Tag: William Gaddis

on being blue

INFINITE JEST pp. 503-601 (notes 209-245)


You know what, im starting to like it.

It only took 500 pages, and strangely enough as my enjoyment began to increase it’s become harder to read, or maybe that’s just my stamina lowering. But I’ve finally realized that even though the novel has a consistent literary persona, that DFW quirky, verbose, earnest voice, it’s still free indirect discourse depending on the given strand’s central character. So we’re getting the ETA boys’ or Gately’s bits of cluelessness along with the authority and control (yet untamed) of the narrator. I remember hearing James Wood quoted as saying no matter what character we’re aligned to, it sounds like Wallace is still talking, which is right.



feelin’ monstrous and free (notes)

Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (reread)

The most damning thing i can say about it is that it just didn’t really change this time since senior year in high school. The text felt inert in that way. i remembered reading the same language as before, and it is beautiful language, about the sepulchral metropolis, or the jungle as a dream, or the steamboat as a crawling beetle, and Kurtz’s head as an ivory ball. It’s still racist. There’s plenty of criticism about this; the only that ive read is a squib by Jane Smiley, arguing that that the novella’s misogyny and white supremacist attitudes are enough to knock it off the tier of art. We may or may not go so far, but this time around i wasnt impressed by Marlowe’s storytelling. He gets ahead of himself, like at the beginning of part 2, when out of nowhere he talks about “the girl” and describes Kurtz when he was in the middle of the river journey, or bringing up the report with “Exterminate all the Brutes!” It wasn’t effective for me this time.

Joan Didion’s SALVADOR

But speaking of HoD, this novella length work of non fiction uses a long smack of it as an epigraph. Didion’s literary reporting on the Salvadorian civil war is modeled on that book in a way; the short length sustains a fragmented and nonlinear structure. i read it in one sitting, and i dont know what was up, but i was just so distracted that i really didnt take it all in. It’d be interesting to hold this piece in relation to “The White Album,” tho. Didion’s persona with her paranoia and disorientation fits this topic and location, where the weather is always “earthquake weather,” and the who what where when and why are unstable and always changing, especially statistics.

That’s what makes the journalism “literary,” as well as a self-reflection; Didion writes about how she reports and writes:

This was a shopping center that embodied the future for which El Salvador was presumably being saved, and I wrote it down dutifully, this being the kind of “color” I knew how to interpret, the kind of inductive irony, the detail that was supposed to illuminate the story. As I wrote it down I realized that I was no longer uch interested in thsi kind of irony, that this was a story that would not be illuminated by such details, that this was a story that would perhaps not be illuminated at all, that this was perhaps even less a “story” than a noche obscura. As I waited to cross back over the Boulevard de los Heroes to the Camino Real I noticed soldiers herding a young civilian into a van, their guns at the boy’s back, and I walked straight ahead, not wanting to see anything at all.


This has been my subway book. It may sound weird to plumb Gaddis’s fiction (and his daughter’s) for biographical details, but Tabbi pulls it off with careful reading and evidence from correspondence. It’s an exciting hybrid of critical biography and broader cultural commentary, that’s really exciting to read right now bc it’s so contemporary. Tabbi has some of the best thoughts on our cybernetic hypertextual internet age, and how fiction writers are still sprinting to catch up with Gaddis’s JR in capturing it, made all the more difficult bc of our literary culture’s backlash against what Wallace called “Image-Fiction” and in favor of realism. Tabbi argues effectively that it’s not illegibility that makes work like Gaddis’s “difficult,” but how they ask for readers-as-collaborators.

“And now, it’s boner time!”


Boners in this case being “errors of fact, not of judgment.”

Jack Green was the sole producer of an avantgarde literary newspaper in the early sixties. It was there that “Fire the Bastards!” appeared in three parts. He mounts a well-sourced and thorough counterblast to the book review establishment and its disgraceful treatment of Gaddis’s THE RECOGNITIONS when it first came out, back in the day when $7.50 for a hardback was outrageous. In doing so he also ends up contributing one of the first serious bits of criticism on the novel, as he explores why the unconventional techniques and encyclopedic details are necessary and serve the storytelling. Beyond an incapacity or even refusal to recognize great art when it comes around, Green exposes lazy acts of plagiarism between reviewers and the publisher blurb, embarrassing lapses in reading comprehension, and line after line of well-worn reviewing cliches which melt the mind. Steven Moore has reprinted the entire essay in book form bc in his view nothing has really changed.

i admit, this sort of smug philistinism from the crowd that’s supposed to refine our own tastes gets stuck in my gullet too. So this post will also be an excuse to launch my own shitrant (and itll be the first time ive written on film in this blog).


everybody’s grandpa

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK, pp. 6-72


Many of us im sure think a little about how to write differently. To make something that could push out beyond Brechtian alienation or the long postmodern and all the rest of that which is now tradition. Is there a text out there that really captures this moment, the psychological situation brought on by late capitalism, and promises a radical response? Is there a book that turns its gaze onto this current political-historical dilemma that frames our discourse — the blood on our hands which postcolonialism highlights, the tension between the margin and the center; a book that prescribes some kind of antidote to contemporary alienation while still conscious about how power works?

It was Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK which i was told was a white male writer’s text that offered a model to navigate this moment; one that delivers on its radical promises. i dont read the blurbs on books often but there was one on my copy from a monograph, and how often does that happen? Professor Jeremy Green calls it “the most formidable political novel of the 1990s”. The source, Green’s LATE POSTMODERNISM: AMERICAN FICTION AT THE MILLENNIUM, which i read a few months ago, brings up

Robespierre’s distinction between the “citra-revolutionary,” those moderates of the French Revolution who wished “to draw the Republic back from the resolute measures necessary to save it,” and the “ultra-revolutionary,” fanatics who were determined to push forward into further extreme and excessive acts.

And THE LOST SCRAPBOOK is to Green’s eye an “ultra-postmodern” text, fun! i want to devote more than one post to this book and chew on it slowly. It’s pretty wild and exciting yet oddly wistful, and there’s only two teases of a plot line but the pages just tumbled by; it’s compulsively readable.