Friday, October 18, 2013


READING INSTRUCTION.  The first part of this post is about the dreary environment of  reading about books. The second part which you can scroll down to I LURCHED...  for my homage to Simon and Arasse

4-----The fundamental problem with book review sections in newspapers, magazines, e-journals and blogs is that they all cater to the “news” aspect.  They report on the new books and only occasionally do they venture into the past.
5------Whenever any of these publications do venture into the past the very fact of the past nearly always vitiates the piece: who wants to read about what has happened, is not new, is not happening right now?
7-------The vast majority of these publications cater to the supposed present moment--- whatever that might be?--- and for those with both national and international aspirations do what major newspapers do today:  they focus on the doings of the biggest and routinely thought to be the most powerful countries.  5 people killed in a bank robbery in New York City would outweigh in a newspaper editor’s mind of say a major newspaper in the US 500 people drowned in the sinking of a ferry in the South China Sea.
8------none of this is news, really, and week after week in the New York Times, in the Wall Street Journal and any other major publication you care to mention the  reviewed books are in the vast majority of cases published by the two or possibly four largest publishers in the world so in truth: as The New York Review of Books was once always known:  The New York Review of Us. 
6-------occasionally one of these large publications will have a special section set aside for smaller or so-called independent publishers but one always has the feeling this is their sop to the “special needs lobby and one is supposed to take note of these books with a small grain of salt: these are books from the not really real publishers:  publishers who as they say lunch and have cocktail parties--- the sure characteristics of a “real” publisher.
            SO if I lurched and quoted as I am about to do a few lines from Claude Simon’s THE FLANDERS ROAD:  “…like a drop of water separating itself from a roof or rather dividing, part of itself still attached to the edge of the gutter (the phenomenon occurring as follows: the drop stretching, becoming pear-shaped under its own weight, distorting itself, then pinching itself in two the lower… (p.24):       INSTANT MARGINALITY.
9----- and of course the question why are you reading a novel published in 1961?  And even though Simon did receive the Nobel Prize, surely you should be reading the current winner in that sweepstakes though you remember Isaac Singer being asked what he thought of Simon replied, is it a boy or a girl?... which allowed everyone reading the New York Times to know Simon was probably not that important and in fact when I did ask to review a Simon novel a little later for the Washington Post was told, I guess we dropped the ball on that one…
9---- or why aren’t you writing about the new Pynchon novel which is even on the best seller list and I reply I did try and didn’t get much beyond someone walking down a hallway of some sort of building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and I was thinking, should I say anything real about Pynchon because wouldn’t it be nice for him to read my books and I did like V though that doesn’t really count much with many people these days.  Though it is for sale via Walmart’s website and for your information they also have the novels of William Gaddis and the Letters of William Gaddis though they believe the books have been published by WW Norton and not as in reality Dalkey Archive, though for now Norton is DA’s distributor.
            (I detoured to WalMart because this morning I was reading that they are aiming for sales of half a trillion dollars per year and the boss there was saying, “We know who every person in the world is and we know every product in the world, and we’ll connect them.”  Sadly, they can’t connect any of those people to GOING TO PATCHOGUE or THE CORPSE DREAM OF N> PETKOV and they raised the price of the 20oz bottle of Coke in their vending machines to $1.50)
78------ the delusional nature of this prose writing on a Thursday morning, now mostly gone.
60-----  TAKE A CLOSER LOOK by Daniel Arasse is the most beautiful book this year.  Arasse, now dead, was art professor in France and in this book he shows in a wonderful sensuous witty and thoughtful prose: how to look at a painting in front of us.  He reminded me of THE ART OF ARTS by Anita Albus who did the same some years ago and in her text provided me with a full hour in front of The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin in the Louvre and even then I had yet to exhaust the seeing.
            Of course I am echoing Pound in the ABC OF READING where he discusses the method of Louis Agassiz’s method the looking at what is in front of you.  As in reading and looking : it has to start with what is in front of you and then you can go elsewhere, but it is all in the timing of when to go elsewhere.
            Princeton University Press obviously had a great deal of rerspsct for its author and his text.  The dust jacket white with clean type and one lone snail at the very bottom edger…  the whole book is in that snail and at the center of his book is  The Snail’s Gaze centered as the painting is upon the snail at the bottom of Francesco del Cossa’s  The Annunciation.
            I have no real competency in writing about art, some might say.  I never sat in those slide driven classes where students saw thousands of slides as a professor droned on about his or her audience’s visual stupidity.
            But I did see for myself in Leipzig in 1965 Rembrandt’s Man with a Golden Helmet and remembered the depth of the gold paint on the helmet which is not visible in prints.  Of course I discovered when I went to Google, as we all do,  this painting is no longer thought to be by Rembrandt and is not now in Leipzig though for me it will always be so and you can read this in JUST LIKE THAT in the first of the two parts of that book which describes a beginning and the end of the so-called 60’s of the last century but I also saw in London at a later date Poussin’s

Which shaped another book NOTHING DOING…
            And then there is the looking at John Wesley’s works and Michael Madore’s work and Andy Warhol’s Shadows and later, Walter De Maria Broken Kilometer… and the photocopier art of Pati Hill and the work of Martin Ramirez…
            But:::::  TAKE A CLOSER LOOK.  I will give you the openings of each of Arasse’s essays.  If they do not catch you…
CARA GIULIA,   You may find this rather long letter surprising, even a bit irritating. I hope you won’t be angry, but  have to write to you  As I told you somewhat brusquely, I cannot understand how you sometimes look at painting in such a way that you don’t see what painter and painting are showing you.
THE SNAIL’S GAZE.  I know where this is headed.  You’re going to tell me yet again that I’m going too far--- that I’m having a good time, but that I am also over interpreting.  It’s true, there’s nothing I like more than having a good time.
PAINT IT BLACK.  At first, when he saw Bruegel’s The Adoration of the Magi at the National Gallery in London, he identified what he already knew.  As always. In the end it became tiresome.  He couldn’t manage to be surprised by anything anymore.  He had looked so much and learned so well how to identify, classify situate that he did it all very quickly without pleasure, simply as a narcissistic confirmation of his knowledge.  A place for every painter and every painter in his place.  His knowledge resembled a caretaker’s knowledge of his cemetery.
MARY MAGDALENE’S “FLEECE.”  Frankly, there would be no point in saying that Mary Magdalene wasn’t a real blonde.
THE WOMEN IN THE CHEST.  “A pinup?”/ “yup, that’s what she is.  Pure and simple.”/ “well it depends on what you mean by that.”/ “it’s simple: a beautiful , naked woman… or rather, an image of one…”
THE EYES OF THE MASTER.  Las Meninas! Oh, no, not again.  For pity’s sake!  Enough already!  Everything's been said about it.  Everything!  Or nothing?  What’s the difference, enough is definitely enough!
            In Flanders Road I am reading about a voice trying to decide if someone has been killed or has he allowed himself to be killed and then lurching back and back into the past and and and… when you go to Amazon you find out that Simon is badly published and not by any of the so-called real publishers so why bother, really, and you are reading him in English when he wrote in French and in French he is equally unknown…
            Well I could be writing about Robert Pinget? 
            But I am reading THE FLANDERS ROAD… the imperceptible breathing of a woman beside him, and after a while he made out the second rectangle of the wardrobe mirror reflecting the dim light from the window--- the eternally empty wardrobe of hotel rooms with two or three hangers dangling inside, the wardrobe itself (with its triangular pediment framed by two pineapples) made of that urine- yellow wood with reddish veins which is apparently used only for this kind of furniture doomed never to hold anything except its own dusty void, the dusty coffin of the reflected ghosts of thousands of lovers, thousands of naked furious and clammy bodies, thousands of embraces absorbed, mingled  in the glaucous depths of the cold unalterable and virginal mirror---, and he remembering (p.42)

And I am sure you know that Claude Simon was both a painter and a photographer.  Sadly, the available evidence is so expensive but I must remmeber that Anne-Marie Dumortier sent me a copy of this book before we became estranged.