Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for January 29

I. Levi—again!—on Powell. Here he hits the nail beautifully on the head:

What raises Powell's curiosity in Dance to the level of art is that he leavens it with a real openness to difference, from ordinary English eccentricity to unexpected sexual predilections to inexplicable fixed ideas. That mix of curiosity and sympathy allows Powell to find nearly any person of at least some interest; his much-quoted response to charges of snobbery--that if there were a Burke's of Bank Clerks, he'd buy that, too--rings true for any close reader of Dance.
I couldn't agree more; only constant curiosity and sympathy could sustain our interest over 12 books. The title of volume three, The Acceptance World (an insurance term? I can't recall) could stand in for the whole sequence. (I think this vibe, crucially, comes through in the miniseries, despite other imperfections.)

This is nice, too: "As Powell demonstrates, what people want so often becomes who they are."

OK, then: What does it mean that, all this week, I've been craving a milkshake?!

II. Calhouniana in the NYT. I like the last sentence, and also the double use/meaning of "fox":

He noted, “There are the usual mailing folds present as well as overall age toning and minor foxing.”


Mr. Lorello wrote that on the last day of the auction, he realized that state archivists were aware of the fraudulent listing, and he began to sense that he was being outfoxed.

III. Terminology: I'd heard of "slipstream" and "new wave fabulism" before, but not "the new weird." Here's Jeff Vandermeer's definition, which mentions a story of mine (included in 2003's Trampoline, edited by Kelly Link)—and gives the full title!

Time and reality can flow in any direction in this literature; insofar as these stories are coherent within their own narrative frameworks, they exhibit no concern for anchoring their models to a knowable world–that is to say, the “weird” elements in stories do not have to “mean” anything. Frame stories can become main stories (as in Kelly Link’s “Lull” and Jeffrey Ford’s “The Yellow Chamber”). Landmasses and locomotion may re-invent themselves as necessary for the story (as in Ed Park’s “Well-Moistened with Cheap Wine, the Sailor and the Wayfarer Sing of Their Absent Sweethearts” and Christopher Rowe’s “The Force Acting on the Displaced Body”). Dreams or alternate states of consciousness can make the real world before they have even occurred (again “The Yellow Chamber,” also Alex Irvine’s “Gus Dreams of Biting the Mailman” and Jonathan Lethem’s “The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, Is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door”). All of these instabilities and textual experimentations point to a larger, overarching concern in the little weird: there are no worlds, no realities; there are only people and their self-world metaphors.” (Via Jonathan Wood at The Worlds of Paul Jessup)

"Landmasses and locomotion": Just realized something obvious—an earlier story of mine, "An Oral History of Atlantis" (published in Columbia in 2002-ish, I think; written in August 2001 for a reading at the aptly named Galapagos) featured...an unmoored Manhattan!

Wood asks if we're entering the Post–New Weird...

IV. Dizzyhead Benno—not surprisingly, a Ben Franklin fan!—has started a website with LJ Ruell, called Poor Richard. Check out LJ's stunning entry into the New Yorker's Eustace Tilly contest:

V. What did people think about the movie Atonement?

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Blogger bhadd said...

TMI? Milkshakes efface information in deliciousness. I hope chocolate.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Levi Stahl said...

So long as your milkshake continues to bring all the boys to the yard, Ed, I think you'll be fine. It's worked okay for Kelis.

The Calhoun article reminds me of rare map thief E. Forbes Smiley III. Could he possibly have a better name for his chosen occupation?

7:51 PM  

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