DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Stéphane Mallarmé The Book (∞)

 

‘Stéphane Mallarmé was the darling of French Symbolism and the demon of Existentialism. Later, in the Sixties and Seventies, he was a central figure for critical movements from psychoanalytic and thematic criticism to structuralism, semiotics and deconstruction. We have had analyses of his work by Charles Mauron, Jean-Pierre Richard, Robert Greer Cohn, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, Leo Bersani, Malcolm Bowie and others. It might seem surprising, therefore, not to find a single full-length biography published between Henri Mondor’s 1941 Vie de Mallarmé and Gordon Millan’s Mallarmé: A Throw of the Dice. Millan notes in his Introduction that ‘the man himself has been all but forgotten, eclipsed and overshadowed by his writings. Anyone reading recent Mallarmé criticism could be forgiven for wondering whether he ever had a life.’

‘There is a reason for this erasure. The eclipse of the author by the work is not an accident of Mallarmé criticism: it is Mallarmé’s principal literary discovery. It was Mallarmé himself who dreamed of ‘a Text speaking of and by itself, without the voice of an author’. The affirmative erasure of the poet from the work was a goal for which he never stopped striving: ‘The pure work implies the elocutionary disappearance of the poet, who leaves the initiative to words.’ And it was Mallarmé himself who created the myth of his lack of biography: writing to Verlaine in 1885 in response to a request for a headnote for his poems, he spoke of his ‘life devoid of anecdote’.

‘Twenty years earlier, Mallarmé had announced to his friend Henri Cazalis, ‘I am perfectly dead … I am now impersonal and no longer the Stéphane you have known, but an aptitude the spiritual universe has to see and develop itself through what was once me.’ But, as Leo Bersani asks in The Death of Stéphane Mallarmé, ‘what kind of poetry can a dead poet produce?’ Similarly, we might ask, what kind of ‘life of Mallarmé’ can do justice to this poet whose work arose out of the discovery of his own death?

‘It was largely by learning the lesson of Mallarmé that critics like Roland Barthes came to speak of ‘the death of the author’ in the making of literature. Rather than seeing the text as the emanation of an individual author’s intentions (always a probabilistic and speculative enterprise), structuralists and deconstructors followed the paths and patterns of the signifier, paying new attention to syntax, spacing, intertextuality, sound, semantics, etymology, even individual letters. In each case, Mallarmé had been there before them: calling himself a ‘syntaxer’ and syntax the ‘pivot of intelligibility’, writing a book about the meanings of sounds and letters in English words, creating a concrete poem out of typography and position on the page, inventing a style of critical prose as well as poetry in which ellipses, discontinuities and obscurities played an integral part, and criticising romantic subjectivity and bourgeois realism. Freed from conventions of coherence, authority and psychology, texts could be allowed to unfold as infinite signifying systems.

‘This is not to say that Mallarmé’s late, most stylistically radical texts have nothing to do with the desire for coherence. Indeed, one of the paradoxes of Mallarmé is that, along with his fragmentation of all the usual modes of meaning, he also imagined that ‘The Book’ would put everything back together in a higher synthesis. This impersonal, prismatic, grand oeuvre would also be a key to all mythologies, the ‘Orphic explanation of the earth’. Somehow the book would actually be the ‘musicality of everything’, not mean it. Another paradox lies in the historical specificity of his most abstract theoretical writings: one of the densest of his discussions of the nature of value, for example, also deals with the failure of the Panama Canal Company, Satanism, an afternoon concert series, an encounter with a construction worker, the authority of the Catholic Church, a vote in the French Academy, a proposal to create a general fund for poets, are all part of the texture of his meditations on what he often capitalised as Literature. And one of his favourite projects was a fashion magazine which, under various pseudonyms, he wrote and edited almost entirely himself. — Barbara Johnson

 

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Rotating Folio Leaves as Proposed in Mallarmé’s ‘Le Livre’


Folio leaves in Mallarmé’s Lacquered Cabinet in ‘Le Livre’

 

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Mallarme, The Book By Klaus Scherubel
‘A Survey of Materiality in Literature’
Le « Livre » de Mallarmé de Jacques Scherrer
‘IMPOSTURE BOOK THROUGH THE AGES’
Joseph ATTIÉ Mallarmé le livre
Mary Lewis Shaw Performance In The Texts of Mallarme
Autour de Maurice Blanchot. Le Livre à venir
Stephen Horrocks What Use is a Book? Exploring Stéphane Mallarmé
Graham Robb Unlocking Mallarmé
‘Mallarmé and the Elocutionary Disappearance of the Poet’

 

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mss. pages from Mallarme’s ‘Le Livre’

 

‘I would like to say a few things about Mallarmé and his aborted project of writing Le Livre. From an early age, Mallarmé had planned to write a Total Book in which all his work and all his energies would contribute and participate: a Dantean vision in which the world would be gathered and bound by the spine of The Book. In 1868 he described this still-inchoate plan–one which he envisioned would occupy him for at least 20 years–to his friend Henri Cazalis: “Mon oeuvre est si bien préparé et hiérarchisé, représentant comme il le peut, l’Univers, que je n’aurais su, sans endommager quelqu’une de mes impressions étagées, rien en enlever” (Mallarmé 1965, 99). Unfortunately, Mallarmé did not write this Livre-at least not as such-and indeed he spent most of the 1870s and 1880s stuck in a colossal writer’s block, a hideous inability to write anything, a crise de vers. In another letter to Cazalis he described this crise by noting that “le simple acte d’écrire installe l’hysterie dans ma tête” (Mallarmé 1956, 301). (Having just written a dissertation, such a line appeals to me.)

‘What Mallarmé did write were plans as to what the Livre would be like: some of these are highly refined essays, most of which are collected in the volume Divagations, and others were simply notes (I will talk about these shortly). In a certain very limited sense we are left with a pretext bereft of a final text. Indeed Mallarmé’s oeuvre-the one he did manage to write-bears the marks of this groping inability to write the Livre. As Leo Bersani says in his engaging study of Mallarmé’s crise: “The very crisis which threatens the writing of poetry sustains poetic composition” (Bersani, 2). If–as Mallarmé famously wrote in the essay Le livre, instrument spirituel–“tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre” (Mallarmé 1945, 378), then even the crise de vers ends up vers le Livre.

‘We seem to be quite far from Joyce here. After all Joyce did manage to write Finnegans Wake, despite much complaining and the exhausted near-abandonment of writing in 1927 to James Stephens, a writer with more stamina (see Letters I: 252). But the Mallarméan experience of writing the Livre–or, more properly, of not writing the Livre–can provide some insight into the inscrutable rapports between text and pretext: how pretexts undo the sacrosanct notion of an autotelic text even as they contribute to its eventual manifestation.

‘First, I would like to turn briefly to the remnants of the notes Mallarmé wrote in preparation for the Livre. Most of these were burned after his death in 1898, according to his wishes, but one notebook survived and was published in 1957 by Jacques Scherer in the volume Le “livre” de Mallarmé (with the word livre within quotation marks). In his introduction, Scherer characterizes these notes as an imperfect record of a thinking of and towards le Livre. Scherer thus defines them by some missing book which would have been their fulfillment.

‘The notes Mallarmé left behind deal very little with the content of the planned Livre, and instead concentrate a great deal on the form and format the Livre was to take, even dealing with such incidentals as its final cost. Unlike a regular book, Mallarmé planned to have the pages unbound, and so the order in which the Livre would be read would be subject to permutation. Each reading of the Livre would be a performance or séance in which it would adapt itself to its circumstance (cf. Scherer, 58-61). For example, the number of pages in each volume of the Livre would vary according to the number of operators and auditors present at each séance (Scherer 102-3). Verso and recto are to be interchangeable in the multiple possibilities of this volume’s binding; and so the Livre would not impose a single direction or vector of reading. Indeed, the notes seem to be experimental jottings concerning this variable ordination of pagination. In a sense, one could consider Mallarmé’s plan as an attempt to enact a manual or non-digital hypertext: a hypertext that does not depend on the latest HTML ordinance from Bill Gates or the WWW Consortium.

‘In Le livre à venir, Maurice Blanchot notes that this performative aspect to the Livre–as planned in the notes–would guarantee that the Livre will always be iterated variably, with no original. The Livre is always in progress and “est toujours autre… il n’est jamais là, sans cesse à se défaire tandis qu’il se fait” (Blanchot, 330 n.1) The Livre remains conjugated in the conditional, and this conditionality is what has impacted into a book, which is still, always, a livre à venir. Each single iteration of the Livre is always an imperfect manifestation. The Livre thus oscillates between manifestation and disappearance, a hypothetical disappearance of what never had been.’ — Sam Slote

 

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Jacques Polieri Le “LIVRE” de Stéphane Mallarmé (1967)

 

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1.‘This insane game of writing.” With these words, simple as they are, Mallarme opens up writing to writing. The words are very simple, but their nature is also such that we will need a great deal of time – a great variety of experiments, the work of the world, countless misunderstandings, works lost and scattered, the movement of knowledge, and finally the turning point of an infinite crisis – if we are to begin to understand what decision is being prepared on the basis of this end of writing that is foretold by its coming.

2. ‘Apparently we only read because the writing is already there, laid out before our eyes. Apparently. But the first person who ever wrote, who cut into stone and wood under ancient skies, was far from responding to the demands of a view that required a reference point and gave it meaning, changed all relations between seeing and the visible. What he left behind him was not something more, something added to other things; it was not even something less – a subtraction of matter, a hollow in the relation to the relief. Then what was it? A hole in the universe: nothing that was visible, nothing that was invisible. I suppose the first reader was engulfed by that non-absent absence, but without knowing anything about it, and there was no second reader because reading, from then on understood to be the vision of the immediately visible – that is, intelligible – presence, was affirmed for the very purpose of making this disappearance into the absence of the book impossible.

3. ‘Culture is linked to the book. The book as repository and receptacle of knowledge is identified with knowledge. The book is not only the book that sits in libraries – that labyrinth in which all combinations of forms, words and letters are rolled up in volumes. The book is the Book. Still to be read, still to be written, always already written, always already paralysed by reading, the book constitutes the condition for every possibility of reading and writing.

‘The book admits of three distinct investigations. There is the empirical book; the book acts as a vehicle of knowledge; a given determinate book receives and gathers a given determinate form of knowledge. But the book as book is never simply empirical. The book is the a priori of knowledge. We would know nothing if there did not always exist in advance the impersonal memory of the book and, more importantly, the prior inclination to write and read contained in every book and affirming itself only in the book. The absolute of the book, then, is the isolation of a possibility that claims not to have originated in any other anteriority. An absolute that will later tend to assert itself in the Romantics (Novalis), then more rigorously in Hegel, then more radically – though in a different way – in Mallarme, as the totality of relations (absolute knowledge or the Work), in which would be achieved either consciousness, which knows itself and returns to itself after having been exteriorised in all its dialectically linked figures, or language, closed around its own statement and already dispersed.

‘Let us recapitulate: the empirical book; the book: condition for all reading and all writing; the book: totality or Work. But with increasing refinement and truth these forms all assume that the book contains knowledge as the presence of something virtually present and always immediately accessible, if only with the help of mediations and relays. Something is there which the book presents in presenting itself and which reading animates, which reading re-establishes – through its animation – in the life of a presence. Something that is, on the lowest level, the presence of a content or of a signified thing; then, on a higher level, the presence of a form, of a signifying thing or of an operation; and, on a higher level still, the development of a system of relations that is always there already, if only as a future possibility. The book rolls up time, unrolls time, and contains this unrolling as the continuity of a presence in which present, past and future become actual.’ — Maurice Blanchot

 

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AUTOUR DU LIVRE (DE MALLARMÉ)

 

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‘I am the author of a statement to which there have been varying reactions, including praise and blame, and which I shall make again in the present article. Briefly, it is this: all earthly existence must ultimately be contained in a book. It terrifies me to think of the qualities (among them genius, certainly) which the author of such a work will have to possess. I am one of the unpossessed. We will let that pass and imagine that it bears no author’s name. What, then, will the work itself be? I answer: a hymn, all harmony and joy; an immaculate grouping of universal relationships come together for some miraculous and glittering occasion. Man’s duty is to observe with the eyes of the divinity; for if his connection with that divinity is to be made clear, it can be expressed only by the pages of the open book in front of him.

‘Seated on a garden bench where a recent book is lying, I like to watch a passing gust half open it and breathe life into many of its outer aspects, which are so obvious that no one in the history of literature has ever thought about them. I shall have the chance to do so now, if I can get rid of my overpowering newspaper. I push it aside; it flies about and lands near some roses as if to hush their proud and feverish whispering; finally, it unfolds around them. I will leave it there along with the silent whispering of the flowers. I formally propose now to examine the differences between this rag and the book, which is supreme. The newspaper is the sea; literature flows into it at will.

‘Now then—

‘The foldings of a book, in comparison with the large-sized, open newspaper, have an almost religious significance. But an even greater significance lies in their thickness when they are piled together; for then they form a tomb in miniature for our souls.

‘Every discovery made by printers has hitherto been absorbed in the most elementary fashion by the newspaper, and can be summed up in the word: Press. The result has been simply a plain sheet of paper upon which a flow of words is printed in the most unrefined manner. The immediacy of this system (which preceded the production of books) has undeniable advantages for the writer; with its endless line of posters and proof sheets it makes for improvisation. We have, in other words, a “daily paper.” But who, then, can make the gradual discovery of the meaning of this format, or even of a sort of popular fairyland charm about it? Then again, the leader, which is the most important part, makes its great free way through a thousand obstacles and finally reaches a state of disinterestedness. But what is the result of this victory? It overthrows the advertisement (which is Original Slavery) and, as if it were itself the powered printing press, drives it far back beyond intervening articles onto the fourth page and leaves it there in a mass of incoherent and inarticulate cries. A noble spectacle, without question. After this, what else can the newspaper possibly need in order to overthrow the book (even though at the bottom—or rather at its foundation, i.e. the feuilleton—it resembles the other in its pagination, thus generally regulating the columns)? It will need nothing, in fact; or practically nothing, if the book delays as it is now doing and carelessly continues to be a drain for it. And since even the book’s format is useless, of what avail is that extraordinary addition of foldings (like wings in repose, ready to fly forth again) which constitute its rhythm and the chief reason for the secret contained in its pages? Of what avail the priceless silence living there, and evocative symbols following in its wake, to delight the mind which literature has totally delivered?

‘Yes, were it not for the folding of the paper and the depths thereby established, that darkness scattered about in the form of black characters could not rise and issue forth in gleams of mystery from the page to which we are about to turn.

‘The newspaper with its full sheet on display makes improper use of printing—that is, it makes good packing paper. Of course, the obvious and vulgar advantage of it, as everybody knows, lies in its mass production and circulation. But that advantage is secondary to a miracle, in the highest sense of the word: words led back to their origin, which is the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, so gifted with infinity that they will finally consecrate Language. Everything is caught up in their endless variations and then rises out of them in the form of the Principle. Thus typography becomes a rite.

‘The book, which is a total expansion of the letter, must find its mobility in the letter; and in its spaciousness must establish some nameless system of relationships which will embrace and strengthen fiction.

‘There is nothing fortuitous in all this, even though ideas may seem to be the slaves of chance. The system guarantees them. Therefore we must pay no attention to the book industry with its materialistic considerations. The making of a book, with respect to its flowering totality, begins with the first sentence. From time immemorial the poet has knowingly placed his verse in the sonnet which he writes upon our minds or upon pure space. We, in turn, will misunderstand the true meaning of this book and the miracle inherent in its structure, if we do not knowingly imagine that a given motif has been properly place at a certain height on the page, according to its own or to the book’s distribution of light. Let us have no more of those successive, incessant, back and forth motions of our eyes, traveling from one line to the next back and forth motions of our eyes, traveling from one line to the next and beginning all over again. Otherwise we will miss that ecstasy in which we become immortal for a brief hour, free of all reality, and raise our obsessions to the level of creation. If we do not actively create in this way (as we would music on the keyboard, turning the pages of a score), we would do better to shut our eyes and dream. I am not asking for any servile obedience. for, on the contrary, each of us has within him that lightning-like initiative which can link the scattered notes together. Thus, in reading, a lonely, quiet concert is given for our minds, and they in turn, less noisily, reach its meaning. All our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation; but, unlike music, they will be rarefied, for they partake of thought. Poetry, accompanied by the Idea, is perfect Music, and cannot be anything else.

‘Now, returning to the case at hand and to the question of books which are read in the ordinary way, I raise my knife in protest, like the cook chopping off chickens’ heads.

‘The virginal foldings of the book are unfortunately exposed to the kind of sacrifice which caused the crimson-edged tomes of ancient times to bleed. I mean that they invite the paper-knife, which stakes out claims to possession of the book. Yet our consciousness alone gives us a far more intimate possession than such a barbarian symbol; for it joins the book now here, now there, varies its melodies, guesses its riddles, and ever re-creates it unaided. The folds will have a mark which remains intact and invites us to open or close the pages according to the author’s desires. There can be only blindness and discourtesy in so murderous and self-destructive an attempt to destroy the fragile, inviolable book. The newspaper holds the advantage here, for it is not exposed to such treatment. But it is nonetheless an annoying influence; for upon the book—upon the divine and intricate organism required by literature—it inflicts the monotonousness of its eternally unbearable columns, which are merely strung down the pages by hundreds.

‘“But.”

‘I hear some one say, “how can this situation be changed?” I shall takes space here to answer this question in detail; for the work of art—which is unique or should be—must provide illustrations. A tremendous burst of greatness, of thought, or of emotion, contained in a sentence printed in large type, with one gradually descending line to a page, should keep the reader breathless throughout the book and summon forth his powers of excitement. Around this would be small groups of secondary importance, commenting on the main sentence or derived from it, like a scattering of ornaments.

‘It will be said, I suppose, that I am attempting to flabbergast the mob with a lofty statement. That is true. But several of my close friends must have noticed that there are connections between this and their own instinct for arranging their writings in an unusual and ornamental fashion, halfway between verse and prose. Shall I be explicit? All right, then, just to maintain that reputation for clarity so avidly pursued by our make-everything-clear-and-easy era. Let us suppose that a given writer reveals one of his ideas in theoretical fashion and, quite possibly, in useless fashion, since he is ahead of his time. He well knows that such revelations, touching as they do on literature, should be brought out in the open. And yet he hesitates to divulge too brusquely things which do not yet exist; and thus, in his modesty, and to the mob’s amazement, he veils them over.

‘It is because of those daydreams we have before we resume our reading in a garden that our attention strays to a white butterfly flitting here and there, then disappearing; but also leaving behind it the same slight touch of sharpness and frankness with which I have presented these ideas, and flying incessantly back and forth before the people, who stand amazed.’ — Stéphane Mallarmé

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! In a way maybe the best lectures are teasers, as opposed to the ones where you think, ‘That was interesting. On to the next thing’. Or something. I hope you’ve cured the zombie part of you by now. But the zombie was productive! Huge congratulations on finishing your book! That’s massive! Have you sent it to your secret readers yet? Waiting for responses from the first readers is so intense. Stay confident. I’m good. We did start the color grading yesterday afternoon, and now we’re off and will be doing that on the usual morning till evening schedule again starting in about an hour. So far so good. It’s cool to see the film start looking like a film. What was your day full of? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Ha, I remember that porn. I don’t think I ever saw it. I wonder if it’s floating out there in in the X-rated ether. Little doubt. ** Steevee, Hi. I think it’s pretty normal and human to let off steam about people outside their hearing. I think it’s the very rare person who doesn’t do that, and mostly it’s a ‘no harm done’ situation. As to how to frame your curation proposal, it’s hard to say. I think you just have to be confident and enthusiastic in your own way and stay positive and keep the power dynamic in that situation in mind. It’s always stressful to do something like that, but it’s important that you do. I’m of the opinion that Errol Morris has never made a less than very interesting film, and I don’t get the anti-Morris thing that seems to be out there in some film critic/buff quarters. I think he’s very easily among the greatest living US filmmakers. A fellow Morris fan I know saw ‘B-Side’ and said it was characteristically excellent. Curious to hear your report. Look forward to your review. Everyone, Steevee’s newest review is of the documentary ‘Bronx Gothic’, and you can read his thoughts, and discover the film itself if you don’t already know of it, by punching this. ** Sypha, Hi. Well, even I, when I look back through the dead blog’s posts seeking restoration possibilities, come across lots of posts that I don’t remember doing at all. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Paris did that too at one point. I.e. a Love Parade. I didn’t go, and they never did it again, so maybe it’s a square peg/round hole thing. ** Grant maierhofer, Howdy, Grant! Well, duh, of course ‘Gag’ had to be there. Translated into Dutch! That’s cool. That’s a tough transfer: English to Dutch. My work got mangled by that transfer, apparently, and Holland gave up on me after two books. Anyway, very cool! ‘Clog’ is an excellent title. I love Darby Larson’ work too. Man, I hope the tough personal stuff gets becalmed as instantly as possible. Sorry, man. I’m excited for that new Kilpatrick too. I think you must mean the theater piece ‘This Is How You All Disappear’. That’s the only thing of mine I can think of where that line occurs. SOMA did the music with Peter Rehberg. Thanks for passing on your enthusiasms. I’m ‘on’ the ones I don’t know. ** H, Hi. You remember it from its previous life, cool. I haven’t read ‘Not One Day’, but I’m very interested to, thank you. The heat in Paris is gone for now. We’ll see for how long. Not long enough, no doubt. Okay, about the interview, whenever you like, thanks! ** Jamie, Jay-bird! (Insufficient coffee). I’m very happy to have filled your train ride with stuff. Color grading has started well. It’s kind of fascinating. Like probably all color graders, ours wants the film to be too color saturated (for our tastes), but the best thing to begin with is to let her do a pass of the whole film as a starting point/template, and then we’ll back through the film piece by piece and tune out the saturation as much as we can. But it is pretty cool to see the film start looking like a film. All is well. Oh, darn, no animation blow-out. That did sound almost a little too good to be true. But okay, onwards. It’s cool that the project has hooked your imagination. That’ll come in handy somehow here and in the future vis-a-vis other projects you’ll do, no doubt. Not really re: other things than the grading yesterday. But that’s cool. I like being consumed. I hope you caught up on your sleep. I hope your today came with sparkles. Unsaturated love, Dennis. ** Joseph, Hi, man. I will. It’s in my notes and in my immediate (probably weekend) future. Intriguing. I know, right? About the post and post-maker. I hoped he or she would re-pop up, but not so far. ** Misanthrope, The joke of a misanthrope, ha ha. ‘Listening to ABBA videos’. That’s an experimental approach to video. I like that. Yeah, the commute. You need a giant drone. I get that mouth allergy thing with pineapple. ** S., I want the sun to chill and stop being so needy all the motherfucking time. I mean, we know it’s there. It doesn’t need to shout. Our film in progress is kind of uncanny, I think, maybe. Definitely not a pastiche. But yeah. ** Kyler, Hi, K! I remember there was something I liked about Fire Island, but I don’t for the life of me remember what it was. I wish I could have tried your grandmother’s too, trust me. I think the quote was ‘This blog is a Joni Mitchell-free zone’. Or that’s what I meant. Yeah, Joni fans are hardcore. I’m surprised that disparagement didn’t land me in court or something. Special light bulbs? Special how so? ** Right. The blog would like you to use your brain, etc. re: a fascinating project/book by Mr. Mallarme today. Give it a shot, why don’t you? See you tomorrow.

20 Comments

  1. Hey, man,

    How’s it going? What you’re up to?

    Once again I’m in your country right now.

    I’m really glad you enjoyed ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’. Love that movie. Just got it on Blu-Ray.

    I’m waiting for any news of when I’ll be able to see my beloved Sofi’s ‘The Beguiled’ in theaters in my country. Hope it doesn’t take that long. *Sigh*.

    Hey, ever heard Scout Niblett? I just recently re-acquainted with and re-discovered her ‘I Conjure Series’ album. I’d completely forgotten about it. At the time I didn’t really like it very much; but now I fucking LOVE it. Ever heard it? I very, very highly recommend it. I really think it could be something up your alley.

    I really appreciate being able to talk to you even if it’s in this manner.

    Good day; good luck,

    Lots of love and hugs,

    A.

  2. I’m just very nervous about the meeting on Friday because there’s so much riding on it. I’m not exaggerating when I say this could have a big impact on my future. I really want to pursue film curation, and what happens then will basically determine whether I’m able to.

    You will not what like I have to say about THE B-SIDE. I totally agree about Morris’ greatness, but he screwed up with his film. Its subject. photographer Elsa Dorfman, is a compelling storyteller with a lot to say, but after a certain point, the fact that the film never leaves her studio (except via the images she shot) gets tiresome. But the big problem is Morris’ direction, which is the weakest of any of his films. Frankly, I don’t know what he was trying to do, but he didn’t pull it off. THE B-SIDE is full of jarring titled camera angles seemingly selected at random and edited together ineptly. The whole film feels incredibly slight – a friend of mine compared it to watching his aunt show him slides, although Doorman took photos of many well-known and talented artists, and much of the film is devoted to her experiences with Allen Ginsberg. It’s quite obvious that its American distributor knows that, as they’ve padded it out with a 2011 short by Morris about a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist. Does it have a French release date? I’m sure you’ll like it more than I did, but I really am someone who thinks FAST, CHEAP AND OUT OF CONTROL is one of the greatest films ever made, documentary or not.

    I downloaded Anthony Pateras’ BLOOD STRETCHED OUT yesterday. (I’m pretty sure I’m the only one ever to download a Jay-Z album and that album back to back!) I agree with your enthusiasm for it. This is music that almost demands physical participation: it’s that intense. I’ve heard three Pateras album now, and all sound completely different. And he’s released 8 albums in the past 18 months!

    Steve

  3. “Le Livre” is Mallarme’s “Out 1” — a work in which the “impossible” becomes possible.

    I have NEVER liked Errol Morris — cinematically or personally.

    MY but Philip Larkin was a piece of work!

    • I had heard horror stories about how difficult Morris can be as a person, but when I interviewed him about 10 years ago, he was totally polite, easygoing and gave smart answers.

  4. Hi Dennis! Still health bad but have been visiting here every day, only too tired to comment. Thank you very much for including my book in your list. A finished new one is in submission process now, and another will also be finished this year. Gladdened to read the film editing is going well. Have no list to speak of myself I’m afraid, though I have been watching and enjoying Twin Peaks. I read Blood Meridian a month ago, which I also enjoyed enough to buy another of his books. Suttree. Wasn’t inspired by the first 4 pages though, and set it aside. Worth continuing in your opinion? The one thing from this year I have put in my mouth and swallowed easily was Slowdive, after a prompt from Bill, here. Thanks Bill for that, and for putting me in your own list, if you’re reading. I hope the film continues to go to plan and best wishes,

    Joe

  5. Mallarmé is the real deal. No wonder Marcel Duchamp was into him! Not a conceptual artist, but perhaps Mallarmé is the first Conceptual Poet! And I have a copy, translated into English, his fashion magazine that he wrote, edited, etc. It’s a great and fascinating read. I have always had this fantasy of doing a magazine or even a blog where I take different identities and write the whole thing. Mallarmé’s interest in fashion is interesting. And then again, it may have just been a job for him to do. Translating his poetry must be very difficult. I have one book put by the University of California “Collected Poems” that is large sized, so it can lay out the poems designed by Mallarmé. He’s often thrown in with Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Baudelaire, but he’s a totally different type of poet/writer/thinker. An amazing writer/poet. I love him.

  6. Dennis, I knew I didn’t get that quote quite right. The way YOU said it is what made me laugh. The light bulbs are globe lights for this special lamp I have. I can get them on the Bowery for a decent price. Illumination!

    • Speaking of illumination, do you know the author Andre Aciman? Someone recommended his novel, Call Me by Your Name…and it’s on its way to me at the library. In the meantime, I picked up his latest Enigma Variations, called a novel, but really a collection of 5 related stories. I had read the last one, Abington Square, in Granta once, and liked it a lot. And the one called Manfred, about a man unrequitedly in love with his locker room tennis buddy, really has got me. You know him Dennis? I go for long periods without being able to read, but this guy has me hooked (he’s pubbed by FSG).

  7. By the way, I think it’s a good idea at this meeting not to talk about my other programming ideas beyond the two that I’m doing work on right now. The next one I’d like to work on involves an American director with a very small body of work with whom I’ve been in personal contact in the past, and my co-workers are well aware of my enthusiasm for him (although I haven’t yet pitched a retrospective.) I would like to devote a week to his films at some point next year, especially because I’m pretty sure he’s in some stage of production on a new one. I have no idea when that film will be released, but it would be great to be able to get a sneak preview or tie a retrospective to its release in some way. The director is very accessible, and I’m sure if I sent him a message on Twitter asking him to DM me right now, I could find out when his next film is coming out, the print sources for all his other films (although I already know two), when he might be able to travel to New York to personally appear at such a series, etc. But I fear being pushy and coming across like I want to take over this project and have it dominated by my ideas and taste. At the same time, I am kind of implicitly saying “this could benefit from major new input into programming, coming from me,” and I think that’s true, although I would never come right out and say that to the people I’m working with. The thing is, I’m really excited about curation, and I have four concrete ideas for future programs right now. I just fear totally fucking things up if I say the wrong things on Friday.

    • I got a long E-mail from one of the people I’m meeting with, and I think things will go OK but I should probably lower my hopes unless I’m incredibly eloquent and convincing. He also went into detail about how much I can talk about these projects in public and who I can talk about them with; unfortunately, I was left with the impression he only wants me to talk to fellow film critics about them, but maybe I’m mistaken and things will be clarified Friday. I did wind up learning that the lead film critic of the Village Voice is really excited about one of the things we’re doing, which is useful information since he might also be eventually assigned to review it.

  8. Yoyo Denmaster. How was Tuesday’s colour-grading? (I was sorely tempted to spell colour color there and it felt kinky.) I’ve got a total thing for big bold colours, but from the little hints I’ve had as to what your movie may look like (your blog post about what was inspiring it and that pic at the top of the page) I can see that over-saturated colour is probably not what you’re after. With our animation we’re trying to think of ways to make the two different worlds our characters exist in look markedly dissimilar and atm are sucking the colour out of one and turning things up full in the other.
    I’m writing from the train between Newcastle and Edinburgh after a tough seeming day. We ‘polished’ scripts as they’re being rushed into production, but don’t feel too good about them. I do definitely want to make another cartoon sometime, if I can ever find anyone to fund a weird but beautifully coloured horror series haha.
    I think Mallarme may be a wee bit over my head, but I’ll quiz Hannah when I get home as she’s really good at explaining folks and their ideas in a way that I can grasp.
    Hope your enjoying being colour-consumed.
    Top of the morning to you!
    Well intentioned but rambunctious love,
    Jamie

  9. Hi!

    Yes, I think I’ve mostly managed to cure the zombie part though last night seemed to be the exact repetition of the one before. I’m in a good and almost energized mood because I spent the whole day with Anita and I gave her my book so… so yes, the first reader already has it! It really is extremely intense to be waiting for the response! Thank you so much for your positivity and congratulation! It really means so much to me!
    This is so very exciting – your film is rapidly taking shape! How’s the color grading going? And how was your day otherwise? I hope everything’s lovely there!

  10. hi D

    Its been a long time cause I’m working too much 🙁 but thats ok. Love Mallarme especially a throw of the dice, Ive read some Quentin Meillassoux essays about him or well that poem too, which were great. Just saw you watched John Wick 2 which is funny cause I watched both the other night 🙂 2 is the best. Ended up watching them cause I was hanging out with Jessa Crispin when she was in Dublin, she was talking about them and Id only seen bits. A certain book seller said we should meet up and she was right, fun times were had. Jessa was doing a talk in Berkeley Books last night, did you go?

    Your half a year list is awesome as usual, I just ordered Susan Howe’s Debths 🙂 and you have given me a good list to explore book for the rest of the year especially the poetry! That Kate Zambreno is beautiful, I just picked up Heroines too. I want to pick up the books Wonder put out but they get expensive over the waters so will have to wait for now. And you’ve got Writers Who Love Too Much already, I think that and Chris Kraus’ Book on Acker are the two I most want to read later this year.
    Music wise im with you on Emptyset, Basinski, Pharmakon, Chino Amobi <3, Jlin, GAS. have to check out the others and need that Wayne Koestenbaum wax, Eileen Myles has a record out too which i should really get too.
    Okay heres a quick list of some books and music

    Books (not all out this year but ones I read & stuck)
    Carlo Rovelli – reality is not what it seems & 7 brief lessons on physics
    Maggie Nelson – Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions
    David Wojnarowicz – close to the knives
    Matthew Dickman – mayakovsky's revolver
    Joe Wendroth – If I Don't Breathe How Do I Sleep
    Kate Zambreno – The book of mutter
    Aram Saroyan – Complete minimal poems
    Rene Ricard – Poems 79-80
    Charlie Fox – This Young Monster
    Renee Gladman – Calamities
    Micheal Lewis – Flash Boys
    Emily Berry – Stranger Baby
    Jarret Kobek – I hate the internet
    Chris Kraus – aliens and anorexia

    Music
    Julius Eastman – Feminine
    PAN – Mono No Aware
    Sevdaliza – Ison
    Max Richter – Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works
    Chino Amobi – Paradiso
    Laurel Halo – Dust
    ADR – Throat
    Hard Ton – PARTY HARD TON
    NON – NON WORLDWIDE COMPILATION VOLUME 1
    Mica Levi & Oliver Coates – Remain Calm
    Drab Majesty – The Demonstration
    Yaeji – Yaeji EP
    Jlin – Black Origami
    Mic Levi – Jackie
    Charlemagne Palestine – Strumming music (old but a re release)
    Kara-Lis Coverdale – Grafts
    Kiddy Smile – various 12's
    Yves Tumor – Serpent Music

    Hope alls going well film wise and any new mouth watering pastries? due to conversations last week my jonesing for Paris is at epic high levels, sadly free time is non existent for the next while, but I do get to see some folk off the Death of Rave label, Fatima Al Qadiri and Greg Wilson at the weekend and Sunn O))) in a week!!!
    Miss you D
    jx

  11. I’m not really au fait with Mallarme but I enjoyed this Spotlighting a lot. It’s very cool he wrote a fashion magazine and I’ve put the book of that on my wish list.

  12. Here’s the program for the “Scandals of Paris” show at Lou Walters’ “Latin Quarter.” Lou was Baba Wawa’s father. The club was the chicest Mafia-fronted night club in 1950’s New York. Lou’s lawyer was of course Roy Cohn (who Baba longed to marry.)

  13. Dennis, Mallarme! I bought a collection of his poems once…and fucking never got around to reading it. The little I’ve read here and there is great. So interesting, his take on the “death of the author.” It seems to be the opposite so much nowadays, where the author totally overwhelms/outshines his or her work. It’s too much a cult of personality for so many of them…though I blame the critics who always focus on the author more than his work. Kind of like bad reviews I’ve read of your work where the focus is essentially “I don’t DC, here’s why” rather than an actual review of the work in question. Hate that shit.

    My one big food allergy is bananas. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before. The backs of my arms swell up like Schwarzenegger’s and they itch. I’ve not eaten a banana in over 20 years for fear that the next one might engender a worse reaction and, say, my throat swells up or something.

    Where is everyone? Or am I dreaming?

  14. Okay, there they are. This is weird. When I clicked on to the comment section here, the only comment showing was Armando’s. After I hit “Post Comment,” all the rest showed up.

  15. mallarme is my fav parnassian then verlaine maybe apollonaire my favorite of all never quite make it to parnass i seem to get sucked into an abyss of midnight in the marais the light over there is heinously obtuse come to think of it… oh what a devils plaything we are… promise of magic and shining use power and pride fluency and command… on the death of the author lemmy said it best “i did it whatever i did.” i drink a variation of a white russian called a blind russian finnegans wake is a real panty dropper. i live in a world of ghosts like cattle was uncanny boys like spiders that i could pet the dialogue sounded like a fading into a deep and fantastic sleep. feeling like i am being crushed by the spanish language. i sometimes think ive done it all then i open my self to my memory

    mr s he
    he go to pr
    to fuck one legged donkey

  16. Argh, I just realized New Juche’s Mountainhead got “spell-corrected” to Fountainhead on my list.

    I know Mallarme (almost spell-corrected to Mallard!) from various French composers. This is an odd and interesting project.

    Dennis, I’ll be in LA for a few days. Mostly Claremont for work though. I’ll mostly be downtown for 48 hours sans car. Will probably go to the Broad. And I’m staying 2 blocks from The Last Bookstore! Other suggestions?

    Bill

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