The 1975’s Brief Inquiry

1. The 1975

“One and the same civilization produces simultaneously two such different things as a poem by T.S. Eliot and a Tin Pan Alley song, or a painting by Braque and a Saturday Evening Post cover… [W]hat  perspective of culture is large enough to enable us to situate them in an enlightening relation to each other?”

—Clement Greenberg, “Avant Garde & Kitsch”

When I was nine or ten I heard “We Didn’t Start The Fire” in my grade-school music class and was assigned to write a poem in similar cadence. The bulk is lost but I remember clearly couplets like “George Bush/ brain mush” (it was 2004). Sentimental, then, to hear The 1975’s “Love It If We Made It”: “Consultation/ Degradation/ Fossil fuelling/ Masturbation/ Immigration/ Liberal kitsch/ Kneeling on a pitch.” This is Dombal’s “Anthem for Our Time,” a “mirror up to our collective faces.” Zoladz over at The Ringer calls it “one for the time capsule” right after mentioning the quoted lyrics took two years for Healy to write. Both Dombal and Zoladz seem the type who’d think the climate change scenes in Schrader’s First Reformed were its finest moments (and who couldn’t accept its ending in redemptive if wholly a-contemporary grace), where relating to the present and the political are inherently valuable as ends, aside from quality, nuance, or integratedness of commentary.

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Oscillation / Fashion

1. Oscillation

You can never really tell when James Murphy’s being sincere, whether he’s making fun of others or making fun of himself. “Pow Pow”’s his statement of philosophy—“from this position / I can totally see how the decision was reached”—which is a sort of pragmatist-PoMo enlightenment: acknowledge perspective’s providence on truth and then turn it into a middle-aged reasonableness (over youthful anger, over Roman conceit).

On the surface Murphy’s all about fashion (“I’m losing my edge to Internet seekers who can tell me every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978… the art-school Brooklynites [with] borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties”). More substantially he’s obsessed with Hegelian dialectic — thesis, antithesis, synthetic reconciliation (“And they’re actually really, really nice”; “Maybe I’m wrong / And maybe you’re right” ; the love & hate vis-a-vis New York). Continue reading “Oscillation / Fashion”

New Fiction is Psychic Occupation

Fiction—or more generally, longform narrative text—has long been the handyman of culture, serving whatever functions are most urgently needed at a historical moment. The Greek oral tradition, famously, functioned in part to preserve cultural histories and customs—hence the sprawling lists of names and figures, or lengthy descriptions of hospitality, in Homer. Arabic maqamas synthesized and preserved the collected wisdom of the medieval Iberian peninsula through proverbs and fables. Victorian novels provided an escapist entertainment for members of the aristocracy, while the Bible, Quran, and Mahābhārata operated as normative unifiers.

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Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling

Visual art — representational imagery — begins somewhere between fifty and one-hundred thousand years ago, overlapping with the Upper Paleolithic Transition. The period consists of rapid gains in tool technologies alongside the beginnings of modern symbolic thought, with human societies developing currency systems, dispersed social organizations, and increasingly sophisticated religious belief. Continue reading “Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling”

On the Erotics of Interpretation

by Suspended Reason w/ James Wood

In Antonioni’s film L’eclisse, the luminous Monica Vitti visits the Rome stock exchange, where her fiance, played by Alain Delon, works. Delon points out a fat man who has just lost 50 million lire. Intrigued, she follows the man. He orders a drink at a bar, barely touches it, then goes to a cafe, where he orders an acqua minerale, which he again barely touches. He is writing something on a piece of paper, and leaves it on the table. We imagine that it must be a set of furious, melancholy figures. Vitti approaches the table, and sees that it is a drawing of a flower. Continue reading “On the Erotics of Interpretation”

Valencia/Rectify/Film/Television/Literature

I.

James Nulick’s Valencia opens with an HIV diagnosis. Nulick, protagonist, is dying. He has traveled to the southern coast of Spain to stay at the hotel which gives the novel its name. He has traveled there to hasten his death, to preempt the prolonged and painful corporal vulnerability which immunodeficiency entails. Continue reading “Valencia/Rectify/Film/Television/Literature”

Liturgy & Pastoral

Mexico City

The mask stares out, eyes appalled, black and glassy. He is anonymous and intensely personal; he sees the opiate addicts and the basement dwellers, the alienated-enfranchised; all the darkness of the developed world, so that it dominates his view and is reflected in his eyes and slowly suffuses his corneas. From here it overtakes him; the pressure causes pockmarks in his face like lunar craters; dead skin sloughs off at an accelerating rate; and soon it will destroy him entirely, infiltrating the calcite of his skeletal system. Continue reading “Liturgy & Pastoral”

Information Cycles & Erisology

art_02_f01

Roberto Bolano I detecti e slevaggi

John Nerst of Everything Studies, whose essays include "Partial Derivatives and Partial Narratives,""What is Erisology?" and a statistical analysis of Black Mirror, has contributed to this essay in Section II. His contribution here is especially authoritative, as the governing theme of Everything Studies is the self-coined "erisology" — the study of disagreement. Continue reading “Information Cycles & Erisology”

Ulysses, Wilde, and a Theory of Literary Compression

“He looked at the cattle, blurred in silver heat. Silvered powdered olive trees. Quiet long days: pruning ripening. Olives are packed in jars, eh? I have a few left from Andrews…

A cloud began to cover the sun wholly slowly wholly. Grey. Far. No, not like that. A barren land, bare waste. Vulcanic lake, the dead sea… Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain.”

Ulysses, 4.200-221

An introduction to this text can be found here.

The mobilization of Ulysses and Earnest is purposefully audacious and inevitably missteps. The overarching tone, and parts of the analysis, I would characterize as understandably wrong.

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