Sunday, March 23, 2008

Time Was: Part I: MY ASS HURTS






no longer recognize our place in the world. If the physical space of insular cities and suburbs made us big in our vainglorious minds, then the virtual space of the Internet makes us colossal: deities hovering above a 17-inch plasma universe, manipulating (often anonymously) information, people and entire cultures without fear of retribution. Yet – and still – we’re barely more than nothing: quantum grit in time’s bulging eye: single cell in nature’s deep throat. She blinks a hurricane and we’re history. She coughs a tsunami and we’re history erased.

Pixelate my raging holy water, bit stream my unimpeded flow:
Digitize my brother as Bellerophon upon Pegasus’ back:
Compress my mother’s body beached among flotsam & sand:


Death, like the speed of light, is constant.
Or so THEY say:

At 7:00 AM I sit down at my computer and don’t stand up* until 4 PM. After dinner I often sit down for two hours more. Imagine this: I imagine spring grass growing, seed to blade, though an authentic lawn beckons the naked soles of my feet only actually really 20 yards away!

*except to eat and piss and irregularly shit
this is important. this makes me here. this makes me [corpo]real.

The Internet displaces – disspaces – users so far from the holiest trinity of earth/water/air that we grow increasingly ignorant of our sensual connection to an environment that includes each other. Empathy shrivels, and user-writers no longer rely primarily on shifting empirical evidence of three and four dimensions to feed their anorexic muse.

(To be fair, writers stopped doing their homework long before the advent of the Internet. They stopped when academic writing programs became the substitute for living widely, curiously and intensely in the world. Stein, Hemingway, Hellmann, Conrad, et al.-- (more alive dead than most living writers -- are shitting in their loamy graves.)

Evidence shifts because we shift, rapidly shoved verso and recto by ontological bullies: contentious politics, religious extremism, corrupt media, cult of the personality, consume-ification, and, of course, fast and faster technologies – all now manifest profusely in byte-size morsels of mis- and disinformation:

THEY
don’t know their sore ass from a LOAMY hole in the ground. Ergo: Neither do we.




Pfffft!

“Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity – technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.”
– Ray Kurzweil, theoretical physicist










NOTE:
This essay (Parts I and II) was originally published in Boulevard, September 2007. Interestingly, the translation from my computer to Boulevard's designer/printer was hosed, and the essay looked like hell, further proving my thesis.

Monday, March 17, 2008

PIECE O' PIE CHART: March 16, 2008

Erratum: Sam Tanenhaus has been NY Times editor since 2004. (Many thanks to Shanna for pointing this out.) Historically, the gender bias is consistent with today's appalling statistics, averaging 20% women reviewed/reviewers, though Sammy may be breaking that all-time low.

Each week, Gertrude's Basket will create a pie chart illustrating The New York Times Book Review's gender bias. Charles McGrath is editor and thus primarily responsible for what gets reviewed and by whom. Included in the chart is the last page essay. Excluded is everything in the Best Sellers pages. Here's this week's:

Friday, March 14, 2008

PIECE-O-PIE CHART: March 9, 2008

Erratum: Sam Tanenhaus has been NY Times editor since 2004. (Many thanks to Shanna for pointing this out.) Historically, the gender bias is consistent with today's appalling statistics, averaging 20% women reviewed/reviewers, though Sammy may be breaking that all-time low.

Each week, Gertrude's Basket will create a pie chart illustrating The New York Times Book Review's gender bias. Charles McGrath is editor and thus primarily responsible for what gets reviewed and by whom. Included in the chart is the last page essay. Excluded is everything in the Best Sellers pages. Here's this week's:





Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Monstrous Women of the Avant-Garde: Part II

Shortly after my arrival at AWP, I headed for the Book Fair, specifically to the Les Figues Press table, piled with their lovely TrenchArt series and a few more superb anthologies.

And I must say something here about book-as-art-object. When did the publishing industry -- including most small, independent presses -- forget that part of a book’s allure lay in its aesthetic beauty, and I’m not just talking about cover art? (Much of which sucks, by the way. A game my husband and I play: Q: How do you tell if a book’s poorly written? A: If the title and author’s name appears in embossed metallic!) Go to any bookstore and watch people fondling paperbacks, weighing them in their hands. They’re drawn to unconventional formats: perfect little squares, long horizontals, tall verticals, unusual cover textures. Look hard at the Children’s book section, with its marvelous sensuality. Just because we get older does not mean we lose our love for the visually and tactilely enticing.

Enticing like Les Figues TrenchArt series. You can subscribe to the series for a so-reasonable-as-to-be-unholy $60, that gives you all five books, shipped to you as they’re published. It’s an investment in art and intellect, certainly, but also (to be materially crass) in one’s economic portfolio: I predict owning the complete sets will one day prove financially fruitful; thus, I subscribe. NOTE TO INVESTORS: I collect signed first editions published by small presses in print runs less than 3,000 because the return on investment is typically enormous and relatively quick, though staying in for the long run is significantly more profitable. You can watch your investment multiply at used & rare book sellers like www.alibris.com and www.abebooks.com.

Les Figues is run by Vanessa Place and Teresa Carmody, avant-garde writers and literary visionaries. Vanessa is author of Dies: A 50,000 Word Sentence, and La Medusa, forthcoming Fall 2008. Teresa is author of the story collection, Requiem.

Les Figues Press is by far one of the most interesting functioning today, more proof that much of the avant-garde exists far from New York and Brooklyn. (Though, as you’ll see in Part III of Monstrous, there are some very fine women writers on the F Train.) Besides their incredible brain capacity, these women are fun. Conversations with them are always full of "joie de tete," and sentences swing like machetes whacking through the untouched scrubland of contemporary aesthetics, with the historical path well-marked and respected.

For hors d’oevres of their deliciousness, here’s a clip from my forthcoming vodcast wherein I interview Vanessa and Teresa, plus the lovely former dancer, current actress and experimental dramatist, Sissy Boyd, not shown in this clip. Sissy's book, In the Plain Turn of the Body Make A Sentence: Two Plays, was published by Les Figues Press. (More about Sissy to come).

video

Monday, March 3, 2008

PIECE-O-PIE CHART: March 2, 2008

Erratum: Sam Tanenhaus has been NY Times editor since 2004. (Many thanks to Shanna for pointing this out.) Historically, the gender bias is consistent with today's appalling statistics, averaging 20% women reviewed/reviewers, though Sammy may be breaking that all-time low.

Each week, Gertrude's Basket will create a pie chart illustrating The New York Times Book Review's gender bias. Charles McGrath is editor and thus primarily responsible for what gets reviewed and by whom. Included in the chart is the last page essay. Excluded is everything in the Best Sellers pages. Here's this week's: