Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Oblivion Oblivion Oblivion

This spring I read the collection of short stories entitled The Cannibal Night by Mexican author Luis Jorge Boone, expertly translated by George Henson. These stories reminded me about what was best about magical realism, although I might rather classify them as magical hyperrealism or magical expressionism. In each, the narrative participates in its own undoing as characters are left making the most of their diminished worlds. Here is something I wrote about one story simply titled "Oblivion."
“Oblivion” seems to be written precisely as a puzzling meditation on translation. Not only does a senseless car crash deprive the protagonist’s life from meaning, not only does this meaningless act literally come crashing into her world, but as readers we’re confronted with the destruction wrought by this very word itself: oblivion. The protagonist senses some inalienable significance to this term that she is incapable of discovering despite her methodical attempts to translate it from its English into her Spanish. Repeated throughout the story as a mantra bereft of meaning—Oblivion. Oblivion. Oblivion.—until the word becomes true avoidance and obscureness of memory, of pain, of forgetfulness and the subsequent oblivion that time provides by reasserting meaning upon that life that lives on through oblivion as oblivion. Eventually the shibboleth takes on the verbal quality our heroine ascribes it, dissolving the wreck and her response to it as well as the text itself into pure illegibility. Boone’s story is both a refraction and a deflection of narration—a surface phenomenon upon the story’s setting, its theme. “Oblivion” marks the untrackable traces of language’s impossibility to both provide and not provide meaning to our experiences.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Omit Thy Fog Riot

When writing about Surrealism and automatism, what better way to conduct research than to do a little automatic writing and some exquisite corpse exercises? I mean, anybody can read an article and summarize it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


When I was an undergraduate in the late 1980s, I wrote a series of extremely short narratives that I called "shorter stories." Now it seems everyone, including Lydia Davis, is famous for doing something similar. Alberto Chimal wrote a series of short narratives about cities on Twitter that has recently been translated by the great Spanish translator George Henson. It reminds me of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. Here is a small sampling.
No one knows if the city of N really exists or if perhaps it’s another city, disguised, with another name. #Cities 
The city of Ñ isn’t where they say. Some say it doesn’t exist; others, that its inhabitants exist and are known by their language. #Cities 
From Alberto Chimal's The Cities of the Ordered Chain, trans. George Henson. You can read the entire series in a few minutes online by following the link.

Phenomenon Worth Considering (And Guilty as Charged)

It is a phenomenon worth considering, this new generation of nihilist mystics living on Veterans’ Administration checks, Fulbright Fellowships, gifts from casual acquaintances, and occasional scraps from home.
Reblogged from davidcorvine.tumblr.com; quoted from Paul Bowles's Travels: Collected Writings 1950-93.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I've been slowly weening myself from the hope of a proper academic career over the past several months. Academia barely exists today, and due to what may still perhaps be a case of sour grapes, I've come to the insight that I probably don't even want such a career to begin with. I've cut back on teaching, and I've whittled down my teaching jobs to one campus and one prep. I've all but stopped applying for positions. To what I foresee as the last academic position I apply to, today I wrote the following:
Please find attached a detailed list of my publications, including manuscripts that are currently under submission. I am also including my curriculum vitae. You will undoubtedly notice a span of time between the MA and the PhD; it was during this time that I lived and worked abroad, either teaching (in Japan) or conducting independent research (in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Poland) under grants and fellowships from the US government. My scope of interests, you will see, is truly international and diverse, ranging from political and economic theory to translation theory--all fields that inform my teaching of and research in philosophy.
I give him the necessary information and point out the obvious "gap" in my cv. Then I fill in that "gap" with enough information to be intriguing; I truly am an international man of mystery. I close this paragraph, however, with a preemptive strike. I tell him exactly why that very "gap" is not a gap at all, that while others may perceive a deficiency in my record or a flaw in my character, I, on the other hand, see this as what sets me apart from--and indeed above--all other candidates. I almost believe in the efficacy of my own bravado, which is not even bravado at all so much as an accurate and truthful explanation of what I did in those years. (All this, of course, can be corroborated by perusing the archive of this blog.) I almost dare him to think otherwise.
I trust that such interests and experiences will make my application even stronger, and I would be happy, if you desire, to send you further details regarding this time period.
Here I document my last preemption, my last flickering hope in academia, and my last application to a professorship. It helps that this position is a dream job and not the shite that tries to pass itself off as an academic position. My last rejection letter will come from a truly great institution of higher education, and I will return to the tasks at hand.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Times Roman

Below are some of my photos from a recent trip to Rome. This collection is of architectural ruins and art/historical objects that I found compelling.
Colosseo I
Colosseo II
Bernini's Elephant (Obelisk Outside
Santa Maria sopra Minerva)

Memento Mori I
Memento Mori II
Colosseo III

Francis of Assisi

Raphael's Transfiguration 
(Detail), Vatican
Phoning It In
Venturi's Monotipo-stele, 1963,
Vatican Contemporary Art Collection
Oculus, Pantheon
Colosseo IV
Ancient Curia Door,
San Giovanni in Laterno
Botero's Trip to the Ecumenical 
Council (Detail), 1972, Vatican
Contemporary Art Collection

He went to Italy to see the History. After paying
 the entry fee he was told that the History was 
no longer there. In its place was a pile of rubble.