Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Question—How much would a character name in Fiction International cost the winning bidder?
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Perhaps Carvalho says it best toward the end of his essay: "Being a reactive writer, who often works out of tantrums, against what I see around me, I could not refrain from ending up associating fiction (a very particular kind of fiction, I must say, "experimental" fiction for the want of a better word) with authorship and rupture. I believe this is the main conscious motive behind my writings: to search for literature where it is least expected, to turn what would be considered flawed by collective standards into my own literary qualities." (page 8).
I believe it is in this spirit of experimental, ruptured, and flawed writing that Fiction International operates.
An excerpt of Carvalho's essay is below.
from FICTION AS EXCEPTION by Bernardo Carvalho
Luso-Brazilian Review 47:1
"What I am trying to say here - and this is what I really believe in as a writer - is something quite evident, but which is progressively being questioned from different fronts and angles: literature is the result of a subjective, singular and individual act. It is created out of conventions and, in the case of the modern western tradition, conventions which were often conceived against conventions. The problem now is that a new generation is coming of age under the spell of a general corporate ideology in which you do not want to use art and literature as a means against conventions anymore, but rather against your own capacity to break with the conventions. You should not question the net. It has become a second nature. It aims at not having anything outside itself. You can be a self-proclaimed writer in the internet with no original writing, reproducing what is being done everywhere around you, publicizing your personality instead of going against the conventions of your own time (in which case you probably would not be read on the net). It has become more important to be socially recognized as a writer than to write unexpected work, to have a function than to create rupture. Functionally, it is as if there were no conventions anymore and art (or literature) was just a natural act of expression and creativity which could be done, democratically, by anyone, and evaluated and shared by objective and measurable criteria. Of course, these criteria can only be given by the market (how many people read and praise a book or a blog) or by the previous and palpable reality a book represents (thus the hegemony of non-fiction and of fiction that expresses the direct experience of its author). By this logic, what makes a good book is less the ability of an author to invent, to imagine and to create new unexpected things or to go against conventional consensus than the ability of the author to share his or her own life experiences and to represent and reassert the world we already share, see and understand.
Being a reactive writer, who often works out of tantrums, against what I see around me, I could not refrain from ending up associating fiction (a very particular kind of fiction, I must say, "experimental" fiction for the want of a better word) with authorship and rupture. I believe this is the main conscious motive behind my writings: to search for literature where it is least expected, to turn what would be considered flawed by collective standards into my own literary qualities.
Recently, after hearing another Brazilian writer say that literature does not search for truth, as science does, but that it is the representation and incorporation of different discourses of reality, I understood more clearly that in fact the literature I am interested in is, on the contrary, the result of a search for truth, for a truth that is not in the world we see. It is a literature more interested in the invention of what has yet to be created than with representation of what we already recognize around us. Of course, this invention can sometimes only be conceived by allusion. It is a tentative act, which strives to say things that cannot be said, a literature (and now I am speaking about my books) that uses the conventions of realism to show the frailty of these same conventions. It is a literature that rejects the already established poetic and metaphoric standards, sometimes through apparently banal, neutral and non-literary language, as it tries to show literature where it is least expected. It is a literature, as you may have understood by now, fascinated by paradoxes. It is a working-process literature, as if truth could only happen in movement, before being said and understood, and could only make sense before making sense, before being unanimously accepted as truth.
Of course, there is in these books a consciousness of our time, of humanity as a self-destructive element. They are books informed by a kind of ill-resolved humanism, in which the consciousness of our own evil is not enough to make us refrain from it, since it is at the same time the reason for our immediate survival. Writing about Brazil, in his The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald, the late German writer, tells us that "Our propagation on earth comes with the carbonization of superior vegetable species and, in a more general way, the unstoppable burning of every combustible substance (...) everything is combustion, and combustion is the intimate principle of every object made by us." This consciousness of the human being as paradox is behind the narrative structures of my novels and the characters I am interested in, fighting their own conventions from within, in order to see what their condition forbids them to see. And it brings me to the place where I recognize the artistic act and its tragic nature, being the herald of a consciousness that is never enough, as if looking for an unconceivable truth that could save us from what we are.
I am not a religious person, I do not believe in any god, and I do not abide by any church, but I recognize the religious aspect of what I have just said. In fact, I would agree if you told me that it has to do with faith. Faith in literature as a way of transcendence, of widening the world we live in and its understandings - not necessarily with good will and good universal feelings that become commonplace and therefore can be easily marketed, but by tackling our most contradictory, paradoxical and obscure spots. This is what I call literary truth, the product of authorship, of an individual subjectivity that cannot be unanimously or consensually taken, nor can it be conceived before its own creation."
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The mash-up is not a new concept in art. Simply put, it is the recombination of two existing works of art to make a new one. In the case of dance music the mashup often involves pairing two unlikely artists, such as rapper Notorious BIG and crooner Frank Sinatra. (For some fun examples of mashups please visit the following site: http://screwattack.com/blogs/Thunderbirds-blog/Thunderbirds-Top-10-Mashups.) It could be argued that the mashup is a forced and intentional act of dialectical creation.
A close parallel to the mashup in literature is William Burroughs' fold-In technique of poetry where he takes two pieces of printed text, folds them in half, and then reads the two halves together as if they were a single narrative. Burroughs himself was inspired by the Dadaists. Of course making the leap from Burroughs to Rich Medina is not without complication, but the similarities between the mashup and the fold-in are undeniable.
Meghan Langley recently wrote a profile of Fela Kuti in Peace Review (2010, Vol 22, No 2, pp. 199-204), which provides an overview of his early life in Nigeria, education in England, political awakening in the US through contact with Angela Davis and other Black Panthers, and musical accomplishment in Africa. Langley writes, "(Fela) used his lyrics to protest and the instruments to make you listen" (p 202). Are writers limited to only using "lyrics" and not "instruments"? The answer is certainly No.
This brings me to Kenzo Digital's remix album titled "City of God's Son." It is available for free download at http://www.cityofgodson.com/. It is essentially a mixtape of New York's most famous MCs, such as Nas, Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah, and Notorious BIG. What makes this mixtape different is that Kenzo Digital weaves in dialogue from actors, such as Samuel L. Jackson, Lawrence Fishburne, Delroy Lindo, and Al Pacino to create a cohesive story.
In short, Kenzo Digital has produced a work of spoken-word prose. Amidst the soundscape of gun shots, sirens, music, and dialogue, salsa great Joe Bataan narrates the mixtape by reading original prose by Kenzo Digital. This mosaic of voices and sounds coalesces into a type of noir novella. It is heard instead of read, but the characters, plot, and setting operate in the same manner as a conventional story. In fact Kenzo Digital promotes the album as the first "Beat Cinematic" and "viral musical sound art."
Just as Burroughs' use of the "fold-in" is analogous to the mashup so too is his use of the "cut-up" similar to the mixtape. The cut-up technique involves fragmenting a complete work of prose and re-assembling the pieces to make a new text. This is exactly what Kenzo Digital accomplishes in "City of God's Son" with music, film, and original prose narrative. Again, the leap from Burroughs to Kenzo Digital is not without complication, but the parallels in method are undeniable.
Monday, July 12, 2010
4.15 Deep River
Listening to Vivaldi's Stabat Mater on my iPod as I reprise yesterday evening with new friends.
This version of Stabat Mater features the Japanese contralto Naoko Ihara, which in turn reminds me of the Japanese Christian Shusaku Endo's last novel Deep River, about a group of Japanese pilgrims traveling to the holy Hindu city of Varanasi.
It is the homely, seemingly misbegotten Japanese who makes the final offering, carrying the dead and dying "untouchables" to the River Ganges so their immolated ashes might merge with those who came before and were yet to come.
Ynez and Guillaume Deveraux live in a spacious apartment on the top floor of a Haussmann-era building directly across from the Montparnasse Cemetery.
The apartment was donated rent-free for as long as Ynez continued her employment as manager in the state-run Ministry of Health.
Her husband Guillaume is an artist with a cramped studio in the apartment.
At my request he shows me electronic representations of his work -- impressive abstracts which resemble both Action Painting and the calligraphic paintings of Mark Tobey, who studied Buddhism in Japan.
They have two daughters, Celeste 11, and Marie-Jeanne 3. Celeste has Down syndrome and is a grand mal epileptic, though she hasn't suffered a seizure in nearly a year.
I meet Ynez for the first time downstairs by the elevator, 7:30 PM.
Slender, attractive, somewhat tense, she is only now returning from her job; I am the invited guest.
When we arrive in the apartment, Marie-Jeanne runs to greet her mother then stops as she looks up at the large stranger.
I stoop low to greet her and she kisses me on both cheeks.
Ynez then goes to the sofa in front of the bay window where Celeste is sprawled with her head turned to the side and the foot of a rubber doll in her mouth.
Ynez sits and takes Celeste in her arms, whispering tenderly to her.
I sit on the same sofa.
Guillaume enters, shakes my hand, kisses Ynez, smoothes Celeste's hair, then picks up the three-year-old who is staring at me with a wild surmise.
Guillaume pours the red wine but Ynez is still caressing and whispering to Celeste.
Meanwhile, Marie-Jeanne has carried over her small, red and gold tin box and is making offerings to me.
She places a tiny pink bead in my palm, then an orange ribbon, then a chestnut, a silver bead, a very small bit of jade, another ribbon, a feather.
She delivers them one by one, carefully selecting from her box.
She has created an impressive still-life in my wide palm.
After nearly an hour of quiet talking, Celeste, who had not even turned her head to me, suddenly leans all her weight on me, reaches back and takes my hand which she grasps firmly.
Noting this, Marie-Jeanne settles her tiny self on my knee.
She, the mother, looks lovely and weary.
The late sun slanting through the bay window lights her eyes and forehead.
This is the last of the Paris 60 excerpts - to appear on this blog, that is. If you would like to read more excerpts from this amazing collection, go to his website and click the word "docufiction."
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Van Gogh, who lived most of his fated life in France, shot himself in the chest, but somehow couldn't kill himself correctly.
He managed to stand and walk to his cot, where he died a few days later, head to the wall.
His whispered last words to Theo, his brother, were reportedly: "La tristesse durera toujours."
Sadness will last forever.
Consider the baguette which, it seems, has been with us forever.
Only in France; imitations can't rival it.
Perhaps the Italians come closest, though their "baguette" is prepared differently.
Unlike, say, Chartreuse, the liqueur composed by monks with its undisclosed ingredients, the ingredients of the baguette de campagne are eminently simple: flour, yeast, water, salt.
The alchemy is in the preparation, and perhaps the physical context.
A baguette purchased in the Montorgeuil quartier of Paris is not likely to taste the same in Glasgow, Prague, or Beverly Hills.
The baguette itself is rarely bagged.
Ordinary paper, even a strip of newspaper, wrapped round its center, or no paper at all.
Hot from the oven is best, but even unheated, the trick is for the purchaser not to devour it before reaching his apartment.
The admonition applies to children, adults, and seniors.
To bankers, gangsters, politicians, the unemployed.
Have your chauffeur lock the baguette in the limo's trunk.
Break it in half and stick it in your bicycle bag; make sure you zip the bag, and whistle all the way back to your flat.
Break it in thirds and fit them into your pockets.
Stretch it around your head like a halo.
(Un ange passe)
Light a cigarette and keep it in your lips until you reach home with baguette intact.
Make a vow to fast for the seven minutes it takes to walk from the boulangerie to your flat.
You're back home at last.
Sit at the plain wood table, such as Vincent would paint, and break bread with your lover or alone.
Have some vin de maison.
Like the young priest in Robert Bresson's 1950 Journal d'un Curé de Campagne, adapted from the Bernanos novel.
The priest, unjustly maligned by his parishioners, takes nothing but bread and red wine.
Imitation of Christ.
Contre la tristesse.
Sadness that will last forever.
Please tell me, pale reader, how Bresson's introverted young priest, with a sensibility much like Vincent's, rejected in his country parish, unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer and soon to die, whispers these last words to a seminary friend: All is grace?
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Baudelaire in Paris Spleen goes on about the virtues of solitude.
This was naturally before the advent of technology.
After despising Parisians with whom you're compelled to interact daily, returning to your flat at dusk and securing the locks on the door would seem reassuring.
The chalice of laudanum, half-open bottle of absinthe, and hashish laced with opium are arguably more productive than surfing the Net or texting a chum.
I've been isolated in New York, Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Quito, Tokyo, Singapore, New Delhi, Paris.
Paris is the most evocative city in which to be alone.
It is only the French who admit (or do not deny) the fou and folle.
The mad and palpably deviant.
I don't mean the functionally mad: bankers, corporate chieftains, uniformed child-murderers.
Those are welcome everywhere in the global village.
I mean the dysfunctional who smell bad, can't decipher the métro, do nothing but dream and rant.
True, Sade was imprisoned and Artaud institutionalized, but there were mitigating circumstances.
Parisians cross the boulevard at the red.
Drive their cars and motorcycles on the sidewalks.
Litter the Bois de Bologne with condoms.
Love their dogs but don't pick up the dog shit.
They welcome, at least in principle, the transgressive tradition in art and letters.
After a bad day with bad people, cross-dressing or undressing, getting high on anything.
Then going out in the Paris dark to a film or gallery opening and groping the human or sub-human to your left.
Stabbing him in the thigh with the poisoned tip of your umbrella.
It's a rush, cathartic, eminently satisfying.
And Paris is the only major city I know that grants you your donnée, won't even turn around to glare.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The French struck gold with the bidet, but now it's time to move on.
Show a hetero American male a bidet and he'll laugh or try to shit in it.
Enter a typical French café and the toilet is likely to be down among the catacombs.
Where it's not the squatting-on-your heels contraption, miserably close to your dung and the dung of those who squatted before you, it is a toilet without a seat and likely without toilet paper.
I am a claustrophobe.
Unlike Sarko, je suis grand.
In one of the old cafes near République, I squeezed my way down into the basement toilet which was about the size of the coffin in the 1988 Dutch-French film The Vanishing.
As I was using the clownishly loud dryer to blow my hands dry, I heard a sptttt, the dryer shorted, suddenly it was black as Hades.
The space was so tight I could scarcely turn around.
Moreover I forgot where on the door the lock was, which I spasmodically felt around for with both hands.
Next I was violently shaking and kicking the door, shouting, swearing, not in English but in "American" -- as the French put it.
Finally I more or less pulled myself together.
Remembered that the lock was a sliding bolt close to the top of the door.
Slid it open, bent my head, left.
Parisians make a point of being too smooth to acknowledge deviation, but the patrons turned to me questioningly as I climbed the stairs.
They had to have heard the racket I was making.
Under my breath I muttered: You're lucky.
I could be one of those American mass murderers -- in which case your Parisian asses would be escargot.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
More than two years since I saw him last, the Moroccan-French waiter in the small oyster bar near the St Paul métro stop in the Marais.
Recognize each other at once, shake hands.
After I speak friendly words he corrects my French.
Even the pissed-on ex-colonized are language pedants in Paris.
Never mind the Starbucks-McDonalds low-grade infection, Parisian cuisine is comme toujours, but expensive, and the dollar, formerly king, is not just shit, but reeks of it.
Maghreb French boys do the hip-hop thing -- rhythmic walk, sideways cap, gang-banger hand-signals.
Hand-signal -- the other hand strokes the mobile.
Myself, aimlessly walking, Baudelaire's flaneur, post-millennium, sans hashish.
Sidestepping shoppers, not catching an eye, nearly everyone tonguing their mobile.
Pause at a café for a Pastis.
No more colorful Gitanes or Gauloises packets laid on the cafe table.
Unexpectedly, the French have followed the US anti-smoking route, even as the streets and highways are congested, polluted.
Ah, but the métro is still a Cartesian marvel of efficiency.
Underpaid transit workers are threatening to strike.
In solidarity with university students who now pay more for less.
The strikers will ritually take over the streets.
In this 40th anniversary, books on the student almost-revolution in May 68 are prominently displayed in the bookstore windows.
No correspondence between Soixante-huit and Sarko's current repression.
Régis Debray, onetime revolutionary who fought with Che in Bolivia, has published his memoirs to critical acclaim.
They too are featured in bookstores.
Debray has rotated 180 degrees and now despises Che, Fidel, Mao.
Scion of a high-toned French family, Debray is proud to have finally acknowledged his birthright.
Revolution, even in this country of Communards, has devolved into a noun like "archeology" or "Social Darwinism."
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The Writer's Technique in Thirteen Theses
I. Anyone intending to embark on a major work should be lenient with himself and, having completed a stint, deny himself nothing that will not prejudice the next.
II. Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo. If this regime is followed, the growing desire to communicate will become in the end a motor for completion.
III. In your working conditions avoid everyday mediocrity. Semi-relaxation, to a background of insipid sounds, is degrading. On the other hand, accompaniment by an étude or a cacophony of voices can become as significant for work as the perceptible silence of the night. If the latter sharpens the inner ear, the former acts as a touchstone for a diction ample enough to bury even the most wayward sounds.
IV. Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable.
V. Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens.
VI. Keep your pen aloof from inspiration, which it will then attract with magnetic power. The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself. Speech conquers thought, but writing commands it.
VII. Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.
VIII. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written. Intuition will awaken in the process.
IX. Nulla dies sine linea – but there may well be weeks.
X. Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.
XI. Do not write the conclusion of a work in your familiar study. You would not find the necessary courage there.
XII. Stages of composition: idea – style – writing. The value of the fair copy is that in producing it you confine attention to calligraphy. The idea kills inspiration, style fetters the idea, writing pays off style.
XIII. The work is the death mask of its conception.
–One-Way Street, trans. Edmund Jephcott, Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1996) 458-9.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Editor, Fiction International
Dept of English
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-6020.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Certain parallels have also been drawn between Barthelme and Franz Kafka. However, Barthelme's fundamental skepticism and irony distanced him from the modernists' belief in the power of art to reconstruct society, leading most critics to class him as a postmodernist writer.
Literary critics have noted that Barthelme, like the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, whom he admired, plays with the meanings of words, relying on poetic intuition to spark new connections of ideas buried in the expressions and conventional responses.
The critic George Wicks called Barthelme "the leading American practitioner of surrealism today . . . whose fiction continues the investigations of consciousness and experiments in expression that began with Dada and surrealism a half century ago." On the other hand, he has been described by Josephine Henden (Harper's) as an "angry sado-masochist."
Read him (or read about him), and decide for yourself.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The Authors@Google program "brings authors of all stripes to Google for informal talks centering on their recently published books.... Googlers are treated to readings of everything from serious literature and political analysis to pioneering science fiction and moving personal memoirs; past participants have ranged from novelist Salman Rushdie and economist Jeffrey Sachs to journalist Bob Woodward and U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain."
Monday, February 8, 2010
"To millions of 'Twilight' fans, the Quileute are Indians whose (fictional) ancient treaty transforms young males of the tribe into vampire-fighting wolves. To the nearly 700 remaining Quileute Indians, 'Twilight' is the reason they are suddenly drawing extraordinary attention from the outside — while they themselves remain largely excluded from the vampire series' vast commercial empire.
Just last month, MSN.com issued an apology to the Quileute for intruding on its territory while videotaping a 'Twilight' virtual tour in September. MSN.com sought permission from the Chamber of Commerce in nearby Forks, Wash., but didn’t pay the same courtesy to the Quileute."
Saturday, January 30, 2010
In the video game Dante is no longer a reedy, introspective poet but a knight who returns home from the Crusades to find that his beloved Beatrice has been brutally murdered. Her innocent soul has been taken captive by Lucifer, and Dante must chase the archfiend into hell, fending off wave after wave of advancing demons with a mighty scythe.
. . .
"A great intellectual property can live a second or third time in new media, because it gives you a head start."
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Asemic writing has been made by poets, writers, painters, calligraphers, children, and scribblers, all around the world. Most people make asemic writing at some time, possibly when testing a new pen.So is it scribbling or doodling? Not when it's created intentionally - as art - instead of functionally, as when testing a new pen. If, instead of doodling images, we doodle mock-words or even word-like representations, are we practicing asemic writing?
Educators talk about children going through distinct stages of "mock letters", "pseudowriting" and so on, when they're learning to write. Many of us made asemic writing before we were able to write words.When does asemic writing become art? When a writer creates it? Or when a visual artist like Paul Klee or Mark Tobey creates it?
Looking at asemic writing does something to us. Some examples have pictograms or ideograms, which suggest a meaning through their shape. Others take us for a ride along their curves. We like some, we dislike others.Clearly we derive meaning from asemic writing. But do we read it the way we read poetry or prose? Or is it mis-named? Should it instead be called "asemic art"?