Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence



appended 27.10 19:00

Re Toussenel: "Fourier . . . claims to 'join together and enframe, within a single plan, the societary mechanics of the passions with the other known harmonies of the universe,' and for that, he adds, 'we need only have recourse to the amusing lessons to be drawn from the most fascinating objects among the animals and plants.'" Armand and Maublanc, Fourier (Paris 1937), vol. 1, p. 227; citing Fourier, Traité de l'association domestique-agricole (Paris and London, 1822), vol. 1, pp.24-25, and Théorie du l'unité universelle (1834), p. 31. -- Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, [W13.1] (trans Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1999 and 2002), pp. 641-642.

(NB, e.p.: Barthes extends [W11.2] from Sade and Fourier to Loyola.)

On second thought, I would be remiss in not including translator notes, and in not citing [W13a,6]:
"A series is a regular classification of a genus, species, or group of beings or of objects, arranged symmetrically with respect to one or several of their properties, and on both sides proceeding from a center or pivot, according to an ascending progression on one side, descending on the other, like two flanks of an army . . . There are 'open' series, in which the world (!) of subdivisions is not determined, and 'measured' series, which comprehend, at various levels, 3, 12, 32, 134, 404 subdivisions." Armand and Maublanc, Fourier (Paris 1937), vol. 1, p. 127.


"The nature which develops in human history—the genesis of human society—is man's real nature; hence, since it develops through industry, even though in an estranged form, is true anthropological nature." Karl Marx, Der historische Materialismus: Die Frühschriften, ed. Landshut and Mayer (Liepzig), vol. 1, p. 304 ("Nationalökonomic und Philosophie"). [X1a,3]

On the bungled reception of technology: "The illusions in this sphere are reflected quite clearly in the terminology that is used in it, and in which a mode of thinking, proud of its . . . freedom from myth, discloses the direct opposite of these features. To think that we conquer or control nature is a very childish supposition, since . . . all notions of . . . conquest and subjugation have a proper meaning only if an opposing will has been broken. . . . Natural events, as such, are not subject to the alternatives of freedom and coercion. . . . Although . . . this seems to be just a matter of terminology, it does lead astray those who think superficially in the direction of anthropomorphic misinterpretations, and it does show that the mythological mode of thought is also at home within the natural-scientific worldview." Georg Simmel, Philosophie des Geldes (Liepzig, 1900), pp. 520-521. It is the great distinction of Fourier that he wanted to open the way to a very different conception of technology. [X7a,1]


Wrapping Up

Stefan Themerson, The Mystery of the Sardine: A 'pataphysical excursus (upon its epigraph: Axioms are mortal, politics is mortal, poetry is mortal,—good manners are immortal.) along similar lines though differently directed than Tom Harris -- little to add to what I said about that, except that it rounds out recent reading nicely, being comparable to Gombrowicz as well. Though it is unsettling that, like Butor, it opens with the color of eyes (just as moles reappeared from Montano's Malady in Akutagawa's "Cogwheels"). I've exhausted Dalkey's reissuance of Themerson, but so much more remains out-of-print ...

But on to other stuff. I've been doing this thang as a reading diary (occasionally interspersed with other comment) for a couple of years now, primarily for my own benefit, as a discipline to think about what I've read, and to tease out bits that don't fall under the rubric of review, criticism, or scholarship, none of which capture what I'm after. It's time for me to take a different tack, though I'm not yet sure in what direction; besides, the reading awaiting on the shelf includes much longer works, so posting would be more infrequent anyway. Even while the obligatory enforcement of habit has sometimes led me to surprise myself, I'd rather pack it in than phone it in. I hope that this has been useful in bringing to attention writing more deserving of it. As to what follows, you'll know when I do.


How we go on

(appended 8.10 below)

From writer's writers on to writing about the writing life.

Michel Butor, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape (trans Dominic Di Bernardi): (I think I'm so educated and I'm so civilized ...) The backmatter summarizes this well; what I can add to it is the mirroring of the narrator's adolescence (and confusion between reality and fantasy) with that of modernity (actual timeset) and civilization (recourse to medieval myth). Much is left as an exercise for the reader, as the strands don't pull together too strongly; autobiographical reference becomes more prevalent in later writings, and for Butor, "writing is a way to be several people at the same time". Or perhaps at different times.

Enrique Vila-Matas, Montano's Malady (trans Jonathan Dunne): Praised for its literariness and erudition, but it didn't click for me even on its own terms. The title-cut (of 5 sections) works best, but even then is heavyhanded; the following section, "Dictionary of a Timid Love for Life", is a synthesis more artificial than that of Bartleby & Co.; the denouement, "The Spirit's Salvation", only recovers somewhat in its opposition of German writers cited previously to a German writers' conference. Literarian illness is a chronic complaint, here it shades into hypochondria (and Butor did better with vampires).

Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Mandarins (trans Charles De Wolf): While the earlier stories collected here establish his chops, I found the later ones more compelling. The writings are a multifaceted mirror of a multifaceted writer looking in on himself (a selfcontained Rashomon Effect, evident in "The Life of a Fool" [a hint of rengu here as well]) and his vocation ("O'er a Withered Moor" brings R.E. to bear on the death of the author), and descent into a depressive inevitability (especially "Cogwheels", the last story, published posthumously). This also got coverage, and deserved attention), as part of this summer's Reading the World.

and on ...

Cesar Aira, How I Became a Nun (trans Chris Andrews): Through the Looking Glass Darkly: Little did I think this would be the icing on the cake, a novella that begins and ends in strawberry ice cream. Not so much writing about becoming a writer as such, but as with the first two above, textual manifestation, it trumps Butor (from a six-year-old rather than adolescent perspective), and renders Vila-Matas' disappearance in the text unbecoming. Fundrous!