10 May 2011

'The first fiction is your name'

I *really* want to read Inferno by Eileen Myles.
“I’m not an exclusively emotional poet, but I start with a problem and I keep returning to the feeling of it, not the idea. I don’t replace it. It seems if you stay in an actual groove (a non-verbal pot) then the poem never really gets lost or boring.”

from the great OR Books

Here is a sort of weird 'advert' for it but it's good because it's mostly her speaking, and boy is she cool. She is a hero in the sense that she says what she fucking thinks. So hard to find.

There is also a very interesting piece on her, Bruce Benderson and Gary Indiana over at 3:AM...which then led me to this manifesto by Benderson - Toward the New Degenerate Narrative...

'Today, for the first time in a long time in this country, the literary discourse of the Outsider has been diluted and deformed. In place of true Outsider narratives or manifestos like Djuna Barnes' Nightwood, Ellison's The Invisible Man, Algren's A Walk on the Wild Side, or Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn are sentimental researches into mythicized ethnic histories. Obscure facts about lost African civilizations or neglected female artists are supposed to fill the enormous gap left by deconstructing the canon. In humanities departments, women and ethnic minorities are taught to see their present existence as a socially mediated hallucination. Everything they experience has been reduced to being a symptom of their oppression.

This is depressing in lieu of the fact that America produced some of the world's most powerful voices of alienation: the postwar Beats. In the late 1950s, when the Beats burst onto the American scene, audiences and writers were less ghettoized. The fact that Hubert Selby, Jr., a straight man, was able to create a powerful portrait of a drag queen in Last Exit to Brooklyn brought him accolades instead of censure. The fact that macho, white Jack Gelber could portray black or gay junkies in his minimalist play The Connection was not looked on with suspicion. Nowadays conferences on gay, feminist, Chicano, or Black literature demand that the voices for these groups come from within. No one is allowed to write about Chicana lesbian experience except a Chicana lesbian.'

It is quite a rich and complex piece but I think I'm excited by it because he is saying that the voice of the outsider is not exclusive to the outsider. And similarly the outsider is not defined simply by his outsider status. Read it! It's way better than I made it sound.

This links in part also to Howard Slater's work on the notion of Walter Benjamin's 'affective class' which I think I have clumsily spoken about before. A little explanation via a quote from Real Phôné:

'If it could be said that the working class was formerly in the position of the excluded and seeking access to representation, then, the reframing of its anger and suffering into the language of politics, has to a degree made it a consensual figure. Its visibility by means of representation has made it into a “figure possessing a specific good or universality” upon which a hoped-for practice is based. Is this maybe why Rancière asserts that “politics cannot be defined on the basis of any pre-existing subject” (p.28) for the pre-existing subject, one that ‘possesses’ the logos, is already a representation made visible, made perceivable, by the currently operative ‘distribution of the sensible’ and as such cannot effect a new “dissensual reconfiguration of the common experience of the sensible” (p.140)? This may go some way to guessing at Rancière’s reasons for the abandonment of class struggle politics, but it does not explicitly explain what ‘supplement’, what non-existent subject, could come to take its place and effect what could take on a pro-revolutionary hue: the ‘redistribution of the sensible’.

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