In certain ways it this the best graphic memoir I have ever read. The graphical form is somehow perfectly suited to the first person, and the delirium...moreIn certain ways it this the best graphic memoir I have ever read. The graphical form is somehow perfectly suited to the first person, and the delirium of this memoir perfectly exploits that potential. But David B. is the worst kind of megalomaniac, both honest and lonely. At one point his character declares himself the family's "genius". There are possibly 30 different depictions of the covers of other of the authors books in the pages of this one. But somehow the twisted, unsparing, phantasmagoric sparseness of the the author's universe---the penises, monsters, the Nazism, the endless skewering of endless New Age fraudulence---almost entirely compensate for this. (less)
Fuck! Left in random Manhattan apt, then shipped to Haiti in aunt's luggage.
Double fuck! Lost it again on the subway with hundreds of notes.
-----...moreFuck! Left in random Manhattan apt, then shipped to Haiti in aunt's luggage.
Double fuck! Lost it again on the subway with hundreds of notes.
Ok finished, after 6 months.
This book is a destroying and destroyed queer love poem masquerading half-assedly as theory. It is a poem with a mustache of theory. And it's pretty great for this. He sets it up as aspiring to decode a liminal site of discourse: the lover's discourse "is completely forsaken by the surrounding languages: ignored, disparaged, or derided by them."--and does this in a way that means to be understood for its universality. But then he clearly makes no bones about describing sitting by the phone in coldsweats gnawing (his own) fingers and desolate, waiting for "X" to call him. This is charming and sweet.
More importantly, the book is just incredibly brilliant, and just true. He positions the simple act of recognition, the utterance: "That is so true..." as the qualifier for an amorous image to be constitutive of the lover's "image repertoire"(as he calls it). Most all of his images qualify in this regard; they are immediately recognizable (to me at least). E.g., this illustration from the entry "Monstrous." "The lover's discourse stifles the other, who finds no place for his own language beneath this massive utterance."
The book is divided, seemingly haphazardly (alphabetically), into sections dealing with various utterances, conditions, or dispositions of the amorous image repertoire. Absence, adorable, affirmation, alteration, etc.
But really the book should be called An Unrequited Lover's Discourse, because it has *nothing* to do with the discourses or image repertoire that arise on love fulfilled. *That* discourse comes out the other end of the book as the only remaining liminal site of the "disparaged" lovers discourse. It is as though Barthes' personal loss is so palpable, so in need of codification in theory, of respect, that it elides the possibility of requitement altogether, positioning loss as the totality of love. A *romantic* position to be sure, and one not altogether out of step with *The Sorrows of Young Wether*, the major source text here (among a great many others).
But above all, really, is the simple fact that I could read a thousand pages of Barthes describing a single, unremarkable turd and be satisfied. He has a Nietzschean disposition toward cataclysm and provocation, toward paradox and the bending of incompetent languages around his meaning--he digs impertinently, surgically, for the actual in a way that would seem exclusive with such gentle taste--he is generous and lovable (unvikinglike) in a way that Nietzsche isn't (in the way that Rilke or e e cummings *are*).
Good parts from the first half:
"Meaning (destiny) electrifies my hand; I am about to tear open the other's opaque body, oblige the other (whether there is a response, a withdrawal, or mere acceptance) to enter into the interplay of meaning: I am about *to make the other speak*."
"Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact: on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly focuses upon a single signified, which is "I desire you," and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure."
"To speak amorously is to expend without an end in sight, without a *crisis;*..."
"...any ethic of purity requires that we detach the gift from the hand which gives or receives it..."
"To speak of the gift is to place it in an exchange economy (of sacrifice, competition, etc.); which stands opposed to silent expenditure."
"Nature, today, is the city."
"The mechanics of amorous vassalage require a fathomless futility."(less)
As good as The Lover. Same story retold. Equally brilliant. The Lover is like looking at a star through a telescope and The North China Lover is like...moreAs good as The Lover. Same story retold. Equally brilliant. The Lover is like looking at a star through a telescope and The North China Lover is like being on the surface of the star.(less)
It is refreshing to see a gay junkie with hep c misspell things. I mean that in every way. It was a broken open little Book (from the delightful, defu...moreIt is refreshing to see a gay junkie with hep c misspell things. I mean that in every way. It was a broken open little Book (from the delightful, defunct little Hanuman editions) that I read through during two separate shits. It reads like Burroughs writing a gossip rag. But instead of that clinical Burroughs hardness and dysphoria, it is soft and incredibly tender in a way that is both destroyed, unmediated, and grateful in a very realistic way. (less)
**spoiler alert** This book is the story of the "Trick E. Dixon" presidential regime and begins with an actual quote from Nixon about the sanctity of...more**spoiler alert** This book is the story of the "Trick E. Dixon" presidential regime and begins with an actual quote from Nixon about the sanctity of the lives of the unborn. "Dixon" then takes questions from reporters about whether the boys who committed the My Lai Massacre might perhaps have violated the sanctity of unborn life by massacring pregnant women. Dixon dodges, praising his own "characteristic restraint" in not bringing posthumous charges of conspiracy to murder against the mothers-to-be, and goes on to say that he'll extend suffrage to the unborn in time for his campaign in '72. But a boy scout uprising puts the administration in a bind when they suggest that he "favors effing" because of his commitment to the lives of the unborn. Deep in his secret underground football locker room, in full footbal regalia, Dixon convenes his (also uniformed) cabinet and considers coming out as "a queer" or congenitally impotent. Instead he decides to shoot the boy scouts, occupy Castle Elsinore (thereby liberating our "literary landmark" from Danish tyranny), and to nuke the "pro-pornography" capital of Denmark for harboring former baseball player Charles Curtis Flood. Flood has fled there, Tricky says, to avoid the reprisals due him for "tampering with the morals" of the boy scouts and inspiring the uprising. But special forces accidentally extradite a black Lab instead of the black baseball player. And all the hijinks come to a halt when someone assassinates Tricky by drowning him naked, in the fetal position, inside a giant, suspiciously amniotic plastic baggie. (To honor his commitment to the unborn he's buried in his sac.) He's last seen on the stump in hell campaigning for "Devil" against Satan.
The book is satanically funny. But the hilarity has no teeth, because the (rightly) mean spirit of the lampoon tempts Roth too far into caricature. There is nothing but caricature and therefore, little of the actual to properly hate. Though the entire book is inspired by the Nixon administration, what ends up lambasted in print is ultimately fluff, utter fiction; it has been distorted a priori for the purposes of insult. And uselessly, everything of character and setting that has been initially caricaturized, is throttled a second time in the action of the plot. The book is in effect similar to the bludgeoning of a wild pinata to death right in front of the person it has been inspired by. But who really needs the bludgeoning is the asshole, not the effigy.
For this reason some of the most wickedly funny ideas and phrases I have ever read failed to make me laugh. Reviewers at the time of publication compared the book to Swift and were foaming to call it a "masterpiece, (New York Times Review of Books)," but from this distance their phrases seem more like statements of personal politics than affirmations of authorial mastery. The book has aged badly, no doubt.
Still, throughout the reading I found myself wishing someone had had the stones to destroy the Bush regime in such a manner. But such a wish points up the major problem of this book. The closer we are to a deplorable political situation the easier it is to exaggerate it for the sake of insult. This not only results in bad and badly-aging writing, it helps us laugh away our rage. For this reason Mel Clay, founding member of anarchist theater troupe The Living Theater, has stated that he is against satire: People laugh, have a good time, they aren't angry anymore--political entertainment inoculates against revolution.(less)
I think Joe Wenderoth's existence in academia oppresses him. I think that there are impartial emotions in the straight-ahead essays in this book that...moreI think Joe Wenderoth's existence in academia oppresses him. I think that there are impartial emotions in the straight-ahead essays in this book that make them irrelevant/unconsumable. I read them after reading Barthes, and it was . . . difficult. I really do think that he wrote them drunk.
However, I do think that the pieces in this book that are performance art--that are illocutionary, that are doing something--are (nearly) as brilliant as anything in Letters to Wendy's, and have all the magic blasphemy and ecstatic (if pubescent) abjection that make Wenderoth one of my favorites. For instance, he publishes a letter from American Poet soliciting work from him on a theme of irreverence. Then, he publishes a letter from them in which they try to work out how to censor the poem he gives them, which is about, among other things, the "filthy cunt" of Jesus. (They ultimately reject it.)
Or take the Swiftian bit in which he suggests that all past and future images of MLK be made white, since the meaning of his life has been so recuperated and canonized by white people as to become meaningless to them.
Plus, the pieces have good titles. Like "The Lumberjack's Melancholy Pussy," and "Response to the Disciplinary Action Taken Against Me by the Human Resource Manager."
Still, I think he is best when he has a specific task in mind, or at least a unifying urge. And isn't writing academic analysis. And isn't drunk.(less)
Great book of poems. The disunity of styles is refreshing, and human, and creates a greater breadth of expectation. The book is larger than it would b...moreGreat book of poems. The disunity of styles is refreshing, and human, and creates a greater breadth of expectation. The book is larger than it would be were it to adhere to the straight-jacket of a given style.(less)