EVER by blake butler


like johannes görannson’s DEAR RA, blake butler’s eerie EVER’s a howl — a generational cri de coeur, but instead of the anthemic us-ness there’s left now only solitary i’s peeping sometimes wildly sometimes mutely about. and replacing the ruined reputed best minds of the last boom are self-alienated observers of the intractable and indomitable structures, which serve only to reinforce their own alienation.

[At first our local leaders tried to zone around the madness, to block off damaged sects with panes of glass, but the error swung so often, the glass just magnified the problem -- the shatter echoed in the ground (p 8).

i thought of renee gladman’s JUICE a lot while reading EVER. if the content and concerns are quite different nonetheless the prose in both can be seen as lines of poetry laid end to end, where the all important function of the line break has now been transferred to the puckering pocket between sentences. EVER even has a fairly palpable scansion — more often than not bricks of anapests and iambs are mortared together with commas or prepositions. but it is never predictable, and its stunningly-sculpted sentences shimmer and gloat like the surfaces of donald judd shapes in geometric progression.

its gore and nightmare may be reminiscent of creepier lynchian jump cuts but the deadened sadness of its voice suggests something perhaps more dedicated to hopelessness. definingly unredeemed, EVER’s punked emily dickinson updates are fun for the hole family.

consume from the publisher or buy from SPD

trickle up economics


reading the report of the frankfurt bookfair in the latest harper’s made me feel like crying, laughing and puking all at once — until i threw it aside with a fuck-this-noise dismissal. one day (maybe quite soon) even the global corporate publishing emperors will realize they’re in their skivvies… two days later, geeking out on a strangely inspiring article on netbooks in wired magazine, this idea was reinforced as was oddly re-affirmed my faith in the rise of small presses, when i read the following rule of thumb demonstrated in recent techworld history: “In THE INNOVATOR’S DILEMMA, Clayton Christensen famously argued that true breakthroughs almost always come from upstarts, since profitable firms rarely want to upend their business models.”


[and a similar burn baby burn sentiment here from from joshua harmon.]

NO COLONY volume 2

speaking of golden parachutes, bonuses, and toxic assets — i’ve a story in the latest NO COLONY called “Executives’ Song.” i’ve actually not yet got a copy in my paws, but I hear it’ll be available at AWP. writings from blake butler, bryson newhart, christian peet, future ellipsis press author joanna ruocco — and many a sweet-lie-talking other. more info at:



the most high by maurice blanchot


what a book! a bible! a MOBY DICK! at the same time, an epic bore. a droning monologue of fatigue and sickness…

THE MOST HIGH is an awesome failure — in the sense that PIERRE is a failure or that kafka is. that is to say, not at all — except in the sense that a pure ambition to representative truth must fall abysmally short.

blanchot might’ve given a snort at the idea that his project had anything to do with representing truth. this sorrentino review (in the NYTimes–evidently such a thing was possible but a scant two decades ago) of a number of blanchot’s translations from station hill press argues that blanchot above all believed in the paradoxical lie of language, its inherent corruption and artificiality.

nonetheless this novel, published in 1948, seems to want to capture a certain philosophical hell particular to its post-war era, which nonetheless uncannily resonates with our current moment. in its political theory it has antecedent in CANDIDE’s horrific picaresque within the best of all possible worlds; the translator’s preface mentions the work’s cousins in camus’ THE PLAGUE and orwell’s 1984; and in its use of the state as self-created disease it has intellectual descendants in, among others, saramago’s BLINDNESS and naomi klein’s SHOCK DOCTRINE.

but there’s no use trying to reduce it. the story of a civil servant, henry sorge, and his descent into a bureaucratic hell and plague defies summary. the same end-of-history ideas that spawned contemporary neoconservatism and arguably our current atrocious wars of imperialism are shown here (in 1948!) to be an ideological prison of hypocrisy and inescapable doubletalk. as well and importantly, it’s an indictment of our tacit complicity in these daily repressions and horrors.

…nothing’s higher than the law. Really, all offenses are plots against the law: you’d like to disobey it, but since that isn’t possible, you have to rebel against its legitimacy. A long time ago you could steal and leave it at that; now you’re committing through the theft an infinitely more serious crime, the most terrible of all and, besides, a crime that can’t be carried out, that fails. Of that crime there remains, precisely, only an insignificant trace — the theft (41).

(i should also say that i’ve tried blanchot many times over the past decade and just couldn’t get through it. to me, THOMAS THE OBSCURE was. and i seem to have absolutely no stomach for the straight-up theory (though friends have said THE WRITING OF THE DISASTER is also a must.) i only mention this to say THE MOST HIGH i found much more readable. even though it has a fractured structure, dialogues or situations more than plot, seems to shift fundamental style each chapter, and has looooong blocks of abstruse monologue-ing — i was drawn in by the continuity of its purpose… and maybe i’m still untrained and the others in fact do await my arrival like sanctuaries in time. nice to think.)

another quote, along the same theme:

For the State will know how to use your insubordination, and not only will it take advantage of it, but you, in opposition and revolt, will be its delegate and representative as fully as you would have been in your office, following the law. The only change is that you want change and there won’t be any. What you’d like to call destruction of the State will always appear to you really as service to the State. What you’ll do to escape the law will still be the force of the law for you. And when the State decides to annihilate you, you’ll know that this annihilation doesn’t sanction your error, doesn’t give you, before history, the vain arrogance of men in revolt, but rather that it makes you one of these modest and correct servants on the dust of whom rests the good of all — and your good as well (137).

if you’ve some time, you really should check it out.

buy from the publisher or find used or find at the library.



steven moore on wikipedia


in an earlier post i’d lamented the lack of wikipedia entry for steven moore, one of our most perceptive critics. now one’s been created (though for some reason isn’t findable via a search on the wikipedia site yet) by victoria harding, tireless keeper of these literary sites. on the wikipedia entry you’ll learn the gossipy fact that moore left dalkey due to irreconcilable differences with the publisher. i dunno what the issues in the break up were, but it’s unfortunate because dalkey did and does do incredible work–especially in translation–but its coverage and support of american fiction seem to have faltered since his departure. mr. moore i learned was the one who brought david markson to dalkey as well as carole maso and rikki ducornet. he re/dis-covered felipe alfau and was an early champion of david foster wallace. in fact reading through the quick summary one realizes that he’s been quietly in the center of serious american literary activity for more than two decades. point your browser therefore and sing the unsung if but to yourself at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Moore_(US_author))

on criticism

too bad it’s not available via the web, but dave hickey has a witty, pretty great essay in the current Art in America. smart on recent artworld history, criticism in general, and the relationship of artworks to the marketplace. of course these days that last category is practically non-existent for literary works, i.e. there is no marketplace for it — but not the (current) point. (and anyway maybe we should be glad for it.) i don’t care particularly about the monetary value of a work, but hickey argues maybe i  should — because “the quality of an art object is directly proportional to the quantity of something that it gives to someone who belongs to some constituency of interest.” i had to read that sentence a couple of times, but if i read him generously as not saying that the best artworks are those that serve the lowest common denominator, then i think hickey’s saying not just that the value of art is socially defined — but that since it is you’re well-served to be environmentally-conscious of your particular art world’s biosphere… maybe i muddled that gloss — but the essay is worth picking up at the library or newsstand, the Feb 09 issue of Art in America, s’got a peyton on the cover… here’s a bit:

It’s not easy to revel in the twilight of one’s own relevance, but, these days, I look around and happily admit that no piece of art criticism written by me or anyone else contributed a whiff of pheromone to the fragrant panache that sustained the art world for nearly two decades as a market in luxury goods. Quality box office was quite sufficient to maintain your Ferraris, your ugly paintings and boring videos as objects of status and delectation. The fact that your Ferraris were less likely to be honored by a museum exhibition, a super gala and a spread in Town & Country made your luxury art all the more attractive as a social instrumentality, especially if you factored in the elevated levels of self-esteem derived from swanning around Sotheby’s waving your little paddle…

At first, some of cognoscenti reveled in this loss of transparency [in knowing the value of works of art]. It meant we knew and you didn’t. We got bargains. Occasionally, we could actually pass off good works of art as trendy objects. Eventually, though, many of my friends and colleagues who knew good from bad stopped caring, and after a decade or so of not caring, they didn’t know anymore, and, for a professional in the arts, the inability to tell good art from bad is a terminal condition. It’s no joke. Some works of art are demonstrably better than others, and, ultimately, it matters, because bad art disappears before our eyes. If you look and can’t see anything, there’s nothing there. It’s elevator music, hospital furniture, AM radio. There is, in fact, so much of this high-priced confetti in Chelsea these days that one must fear that the best galleries with the most honest prices will be the first to be undeservedly wiped out.

What I am suggesting is that the art world is going through its own version of the Wall Street meltdown. When things were moving fast on the Street, and money was being made, the complicated, time-consuming task of assessing the real value of complex financial instruments became an easy corner to cut, so it was cut. Then one morning, the markets opened and nobody knew what anything was worth…

All I can say is hold and pray, and, henceforth, apply the formula quality is quantity. The quality of an art object is directly proportional to the quantity of something that it gives to someone who belongs to some constituency of interest. Critics, scholars, collectors, dealers, curators, and decorators expect different things in different measures. The works of art that deliver the most stuff to the most people and serve the most complex consituences for the longest time are the very best ones. Period.


…and a little bit from the believer interview that made me chuckle:

DH: Anyway, the art world is way too big right now. The art world I came up into was very much like the jazz world I grew up in, which is to say, a relatively small thing. If you got to go see Miles Davis in a little bar on La Brea, that was great, and you didn’t sit around saying, “There was no coverage in the New York Times! Miles is not going to get any reviews!” You know what I’m saying?

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