Friday, December 15, 2006

The New School. Phase One.

DIARY

So Phase 1 of Connor's MFA program has just been concluded. It consisted of the first three of my four semesters. During this time I took 4 credits each semester from a Writing Workshop and a Literature Seminar.

The first semester, I took Helen Schulman's workshop, and Jeffery Renard Allen's literature seminar, Shadow Narration. I also took Frederic Tuten's noncredit Saturday seminar on Innovative Prose.
The second semester, I took David Gates' workshop, and Shelley Jackson's seminar, Nonlinearity and Structural Play in the Novel. I also took Frederic Tuten's literature seminar again, as well as Sharon Mesmer's seminar On Prose Poetry and Stephen Wright's seminar Gravity's Rainbow.
The third semester, I took Darcey Steinke's workshop, and Mark Bibbins' seminar, Myself and Strangers. I also took Emily Fox Gordon's weekend seminar on The Meander, and Max Blagg's seminar on Literature in New York in the 1970s.




What I read for class:
Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make
Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
Djuna Barnes, Ryder
Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father
David Bradley, The Cheneyville Incident
Lucie Brock-Broido, The Master Letters
William Burroughs, Naked Lunch
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Anne Carson, Plainwater
Anton Chekhov, Peasants and Other Stories
E.E. Cummings, 1x1
Don DeLillo, Mao II
Mavis Gallant, Paris Stories
Lyn Hejinian, The Fatalist
Kazuo Ishiguro, A Pale View of the Hills
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Sun
David Markson, This is Not a Novel
David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress
Harryette Mullen, Sleeping with the Dictionary
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman
Frank O'Hara, Selected Poems
Michael Palmer, Sun
Ron Palmer, Logicalogics
Fernando Pessoa, Fernando Pessoa & Co.
Claudia Rankine, Don't Let Me Be Lonely
Alain Robbe-Grillet, La Maison de Rendezvous
W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants
Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Alice B. Toklas, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook
Rosemary Waldrop, A Form / Of Taking / It All
Rosemary Waldrop, Reluctant Gravities

What I haven't read yet (ie. haven't started and/or haven't finished):
Andre Breton, Nadja
Julio Cortàzar, Hopskotch
Marcel Proust, Swann's Way
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
Raymond Queneau, Witch Grass
Severo Sarduy, Cobra
Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept
Gilbert Sorrentino, Gold Fools
Gertrude Stein, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Diana Vreeland, D.V.

I also was assigned a number of stories and excerpts photocopies. I have read about half of this. My intention is to read the material I've missed in the upcoming years (I set aside two months each year to play catch up on reading... for the next couple years, this time will be dominated by missed assignments from New School).




There were also a number of other books I read during this time I read on recommendation, to acquaint me with my teachers' work, or as pertinent to Urbantasm, Euphemism, Hungry Rats, or the Gothic Funk Movement.

Jeffery Renard Allen, Rails Under my Back (in progress)
Aronson, Wilson, Akert, Social Psychology (in progress)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
William Beckford, Vathek
Mark Bibbins, Sky Lounge
The Bible: Apocrypha (in progress)
Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide
Catechism of the Catholic Church (in progress)
Chicago Liturgical Press, At Home with the Word 2006
Chicago Liturgical Press, At HOme with the Word 2007
William S. Crowe, Lumberjack
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
John W. Fitzmaurice, The Shanty Boy
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
David Gates, Jernigan
Shelley Jackson, The Melancholy of Anatomy
Ziva Kunda, Social Cognition
Galloway, Labarca, Visiòn y Voz (in progress)
Ginkgo Press, Enamelized: Graffiti Worldwide
Jeffrey Hatcher, The Art and Craft of Playwriting (in progress)
Honour, Fleming, The Visual Arts: A History (in progress)
Matthew Lewis, The Monk
William H. McNeill, A History of Western Civilization: A Handbook (in progress)
Harold Schechter, The Serial Killer Files (in progress)
Chester Starr, A History of the Ancient World (in progress)
Darcey Steinke, Jesus Saves
Frederic Tuten, The Adventures of Mao on the Long March
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Player Piano
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse




I try to have an inclusive understanding of literautre, and I liked almost every title I read.

* * * * *



There was only one book I despised:

Don DeLillo, Mao II.

Although I am told I should give some of his other titles a chance.

* * * * *



Books that I found/am finding to be particular transcendent/beautiful/worthwhile:

Jeffery Renard Allen, Rails Under my Back
Djuna Barnes, Ryder
David Bradley, The Cheneyville Incident
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Anne Carson, Plainwater
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Sun
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

* * * * *



Books that I believe have a special relevance to Gothic Funk:

Jeffery Renard Allen, Rails Under my Back
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Djuna Barnes, Ryder
William Beckford, Vathek
David Bradley, The Cheneyville Incident
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Anne Carson, Plainwater
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Shelley Jackson, The Melancholy of Anatomy
Matthew Lewis, The Monk
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Sun
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
Severo Sarduy, Cobra
Rosemary Waldrop, Reluctant Gravities
Diana Vreeland, D.V.

I realize that the last two lists closely resemble each other. This is because the evolving notion of Gothic Funk is increasingly the criteria I use to evaluate a piece of work as relevant to the present and future. I need to be careful not to allow this project to make me too close-minded about literature, though, as I said, I enjoyed almost every book I read. At any rate, To the Lighthouse is one of the most ethereal, carefully written, and spiritual books I've ever encountered... it does not engage fully enough in paradox and oscillation I believe to be directly relevant to Gothic Funk.

On the other side of the divide, Northanger Abbey, Vathek, and The Monk are not only great examples of early English Gothic, but also of the contradictions the genre exhibited from the beginning. With the exception of the Jane Austen, however, they're not very well crafted, and even Northanger suffers from a sort of narrowness of vision. The Melancholy of Anatomy is really just one of the most trippy things I've read that still manages a baseline of coherance. It is at no point dull. Cobra is fun to analyze, if not so much to read. D.V. struck many of my classmates as superficial, but I disagree in every possible way with this assessment. I'm going to post a critique on it in the next few days. Rosemary Waldrop would probably not consider herself to be Gothic Funk (were someone to introduce her to the idea). I disagree. I also think her writing is fandabulous in Reluctant Gravities




My purpose in this post is threefold.

#1 is to provide a record for myself of what I have accomplished at this point, and what I have missed.

#2. is to assess my New School experience as against Here Is No Why (my master plan).
  1. I have to be able to write with transcendent power and beauty.

  2. I have to have enough publishing acumen to see that work in print.

  3. I also have an interest in art as a social enterprise, and as such I have to be able to translate my work and objectives into a community.


This is, oversimplified, what I am up against right now.

  1. New School has been very useful so far. This is because my writing was subjected to a level of scrutiny it has not received until now. This is because I have developed a better critical eye through the amount of reading I have done. This is because I have developed a better sense of literature in general through the range of reading I have done.

  2. New School has been somewhat useful so far. I have seen and heard much about the publishing industry, and the risks and liabilities involved with different approaches. On a base level, much of it just comes down to schmoozing, which I am horrible at. Although some people (instructors, etc.) have found my schmoozing ineptitude anywhere from charming to encouraging. I still view it as a net liability that New School can neither amend nor negotiate for me.

  3. New School has been pretty close to useless to me so far. Gothic Funk is a collosal flop in New York so far. On one level this may be because I have not aggressively promoted the idea. I believe it is also because I am at two automatic disadvantages... one is that I am more interested in art itself than in critical theory, and that I still have a very limited vocabulary to make the arguments I want to make. On the other hand, those who are willing and able to have such conversations with me, usually have opinions that are not in sync with mine. From a literary standpoint, postmodernism is still the accepted avant garde. "Sentimentality" is an unambiguous put-down when used in class.
    To push the point a little further (and further into vagueness), there are three possibilities, all most likely present in proportions I cannot determine: 1) I am wrong about some things, 2) I am unable to effectively express somethings, and 3) people are unwilling to consider some things.
    But I really think the fundamental point is that both literary theory and the publishing industry as shackled to a dying presmise... conjectural style in the first case and marketing and distribution tactics in the second. Artistic movements are more successful in other media at this point in time. Which is why I think that if when Gothic Funk really launches itself, it will be understood as primarily a performative, musical, and theatrical movement, and only tangentially as literature. Which is why I have to learn more about music and cultivate my DJ connections. And so on.


#3. is to brag. Because the last fifteen months have been freakin' hard and I've earned bragging rights on my own blog.

The last week was quite wild and also somewhat transcendent. On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights I got by with three or four hours of sleep. I wrote twelve critiques, two papers, and read two books and numerous articles. It was a sort of high in a way, and probably a little unhealthy, drinking coffee all morning, having two or three beers after class, then coming home and drinking more coffee to stay up all night typing. Thank god this is a twice a year thing now, because I can't handle this diurnal and chemical chaos as well as I could when I was twenty-one.

At any rate, we had our final workshop on Tuesday night at Darcey's house in Windsor Terrace. It was a quiet neighborhood by Prospect Park and I was amazed that it was actually a house. There was wine and jerk chicken that she prepared. We each brough a snack or a drink to share, and she was very proud to take us on a tour of the house, which actually made me somewhat envious. Windsor Terrace is the only part of New York that actually does resembles Chicago (though Inwood feels like Chicago), and her house was the sort of Bungalow that I know Jess and I want some day, somewhere in the midwest, with a back yard, study space, trees and room for a garden. The next night, almost the next moment in my head, I was exhausted at Mark apartment. This was quite different. He lived in Chelsea, and his place had a balcony with views of the apartment mid-rises up close, and the fog-sheathed Empire State Building in the distance. It felt as far from Chicago as I've ever been. As far from Flint too. The next night I went to the final reading and party of the semester, and Jess met me there, though I thought she'd be heading right home. Pizza and wine. Plenty of people to talk to. When we got back, we watched the last episode of Rome on DVD, which was wrenching. And tonight we have four parties to go to. Four. Next week we're going home for the holidays.

The point I guess being that when things are really ticking along, when you're at a point when the rungs fit perfectly together and the sense of forward momentum is great enough that the implied wind makes you dizzy, the temptation to not look from side to side and realize where you are is greater than ever. That, itself, is more than a little vague, so I'll say it different. I recognize what an incredible year I've been having.

END OF POST.

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