the rigorous m

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Archive for December, 2014

the millions interview – west coast writing

Posted by rigorousm on December 21, 2014

TM: …I’ve always loved your focus on west coast writers — selfishly, yes, but I also admire it for the community it creates. I am curious if you and Laura have certain grand ideas of what it means to be a west coast writer; are there certain modes — in style, content, theme, and so on — that you see as being organic to the west coast?

Oscar: What comes immediately to mind as native products of West Coast writing are noir (Raymond Chandler, Nathanael West, et al.) and writing about the environment (the majesty of the mountain ranges and the Sierras and the desert and the beaches will do that). And if you wanted to, you could probably make a case for screenwriting, too. (ZYZZYVA has published quite a bit of screenwriting, as it happens.)

Beyond that it’s hard to say what sorts of writing are exclusive to us as originators, but I can say that it’s hard to think of a single mode in American literature and letters that at this point isn’t organic to the West Coast: you name it, there’s a writer here who has published a work about it. All the varieties of the American experience — every ethnicity, every race, every sexual orientation, every social class, etc. — is represented. Western authors do scholarly and rigorously intellectual work, along with commercial available-at-the-supermarket fare. Poetry — we have such incredible poets, and a long line of them, too! — of every kind is forged here. What I’m getting at is that just like the region we live in, the field is wide open here. There’s nobody looking over your shoulder to tell you what will work or won’t. All we do out here is take risks and follow our instincts for pursuing what we believe to be good, to be important. So I suppose if we have any sort of grand idea of what it means to be a West Coast writer, it is one of a writer blessed with limitless possibilities and one encouraged to follow her own path, to surprise us. Where we live encourages you to think that way, partly because the literary community out here is vastly supportive, and partly because you’re not living under the constant pressure of careerism. That is, there are so many things going on in the West Coast (tech comes to mind) that whether or not your book sold well or your story was taken by a glossy magazine doesn’t register. We’re not working in an echo chamber out here when it comes to that.

— Best Coast: ZYZZYVA’s 100th Issue – interview with Oscar Villalon and Laura Cogan by Edan Lepucki for The Millions (link to full interview)


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[poetry] Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, “Postcard From The Moon”

Posted by rigorousm on December 21, 2014

I am the moon. I give very good advice.

Borrow what you can. If you look good

in somebody else’s light, stand in it. Fall

toward what you love, slowly. If its oceans

must be yours, throw yourself to them.

Turn and turn and turn and turn and turn.

Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, “Postcard From The Moon”

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hawthorne on architectural criticism

Posted by rigorousm on December 14, 2014

[LA TIMES Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne] understands that the role of the critic is to bring to the forefront the ways in which architecture impacts society and culture at large, not just developers, architects, and those who occupy the buildings they create. At an event in 2013… Hawthorne said, ‘Maybe this is one advantage, finally, that we architecture critics have over the buildings we write about: that we and our work are mobile, that our influence can radiate out into the world from many places at once.’

[SB] How do you see the role of the architecture critic changing?

[CH] The chief shift is that we can’t take an audience for granted. The “architecture critic” title itself doesn’t carry — or may not carry– the same authority it used to. I think that’s a good thing. As critics, we have to question what we’re writing, how we’re writing it, and why.

As some of that institutional certainty is crumbling, a lot of new opportunities and avenues have opened up. We have a bigger audience than we ever had, even though that audience isn’t consuming criticism in the print paper at the same level it once was. We have more direct ways of communicating, too, and different ways to tell our stories. I’ve been using video– I’m very interested in the further potential of video and podcasts. I don’t think [either medium] has been tapped to the degree it should be.

There a lot of talk about the crisis of criticism. I just think that means that some basic definitions are up for grabs. In some ways, it’s like architecture was in the ’70s, when all the certainty of the modern movement was breaking down. There were all sorts of experiments happening, architects thinking about new ways to practice. The same thing is true of architecture media at the moment.

Christopher Hawthorne interview by Spencer Bailey for Surface November 2014, pp 141, 147.

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elizabeth diller on destination nothingness

Posted by rigorousm on December 14, 2014

[ED] I was very interested in how we receive culture spatially: how rules of space were governed, what the inheritances were, and what demanded rethinking. There were issues of privacy and publicness, issues of property and interface. It mattered to me that I would play in real space with real human interaction. It didn’t matter whether it was large or small or how it was funded, or whether it was temporary or permanent. None of that mattered. What mattered were the experiments and the actualness of them– not just theorizing them, but playing them out. A lot of early work was, in fact, temporary and on a credit card, and it was thrown in a New Jersey dumpster afterward. … I felt it was just more fun to make things and really engage the public.

… Another really important project was the Blur Building [a Swiss National Expo platform built atop Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland, in 2002, and intentionally shrouded in artificial fog]. It was the first project in which we started to think hard about audience, something that really never occurred to us before. Most of our following were academics and people interested in art and architecture; we had never really done anything for a broad-based general public. So we began to think about how to do work that could be read on many levels at the same time. We got very involved in this environmental-scale project. It was a turning point for us because it was a really large-scale experiment with technology that challenged the notion of materiality, of inside/outside, of scale.

[DK] Yet it was essentially a display of fog, of nothingness. There was no there there.

[ED] Typically in exposition pavilions, you want to represent nationalism or perhaps technologies, something about the culture. We were really delighted by the idea of making an exposition pavilion where there was nothing to see and nothing to do. It was truly about nothing. That’s one of the themes that actually runs through a lot of our work, this question of what happens when you remove more and more. You’re making something, but what you’re doing is perhaps taking away the conventions of value. So what you have is something that doesn’t seem likes it’s full of value but perhaps is.

— Elizabeth Diller interview with Dave Kim for Surface Nov 2014, pp 126-128.

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marion woodman on being

Posted by rigorousm on December 10, 2014

The woman possessed by the Medusa/ demon lover is an Andromeda still chained to the rock. She has not been born into time, and therefore does not experience being alive.Her authority consists of what she “ought” or “should not” do in the future, or the “if only’s” of the past. Her authority for life takes on the form of rigid stone, rather than the living stone of personal relationship in the present. … Life is ahead or behind, but never here. What she fails to understand is the paradox: to be in time is to be in the eternal. …

The image of the double-faced Janus head amplifies this paradox of eternity within time. Our month of January is named after the god Janus. One face looks backward to the past; the other looks forward to the future. To be identified with either face is to be captive in stone, victim of fixed laws and fixed authorities. … Only when the stone images are smashed will she be born into her capacity to love, into the eternal Now. The path that lies in the center of the Janus head is the ever-changing present. Necessity, obligation, duty — the standards of the past or the supposed future — are death to the human spirit.

So long as the woman is in the rock, she is not in touch with her own Being. She is the victim of the gods– the gods of rage, hunger and jealousy on the one hand, the gods of perfection on the other.She lives expecting the expected, trying to create the world her way. If she receives what she wants, she is happy; if not she is unhappy. She is a plaything of the gods, deluding herself into believing she is creating her own world.

— Marion Woodman, Addiction to perfection: the still unravished bride, p 189.

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marion woodman on becoming

Posted by rigorousm on December 10, 2014

When the ego is conscious enough to recognize the Self… it does not project the perfection outside. It is the dead god that is projected into the concretized perfection; the ego … is decaying inner Reality. Happening cannot happen. So long as we project into the collective world — institutions, media, society — an authority it does not rightfully possess, we are allowing ourselves to be contaminated by alien elements. If we allow the Self to come to consciousness, the authority is inside. Happening happens. We make the space, we unlock the door, and wait. We surrender to ravishment. … To strive for perfection is to kill love because perfection does not recognize humanity.

— Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection: the still unravished bride p 188.

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gluck on eliot

Posted by rigorousm on December 1, 2014

Eliot’s… intense wish to be divested of temporal facts may seem to contemporary readers not simply irresponsible but immoral: an indulgence of privilege and omen of our collective ruin. … it was Eliot’s compulsion to question that [sensible] world. …It is important to keep in mind the fact that Eliot was human: this accounts for the helplessness in his verse.

… [He] equated the real with the permanent. Under which system, earth does not qualify.

… [he] was … the least materialistic, the least consoled by the physical world.

… The impulse of our century has been to substitute earth for god… the religious mind, with its hunger for meaning… cannot sustain itself on matter and natural process. …

To read Eliot, for me, is to feel the presence of the abyss…. The addiction to rapture seems, finally, less a form of abandon than of self-protection.

— Louise Gluck, “On T. S. Eliot,” Proofs & theories: essays on poetry, p 20-21.

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gluck and blank space

Posted by rigorousm on December 1, 2014

As a reader, consequently as a writer, I am partial to most forms of voluntary silence. I love what is implicit or present in outline, that which summons (as opposed to imposes) thought. I love white space, love the telling omission, love lacunae, and find oddly depressing that which seems to have left out nothing. … like a thoroughly cleaned room, [completist poetry] paralyzes activity.

— Louise Gluck, “On George Oppen.”

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gluck on plath

Posted by rigorousm on December 1, 2014

She performs in disguise, as a young, smiling, conventional woman. But the invitation to analogy, which must include not only the mask, but the heroic, ascendant fury– that invitation is a taunt. We haven’t passed the first test; we haven’t died. Everywhere here is that resistant, mercuric quality: you think you know me, the poem says. You don’t know me; you can’t even imagine me. Which is to say, we’re hearing someone out of our range. (120)

Great pain, in Plath, resurrects the violent ego which renounces comparison, being obsessed with boundaries. (122)

Louise Gluck on Sylvia Plath’s “violent active” exclusion in poetry — as a counterpoint to Stevens’ self-sufficient character and “tacit exclusion” — in “Invitation and Exclusion.”

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gluck on tennyson’s “the lovesong of j alfred prufrock” part 3

Posted by rigorousm on December 1, 2014

It is, in fact, individuating voice that Prufrock doesn’t have; no longer hopes to have; he had to borrow a voice to speak. [His] best hope is a complete abandonment of presumption; he can only hope to be annexed by some larger spirit. To concede identity, to see oneself in the role of attendant lord, comic, servile– this is tragic event, diluted because prolonged. It presents, also, a version of those feelings exalted in religion.

— Louise Gluck, “Invitation and Exclusion” Proofs and Theories: essays on poetry, p 118.

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