As of late, I’ve had the great fortune of spending a good bit of time with Don Gillespie, John Cage’s long-time music publisher. Recently, I asked him for a list of his personal favorite pieces of music. He emailed me a dozen composers, highlighting his favorite works of each. Thought I’d share them with everyone.
1. Frederick Delius: Appalachia, Sea Drift, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
I wrote about William Gass and his new novel Middle C for Full Stop. There’s an excerpt below, but you can read the entire piece by clicking here.
As a young man, William Gass made, what he called, a rather “odd decision.” One day while in college, he sat at his desk and forced himself “with the greatest deliberation” to write in a different script. He told an interviewer in 1976 (when he was 52) that he had wanted to change the physical nature of the words, “which even then were all of [him he] cared to have admired.” He went on for years after, writing everything, “marginal notes, reminders, messages — in a hand that was very Germanic and stiff.” If he were to “eventually write anything which has any enduring merit,” he claims it will be because of this change, because, as he has it, “I stuffed another tongue in my mouth.”
My essay on the works of César Aira is up at Trop Magazine.
“In his novel, The Literary Conference, the Argentinian author César Aira, via a narrator also named César Aira, cautions us against any interpretation of his work, saying, ‘The rest of the world has no inkling of the mental whirlwinds swirling under my impassive facade, except, perhaps, through the amplification of that impassivity, or through certain digressions I engage in and abandon without warning.’”
My piece on Elena Passarello’s Let Me Clear My Throat is up at 3:AM Magazine.
“What do readers mean when they say ‘This book changed my life’? I have said this phrase a few times, and each time, more often than not, I meant it as hyperbole, as another way of saying this book gave me a profound emotional and intellectual experience unlike any book had before. I say it as an advertisement, as if to give those I am pushing the book onto an incentive to read it. But if I focus, strip away the hyperbolic, and think truthfully about the concept of a book changing my life, I have a problem of running into one of my stubborn beliefs. I am a person with little interest in intentions; I believe my life is composed of a series of actions, each one shaping me into who I am constantly becoming. Therefore, every book I read changes my life, or creates my life, if you will, whether it be a masterpiece by one of the greats or an airport mass-market I pick up to take my mind off the threat of future turbulence. ”
I don’t like “Best Of” lists. I understand their existence and can sometimes see their importance. But like awards, they’re too reliably unreliable. Besides, they’re exclusive and that’s kind of dumb. So instead of not mentioning any of the books I read this year, I decided to write a small amount on each of them. Hope you enjoy. If you have any comments or questions regarding my list feel free to @ me on twitter (@deskofalex) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope you all have a wonderful 2013! Here’s to another great year of reading!!!!
I read all the Aira in translation and then wrote a huge piece on him. Hopefully, that piece will be out in January. So, until then, you’ll have to wait to find out exactly what I think about his work. I will tell you that The Hare, which New Directions is publishing in the middle of next year, is terrible. But I do think he deserves to be read. He’s brilliant most of the time, just not always.
Something strange happens in my intestines. It started over the past summer and landed me in the hospital once and, later, in front of four confused doctors. I tried to write this on Friday. I tried when the tragedy was still fresh, when it was a national wound, before any clotting had begun. I tried and failed. But I felt all the familiar emotions and kept some of them at bay. And I’m afraid that keeping the ones I kept out of me that day, led me back to the problem I have with my own inner workings. Today, Sunday, my stomach, my intestines, are kicking around like I swallowed a sack of dwarf mules. Maybe that’s what confused the doctors to no end. Maybe, as at least one of them thought, it is all in my head. Too bad it feels so much like it’s not.
My review of The Obscene Madame D is up at Full Stop. You can read it here.
I reviewed CAConrad’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon for The Brooklyn Rail. You can read the piece here.
PPOW is, by far, one of my favorite galleries in New York City. The artists they represent are constantly innovating, finding different ways to work with new mediums, taking hold of opportunities that science and technology are creating for them.
The Sarah Oppenheimer show at PPOW is in my top five best shows so far this season. Of course, we are only in the first two months of the 2012-2013 art year, but I can’t imagine too many things trumping the emotional rise I got out of walking around the gallery and interacting with the modifications she made to the gallery environment. Below are some photos I took while at the show. At the very end is a short video the gallery made about the piece.
From Tolstoy’s diary, dated March 1, 1897:
As I was walking around dusting things off in my room, I came to the sofa. For the life of me, I couldn’t recall whether I had already dusted it off or not. Since these movements are habitual and unconscious, I felt that it was already impossible to remember it. If I had in fact dusted the sofa and forgotten that I had done so, i.e., if I had acted unconsciously, then this is tantamount to not having done it at all. If someone had seen me doing this consciously, then it might have been possible to restore this in my mind. If, on the other hand, no one had been observing me or observing me unconsciously, if the complex life of many people takes place entirely on the level of the unconscious, then it’s as if this life had never been.
“Between art and everyday life there’s no difference…I take a chair and I simply put it in a gallery. The difference between a chair by Duchamp and one of my chairs is that Duchamp’s is on a pedestal and mine can still be used.”
-George Brecht (above image: 30 (to Chapter V, page 5) Chair with shirt)
A show at the New Museum, titled Ghost in the Machine, closed just this past Sunday. It was a very well curated exhibit that focused mainly on the human drive to birth ‘souls’ into the mechanical. They didn’t allow photos, but I was able to snap a couple shots (albeit poorly) of some magazine ads that J.G. Ballard produced in the 60s and 70s. They were meant as a kind of experimental fiction.
On the wall opposite these ads, a film, predating Cronenberg’s by decades, played scenes constructed from Ballard’s novel Crash. A wonderfully empty-sounding voice read passages from the book matching the action reeling on the wall. Unfortunately, due to security guard positioning, I was unable to snap a photo of the film for at least a reference image. But I did get these below.