“avant practices can legitimately …constitute an alternative network”

stumbled onto this Stephen-Paul Martin interview where he makes this opposition: experimental fiction as legitimate alternative network to the corporate publishing world… or experimental fiction as a minor league system for that corporate publishing world:

from: http://www.longhousepoetry.com/kirpalgordon2006.html

SPM: I think the main claim to significance that avant practices can legitimately make is that they constitute an alternative network, as opposed to the small press scene, which functions more as the minor leagues for mainstream publishing. However, when avanties start to function as narcissistic egos desperate for recognition and power, the whole idea of an alternative network collapses.

KPG: So if the middle-browing, standardizing, bureaucratic process of “professionalizing” our poets, radical critics & experimental writers has insured them middle class salaries in our universities at the risk of betraying their roots, where is our sense of community now?

SPM: I hope you are not thinking of the downtown scene in New York City during the late Seventies and early Eighties because money—and the future—were so little on everyone’s mind.

KPG: I’m thinking of your non-fiction book, Open Form and the Feminine Imagination. published in 1988. You helped coax us into a variety of texts that were difficult to enter. You demonstrated how writers as diverse as Susan How[e] & Clarence Major, for example, were speaking to our condition, only requiring us to develop alternative interpretive skills, an act of transcending/seeing through limits that are culturally imposed. I’m wondering where that kind of encouragement has gone. I’m also remembering the impact of Central Park. I got bombarded by so many new ideas, challenging perceptions, contrasting styles & approaches. It was a beautiful thing. Put more plainly, has a lack of tenure & adequate health insurance, coupled with bourgeois fantasies of fortune & fame, compromised the avant garde?

SPM: Compromised in the sense of turning it into its opposite, my answer is, “At least to some extent.” Letting the text unfold (as writers and readers) may be the only real community we will ever have. Exchanges between people are the ultimate value of literature. Yes, there’s the undeniable value of the energies we invest in creating the work and reading it carefully. But then what happens? I think most writers, perhaps without fully acknowledging it to themselves, see their work in a career context: Where can the work get them in terms of jobs and recognition? This is the mainstream approach, with the work seen as a way to assimilate into the dominant culture. But when the work is seen mainly as a trigger for discussion, it pulls the writer and reader away from the condition of semi-consciousness encouraged by mass communication and into the shared contemplation of ideas that exist only because the intensity of the interaction creates them. It’s precisely this kind of dialogue that cannot be appropriated by capitalist culture. It helps us stop worrying about how “great” the work is and puts the focus on the depth of feeling and imagination the work can generate and encourage.

more at: http://www.longhousepoetry.com/kirpalgordon2006.html

The Possibility of Music by Stephen-Paul Martin

for family, went to san francisco over the weekend–very happy to see the used book stores in the mission still there. ten years since i last saw them: abandoned planet, dog eared, phoenix, modern times. i buy almost everything online now, so few used bookstores left in NYC (adam’s unnameable books one of a few lovely exceptions). what fun to browse seven or eight cases of used books…

i found this one there. i’d seen it on the FC2 site but never bothered because, frankly, the cover art was ugly (or better(?) said: the cover was sending the incorrect market signal to its presumed target consumer)… this book shoud have this cover, some cutiepie wink wink smartypants cover–not this overly literal and overly busy collage.

point’s not to bash the designer though but to take a moment to lament the death of browsing–cuz at modern times bookstore i actually picked it up, read a few pages, and fell quickly for stephen-paul martin’s hilarious, risky, and meandering storytelling.

though called stories there is a narrator which is similar enough in voice throughout to achieve the continuity of a novel. the tales are interconnected by repeating image/phrase touchstones–a technique i like alot when done well and which fits perfectly with the book’s philosophy of mystical coincidence and witty skepticism.

it avoids plot while maintaining all the fun and development of storytelling. it also ends with a questionably successful story that nonetheless i enjoyed tremendously for the huge emotional gamble it takes to tell a “non-ironic love story.”

i think i’ve said the above too clinically. the book’s a lot of fun… like the wit and depth of reading a david antin talk without the spaces. if you liked lynn crawford’s SIMPLY SEPARATE PEOPLE or the dry humor of harry mathews’ CIGARETTES or JOURNALIST, try this one.

buy from FC2 or buy from a used bookstore or find it at a library

Walserian Waltzes by Gad Hollander

very cool book i stumbled onto in a bookstore (is that stumbling a fading pastime?)… at a slim but just-right ninety-two pages, it’s got the heft of something three times as big… this sounds like a power tool review all of a sudden…

if the title throws you off with its awkward ballroom alliteration, try to ignore it–an inaccurate indicator of what’s inside… the walserian part refers to robert walser, the swiss novelist whose biography and fiction hollander empties and then refills and then empties again with significance of his own design.

hollander has a great sentence style, both lyrical and pleasingly complex. the book is made up of short sections, and they vary from essayistic meditations on madness to very beautiful borgesian ontological fables to headspinning prose blocks that live on the borderline of comprehensibility a la the fiction of maurice blanchot… in fact the book’s personality disorder at times reminded me of a real favorite– coleman dowell’s ISLAND PEOPLE–another book that deals explicitly with insanity.

for me it required a certain silence to read it in. there’s little action to move things along, and what action there is is figurative, metaphorical. but one hopes it’s wise to be thankful for something that takes and rewards a little concentration. despite it being made up of sections, they do feel ‘sequenced’ so that the whole feels like a complete work rather than a collection, ending also with a bravura flourish.

from early on:
“Robert had a thought and sat down. The thought had recurred throughout his life, assuming an abstract shape, and now, at the moment of his death, was no different. Though it helped to map the limits of his life, it had nothing to do with his death. Aware of its last rite in his brain, Robert sat down in the company of his thought. It happened in the mountains, in winter, when the mountains are are covered with snow. It was a thought he had always known, a shadowy trace moving inside his head like a sandwich-board figure without a message. It clung inside him as he sat down, as if to guide him on his final journey” (page 15).

buy from spd

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