My speech is a warning that at this very moment death is loose in the world, that it has suddenly appeared between me, as I speak, and the being I address: it is there between us as the distance that separates us, but this distance is also what prevents us from being separated, because it contains the condition for all understanding. Death alone allows me to grasp what I want to attain; it exists in words as the only way they can have meaning. Without death, everything would sink into absurdity and nothingness. (Blanchot, The Work of Fire, 323-24)
2. In brief
‘Little is known about Maurice Blanchot except that he wrote an odd style of fiction. His novels are not really novels, his stories barely stories. His prose is very French in that it can be almost mathematical, yet it simultaneously evokes the most intense feelings of loss, misunderstanding, joy, and death. Just as the Marquis de Sade calmly and carefully enumerated the most horrific details of elaborate tortures, Blanchot carefully flushes out the minutiae of psycho-emotional existence.
‘While central in de Sade, the flesh is conspicuously absent from Blanchot’s short and pithy tales, or “rÈcits,” as he called them. His books are virtually bereft of physical descriptions; the reader rarely knows the appearance of a character, the color of the room, the smells that linger. Rather, Blanchot concentrates on the effects — always multiple, never predictable — of people living, sometimes interacting with each other, often alone.
‘While Blanchot’s books don’t seem to involve much action, in fact they contain nothing but movement. Every moment, every glance, every mutter sends ripples throughout a situation: the repercussions of a whisper are known in the heavens. The sun setting, a knock on a door, the way a wave falls on the beach — in these stories, the most subtle machinations of the world are intensely experienced. Classical motivation and typical plot-drivers are absent in Blanchot’s works, and in their place we find pure event; Blanchot wrote in a realm where bodies are secondary to the things that happen to them.
‘And the greatest thing that can happen to bodies, at least according to Blanchot, is death. Death lingers in his nouns, is carried by his verbs, can be found lurking in his commas and periods and parentheses. His books are ghostly — neither dead nor alive, neither bodily nor heavenly.’ — artandculture.com
3. My two cents
‘If you put a gun to my head — not that you would — and asked me whom I’d consider the greatest writer of the 20th century — not that asking my opinion is worth risking a police encounter — I’d say, ‘Put the gun down. Maurice Blanchot.’ He’s my favorite fiction writer and my favorite writer of what some people call philosophy and others tag as language theory. Death Sentence is either my favorite novel of all time, or it’s tied for favorite with Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. To me, Blanchot is to the written text as Bresson is to the captured image, which is to say not so much the greatest at his chosen medium — obviously a ridiculous proposition — as he is an artist as singular, ruthless, pure, and infested with belief in the abilities of language as anyone who has ever tried their hand at writing. He might also be the writer who most warrants the words ‘not everyone’s cup of tea.’ Many find his work impossibly dense and cold. To quote from his unusually excellent Wikipedia entry, ‘It is difficult yet imperative to note the particular experience of reading Blanchot: his grip on the reader and his ability to mix anguish, philosophical thought, an imagination of death, and a narrative where everything seems to almost happen is often particularly discomforting.’ To me, his work’s ‘discomfort’ is the formula for ecstacy. His work is one of the impossibly high standards against which I try to assess my own writing, which leaves me perpetually unsatisfied and disappointed with my efforts, which in turn causes me to keep working hard for whatever good it does.’ — DC, ’06
Maurice Blanchot’s house
Maurice Blanchot: ReadySteadyBook Site
Espace Maurice Blanchot
Maurice Blanchot et ses contemporains
Maurice Blanchot and the events of May 1968
Maurice Blanchot @ Studio Cleo
Maurice Blanchot : The Infinite Conversation : The Absent Voice
Maurice Blanchot’s obituary @ The Guardian
Jean-Luc Nancy on Maurice Blanchot
Etat Present: Maurice Blanchot
Maurice Blanchot: A Meta-Poetic View
Maurice Blanchot, The Absent Voice
5. from Death Sentence
She had fallen asleep, her face wet with tears. Far from being spoiled by it, her youth seemed dazzling: only the very young and healthy can bear such a flood of tears that way; her youth made such an extraordinary impression on me that I completely forgot her illness, her awakening and the danger she was still in. A little later, however, her expression changed. Almost under my eyes, the tears had dried and the tear stains had disappeared; she became severe, and her slightly raised lips showed the contraction of her jaw and her tightly clenched teeth, and gave her a rather mean and suspicious look: her hand moved in mine to free itself, I wanted to release it, but she seized me again right away with a savage quickness in which there was nothing human. When the nurse came to talk to me–in a low voice and about nothing important–J. immediately awoke and said in a cold way, “I have my secrets with her too.” She went back to sleep at once.
…As I listened without pause to her slight breathing, faced by the silence of the night, I felt extremely helpless and miserable just because of the miracle that I had brought about. Then for the first time, I had a thought that came back to me later and in the end won out. While I was still in that state of mind–it must have been about three o’clock–J. woke up without moving at all–that is, she looked at me. That look was very human: I don’t mean affectionate or kind, since it was neither; but it wasn’t cold or marked by the forces of this night. It seemed to understand me profoundly; that is why I found it terribly friendly, though it was at the same time terribly sad. “Well,” she said, “you’ve made a fine mess of things.” She looked at me again without smiling at all, as she might have smiled, as I afterwards hoped she had, but I think my expression did not invite a smile. Besides, that look did not last very long.
Even though her eyelids were lowered, I am convinced that from then on she lay awake; she lay awake because the danger was too great, or for some other reason; but she purposefully kept herself at the edge of consciousness, manifesting a calm, and an alertness in that calm, that was very unlike her tension of a short time before. What proved to me that she was not asleep–though she was unaware of what went on around her because something else held her interest–was that a little later she remembered what had happened nearly an hour before: the nurse, not sure whether or not she was asleep, had leaned over her and suggested she have another shot, a suggestion which she did not seem to be at all aware of. But a little later she said to the nurse, “No, no shot this evening,” and repeated insistently, “No more shots.” Words, which I have all the time in the world to remember now. Then she turned slightly towards the nurse and said in a tranquil tone, “Now then, take a good look at death,” and pointed her finger at me. She said this in a very tranquil and almost friendly way, but without smiling.
6. Regards from the high and mighty
LYDIA DAVIS: ‘I wanted to meet Blanchot very much. I felt a very close connection to him, and he wrote me very flattering, very humble letters, in terms of the leeway I had with translating his work. -These are your works, these translations are yours to make,- and so on. Part of that was just French formality and politeness. But part of it, in his case, was really genuine. So I felt this connection with him, but he really never saw anyone anymore, not even people who had known him for decades. But I thought he might make an exception just because I’d been translating his work. So I wrote him a note when I was going to Paris, saying I would be there on such-and-such a day and was staying at this hotel, and wanted to call him. I said I knew he rarely met anybody, but was hoping he would make an exception and so on. And I wrote it in plenty of time. But I went there and didn’t hear anything from him and went back to England where I was staying. And once I was safely back in England, I received a letter from him there, saying that he was sorry, but he never met anybody. But I was amused at the way he carefully made sure it all stayed on English territory, and not in Paris. But I’m quite sympathetic to that.’
DELEUZE AND GUATTARI: ‘The linguist Maurice Blanchot is interested in enunciation where the subject of the enunciation is not required as the necessary condition. Blanchot gives the examples of the use of the words ‘ONE’ and ‘HE’ which in no way take the place of a subject, but instead do away with any subject. The HE does not represent a subject but rather makes a diagram of an assemblage. It does not overcode statements, it does not transcend them as do the first two person; on the contrary, it prevents them from falling under the tyranny of subjective or signifying constellations.’ (from A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia)
JEAN-PAUL SARTRE: ‘The fantastic one humanizes, is with the ideal purity of its essence, happens what was. It is undressed of his artifices: without nothing in the hands, nor in the pockets; we recognize that the track on the beach, not of the súcubos is ours, nor of the ghosts, nor of the sources that cry, is of the men and the creator of the fantastic proclamation that is identified with the fantastic object. The fantastic one is not, for the contemporary man, more than a way between one hundred to reenviar its own image.’ (from Sartre’s review of Blanchot’s ‘The Most High’)
GEORGES BATAILLE: ‘I asked MB (Maurice Blanchot) to read a passage from the book I was carrying around with me and he read it aloud (nobody, to my knowledge, reads with a more hard-edged simplicity, with a more passionate grandeur than he. I was too drunk and no longer remember the exact passage. He himself had drunk as much as I had. It would be a mistake to think that such a reading given by men intoxicated with drink is but a provocative paradox…. I believe we are united in this, that we are both open, defenceless – through temptation – to forces of destruction, but not like the reckless, rather like children whom a cowardly naivete never abandons.’
SAMUEL BECKETT: ‘Besides Blanchot‘s essays on Beckett‘s post-World War II trilogy and the novel How It Is, and his tribute to Beckett after Beckett‘s death, no other criticisms apparently exist by either man that refer to the other‘s work; nor did the two writers communicate through letters. Nonetheless, a writerly correspondence does surely exist between the two artists. Blanchot‘s advocacy of the writer‘s hemiplegic self-forgetting, -exile, -dispossession which drives a vagrant, aporetic writing conspires with Beckett‘s: a writing poised in stark contrast to the dialectical hypostasis of logocentrism, a writing of nonrelational passivity, without aim or result, a writing of bad conscience at the threshold of the il y a, akin to the condemned prisoner‘s —I have nothing to say.’ (from Curt Willits, The Blanchot/Beckett Correspondence)
MICHEL FOUCAULT: ‘If the only site for language is indeed the solitary sovereignty of “I speak” then in principle nothing can limit it—not the one to whom it is addressed, not the truth of what it says, not the values or systems of representation it utilizes. In short, it is no longer discourse and the communication of meaning, but a spreading forth of language in its raw state, an unfolding of pure exteriority. And the subject that speaks is less the responsible agent of a discourse (what holds it, what uses it to assert and judge, what sometimes represents itself by means of a grammatical form designed to have that effect) than a non-existence in whose emptiness the unending outpouring of language uninterruptedly continues. (from ‘Maurice Blanchot: The Thought from the Outside”)
JACQUES DERRIDA: ‘Life can only be light from the moment that it stays dead-living while being freed, that is to say, released from itself. A life without life, an experience of lightness, an instance of “without,” a logic without logic of the “X without X,” or of the “not” or of the “except,” of the “being without being,” etc. In “A Primitive Scene,” we could read: “To live without living, like dying without death: writing returns us to these enigmatic propositions.”
—-‘The proof that we have here, with this testimony and reference to an event, the logical and textual matrix of Blanchot’s entire corpus, so to speak, is that this lightness of “without,” the thinking of the “X without X” comes to sign, consign or countersign the experience of the neuter as ne uter, neither-nor by bringing it together. This experience draws to itself and endures, in its very passion, the thinking as well as the writing of Blanchot, between literature and the right to death. Neither…nor: in this way the witness translates the untranslatable demourance….The neuter is the experience or passion of a thinking that cannot stop at either opposite without also overcoming the opposition — neither this nor that, neither happiness nor unhappiness.’ (Demeure: Fiction and Testimony, 88-90).
7. If I were you, I’d start here …
Death Sentence (Station Hill Press; $12.95)
This long awaited reprint of a book about which John Hollander wrote: “A masterful version of one of the most remarkable novels in any language since World War II,” is the story of the narrator’s relations with two women, one terminally ill, the other found motionless by him in a darkened room after a bomb explosion has separated them. “Though more than 40 years, the French writer Maurice Blanchot has produced an astonishing body of fiction and criticism,” writes Gilbert Sorrentino in the New York Review of Books,” and John Updike in The New Yorker: “Blanchot’s prose gives an impression, like Henry James, of carrying meanings so fragile they might crumble in transit.” Translated by Lydia Davis
The Station Hill Blanchot Reader (Station Hill; $29.95)
The Blanchot Reader brings together a substantial collection of critical and philosophical writings (The Gaze of Orpheus) and the only edition in print in English of his major works of fiction (Thomas the Obscure, Death Sentence, Vicious Circles, The Madness of the Day, When the Time Comes and the one who was standing apart from me). General readers and students alike will seek out these essential works by the writer Susan Sontag calls “an unimpeachably major voice in modern French literature.” Translated by Lydia Davis, Paul Auster, and Robert Lamberton
The Space of Literature (University of Nebraska Press; $23.95)
The Space of Literature, first published in France in 1955, is central to the development of Blanchot’s thought. In it he reflects on literature and the unique demand it makes upon our attention. Thus he explores the process of reading as well as the nature of artistic creativity, all the while considering the relation of the literary work to time, to history, and to death. This book consists not so much in the application of a critical method or the demonstration of a theory of literature as in a patiently deliberate meditation upon the literary experience, informed most notably by studies of Mallarmé, Kafka, Rilke, and Hölderlin. Blanchot’s discussions of those writers are among the finest in any language.
The Most High (University of Nebraska Press; $18.00)
“The Most High‘s somewhat hallucinatory parables clearly have their precedent in Kafka. But if the novel bears a resemblance to The Trial, it portrays a trial whose stakes are reversed. . . . Blanchot’s work is of a cold absurdity. If Sorge [the book’s protagonist] has any ‘significance,’ it is that he is not even insignificant, not even the anti-hero of modernism, but rather an absolute nonhero—the only role possible in a posthistorical society.” —Review of Contemporary Literature.
The Writing of the Disaster (University of Nebraska Press; $18.95)
Modern history is haunted by the disasters of the century — world wars, concentration camps, Hiroshima, and the Holocaust—grief, anger, terror, and loss beyond words, but still close, still impending. How can we write or think about disaster when by its very nature it defies speech and compels silence, burns books and shatters meaning?
8. On writing
‘To write (of) oneself is to cease to be, in order to confide in a guest – the other, the reader – entrusting yourself to him who will henceforth have as an obligation, and indeed as a life, nothing but your inexistence.’
‘Reading is anguish, and this is because any text, however important, or amusing, or interesting it maybe .. is empty – at bottom it doesn’t exist; you have to cross an abyss, and if you do not jump, you do not comprehend.’
‘Art requires that he who practices it should be immolated to art, should become other, not another, not transformed from the human being he was into an artist with artistic duties, satisfactions and interests, but into nobody, the empty, animated space where art’s summons is heard.’
‘Whoever wants to be absent from words at every instant or to be present only to those that he reinvents is endlessly occupied with them so that, of all authors, those who most eagerly seek to avoid the reproach of verbalism [i.e. using cliché] are also exactly the ones that are most exposed to this reproach. It is the same for those who through the marvels of asceticism have had the illusion of distancing themselves from all literature. For having wanted to rid themselves of conventions and of forms, in order to touch directly the secret world and the profound metaphysics that they meant to reveal, they finally contented themselves with using this world, this secret, this metaphysics as they would conventions and forms that they complacently exhibited and that constituted at once the visible framework and the foundation of their works. […] In other words, for this kind of writer metaphysics, religion, and emotions take the place of technique and language. They are a system of expression, a literary genre – in a word, literature.’
Nowhere Without No: A Tribute to Maurice Blanchot
A brief, excellent book of works written in memory of MB. Includes the speech Derrida gave at Blanchot’s cremation, pieces by Blanchot’s two major English translators Lydia Davis and Charlotte Mandell, poet Jacques Dupin, and others. Read about it here.
‘The merit of Nowhere Without No is that, unlike so much Blanchot-related material, it doesn’t strain to say too much. Such is the silence brought by death perhaps. The latter also means the distance between the author and his work is foregrounded, if only in the reader’s mind.’ — Spike Magazine
Noli Me Legere … To Maurice Blanchot (SIRR CD 018)
A compilation of sound art/music inspired by Blanchot’s work, featuring Brandon LaBelle, Toshisa Tsunoda, Paolo Raposo, Julien Ottavi, o.a. Read about the album and/or order it here.
Download a free pdf of Maurice Blanchot’s ‘The Last Man’ @ Ubuweb
‘A dense, dream-like exploration of the extreme limits of this mystery, written some ten years prior to the Death of the Author, (though unpublished in English until thirty years later) Maurice Blanchot’s The Last Man (Le Dernier Homme, 1957) could be considered a narrative follow-up to The Space of Literature (L’Espace littéraire, 1955) or a fictional companion to the critical essays composing The Book to Come (Le Livre à venir, 1959). One can imagine an infinite conversation between these works: drifting wearily across abyssal alterities—the echo, in advance, of what has not been said and will never be said. But this sumptuous récit alone demands the reader’s full attention—marvelously, Blanchot writes what cannot be written without losing it as un-writable by writing it (Hans-Yost Frey, YFS, 1998). Narrating at the threshold of this impossible writing, The Last Man weaves a blurring of several prosopopetic characters towards a radical revision of the subject and the text. The prose itself never crystallizes into an unambiguous statement—Blanchot’s trangressive philosophy peculiar in the tantalizingly pleasurable suspension of the never-fulfilled promise of understanding.’ — Ubuweb
Pure War/The Madness of the Day. Theatre piece created and performed by The Alchemical Theatre in NYC, 1985 in their squatted theatre space on 13th St in the East Village. Pure War was based on the writings of Paul Virilio and Maurice Blanchot. It was a collective creation directed by Carlo Altomare who also wrote the music.
Maurice Blanchot’s astrological chart
‘When I kill myself, maybe it is ‘I’ that actually commits the killing but it is not ‘I’ that dies and it is not ‘my death’ either – the death I provoked – that I experience, but the death I rejected, neglected, and that is this negligence itself, a perpetual escape and unaccomplishment.’ (L’Espace litteraire)
p.s. Hey. Welcome back to me. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! That free-style day is ages ago now, but I trust it was big fun. My trip was … interesting? Long story short, let’s just say I made a big mistake in not seeing a chiropractor before I left because my back thing got severely bad almost as soon as I got to LA. I hobbled through the event and related duties — studio visits with art students, etc. — with pleasure under the circumstances, but I spent most of the trip in pain and fucked up until a chiropractor there finally got me on route to painlessness right before I flew back here. So I did a fraction of what I’d hoped. Managed to see a few old friends whom I hadn’t seen in years, the new Wes Anderson film, which I loved, and the Halloween Home Haunt convention that was partly why I went over there, and that was cool. But, yeah, it wasn’t quite the fun and busy trip I had intended. But it was okay, or at least my semi-bad jet lag is telling me it was, ha ha. How was your 10 days in a nutshell? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. As I explain to Dora, I was semi-laid up and in pain while I was there for the most part, and the opposite of good company. Sorry I missed you. Next time. I’ve never heard of Joan Murray, thank you. I’ll find out. Surprise! (on the Donald Cammell post restoration) and thank you! Yes, Art Center is not the easiest place to get to, especially when one is carless. I think it went well, thank you. Yes, Cecil Taylor is a huge, huge loss. I know you and Bill had personal issues with him, but musically he was a true visionary. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Let me alert the folks to the things you did during the duration. Everyone, Here are some Steve Erickson related links for you who haven’t clicked the originals during my time away. (1) ‘I’ve updated my list of music favorites from 2018 for March, with audio or video clips for all but two of them’. (2) ‘Here’s my review of noise rap group Moodie Black’s new album LUCAS ACID. I was gratified that they and their label responded extremely positively to this on Twitter.’ (3) ‘Here’s my review of Lynne Ramsay’s YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE’. ** Keepton, Hey, bud. Man, sorry we missed each other, and very sorry about your debacle in Athens. Yeah, like I already said, I didn’t like that place the time I was there. Hope you’re recovered and are being realer than real. ** JM, Hi. On the basic level, I search various sites where slaves and masters seek hook ups, at least imaginative hook ups, and I gather the rare ones that are interesting externally to me as, I don’t know, forms, texts. I do various things to disguise the slaves’ actual identities when I transfer the into the blog, and, yeah, I think I’ll keep those particular tricks of the trade to myself so as not to dispel whatever magic they may have. Thank you for the letter about ‘Closer’ very much. That little poem is very beautiful. How are you? ** Mike W, Hi, welcome. My educated guess after spending a lot of time on those sites gathering the profiles for many years is that probably 80 or more % of everything everyone writes there is just guys spinning fantasies towards each other. If the more extreme stuff that is described as having happened actually happened, those sites would have been shut down ages ago. Thanks. What’s up with you? ** Count Reeshard, Hi, Count. Thanks, man. Everyone, Remember the Donald Cammell guest-post by David Ehrenstein from a little over a week ago? The kind Count Reeshard added this sidebar, and it’s very interesting, so check it out. ** Liam Garriock, Hi, Liam. Welcome to this place, and thank you very much on behalf of Mr. Ehrenstein. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh! Thanks so much for coming to the Art Centre event. Crazy that you knew Wieners at that point. I’m guessing that’s in your memoir in some form maybe? Thanks too about the Roussel. Yeah, there’s something about that post that just seems totally dreamy to me. It makes me want to write a novel in the form of a gallery exhibition check list. ** Dom Lyne, Hi, Dom! Nice to see you! My Easter weekend was spent flying to LA and being jet lagged, but it was okay. That’s fantastic about the re-connection with your younger brother. Wow, that’s amazing. So happy for you, pal! Great and very cogent thoughts on Kip Kinkel. And very happy to hear you’re working hard on new book and new music, of course. Whoa, trippy about the alternative soundtracks for the trailers. Wow! I’ll go check them out as soon as I either take a nap or add a lot more coffee to my body as I am in a thick jet lag cloud at this very moment. I’m good apart from getting over horrible back pain and jet lag. Otherwise everything is pretty hunky dory. Take care. ** James Bouter, Hi, James. Welcome, and thank you for coming in. Yeah, gutted about Charlie Shively’s death. I knew him a little, mostly back in the 80s and early 90s, and he was a singular guy and a hero. ** Ron Slate, Hi, Ron. Very nice to meet you. I look forward very much to reading your work on Wieners. Thank you very much for the share. Everyone, visitor Ron Slate wrote a piece about John Wieners that he shared on the comments relative to last week’s John Wieners Day. I highly recommend you read it. Do that here. ** Bill, Hi, Bill! My trip was … a trip, just not the one I fully intended. But still. How are you? What’s new? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, cool, about the YnY website, and that event! I’ll get over there the first minute my jet lagged brain isn’t running on fumes. Everyone, Big and excellent news from _B_A aka Ben Robinson: ‘The Yuck ‘n Yum website has now been updated with details of the forthcoming Interregnum show in Seattle, featuring DLs such as Thomas Moore, Oscar B and Lizz Brady. It all opens on 3rd May, and I’m super excited about it!’ I don’t know Limmy, but I’ll see what I can find about him. I have seen that Ronaldo statue, yep, and yep. Oh, on the blurb, okay. My brain is toast today, but … when do you need it by? Of course I’ll do it. Give me a deadline, if you don’t mind. ** Alex rose, Alex! Cool, cool. The Momus book is grisly? I kind of suspected that, weirdly or not weirdly. If your ears were burning a few days ago, and if you wondered why, it was because Bruce Hainley and I were singing/shouting your work’s praises lengthily over breakfast. Psst, I’m going to look at that bass player as soon as I nap or artificially wake up. I need a new bass player crush. It’s been many ages since Alex James sat on a throne. Although, wait, the Go Betweens … so this bass guy is a historical figure. Oh, that’s fine. Bunch of thunderous love from within the cloud I am. ** Richard, Hi. Wow, I think there must be maybe at most 10 or 12 copies of that little booklet still existent in the world at this point, so that’s pretty wild. Nice to meet you. Thank you. ** Damien Ark, Hi, man. Oh, cool, thanks, and on behalf of Peter too. Got to be careful with lending books for sure. I’ve unexpectedly lost treasures that way. But you can probably find ‘The Sluts’ used for a couple of dollars somewhere, worst comes to worst. Fantastic about getting close to the end of your novel! Whoa! Well, I’d be happy to do my best on suggested publishing possibilities, sure. I know stuff, but I’m not the world’s biggest expert, but sure. A postcard. You mean by snail mail? Write me via email for the address. email@example.com. Take care. ** Sypha, Hi. Or, well, that I seemed to have made a beeline to the ones made by such folks when I made that post. ** Kyler, Hi. Thank you. Yes, I am without the use of much of my brain today if that has not been made obvious already. Nice to see you. ** Nik, Hi, Nik! Generally it’s going well. The trip to LA was hampered but not without goodness. The secret project is no longer secret; it’s a three-episode TV series for the European channel ARTE, and it’s a lot of work. Yes, I know Zulawski’s films. I think I did a post about them, although I don’t remember if it was on this blog or my murdered one. I like them a bunch, and your characterisation of their hysteria and them as inverse Maddins it=s great. Thanks, man. Very good to see you. I hope to get to see you more often if that works on your end. ** Okay, we’re caught up. I hope my brain will be more fully available by tomorrow. I decided to welcome myself back to the blog with this post about my very favorite writer and thinker: Mr. Maurice Blanchot. See you tomorrow.
Welcome back!! And what a gorgeous post for the occasion!
Oh shit! No! I’m so sorry your back acted up in such an awful way! I’m glad to hear you could enjoy at least some parts of the trip (the Halloween Home Haunt convention sounds especially promising and I wish I could’ve participated in the event!) but shit.
During these 10 or so days, I turned 27 (what a threatening number!), I started dog school with my dog (I found it a bit strict but she seemed not to mind at all, in fact, she looked utterly overjoyed to be there) and I found a job at a bookstore (starting tomorrow!). My mood has been violently unpredictable for some reason but all in all, everything’s fine. We have very nice spring weather finally so I’m pretty happy about that.
How was your first day back home? I hope both the back pain and the jet lag leave your system ASAP!!
I’m really sorry your trip was marred by back pain. Have you tried muscle relaxants? They helped me a lot when I had back pain last December.
Sorry about your back, Dennis and really sorry we weren’t able to touch base while you were here. I’m hoping to see “Permanent Green Light” ASAP. And in regard to that, saw the new Paul Schrader, “First Reformed” which is Super Excellent. Ethan Hawke stars as a minister who at the climax of the film seriously contemplated blowing himself up. What actually happens to him is quite weird. The film is a cross between “Diary of a Country Priest,” “Winter Light” and “The Shining.”
Meanwhile. . . . Latest FaBlog: Rosemary’s Other Baby
Hey Dennis, glad to have you back. I’m jealous you got to see the new Wes Anderson film in theaters… for some bizarre reason it’s literally only playing at like 3 or 4 theaters in Rhode Island, most of which aren’t close to me. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the DVD. Weird that it didn’t get a bigger release around here… huh.
I’ve only read one Blanchot novel, “Death Sentence,” mainly because it was on your old Top 50 list way back when. I should re-read it again one day, tbh I forget much of what happened in it. Right now I’m re-reading the novels of Bret Easton Ellis, among other things: currently I’m up to “American Psycho.” The only one I won’t be revisiting is “Lunar Park,” as I reread that one in 2016, about 2 years ago.
I was going to send you the Neo-Decadence Day today but, figuring that you’d still be in a haze thanks to jet lag, I’ll just e-mail it to you tomorrow.
sounds like you are glad to be back home, Nice Blanchot post. THEM preparations are bubbling along. It will be good to get all the dancers together in one place to see what happens. Still dealing with fucking heartbreak, though moving through it bit by bit. Have a big rehearsal tonight for a band I just play guitar in. It should be a helpful distraction. all the best xoxoxo
Getting lot’s of piercings to deal with the pain, that’s also been a help.
I am good! Weirdly, the top of my spine has started to be fucking annoying too. So there’s that… there’s another 7 Closer-related things, to match each chapter, and I’m disappearing in a couple of days for a theatre intensive so won’t be around so much. I am reading Frisk now, and experiencing it in a totally different way – I’ve been doing my usual annotations, but writing in it the way I did Closer feels wrong. I’d wager that is in large part due to the first-person conceit working flawlessly for it. No obligation to respond directly to these individually or as a whole but I feel it’s important that they’re at least here, formatted with the same breaks my handwriting naturally pushes on the page. Hopefully you’re not against writing in books. My writing, in your book, unedited:
Chapter 2, David // Inside Out
Do you agree with the readers who call
you postmodern? I don’t, but that might
be because I don’t think titles apply to
this book (other than the title Closer (:) .
The more I read, I get even more excited
for Permanent Green Light – your paragraph
breaks often read like the dizzying enjambment
of your poetry and the edit of a film
is a similar mechanism.
“But first I’ll set the alarm” is a killer
closer of a line. Bodies must be and so
are about their temporal and spacial surroundings.
We do our best to
George//Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Only you could evoke with efficacy the
ass-as-carnival ride. Do you like your
own work? This question in light of Aki
Kaurismaki day and his comments on ‘liking’
pieces of his work more than others (or,
hating some less than others). I often feel
personally like I like my own work
too much. Like air freshener in Phillipe’s
I don’t ever stop seeing the
flash of metal in Smiley’s teeth when I
spoke to him.
The website omegle (& others like
Chatroulette) fascinate me. I want only
to put a face to anonymity – in some
ways that’s what my work, for me, is about.
Thanks for narrativizing and sharing
George with us.
Juvenile, but I’ve stopped for today
on pg. 69. Cliff is the most
alien to me so far, which may
be a reflection of coming to further
terms with the performative sheen of
these characters, the metacognitive nature
of this novel. Or something.
Dennis, fucking hell
Alex // The Replacements
Reading between road markings is getting
harder: I kept reading the word ‘hit’
as ‘shit’ whilst Alex/Cliff devised their
Rear Window porno. I didn’t expect this
thing to turn out to read so structuralist.
For some reason I pictured both times
“The End” comes up in this chapter as
the lucid yet chaste imagery of Jacques Tourneur –
I think you’d like Tolstoy –
– unbuckling wishes,
George. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
There’s less room on the page here so I’ll
keep it short. Ffffuck – highlighting the ‘f’
sound is glorious. Phew. George starts with
G, following F in our alphabet…nice.
Thanks for writing.
Was Paris a choice for you
I think you are one of the best writers of all time. Joyce,
Gass, Pynchon, Cooper. I’ve always been bad at compliments so ignore
it if you must.
I finished Closer.
Do you agree with your 80s-
self, your 80s-as-Steve self that
not talking provides distance?
IF so, why this blog and these
P.S.’s? I find it hard to
imagine what Dora, Steve and others
here look like but I know of
an abstract idea. I struggle to
separate the name Dennis Cooper
from the photo of you they
use on Goodreads. Talking in
the dark, and blind, makes
bodies scarier. Weird. I wish
I’d never seen a mirror and
could imagine what I look like.
hi dennis !!
welcome back to the city of lights !!
I really like that foucoult quote about blanchot, that sums up a complicated idea very nicely. I also loved those blanchot quotes about writing, it makes me think that my next blanchot book should be one of his essays. The space of literature sounds very interesting, I’ll set my sights on that one. Thanks for the killer book recommendations, as always
I have a GBV question for ya – lately I’ve been listening a lot to ‘same place the fly got smashed’ and ‘vampire on titus’ and digging that lo-fi fuzzily recorded gbv a lot. Do u have any suggestions off the top of your head of other albums from the catalogue that sound similar? I’m blown away by songs like ‘wished I was a giant’ and ‘club molluska’ being these giant melodious songs that come to the listener pushed through this fuzzy stripped down sound and arrangement, like pushing a water buffalo through a narrow bedroom doorway or something.
Do u have a favorite gbv album?
I hope the home-again-and-comfortably-settling-down-ness is taking its palliative effect and things are going okay for you this morning
Lesbian rapper Young M.A., who is still the only openly LGBTQ hip-hop artist to have a top 40 single (although there are two who later came out), directed an adult film for Porn Hub. Film critic Nick Pinkerton raved about it on Twitter, saying it’s heavily influenced by BLOOD OF A POET and deserves a theatrical release. Pinkerton can be extremely snarky, but I suspect he’s totally sincere and this seems like a real possibility. She still hasn’t released her first album, two years after hit, but I plan to review it for Gay City News whenever it comes out, although I haven’t been impressed by the singles and the 2014 mixtape I’ve heard.
Speaking of hip-hop and queerness, Tyler the Creator’s fan base is big enough that “Okra,” which he himself described as a “throwaway song” (although I think it’s much better than that), debuted at #89 on this week’s Billboard singles chart. I’m waiting for Timothee Chalamet to acknowledge it; Tyler should do a remix with a video in which Chalamet appears.
Dennis, happy youre back and had a nice trip. and the blog comes back swinging. haha, well hang soon, promise. you’re always in my heart. if Aristotle taught me to write, Blanchot taught me how to write. cant wait to read this. just got back from the beach. nice ass spring-time here in Florida. Athens was no big, just me pulling tricks on myself. im good as new, went vegetarian for ethical reasons so i think it will stick, quit drinking so much, life is organized as fuck. seems a good time to write a 20 pager.
@ DC, so good to have you back! Work on the Yuck ‘n Yum Compendium plus associated events in Dundee and Seattle is frenzied but going really well. Re the blurb, if you could get that to us for Monday 16th then that would be the cherry on top of the icing on the cake.
Hi Dennis, It’s Ben from PS . Checking in on your NY schedule for THEM. Can we organize over email?
Hello, Dennis! Welcome back! I read about your talk at a MFA program. How was the response? I hope you had a great time!
Thank you for the Blanchot day! It’s wonderful as always. I wanted to comment often, but I’ve been quite ill mysteriously — I hope it’s nothing soon.
Did you read Joan Murray’s ‘Drafts, Fragments, and Poems’? It’s amazing, I read it in a bookstore here last weekend, and I’m smitten with it since then. Ashbery highly recommended it and I can see why.
Glad there were positives to your trip, that totally sucks about your back. What were you in L.A. for, and what’d you end up actually getting to do? That’s crazy that you’re working on a TV series, what’s it about?
Love love love this Blanchot post. For some reason I was deeply affected by his stuff like “The Last Man” and “When The Time Comes”, but found “Death Sentence” pretty challenging to connect to. That might have to do with me reading “Death Sentence” first though, I think I ought to either read that again or start looking through his essays. All the quotes from the space of literature here are amazing. Somehow I had no idea Blanchot was so reclusive, that he never actually met Lydia Davis really surprised me. I don’t think I’d ever read about him being a recluse, maybe in an obituary once or something. Thanks for the post, basically!
Blanchot Day! What a treat! I love thinking about possible Blanchot Beckett correspondence.
Sorry about your bad back and hope you’re getting as much good body work done as is possible and also taking it easy.
We’re in Rome (me, H, and P) and I’m waiving to you from here.
to be noted, a book just published by Éditions de Minuit by J-F Hamel from Montreal on the years ’68 of Blancot and the Comité Action Étudiants-Écrivains