Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Artaud as Super-Proust

[...] Artaud's first mark on the notebook page forms the initiatory gash in language and image upon which he would amass a vast accumulation of interconnected fragments, maintained and recapitulated over the subsequent three years, honed in fury through thousands of pages, far exceeding Proustian dimensions (and violently 'in search of lost anatomy' rather than of lost time). The notebooks simulataneously negate language and image, and build into an immense and intricate corporeal architecuture.

Stephen Barber, Artaud: Terminal Curses (2008)

My two major tasks for the year 2009 are... still kept in secret. But I'll be working a lot on Antonin Artaud. Watch out for what happens.

Feliz ano novo!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Seymour's girl

On rereading RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS, I came to remember the core of Seymour's trouble; the existence of Charlotte and the unending pursuit of a femme-enfant. And interestingly, the anecdotic charm of Charlotte comes mostly from two elements: violence (slight but dangerously menacing) and accent (verbal).

Here is how Buddy our narrator reports about her:

"On certain nights when he was in especially good form, Seymour used to come home with a slight limp. That's really true. Charlotte didn't just step on his foot, she tramped on it. He didn't care. He loved people who stepped on his feet. He loved noisy girls." (81)

And then:

"We were playing stoopball on the side of the building one afternoon after school, Seymour and I, and somebody who turned out to be Charlotte started dropping marbles on us from the twelfth story. That's how we met. We got her on the program that same week. We didn't even know she could sing. We just wanted her because she had such a beautiful New Yorkese accent. She had a Dyckman street accent." (82)

As a self-contained novella, this work doesn't hold well. But Salinger is brilliant in his unexpected move from one sentence to another. The real weakness, then, comes from Seymour's only partially developped (throughout the saga) character.

It has been construed that Seymour stands for "See more." To me, it's "Say amour." And on saying that a dark shade is already ripe in the name.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Scribe labours

Writing on parchment, moreover, was a two-handed operation. As the right hand held the pen, the left held a knife against the springy surface of the page in order to keep it steady. Intermittently, the knife was also used for sharpening the quill and erasing errors. Medieval scribes would sit bolt upright, often on a tall-backed chair, with the manuscript laid before them on a steeply sloping desk or on a board attached to arms projecting at an incline from the chair itself. Theirs was not light work. On the contrary, writing was perceived as an act of endurance in which, as one scribe lamented, "the whole body labours."

Tim Ingold, Lines.

This december I failed to answer the questionnaire from Misuzu Shobo publishers on "The books you read in 2008". You are supposed to pick about 5 titles that impressed you most during the year. I have more than a handful, of course, but I can easily name the BEST.

Tim Ingold's illuminating Lines, which my friend Daniela Kato recommended to me. This work belongs to the same league up there with Elias Canetti, André Leroi-Gourhan or Alphonso Lingis. A book that truly changes your attitude toward LIFE.

Come to think of it I have had a copy of What is an animal? edited by Ingold for a long time! My laziness led to my overlooking his other works. Tant pis.

And thus my personal prize for the year 2008 goes to Tim Ingold. I'd love to come and visit him in Scotland next year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Taking a walk with John K.

From Ayr they walked north to Glasgow, then headed northwest into the Highlands. [...] The wild country farther west, around Loch Fyne and Loch Awe, was more to their liking. Here they could walk for miles through the heather and hear no sound but mountain streams, or see no living thing but a few sheep on the hills or an eagle soaring overhead. The Highlanders spoke Gaelic, the first foreign language Keats had heard; they were intelligent and friendly, with nothing of the Lowlanders' suspicion of the English, but their living conditions were still more primitive.

Aileen Ward, John Keats: The Making of a Poet (1963)

And this passage makes me want to fly to Scotland even more.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Billy Black

"Oh, God, if I'm anything by a clinical name, I'm kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy."

So says Seymour in his diary, read by Buddy. A very weird novella I've been trying to decipher over years... Salinger may not be the greatest of all novelists, but he is PECULIAR. Peculiar enough to attract my attention for more than half a life.

His quote from Saigyo:

What it is I know not
But with the gratitude
My tears fall

I know not what to say.

Mika Ninagawa/ Light Insight

Went to see Mika Ninagawa's solo exhibition at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery.

Rather crowded on a Saturday afternoon; this must be one of the most succesful photography exhibitions today anywhere in the world. She is immensely popular among young girls and the demography of the audience was wildly different from usual shows.

The title is "Earthly Flowers, Heavenly Colors." True to the statement, or the declaration thereof, every room is filled with mad, exhilarating colors. This is her staple. Also she has taken portraits of so many girl/woman icons. Hence part of her popularity. It's so girly. Room after room, it's a wild ride. I ended up laughing.

But my vote goes to her Mexican works. Photographs framed in wooden, hand-made frames. These works are somewhat dated in her career, I know, but the charm is lasting.

Also the goldfish room was fascinating.

After this I went upstairs to ICC for the first time in donkey's bitten-off tail (am I making any sense) to see Light Insight (Light in Sight) exhibition. This is about those multimedia works using light as their major component.

Nam-jun Paik's Candle TV was almost sublime. Ingo Gunthar's Thank You Instrument was very powerful, Yukio Fujimoto's LIGHT was ever-lasting (you'll know when you experience it with your own retina), and Anthony McCall's You and I, Horizontal was VAST.

This "light sculpture" using tiny mists was quite addictive. I could stay there for about ten minutes.

Then Joseph Beuys's Capri Battery's was a cute joke.

All in all, it was a nice stroll at the end of the year. Happy holidays to y'all.

Friday, December 26, 2008

No kidding!

This from AbeBooks' "A year in review":

" Unknown outside France, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio won the Nobel Prize for Literature."

No hard feelings, but can it be? UNKNOWN OUTSIDE FRANCE? Most of Le Clézio's works are translated into Japanese and well received. And this for over forty years!

And don't imply he's ONLY a French writer... he's avowedly and factually FRANCO-MAURICIAN; so to call him a French writer is but halfway true.

In other languages, too, J.M.G. has been an imposing presence. And to my eyes he's one of the two most important writers, along with Gary Snyder, actively writing.

English-speaking (reading, rather) world, awake.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lovely things

I found a piece of paper in the drawer on which is written the sentence:

"Lovely things can be done when you know how to make it happen."

I don't even recall if it's a quotation or not.

On the reverse side is the name: Grand Funk Railroad.

And a Japanese name that I don' t even recognize.

Strange how we accumulate these verbal bric-a-bracs for unknown purposes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Robert Hurley's intuition

I am hoping now to write an entry every day for the rest of my sojourn...on this planet, quoi. Mostly about the books I lay my hands on.

Today I took up Robert Hurley's translation of Deleuze's Spinoza: Practical Phiosophy and liked Hurley's preface immensely.

It's funny, come to think of it, that City Lights publishes this book. But when one hints upon the axis Spinoza-Bateson-Deleuze, it's all too natural that a Frisco house does so. This is such a Californian take on Deleuze!

"The environment is not just a reservoir of information whose circuits await mapping, but also a field of forces whose actions await experiencing."

So Batesonian,eh. I also like Hurley's great sentence: "the intuitive or affective reading may be more practical anyway."

And then, almost maxim-sounding: "Deleuze maximizes Spinoza."

That's exactly what we should aim at when reading; to maximize the author you are dealing with.

I don't know much about Hurley except that he's a translator of Foucault, Bataille, and Donzelot, among others. If anybody knows anything about his writings, pray let me know.

We belong to the invisible non-community of translators of the French texts: Richard Howard, Alphonso Lingis, David Macey, my friend Michael Richardson, and myself alike.

I still got some homeworks to do in this stream of collective-bodily consciousness.

Like Boo Boo says

One thing I regret (already) about the year 2008 is that I couldn't write more entries on this blog. Which I promise to do once the year turns around. I really need to habitually (read, daily) write in English and this is about the only way I can do so. Without being paid or anything. My pleasure is unarguable.

Today I took up Salinger's RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS for the first time in several years and I am instantly hooked!

Take this enchanting enchaînement, for example, from Boo Boo's letter to her brother Buddy (talking about Seymour):

"He weighs about as much as a cat and he has that ecstatic look on his face that you can't talk to. Maybe it's going to be perfectly all right, but I hate 1942. I think I'll hate 1942 till I die, just on general principles."


Friday, December 12, 2008


It seems sleep is his problem. Several ominous signs scattered around.

Here he is facing "la rue des Mutilés," he talks about "le monsieur de Rouen" (charged with regularity, and Flaubertian), then "le tramway 7" is that of "Abattoir-Grands Bassins" (two terms of death, submersion).

He goes on to say "Je vais me coucher. Je suis guéri." But nobody says that when s/he is really cured.

Alas. Now "Journal" begins on the following page.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Then comes "Feuillet sans date".

This looks too much, way too much now. Too contrived. But at the time of its publication, probably it looked cool enough.

Something has happened to the narrator. It changed his perception. So much is true.

"Je pense que c'est le danger si l'on tient un journal: on s'exagère tout, on est aux aguets, on force continuellement la vérité."

But this happens even before actually writing a diary. The very moment of writing itself tends to force la vérité, or at least veracity.

Writing is always trop en retard... it's delay is unforgivable! What really bugs Roquentin is the gap between perception and reflexion.

"Et il y a eu aussi cette suite de coïncidences, de quiproquos, que je ne m'explique pas."

Ah, synchronicity. One subject that can turn anybody ENLOQUECIDO!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Famously, the work begins with "Avertissement des éditeurs".

A very dirty old trick, indeed. The Mock-author tradition.

"Ces cahiers ont été tourvés parmi les papiers d'Antoine Roquentin."

The name of Roquentin resembles somewhat to Rochefort. Why this name? Quentin? Faulkner?

And then: "A cette époque, Antoine Roquentin, après avoir voyagé en Europe Centrale, en Afrique du Nord et en Extrême-Orient..." Gide, as if?

And this final "le marquis de Rollebon" is only enigmatic.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

La nausee: 1

Now I am beginning to take notes on reading La nausee by Sartre. Everyday, if possible. But I don't want to spend more than 15 minutes a day on this. So I'll go page by page.

What a project.

Here is what Sartre quoted at the beginning of La nausee:

"C'est un garçon sans importance collective, c'est tout juste un individu."

And this from Céline's L'Eglise.

In the eyes of a group of which he is a member, the boy has no importance whatsoever. So? But without valorization of some kind does an individuality hold?

And why Céline? Think about the status Céline held around 1938, the year of the publication of this work.

And what Céline meant for Sartre, satyre. Very interesting.

"Importance collective" is a rather interesting phrase I'd love too keep in mind.