Archives for posts with tag: modernism

Doris Lessing may have been — but for her acceptance of the Nobel Prize — the first of the feminist breed for whose existence Virginia Woolf called in *Three Guineas*. The non-secessionist outsider.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91tg/chapter3.html

I never loved the *Golden Notebooks*. As someone who had from my childhood in Africa been there and done that it was no big woop. I have to think more about Lessing as an African, an Africanist, and an Afro-futurist.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/arts/design/the-shadows-took-shape-at-the-studio-museum.html?_r=0

A much greater book, *The Four-Gated City*, has immortal passages, not least of Martha Quest walking for days through Blitz-cratered London, one of the 20th century’s number one *flaneuses*, a woman seeing the city. Check out Deborah Parsons’ important book on this matter.
http://www.amazon.com/Streetwalking-Metropolis-Women-City-Modernity/dp/0198186835

*The Four Gated City* is the only book I can think of, with Dickens right up there at the top, which actually gets down to what the virtue of money is. One of the protagonists is a rich schizophrenic. In those days the treatment was some lobotomizing drug like Lithium. The rich schizophrenic has the wherewithal to reject Lithium, go home to a safe and well-equipped basement apartment in the family home, in a safe neighborhood, with servants, and stay there, going over the walls with her fingertips, until the fearful tempest has passed. Martha Quest stays with her and takes care of her. In this way, the rich schizophrenic is not a vegetable all the time, but can continue with a life of the mind and maternal affections when she is not ill. That is the value of money — and it presumably exists in village or community life even when there is no money, and a superfluity of unmarried women at home, if not precisely servants. This scene speaks directly to one small political aspect of Foucault’s indictment of mental health practice — Lithium is brain police for the poor.

Lessing’s third great contribution to civilization was frankly telling it like it is about motherhood and abandoning her two little children, just as her mother had spent Lessing’s own childhood telling her what a burden it was. Yep.

The science fiction was, perhaps, a mistake unless you think of it more as unmedicated Sun Ra Afro-futurist riffs. Did she deserve the Nobel? I think perhaps not. But I would have given it to her just for saying motherhood is too hard, spiritually deceptive, and not as important as the patriarchs want you to believe.
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2007/lessing-lecture_en.htmlSt

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I am interested in the way atheists, medical materialists, cyber-rapturists, terrorists, ascribe to the internet and cyberspace the 99 names of Allah, without the obligations an ethical life, belief in God, or even minimal civic existence entail.

It is the akashic record, was one of the first poetic descriptions I heard of it over a decade ago, somebody who was fearing Krishna and apocalypse.

It is, as the pet cemetaries, genealogy lineages, kink niches, dystopian sci fi graphic games or Star Trek slash indicate, eternity and paradise, both.

The bodilessness, the cybersex, transhumanism, anonymous Baghdad/Cairo/Tunisia political bloggers, the gender fluidity, are a kind of Olivia Butler post-racial and post-gender transfiguration.

The best self-policers I ever encountered are the play party S and M people. I had a friend who was working through some stuff. We had long discussions about what excellent ethicists the Foucauldian sluts were.
http://www.br.org/br/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23&Itemid=31).

There is a modicum of ethical self-policing on the interwebs. By which I mean a very little. I think we’ve all learned how to kill trolls.

But all this ascription to cyberspace of traditional God attributes? I think it is libertarian, to avoid civic duty to public space, communitarianism, the democracy. I do deplore the bunkerism and the suburban anti-diversity of the cyber rapturists. It’s so much more important to be fucking a Klingon than, you know, actually to venture out into public space, where there may be property taxes. Or germs. Or colored people.

But the allure of the unseen, and the ascription to the void of God-like attributes, is well known. It is not, however, God (unless of course, you believe everything is).

Here is a YA novel about a young Muslim who uses cyberspace to court his true love.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/books/alif-the-unseen-by-g-willow-wilson.html

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. — A. J. Liebling

Press critic A. J. Liebling

I was once talking to a publisher of very fancy books and he was complaining how his edition of Gary Snyder’s latest, I think it was, had sold only 12,000 copies.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

Virginia Woolf, to whom I keep referring because she is the one thing I know almost everything about, having realized, when I set out to be a reporter, 43 years ago, that it would be a state of being one mile wide and one inch deep, and if I wanted any self-respect at all, I needed to know everything about one thing, and it was she, was her own publisher.

Famously, she said it gave her the freedom to write some of 20th century modernity’s earliest works. This includes experimental novels like The Waves, which goes up blow-for-blow against Ulysses. In fact the Hogarth Press which she founded with her husband, for which she was both typesetter and  reader, turned down the opportunity to publish Ulysses in 1919.

Much has been made of what Virginia, who may be the finest literary critic of the 20th century, did not like and what she stole from Ulysses.

But as a matter of fact her husband, Leonard, who did the heavy lifting as publisher, writes that they decided to print it if they could find a printer willing to risk it. He showed Ulysses to two printers, and they “said no respectable printer would have anything to do with it, for the publisher and the printer of it would certainly be prosecuted.” [Beginning Again, 247]

Virginia’s ownership of her own means of production, her sales, her “platform” as the daughter of England’s foremost literary journalist, who herself made a living writing book reviews, have always been a part of my thinking about book sales and newspaper circulation. Her masterpiece, well-reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, had two print runs, the first of 7,000 and the second, in the same year, of 5,000.[The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 4, 48, Note 3.]

The Waves will be read as long as people have eyes. Gary Snyder won’t be. To sell 12,000 copies of a truly arcane novel, in 1931, or late 20th century beatnik poetry, in 1996, is an fn miracle of literacy and good fortune.

To think that there are 12,000 people who can read arcana, and have the money to buy the book — last I checked fancy editions of Snyder are selling for $41 — is unprecedented in history. Snyder’s publisher was certainly thinking about the Dan Brown ball park, or maybe Tupac’s, and I made him pay for lunch because a.) he made fun of the waitress’ pronunciation and b.) he was so clearly delusional.

The paradigm is this: nobody goes into the quality writing business to make money. If you want to be Dan Brown, be Dan Brown. If you’re a poet, or a journalist, or the 20th century’s best writer of fiction, repeat after me. You’re not in this for the money, and you’re not going to make any, and 12,000 in sales is a miracle in the history of mankind.

If you’re a newspaper publisher, you’re not in it for the money. If you’re a rich Silicon Valley start up entrepeneur, and like nouveaux riches throughout the history of money, you find yourself mesmerized by the prospect of being a “newspaper” “publisher”, for lack of a better term, because of the supposed political entree, clout and social cachet that entails — oh! what fun we’ll have eating with Gwen Ifill and Ram Emmanuel in our kewel Watergate offices overlooking the Potomac! — you need to do four things.

Prepare to lose all your money, to have a separate income stream, to reinvent online journalism so as to monetize itself, or if you’re to produce real online journalism, suffer the circulation/advertising/monetizing consequences. Or else.

Finance is not my bailiwick. I don’t need to know the multiplication tables to see which way the wind and the invention of fiduciary instruments like sending college kids credit cards or bundling mortgages, blows. Craigslist has gutted newspaper revenues.  Newspaper advertising sales people are the slowest on the digital uptake.  Next?

Harvard’s Nieman people and the Columbia Journalism Review and the Project for Excellence in Journalism are among the serious players on the case. PEJ to be most trusted because they actually talk to working journalists about revenues and circulation.

Here we have Nieman, who are fanboyz, interviewing Ben Huh, the progenitor of I Can Haz Cheezburger. Huh, like every plutocrat since the beginning of time, is being sucked into the glamourous world, as he sees it, of “newspaper” “publication”. He is going to take his Cheez revenues and reinvent the news.

Ben Huh reinvents the news with his I Can Haz Cheezburger pelf.

http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/05/cheezburgers-ben-huh-says-news-organizations-should-think-like-teenagers-if-they-want-to-survive/

Let me say, first of all, I dote on I Can Haz Cheezburger.  Because I am and always have been, despite certain bluestocking tastes, a Downtown Girl, and what I think of as the Digital Watercooler Journalism — we all hang around cyberspace looking at LOL cats and reading aggregated Gawker riffs about John Travolta’s private parts as we trudge through our digi day — is a true benison of socially redeeming importance to all us cyberdrones.

As for Ben Huh’s ideas about journalism, keep your knees together and your hands on your wallet.

Next up:

huh

monetize with conferences or salons or kaplan
http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_washington_post_cos_self-d.php

PEJ — it’s reconforming truth: kickstart journalism, pro publica

http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=2010-01-25#folio=038 http://www.cjr.org/the_news_frontier/

A friend of mine was New England bureau chief of a newspaper far away for a million years. No one in New England believed that they worked, which they did, about 14 hours a day, and would be slightly insulted when it was impossible to meet during their extensive business hours. No one in the city which published the newspaper for which they worked believed that they existed. For those of us who write, seeing the byline on an actual newspaper is evidence that we and our obsessions exist.

Such is my life online, I think, as I keep it very separated from the real life people I complain about, and regularly go about erasing online evidence that my LJ user name is connected to a “real” person name. To exist in the world, with a hyper real self online, is basically to have two identities, real and realer. You also can’t gossip with real people about what your imaginary friends online are up to.

Reading Hilton Kramer’s obituary today, in which his many combative campaigns on behalf of high modernism and mandarin aesthetics were detailed — I got pissed off at him for sneering at Vermeer simply because millions came out to view him — got me thinking about this dissociative state. Turns out a lot of things he took exception to I agree with. He was a staunch defender of Milton Avery, who I’ve loved since I first saw his stuff in the 60s. He came to prominence in an attack on Harold Rosenberg’s epochal essay defining Abstract Expressionism, and with it New York City, as the epicenter of modernism. Kramer said, “By defining Abstract Expressionist painting as a psychological event, it denied the aesthetic efficacy of painting itself and attempted to remove art from the only sphere in which it can be truly experienced, which is the aesthetic sphere. It reduced the art object itself to the status of a psychological datum.”

Of post-modernism, and the idea that irony imbues and permits all kinds of immoral behavior, Kramer thought little. The obituary recalls

A resolute high modernist, he was out of sympathy with many of the aesthetic waves that came after the great achievements of the New York School, notably Pop (“a very great disaster”), conceptual art (“scrapbook art”) and postmodernism (“modernism with a sneer, a giggle, modernism without any animating faith in the nobility and pertinence of its cultural mandate”).

What’s interesting about Kramer is how often he is right for what seem to me the wrong reasons, ie., sticking to the canons of Western culture. I am for the canons of Western culture as well as those of all other cultures, including the counter-. Nothing is more soul-murdering, as I have recently been discovering in my tour of hippie memoir, than having to re-invent the wheel every day and have it collectivized by a guru on the make. Canons are good, exactly what’s missing in hippie existence, with feral masculinist values rushing in to take their place.

But this life of the mind — although it could and did have a financial effect, for example, on the sale of Milton Avery’s paintings and the reputations of all those jazz-hands museum exhibitions and tap-dancing curators — was one from which Kramer seemed detached. He fell into life as a critic and arts editor as a grad student of philosophy who’d made friends with the editor Philip Rahv. I sense that his mandarin or conservative view, while upholding clear standards, also appealed to the grey lady aesthetic of the New York Times who with Kramer, I submit, were to be cautious in admitting that the art forms of the 1960s were anything more than charlatanism — the mid-20th century equivalent of the outrage with which Manet in his day and Picasso in his were greeted. Unusually, I think, for the NYT, Kramer’s education was far from the Ivies or New York city’s socialist or bohemian purlieus like NYU or Cooper Union. A New Englander, and not of the Brahmin kind, Kramer’s attack on Rosenberg, published in Art News in 1952, was launched from a graduate school seminar on Dante and Shakespeare in Indiana. I’d add that I agree with him and think he was right in believing that psychoanalytic values in painting — as well as in the Stanislavsky acting method which has permitted so much horrific professional behavior by actors in Hollywood — are just as bullshit in aesthetics as they were in psychiatry.

At the end of his life, Kramer was surprised by his reputation as a dragon. “I’m really not very angry at all,” he told New York magazine in 1984. “I am appalled at times; astonished, disappointed, anxious, worried. I think of myself as judicious.”

And that detachment, being very different from who you are in the city far away where your byline is published in the daily newspaper, online, or as an art critic, is what I’m thinking about today. I know my friend and I, and Hilton Kramer, literally exist as our best selves in what you could call cyberspace. Is it true matter does not exist? And only the soul does?

I am coming down the home stretch in the magisterial and exceedingly well-written huge new biography of William James. It identifies as the keystone of his life one of the pages I have quoted over and over in my genocide work, James’ thought on the saintly virtue of poverty. James wrote:

Over and above the mystery of self-surrender, there are in the cult of poverty other religious mysteries. There is the mystery of veracity: “Naked came I into the world,” etc. — whoever first said that, possessed this mystery. My own bare entity must fight the battle — shams cannot save me. There is also the mystery of democracy, or sentiment of the equality before God of all his creatures. This sentiment (which seems in general to have been more widespread in Mohammedan than in Christian lands) tends to nullify man’s usual acquisitiveness. Those who have it spurn dignities and honors, privileges and advantages, preferring, as I said in a former lecture, to grovel on the common level before the face of God. It is not exactly the sentiment of humility, though it comes so close to it in practice. It is humanity, rather, refusing to enjoy anything that others do not share.

Along these lines I am thinking the life of the mind, the cyber existence, the daily byline in a city far away, is more real.


Milton Avery, Gaspe Pink Sky, 1940
http://www.artchive.com/artchive/A/avery/gaspe_pink_sky.jpg.html

(c) Jeannette Smyth, all rights reserved.

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