Friday, April 30, 2010
V. by Thomas Pynchon
Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson (sp?)
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (re-reading it!)
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
This is just a bit of my "To-read" book stack. Does anyone have any additional suggestions? Have you all read any of these? What is everyone else reading over the summer?
Monday, April 26, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
As much as some of us loved or hated Entropy, I'm in the midst of writing a paper on the representations of gender through advertising in the 1950s, and so I decided to look up some (only some) of the multitude of pop culture references Pynchon imported for the story, which is supposed to take place in 1957. Here is some of what I found (click on the images for more info on each):
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
to meet the mesa. Indian boys
gallop across the grass, against
the beginnings of their body.
On those Saturday afternoons,
unbroken horses gather to watch
their sons growing larger
in the small parts of the world.
Everyone is the quarterback.
There is no thin man in a big hat
writing down all the names
in two columns: winners and losers.
This is the eternal football game,
Indians versus Indians. All the Skins
in the wooden bleachers fancydancing,
stomping red dust straight down
into nothing. Before the game is over,
the eighth-grade girls' track team
comes running, circling the field,
their thin and brown legs echoing
wild horses, wild horses, wild horses.
From The Business of Fancydancing by Sherman Alexie, Hanging Loose Press
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Given our vibrator discussion today, I think it's appropriate that you all listen closely to the drumming (and opening guitars) on EITS's "First Breath After Coma," the lead track on Earth. After listening, use the comments section to do some wordplay, to stretch out our discussions from class, or to comment on my good taste in music.
"First Breath After Coma" (you can ignore the visuals)
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
"It's impossible: no one could create a script this contrived. Yet, apparently, it happened. William Basinski's four-disk epic, The Disintegration Loops, was created out of tape loops Basinski made back in the early 1980s. These loops held some personal significance to Basinski, a significance he only touches on in the liner notes and we can only guess at. Originally, he just wanted to transfer the loops from analog reel-to-reel tape to digital hard disk. However, once he started the transfer, he discovered something: the tapes were old and they were disintegrating as they played and as he recorded. As he notes in the liner notes, "The music was dying." But he kept recording, documenting the death of these loops.
These recordings were made in August and September of 2001. Now, this is where the story gets impossible. William Basinski lives in Brooklyn, less than a nautical mile from the World Trade Centers. On September 11, 2001, as he was completing The Disintegration Loops, he watched these towers disintegrate. He and his friends went on the roof of his building and played the Loops over and over, all day long, watching the slow death of one New York and the slow rise of another, all the while listening to the death of one music and the creation of another. As I said, it's impossible. The music, however, is beautiful, subtle, sad, frightening, confusing, and ultimately uplifting. What's he created here is a living document: a field recording of orchestrated decay. It sounds like nothing else I've heard, yet, at its core, it's the simplest and most familiar music I can imagine..."
Friday, April 16, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
"You Made Me Realise" starts out like a pretty run-of-the-mill punk song, even for My Bloody Valentine, but things get pretty turbulent around 1:40 where the song bursts out into shards of hard noise and atonality. At concerts, the band would extend this relatively small span of noise into a span of over twenty minutes that they called "The Holocaust." Witnesses say the experience was much like standing with your head right next to a jet engine, and plenty of people have cited MBV concerts as having given them ear damage. Also note the phantasmagorical video subject. It's hard to say what it all means, let alone how all of it fits together, maybe a more extreme example of the fast, jittery Postcards that we have been reading. I'd say this track and this video are actually pretty postmodern.
This was only the beginning of MBV's progressive noise experiments. They would go on to accomplish much more with their subsequent albums Isn't Anything and Loveless.
Click here for more info.
By now, eveyone should realize that Postcards is an extrmely depressing novel. Here's something a little on the lighter side.
I'm not sure about you all, but I find this hilarious. This video even fits in with our discussion of post-modernism. Think of Pynchon, the Simpsons, Postcards... you could have never seen the end of the video coming from what was provided for you at the beginning. Also, there is a failure of communication between the... uh... sea creatures? Either way, it is silly and should get you out of the depressing mindset that Postcards put me in.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
"When we're being men, we feel a call to duty. The soul is no traveler; the wise man stays at home. When his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he's still at home, and lets people know by the expression on his face that he goes as the missionary of wisdom and virtue, visiting cities and people like a sovereign, not like an intruder or a valet.
I have no cranky objection to world travel for the purposes of art, of study, and goodwill, as long as the individual is first domesticated, or doesn't go abroad with the hope of finding something greater than what he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get something he doesn't have within, travels away from himself, and gets old among old things while he's still young. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become as old and run-down as they have. He carries ruins to ruins.
Traveling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys show us how little difference places make. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my bags, hug my friends, get on the plane, and wake up in Naples, and there next to me is the cruel fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I look for the Vatican and the palaces. I pretend to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson "Self-Reliance"
I feel as though Emerson would judge Loyal as a fool for thinking that he could escape from himself and the murder he committed by mere change of place. It will be interesting as we read further into the novel to see if Loyal's "giant" really does go with him wherever he goes. In the first portion we read, the scenes with Loyal's odd sexual encounters might as some suggested in class, be a sign that he feels guilty for what he did to Billy. So it would seem that one of the critical questions of the novel is does Loyal carry around his "giant" when he leaves? And if so how does he learn to live with the "giant"?
I'm also curious about whether or not the rest of you agree with Emerson's assessment on travel. Do you feel there's any truth to his claim that those who travel to escape will only be disappointed to find that they cannot?
Monday, April 5, 2010
As a senior graduating in just a little over a month, I can relate to this sort of identity crisis. I'm a journalism major, an english minor, I haven't found a job yet and I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Can anyone else relate?
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
However, I was struck yesterday by a few comments that some of you made. Therefore, I’m challenging you to think through some of the criticism that you lobbied at the course. To be clear, your sentiments are fine, and you’re well within your rights to locate structural problems in the course. That said, you should always be able to substantiate any criticism you make of anything with, as you know, well-substantiated arguments. Yesterday, it seemed to me that some of the concerns that many of you had about the (problematic) diversity of the authors in our course emerged from two different locations: 1) a kind of top-down point of view that parrots mainstream, often conservative, critiques of higher education which claim universities (and professors) are too “PC,” whatever that might mean; 2) bottom-up from the perspective of the almighty, all-encompassing AP English classes that students take in high school—often at ages around 16-18—when we all know that our intellects are at their sharpest. (To put that last point in less snarky terms, all the while admitting that I am a very open critic of the AP [and IB] industries: If you study Hemingway pretty thoroughly in high school, why should you be required to read him again in college? Why not skip over him to touch upon some other less canonical authors?)
Finally, the issue of thematic focus is a thorny one, for very practical reasons. In our case, I had you purchase the bulky, but very useful, three-volume Norton. I also asked you to purchase two stand alone paperbacks. The Beats are not covered in any significant detail in The Norton, and I didn’t want to make you purchase too many books for the class because that gets costly. Thus, Kerouac and co. didn’t make the cut. That’s a problem inherent in courses like these that just won’t go away, unfortunately. Still, you can feel free to question the utility of these types of courses that require hard decisions to be made when it comes to selecting content.
So where was I going with all of this? Oh yeah, the syllabus. Below are two purposefully clumsy categories that represent the authors on our syllabus. I have chosen these clumsy categories because they echo the terminology that many of you used in class yesterday—the canonical (frequently white) authors versus the “political” ones. (And again, I’d argue that this terminology is something that we’ve all heard elsewhere, which is why we might use it so uncritically.) What do you think of the syllabus when it is divided up this way? Does it alter your impressions of the thematic content of the course?
Sarah Orne Jewett
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Edwin Arlington Robinson
William Carlos Williams
T. S. Eliot
F. Scott Fitzgerald
John Dos Passos
Booker T. Washington
W. E. B. Du Bois
James Weldon Johnson
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Zora Neale Hurston
*A Few Points:
1) I didn’t include any of the 9/11 writers in here because there’s a whole slew of smaller pieces assigned for that day, and I just didn’t have the time to sort through all of them. However, it’s probably safe to say that 9/11 is a political event, even though I’ll argue that it’s a primarily textual one. We’ll see what you think.
2) By my count, there’s 26 writers in the first group, and 16 in the second. Moreover, the first group contains three major, long works of literature—Daisy Miller, As I Lay Dying, Postcards--whereas Zigzagger is the only long work written by a “nontraditional” writer.
3) The point of all of this: How are all of you making the judgment calls that you are making? How can someone like Audre Lorde be more, or less, political than someone like John Dos Passos? Moreover, how do we establish literary categories to begin with? Clearly, the ones above don’t work. Therefore, when some of you claim that there are too many “civil rights” writers in the course, what does that mean? Clearly, there aren’t more civil rights writers in the course than writers who don’t write on civil rights. Why, though, do the CR folks stand out? Why might that seem problematic to you? And why, of course, is it problematic that we are not reading Hemingway?
Okay, have at it. I’ll be curious to see what you come up with.