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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23 Dec '04 06:20:51 AM

I will never tire of gags premised on arbitrary people spontaneously saying 'my anaconda don't want none'. Better with cartoon people, too. Of course.

21 Dec '04 11:10:52 AM

One way I know now that Sonic Youth might actually be one of my actual real-live favorite bands is that when say I go by their records on the shelf or my computer and think, oh, hey, I wanna listen to Sonic Youth, I'm then paralyzed with the indecision caused by not wanting to pass anything up. I don't think I would feel quite that way if I didn't also derive distinctly different (not much different) experiences of pleasure from each of their records - if the records felt at all interchangeable. I realize this is a dubious-sounding thing to say about Sonic Youth. And still I feel it more intensely than most of the judgments I care to voice about music.

I'm not saying I'm about to go out looking for a fight or anything, but, you know.

21 Dec '04 10:53:16 AM

I've just spent hours downloading the songs mentioned in Donald Larsson's companion to Weisenburger's companion to Gravity's Rainbow and yet I (1) still have a big list of things I couldn't find (some annoyingly so, like 'Lady of Spain' which you would think would pop up even if obscure British musichall numbers don't), and (2) have found little in the way of what I really sat down to look for, a list of songs that serve as the models for Pynchon's own songs. Sigh.

21 Dec '04 08:24:52 AM

The sounds on Call Me are surprisingly metallic for such an intimate-sounding record. Maybe that's why it doesn't always seem to stand being turned up that well. The balance comes undone.

21 Dec '04 07:35:48 AM

Clive on the Junior Boys.

21 Dec '04 12:53:53 AM

I'm still trying to figure out if there's something I'm missing that would redeem 'The Makings of a Perfect Bitch' - or is it really just as unreflectedly conflicted about the virtues of women as it sounds?

(Hey Maya Angelou and Angela Davis, you're really great and admirable, here, hold on, just gotta finish this suture. There, now I've stitched together a slutty obedient intellectual black woman that I can be happy with forever. What the fuck?)

21 Dec '04 12:44:15 AM

Hearing 'American Way' off of Street's Disciple feels a little weird because 'Atomic Dog' has already been so memorably reappropriated, but I wonder if it might not just be that; it seems like a sensation echoed by some of the other beats on the album, and just more loudly by this one: that by now some beats, some sounds, want to have more than one MC over them. I don't just mean more than one rapper with a verse, or with someone else on the chorus or the hook, but any sort of small sign that there are other people around. At times on this record Nas sounds unnaturally alone, like someone didn't show up for work that day and he had to run the store by himself; or maybe more like: he sent them all home early because he insisted on running it himself. I don't think it need have reflected poorly on his quest to be peerless, just to let the inevitable presence of the other people around him show up a bit more on the record.

(The fact that Kelis shows up on the chorus to 'American Way' only emphasizes this; since we know who she is and think of her as another person, another individual, instead of a chorus-voice, she reminds us that there are other individuals, and not just out there somewhere, but other individuals in Nas' life. There are obviously some exceptions, but even when there are other people things feel kind of lonely.)

20 Dec '04 09:29:26 AM

The lack of paragraph breaks probably helped, but the main reason I even looked through the book in advance to see how Broch used quotation marks later on was that there is an irritating extra amount of space after all of the left quote marks that's not after the right quote marks.

20 Dec '04 09:18:18 AM

Hermann Broch's trilogy The Sleepwalkers changes the form of its prose from part to part, to some end that I'm not yet sure of since I'm still reading the first part, The Romantic (though, note the remark at the end of this review about the German titles, which I'm not even sure it gets totally right as far as punctuation is concerned). That part is divided into four sections by Roman numerals: the first three roughly the same length, and the fourth a single short paragraph. Each of the first three sections is more or less made up of a sequence of smaller passages separated by blank space on the page. Each of these smaller passages, which could have been labeled as chapters (I think each new one brings with it a lapse in time, as well as probably a change in setting and possibly the focal character), is no more than a handful of long paragraphs run together (each paragraph starting with an indentation, at least in the English), and usually closer to three or so. The dialogue is infrequent and does not cause the introduction of new paragraphs upon the alternation of speakers; and since the English has the usual quotation marks for it instead of, say, a dash, or maybe instead of chevron-style quotation marks (I don't know what are used in the original - anyway, if it uses the low-high German quotation marks, as opposed to English's high-high ones, two quotations side by side would at least have the advantage of alternating as to the height of the quotation mark) - everything is run together in a way that tends to make it hard for me to see the dialogue as occurring in its 'normal' context. I suppose that may be part of the point, because the small sections of The Romantic have a hermetic quality to them that seems to derive in part from the way their content is suited to their form (or maybe: makes the best of).

As far as I know - and I only know because I was paging through looking for the section breaks, and I am now as dismayed as I ever get, which is not very, about having a part of a book ruined for me, and that's only because it's an effect that turns on the surprise of a change in formal technique rather than the usual unfolding of plot that most people want to preserve their advance ignorance of - as far as I know, the regularities I mentioned above are only broken once, when near the end of The Romantic a conversation occurs where the speaker changes bring paragraph breaks. I can only assume that this is not by chance, so I hope to be able to make even more of it once I start The Anarchist so that I can compare the two. Like the first part, The Anarchist is in four numbered sections, with the fourth a single final paragraph. But it mixes the unbroken dialogue with broken dialogue throughout - which is to say, without necessarily waiting until later on to use the change to great dramatic effect. It may still be that Broch gets something out of the differing (greater, I would suppose) emphasis the distinction offers, but I don't know yet.

The third part, The Realist, is made up of about eighty chapters numbered by Roman numerals but actually labeled as chapters, as opposed to the shorter unnumbered sections of the earlier two parts of the trilogy. They are more or less on that order of length, though. What Broch does with that basic arrangement changes a great deal, though. Whereas the second part seems to design its small sections in a manner somewhat like the first part - divided according to their being separate episodes, though apparently in a more uniform way with regard to plot (I'll find out) - in the third part they start to serve more like prose containers. Many of them function like the earlier ones. But there are also sections of play-style dialogue, a song that accompanies a story about a Salvation Army girl, an essay called 'Disintegration of Values', at least one newspaper article (with typographical representation of its being lost or damaged or otherwise only fragmentarily available), at least a couple of letters, and probably a lot more than I can see by paging through it. Dialogue is mixed, as before. The formally distinctive chapters are introduced and re-introduced as such, and the matter in the Salvation Army girl story and the essay is numbered in sub-parts, and, for that matter, distributed non-contiguously through the novel in separate chapters.