josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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10 Aug '03 11:36:59 AM

You can imagine how in maybe fifty or sixty years of quoting paragraphs from introductions and prefaces, I will amass what I need for my own purposes. Then I will start working.

10 Aug '03 11:34:42 AM

In the introduction to his third book on Deleuze and the arts (the one on 'music, painting, and the arts'), Ronald Bogue says some helpful things about understanding Deleuze:

'Deleuze is a profound and original analyst of the arts, I believe, but there are formidable obstacles to a ready assimilation of his thought. He is an inveterate neologizer and inventor of concepts, whose works at times read like one extended definition of terms. His arguments are often dense, and they always entail a thought that proceeds by means of paradox. Although carefully structured and gracefully crafted, his chapters frequently challenge readers' abilities to follow the arabesques of the general line of reasoning. He is scrupulous in his citation of sources, but his texts often require a thorough familiarity with the cited works in order to be completely intelligible. He offers copious analogies and examples to illustrate his points, yet seldom does he engage in prolonged discussions of any one analogy or example. Finally, he advocates and practices an unorthodox "nomadic thought," whereby concepts are at times modified and transformed from work to work, and even from section to section of the same work.

To help overcome these obstacles, I have attempted a reading of Deleuze, in several senses of the term. First, I have focused much of my analysis on the explication of difficult passages. Broad overviews are useful, but moving from the general to the specific can be especially perilous in interpreting Deleuze. He is most fascinating and most demanding in the subtle twists and turns of his arguments, and often the most resistant sentence or paragraph proves the key to understanding an entire section of a work. As part of this explication of difficult passages, I have ventured as well to trace the filaments that interconnect dense textual nodes and articulate the logic that informs the development of individual concepts. I have also attempted a "reading along with" Deleuze, investigating his sources and indicating the ways in which he appropriates other writers' terms, analyses, and illustrations for his own purposes. Often Deleuze's seemingly arcane remarks are simply highly allusive, and once one is familiar with his sources, his arguments become relatively straightforward. My reading of Deleuze has required as well an effort to tease out the implications of the analogies and examples he offers to explain various abstract concepts. Some of the most exhilarating and intriguing moments in Deleuze's writings begin with the phrase "it's as if...," and with careful elaboration of the hints supplied in his passing illustrations many opaque notions become considerably more transparent. Finally, I have proposed a reading of Deleuzian concepts that discriminates shifts in usage from context to context and suggests the possible rationale behind those shifts.'

I've been reading plateau ten ('1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible...') lately, and can attest that Bogue's exhilaration isn't hyperbole. But for me it's still intermingled with strong bouts of befuddlement.

References to Deleuze's 'nomadic thought' are all over the secondary literature, but I don't think I've yet read anything that has given me the impression of understanding what Deleuze means by it. This is not a comment on the literature I'm familiar with. I just haven't read anything relevant at all. But just the very way Bogue puts it above makes me sit up a little: oh, here's a thing I want for my own. (Sterling: 'sometimes I think you read everything methodologically'.)

10 Aug '03 10:53:20 AM

On the sexy new NYLPM, Tom notes some records that 'refuse to make it clear how you (the listener) should take them'. I wonder what happens when you look for other records like that, but without the issue of authenticity close by. Records that refuse to make it clear what you should do with them. Records that refuse to make it clear how much you should listen to them. Records that refuse to make it clear why you should listen to them.

Records that refuse to make it clear what they should mean, which is the pedantic, parallel form of 'records that refuse to make it clear what they mean', given the way we usually talk about meaning, are less interesting. (I wonder how many times I've had an English professor or teacher make a virtue of ambiguity or polysemy.)

Replacing 'should' with 'can' is perhaps also interesting, but probably not as interesting. Also kind of incoherent for the 'why' question above.

The 'how much' question is meant to be about repetition most generally, not about how much listening is required before you get the record. (I only listen to Coltrane's Meditations about once every two years, I think. I listened to 'Lithium' on repeat overnight - while awake - as a teenager. Lots of records I just stop listening to, eventually. I've heard people worried enough about wearing out their favorite records that they started limiting the time they spent listening to them. This always seemed strange to me, but then maybe if my attrition rate keeps growing I'll be more sympathetic while I still have some favorites left.)

10 Aug '03 09:13:24 AM

All of these things might be said in circumstances where interest and value are closely related. 'Interest' might last only a moment, or it may mark a number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, in which a piece of music is captivating, rewarding, confusing, enticing, fruitful, unfamiliar, comforting, fashionable, surprising, soothing, energizing, unpopular, serviceable, familiar, engaging, challenging, bracing, popular, effective, important, unfashionable, relaxing, functional. These qualities and others all mark value of some sort. Even the imagined or believed possibility of these qualities is often enough. And by 'value' I don't mean anything specific. A valuable thing: something to be kept, desired, praised, set apart, shared, remembered, contested, protected, transmitted, preserved, considered, enjoyed, appreciated, recognized, sought out - all of these things, and whatever else people do with regard to value.

10 Aug '03 08:49:32 AM

I am aware of the deficiencies of saying The Man Without Qualities is about 'early twentieth century Viennese intellectuals debating big important shit'.

9 Aug '03 11:02:45 AM

Don't take what I said about Gravity's Rainbow very seriously, as far as textual analysis goes. I can't be bothered now.

9 Aug '03 10:59:57 AM

I never noticed before (or maybe I did and forgot, it's a big book) how Gwenhidwy's dialogue in Gravity's Rainbow sounds so much like the narration, relative to the other characters' speech - I mean in the way that, like the Duino Elegies, the narration regularly takes these fantastic turns into abstraction, in the movement of a sentence, then keeps moving at the same speed, with Pynchon's incredible sensitivity for the strains on syntax that semantics can accomodate, while still in the absract. I don't recall Gwenhidwy appearing much after the first section, so perhaps I'm fixing on this without giving due consideration to the fact that the speech I have in mind, during Pointsman and Gwenhidwy's Christmas celebration, is almost at the end of the section. That might grant some latitude anyway, narrative-wise, but Gwenhidwy's made out to be especially distinctive anyway, so it's as if it's built into his character. (And the dialect writing! I have no idea what Welsh speaking sounds like, so whatever Pynchon was going for here I can make no sense of it - but I find it hilarious, much like the Hungarian guy's dialogue - but I'm not up to finding R-something's name right now. Rosie, only like Hungarian.) Contrast to The Man Without Qualities where even for the subject matter and the setting and such (early twentieth century Viennese intellectuals debating big important shit), I find it implausible that almost every character would produce such vigorously elevated and abstracted dialogue with such frequency. But I give Musil a pass anyway because it's not as if he's up on some realism shit. (Or Pynchon, ha.)

It's fortunate that I came across the Gwenhidwy passage tonight, because it helps me express a thought I had earlier today. It seems to me - I would gladly consider examples to the contrary - that in ordinary, day-to-day life, nobody ever calls anyone else out for talking total, utter nonsense. I mean nonsense in the sense that people use it when referring to others' writing, especially. When people do use the epithet in conversation, particularly when using it on someone present (it's different when it's someone else, like the president or something, or Derrida), it can be extremely serious. And not too much like the way Wittgenstein characterizes it - 'nonsense' marking something as not part of the language, something "taken out of circulation", though that happens too. No, more like an insult, if the circumstances are serious enough, or a vocalization of now more clearly recognized differences - how could you say that? what on earth is wrong with you? (Maybe questions there make it too charitable - why give someone so fucked up a chance?) Something that may well lead to a break, or a rupture, or the digging of a moat, or the building of a fence. A casting out, a regrouping, an abandoning. Writing off, dissociating, distancing. I have no preference - I don't know what I mean.

Compare to philosophy?

5 Aug '03 10:07:36 PM

It's still there!

4 Aug '03 08:42:34 PM

For some reason "The Flame" came into my head when I woke up.

For some reason it sounds pretty nice.

In my head.

If I were to hear it outside my head I think my opinion might change.