The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Nathalie Sarraute Tropisms (1939)

Nathalie Sarraute, 1977

‘The publication in one volume of a work like Tropisms – which some considered to be a collection of prose poems – with what, quite obviously, is furthest removed from it: a series of essays on the novel, may cause legitimate surprise.

‘And yet this proximity is justifiable.

‘The great interest shown today in discussions of the novel, and especially in the theories advanced by the supporters of what, in France at present, is called ‘Nouveau Roman’, has led many to imagine that these theorising novelists are cool calculators who began by constructing their theories, which they then decided to put into practice in their books. This explains the fact that their novels have been referred to as ‘laboratory experiments.’

‘If this were the case, it might seem plausible that, one fine day, after having formulated certain opinions on the evolution, content and form of the present-day novel, I sat down at my table and undertook to apply them by writing Tropisms, and the books that followed.

‘Nothing could be more mistaken than this supposition. For no literary work can be a mere illustration of principles, however convincing. And, in fact, these articles, all of which were written in 1947, are far removed from the conception and composition of my first book.

‘I started to write in 1932, when I composed my first Tropism. At that time, I had no preconceived ideas on the subject of literature and this one, as were those that followed it, was written under the impact of an emotion, of a very vivid impression. What I tried to do was to show certain inner ‘movements’ by which I had long been attracted; in fact, I might even say that, ever since I was a child, these movements, which are hidden under the commonplace, harmless appearances of every instant of our lives, had struck and held my attention. In this domain, my first impressions go back very far.

‘These movements, of which we are hardly cognizant, slip through us on the frontiers of consciousness in the form of undefinable, extremely rapid sensations. They hide behind our gestures, beneath the words we speak and the feelings we manifest, all of which we are aware of experiencing, and are able to define. They seemed, and still seem to me to constitute the secret source of our existence, in what might be called its nascent state.

‘And since, while we are performing them, no words express them, not even those of the interior monologue – for they develop and pass through us very rapidly in the form of frequently very sharp, brief sensations, without our perceiving clearly what they are – it was not possible to communicate them to the reader otherwise than by means of equivalent images that would make him experience analogous sensations. It was also necessary to make them break up and spread out in the consciousness of the reader the way a slow-motion film does. Time was no longer the time of real life, but of a hugely amplified present.

‘These movements seemed to me to be veritable dramatic actions, hiding beneath the most commonplace conversations, the most everyday gestures, and constantly emerging up on the surface of the appearances that both conceal and reveal them.

‘The dramatic situations constituted by these invisible actions interested me as such. Nothing could distract my attention from them and nothing should distract that of the reader; neither the personality of the characters, nor the plot, by means of which, ordinarily, the characters evolve. The barely visible, anonymous character was to serve as mere prop for these movements, which are inherent in everybody and can take place in anybody, at any moment.

‘Thus my first book is made up of a series of moments, in which, like some precise dramatic action shown in slow motion, these movements, which I called Tropisms, come into play. I gave them this name because of their spontaneous, irresistible, instinctive nature, similar to that of the movements made by certain living organisms under the influence of outside stimuli, such as light.

‘This analogy, however, is limited to the instinctive, irresistible nature of the movements, which are produced in us by the presence of others, or by objects from the outside world. It obviously never occurred to me to compare human beings with insects or plants, as I have sometimes been reproached with doing.

‘The volume entitled Tropisms appeared in 1939, under the imprimatur of Denoël. The present edition, source of this translation, was published by the Editions de Minuit, in 1957. It is a corrected re-edition of the 1939 volume, to which have been added the six last texts, written between 1939 and 1941.

‘This first book contains in nuce all the raw material that I have continued to develop in my later works.

”Tropisms are still the living substance of all my books, the only difference being that they now play a more important role, the time of the dramatic action they constitute is longer, and there is added complexity in the constant play that takes place between them and the appearances and commonplaces with which they emerge into the open: our conversations, the personality we seem to have, the person we seem to be in one another’s eyes, the stereotyped things we believe we feel, as also those we discover in others, and the superficial dramatic action constituted by plot, which is nothing but a conventional code that we apply to life.

‘My first books: Tropismes, which appeared in 1939, and Portrait d-un inconnu in 1948, passed practically unnoticed in the post-war literary atmosphere, which was dominated by the Behaviourist tendency and by a metaphysics of the ‘absurd.’

‘As a result, if for no other reason than to seek justification, reassurance or encouragement for myself, I began to reflect upon the motives that impelled me to reject certain things, to adopt certain techniques, to examine certain works of both past and present, and to anticipate those of the future, in an effort to discover an irreversible direction in literature that would permit me to see if my own quest was in line with this direction.

‘Thus it was that, in 1947, I was prompted to study the works of Dostoievski and Kafka from a particular angle. In the article entitled L’Ere du soupçon, which appeared in 1950, I tried to show the results of the transformations of characters in fiction since Balzac’s time,as exemplified in the contemporary novel. And in Conversation et sous-conversation, published in 1955, I called attention to the out-moded nature of dialogue as practised in the traditional novel.

‘In connection with the latter article, I should like to stress the fact that when I spoke of the old-fashioned nature of the works of Joyce and Proust, or the naïveté of Virginia Woolf’s ideas on the subject of the novel, it was quite obviously to poke fun at those who had expressed themselves in this manner about these writers. Taken as a whole, it seems to me that this article is perfectly clear; I insist on this point, however, because it has been a source of occasional misunderstanding.

‘Lastly, in the article entitled Ce que voient les oiseaux, which appeared in 1956, I tried to show, among other things, the academic, formalist features of a certain type of ‘realism’.

‘Some of the ideas expressed in these articles have contributed to the essential bases for what, today, us called the ‘Nouveau Roman.’

‘And so, it seems to me that the present volume, to which two such dissimilar works as Tropisms and The Age of Suspicion may give an appearance of incongruity, by virtue of this very juxtaposition, gives a fair account of my endeavours, as they progressed from my first Tropisms to the theoretical viewpoints that derived from them.’ — Nathalie Sarraute, 1962







Michel Butor, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Robert Pinget, Claude Simon, Samuel Beckett, Nathalie Sarraute, 1959

Nathalie Sarraute, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Michel Butor, 1959



with Marie Darrieussecq, 1998





Nathalie Sarraute @ Wikipedia
NS @ goodreads
Nathalie Sarraute by Hannah Arendt
Lessons with Nathalie Sarraute
Nathalie Sarraute interviewed
Nathalie Sarraute and the Feminist Reader: Identities in Process
Her novels broke with fictional realism, examining human behaviour at its most secretive
Nathalie Sarraute and England
On Nathalie Sarraute’s Tropisms and why we write
Being Beside One’s Self
Nathalie Sarraute Fiction and Theory
A propos de Nathalie Sarraute
L’objet lumineux dans l’œuvre de Nathalie Sarraute
Nathalie Sarraute et l’anti-roman
Le dialogue selon Nathalie Sarraute
Fiction et révélation : Vous les entendez ? De Nathalie Sarraute
Nathalie Sarraute et la violence du texte
Eloge de NATHALIE SARRAUTE: Apprendre à dire l’indicible
Buy ‘Tropisms’



Nathalie SARRAUTE Tropismes

Nathalie Sarraute “Vous les entendez?”

Un siècle d’écrivain 1995 Nathalie Sarraute


Tombe de Nathalie Sarraute au cimetière de Chérence


from The Paris Review


You wrote your first novel at the age of twelve, then nothing until you were thirty-two. Why?

NATHALIE SARRAUTE: My mother wrote all the time, and to parrot her I wrote a “novel” full of all the platitudes I had read in love stories at the time. I showed it to a friend of my mother who said, Before writing novels one should learn to spell! Psychologists would see in that episode a typical childhood trauma. Actually, I think I did not write until much later because I had nothing to say.

At the lycée I liked writing essays because the subjects were imposed from outside. It made me realize how pleasant it was writing well turned-out sentences in a classical style—one was on equal terms with the classics, safe in their company. Whereas in my own writing I jump into a void, without any protection. I stumble and stammer, without anything to reassure me.

The traditional novel, with its plot and characters, etcetera, didn’t interest me. I had received the shock of Proust in 1924, the revelation of a whole mental universe, and I thought that after Proust one could not go back to the Balzacian novel. Then I read Joyce, Virginia Woolf, etcetera . . . I thought Mrs. Dalloway was a masterpiece; Joyce’s interior monologue was a revelation. In fact, there was a whole literature that I thought changed all that was done before. But as I said, I myself didn’t write because I had nothing to say then.

You started writing Tropisms when you were thirty-two; it is a short book of twenty-four pieces, yet it took you seven years.

SARRAUTE: It took five years, which is still long. Then I spent two years trying to find a publisher for it. Finally a very good publisher, Robert Lafont, who had discovered Céline and Queneau took it. He published it in the same collection as Queneau.

How did you arrive at the form for those first short texts?

SARRAUTE: The first one came out just how it is in the book. I felt it like that. Some of the others I worked on a lot.

And why did you choose the name Tropisms?

SARRAUTE: It was a term that was in the air, it came from the sciences, from biology, botany. I thought it fit the interior movement that I wanted to show. So when I had to come up with a title in order to show it to publishers, I took that.

How did you know what they were at the time, these tropisms? How did you know when you’d found one?

SARRAUTE: I didn’t always know, I might discover it in the writing. I didn’t try to define them, they just came out like that.

The tropisms often seem to work through a poetic sensibility.

SARRAUTE: I’ve always thought that there is no border, no separation, between poetry and prose. Michaux, is he prose or poetry? Or Francis Ponge? It’s written in prose, and yet it’s poetry, because it’s the sensation that is carried across by way of the language.

With the tropisms, did you feel that it was fiction, did you wonder what to call it?

SARRAUTE: I didn’t pose myself such questions, really. I knew it seemed impossible to me to write in the traditional forms. They seemed to have no access to what we experienced. If we en- closed that in characters, personalities, a plot, we were overlooking everything that our senses were perceiving, which is what interested me. One had to take hold of the instant, by enlarging it, developing it. That’s what I tried to do in Tropisms.

Did you sense at the time that that was the direction your work would go?

SARRAUTE: I felt that a path was opening before me, a path that excited me. As if I’d found my own terrain, upon which I could move forward, where no one had gone prior to me. Where I was in charge.

Were you already wondering how to use that in other contexts such as a novel?

SARRAUTE: Not at all. I thought only of writing short texts like that. I couldn’t imagine it possible to write a long novel. And afterwards, it was so difficult finding these texts; each time it was like starting a new book all over again; so I told myself perhaps it would be interesting to take two semblances of characters who were entirely commonplace, as in Balzac, a miser and his daughter, and to show all the tropisms that develop inside of them. That’s how I wrote Portrait of a Man Unknown.

In effect, one could say that all or most tropisms we might find in people could also be found in a single person.

SARRAUTE: Absolutely. I’m convinced that everyone has it all in himself, at that level. On the exterior level of action, I don’t for a minute think that Hitler is like Joan of Arc. But I think that at that deep level of tropisms Hitler or Stalin must have experienced the same tropisms as anyone else.

The tropisms would seem to enter the domain of the social sciences as well.

SARRAUTE: Yes. I’ve become more accessible, besides. My work used to be entirely closed to people. For a long time people didn’t get inside there; they couldn’t manage to really penetrate these books.

Why do you think that is?

SARRAUTE: Because it’s difficult. Because I plunge in directly, without giving any reference points. One doesn’t know where one is, or who is who. I speak right away of the essential things, and that’s very difficult. In addition, people have the habit of looking for the framework of the traditional novel—characters, plots—and they don’t find it; they’re lost.

That brings up the question of how to read these books. You do without plot, for example.

SARRAUTE: There is a plot, if you like, but it’s not the usual plot. It is the plot made up of these movements between human beings. If one takes an interest in what I do, one follows a sort of movement of dramatic actions that takes place at the level of the tropisms and of the dialogue. It’s a different dramatic action than that of the traditional novel.

You’ve said that you prefer a relatively continuous reading of your books. But all reading is a somewhat fragmentary experience. With a traditional novel, when one picks it up again to continue reading, there are the characters and the plot to situate oneself, to discover where one has left off. In your books, do you see other ways of keeping track of where one was?

SARRAUTE: I don’t know. I don’t know how one reads it. I can’t put myself in the reader’s place, or know what he’s looking for, what he sees. I have no idea. I never think of him when I’m writing. Otherwise, I’d be writing things that suit him and please him. And for years he didn’t like it, he wasn’t interested.

Even after several books you weren’t discouraged?

SARRAUTE: No, not at all. I was always supported, all the same, from the start. With Portrait of a Man Unknown, I was supported by Sartre. At the time Sartre was the only person who was doing something about literature; he had a review. My husband was also tremendously supportive, from the very start. He was a marvelous reader for me; he always encouraged me a great deal. That was a lot. It suffices to have one reader, who realizes what you want to do. So it was a great solitude, if you like, but deep down inside it wasn’t solitude. Sartre was impassioned by Portrait of a Man Unknown. So that was very encouraging. Then when Martereau was done, Marcel Arland was very excited and had it published with Gallimard. He was editing the Nouvelle Revue Française at the time. I always had a few enthusiastic readers. When Tropisms came out, I received an enthusiastic letter from Max Jacob, who at the time was very admired as a poet. I can’t say it was a total solitude.

Did Sartre or others try to claim you as an existentialist?

SARRAUTE: No, not at all. He said, I had better write a preface for it, otherwise you won’t find a publisher, because he had become very famous by then. But despite his preface nobody wanted the book, and in the end a small publisher took it. It had only one little notice and was ignored. Later Sartre told me, If you persist in writing like this you’ll sacrifice your life.

Simone de Beauvoir, while she didn’t mind Sartre being surrounded by, or even having affairs with pretty actresses and secretaries, was said to be terribly jealous of women of superior intelligence who got close to him, and she broke your friendship. Is that true?

SARRAUTE: It is true that she separated us completely. But I heard that she couldn’t bear Sartre having an intellectual relationship with anyone, male or female. She caused the break with Merleau-Ponty, Raymond Aron, Camus . . . She wanted to be the only one.

But I liked Sartre very much. He had an attentiveness that denoted generosity, and I think he was warm. Simone de Beauvoir, on the other hand, was cold and distant, and as they were very close it colored his attitudes too, sometimes. He listened marvelously.

That might explain why some women were seduced by him, despite his physique.

SARRAUTE: I don’t know, as I certainly wasn’t one of them! I liked him as a friend, but found him physically one of the most repulsive men I had ever seen—it was terrible! The physical aspect of a man was always very important to me.

What about your own feminism?

SARRAUTE: I militated for the women’s vote in 1935. I have always been a feminist in so far as I want equal rights for women. But the idea of “women’s writing” shocks me. I think that in art we are androgynous. Our brains are not different, but until now women were less educated, so they produced fewer works of art. People always compare women to each other. I was once asked at a conference what was the similarity between Marguerite Yourcenar and Marguerite Duras. I said that there was an enormous similarity: they were both called Marguerite! Otherwise there is not an iota of connection between them.

Some people have seen a feminist bias in your work.

SARRAUTE: Imagine! But I hardly ever think of gender when I write about my characters. I often prefer he to she because he is neutral but she is only female. In The Planetarium there is an old woman who is anxious because a door-handle has been badly put on her door. Well, a young man wrote to me and that “this old lady is me!” He explained that he had just been married and moved to a new apartment, and that he was just as worked-up about some details as my character. You can imagine how pleased I was!

Some time ago I received a doctoral thesis whose subject was woman’s condition in my novels! I was flabbergasted! But if I had wanted to discuss woman’s condition I wouldn’t have written the sort of books I have. Woman’s condition is the last thing on my mind when I write.

To return to tropisms, do you feel there are other writers who have found certain lessons in that domain?

SARRAUTE: I don’t feel I have any imitators. I think it’s a domain that is too much my own.

Would it be possible to use the tropisms in a more traditional novel?

SARRAUTE: I don’t see how. What interest would there be? Because in a more traditional novel, one shows characters with personality traits, while the tropisms are entirely minute things that take place in a few instants inside of anybody at all. What could that bring to the description of a character?

As if at the moment of the tropisms, the character vanishes.

SARRAUTE: He disintegrates before the extraordinary complexity of the tropisms inside of him.



31dnub-iq8l-_sx320_bo1204203200_ Nathalie Sarraute Tropisms
New Directions

‘Hailed as a masterpiece by Jean Genet, Marguerite Duras, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Tropisms is considered one of the defining texts of the nouveau roman movement. Nathalie Sarraute has defined her work as the “movements that are hidden under the commonplace, harmless instances of our everyday lives.” Like figures in a grainy photograph, Sarraute’s characters are blurred and shadowy, while her narrative never develops beyond a stressed moment. Instead, Sarraute brilliantly finds and elaborates subtle details―when a relationship changes, when we fall slightly deeper into love, or when something innocent tilts to the smallest degree toward suspicion.’ — New Directions




She had understood the secret. She had scented the hiding-place of what should be the real treasure for everybody. She knew the ‘scale of values.’

No conversations about the shape of hats and Rémond fabrics for her. She had profound contempt for square-toed shoes.

Like a wood-louse she had crawled insidiously towards them and maliciously found out about ‘the real thing’, like a cat that licks its chops and closes its eyes before a jug of cream it has discovered.

Now she knew it. She was going to stay there. They would never dislodge her from there again. She listened, she absorbed, greedy, voluptuous, rapacious. Nothing of what belonged to them was going to escape her: picture galleries, all the new books… She knew all that. She had begun with ‘Les Annales’, now she was veering towards Gide, soon she would be going to take notes, an eager, avid gleam in her eye, at meetings of the ‘Union for Truth’.

She ranged over all that, sniffed everywhere, picked up everything with her square-nailed fingers; as soon as anyone spoke vaguely of that anywhere, her eyes lighted up, she stretched out her neck, agog.

For them this was unutterably repellent. Hide it from her – quick – before she scents it, carries it away, preserve it from her degrading contact… But she foiled them, because she knew everything. The Chartres Cathedral could not be hidden from her. She knew all about it. She had read what Péguy had thought of it.

In the most secret recesses, among the treasures that were the best hidden, she rummaged about with her avid fingers. Everything ‘intellectual’. She had to have it. For her. For her, because she knew now the real value of things. She had to have what was intellectual.

There were a great many like her, hungry, pitiless parasites, leeches, firmly settled on the articles that appeared, slugs stuck everywhere, spreading their mucus on corners of Rimbaud, sucking on Mallarmé, lending one another Ulysses or the Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge, which they slimed with their low understanding.

‘It’s so beautiful,’ she said, opening her eyes in which, with a pure, inspired expression, she kindled a ‘divine spark’.



During his very well-attended lectures at the Collège de France, he amused himself with all that.

He enjoyed prying, with the dignity of professional gestures, with relentless, expert hands, into the secret places of Proust or Rimbaud, then, exposing their so-called miracles, their mysteries, to the gaze of his very attentive audience, he would explain their ‘case’.

With his sharp, mischevous little eyes, his ready-tied cravate and his square-trimmed beard, he looked enormously like the gentleman in the advertisements who, with one finger in the air, smiling recommends Saponite, the best of soap-powders, or the model Salamander: economy, security, comfort.

‘There is nothing,’ he said, ‘you see I went to look for myself, because I won’t be bluffed; nothing that I myself have not already studied clinically countless times, that I have not catalogued and explained.

‘They should not upset you. Look, in my hands they are like trembling, nude little children, and I am holding them up to you in the hollow of my hand, as though I were their creator, their father, I have emptied them for you of their power and their mystery. I have tracked down, harried what was miraculous about them.

‘Now they hardly differ from the intelligent, curious and amusing eccentrics who come and tell me their interminable stories, to get me to help them, appreciate them, and reassure them.

‘You can no more be affected than my daughters are when they entertain their girl friends in their mother’s parlour, and chatter and laugh gaily without being concerned with what I am saying to my patients in the next room.’

This was what he taught at the Collège de France. And in the entire neighbourhood, in all the nearby Faculties, in the literature, law, history and philosophy courses, at the Institute and at the Palais de Justice, in the buses, in the métros, in all the government offices, sensible men, normal men, active men, worthy, wholesome, strong men, triumphed.

Avoiding the shops filled with pretty things, the women trotting briskly along, the café waiters, the medical students, the traffic policemen, the clerks from notary offices, Rimbaud or Proust, having been torn from life, cast out from life and deprived of support, were probably wandering aimlessly through the streets, or dozing away, their heads resting on their chests, in some dusty public square.



Those who have followed him [Gide] and have wanted to try and make these subterranean actions re-live for the reader as they unfold, have met with certain difficulties. Because these inner dramas composed of attacks, triumphs, recoils, defeats, caresses, bites, rapes, murders, generous abandons or humble submissions, all have one thing in common: they cannot do without a partner.

Often it is an imaginary partner who emerges from our past experiences or from our day-dreams, and the scenes of love or combat between us, by virtue of their wealth of adventure, the freedom with which they unfold and what they reveal concerning our least apparent inner structure, can constitute very valuable fictional material.

It remains nonetheless true that the essential feature of these dramas is constituted by an actual partner.

For this fresh and blood partner is constantly nurturing and renewing our stock of experiences. He is pre-emionently the catalyser, the stimulant, thanks to whom these movements are set in motion, the obstacle that gives them cohesion, that keeps them from growing soft from ease and gratuitousness, or from going round and round in circles in the monotonous indigence of ruminating on one thing. He is the threat, the real danger as well as the prey that brings out their alertness and their suppleness; the mysterious element whose unforeseeable reactions, by making them continually start up again and evolve towards an unknown goal, accentuate their dramatic nature.

But at the same time that, in order to attain to this partner, they rise up from our darkest recesses towards the light of day, a certain fear forces them back towards the shadow. They make us think of the little grey roaches that hide in moist holes. They are ashamed and prudent. The slightest look makes them flee. To blossom out they must have anonymity and impunity.

They consequently hardly show themselves in the form of actions. For actions do indeed develop in the open, in the garish light of day, and the tiniest of them, compared with these delicate, minute inner movements, appear to be gross and violent: they immediately attract attention. All their forms have long since been examined and classified; they are subject to strict rules, to very frequent inspection. Finally, very obvious, well-known, frank motives, thick, perfectly visible wires make all this enormous, heavy machinery work.

But lacking actions, we can use words. And words possess the qualities needed to seize upon, protect and bring out into the open these subterranean movements that are at once impatient and afraid.



p.s. Hey.  ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! My pleasure re: the slaves. Did you go to the NYE party? I literally did nothing. I kept thinking I should go out and find something festive, but it was just too cold, and, like I’ve said, I don’t like drinking alcohol very much. I like cold, and deep winter is my favorite season, but the cold is really biting here in Paris this year. Either that or my body heater is broken or something. So I just stayed home and worked and traded some festive well-wishes via the phone. It was perfectly acceptable. How has 2017 started for you? ** MyNeighbourJohnTurturro, Hi, man! Oh, I’m ultra-pleased to have successfully turned you on to Cheap Trick. Yes, they’re a very great band, and one whom a lot of people take for granted without actually exploring and grasping what they do. Strange, that. Anyway, obviously, I’m thrilled that you’re on board. And, yes, as I’ve said, I don’t think there’s a greater singer in all of rock than Robin Zander. On a visceral level, of course, but he can also invest his voice with such complex tones and attitudes, and he can locate this space where even completely contradictory emotions and intentions can share his voice and transmit simultaneously. Amazing. My Xmas and NYE were kind of indistinguishable from the days surrounding them, which was completely okay with me. Oh, yes, you can email me your CCA contact, that would be great! Thank you! My email, if you don’t have it, is Have an excellent today! ** David Ehrenstein, I’m giving that slave the benefit of the doubt that he was clever enough to know that would be an alluring head scratcher of a statement. I saw that about Kevin Sessums, and that he was allowed back, but I haven’t heard if David Drake got reinstated. David’s a lovely guy. ** James Nulick, Since every day is a Cheap Trick celebration as far as I’m concerned, you are not too late. I certainly agree that you need to start on that novel. When it gnaws, it’s ready. Very nice Cheap Trick story, buddy. I think the puppy’s outfit might have a thing or flap or doohickey on it that can be inserted into the anus and coat it in such a way that his asshole becomes an inlet of the costume? Maybe? ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. I do think Russell Mael did a vocal with Cheap Trick at some point. The rock lineage that starts with The Move is one of the most interesting and fruitful ones in rock. My personal rock god Robert Pollard (GbV) is in that lineage from The Move and also counts both Cheap Trick and Sparks among his most inspiring forebears. Yeah, I think that’s good way to think about Zander’s approach, inhabiting characters. Also, one of the genius things about him, and the credit goes to Rick Nielsen’s lyrics too, is that Zander can create and channel a character while also using his voice to critique and/or pass judgement the character he’s performing from outside the character. I can’t think of anyone else in rock who can do that other than maybe Ray Davies and, yes, Russell Mael. I hope your NYE did whatever trick you wanted it to do. ** Steevee, Hi. The first Cheap Trick album is hard to beat, although ‘Heaven Tonight’ really is a masterpiece. I started seeing Cheap Trick live from the beginning when they were playing very small clubs, and they often played with punk bands. It wasn’t an odd combination at all. Their initial audience before they blew up with the Budokan album was very much among people whose main interest was in the general punk rock area. Yes, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I saw Tom Petty very early as the opening act for some well-ish known punk band at the Whiskey A-Go-Go, and he got violently booed offstage after about three songs. I’m getting the feeling that when ‘Silence’ opens here I’m going to have to push myself a little to go see it. Gisele has made mix-tapes for performers in the theater/dance works to use as reference points sometimes, yes. Zac and I haven’t done that for the film work, yet anyway. It’s an idea. ** Kyler, A late HNY back to you. You mean have I been to see things at the Opera, the original one? Many times, yeah. Weirdly, I live literally a 90 second walk from the new Opera at Bastille, but I’ve never been inside. Ah, a new apprarance of your non-fiction. I’ll go read that, obviously. Everyone, author and d.l. and much more Kyler has a non-fiction piece he wrote invitingly called ‘Actor Turned Psychic; Setting Out on the Path of Magic’ newly up online and readable by one and all. Here. Need I even say that I recommend you hit that link post-haste? Your can be an opera queen if you want. I have many close friend who are ‘opera queens’, and they are perfectly fine and admirable people. ** Sypha, Hi, James. Picky. I think that slave’s outfit isn’t leather but maybe neoprene? I’m not sure. But, if so, maybe it can hosed off or something. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I hope your 2017 has begun splendidly. My NYE was as lowkey as a NYE could possibly be. And we both survived. ** Bill, HNY to you, Bill! I think my jaw might have literally dropped when I found that Pina Bausch expert/slave and, moreso, found his PB expert/commenter. Once in a lifetime. My NYE was nothing. Kind of literally. I think Zac did it up properly and tied it on with some friends. Which fetish Coil vinyl? Good morning. ** H, Hi. And a very HNY to you and all of yours! ** Misanthrope, Hi. It does seem like some kind of social media-induced form of bipolarity. I don’t think I really understand why people find the outputting of outrage and grief so addictive. Or why they feel the need to prove how outraged or grief-stricken they are by relentlessly linking to news items no matter how spurious the sources. It’s interesting, but it’s equally exhausting to observe. Anyway, you put it very well. I feel like for me personally 2017 is going to be a good one, but for everyone in general, maybe not so much. Who knows, though. ** Montse, Hey, Montse! Awesomeness-incarnate to see you, dear pal! My NYE, as I said up above, was a perfectly quiet and acceptable non-event. I stayed inside and used the fact that it’s freezing cold here as my excuse. Your NYE sounds lovely. Yes, we are beginning the big work on our new film. It’s going to get crazy busy very soon. We’re kind of on the cusp of becoming swamped in a great way with all the things we need to do to get ready. Very exciting! Yes, I, of course, have three other projects I’m busy with, but, luckily, they’re mostly on hold for the moment. Zac is doing really well. I will give him your love today, and I can 100% guarantee that he will send his love back to you. Has your 2017 begun well? I think mine has. Take good care, and please hang out here whenever you have time, and give my love to Xet and Mick too! Mega-love, Dennis. ** Joakim, Yay, an illustrated HNY! Thank you! Ha ha. Yeah, just let me know whenever you guys get your Paris plans sorted, and we’ll nail it. It will be so, so nice to see you whenever it is! I like the sound of your celebration. I … uh … worked, stayed in, turned the heater up as high as it would go, watched a little TV, wished some inebriated friends HNY on the phone, stuff like that. No big. Oh, I’ll check my email. Thank you! Hugs and love to you, my friend! ** Okay. I’m spotlighting the great Nathalie Sarraute today. Strangely, I feel like people aren’t writing and thinking about her that much at the present time, at least relative to some of her fellow Nouveau Roman writers, which is odd since she’s both among the greatest of them and essentially invented the Nouveau Roman when the book I’m spotlighting was first published years before the movement existed. Enjoy, I hope. See you tomorrow.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    Lovely Nathalie Sarraute Day

    David Drake got reinstated. but “Facebook” must be watched carefully because Vichy Gay Peter Thiel was involved in its created and all over the place Trumpistas are planning to make life horrible for those of us who won’t line up to kiss his ass.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    Demore Schwartz

  3. Montse

    Hi, Dennis!

    Happy to read you have had a good start of the year. A quiet NYE sounds good to me. I like staying in on that night. You love cold, so I guess you’re enjoying Paris at the moment. It’s rather chilly today in Barcelona. Four degrees this morning, which is pretty rare here. Yes, so far 2017 has started well. We bought a bûche de Noël for Christmas and we obviously thought of you. We got it from a French place called Madeleine Mon Amour which, as the name suggests, specialises in madeleines. It was quite good, but I’m sure yours must have been terrific. It’s great that you’re excited about the film preparation. I haven’t read any Sarraute, I should, thanks for this! Xet and Mick also send their love. xxx

  4. Tosh Berman

    That’s it! I need to read Nathalie Sarraute. I have been putting it off for some odd reason, and I know that I will be crazy for her after reading this book. Also I suspect have her book somewhere in the pile of books around this room. Small books are easy to lose!

    I spent new year’s day at the movies. Went to see the new Martin Scorsese film “Silence.” I liked it. That whole religious world is a totally, yet slightly exotic landscape for me. Also, it’s nice to go to a comfortable theater and see a two hour-and-a-half film. I think this is a film that cannot possibly work on one’s home set-up and/or on a plane. My goal of the new year is to go cinema that can’t work anywhere else, except in a proper theater.

  5. Dóra Grőber


    Yes, I decided to go in the end and it was okay, way better actually than I expected. Then I came home when I felt like I’d had enough – it was a bit after midnight. Next time, though, I think I’d like a quiet, my-style New Year’s Eve, too which highly resembles how you spent the night.
    2017 started well. I started working on the presentation of my thesis and I also started a new scrapbook with some Club Kids-inspired stuff today which I’m quite excited about!
    How has the New Year started for you? I hope it brings all kinds of fantastic things!!

  6. steevee

    I hope I didn’t dissuade you from seeing SILENCE. While I had some problems with the film, I found it a rewarding experience, and as Tosh suggested, it has a monumental quality that demands the big screen and would probably be ruined on an airplane.

  7. _Black_Acrylic

    I wasn’t even aware of Nathalie Sarraute’s existence before today, so thank you for this introduction. I’m busy for the coming days but pledge to give her work a closer look later in the week.

    I’m back up in Dundee, having journeyed up here with my dad earlier today. There was nice sparkling sunshine to neutralise the freezing cold. Now I’ve a few days’ work lined up, which won’t be ‘proper’ work until I’m signed off to take calls proper. Ooh this looks cool, a trailer for the forthcoming Filmwinter festival that ART101 is a part of later in January, yippee!

    @ DC, you’ll be happy to hear that I used my Secret Santa Waterstone’s voucher to preorder Robert Bresson – Notes on the Cinematograph, so I’m very much looking forward to that kicking off 2017.

  8. steevee

    I know what you mean about the automatic outpouring of grief. I like a few of George Michael’s hits, but to be honest, his music never meant much to me, although I really have nothing against it. His personality, as far as I can determine through the media, meant more: I really respected that once he was outed, he was completely open and unapologetic about the fact that he was in an open relationship and smoked pot. I think I said something to that effect on Facebook. But at the same time, I would never go on Facebook and say “most of Michael’s music bores me” – I wouldn’t even do that when Glenn Frey died, and I fucking hate the Eagles!

  9. james chapman

    sarraute’s “the golden fruits” every writingish person should read…it’s a novel simply consisting of all the smart buzz and snark and praise and critique that surround a newly published novel called “the golden fruits”…you see the novel’s stock go up and down, and the snobbishness and bandwagon-jumping involved in literary reputation…very funny and all done in her floating-voices style a la “the waves”…reading it makes a person never want to make clever in-the-know remarks about books again

  10. David Ehrenstein

    Latest FaBlog: Poodle Power

  11. Kyler

    Thanks a lot Dennis. Cool to know you live so close to the Opera Bastille and that you’ve been inside L’Opera…I enjoy picturing you in there. It’s so beautiful. I’m really not an opera queen (just a Wagner queen, haha) – and your description of the fine and admirable opera queens you know made me laugh. I finally found Knight of Cups online and I’m watching little bits at a time. Can’t seem to take it all at once. I don’t think his technique works as well as it did in Tree of Life. But there’s something in it that I wanted to tell you: there’s a short segment of a woman doing an excellent version of the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, mentioned in my recent article) – that has actually inspired me…the woman in the film does it very well. Very interesting day today, thank you sir.

    • Kyler

      There was a high school English teacher who I never had, but I used to hear tidbits from her classes, which I’ve never forgotten. One of the things she said was to avoid the word “interesting.” Too easy a word, she said – and I thought of this when I used it above, rushing to have dinner. “Illuminating” would be a better word.

      • Kyler

        further along with Knight of Cups and I’ve changed my mind – it’s gotten mesmerizing –

  12. James Nulick


    Wow, I had no idea Sarraute more or less started the nouveau roman movement.. now I’ll have to pick up Tropisms. I own 4 books by Sarraute…

    The Golden Fruits
    Portrait of a Man Unknown
    The Planetarium

    I’ll check amazon or eBay for Tropisms… the 4 books I have are all hardcover, maybe I can find it in hardcover, too!

    Say Dennis are you planning on returning to Los Angeles at all in 2017?


  13. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Hmm, from the excerpts, I can see why some thought this was a collection of prose poems. But there’s nothing wrong with a novel reading that way. And vice versa, if you ask me. A new writer to me indeed. I like her photo.

    Well, not to toot my own horn, but I predicted on here that 2016 would be crazy as shit. Of course, that’s not a hard prediction. But let’s hope my 2017 as awesome in general holds true too.

    (For what it’s not worth, I predicted Trump would win on the day he announced he was running. Actually, my nephew and I both did. My mom laughed when it came on the news. “Yeah, right.” “He’s gonna be the next president, just watch.” I don’t know, I just had this really strange feeling.)

    RE: spurious news sources. Indeed! I still can’t believe that in these rather advanced years of the interwebs that people keep falling for this shit. I especially marvel at the ones that pop up every 3 years and go viral. “Bill Gates is giving away $10 million to everyone who forwards this email!” “Facebook is going to start charging $9.99 a month next month!” “Post this on your wall and Facebook no longer owns everything you put on it!”

    I read an interesting interview about a month ago in the Washington Post. It was with the guy who’s considered the biggest purveyor of fake news. He was/is rabidly anti-Trump. He’s the one who put the Muslim badges story on the web that went viral. However, he now thinks that he and his fake news may have had a hand in electing Trump.

    Essentially, many people just didn’t do their research, thought the stories were true, and agreed with them. He didn’t expect that people would actually believe them and much more less….agree with the ideas he asserted falsely that Trump had put forth.

    I think one thing he might be missing out on is the fact that some people do their research and after a number of fake news stories, they end up not believing even real news stories that are along the same lines but true.

    But even research isn’t enough for some people. I recently had a friend put up a story -totally bogus- that one of the creators of the HPV vaccine said that she’d never give it to her daughter because it causes cancer. Never happened. There are even legit sites with quotes from the woman saying, “I NEVER SAID THAT! IT’S A LIE!” But nope, the other women on the thread, after a buddy of mine pointed out that it was a false story and provided legit evidence to the contrary, said they believed the story. Most of the reasoning was, “Why is this story even out there if it doesn’t have some truth to it?” Duh.

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