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Sarraute, devotion to inanimate objects, dictating in tongues & balancing the i/o feed


Dear Internet,

We're writing this post by dictation .. it's a nifty feature built into Macs ... simply press fn fn. You can also have this text read out loud by pressing option + esc. Not that we're aurally or orally inclined .... to parrot what Gary Lutz said the other night, we also have a «lifelong aversion to oral contact».

We thought to use this built-in dictation device after watching a Roger Ebert Ted Talk wherein, after losing his voice, he became obsessed with finding a way to speak .. before settling on Apple's Alex as the best alternative .... but the whole time we kept thinking to ourselves, why not just write what you want to say? We thought the same thing when we saw Stephen Hawkings 'speak' once .. why not just read his books or articles?

Fuck this .. we've given up on the dictation & now we are typing the old-fashioned way. In theory maybe it's a time saving device (if you suck at typing), but it makes all sorts of errors .... though it is precisely these errors which we find intriguing about this dictation function. It's good fun to speak gibberish or in tongues & see how it gets translated. Of course, just like the N+7 text generator or our recent forays into google translate, the resulting text requires a bit of massaging after.

Not that any of these experiments have found their way into anything we've published .. that we've «made public» (except for some of the dialogue in Marsupial), but it's useful to activate new impulses .. to think outside of the box covering your head. And it's interesting to illustrate the differences between the way we speak & the way we write .. to some they might be one & the same, but to us they are completely different channels of communication.

We're getting somewhere with this .... not that we know where we are going .. we never do when we start these posts. Some people are able to get up in front of an audience with no preparation & just keep talking & keep the audience engaged & even have an arc of completion .. circling back to seeds they'd planted at the beginning. Personally, we'd last about 15 seconds before running out of things to say .. out loud, unprompted.

Growing up in California, we remember a televangelist who bought his own TV channel & used it to preach 24 hours a day. Most of what he said was gibberish, but it fascinated us how this crazy bearded guy who wore funny hats could just keep talking on & on, slouched in his chair .. he (seemingly) never needed to stop to eat or shit .. let alone read or experience things so he had something to talk about. Thanks to you, oh holy Internet, we've not only rediscovered that this guy's name was Dr. Gene Scott, but that Werner Herzog made a documentary about him called God's Angry Man. Leave it to Herzog to leave no stone unturned ....

The funny thing is Scott portrays the FCC as cymbal-banging monkeys when in fact the metaphor applies more to him. As kids, we used to be mesmerized nevertheless by this strange man's ability to babble on & on, on live TV, 24 hours a day. Just like the recent 13-hour filibuster, which carries even more pressure in that you have to say relevant things.

We go most days with speaking to no one .. except our better half. And when she is away we can go days, weeks without speaking to anyone except maybe the clerk at the post office. For our current job, we receive assignments from a woman whom we've never even spoken to, in real life or on the phone. All communication is written (though 'Basecamp') .. just how we like it.

Some people are able to write as prolifically as Gene Scott (30 years worth of 24-hour broadcasts! .. according to you, The Internet) .. like monkeys banging on typewriters. We can never just write off the cuff like that .. all in one sitting. We feel a need to outline & construct .. to arrange & re-arrange .. & edit .. even in these 5cense posts. To tie things together .. to have relevant segues. But at the same time there is so much to say .. so many tangents to follow .. it overwhelms us & we have to surface for air & while we are surfacing there is stuff going on underwater that we miss out on .. or that never gets said .. because we think or self-edit too much .. distracted by what it all looks like on the surface.

And likewise there is so much to read. As humans, especially us writers, we become mere input/output filters. We live only to process information. If we read something & don't process it, it gets cluttered up inside us like a jammed printer that keeps spooling the queue of backlogged jobs .. churning the paper up into itself .. printing over itself until all becomes illegible (which to us becomes the most interesting stuff).

In the past few weeks we've restocked our «to read» queue a bit .... not that it ever dwindled down to nothing (counting the recent additions, there are now 35 books on this shelf) .. we like to keep it somewhat stocked so we have options of what to read next. The books we've acquired (from Amazon, Book Culture or St. Marks) in the past week include:

    • Solip by Ken Baumann (gifted by the NY Tyrant)
    • Submergence by J.M Ledgard
    • Bird Lovers, Backyard by Thalia Field
    • The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera
    • Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector
    • Microscripts by Robert Walser
    • Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake by Joseph Campbell
    • Radioactive by Lauren Redniss
    • How issue 8
    • The Believer 10th anniversary issue
    • Fence Winter V15 N2

So this is what we might be expected to have creative engagements with here in the coming months. And by the way, Goodreads is the only social network we actively engage with anymore so we're bummed Amazon has taken it over for their own devices. We'll stick around to see how it plays out .. but likely we'll be jumping that ship too .... which would leave us on a complete online desert island.

to read shelf

our TO READ self as of April 11, 2013

This of course doesn't include what we read online .... but rarely do we read text objects online so much as we read about things. Like this morning we read two long pieces on Gordon Lish .. one by David Winters in 3AM & another by Jason Lucarelli in Numéro Cinq. The rhetoric surrounding Lish is enough for a never-ending 24-hour broadcast .. & now that we think about it, Lish's look & demeanor reminds us some of Dr. Gene Scott. Lish seems the type that could pull off a 24-hour continuous broadcast & keep it interesting the whole while .. just as we mentioned in the last post the idea of a Bela Tarr movie as long as your adult life .. so all one had time to do in their lifetime was watch this movie (which is actually not far off from the case with Dr. Gene Scott .. 30 years of 24-hour broadcasting).

Another thing we read this morning in Numéro Cinq was this piece by Anna Maria Johnson wherein she spent 6-months rereading & analyzing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. This is the other extreme of the spectrum wherein the reader perhaps spends more time reading the book than the writer did in writing it.

Anna Maria Johnson Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

.... talk about devotion to a text .. and devotion is maybe what we're getting at with Dr. Gene Scott & in this post in general .... regardless of what you think of the idiot, he was definitely devoted.

With various hued water colors & pencils, A.M. Johnson gave Dillard's text the royal treatment .. transforming text into mapped color-coded themes .. diagramming the syntactic links between words .. an analog hypertext if ever there was one. She even created iconic stickers for the various objects, animals & threads .. churning the text into a visual wonder similar to Tom Philips' treated book object, A Humument, but in that case the text was arbitrary (an inconsequential victorian romance novel) for Philips to mutilate to give renewed meaning .. & in the case of Johnson on Dillard, she extrapolates the text & takes it to another level (whilst remaining devoted & loyal to original intent) .. perhaps even finding connections Dillard wasn't even aware of .. but still they are Dillard's, by way of Johnson.

This past week we read Do You Hear Them? by Nathalie Sarraute. In a nutshell it's about these two highfalutin (yet washed up & miserly) dudes having dinner & talking about some pre-Colombian statue while their kids monkey around upstairs, distracting them.

Nathalie Sarraute: Do You Hear Them

book object with our jaguar object

The object in question is some sort of puma with «enormous ears shaped like sea shells» .. so while reading it we couldn't help imagining our own jaguar statue (the ordained master of our communications), who we introduced to you in this post. But what the object is is irrelevant really .... even though the only thing that really «happens» in the book is that this statue is picked up & fondled & discussed & flipped around & inspected from as many angles as there are pages in Do You Hear Them? .... this object is so revered that these grown men are reluctant to articulate what it is that is so special about it for fear of ruining it.

«What issues from there, what emanates, radiates, flows, penetrates them, filters all through them, what fills them, dilates them, uplifts them... makes a sort of void around them in which they are floating, in which they let themselves be borne along... no word can describe... But they have no need of words, they don't want any, they know that above all no word should be allowed to approach it, touch it, they must see to it that the carefully chosen, highly selective words, decent, unobtrusive words, be held at a respectful distance: Really, you've got there a splendid specimen... »

While the grown-ups are having this moment with this objectified object, the children of the statue owner are upstairs making noise & laughing as kids coming of age do, which irritates the grump to no end. Such light-hearted innocence is long lost to these men whose idea of a good time is to talk about this inanimate & untouchable object.

It is the kids though, who are in control .. who are the dominant ones in the pack .... whether they know it or not.

«They know—no trick can mislead them—that he is always turned toward them, incapable of leaving, of forgetting them a single second... they felt cling to them the threads they make him secrete, that slaver with which he tries to envelope them, the slender lasso that he throws at them from behind... »

Fantastic how she reverses object & subject, puts them first («they felt cling to them the threads» rather than feeling the threads clinging to them) .. though it's hard to tell whether this is intentional or a product of being translated from French .. a language, which like other romance languages, often performs such linguistic reversals (from our perspective), just as they put adjectives & modifiers after the object/nouns .... both conventions of which we are following to some extent in our own The Becoming (not only is it the European way, but the Native American way).

Beyond just this generational gap .. wherein the washed-up old-timers suffer the incessant nipping at the heels by the young whipper-snappers .. a theme that has probably existed in mankind since the beginning of time + 30 years .... there seems also to be a homoerotic (yet platonic & far from fulfilled) undercurrent to the book .. as if this object is a secret totem .. a phallus only accessible to grown men (no wives or women are mentioned) .. an object charged with animalistic urges but that these men only allow themselves to 'experience' (if they actually do) strictly as observers .. like pornography .. as if the guys own home was a museum he was trapped in but not allowed to live in .... & the children a nagging reminder, ever coming up from behind, mocking him (even though in reality they're not ... it's all his own repressed paranoia) .. distracting him from having this 'moment' alone with his friend .. with this object .. this object that stands as a buffer of everything that keeps him from having this moment.

«Upon this relic brought back from distant pilgrimmages, from long peregrinations through time and space, upon this carefully isolated fragment, set apart, transported, preserved intact and deposited in their common fund, in a simultaneous movement their eyes converge... Like two loving parents hovering above their child, through it they come together, they become one... Moments of perfect understanding.... How fragile, is well known. Who does not know that the most complete fusions only last a few seconds.»

.... or they had their moment & they are frustrated it can't last forever & take it out on the kids .... again, same old story. But again .. it's not that Do You Hear Them is about anything, so much as the language. It's by no means an easy read .. very stream of consciousness .. a style of which has infected us .. as we method act here .. a mosaic of unspoken gestures .. drilling down to pre-conscious levels .. before language bubbles up .. gets articulated to thought. And in the end, the object they are fondling pensively & revering & trying in vain to describe, becomes the very book object you hold in your hands. It's that consecution Lucarelli & Winters talk about when talking about Lish .. the book as self-contained object referencing only itself & the very language it is written in.

Not only do we admittedly identify with the grumpy scrooges (of which Lish would probably also identify) .. ever critical of the up & coming kids .. but we also have a like-minded fondness & devotion to inanimate objects .. probably even more so since we don't have kids. Back when we were in Bali last December, we saw these two Javanese puppets & fell in love with them .. not wanting to carry them around for the rest of our trip, we shipped them home (not that we had a home, even as a base, at the time .. though we'd just received an address) .. using a somewhat sketchy cargo company (that spelled kargo with a k).

The kargo man told us we would get them by March .. but when March rolled around .... nada. We had no tracking number & when we tried to email the guy we got no answer. Just when we'd given up the package as lost .. we finally got it .. a baby-coffined sized box that also had some textiles, a shadow puppet & some other random things we didn't want to hump around. So without further ado .. now we present to you the latest additions to our family of inanimate objects.. (gamelan drumroll please) .... Arjuna & Shinta:

Shinta & Arjuna

Arjuna & Shinta

We don't have a lot of things .. at least not of value .. no house .. no car. We don't have pets either. The possessions we allow to possess us possess us not for their monetary value, but for no other reason except we let them possess us so other things won't. Of course attributed meaning accumulates over the years .. already Arjuna & Shinta have meaning attributed by the journey they took in arriving to our home .. 3 months in the cargo hold of a ship in high seas .. not unlike the rubber duckys we blogged about in Norwegian .... it fires the imagination to think.

Other members of our family, like Singha (also shipped back to ourselves from Bali) have been with us for over 20 years. One of our favorite inanimate objects .. that we don't think we've never mentioned here before .. is a small Congolese voodoo doll that we got in Kenya .. perhaps one day we'll show her here .. but what really possesses us about this doll is not her look (which is fierce, commanding respect), but her smell .. years later we can still smell the smoky jungly incense of Africa on her, especially in her braided locks of hair .... perhaps one day you, The Internet, will figure out how to transmit smells virtually .. & taste. But for now it is a big gap in technology .. especially here on 5cense.

Our mother has been sending us things lately .. make of that what you will .. the other day she sent us two wooden statues that evidently we purchased in the streets of Panama when we were teenagers .. back when we skipped school to go with her on a buying trip (& we forgot to tell anyone so when we got back everyone in our school thought we had died). And in January or February she sent us a package that had some Tibetan prayer beads that our brother picked up in his travels. This necklace (to not be worn as necklace) object has specific powers attributed to it by us knowing how much time our brother spent mindlessly fondling the beads. We remember him saying that each time you count the beads you get a different number, here try it .. & we'd try it & sure enough it was true .. whether it was true true or true because we wanted to believe it was true. Just the other day we counted twice & got different numbers. We just counted right now & got 125 .. which doesn't seem like a number we ever remember getting before. Here, you can try counting to see if you concur:

prayer beads

We're babbeling now .. like Dr. Gene Scott. In the real world the weather has finally met spring expectations .... a lightning storm just rolled through that, like the children's laugher in Sarraute's story, distracted us from our train of thought .... & now it's the next morning & we processed the footage we took .. distilled it & slowed it down for you, dear Internet .... to make the flashes last longer than flashes (so they are no longer flashes, in effect killing the original nature) .... & having said all this we feel lighter .. in both senses of the word.

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