Friday, January 30, 2009

Re-Membering Imagination, Evolution & Play

I’m keeping this week’s comments short because I injured my arm yesterday and it hurts to type. It seems just a muscle injury and will hopefully improve over the next few days. We’ll see.

I have two post-its at eye level here at my computer of which I failed to cite the source, so I don’t know where they came from. This may, of course, have also been true at the moment of the post-it writing. I might be the source of these words or I might be the parrot of them or something in-between.

Does it really matter and if so why? To what end?

These are the post-it notes:

"I have more imagination than intelligence, and everything I know is imagined."

"The poet of the inexpungible guilt felt by human beings."

I think somebody else said the first one in the third person about someone else and I liked it so I converted it to first person to describe me to myself for possible insertion into something elsewhere [as now seams relative to then, somewhat].

And I think that second one was somehow related to Roberto Bolano, something I’d read somewhere and took verbatim, falsely expecting to remember the source. It is the words’ delectability that for me produces something of a madeleine moment, somehow conjuring up a prepubescent glow, a black and white tv screen on a cozy Sunday morning with some angry preacher spewing about the mercy of Jesus upon the souls of the wicked…the glory of loving thy enemy. It seems to be in the way the sentence’s prosody gravitates toward “felt” as its main expression. And the term “inexpungible guilt” seems downright Jainist in its killing-eating sensitivity and sentience. As a boy on those Sunday mornings I felt a love of God being a love of all things—prey and predator alike. Flash to evening and, again, warm cozy feelings. Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Dad popping popcorn in the popcorn popper. When I read that post-it, I’m a little boy again because I don’t find myself reading those types of statements, much less making them myself anymore. Then I begin thinking…

If this post-it applies to Bolano as I think it might, it may be in the way his narrative voice—at least through The Part About the Critics and the beginning of The Part About Amalfitano—almost echoes, replicates or recurses a prosecutorial voice in laying out a highly rational and nuanced indictment against sophisticated and perhaps even legalized criminals before a grand jury of readers who are being asked to feel the alleged charges being thrown at the defendants. Bolano seems to be prosecuting the big boys and girls of the global intelligentsia for their personal failures to improve the world in any meaningful way, or at least not cause it net harm in the end, from a human perspective, of course. It seems the more successful individual humans become relative to other humans, at least in their own mind, the more material harm they do to earthlings in general. A certain insensitivity seems necessary to justify their material gain by debiting their energy and minds to leverage unjust systems in their personal favor, and in this I’m reading a distinctly “American”—North, South, Latin, Anglo, African—apocalypse, re-writing in a more even-handed tone John’s overtly symbolic rant against global mercantilism in The Book of Revelations [as I presume to interpret my variously interpreted copies of it for myself, of course]. In Bolano, we are not mystified by this apocalyptic rant but seduced into its feeling of invisible dead ends.

Yet I don’t know. I’m only about 20 percent through the novel. My day job and my writing keep me away from 2666 more than I’d like, leaving me to imagine reading it more than actually doing so. Perhaps this injury will change that ratio for the next few days. Due to pain, I will have fun.

There’s a bright side to every sorrow…

And so this is why I write fiction rather than attempting some form of actual scholarship. I have something of an attention deficit disorder when it comes to who says what when where amid the gathering yet chaotically flowing minutiae [like hearing multiple rumors from multiple sources with complex, multiple agendas]. I’m far more stricken by the general flow of elements—the rumors’ overriding and overlapping themes forming the textual murmur—to care if that log bounced off those particular rocks upstream. I can imagine it probably did relative to my experience and that’s good enough for me. I’m not seeking ideologies or material formulas that are physically applicable, I’m not building bridges or skyscrapers or designing Wall Street software. I’m only dealing in useful fictions…useful to my thinking about my feelings and keeping them in their place. I have no desire to conduct social experiments to see if any of my imagined shit is true in the actual sense or not. I imagine it’s not and that seems true enough for me.

Go with the flow…Don’t dictate it, especially if you can’t dance.

Play seems to me a much overlooked aspect of evolutionary theories. What is it exactly that impels Life to defy for a time the second law of thermodynamics, to forego entropy for awhile in the emergency of order? It must involve pleasure. It’s got to be fun. Why else bother? What keeps us from committing mass suicide…or are we? And if we are killing ourselves, what does that mean? What effect does that have on human being? Why do we care? Do we…actually?

A playful imagination overcomes the enabling obstacle of the hypersensitive person’s inextinguishable sense of guilt. It’s the air beneath the crow’s beating black wings, enabling its flight and enhancing its perception as an emergence from crisis mode, a means to escape the present situation via some kind of cognitive expansion that seems at the very least liberating, if not evolutionary. Or so it seams that way in my mind at the moment…

Didn’t Pound say something about “artists” being the “antennae of the race?”

Is it time for the pan-American intelligentsia, if such an entity could imaginably exist, to playfully confront its guilt—both collectively and personally—to save itself from its reflexive behaviors before it’s too late? Does it matter? Is it worth the energy? Would it be useful to the human mind? What exactly might be considered useful? Why?

Mind might seam the emotional fallout from imagination in many forms. One must play to be happy. Art is a time and place where this kind of mind justifies its expenditure of matter and energy to itself in a way that produces a pleasurable sensation. Or maybe not.

I wrote more than I expected. My imagination reduced my pain. And I can’t help but think the way I’m feeling that the billions of living organisms comprising me haven’t somehow benefitted from this nonsense too.

It seems actuality really is mind in matter energetically sensed…a feeling evolutionary thought re-membering playful imaginings of…


This week’s interesting stuff:

A devastating take down of a well-regarded member of the New York intelligentsia by some word wizard barbarian whose dad works as a reporter for NBC news [this beast also has Buffalo roots]:

Flat N All That
MATT TAIBBI takes on porn-stached New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s greenish ways.

Even better was this gem from one of Friedman’s latest columns: “The fighting, death and destruction in Gaza is painful to watch. But it’s all too familiar. It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: “Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn’t we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?” There are many serious questions one could ask about this passage, but the one that leaped out at me was this: In the “title” of that long-running play, is it supposed to be the same person asking all three of those questions? If so, does that person suffer from multiple personality disorder?


It’s Written All Over Your Face, a Science News article that begins:

Eye candy might more appropriately be called brain candy. Seeing a pretty face is like eating a piece of oh-so-sweet chocolate — for the brain, if not for the stomach. In fact, attractive faces activate the same reward circuitry in the brain as food, drugs and money. For humans, there is something captivating and unforgettable about the arrangement of two balls, a point and a horizontal slit on the front of the head.


How Not to Write A Novel, rather funny actually, especially when you read it replacing all the periods with question marks and speak through your nose interrogating some aspiring author like Stewie Griffin on The Family Guy, who Wikipedia describes as “a diabolical infant of ambiguous sexual orientation who has adult mannerisms and speaks fluently with an affected upper-class English accent and stereotypical archvillain phrases.[6]” One scene from the show in particular pops into mind, where Stewie, sitting on the family sofa with Brian, the family dog, who “is highly anthropomorphized, walks on two legs, drinks Martinis, smokes cigarettes and engages in human conversation, though he is still considered a pet in many respects,” quizzes Brian about how the novel the dog is allegedly writing is going. Consider these two paragraphs turned into such questions and its rather hilarious and raises questions about how Family Guy and such criticism is perhaps relative to one another:

Typically, the plot of a good novel begins by introducing a sympathetic character who wrestles with a thorny problem. As the plot thickens, the character strains every resource to solve the problem, while shocking developments and startling new information help or hinder her on the way. Painful inner conflicts drive her onward but sometimes also paralyse her at a moment of truth. She finally overcomes the problem in a way that takes the reader by surprise, but in retrospect seems both elegant and inevitable.

The plot of a typical unpublished novel introduces a protagonist, then introduces her mother, father, three brothers and her cat, giving each a long scene in which they exhibit their typical behaviors one after another. This is followed by scenes in which they interact with each other in different combinations, meanwhile driving restlessly to restaurants, bars, and each other's homes, all of which is described in detail.

Read more at:

If I could be dictator for a week and during that time rule with an iron fist, these are the people I’d persecute. Pretty soon, somewhere around noon on day six, the last of us would most likely disappear…

Let’s talk European: Sign and Sight at

From typewriter to bookstore:

Friday, January 23, 2009

This week’s lightness: a tenuous web of thoughts on Bolano, Horizontal Genetic Transfer and the present scope of childish and adult things


I just finished 1: The Part About the Critics, of Roberto Bolano’s 2666, and this is what I’m thinking:

Pondering over the narrative voice’s unsympathetic detachment in 2666 as opposed, say, to Kerouac’s sympathetic involvement in On The Road, and how both seem to have the same effect: the imagined emptiness and superficiality of material success and geographical up-rootedness...a cosmopolitan boobois abyss.

DeLillo’s Underworld is also coming to mind. Bolano’s characters thus far, seem rather unlikable, nor does the third person voice say or do anything that makes the reader question its veracity. It seems there’s a mysterious certainty anchoring this voice, which nonetheless, due to its accumulative effect, leads the reader into just that…questioning the narrator’s certainty or moral superiority, which seem taken for granted. But again, I’ve read but a small fraction of what I sense and hope is a magnificent unfolding revelation about the human species…

Also thinking how Nabakov’s eye/I in the editor /Humbert Humbert voices of Lolita seem relative to Bolano’s narrator’s view of critics, though Nabakov through Humbert seems more playful than Bolano’s narrator. Nabakov’s complexity seems more transparent, easier and fun…Bolano’s is an as yet impenetrable absence in the form of Archimbaldi and what’s actually motivating Norton, Pelletier, Espinoza and Morini to push this missing symbol forward as the ultimate in profundity where complexity leads to the ultimate blind spot through which it is impossible to see or imagine through.

But the complexity of 2666 thus far seems to take the form of what Calvino might have called “lightness” [e.g.: “… melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness…” p. 19, Six Memos] in my opinion. There’s an accumulative effect of this globe-trotting lack of weight [Archimbaldi’s absent physicality] and/or response-ability that seems quite heavy, I think. That heaviness, seems to be, ironically enough, the emptiness of success, the failure of success, the search of one’s self projected into the search for the great writer, the messiah who will vindicate their emptiness, while refusing to face themselves, their environments, what surrounds them…that ultimate particle, substance or word that means something permanent to them, which in the end will always be an illusion, symbol, at best some precisely expressed ambiguity echoing some irony of the imagined paradox. Bolano’s critics seem too self-absorbed as word-beings [sic]—like all of us in some hyper sense—to perceive themselves in usefully fictive ways. They don’t use their narcissism, they abuse it. And so the narrative voice, thus far, is appropriately certain and trustworthy, perhaps even a tinge narcissistic and self-righteous in a Flaubertian sort of way, or so it seems to me. In other words, I think Bolano has written something really deep yet expansive…DeLillo’s surfaces, Calvino’s absence of weight, Nabokovian complexity, Kerouac’s ending of the open road fifty years later, now the closing of the human way of being itself.

At the end of Part 1: The Part About The Critics, Pelletier, a successful EU literary critic and self-centered snob, states that Archimboldi is here [Santa Teresa, Mexico, a Mexico-Arizona border town where women are being murdered in vast numbers], and this is as close as we’ll ever be to him, or some such. By here, I think in literal terms, of the words he, Pelletier/Bolano deploy in their narrations. In other words, they like me and all like-minded lit lovers have more imagination than knowledge, as we imagine everything we know is imagined.

You know what I mean, or are all those drugs I used to enjoy taking their toll on me? I don’t know. I’ll be the last to know most likely.

Also, Archimboldi seems at this point in my reading something of a mythological creature akin to some of Borges’ imaginary beings, particularly the “hide behind” and “Bahamut.”


Why Darwin Was Wrong About the Tree of Life, by Graham Lawton, New Scientist

"We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality," says Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France. That bombshell has even persuaded some that our fundamental view of biology needs to change.

So says this fascinating article by Graham Lawton in New Scientist. The article states that “species also routinely swapped genetic material with other species, or hybridised with them,” breaking up Darwin’s “neat branching pattern” that is quickly degenerating “into an impenetrable thicket of interrelatedness, with species being closely related in some respects but not others.”

These patterns of relatedness, Lawton tells us, “could only be explained if bacteria and archaea were routinely swapping genetic material with other species—often across huge taxonomic distances—in a process called horizontal gene transfer (HGT).”

Of particular interest to me, considering my novel in progress [tentatively titled Germ], is how, according to this article, “the most likely agents of this genetic shuffling are viruses, which constantly cut and paste DNA from one genome into another, often across great taxonomic distances.” This sounds like art to me, and cut and paste of course brings Uncle Bill to mind.
In fact, according to scientists, Lawton writes that “40 to 50 percent of the human genome consists of DNA imported horizontally by viruses, some of which have taken on vital biological functions
(New Scientist, 27 August 2008, p 38)…. The number of horizontal transfers in animals is not as high as in microbes, but it can be evolutionarily significant," says Bapteste, who goes on to say that “biology is vastly more complex than we thought…and facing up to this complexity will be as scary as the conceptual upheavals physicists had to take on board in the early 20th century.”

I can’t help but think this might be somehow recursively symmetrical with economics in some way, considering the present financial chaos.

The article goes on to show us how marine larvae can be organized into a family tree that bears no relationship to the family tree of adults. The most likely way this biological mash-up functions, writes Lawton, “is if the resulting chimera expresses its two genomes sequentially, producing a two-stage life history with metamorphosis in the middle.”

I can’t help but think America and the human species may just be at such a phase, where something akin to a metamorphosis may take place and something new emerge from the old ways.

This new thing can be good or bad, of course, depending upon where one is situated as it happens.

10 Childish Things

1. Tension among labor, management and markets resulting in the erosion of eco-economic security for all.
2. Ignorance regarding the real issues at play; greed, fear and mistrust being primary causes.
3. Ubiquitous patriotism.
4. Disproportionate military spending that perpetuates profound economic injustices everywhere.
5. The protection of corporate power via the suppression of workers and the manipulation of consumers.
6. Obsession with crime and punishment and health.
7. Prevalent cronyism and depravity in the halls of power.
8. Phony elections.
9. Heterosexualism.
10. Fetish for family values.

On a global scale, the fundamental problem with humans is who and what we think we are and why we think we’re living and why we give a damn. This seems to me our transcendent, metaphsysical crisis—our childish perception of the world, of existence, of reality, or whatever you choose to call it.

It seems to me we might put away these childish things if, in our heart of hearts, we want to thrive through adulthood and die in relative peace and harmony with the world rather than choking on our common sins. If we want humankind, our children and future generations to keep evolving, we might consider growing up. The real, or actual world, is a complicated place. True freedom is for mature participants only.

I hope this is what President Obama [goddamnit that still sounds good] means by quoting Mark, knowing if he wants to stay in power long enough to do something about these maturity problems he must speak in parables, spinning cadences harmonic with the prevalent American mythology, calmly favoring its better angels. A man’s gotta know his limitations. Does Obama? We’ll find out. Do we? We, too, might consider looking for our own limitations, if we are able and so inclined.

10 Adult Things

1. Cooperation in recognition of enlightened mutual interests among labor, management and markets with the heartfelt intention of achieving economic security and cultural dignity for all.
2. A sharp, knowledgeable focus on the most substantive environmental [in every sense of the word] issues at play; love and respect for future generations being the de facto primary motivator.
3. Ubiquitous self-autonomy within the environmental system.
4. Proportionate security measures that enhance and perpetuate deep eco-economic justice.
5. The limitation and re-creation of corporate power via the liberation of workers and truly informed consumers.
6. Obsession with excellence while knowing it’s just something to do. That’s all. Nothing more.
7. Prevalent openness and accessibility to all issues of public interest. Secrecy is taboo.
8. Random drawings, as with jury duty, replaces phony elections as a means of seating public officials.
9. Pansexualism. Admit it. Everything’s sexual. Living things have sex to keep going, they keep going to have more sex. Sex isn’t always physical. It takes many forms.
10. Fetish for Nature.

The question is whose room is dirtier: Little Bobby’s or Mom and Dad’s? Whose bed do you prefer sleeping in: The wet or dry one?

Next week, I hope to exhibit more humor and much less politics. But politics boils my blood and these are historic times, so I promise nothing beyond that my political rants will not dominate this blog and always consider analogies to other forms of knowledge and mental-spiritual action like the arts and philosophy.

This week’s been a tough one with the nauseating spectacle of the inauguration, all the optimism, and knowing better. Yet miracle of miracles, it seems we may have the best person alive for this job at this time. I imagine history will attach fewer body bags, human and non-human, to the Obama option. If it had been Clinton or McCain, I think we’d be in much bigger trouble. I didn’t think Obama would ever actually inhabit the White House. I’ve been very cynical the last four years. We’ll know in a few months if Obama’s for the vast majority of Earthlings or not. I hope he’s better than Gorbachev [I think he is]. If he’s not, or worse, well…But if he is better than Gorbachev, paving the way for something better than Putin, I might consider becoming a father before I get too old. Been a little too afraid of leaving something I love so much in a world I see heading down the tubes.

Dylan sang something like that a long time ago in another century…Just when I began to think it was dark the stars began rising…and your moon came out.

Just Discovered Web Sites:

LittleSis is an involuntary facebook of powerful Americans, collaboratively edited by
people like you.

Whatever it is, they’re against it. I probably should have been aware of these guys/gals sooner. Oh, well.

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Bolano’s 2666, 100 pages in

One possibly thought-provoking item regarding the translation of Roberto Bolano's 2666 is the Spanish cab driver asking Espinoza if he likes "soccer."

It dawns on me that Europe feels like America in translation. London sounds like D.C. But nonetheless, Bolano is getting at something about contemporary reality...that it seems quite homogenized. Space-time seems warped by individual temperament. Far-flung like-minded people are bound together via technology [airplanes, phones, Internet, literary studies].

And these intelligent people are no more aware of "Reality" than less intelligent people, or those portrayed in soap operas. Awareness seems something else. The human mind has not evolved rationally and is not a rational entity. Yet it uses rationality to get laid and kick ass, join the jet set and become a transnational being.

Morality and rationality seem aimed at the same thing—the universal and ubiquitous projection of selfhood. Truth and goodness serve my purposes. Thus I might be a tenured professor of international acclaim, but that doesn't stop me from nearly stomping a Pakistani cabbie to death. It's my honor, my ego that counts. Not yours.

Bolano, it seems to me, is thus far hinting at what techno-antedeluvianism [sic] feels like. He has no heroes, only villains. And it is the villains we identify with.

I have a feeling that Benno von Archimboldi will, in the end, be no hero either [in his role so far as absent hero, he holds the text together, the eye of the hurricane]….


I’d like to thank my friend Jared Schickling for sending along Dan Beachy-Quick’s A Whaler’s Dictionary and Geoffrey Gatza’s Fantasia lights: A Poem.

They arrived via snail mail. I opened the package late last night on a nicotine fit [I’m on the patch], and thought Jared had sent me a pack of Nat Sherman smokes. When I opened the pack I found Gatza’s poem neatly wrapped up. I’d call it a love poem to maniac artists everywhere. The need for a smoke grew as I read it. I bummed one and felt better.

DBQ’s book I’ll have to read when I’m done with Bolano…probably along with a re-reading of Moby Dick. It’s been years, but the memory’s are very bright and DBQ’s companion poem, which is being compared to Olson’s Call Me Ishmael, should make for a pleasurable set of reading.

Jared, by the way, is the author of Aurora and Submissions [both available at BlazeVox] and seems to be getting published everywhere these days. But folks ain’t seen nothing yet. I’ve seen a mss of what would be his first full length book of poems and it’s really something, in my opinion.


I'm sorry about the haste with which I'm posting this, but my old site,, has been getting a lot of traffic since Raymond Federman posted some of my remarks about his Carcasses on his blog.

I've been planning to get this started because my first novel, Smoke, is coming out this spring with
BlazeVox[books]. Geoffrey Gatza's proving to be an inspirations to hundreds, maybe thousands of writers starving for an online community. Go Geoff, and thanks.

My intention is to post every Friday night after or during a couple beers. I'll update with links to interesting stuff and commentary. Just like all yer other favorite blogs.

Finally, thanks for visiting and please check out the links around the margins. Some great stuff by some great people.

Now let's have some fun and play...