February 23, 2006

they say tomorrow will never arrive
though I've seen it end a million times

Stephen Shore 5th St and Broadway Eureka, California 1974

* Coversation with William T. Vollmann. [via] excerpt:

KB: Why do you live in this particular city?

William Vollmann: I'm here because this is where my wife got a job. She's a doctor, a radiation oncologist. I would have preferred to move back to San Francisco. We have a daughter. Lisa, six years old. We've been here 15 years. I'm from Los Angeles originally. I lived there until I was five. I went to high school in Indiana. I spent some time in New Hampshire, Indiana, was in New York for a while, now I'm back here. I'm really from the sidewalk. I'm from everywhere. I'm just a typical rootless American. My father was a business professor.

KB: Why do you deal with whores and pimps, the denizens of the Tenderloin? What is the philosophical basis for this?

WV: The fundamental intellectual level of humanity has and will always be low. New technological possibilities mean more experimental things can be forgotten in new ways. There are amazing filmmakers, like the Soviet Dziga Vertov. Who knows who this guy is and who cares? Who knows or cares who Joyce was? That means people who want to write at that level, and I include myself, are only doing so because we love it. In the end, what else is there? There is no prize, including the Nobel Prize, which can compensate you for the work you put in. If it's not a joy, you shouldn't do it. If you don't get published, that's unfortunate insofar as whatever else you must do to stay alive consumes and prevents you from doing what you really must do. When I wrote Rising Up and Rising Down, it took me 23 years, and my publishers all said if you want it to see the light of day, you have to cut it. And I said no. I fully expected that it would never appear. I was fortunate that McSweeney's agreed to publish it. Now it's out of print.
KB: Your characters are compulsive womanizers. Is this autobiographical?

WV: If I answered yes to that question, you might think I was a bad person. If I answered no, you might be disappointed.

KB: I'm asking this because the conventional reader might think you degrade women in your writing.

WV: I have many female readers. They can see that I love women. In America, so many are ashamed of the body and sexuality. What passes for feminism and a defense of gender is Puritanism in a new disguise. I get annoyed when society tells me how I must behave. I feel the need to rebel. It's an immature and justified rage against authority. The hypocrisy, the idiocy and ignorance I hear offends me. But that element will always be there. I'm beyond being outraged or even engaged with such people. I'm involved with a certain kind of life. Be offended or not. But it's real; it's more real than any sort of life that denies the existence of promiscuity or drug use or poverty. I'm trying to say, this is how it is. These people are as good or as bad as everyone else. We should know one another. If you don't want to know the other, you don't want to know me.

* Soon to be an Olympic sport? Nude ice dancing.

* Dorothy Parker's FBI file.

* From a May 1961 speech by Guy Debord. excerpt:

"The present artistic calling in question of language — appearing at the same time as that metalanguage of machines which is nothing other than the bureaucratized language of the bureaucracy in power — will then be superseded by higher forms of communication. The present notion of a decipherable social text will lead to new methods of writing this social text, in the direction my situationist comrades are presently seeking with unitary urbanism and some preliminary ventures in experimental behaviour. The central aim of an entirely reconverted and redirected industrial production will be the organization of new configurations of everyday life, the free creation of events.

"The critique and perpetual re-creation of the totality of everyday life, before being carried out naturally by everyone, must be undertaken within the present conditions of oppression, in order to destroy those conditions.

"An avant-garde cultural movement, even one with revolutionary sympathies, cannot accomplish this. Neither can a revolutionary party on the traditional model, even if it accords a large place to criticism of culture (understanding by that term the entirety of artistic and conceptual means through which a society explains itself to itself and shows itself goals of life). This culture and this politics are both worn out and it is not without reason that most people take no interest in them. The revolutionary transformation of everyday life — which is not reserved for some vague future but is placed immediately before us by the development of capitalism and its unbearable demands (the only alternative being the reinforcement of the modern slavery) — this transformation will mark the end of all unilateral artistic expression stocked in the form of commodities, at the same time as the end of all specialized politics.

"This is going to be the task of a new type of revolutionary organization, from its inception."


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