to be alive, and there is a myriad of ways to deduce that answer" (low culture vs. Kant or Wittgenstein)
1- "No woman will ever satisfy me....But this is actually okay, because I will never satisfy a woman, either."
3- (movies) "We will both measure our relationship against the prospect of fake love."
-assessment of Coldplay
4- "...perfect illustration of why almost everyone I know is either overtly or covertly unhappy."
-"They think everything will work out perfectly in the end..."
-"The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy."
6- footnote- Jordan Catalano from MSCL not being able to read
9- (When Harry Met Sally) "it gave a lot of desperate people hope."
-"Nora Ephron accidentally ruined a lot of lives."
13- (SIMS) "There is no way to win, except to keep yourself from becoming depressed."
15- "Seinfeld was about nothing, but its underlying message was that nothingness still has a weight and a mass and a conflict."
16- quotes Talking Heads lyrics
-"video technology cages imagination"
19- "I never enjoy the process of buying anything, but I get the impression that most Americans love it. What the Sims suggests is that buying things makes people happy because it takes their mind off being alive."
36- definition of postmodern
41- (Big Brother not having music) "...without a soundtrack, human interaction is meaningless."
44- (Billy Joel, important songs, loneliness) "And it's not 'clever lonely' (like Morrissey) or 'interesting lonely' (like Radiohead); it's "lonely lonely," like the way it feels when you're being hugged by someone and it somehow makes you sadder."
-"Black Sabbath is the most underrated band in rock history."
45- "Cheap Trick was good at being cool for everybody."
65- Black Sabbath
70- humorousity
70- Rivers Cuomo- "the Cubism didactic-hobo-core three-piece"
102- "This is why men need to become obsessed with things: It's an extroverted way to pursue solipsism. We are able to study something that defines who we are; therefore, we are able to study ourselves. Do you know people who insist they like 'all kinds of music'? That actually means they like no kinds of music."
104- (cars- the IROC and Chevy Cavalier make their first appearance- because of my car it seems I fall into the Celtics fan category but it does have 2 doors, not 4)
119- Sylvester Graham!!!! [former resident of the building that houses Sylvester's in Northampton]
120- "Saturday morning commercials for all the best cereals are teaching kids how to figure out what's cool."
121- "They're the first step in the indoctrination of future hipsters: cereal commercials teach us that anything desirable is supposed to be exclusionary."
-"premise that a given cereal is so delicious that a fictional creature would want to steal it."
122- corduroy
124- "The desire to be cool is- ultimately- the desire to be rescued. It's the desire to be pulled from the unwashed masses of society."
125- 3 questions [#1- No, #2 No, #3A]
127- mix tapes vs. mix cds
128- Saved by the Bell- "people born between 1970 and 1977 [you're wrong here- 1978 factors in too]
130- "I watched it because it was on TV, which is generally the driving force behind why most people watch any program."
-"universities always spawn little cultures of terrible TV appreciation..." [yes!]
131- diner
133- "Important things are inevitably cliche."
138- Angela, My So Called Life- "But Angela was so much an individual that she wasn't like anyone but herself; she didn't reflect any archetype. She was real enough to be interesting, but too real to be important." [but this is why she was so great]
140- "Life is chock full of lies, but the biggest lie is math."
147- Reality Bites- Gen Xers- cynical optimists [I owned this soundtrack on tape]
-"This is why Ryder has to pick Hawke."
-"She pursued a path that was difficult and depressing and she did so because it showed the slightest potential for transcendence."
156- (films) "What is Reality?"
161- forgetting stuff- "The strength of your memory dictates the size of your reality."
167- "...The most wretched people in the world are those who tell you they like every kind of music 'except country.'"
167- but not "old country"
173- "Tastee Freezes are iconic structures in the rural Midwest, because they say something about your hometown; they irrefutably prove your community does not have enough of a population to sustain a Dairy Queen." [Williamston did have a Dairy Queen when I lived there]
175- "lyrics do matter"
176-177- Bob Dylan and Liz Phair cds
178- Johnny Cash- coffee
183- Esprit t-shirts
185- Gacy and mail
194- (list of people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing] "...that virtually everyone's life is only remembered for one thing."
-"I think this is what motivates people to have children...."
211- acquaintance" "'There's one thing worse than talking to a person who knows about nothing,'" he said, 'an that's talking to someone who knows about nothing except music.'"
219- "dying is always original"
229- "As far as I can tell, the nicest thing you can say about children is that they haven't done anything terrible yet."
230- Kierkegaardian leap

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

July 29 - August 10, 2008

Chuck Klosterman IV
A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas
Chuck Klosterman
2006, hardcover
17 cards

I think this may be my favorite Chuck Klosterman book. If you're following this you might say, but you've only read one other one and you haven't even read the one everyone in the world seems to have read (Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs). I am reading said book now, and while I am enjoying it, I think Klosterman excels at the essay. Killing Yourself to Live was a well threaded story of stories, but the essay lets Klosterman engage an idea and then beat it around for a while before declaring victory over the topic. This collection of essays also touches on so many great topics, where in a book there are only a few main ideas he weaves together. Klosterman is also saving the footnote by making hilarious asides and revisions when gathering essays like this together with hindsight.

Three comments/thoughts: Klosterman mentions Black Sabbath a lot. I guess maybe it was just twice in this book but it seemed like more. His Chicken McNuggets diet also makes me think of a button Joel told me about seeing in a bar. It read, "Or will it be Chicken McNuggets?" I always look for this button in treasure shops. If I found it I might not give it to Joel (he found a sweet Chin Tiki ashtray that he kept) but I might give it to Chuck Klosterman. Maybe. His comments about the Olympics are also perfect to read right now.

Some selections:
1- "Can I tell you something weird?" he asked..."Always."
14- Britney Spears- "She is not so much a person as she is an idea, and that idea is this: you can want everything, so long as you get nothing."
24- " Bono's entire life a performance?"
28- Bono: "I write feelings not thoughts..."
37- Val Kilmer is nice.
43- OED and Webster's Second
45- Bob Dylan
50- (Morrissey) 30-year old ex-wallflowers "reminiscing about how The Queen is Dead convinced them not to hang themselves while everyone else was at the prom."
58- (McNuggets diet) "We are a nation obsessed."
59- orange drink
-"Does life make more sense if you're homeless? Perhaps."
60- (McDonald's) "It's the last universal place in America."
61- pirates, scurvy!
63- "Staying alive is complicated."
76- "...we were more like relationship spectators." (mentions Raymond Carver here and many times)
84- "If you're a true fan of a band, it doesn't matter where that band plays- you just go."
94- (Robert Plant) " cannot classify anything anywhere. Classification is a killer."
108- arrested development
109- Post traumatic stress disorder
110- Lars Ulrich from Metallica owned a Basquiat, but he sold it.
115- White Stripes- "Everything will be raw and unrehearsed and imperfect. And that's why it's so f***ing good."
116- formed on Bastille Day in 1997
117- "Detroit people"
119- "People in Detroit know their records."
120- "Record collectors are collecting. They're not really listening to music."
126- (Goths, Disneyland) "What makes someone a normal?"
-"The are not us...They wear polo shirts."
131- Radiohead- "All the wanted to talk about were books."
132- Radiohead's music- "smart on purpose"
138- exhibits Colin told him to check out
-"Everyone in this band probably reads more than you do..."
140- picking words for how they sound
149- footnote- hobo
155- Akron- at the time- "home to the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame"
156- "Is life akin to bowling, or is bowling akin to life."
-"In bowling, your score is not only dependent on what you've done, but also on what you will do."
169- Billy Joel- "...he expresses absolute conviction in moments of wholly misguided affection"
181 and 194- Black Sabbath
200- (Ramones vs. Ratt) "what matters is who likes what you do artistically and what liking that art is supposed to say about who you are."
201- "The things that matter to normal people are not supposed to matter to smart people"
208- "Choice makes us depressed."
209- loss of shared experience
211- "...these shared experiences are how we connect with other people, and it's how we understand our own identity."
211-212-"...they are only pockets of a shared existence. They are things individual people choose to understand and finding others who understand them equally are products of coincidence."
226- "what you need is a) one quality nemesis and b) one archenemy."
235- (Advancement) "For example, Michael Stipe's lyrics don't really mean anything so any 16-year-old can convince himself that those words can mean whatever they want."
237- "'How can you hate the Olympics?' they ask me."
238- "I do not hate the Olympics. I just don't like they at all..."
-"...the Olympics are designed for people who want to care about something without considering why."
-"In order to enjoy the Olympics, you can't think critically about anything..."
240- "Life is f***ing confusing. I don't know anything and neither do you. But this is not what the Olympics want you to believe."
244- "I feel like a mannequin."
253- The Wonder Year- "the only tv program that allowed me to be nostalgic at the age of 17"
254- Kevin- "Did these girls 'like him' or did they 'like him like him'"
-Do we need to be liked, or do we merely want to be liked."
255- human rights, China
256- Bush- "Over 57 million people voted against him."
257- "At some point people confused being liked with being good."
259- "suspect that the most widespread problem we have is the ever-growing sentiment of anti-intellectualism that seems to infiltrate everything..."
-"guilty pleasures"
262- "It never matters what you like; what matters is why you like it."
263- "These things that give us pleasure- they are guilty of nothing. And neither are we.:
268- "If you feel betrayed by culture, it's not because you're right and the universe is f***ed; it's only because you're not like most other people. But this should make you happy, because- in all likelihood- you hate those other people, anyway. You are being betrayed by a culture that has no relationship to who you are or how you live."
277- talking about music too much- 2 words- "overrated and underrated"
283- pirate renaissance
287- "pro-pirate" vs. "pro-chump"
292- if it was 1904 "you wouldn't be reading this essay. Your life would be horrible, but your life would have purpose."
-"Machines allow humans the privilege of existential anxiety."
313- CNN Classic
322- "Pants are on my horizon..."
-"I might feel like putting my hands in my pockets later this afternoon..."
324- "Driving.
325- "Like all geniuses, I don't work before noon."
326- "Tonya is the kind of person who goes shopping the day after Thanksgiving."
332- "'Here's what's been on my mind,' I began, since intelligent people have no need for salutations."
333- "Part of the reason I have managed to thrive as the smartest man alive is because I'm still willing to keep learning. I totally enjoy evolving."
341- girlie girl [i always though it was spelled girly girl but how would I know]