Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reading Andrei Codrescu's Half-Naked Muse and the Boy in the Lake

But here is the thing: physical intimacy or potential intimacy is only a device for opening the floodgates to what really matters: words. What I want from my friends, male or female, are words. Great torrents of conversation, ramblings, monologues, infinite confidences, stories, anecdotes, confessions. I know that there are silent friendships out there just like there are platonic ones. I don't hold to those. I like my friendships warm, fleshy, verbal, sensual, sensorial... (50)

Me too, Mr. Codrescu. I think some of my prior relationships were gotten into mainly as a ruse for trapping people I admired into endless conversation. That said, I do enjoy the other aspects.

As the written depends only on the written, a poet finds himself inside a vicious circle of substance sucking by his own products' products. What was once living becomes Naturalism, Realism, Surrealism, Modernism, Postmodernism, etc. The speaker diminishes and the speech becomes all. But this is not the same speech as the sacred speech of the beginning: this is the even speech of machines, not the unpredictable story of the gods. This is speech turned upon its own devices, speech about speech. The cosmogonic myth and the fairy tale are replaced by the novel and television. The ritual-sacred utterance becomes a bourgeois commercial proposition feeding endlessly on the demands of a self-perpetuating market that is not an audience but, precisely, a market. Who reads? Who watches? The reader and the viewer have been replaced by the Spectator. Utterly different creatures these three: they vary physically. The body of the Spectator is a strategic map for the deployment of cultural products. The reader and the viewer used to touch. That is now forbidden: art is produced for the sake of production, which is to say for the sake of storage. It is made to be noted, credited and put in resumes, not to be actually read. In fact its message may be exactly the opposite: NOLE ME TANGERE, DO NOT READ ME. Art pour l'art is art contre l'homme.

The poet today is like Scheherazade: he must tell a story each night in order not to die.

The workshop writers masquerade as non-mainstream writers but that's only an illusion; they simply cater to the surveyed needs of a different class of consumers, namely academic institutions. Notice I said "consumers," not "readers," because properly speaking, these workshop writers do not have readers: they produce their materials for resume-building in order to fill the self-generating slots of a growing bureaucracy. These writers do not even read other members of their resume-building subgroup. ...These writers are institutional insiders disguised as outsiders. (135)

What is prompting me additional thought, and which I don't feel adequately able to speak on yet, is the alignment here of resume and commercialization. The selling and the selling. While I agree to some degree, to some degree there are differences. Part of why I read like a pig, snuffling through the muck of everything I can lay my hands on, is to avoid this sense exactly. That no one reads. I read you. I read you all, provided that you never cease to entertain me with something I can't find anywhere else. This, too, a steep order. The business.

Also why, thus far, I'm happy to have avoided cogging in the machine of the academy. Or so I think. I don't have (as much) the anxiety of gross production.

To believe this entirely would be to lose hope. So I don't. But there's something to it certainly. I'm also always shocked by how many creative writing students are so resistant to reading. The grumblings about how much reading instructors are forcing on them. How they don't read for pleasure. (What is pleasure? Vacancy?) But then, in my experience anyway, they don't tend to be the most engaging storytellers.


The weather continues to consume me. Sun and warm that calls for my blanket on the beach. Sand, rock, grass. I used to go to Lake Padden a lot to read, after a bike ride there, after a run around the lake, after a swim. My own triathalon (taken slowly). I haven't been there in a while, not since I moved and the bike ride got tripled. There're closer shores. The bay is just down the street.

Last weekend a young man drowned in Lake Padden when the canoe he and a friend were rowing capsized. The lake is so manageable. Like a bathtub is how I've always thought of it. I swim across, I swim back, I swim across. It's three miles on the trail around. I don't know what the diameter is the length I swim across. But I just can't imagine anyone dying there. People in boats die young in this town. One boy was drowned, the other was saved. When the authorities pulled up the canoe from the lake bottom, the two life jackets, unworn, were still in it.

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