Thursday, February 15, 2007

Functionaries

We can see even by the comments of demi-puppets on this blog that what the literary system is producing are not writers so much as functionaries.

Their words and attitudes contain no passion for literature, no faith in its future, no belief in its ability to move people. In their personalities is no sense of adventure, no vision of endless possibilities-- what the writer, if anyone, would be expected to have. There's no feeling for the throb of life or the throb of art; art as a living thing. They live in a rigidly static universe. They might be automatons.

One of them believed that when I spoke about pigeons that was all I meant; so detached from the living world he entirely missed the point.

Ultimately, if they don't believe art can move or change people it's because they're incapable of being moved themselves. Art is merely an occupation to them, the creation of cost-analysts and focus groups, and monolithic institutions; a dead matter; a lifeless ritual which like priests of an outmoded religion they continue to perform without remembering the purpose behind their actions.

I suppose it's a difference between how we view the world. I see it, despite its brutal hardships, as a magical changeable place of adventure where empires can be toppled. I'm not sure what they see. A sheet of metal; a concrete slab? A computer printout? Something inanimate, surely. Nothing which can be engaged.

These are writers? They're writers like so many of their number are writers; which means, they place words on pages and the words are dead, enlivened by no ideas, no vigor, no vision, no imagination, no hope. Writers? They're not writers. They're stale reproductions of writers, Xerox copies, and the original which once had value seems to have been lost.

11 comments:

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

Their words and attitudes contain no passion for literature, no faith in its future, no belief in its ability to move people. In their personalities is no sense of adventure, no vision of endless possibilities-- what the writer, if anyone, would be expected to have. There's no feeling for the throb of life or the throb of art; art as a living thing. They live in a rigidly static universe. They might be automatons.

Passion doesn't always have to be "look at me." I have had passionate love affairs, this doesn't mean that I am so arrogant to think the world wants to see me and my inamorata in action while they are trying to eat lunch. Literature is a private affair.

Really, romanticism was reveled as folly around the time of World War One. These movements come and go and leave little of note in their wake, and then they die out. No movement showcases this more than the Beats. Yes, some of the writers were personalities and are read now, but that foolish attitude is typical abandoned once a college student is out in the real world.

Writers, well artists in general, seem to have the hardest time understanding everyone is not an artist. And doesn't share the same unifying vision. I can attest to this, as I am a connoisseur of other artforms. I like to watch the occasion play and buy the occasional painting. I do not care about the Drama industry nor do I know much about painting. I know when a beautiful painting moves me, I buy it (if I can afford it, which is rare). If a play is good I am enamored by it and am saddened when it is over. Both things are final products, no doubt the artists/writers/performers/composers love thier creation. They probably have tons of books/films on their artform. They probably want to talk about it everyday. I do not. I have a life that differs from theirs. I write full time, and read. I like to watch TV. Go for walks, there is little room for integrating decades worth of knowledge into my life when I don't care for it.

I assume writers are so affected by narcissism because those in our artform are too prone to think whatever we say matters to society and much as it does to us.

If classical musicians tried to pull that it would be more conspicuous. I enjoy classical music, I don't care to play the instruments. Nor do I a damn thing about theory. But I've seen some people lose themselves in passion for their music.

Bruce Hodder said...

I find myself wondering what Joyce would make of the arguments you make under the banner of his name.

Isn't romanticism different from activism? Is King "romantic" because he believes in the power of literature to positively influence people's lives? Maybe, on some level, though I agree with him completely; but when it comes to the work he does for the ULA, in my opinion, he's an activist--he has an agenda, he has a method for achieving it and a passionate desire to get the message out. That isn't romantic, not that there is anything wrong with romanticism, at least as I define the word. What do you mean by it? And why did WWI reveal it as "folly"? Because people die? People died in the Crimean War as well. Arguably the greatest poet to come out of WWI was Guillaume Apollinaire, and he organised the type on one of his poems to look like falling rain.If that ain't romantic I'm a Dutchman. Archie Belaney came out of the trenches too and reinvented himself, romantically, as American Indian Grey Owl, disappearing to spend his life in the woods hunting, and then saving beaver. WWI taught him that he didn't want to be around other people anymore, and that pragmatism and duty to the received wisdom of your culture and your age just got you slaughtered. You should read him.

As for your slur on the Beats--well, hell, in terms of complete works that will last through the ages they produced a few works. They also continued the work of Pound and Williams poetically, "loosening the breath" of poetry as someone said, pinning down rhythyms that approximated rhythms of ordinary speech, bringing in idiomatic language picked up and used by generations of poets since (albeit they are poets you probably wouldn't read.) The Beats also had a broader cultural impact that spread into music and film. But apparently in believing this I'm exhibiting a "foolish attitude," being 42 years old. Perhaps you could recommend a reading list of writers and poets more appropriate for a man of my age?

Oh, before you do it though, I've already read the Modernists exhaustively; I actually run a site about Ezra Pound. And Joyce? Well, didn't he spend 12 years writing a novel that nobody could understand just because he thought his experiments were the vital next step in the development of the novel? Sounds pretty romantic to me.

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

I find myself wondering what Joyce would make of the arguments you make under the banner of his name.

I am not under the banner of his name. Not anymore than I would be saying he was the worst writer ever.

Isn't romanticism different from activism? Is King "romantic" because he believes in the power of literature to positively influence people's lives?

Pretty much. It didn't work in the 19th century and never has. One would think after a century that artists would realize their work has limited appeal. So many writers think they are the second coming of the gospel writers. Entertainment will, first and foremost, attract readers (a la NYT Bestseller list) many readers have fond memories of books from childhood or that made them cry, hence individual appeal. No one is going to storm the gates of some publishing company, much less Washington because of fiction.

I deal with activists in many fields and they don't think highly of resorting to fiction when there is a troubled world before us. Appealing to the 19th century has little effect, because things have indeed changed. It's hard to say something is reactionary is the constant appeal of the new is "well, this is what happened in the past"

And why did WWI reveal it as "folly"? Because people die? People died in the Crimean War as well. Arguably the greatest poet to come out of WWI was Guillaume Apollinaire, and he organised the type on one of his poems to look like falling rain.I

Because people put silly illusions aside for awhile, at least amongst the literate classes. A society (-ies) that just got leveled by war aren't going to be prone to find meaning in art. Now a handful of artists will, but some guy (a tradesman) who has no home and is working to rebuild his life isn't going to need fiction to tell him anything about life.

Arguably the greatest poet to come out of WWI was Guillaume Apollinaire,

And I believe his mother was an Aristocrat. Not to mention he wasn't exactly a man of "moving the masses" that is where art fails, it simply can't sustain itself that way. It can only fail or become mass entertainment.

They also continued the work of Pound and Williams poetically, "loosening the breath" of poetry as someone said, pinning down rhythyms that approximated rhythms of ordinary speech, bringing in idiomatic language picked up and used by generations of poets since (albeit they are poets you probably wouldn't read.)

Poetry is at its lowest status in a long time. The Beats were a brief movement during a certain period in American culture. Once again, I doubt I read the poets you assume I don't read. Funny thing is, FEW PEOPLE DO. Which is the point I have been making. You won't see those people selling 100,000 chapbooks. When 100,000 records sold is considered poor by industry standards.

Poetry is not something the middle and lower classes actively consume anymore. Heck, most of the upper classes have dropped it. It is a thing for people that have a lot of free time on their hand, a career in the arts, or those precious few who like an art that reached its peak a long time ago.

Music usurped the power of poetry. And left poetry to remain in the hands of academic programs and connoisseurs. Walk up to any 100 men and women who are middle or working class, and ask them about the beats, contemporary poetry in any form, or literary movements. Perhaps one or two will recall something from school about it.

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

(post was cut off).

This isn't because people are too stupid to realize "that (insert) controls literature." It's because most people don't care about literature, and amongst those they do few care about literary fiction or underground literature. When I see "underground" and "indy" artists hoping to appeal to the masses, I see those wanting to be commercial on different terms than the current crop of commercial artists (i.e. Rap music went from underground and street in the 80's, rode out the punk and pop waves, and jumped immediately to commercial status).

chilly charlie said...

Dean Haspiel sucks. He's a lousy comic artist and you should BOYCOTT this demi puppet who feeds Tim Hall's narcissism.

King said...

"Joyce"'s main problem is that he's an utter bore. (This one-- not the great writer.) Probably a wet blanket at every party-- finding a reason not to do, well, anything. "Clinical studies tell us if you smoke that rather herbal product the consequences statistically blah blah blah."
He doesn't give his real name because his work is undoubtedly as boring, stiff, and unimaginative as his personality.
Well, so be it. When change is made there's always some Mitch Miller character around steadfastly and unrepentently behind the times.

King said...

A couple quick points.
1.) "Joyce"'s criticism of The Beats sounds much like that of Norman Podhoretz's (noted neo-con who switched from literature to politics).
2.) Romanticism as J. uses the word is merely a label, a box into which he's trying to put me, though it's an awkward fit. A person like him can think only in neatly arranged boxes. It's how he's been trained.
3.) The snobbery he displays is fairly amazing. The lower classes don't care about poetry??
Right now they're the ones most involved with it, albeit through spoken word hip-hop and its mutations, many already moving out of that niche and advancing their art.
4.) Passion about literature? "Joyce" doesn't have it.
Early in the ULA's history I circulated a questionnaire for feedback about the ULA, what we were doing, our attitudes, etc. One of the questions I asked was to rank the importance of literature (whatever kind) in your life on a scale from 1 to 10. Almost all ULAers and other underground writers put at least an 8. Many said 10. (Michael Grover for one. Myself also of course.) I respect MG's dedication to his art. It's what being a writer/poet/artist is all about.
By contrast, when we had some son-of-an-Earl literary dilettante interviewing us for Black Book, I asked him the same question. His answer? A 3.
Against such people, how can the ULA not prevail?

fdw said...

Romantic?
Just being a poet and or writing the dam stuff(lest we forget officially poetry is still labeled as being "creative non-fiction") in this day and age is ABSURD, ie in Camus sense of the absurd, these times of abject materialism where talking heads whether political hacks, journalists, scientists-in-the-pocket- of-the-state, certified academics are telling the people what to think and do without reference to EXPERIENCE (if anything literature especially poetry is experience) taking the place (substituting is the right word here)taditional held by poets and writers-- this is deliberate agressive and motivated by CIAKGB type mind manipulation- which makes perfect sense by the way-- plus the fact that poets among other writers understand refexively, ironically that the medium of expression is symbolic construct but yet still persist on top of all other opposing conditions (poets are an effront, threat to the maintanence of the AmwayRomania pyramid scheme and therefore as usual most dangerous to the vampyre mentality). If that isn't Romantic what else is. Fools/magicians/outlaws cf. the 'gypshun god TOTH, archetype of thieves and founder of language.

Victor Schwartzman said...

As is occasionally the case, I am reading these posts rather than actually writing. The debates are always interesting, but I do keep thinking: shouldn't I be writing my lousy poetry, instead of spending an hour reading all the posts on Karl's blog?

Well, maybe the world's better off without my lousy poetry, and I should keep reading.

That said, the real reason for this post: Bruce's comment about Ezra Pound.

Shoot me for a heretic, but I've always thought Pound to be the classic "literary" poet whose work was meaningless outside of academia. I read a lot of it in my college years (forty years ago, so maybe my memory's flawed) and found virtually nothing I could relate to real life.

Plus, Pound is the classic 'test case' for whether an artist's personal life should influence what you think of the artist's work. I personally DO believe the art should stand by itself. But it is very difficult for me to ignore that Pound supported the fascists in a very public way, and therefore, in his own little way, he helped contribute towards mass murder.

fdw said...

At least that's what were told-- there's no evidence that supports that for certain.
At least where the trial is concerned, cf. Julian Cornell (after the torture of Pisa the points of reference are suspect-- sorta like what's happening today-- and that the rulers of this country, their fathers and grandfathered in corporations actually DID support the Nazis and Facists, in REAL rather than a virtual or rhetorical way.)
WHAT THE HELL'S HAPPENED TO THESE Ill- LITERATE BASTARDS???
Like Hooder mentioned viavis EP:
OPENING THE BREATH
OPENING THE "FIELD"
INciting literary revolt all over the world, disciples, heavy hitters (ERNESTO CARDENAL, etc)
F*** Donald Hall and Writing well, what about reading well as a prerequisite and AMERICAN as a first language (101)

King said...

Ezra Pound was likely the most influential literary personality of the 20th century. The writers he encouraged-- in some ways made-- include Yeats, Joyce, Eliot, and Hemingway. Whatever Pound's supposed crimes-- for giving radio broadcasts which encouraged peace-- the way he was treated after the war was a disgrace: put into a cage like a wild animal and left on a tarmac in Italy; then institutionalized for many years in a mental hospital. (No, not a university.) One of our nation's great literary figures.
When people have been remarking upon the treatment by the U.S. military of prisoners taken during the War on Terror, no one has made the comparison to the treatment of Pound. This has surprised me.