Archived entries for literature

he wants to stand for everyone, because he wants to be less a historical person than a marker for democratic personhood

“Whitman, because he wants to stand for everyone, because he wants to be less a historical person than a marker for democratic personhood, can’t really write a memoir full of a life’s particularities. If he were to reveal the specific genesis and texture of his personality, if he presented a picture of irreducible individuality, he would lose his ability to be “Walt Whitman, a cosmos” — his “I” would belong to an empirical person rather than constituting a pronoun in which the readers of the future could participate.”

Ben Lerner – 10:04.

Juan Francisco Ferré: Manhattan (no) es real

Sin la contribución de Dick y de Borges difícilmente habría podido Lethem concebir una novela como ésta donde, a través de los mecanismos de la ficción, se logra superar la idea de la conjura de lo real a fin de preservar un contacto con la realidad no mediatizado por las ficciones del poder. Esa idea subversiva sobre la realidad la sostiene en la ficción Perkus Tooth, el patético gurú de nombre pynchoniano, aficionado a la marihuana y las películas inexistentes, que se cruza en el camino del confuso narrador y protagonista, Chase Insteadman, para trastornar definitivamente su comprensión de lo que es real o no en Manhattan después de conducirlo a dudar sobre su papel en la representación que la ciudad da de sí misma a diario. Manhattan es descrito como un ecosistema social donde Insteadman, antigua estrella televisiva infantil reconvertida en fetiche lúdico y estético de la clase alta, vive como una criatura mimada y privilegiada. La epifanía moral que le aguarda al final de este viaje alucinante al fondo de las apariencias la existencia contigua de una Manhattan real y otra virtual, separadas por una barrera ínfima conseguirá alejarlo del mundo de los ricos y los poderosos, que dominan la totalidad del espacio urbano con sus imposiciones, cultos y valores, contrarios a los deseos de la multitud que también lo habita desde el anonimato, el fracaso y la alienación.

via LA VUELTA AL MUNDO: MANHATTAN (NO) ES REAL.

It was all exteriors, though. I never went inside anywhere.

Eddie knew the corners of Boston and all the shortcuts. It was Eddie who had shown me the knife shop and Raymond’s and the joke shop; my father had shown me the memorial to the black regiment and Hooker’s statue and the Union Oyster House. Between my father and Eddie, Boston held no secrets for me.

It was all exteriors, though. I never went inside anywhere. What would be the point? I had no money, and I was afraid of being confronted. But Eddie had been to all the stores, and had even gone inside the Old Howard for a burlesque show and told me the jokes. A stripper said to a heckler, “Meet me in my dressing room. If I’m late, start without me,” which made Eddie laugh so hard he didn’t notice that I hadn’t understood.

Action, by Paul Theroux.

The Space between Languages – Herta Müller

It is from the space between languages that images emerge. Each sentence is a way of looking at things, crafted by its speakers in a very particular way. Each language sees the world differently, inventing its entire vocabulary from its own perspective and weaving it into the web of its grammar in its own way. Each language has different eyes sitting inside its words.

(…) That is why I am mistrustful of language. I know from my own experience that to be accurate, language must always usurp something that doesnt belong to it. I keep asking myself what makes verbal images such thieves, why the most apt comparison appropriates qualities that dont belong to it. To get closer to reality we need to catch the imagination unawares. Only when one perception plunders another, when an object snatches material that belongs to another and starts to exploit it—only when things that in reality are mutually exclusive become plausible in a sentence can the sentence hold its own against reality.

via The Space between Languages – Herta Müller at Asymptote.

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids…

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.

Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a biochemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves. Then too, you're constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren't simply a phantom in other people's minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It's when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you're a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognized you. And, alas, it's seldom successful.

One night I accidentally bumped into a man, and perhaps because of the near darkness he saw me and called me an insulting name. I sprang at him, seizing his coat lapels and demanded that he apologize. He was a tall blonde man, and as my face came close to his he looked insolently out of his blue eyes and cursed me, his breath hot in my face as he struggled. I pulled his chin down upon the crown of my head, butting him as I had seen the West Indians do, and I felt his flesh tear and the blood gush out, and I yelled, “Apologize! Apologize!” But he continued to curse and struggle, and I butted him again and again until he went down heavily, on his knees, profusely bleeding. I kicked him repeatedly, in a frenzy because he still uttered insults though his lips were frothy with blood. Oh yes, I kicked him! And in my outrage I got out my knife and prepared to slit his throat, right there beneath the lamplight in the deserted street, holding him in the collar with one hand, and opening the knife with my teeth – when it occurred to me that the man had not seen me, actually; that he, as far as he knew, was in the midst of a walking nightmare! And I stopped the blade, slicing the air as I pushed him away, letting him fall back to the street. I stared at him hard as the lights of a car stabbed through the darkness. He lay there, moaning on the asphalt; a man almost killed by a phantom. It unnerved me. I was both disgusted and ashamed. I was like a drunken man myself, wavering about on weakened legs. Then I was amused: Something in this man's thick head had sprung out and beaten him within an inch of his life. I began to laugh at this crazy discovery. Would he have awakened at the point of death? Would Death himself have freed him for wakeful living? But I didn't linger. I ran away into the dark, laughing so hard I feared I might rupture myself. The next day I saw his picture in the Daily News, beneath a caption stating that he had been “mugged.” Poor fool, poor blind fool, I thought with sincere compassion, mugged by an invisible man!

Most of the time (although I do not choose as I once did to deny the violence of my days by ignoring it) I am not so overtly violent. I remember that I am invisible and walk softly so as not to awaken the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers. I learned in time though that it is possible to carry on a fight against them without their realizing it. For instance, I have been carrying on a fight with Monopolated Light & Power for some time now. I use their service and pay them nothing at all, and they don't know it. Oh, they suspect that power is being drained off, but they don't know where. All they know is that according to the master meter back there in their power station a hell of a lot of free current is disappearing somewhere into the jungle of Harlem. The joke, of course, is that I don't live in Harlem but in a border area. Several years ago (before I discovered the advantages of being invisible) I went through a routine process of buying service and paying their outrageous rates. But no more. I gave up all that, along with my apartment, and my old way of life: That way based upon the fallacious assumption that I, like other men, was visible. Now, aware of my invisibility, I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century, which I discovered when I was…

mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed

It was well said of a certain German book that 'er lasst sich nicht lesen' – it does not permit itself to be read. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes – die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. Now and then, alas, the conscience of man takes up a burden so heavy in horror that it can be thrown down only into the grave. And thus the essence of all crime is undivulged.”

Edgar Allan Poe, The Man of the Crowd

Instead we are in the green and pleasant land of a satirical utopia for our times, where recycling and organics abound, people keep saying how much they like each another, and the brave new world of virtual sharing and caring breeds monsters.

Some will call The Circle a “dystopia,” but there’s no sadistic slave-whipping tyranny on view in this imaginary America: indeed, much energy is expended on world betterment by its earnest denizens. Plagues are not raging, nor is the planet blowing up or even warming noticeably. Instead we are in the green and pleasant land of a satirical utopia for our times, where recycling and organics abound, people keep saying how much they like each another, and the brave new world of virtual sharing and caring breeds monsters.

via When Privacy Is Theft,
a review of Dave Eggers’ “The Circle”
by Margaret Atwood @The New York Review of Books
.

Lanark…un medio inhabitual, laberíntico, metafórico incluso en su arquitectura y en su geografía, un orbe apocalíptico e irreal

¿Denuncia? Sí, por supuesto, bajo la forma de distopía funcional política y económica desarrollada en un medio inhabitual, laberíntico, metafórico incluso en su arquitectura y en su geografía, un orbe apocalíptico e irreal dominado por vías aéreas que conectan mundos superpuestos e infinitas escaleras que no siempre llevan al mismo lugar, con una ácida crítica, aunque muy literaria, hacia la mercantilización abusiva y el creciente, insaciable y omnímodo poder de las impías multinacionales que podría recordar, en algunos aspectos, incluso el metaliterario, a la posterior La broma infinita.

“Te estás dejando engañar por la ilusión política más vieja que existe. Crees que puedes cambiar el mundo hablando con un líder. Los líderes son efecto de los cambios, no sus causas. No puedo hacer prosperar una tierra si mis opulentos patrocinadores no pueden explotarla”.

Ni el tiempo transcurrido desde su publicación, ni los cambios que en estos treinta años ha visto la civilización, ni la renovación en las formas estilísticas de los nuevos enfoques narrativos de ese concepto en continuo cambio que llamamos “novela”, afectan en lo más mínimo a la vigencia de Lanark; si acaso, como en las peores pesadillas, podemos comprobar con estupor cómo las amenazas ficticias van encarnándose en ese difuso mundo que llamamos realidad. Lanark es un libro imprescindible, y Gray un autor al que merece la pena seguir.

via “Lanark”, de Alasdair Gray – Revista de Letras.

Melville’s Voyages

melvilles_voyages

Map of Melville’s voyages and the voyage of the Pequod taken from the Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick, ed. by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford
via Moby-Dick Big Read, Day 44 | patell dot org.

Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Whale Chart

Whale Chart Maury

“This chart divides the ocean into districts of five degrees of latitude by five degrees of longitude; perpendicularly through each of which districts are three lines; one to show the number of days that have been spent in each month in every district, and the two others to show the number of days on which whales, sperm or right, have been seen.”

Herman Melville



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