DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Alain Robbe-Grillet A Sentimental Novel (2007)

 

‘Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novel Un Roman Sentimental was published in France in October 2007. Less than six months later, on the 18th of February, 2008, Robbe-Grillet was dead. This last book of a writing and filmmaking career that spanned almost six decades was more or less roundly dismissed as obscene, the product of an octogenarian author possibly no longer in his right mind. On a French television show in 2007, the interviewer asked the author if, like Apollinaire’s notorious, pornographic novel Les Onze Mille Verges, Un Roman Sentimental was not simply a literary curiosity. After expressing justified indignation at the comparison, Robbe-Grillet replied that, to his way of thinking, every work is a literary curiosity, “La Jalousie was a literary curiosity.” Curiosity or not, it seems odd that the last work by the man dubbed “the pope of the new novel” should be deemed so devoid of merit as to be of no interest to the American literary establishment, but an editor at the French publisher Fayard confirms that, indeed, all their publishing contacts in the US turned the book down in 2007 due to its subject matter, considered beyond the pale. This pious exhibition of moral opprobrium can be classified as, at best, wrongheaded; at worst, it’s a business decision–a wish not to invite the kind of negative attention the book appears to go hand in hand with–parading as ethics.

‘The novel purports to transform into a work of literary fiction the author’s own avowed catalogue of perverse fantasies, which he claims have remained unchanged since the age of twelve, and that he has been taking notes on over the years, every one consisting of transgressions perpetrated against young girls. In the course of 239 numbered paragraphs, and in a series of theatrical set pieces evoked in sumptuous detail, we read about the education of Gigi, a girl of fourteen, by her father (also her lover) in matters erotic, more specifically sadomasochistic, with the assistance and participation of a chorus of girl children who are submitted to progressively more excruciating, savage, and brutal acts of torture and rape–the reader is spared no detail of organs lacerated, blood spilled, fluids propagated. There are also digressions, in the form of flashbacks and asides that fill in the story of this or that sundry character, each producing their own miniature hair-raising fable.

‘The unusual coupling produced by this wedding of the style Robbe-Grillet pioneered in the ’60s to the narrative of a traditional libertine novel–that form wherein a tale consists principally of successive episodes and encounters culminating in orgasms for one or more characters–proves felicitous, achieving a Brechtian sort of distanciation. The descriptions of the machinery of torture, in close-up–the pulleys and winches and their operation, the materiality of the gruesome dildos, seats of nails, the multiple parallel blades penetrating flesh, the virgins strung up in a circle by their feet, or the redheads fed to rabid dogs–all in lapidary, almost scientific language, with nary a hint of common morality, produce an unholy kind of terror and pity, and firmly relegate these scenes to the realm of the fantastic, from which they sprang. This feeling of unreality is furthered by the relentless pitch of the cruelties, mounting in intensity, and the fact that the reader is given virtually no notion of what sort of world might exist beyond the confines of the torture chamber. What we do learn leads, on the one hand, to a sense that the universe of Sentimental is indeed very different from our own, and then, on the other, a sickening sense that there may be more similarities than differences–these references being confined to the description of a global economy whose elaborate rules and regulations are all aimed at nothing more than collecting money, either to maintain social status or to support a corrupt state or government whose pecuniary interests are rivaled only by its own complicity and participation in the perpetration of sexual torture. The socioeconomic world of the book might not stand up to scrutiny as a functioning republic, but it does, overall, reflect Robbe-Grillet’s mistrust of laws, authority, and righteousness, and cement his last novel’s standing as a dark–indeed, very dark–fairy-tale reflection of Western culture’s less pleasant proclivities. …

‘If writing is an attempt at making sense of one’s strange relationship to the world, this final venture by Robbe-Grillet to harness and convey the material generated by his unconscious appears an almost heroic act. A shrewd man, he might have chosen not to publish this book, or to have it appear pseudonymously, aware of the condemnation it would court. Many asked–and many will go on to ask–whether he might have taken leave of his senses, to which the answer might be that, indeed, in a manner of speaking, he had: abandoning the sense in the quotidian order of the world, he had opted for the sense, the order of literature, applying his arsenal of skills, honed over a decades-long career, to the task of organizing and structuring and then voluntarily relinquishing to public scrutiny a secret universe that had been his alone. The breaking of taboos might threaten to unleash untold terrors, but to transform revulsion and horror into a work of literature is an act of existential alchemy. It is the unspoken horror that festers behind the veils of decency and order, of the righteous and the law, and so perpetrates wrongs that cannot be righted.’ — D.E. Brooke

 

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Opening Un roman sentimental

 

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Further

Mike Kitchell ‘The Revolution is Never Televised’
‘Un Roman Sentimental’ board @ metafilter
RARA-AVIS: Robbe-Grillet Update
Alain Robbe-Grillet interviewed @ The Paris Review
‘Alain Robbe-Grillet – El fantastico se renueva’
AR-G interviewed @ Bookforum
‘The man who ruined the novel’
AR-G @ Scriptorium
Alain Robbe-Grillet ‘The Secret Room’
‘Famous French novelist’s marriage contract with his submissive wife set out their sex life’
‘Antonioni and Robbe-Grillet on Modernism’
‘Alain Robbe-Grillet and hypertext’
‘Alain Robbe-Grillet and the Origins of Inception’
‘Thoughts on Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Recollections of the Golden Triangle and Repetition
‘L’affaire de Robbe-Grillet’
‘Vladimir Nabokov Pro/Contra Alain Robbe-Grillet Pro/Contra Vladimir Nabokov Pro/Contra “Le Nouvel Roman” Pro/Contra…’
‘In Theory: Towards a New Novel’
‘French Passions: Tom McCarthy on Alain Robbe-Grillet’
Buy ‘A Sentimental Novel’

 

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Extras


Portrait du nouveau voyeur – Alain Robbe Grillet


Alain Robbe-Grillet Exhibition at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts


The Cinema of Alain Robbe-Grillet, a Promotional Short


Catherine Robbe-Grillet parle de son couple

 

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Interview

FT : Your new book, A Sentimental Novel, is causing quite an enormous scandal. Do you think culture was more tolerant in the 1960s and 1970s when you were publishing your early novels?

Alain Robbe-Grillet : Yes, because more and more we mix up fantasy and the realisation of the fantasy. When in fact it’s exactly the opposite. Someone who writes, in general, is someone who’s in control of himself, who controls his perversion by writing it down.

FT : That’s your impression?

ARG : I do not know … but I will use Aristotle to defend this thesis: catharsis. Said and done. And yet there is still today an invasion by the well thought out. This is to say that there is such an obsessive impulse to be politically correct, sexually correct, literarily correct, racially correct, etc … Now it seems that when something wrong is written, it is as if the writer is committing a crime. This is a total misunderstanding of that writing.

FT: You recently declined an invitation to read extracts from the novel at a literary festival by saying, ‘Parce que ce n’est pas de la littérature, c’est de la masturbation!’

ARG : This is true. Well, A Sentimental Novel does not belong to my literary work, to my mind. It is something else. It is only literature because I write how I write.

FT : You have represented many fantasies, some of them shocking, but from the moment there are children involved, it becomes very different. What do you expect?

ARG : As I said earlier, these are intimate writings that I wrote for myself, and this one is written with great care, with great concern to represent that which I have happening in my head, an autobiographical concern so to speak, and I think that is obvious. Since I was 12, I’ve always liked little girls, and I think lots of people are in the same situation. Love for the young — little boys for the homosexuals and little girls for heterosexuals — is something very widespread, but something easily mastered, something you don’t act on, do you? But to think about it hurts no-one.

FT : One of the widespread complaints about your novel is that it has conveyed the idea that child victims of pedophile crimes are consensual.

ARG : These people who complain are perverse, obviously !

FT : Why?

ARG : They read the novel, and they immediately erased the fact that it is literary writing, and they conveniently forget that they have realized the fantasy themselves in their heads! They should call the police, but against whom? Against themselves! These people should all be in jail! Because it is they who have made the realization in their sick minds!

FT : And this is your defense.

ARG : I mentioned Aristotle earlier, he made ​​it clear that the poetic effect of catharsis only played according to certain rules of a distancing from the subject. That is to say, if the fantasy is expressed, so too … He was not talking about sexual fantasies, Aristotle, but if the idea is told with too sensual a passion then it nonetheless causes what Aristotle called mimesis. That is to say that the reader tends to want to make himself what he is reading. That is to say that the reader will be purged of his passions through my book!

 

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Alain Robbe-Grillet edited by Gisele Vienne

 

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Towards a Symposium or an Argument

 

A Sentimental Novel isn’t a work that’s easy to deal with — or perhaps it is: complete dismissal as (or for its) pornographic excess seems a popular choice. There’s no question that the novel is, certainly at surface-level, deeply objectionable. More so than, for example, Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker — which, despite its outrageous title and ostensible subject matter, is so clearly removed from any sexual or other reality that it can readily be appreciated as a literary text. A Sentimental Novel is also a highly stylized work — but rather differently and, presumably, for many readers not anywhere near sufficiently (to excuse what goes on in these pages).
‘Let’s be clear: A Sentimental Novel is explicit, and most people are very uncomfortable with what it is explicit about: the sexual abuse and torture of adolescent and pre-adolescent girls.
‘The French concept of ‘roman sentimental’ (so the original title) is more akin to the English popular romance (and closer to Harlequin and Mills and Boon than Jane Austen) rather than the English-style ‘sentimental novels’ of the eighteenth (and, to a lesser extent, nineteenth) century, and part of Robbe-Grillet’s purpose is, of course, to completely upend any pre-conceptions readers might bring to a so-called text. Okay, it’s Robbe-Grillet, too, so they come with different expectations as well — and the French edition was published shrink-wrapped and with the pages uncut (plus a whole lot of publicity), so readers had a pretty good sense of what they might be getting themselves into; still it bears repeating: this is not your grand-mère’s kind of roman sentimental, and it’s not for sensitive souls. … ‘ (cont.) — The Complete Review

‘Disgusting. I think the sexualization of violence is one of the worst trends in the media and society today–with dire consequences to come. Of course, this complements my distaste for the sort of avant-garde bullshit artist that many academics love (and which Robbe-Grillet looks to exemplify). Why is it that books like Blood Meridian — which uses violence in service of a mythic allegory and doesn’t portray it positively at all — excite many academics to condemnation while something like this doesn’t?’ — sonic meat machine

‘Art certainly cannot advance under compulsion to traditional forms, and nothing in such a field is more stifling to progress than limitation of the right to experiment with a new technique. The foolish judgments of Lord Eldon about one hundred years ago, proscribing the works of Byron and Southey, and the finding by the jury under a charge by Lord Denman that the publication of Shelley’s “Queen Mab” was an indictable offense are a warning to all who have to determine the limits of the field within which authors may exercise themselves. We think that Ulysses is a book of originality and sincerity of treatment and that it has not the effect of promoting lust. Accordingly it does not fall within the statute, even though it justly may offend many.’ — Dr. Curare

‘We all have limits. I can’t stand seeing human beings tortured. Robbe-Grillet does not share that problem. The female characters in this book experience HORRIBLE ACTS OF TORTURE, like being whipped on their crotches as they pee, having their vaginas sawed open, and, oh, yes, getting red hot irons being put on their breasts. Doesn’t that sound fun? NO? I DON’T THINK SO EITHER.
‘What makes it more disturbing is that all the female characters are underage. Obviously, no one should have to endure stuff like this, but the fact that these are children experiencing such things makes it way worse. A baby is tortured too, and the narrator observes that you can tell it’s a female baby because of the “precociously sexy” expressions it makes. That made me even angrier and more disgusted, because it gave words to the theme that had heretofore been implicit: that the women in this story had done something to deserve these punishments, & were nothing more than objects.
‘I thought I’d give this a try because it was different, but I just can’t do it. I can’t believe that there are people in the world who find stuff like this erotic. It’s horrific and inhuman. & it perpetuates rape culture in a way that is nightmarish in the extreme. Nobody deserves … this. Nobody.’ — The Armchair Librarian

‘The contrarian who broke the boundaries of taste as he had once broken those of style, has proved too much for the squeamish. This was the Robbe-Grillet who has been lately written about. One imagines he is grinning all the way to hell at one literary journalist’s inane observation that because his last book, Un roman sentimental, included graphic descriptions of child rape and incest “he has blown his farewell”. Really? Memories are short and taste has changed. It is not just in the Anglo-Saxon countries that publishers have assumed that readers crave “accessibility”, that is, being told what they know already. It is not just in the Anglo-Saxon countries that restrictive prudishness and sexual correctness have reasserted themselves.’ — Jonathan Meades, New Statesman

‘I could pick up a pen and write anything, so… why this? The condemnation, at least from me, is not because it’s actual violence, it’s because clearly this writer is a deranged madman. If you read a story on Metafilter in explicit detail about a real-life case of people being abducted and tortured in horrific fashion before their painful, agonizing death, you’d be horrified. And if someone posted “I like to masturbate to these types of news stories!” you’d find that similarly repulsive.
‘Somewhere, sometime, things not unlike what this writer is describing have happened in a similar enough form; perhaps some twisted concentration camp commandante having some fun with the chattel, or a Caligula running rampant and unchecked. In that sense, such stories are like fictionalized re-tellings of actual events. The desire to read or write this is, to my mind, virtually indistinguishable from the acts themselves. Those who find this literary trash titillating are only prevented from acting it out by their lack of absolute monarchal power or control on the lives of others. Give them that, and the purchasers of this book would be ripping apart young girls and boys for sport in a heartbeat.’ — hincandenza

Un Roman Sentimental is a venomous flower of a novel which defies convention and taste and takes a tradition invented by the Marquis de Sade, principally in 120 Days of Sodom (the Prix Sade jurors presciently awarded their prize to Robbe-Grillet in 2004 for the whole of his oeuvre), and its film adaptation by Pasolini in Salò.
‘What constitutes pornography is very much in the eye of the beholder, but there is little doubt that this is an openly and joyfully pornographic book, in that it turns into an unbound celebration of deviancy at its most explicit and imaginative.
‘There is little doubt that Robbe-Grillet is a major writer and the precise, almost analytical prose that unfolds over the 239 short chapters is classically elegant even as the action moves from disturbing to perverse and well beyond. The book is intended to shock but also to arouse in the most unhealthy of ways, as an hypnotic waltz of domination and submission forces the reader to face his or her own morality or even sanity. Excessive it no doubt is, but it also engenders a worrisome form of fascination for the evil inside us, the temptations of sex for its own sake.
‘Since Sade, many French writers have continued to mine this lonely and disturbing area: Apollinaire, Louis Aragon, André Pieyre de Mandiargues … Robbe-Grillet, now 85, is not, as some critics have suggested, just another dirty old man, but another trailblazer on this perilous and very French road. And what could well be his final book should be read with the utmost care. Provocation, titillation or an intellectual divertissement? I remain uncertain. But one thing’s for sure: I cannot imagine any English or American writer daring to take such an unholy risk.’ — The Guardian

‘Once you could just have put Robbe-Grillet’s cold, precise style down to his training as an engineering draftsman, but, as he’s advanced into an old age, his sado-masochism has emerged in his writing like a creaky, angular, glinting ice phallus. Robbe-Grillet’s new novel Un Roman Sentimental, published in France in October, makes it perfectly clear: this old man gets off on slicing and dicing.
‘If Brecht’s criticism of Kafka as too much of a victim, a man “caught beneath the wheels”, is to some extent valid, perhaps a symmetrical attack could be made on Robbe-Grillet. He’s too much the victor. A member of the Academie Francaise (although too proud to wear its robes and take his seat there), the man might describe situations quite similar to those Kafka explored (torture, humiliation, cruelty), but it’s from the side of the sadist, not the masochist, the perpetrator, not the victim. The idea that the gracious and the disgraceful sit side by side at the very heart of French respectability wouldn’t surprise Jean Genet — today’s Robbe-Grillet could well be a character in his play The Balcony. It wouldn’t surprise Artaud either, or Foucault. The idea of a sadism at the core of the state probably wouldn’t much disturb Nicolas Sarkozy either. And Robbe-Grillet’s proclivities clearly don’t shock Catherine, his wife since 1957. She’s a writer of sadomasochistic novels and BDSM.
‘I’m quite sure I won’t buy the book. But there’s a good line in Marienbad: “If you can’t lose, it isn’t a game”. Art should be a high-stakes game. I’m glad that Robbe-Grillet is still allowing the possibility of losing everything by alienating everyone. Perhaps he’s a masochist after all.’ — Momus, Click Opera

 

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Book

Alain Robbe-Grillet A Sentimental Novel
Dalkey Archive Press

‘In France, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s final novel was sold in shrinkwrap, labeled with a sticker warning readers that this perverse fairy tale might offend certain sensibilities.

‘The book shares the story of Gigi, also known as Djinn, who is being schooled by her father to be a perfect slave and mistress. Running the gamut of unacceptable subject matter from incest to torture, this book abounds with vignettes exploring taboos and their representation in fiction, from the Brothers Grimm to the Marquis de Sade. It is titillating and disgusting, the work of a dirty old man, or brilliant agent provocateur–or both.’ — Dalkey Archive

 

Excerpts

1. At first sight, the place in which I find myself is neutral, white, so to speak; not dazzlingly white, rather of a non-descript hue, deceptive, ephemeral, and also altogether absent. If there were something to see in front of me, it could be seen without any difficulty under this even lighting that is neither excessive nor stingy, stripped, in the final analysis, of all adjectivity. Inside a space such as this, half-heartedly asserting its indifference, it’s neither hot nor cold.

2. The only problem upon reflection, is of a different nature altogether: I don’t know what I’m doing here, nor why I’ve come here, with what conscious or impulsive intention, if one could even say that there had been any intention at all at some point… But at what point? Perhaps I was driven here by force, against my will, in spite of myself even, or something along those lines. Am I in prison for some misdeed, offence, crime, or on the contrary, due to a misunderstanding, a victim of mistaken identity.

3. The room seems cubic, without any visible windows or doors, without any furniture or decoration. I am motionless, lying on my back, my legs outstretched, my arm resting alongside my body, my chest a little raised by an incline of about twenty degrees from the (metallic?) chassis of what must be a very low box spring, possibly such as can be adjusted, perhaps to an even greater height than normal, hinged like a patient’s in a hospital. So, could I be in intensive care at some clinic, surgical or other? The thought crosses my mind that this may well be a morgue where my lifeless body has been transported following an accident…

4. Something, however, just as quickly, prevents me from subscribing to this sort of hypothesis: if I were dead, and above all, exposed in this manner in the freezing atmosphere of a funeral chamber, I would feel the cold penetrate me little by little. Whereas, I feel the inverse sensation, the rising warmth of a bower, soon of heat even, accompanied by tropical, forest-like exhalations, whose damp and heavy blasts besiege me, disorient me, invade me. In my torpor, I believe I see diffuse light on the walls surrounding me moving, as if the sun, sifted by the leaves of immense trees teeming, up above, with a felted murmur, was alighting on land (and on me) in the form of a haze of particles without precise contours, without direction, without a plan.

5. Towards the back wall, the one onto which my languid eyes wander most easily, I distinguish, in the foreground of a picture that quickly proves to be a forest landscape of vertical and straight trunks, a sort of water basin so clear it becomes almost immaterial, an oblong widening of a limpid spring, as deep as a bathtub or deeper even, in between grey rocks, whose curved shapes are sweet to touch, welcoming. A girl is sitting there, on stone polished by wear that to her represents an ideal bench at the water’s edge, her long legs kick around unrestrained in the blue mirrored ripples of the lovely nymphæum that is as natural as it is picturesque, whose temperature must be identical to the room’s temperature and to those feminine charms undulating, already liquid, over the moving mirror and its unforeseen shudders.

6. The swimmer is so much a part of her warm, caressing, ambrosiac environment that she dwells there unperturbed, entirely naked. A barely ripe adolescent, she is graceful, shapely, and her flesh is so white, so far from the amber one might expect in a native—whose savage beauty, the color of bronzed caramel, and lively gestures like prey on the qui vive, would suit the apparent landscape from which she emerges—so improbable a milky apparition is she, that one might instead believe she is in a northern European bathroom, climate-controlled along the lines of a Turkish bath, wall-papered in a fanciful equatorial décor.

7. The girl, vaguely engaged in bathing, holds her arms raised on either side of her face. She is in the process of removing a towel made of white fluffy fabric wrapped around her head like a sort of madras, progressively releasing a mane whose pale golden tresses fall on her shoulders that she shakes lightly so as to tidy her supple curls, finally raising eyes of an azure to match her incarnation as a beautiful blond child, innocent and fragile. Did she lower her eyelids in my direction, for a brief instant?

8. But then a man’s voice is heard calling from outside, very near, imperiously: “Angina!” Or more precisely, “Ann-Djinn-a,” in a vaguely Anglo-Saxon pronunciation that, in any case, manages to avoid the offensive confusion with a sore throat hailing from colder lands. This, evidently, is the bather’s first name, for this latter, still holding her towel in her hands, promptly raises her face that she turns towards the wall on the right. This could be her father, or some other mature relative, who, from an adjoining room, is ordering her to join him in a tone that requires no reply. Besides, the girl obtemperates straight away.

*

We ate Japanese schoolgirls covered in burning caramel in which they had been dunked alive before our very eyes. It was very good. But they were dying much far too quickly, we ought to have watched them wriggling for much longer.

*

As for the three youngest little girls, Crevette, Nuisette and Lorette, who are seven, eight and nine years old, they are given plenty of amusement during their service. Taken back to their bedroom, they marvel about it. They’d been allowed to taste all the liqueurs they could make use of on their knees. They’d sucked vigorous men and perfumed young ladies. They’d been caressed, embraced, licked. Their too-childish orifices had been stuffed with exciting creams, before being very softly masturbated. They’d admired an adolescent burning like a torch. They’d seen sperm and blood spilling, but also the tears of schoolgirls being tortured. Towards the end of the night, they had descended into the cellars to attend the entreaties of a 13 year-old servant girl (sold by her family) who was made drunk. After having raped her in every fashion, the gentlemen had proceeded to spread her out on a special machine and stick needles all over her body, from which the four limbs were torn little by little. To finish, they completely detached one of her thighs by pulling the leg from the foot, and she was left to twist in a pool of blood and to die like that without assistance. Yes, it had really been great.

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Everyone, Mr. Ehrenstein has updated his legendary FaBlog with a little ditty called ‘Judy and a Half’. Accessing it is, of course, highly recommended. ** JM, Hi, man. Thanks a lot! Oh, and I’ll be in touch soon about the post. The weekend got away from me, or me from it. ** Keaveilllance, Me too, but about France. Well, actually, more about LA since it seems pretty ungraspable to people over here. ** h, Thank you very much for putting your thoughts to my gif work and fo sharing them. I really appreciate it. I didn’t do much for birthday. I did down some nachos, and they were taste bud-related finery. Great about the Peggy Ahwesh show. Wow, how cool! Yes, as I think I told you elsewhere, I’m fine. The exploded bakery was in the 9th arr. and not very near to me or anyone I know. ** Misanthrope, Shoveling is good for you. Thanks, bud. Everyone my age whom I know is pretty sprightly. Artistry keeps you young, or, not actually young, obviously, but … with it or something? The bakery explosion was due to a gas leak. Which is scarier than it sounds because it caused the realisation that such an explosion could happen a lot given the similarly very old, long unchecked gas pipes etc. in almost every Paris building. Yikes. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. For sure. As soon as the travel is nailed down. Thank you about the gif work. I hadn’t heard about the new Al Columbia, and thanks a lot! ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks a lot, Ben. I think you’re right. Or that was my intention, in a complicated sense, of course. Thank you. ** Cal graves, Thanks a lot, Cal. Teaching, cool, such an incredibly admirable course. I hope you get there as smoothly as the system allows. Austin, yeah, I’ll talk to our US distributor about that and that theater. Thanks a lot. I think the plan is that it will go into streaming and DVD this spring, so it shouldn’t be too long. Take care, man. ** tender prey, Hi, Marc! Oh, yes, when they’re parts of a novel, inevitably so. And I’m not making them in order but in various parts, and assembling them once I’ve made them all will reveal tissue- and thematic issues, for sure. It’s interesting you say that about reading them as art or lit. There’s a thing proposed that would lead to them being contextualised as art, and I’m very uncertain about whether to go that way for a lot of reasons. Actually, I would like to talk you about it and get your thoughts when I see you in London, if that’s okay. There is a wee bit more white in that one, yes, good eye. I thought that, given the forefronting of the narrative, it needed that for some reason. No, we didn’t get over to London to see the show. Reality set in, and it was just too extravagant financially and otherwise to be justified. They did send me installation shots. It looked interesting in their view. I was happy they used the newest one, ‘Zac’s Coral Reef’. I like ‘ZHH’, but it’s very early on and less representative of the gif work as a practice for me. Anyway, thank you for checking the show out. All I know is that the trip will be pretty quick, coming in on the 23rd, leaving on 24th. I asked the ICA to give us as much time there within those parameters as possible, but they haven’t confirmed the travel times yet. Thank you for the birthday wishes. Really look forward to seeing you! Love, me. ** Corey Heiferman, Thanks for the birthday wish. There’s no expiration on the wishing front. Thanks about the gif work. In the case of the jumping boy, I got really, really lucky. In a lot of cases it takes me days if not weeks to find gifs that have just the right timing and rhythm and visual, but in that case it was kind of bingo, magic. Fine day! ** Okay. I thought I would spotlight the great Robbe-Grillet’s final novel which didn’t get all that much attention in the US and seemed to just slip by. So today is me doing my tiny part to counter that. See you tomorrow.

12 Comments

  1. I had no idea Grillet had ever written a novel like this. I’m not a great fan of the man’s work but my interest is piqued, and Jealousy remains an influence on me even if I don’t love it. His shade stretches wide. No worries about & no rush on being-in-touch, will hear when I hear! I always feel a little bit weird about promotional stuff for my own work so try to keep it minimal or at least to the point. People need to know about it I guess but so many people have a propensity to gush over their own work. I understand and respect it – every now and then I get caught up in a character and talk about it far too much. You might remember me and Leaves of Glass. – but I can’t stomach it for myself a lot of the time. Swings and roundabouts.

    Some cultural updates from me: lucrative consumer weekend on my end, wrapping up the sweet trash ‘The Greatest Showman’ and ‘Salem’s Lot,’ liked the former and loved the latter (“the tourists left behind their summer money and litter and the locals”). Now diving into: a more in-depth reading of The 120 Days of Sodom, as well as New Juche’s Bosun. Yay! Very little creative output but show went well and paycheck should be decently sized (for a co-op). Audition this weekend for the stage adaptation of ‘Calendar Girls,’ should be fun. Nudity and comedy at least, and the rest is the artform. I have the great copy of ‘Sodom’ with the Man Ray photograph of the ass on the front. Debated with a friend whether it’s a male or female ass. Seems resolutely female to me, and given Man Ray’s history I’d assume as much, but my friend insisted that women have much broader asscracks than in that photograph. We didn’t bother googling to find the truth, of course, because the speculation is more interesting than any. Waiting with bated breath to see the new Shyamalan. Mixed to negative reviews but all close friends say it’s exceptional and another entry into one of the more outre Hollywood oeuvres. Hopefully the man makes a ‘Salo’ some day. Or goes really off the rails and does something without any politicism at all, a ‘Human Centipede’ if you will. I’d love to see him just say ‘fuck you’ to his reputation and own it. Have an immense hatred for Game of Thrones but really enjoyed the new trailer they released this morning. Will not watch the season because why would I? Fuck TV. Except for TV’s great capacity to be used as a cash-in symbol of alienation and ennui in contemporary texts. Works every fucking time and I eat it up. Hell, I use it. Seeing a New-Zealand-set adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’ on Sunday which I’ve never read. Hoping to find something of interest. Been missing Beckett’s words lately. Thinking I might be wrong about Cormac McCarthy then coming up against the wall that is my hatred of his stuff. Read bits and pieces of ‘Small Talk At The Clinic’ again and think it might be Thomas’ best work.

    Best wishes & blast off for the future,
    J

  2. Haven’t read this one – but New Novel has such a massive influence on me – a seismic shift.

    I have ‘In the Labyrinth’ in my to read pile.

    Also – I been awol for a bit – but big thanks for including my book in the end of year list. Very humbling.

    You ever read this article?

    https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/02/catherine-robbe-grillet-french-dominatrix

  3. Dennis, I had more things to say about your weekend gif show, but my mind wasn’t in good shape at the moment, apologies. But I keep thinking of that fairy- tale-like door that opens the blank space. And then the smoke beneath it. Generally it felt much slower than your other gif stories. But desire felt very much focused.
    I haven’t read this book yet — what a shame. But I’m going to. Thanks for the reminder. I remember you (and Mike) were thrilled when it was out. Have a nice week.

  4. Haha LA got some splainin to do. I feel oddly chuffed when people tell me they are from LA and have moved to some other place. Only been there once myself. I was ate up with bed bugs thanks to my lovely neighborhood tramp/angel. I spent most of my time at the tar pits and the Getty. The Jeff Koons was awful in retrospect and the Correggio was everything that day. Gates DaVinci books were there. DaVinci obviously a taste for the Herculean. Tried In and Out and Fatburger, so it was a nice trip. Theres a weird thing people dont get that Florida is not Southern in the traditional sense, its Seminole/Spanish territory
    Haha I have 2 relatives that died of gas… 1. used gas to suicide, the other was old and set his chair on fire (i had always been told it was a gas explosion). My friend I have been drinking with is a Stoic, he and Dunkin almost have me convinced that my years of depression are only physiological. In the high 70s here in Florida. I will not let him drag me back. I will not do it, Daddy! haha. Slaves aint cheap but its money well spent. In Florida they all want their cellphone bill paid, haha. My ex and his friends were S&M freaks. Im more into S&M like the bicycle company. My one friends used to play “hooker”. The chick would go and walk the street and her dude would have to convince her to get in the car lol. “I love to be tied up and whipped until I cum so hard.” “If you just hold your hand a different way, it works just like that.” Razors, whips, ties, its all too unorganized for me. Fetishists are fun. “Oh, to live on Capri with mi Danny Boys!” Any hoot. Making my ass write as much as possible today. “It writes or it watches another bad movie…” Shouldnt we all indulge our Sadeian phantasies, at least on paper?

  5. Thought I’d get a Schengen tourist visa via France since Belgium says they want Three whole months to process mine which is abit impossible but turns out France rejected my tourist visa. Despite the fact that I have €3000 in bank, a paid flight ticket, booked accomodation for 24 days, employment letter guarantying my return. I guess that might be their problem that I booked a hostel for 24 days.. or becauce of my once cohabitation application in Belgium (which was turned away for not being in french) I probably have some red mark next to my name but the french embassy dont even bother explaining their reason. All that the rejection letter said was l’object et les conditions du sejour envisage n’ont ete justifies. which im guessing refers to my booked accomodation or does it simply mean i have no business in Paris…
    Either way me and my partner were planning on taking the Talis directly to Brussels since Belgium is also too fussy about letting me in for few weeks as a tourist. Feel like such a looser..

  6. As noted “Un Roman Sentimental” is Robbe-Grillet’s closest approximation of Sade. The difference is Sade was an aristocrat attacked by his own class and tossed into the bastille and sundry asylums. Robbe-Grillet was highly regarded in the worlds of literature and cinema right up until the appearance of this final work which “shocked” the usual suspects. Met him once back in the early seenties and found him elegant and delightful. Most pople know resnais “Last Year at Marienbad which while scripted by R-G is quite different from his usual work in tat contains no sexual violence. In fact scene he’s written in which the heroine is raped was discarded by esnais and replaced by a series of overexposed shots in which the camera tracks rapidly towards her as she smiles an opens her arms invitingly. You won’t find anything like this is “Trans-Europ Express” or my favorite “Glissements Progressif du Plaisir.”

    Interestingly “Un Roman Sentimental” appeared just before that awful softcore R-G rip-off “Fifty Shades of Grey” read its ugly head.

  7. This is one of the only Robbe -Grillet novels I read that I liked… well, kind of.

    I’m on vacation this week: actually my last vacation of the previous working year (because I was hired by B&N in February, that’s when my working year starts each year). Thing is I’m already feeling kind of stir crazy as I have nothing to work on right now: no short stories, no books, no music, no nothing. So I’ve just been reading, playing video games, watching the second season of STRANGER THINGS, and so on.

    Yesterday on OkCupid I got hit on by a guy who looks like a deadringer for Ted Cruz. I joked to my friends that I think I’ve been scared into going straight, ha ha. That’s the last straw…

  8. Hi!!

    Back from Prague! Everything was pretty amazing; the city itself isn’t that very different from Budapest, at least what could be explored in 1,5 days, but we visited a sex machine museum where we watched some quite surprising black and white porn and an English language bookstore where I bought Georges Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye’ and of course, we tried lots of different beers, some of which were exceptional, even to someone as uneducated about beer as me. And Anita’s apartment is so cool. The only tiresome part was the almost 7-hour train ride back and forth in two days. But oh well.
    You mentioned once that there might be an art show including one of your GIF pieces in Prague soon(ish). Do you have any news about that? Is that plan still alive?

    Did you go to London?

    And how are you, Dennis? What’s happening over there?
    I hope you’re well and everything’s going great!!

  9. Dennis, I’ve often said that Art is the only thing that can save us. That’s a GW original (that I’m sure someone else has probably said before). But I mean it even on the micro, personal level too.

    I wiped off my car and shoveled that fucking driveway three times. Twice yesterday and once today. I thought it had stopped and then BAM! another inch or two.

    I’m off today, as the building is closed.

    I think a lot of cities in this country have the same thing with the old, rotting infrastructure, particularly within older buildings. It’s scary to think you could be sitting anywhere, enjoying a nice macaron and then BOOM!

  10. There’s a new development in the Kamran Heidari series I’m programming at Spectacle. He’s recently completed his latest documentary, and he’s willing to give us the US premiere! This is really exciting, but it also means that it’s impossible for me to meet the initial deadline for all the materials the theater gave me. Everything’s still on for March, though, and I’ve written half the program notes (although I may not be able to see a subtitled version of the new film till fairly close to the time we show it.)

    You will likely hate this comment, but those negative remarks about A SENTIMENTAL NOVEL could’ve been lifted from reviews of Lars von Trier’s latest film. Before THE IMAGE BOOK’s press screening, I was talking with a friend about the fact that almost no one publicly protests art in the US anymore. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST arrived in American theaters at the same time I started college in Boston and Christian conservatives stood out the one theater where it played on its brief run with picket signs. To go to the opposite side of the political spectrum, I remember going to see BASIC INSTINCT a few years later in Boston past protesters from Queer Nation with signs giving away the ending. The worst that would happen now is social media shaming, and it gets directed at people more than individual works, although something more subtle goes on behind the scenes, with that Robbe-Grillet novel taking years to find a US publisher.

  11. I was at a DCA reading group this evening and we were discussing bell hooks – All About Love which I’d just bought for the occasion and had only read the intro. Kind of strange to be sat around a table with a group of largely strangers to talk about intimacy. Not having any prior knowledge of the author, I wasn’t sure if this was just an upscale self help book or what. The chat was pleasurable though it did get me thinking about love and relationships and my own long term lack of these. Best just to work through it, I feel.

  12. Corey Heiferman

    January 15, 2019 at 8:38 am

    Wow if I were to buy this book it would engender a real life unintentional self-mutilation scene just from my clumsiness cutting the pages. Sounds like performance art.

    I took this post as inspiration to watch Robbe-Grillet’s films for the first time. Saw “The Immortals” last night. Really makes me want to go to Istanbul. Whole dreamlike circling frustrated search will probably stick in my mind well. I really enjoyed the languid pans in and out. Many floaty camera movements look like Steadicam. I wonder whether he and his collaborators were Steadicam pioneers.

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