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  1. A review I wrote a year ago, maybe, about Bolaño's Antwerp

    I am wondering if anyone has read it. What were your thoughts on it. It is a strange novel, in many respects, but nonetheless rewarding. Would love to know what your thoughts were.

    Bolaño's Antwerp

    Bolaño's early work is a 'culmination', retrogressively, of his later work. A strange event, really, since we often find traces of a writer's mature style when we look backward to his or her early creative output. With Antwerp, a work written in 1980 and published only in 2002, the year before his death, we see a concentrated Bolaño, struggling with what will always plague him in his writing - a confrontation with form and structure, an interrogation of voice, both enunciated and forgotten. For Bolaño, this voice has an ontological significance, and something that writers such as Joyce, Beckett, Borges, Bernhard, and Coetzee have all interrogated. In Bolaño, however, it is not only voice that he pursues, but voicedness - the quality of having voice.

    What does this quality entail? Does it consist of a sense of authenticity? Is it authenticated by consistency and structure? Or is it an elusive moment of utterance? How does one articulate, as a writer, this elusiveness? How does one capture a quality, if it often dissipates the second it is offered or uttered drowning into a sea of other utterances as soon as it is brought forth? In Savage Detectives Bolaño showcases a history of two poets, itself a doomed project, through the voices of those who tangentially come into contact with these poets. Who they are, and where they may be is intertwined with what these encounters have brought to light about the two poets of the Visceral Realist school. There is a narrative impulse in Savage Detectives, but like the elusiveness of the two poets, Ulises Lima and Arturo Bolaño, this narrative impulse struggles in its pursuit of a resolution.

    In Antwerp, resolution is no longer the engine behind the narrative impulse. The Beckettian need to narrate aside, it is the struggle to find a narrative that plagues this narrative. All that exist in this novella are phrases, as one character implies, which never reach the end of their utterances. The chapters themselves are enigmatically short, and the characters do not interact with each other, though they recur occasionally throughout the text. Bolaño's interrogation is not only of discovering what it is that is being said, and by whom, both Beckettian preoccupations, but it is also an experimentation in the very meaning of having a voice. How do we have a voice, and how do we deal with having a voice.

    Such an experimentation defies form and structure, and attests to a textual dynamics that transforms reading practices. How do we read if that which is being read refuses to be read 'meaningfully'?



  2. (originally blogged here)





    Some years ago, Alan Moore, the acclaimed author of Watchmen and Miracleman, claimed that all comics after the 1960s were fan fiction, largely for several reasons related to the massive replacement of the original writers with a younger generation. I will argue why he is right… and why he’s wrong.



    But first, let’s look at his argument closely. The reason the industry attempts to reboot its product is because it is a regressive move back towards an earlier time in the past when they sold more comics. That is admitting the industry no longer can imagine a future where they belong, a shrinking marketplace that originally was 9 to 13 year olds, but now are in their thirties to their fifites, in a nostalgic search of their childhood.

    The tipping point took place in the late sixties when the writers at DC comics attempted to form a union, and the company had them replaced with a younger generation who grew up with comics. The new writers were fans and they immediately referenced their favorite stories. This incestual form of writing demonstrated a decline of imagination, due to the drying up of the talent pool.

    Is this wrong? Not at all – from a historical point of view, at least. Now, what’s wrong with fan fiction in itself? First of all, what is fan fiction? It is where the writer no longer has to establish characters and make them fully realized in order to make readers care about them because the audience is already familiar with them. The fanfic writer takes this opportunity to create new and amazing stories by forcing the familiar characters into situations the canon would never allow. Gender identity. Rape recovery. Sexuality. So on and so forth. The possibilities are limitless when it comes to fanfiction!

    Now, fanfiction can be extraordinary (heh) and absurd and meaningful. Take Moore’s own The League of Extra-Ordinary Gentlemen, for instance. After all, Moore has taken a page straight out of fan fiction by incorporating characters from Victorian Age pulp literature (Captain Nemo, Mr. Hyde, Quartermain, Mina Murray, and the Invisible Man) and threw them together as a band of adventurers. What he does with these characters is basically to reinforce who they are, as opposed to revise or redefine them for modern audiences.

    Now, it’s easy to charge Moore with hypocrisy for doing exactly what the late sixties comic book writers were doing with properties they grew up reading. But that’s not my argument. It has to do with the notion of the author and the writer.

    The author is some godlike deity that died around the same time (1968), when literary critics and post-structuralists hit on the insight that language always exceeds what the author intends. The author was a construct of the rationalist and empiricist thought that awarded central importance to the individual. That led literary studies to invoke the author as the origin and explanation of the text, as the final signified of the written work. However, this made the author into a tyrant who imprisoned the work within a single meaning. This is false, because texts are produced by intertextuality, and other texts, rather than godlike authors. That meant we could no longer evaluate the written work as the expression of the author’s thoughts. Instead, writing is a separately existing linguistic performance that does and says more than what one person ever could. Therefore, the meaning of a text is made by the reader, which is born at the cost of the death of the Author.

    However, writers are very much alive, despite the death of the godlike deity. We can talk to them, ask them questions about their work, and they often talk or write back and answer or refuse to do so. We can instead choose to insult them by saying their work is utter crap, and so on so forth. Basically, the writer is part of a community. In this sense, the fanfiction writer is part of a collaborative activity, more so than the imaginary solitary author. After all, ancient epics didn’t have authors in the modern sense of word. We are all fanfiction writers – no matter what discourse or which institution we use to lie to ourselves with.
  3. Post on Basic Plots in Read

    By The Heretic, posted
    In the status update discussion, Davidm and DaveT brought up the subject of original stories in literature.

    I don't think there is a magical number to basic plots in literature, but I think each level of breakdown or categorization has their own uses and level of application or relevance to the story at hand.


    One:
    All stories come down to this existential question: WHO AM I?

    Three:
    1. the Happy ending, where the main character makes the illogical choice, or sacrifices something, and the right ending ensues.
    2. the sad ending, where the main character makes the logical choice, but fails to sacrifice something, and the sad ending ensues.
    3. the Literary plot, where there's no decision to make, for everything is up to fate, the climax takes place at the beginning of the story, and the tragedy inevitably follows.

    Seven:
    1. Self against Nature
    2. Self against Another
    3. Self against the Environment
    4. Self against Technology
    5. Self against Supernatural
    6. Self against Self
    7. Self against God

    Myself, I prefer Hayden White's four emplotments:
    Romance, Comedy, Satire, Tragedy.
    Romance is the hero's triumph over evil.
    Satire is the opposite: characters are stuck until they die.
    Comedy is where the characters and the environment find balance, and everyone laughs.
    Tragedy is where the hero fails, is resigned and learns the limit of the world, and by extension the audience.