The Poetry Foundation web site hosts a blog called "Harriet" (named of course after Poetry founder Harriet Monroe). Currently Christian Bök, Stephen Burt, Rigoberto González, Major Jackson, Ange Mlinko, and A.E. Stallings are the poets writing entries. The cast of bloggy characters rotates. Last summer Kenneth Goldsmith was among them. On July 26, 2007, Kenny's entry incited a number of responses, many of them negative. Here is link to the full entry and the responses, and here is the first paragraph of Kenny's comment:
I recently gave a lecture recently to a group of poetry MFAs on uncreative writing, appropriation, information management and unoriginality. During the Q&A;, a student declaimed, "C'mon, man, be real. Drop all that stuff and be real, you know, artist to artist." To which I responded, "If you can give me a definition of what real is then I can be real with you." I thought to myself, wow, writing is so far behind other art forms in this regard. Could you imagine after a lecture someone say to Jeff Koons, "Hey, Jeff, drop all that stuff and be real." Never. No one expects Jeff Koons to "be real." Jeff Koons has made a career out of being "unreal." Likewise, during a pop concert -- say, a Madonna concert -- it's hard to imagine someone shouting out to Madonna to be real. No one expects Madonna to really sing, rather they revel in the image of her while listening to a pre-recorded vocal track. Would the "real" Madonna please stand up? For the past two decades, "realness" has ceased to be an issue in music, art and fashion. But in writing we're still expected to "be real." Twenty five years after Baudrillard, these poetry students were still prioritizing Romantic notions of authenticity -- "truth", "individuality" and "honesty" -- over any other form of expression. My god! Is it a case of naivety, amnesia or just plain ignorance?
Image above: Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and soap bubbles (1988).
Here is a recording of the hour-long interview / conversation with Art Spiegelman I conducted yesterday. You'll have a choice here: you can watch a video recording; or you can download or stream an audio-only mp3. Spiegelman was here as a Writers House Fellow. Art spent three hours with the 20 undergraduates in my Writers House Fellows Seminar, then gave a public presentation ("Comix 101") to about 120 people jammed into the KWH Arts Cafe, then joined a small group of us (including the comix genius Charles Burns) for home-cooked dinner in the Writers House dining room, then came back the next morning for the discussion you will see and/or hear when you click on the link above. Do, please, and let me know what you think. Spiegelman's new book, Breakdowns, will be published in October 2008.
Jim Backus seems silly - ridiculously weak and indecisive father, henpecked, trying to dole out manly advice to his "rebellious" teenaged son while wearing a frilly kitchen apron...but in the end, Backus is right and the teens are wrong to rebel. It's all about family problems - mommy and daddy problems - and not about anything larger wrong with society and culture. So get over it, and let me put my arm around you...and come on back home.
Yes, in my view Rebel without a Cause is among the few greatest anti-political film in American cinema - I mean "great" in the sense of powerful and influential. Perhaps everyone was so busy taking style (leaning, laconic, mumbling) cues from James Dean, a counterforce that almost but not quite undoes the film's relentless p.o.v. against the idea of the efficacy positions one might take against conformity, against the quietistic politics of a generation of parents, against American assumptions about home life and love. The parents are anti-ideal and in the end, waging psychological (psychoanalytic) war, their anti-idealism must be accepted.
Here are some of my favorite lines - along these lines - from the film:
Judy: "Yes. No. I don't know. He doesn't mean it, but he acts like he does."
Plato: "Nobody can help me." Mrs. Crawford "doesn't believe in psychiatrists," whom Plato calls "head-shrinkers."
Ray: "Go ahead. Hit the desk. You'll feel better ... It's easier sometimes than talking to your folks."
Frank Stark: "Well, you just get it off your chest, son." Jim: "That's not the point!" Frank: "You can't be idealistic all your life, son."
The scientist: "The universe will be little moved by our demise. We will disappear, destroyed as we began in a burst of gas and fire. In all the immensity of the gallaxy and beyond the earth will not be missed. The problems of man seem trivial and naive indeed, and man, existing alone, seems himself a thing of little consequence."
Jim's father, seeing Jim at the landing: "Hi Jim. You thought I was mom."
Judy's father: "It's just the age."
Frank Stark: "I wouldn't make a hasty decision. Nobody can make a snap decision. We've got to consider the pros and cons, make a list, get advice .... Have I ever stopped you from doing anything?"
Plato: "If only you coulda been my dad. We could have breakfast in the morning.
"What about children?" "We don I t encourage them. So noisy." "Nobody talks to children."
Jim, father-like: "He needs me." Judy, mother-like: "He needs you, but so do I, Jim."
The screenplay was written by Stewart Stern. And here's some good "Rebel" gossip.