fiction files redux discussion

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message 1: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 04, 2010 06:22PM) (new)

message 2: by João (new)

João Camilo (jcamilo) | 259 comments Almost anything to stop James Cameron to direct movies...

message 3: by Matt, e-monk (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
"Publication has been halted for a disputed book about the atomic bombing of Japan that Avatar director James Cameron had optioned for a possible film, The Associated Press has learned.

Publisher Henry Holt and Company, responding to questions from the AP, said Monday that author Charles Pellegrino “was not able to answer” concerns about The Last Train from Hiroshima, including whether two men mentioned in the book actually existed.

“It is with deep regret that Henry Holt and Company announces that we will not print, correct or ship copies of Charles Pellegrino's The Last Train from Hiroshima,” the publisher said in a statement issued to the AP."

this book had already hit the shelves in some stores and we are being asked to pull it and return it to the publisher - a book recall? the problem? Holy James Frey the author made up central characters in this purportedly non-fiction book!

message 4: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 05, 2010 06:20AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
and now most reliably the public wants the book more than ever - why? not because of what it's about or how well it's written

it's the furor dummy

message 5: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 05, 2010 06:24AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
so what's this got to do with David Shields Reality Hunger? Well for starters Shields book is a "controversial manifesto for a new literature based on fact rather than fiction."

he even takes time to discuss the unreliability of memory (and memoir) - James Frey makes an appearance amongst other recent 'unreliable narrators':

"First there's the relativism about truth and lies. In a chapter entitled "Trials by google" Shields defends (among others) James Frey for making things up in his memoir A Million Little Pieces. Of course Frey made things up, says Shields: who doesn't? Who cares? But there's a difference between false memory, rough recall, wilful deception and exaggeration for dramatic effect. And if Frey is, as Shields says, "a terrible writer", why defend him at all, since he's failed the first test? Carelessness with the truth and aesthetic failure aren't easily... "

he also argues that theft can be more creative than invention

(!spoiler alert!: the book is largely composed of quotations (printed without attribution - well the publisher's lawyers forced him to put a key at the back of the book but he even goes so far as to ask you not only to not read it but excise it from the book with a razor - begone J Evans Pritchard, phd!))

and that "collage is the artform of today, and why the lyric essay has more to offer the modern age than that old-fangled form, "the novelly novel"..."

interesting book - worthy of discussion even if you dont necessarily agree with some of its premises

message 6: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
after reading your posts, i decided to run over to B&N at lunch to take a look at the book. frankly, it seems so scattered it's practically incomprehensible. i might read it anyway, but maybe not.

it is fascinating how fascinated we are by this form of entertainment: come up with a poorly defined abstraction and then marvel over how poorly defined it is for centuries, play with the blurry edges. why are these games so compelling? truth, reality, soul. really, hundreds and hundreds of years worth of entertainment.

message 7: by Jonathan, the skipper (new)

Jonathan | 609 comments Mod
. . . great thread, monk . . .it's ALL fiction as far as i concerned . . . if it's not, why bother writing it down and putting your name on it? . . . if it's "fact" it doesn't belong to anybody . . . very few facts are indisputable . . . i do think it's interesting how literature is held to a different standard than, say, "reality" television . . . about ten years ago i did some writing for a "reality" show which was based on a competition . . . strangely, why the competition provided much the content for the show, the "winner" was actually selected form a casting couch . . . all memoirs are bullshit . . . gimme' a break . . . even a documentary film is largely fabrication, wherein the temporal order of events are changed, key "facts" are omitted, etc, etc, etc, . . . when do we stop pretending that art is in any way reality? . . . i'll take truth over "reality" . . .

message 8: by Matt, e-monk (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
zadie smith attacks his attack on the novel by pointing out that those things he most complains about are the result of bad writing not the novel form - which afterall is a nebulous beast indeed allowing for the free form ouroboros-like musings of Tristram Shandy, Leopold Bloom's meandering stroll, Proust's meditation on a fresh baked cookie, Durrell's Alexandrian attempt to capture four view points in four books, Dos Passos' attempt to capture the view point of multitudes in 3 volumes etc etc etc

(please note I dont agree with Shields though I do find some his points intriguing and worth consideration)

message 9: by Jonathan, the skipper (new)

Jonathan | 609 comments Mod
. . . what i want to know, matt, is where is your novel? . . . i suspect you could write a damn good one . . .

message 10: by Jonathan, the skipper (new)

Jonathan | 609 comments Mod
. . . okay, you know what, the more i read about this "manifesto" (and the more tequilla i drink) the more pissed off i'm getting . . . quote:

"I’m bored by out-and-out fabrication, by myself and others; bored by invented plots and invented characters. I want to explore my own damn, doomed character. I want to cut to the absolute bone. Everything else seems like so much gimmickry."

. . . sounds like someone wasn't enjoying much success writing mediocre gimmicky fiction . . .good fiction does not feel gimmicky . . .good fiction DOES cut straight to the bone-- STRAIGHTER than any non-fiction i've ever read . . . do i wanna' listen to david sheilds illuminate his "reality" any more than i want to read his gimmicky fiction? . . . i mean, honestly, if you can't distill the stuff of your life into meaningful fiction, get off the pot and stop calling yourself a writer . . . this whole thing just seems like a plea for attention to me . . . the premise, anyway . . . i hate it . . . i'd like to kick this guy's ass right now, for real . . . I LOVE THE NOVEL-- i still think it's the best form we've ever found for capturing "truth" . . .

message 11: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 07, 2010 11:44AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
another beef I have with Shields: his method of appropriation without attribution is clever I suppose but ultimately Im not sure what purpose it serves other than to forward itself as its own argument - at best it's a seedless exercise that once executed never needs to be done again - as with Duchamp's fountain it's been done, we get it.

on the one hand at times the appropriation puts the original authors into a position where removed from context they are arguing a point different than that which the quote was intended to argue either in kind or degree

on the other without attribution what is the point of the borrowing? why not use your own words? all language is communal, borrowed, contextual, your formulations are never truly your own; so what?

reductio absurdam: you may as well compose a ransom note clipped out word by word from various and sundry sources - that's what we all do anyway I suppose

message 12: by Jonathan, the skipper (new)

Jonathan | 609 comments Mod
. . . and please explain to me how the form of his book is not gimmicky?

message 13: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 20, 2010 06:51AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
are people really this stupid?

I mean people who get paid to have ideas? people who write things and, ostensibly, think and what not? Im almost done with this book and so much of it is transparent and deeply flawed - not at all revolutionary

is cubism or vorticism revolutionary? because then maybe Im wrong - maybe shit from 80 years ago is suddenly revolutionary, collage, borrowing, appropriating, throwing shit together from disparate sources - Im pretty sure teenagers of both genders have done this shit since there was a mass media, Im pretty sure zines appropriating images was already a tired trope 30 years ago, I'm pretty sure Burroughs was doing cut and paste mash-ups 40 years ago - and now the literary world is up in arms?

thank god there is something for someone to write about...

imagine the 'literary world' as our tidy little files - 3 people on one side of an issue 4 on the other - it's really not much more than that as it is - 'people whose opinion we should pay attention to' - it makes me tired, so tired

how freeing is that?

message 14: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (last edited Mar 10, 2010 04:28AM) (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
i'm not going to buy the book. and the wait lists for it at the brooklyn library and nypl are crazy. to me it looked mostly like notes for a book that shields couldn't be bothered to write, so he just published the notes instead. he's not much of a writer.

i don't know if anyone remembers his book on basketball, but it also caused a lot of fluttering and got press/reviews in trendy places like rolling stone and sports illustrated, not because of the content of the book, but because it was controversial. that's his schtick.

i don't have to have a plot or a narrative in all of my fiction all of the time. i don't want to eat the same meal for dinner every night, either. does the fact that i eat pizza mean that burgers are a thing of the past? the argument doesn't even make sense. in fact, as far as i can tell, it's not even an argument. the reviews you've posted don't even seem to agree on what the topic of this book is.

message 15: by João (new)

João Camilo (jcamilo) | 259 comments Is this that American dude who discovered Journalism changed the Novels and Romances and that Joyce had to kill it because of that?

message 16: by Christy (new)

Christy (christybuttons) | 19 comments Just as in music, sampling can be great (Beastie Boys) or terrible (ala Vanilla Ice).... I agree with Patty, I think this guy is more shtick than substance and I'm not going to waste my money on it. That being said, I may grab it at the library someday down the road just so I can have a more informed low opinion of it :)

message 17: by Patrick, The Special School Bus Rider (new)

Patrick (horrorshow) | 269 comments Mod
Not sure if it is ironic to have the former Corey Haim's scabs covered face in the column next to the Laura Miller's article that discusses Reality Hunger.

However I remember a different kind of hunger in readers and writers that Tom Wolfe spoke of in Hooking Up, the Zora realism which I think is more essentail to the novel or/and other narrative writing forms rather than the so called 'samplings' of hip hop music being brought over to the novel form. I still call that activity 'being lazy', 'being a complete and an utter douchebag', and basically 'stealing.' and often compare it to college students who downloads obscure essays and reword them slightly to pass their courses.

message 18: by Jonathan, the skipper (new)

Jonathan | 609 comments Mod
. . .okay, i'm gonna' officially kick this little navel-gazer's ass! . . . i just watched a couple interviews with him-- he's insufferably smug, ungenerous, pretentious . . . also, he's quite wealthy and i just learned the state awarded him a one thousand dollar GAP grant (grants intended to subsidize financially struggling artists), for the stated purpose of hiring a research assistant . . . i really don't like this guy one bit . . .

message 19: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 19, 2010 12:23PM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
well then you'll enjoy this:

the 3rd to last appropriated quote in the book is:

"once upon a time there will be readers who wont care what imaginative writing is called and will read it for its passion, its force of intellect and its formal originality"

first things first, the grudging attribution at the back of the book lists Ben Marcus, The Genre Artist and lo and behold:

now before I go into the Marcus essay and Shields misleading and intellectually dishonest use of the Marcus quote I would like to reflect for a moment on the irony of what that quote actually says, again:

"once upon a time there will be readers who wont care what imaginative writing is called and will read it for its passion, its force of intellect and its formal originality"

to which I'll add 'and isnt it too bad that the ham-fisted Shields doesnt realize that he in fact is not one of those readers' - because he obviously does care what imaginative writing is called and that concern blinds him to the possibilities of fiction, the novel and the flaws in his own argument etc

message 20: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 19, 2010 12:48PM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
now as for the Marcus article what he actually is discussing is new, innovative, formally dynamic potentials of a new kind of... guess what?


(good night! drive safe!)

Marcus in fact turns Shields on his head - if Shields project is to lambaste the novel and raise the lyric essay on a pedestal Marcus view is more evolved and nuanced

he examines work that breaks down the barriers or otherwise renders meaningless terms like fiction or non-fiction

and in so doing achieves a more cogent articulation of what one might consider Shields true POV if it werent for the fact that Shield seems more intent on controversial assertion and opinion stirring polemic - of course all this manages to convey is that the true goal of Shields egoistic bluster and bombaste (ironic as most of the words on the page are not actually his) is to make him the moment's cause celebre

message 21: by Matt, e-monk (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
From a Slate Article

The academic love affair with The Wire is not, as it turns out, a totally unrequited one. One of the professors teaching a course on the show is the sociologist William Julius Wilson—his class, at Harvard, will be offered this fall. Simon has said that Wilson's book When Work Disappears, an exploration of the crippling effects of the loss of blue-collar jobs in American cities, was the inspiration for the show's second season, which focused on Baltimore's struggling dockworkers.

Wilson's class, a seminar, will require students to watch selected episodes of the show, three or more a week, he says. Some seasons, like the fourth, with its portrayal of the way the public school system fails poor children, will get more time than others. Students will also read works of sociology: two books by Wilson, as well as Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street, Sandra Susan Smith's Lone Pursuit, Bruce Western's Punishment and Inequality in America, and Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh's Off the Books, works that explore poverty, incarceration, unemployment, and the underground economy.

Asked why he was teaching a class around a TV drama, Wilson said the show makes the concerns of sociologists immediate in a way no work of sociology he knows of ever has. "Although The Wire is fiction, not a documentary, its depiction of [the:] systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the urban poor is more poignant and compelling [than:] that of any published study, including my own," he wrote in an e-mail.

For Wilson, the unique power of the show comes from the way it takes fiction's ability to create fully realized inner lives for its characters and combines that with qualities rare in a piece of entertainment: an acuity about the structural conditions that constrain human choices (whether it's bureaucratic inertia, institutional racism, or economic decay) and an unparalleled scrupulousness about accurately portraying them. Wilson describes the show's characters almost as a set of case studies, remarkable for the vividness with which they embody a set of arguments about the American inner city. "What I'm concentrating on is how this series so brilliantly illustrates theories and processes that social scientists have been writing about for years," he said in an interview.

Anne-Maria Makhulu, a social anthropologist at Duke teaching a course there on The Wire this spring, makes a similar point about the show's power as a social document. She finds that, for many of her largely upper-middle-class students, issues like poverty and urban deindustrialization are remote from their daily lives, and simply reading about them does little to bridge that gap. The Wire puts faces and stories to those forces—Stringer Bell, the gang leader with the heart of a CFO; Bubbles, the wry, entrepreneurial junkie; "Bunny" Colvin, the police major who grows so disenchanted by the war on drugs that he tries legalizing them in his district.

"There's this question of how you appeal to young people who feel—not all of them but many of them—far removed from the type of people who are the major characters in The Wire," Makhulu says.

message 22: by Patrick, The Special School Bus Rider (new)

Patrick (horrorshow) | 269 comments Mod
Maybe the police major should legalize just weeds so nobody would show up for the war on drugs and war for drug dealing turfs and so forth.

message 23: by Matt, e-monk (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin
William S. Burroughs

At a surrealist rally in the 1920s Tristan Tzara the man from nowhere proposed to create a poem on the spot by pulling words out of a hat. A riot ensued wrecked the theater. AndrÈ Breton expelled Tristan Tzara from the movement and grounded the cut-ups on the Freudian couch.

In the summer of 1959 Brion Gysin painter and writer cut newspaper articles into sections and rearranged the sections at random. Minutes to Go resulted from this initial cut-up experiment. Minutes to Go contains unedited unchanged cut ups emerging as quite coherent and meaningful prose. The cut-up method brings to writers the collage, which has been used by painters for fifty years. And used by the moving and still camera. In fact all street shots from movie or still cameras are by the unpredictable factors of passers by and juxtaposition cut-ups. And photographers will tell you that often their best shots are accidents . . . writers will tell you the same. The best writing seems to be done almost by accident but writers until the cut-up method was made explicitó all writing is in fact cut ups. I will return to this pointóhad no way to produce the accident of spontaneity. You can not will spontaneity. But you can introduce the unpredictable spontaneous factor with a pair of scissors.

The method is simple. Here is one way to do it. Take a page. Like this page. Now cut down the middle and cross the middle. You have four sections: 1 2 3 4 . . . one two three four. Now rearrange the sections placing section four with section one and section two with section three. And you have a new page. Sometimes it says much the same thing. Sometimes something quite differentócutting up political speeches is an interesting exerciseóin any case you will find that it says something and something quite definite. Take any poet or writer you fancy. Here, say, or poems you have read over many times. The words have lost meaning and life through years of repetition. Now take the poem and type out selected passages. Fill a page with excerpts. Now cut the page. You have a new poem. As many poems as you like. As many Shakespeare Rimbaud poems as you like. Tristan Tzara said: ìPoetry is for everyone.î And AndrÈ Breton called him a cop and expelled him from the movement. Say it again: ìPoetry is for everyone.î Poetry is a place and it is free to all cut up Rimbaud and you are in Rimbaude is a Rimbaud poem cut up.

Visit of memories. Only your dance and your voice house. On the suburban air improbable desertions ... all harmonic pine for strife.

The great skies are open. Candor of vapor and tent spitting blood laugh and drunken penance.

Promenade of wine perfume opens slow bottle.

The great skies are open. Supreme bugle burning flesh children to mist.

Cut-ups are for everyone. Anybody can make cut ups. It is experimental in the sense of being something to do. Right here write now. Not something to talk and argue about. Greek philosophers assumed logically that an object twice as heavy as another object would fall twice as fast. It did not occur to them to push the two objects off the table and see how they fall. Cut the words and see how they fall.

Shakespeare Rimbaud live in their words. Cut the word lines and you will hear their voices. Cut-ups often come through as code messages with special meaning for the cutter. Table tapping? Perhaps. Certainly an improvement on the usual deplorable performance of contacted poets through a medium. Rimbaud announces himself, to be followed by some excruciatingly bad poetry. Cutting Rimbaud and you are assured of good poetry at least if not personal appearance.

All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overhead. What else? Use of scissors renders the process explicit and subject to extension and variation. Clear classical prose can be composed entirely of rearranged cut-ups. Cutting and rearranging a page of written words introduces a new dimension into writing enabling the writer to turn images in cinematic variation. Images shift sense under the scissors smell images to sound sight to sound sound to kinesthetic. This is where Rimbaud was going with his color of vowels. And his ìsystematic derangement of the senses.î The place of mescaline hallucination: seeing colors tasting sounds smelling forms.

The cut-ups can be applied to other fields than writing. Dr Neumann in his Theory of Games and Economic Behavior introduces the cut-up method of random action into game and military strategy: assume that the worst has happened and act accordingly. If your strategy is at some point determined . . . by random factor your opponent will gain no advantage from knowing your strategy since he can not predict the move. The cut-up method could be used to advantage in processing scientific data. How many discoveries have been made by accident? We can not produce accidents to order. The cut-ups could add new dimension to films. Cut gambling scene in with a thousand gambling scenes all times and places. Cut back. Cut streets of the world. Cut and rearrange the word and image in films. There is no reason to accept a second-rate product when you can have the best. And the best is there for all. ìPoetry is for everyoneî . . .

Now here are the preceding two paragraphs cut into four sections and rearranged:


message 24: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 29, 2010 12:32PM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
the difference is Shields is trying to say something while Burroughs is trying to see what and how things can be said - I find the latter a more fruitful approach

message 25: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (last edited Mar 29, 2010 07:47PM) (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
I saw a Matisse exhibit this past weekend and this Burroughs essay makes me think of it.

Not just for the obvious cut-out betes de la mer reason, but for what Matisse was trying to do, and what the exhibit I saw showed him working towards - an art of the elemental, the fundamental, the geometric, the focused, the stripped down, the recombined, the reimagined, the play with dimension, perception.

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