Deaver’s Great Chain of Being

by Matthew Simmons

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This year, I went on a small, self-financed West Coast book tour. As a tool to market my book, it was not terribly successful. Ah, well.

As a vacation, though, it was wildly successful. There were some things on the West Coast that I had wanted to see, and I got to see them. I saw The Winchester Mystery House. I saw The Esalen Institute. I saw The Madonna Inn. I saw molting seals. I saw The Watts Towers. I sawThe Museum of Jurassic Technology. And, best of all, I finally got a chance to see and use Deaver’s Great Chain of Being. Continue reading

Bleed Through by Michael Davidson

by CJ Morello

Bleed-Through-375x515Bleed Through
by Michael Davidson
Coffee House Press, Dec 2013
256 pages / $17.95  Buy from Coffee House or Amazon

“Perhaps having power is like having images.” If the concentration of images behaves gravitationally, then may we be approaching a point of collapse? Sure are a lot of pictures out there these days. The basic law of structure formation in the universe is collapse. And perhaps ‘having’ images is an affliction linked to memory, that trick of consciousness which allows humans to substitute pronouns like me and I, us and you, into the visions that bubble up during the increasingly rare moments during which one is not in a state of interface. It seems we have ever more such ‘moments’ to cope with. One inverse outcome of the surveillance state is we now have a population which is pumping images into circulation as never before. Michael Davidson’s career retrospective Bleed Through resists this proliferation as a collection and yet accedes, on a poem-to-poem basis, to the idea that even an initially smooth distribution of matter will fall in upon itself. Images are conflated with words, and disintegrate from line to line, blurring across the sparsely punctuated sentences, as in Ready to Hand: Continue reading

News Of The Haircut by Peter Bergoef

by Rhys Nixon

tumblr_mqix14iefz1qhn45lo1_500News Of The Haircut
by Peter Bergoef
Greying Ghost Press, Originally published 2007 / Republished 2013 as part of Greying Ghost Archive Series (#1)
$5 / Buy from Greying Ghost Press

 

News of the Haircut is a chapbook by writer Peter Bergoef, published by Greying Ghost Press, as part of their Archive series. First published in 2007, this chapbook seems to touch on themes, such as love, loss, sadness, and the all too common feelings that are often described as an existential crisis, explored via a vague narrator like approach, giving the poems a somewhat personal feeling to them. These poems, which appear abstract at first, give the reader a series of images within images, presenting a version of themselves within the pages that one all too often tries to ignore.

handcuffed to the chair
other victims running their mouths
transmitting maths
through satellites
news of the haircut
the impending registration
over a few drinks served Continue reading

Little Inferno Review

by Byron Alexander Campbell

Little-Inferno_WiiU_coverLittle Inferno
Available on PC, Wii U, iOS, Android
Buy on Steam

 

The world is getting colder. Up past your chimney, the snow is coming down thick and fast. It’s been this way for years, but nobody seems to know, or really care, why. Whatever the reason, weather like this…it can’t possibly last forever. So why bother trying to figure it out?

Why bother going outside at all when you’ve got your very own Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, courtesy of Tomorrow Corporation? It’ll keep you warm and entertained forever, or as long as you’ve got stuff to burn, which is basically saying the same thing. Thanks to the many letters and catalogs that keep arriving mysteriously on your fireside mantel, it will be a long while before you run out of stuff to burn. Of course that, too, can’t possibly last forever. But why worry about the future, or the past, when you can live in an eternally incandescent present? Continue reading

20.5 “Books” I Found Especially Beautiful in 2013

by Sophia Le Fraga

Johannes Göransson said on Facebook that one thing he doesn’t like about the “list”-based idea of criticism is: “that you can’t challenge it. You’re not allowed to say: No this list is mediocre or whatever. Then you’re not a nice person.”

Here’s a list of books I’ve only read four of but find especially aesthetically pleasing. Be a nice person.

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Brandon Brown – Flowering Mall – Roof Books

Continue reading

Beyond This Point Are Monsters by Roxanne Carter

by Lyndsey Ellis

SB009-CARTER-COVER-03-FRONT-300Beyond This Point Are Monsters
by Roxanne Carter
Sidebrow, May 2013
210 pages / $18  Buy from Sidebrow or SPD

 

I’m a fan of bubble baths. Long, hot-as-you-can-stand-it, soap-suds-to-your-eyeballs bubble baths. Many people would agree, but few fiercely and biasly adore them. I confess to love them so much that if I randomly had a mud fight and then wound up in some place that didn’t have a bathtub, like a cheap motel or someone’s mole burrow of a studio apartment, I’d opt to go to bed filthy rather than take a shower.

There’s nothing like it. You sit there, you soak, you un-think. But, the best part isn’t what happens in the tub; it’s what happens afterward.

If you’re like me, you dry off, drain the tub, and lie down. There’s something about being in bed, fuzzy warm all over, with the sheets clinging to the damp crevices on your body. Being inert and liking it. Continue reading

Where to Go in Europe

by Manuel Arturo Abreu

81diIguhtTL._SL1500_Where to Go in Europe
Eds. Wendy Bracewell & Alex Drace-Francis
UCL Publishing Horizons, 2013
120 pages / $4.99  Buy Kindle on Amazon

Life seems to be an enterprise of attaching meaning to arbitrary artifacts and rituals, which seem themselves to embody something called ‘culture.’ I don’t think there’s anything immaterial to culture—it’s just how humans have lived and live now. We all have bodies which are (and have been) largely the same, but different cultures craft different rituals and habits, for whatever reasons. This doesn’t seem to mean anything, inherently: it simply is.

This book, then, is a short and delightful anthology of writing about experiences with foreign toilet technology, for lack of better phrasing. Aside from how interesting the book is as an exploration of people trying to “make sense” of intercultural experiences, it’s a delight to read because of the plethora of voices it contains: there’s an almost-voyeuristic pleasure to reading, say, Andrei Pleşu‘s account of an encounter with a highly-advanced Japanese toilet, or Savkovič’s description of going to a Bulgarian festival with a Belgrade model. The slim volume deftly creates a patchwork of different experiences, ranging from puerile to poignant, not imposing any critical framework on the reader but simply asking her to marvel at and revel in the complicated range of human emotion and expression that is available for topics like toilets, urine, and feces.

Not having such a framework is a modest decision, which makes this book very likeable. Like culture, it simply is: its economy is immediately appealing, and the irony of reading it while in the bathroom is, against all odds, delicious. Most importantly, built on the premise that we all need to evacuate our bowels and bladder, yet in so many different ways, Where to go in Europe presents a more important commonality: everyone judges everyone else for how they use the bathroom, in different ways. Everyone has not individual bathroom rituals and ideas of what a bathroom should be, and the bathroom is a crucial site for exploring our own cultural biases. To me, it’s somewhat interesting that this topic is so often explored in the context of humor— Žižek’s “toilet ideology” bit, David Foster Wallace’s “The Suffering Channel,” and ‘oodles’ of other somewhat-scatological postmodern stuff —as if, in trying to analyze the abjection of the encounter with bodily waste, ‘western’ analysis itself succumbs to revulsion, and must ‘laugh to keep from crying,’ as it were. Can we ever escape ideology? Is trying to imagine life outside ideology absurd?

Hard to say, but another pleasure of this text is that, while provoking such questions, it points to this class of questioning as absurd: instead of imagining hypothetical utopias, we should ‘air the dirty laundry’ of ideology, so to speak, and look frankly at how it is always operating through us and around us. Becoming more aware of ideology isn’t necessarily freedom from it, but it might afford some level of critical distance, in the same way that meditation asks us to simply, nonjudgmentally stay in the present, observing thoughts passing like clouds in the sky of the mind. The editors include an excerpt written by Giuseppe Baretti in 1770 where— in reaction to travelers like Sharp who generalized about all Italians based on the filth of Naples, in which, at the time, people urinated and defecated, it seems, at liberty —he writes about the stench of Madrid, and how it drove him to end what would have been a month-long trip and “be gone, and never think to see this town again,” but that he “will not blame the Spaniards for having suffered this evil to increase upon them age after age in such a manner, as to be now almost past remedy…”

Baretti considers staying— for these are the choices the traveler has, to stay or to go —but “cannot endure the thought of satisfying [his] idle curiosity at the price of a month’s torment.” He admits, though, that: “Long custom to be sure will reconcile any body to any thing…” It seems like traveling is an essentially sensory experience, because other cultures cannot be understood, they can only be lived, through “long custom” that rehabituates and recontextualizes the body. Traveling, then, is not an encounter with “other cultures,” it’s an encounter with novel sensory experiences, and for travelers to generalize from that is a great mistake. The options are to partake in the sensory experience or not, and in the case of bathrooms, the only thing one encounters besides bodily waste is one’s own emotional reactions to the sensory experience, which are filtered through one’s own ‘culture,’ that is, one’s own “long custom” regarding the handling of bodily waste.


from David Černý’s Entropa (2009)

 

The text includes an excerpt from Kapka Kassabova‘s Street Without a Name in which the narrator’s mother, after having endured Bulgarian public toilets her whole life, which “were the ante-chamber of Hell,” visited Delft with the narrator’s father, on a study visit to Holland. Her mother entered “the sparkling, perfumed, pink-toilet-papered, flower-arranged, mirrored, white marble toilet of Delft University, clean as a surgery theatre, gilded as an opera hall, bigger than our apartment in Youth 3, and she cried.” It is this, the narrator says, and not the “supernaturally clean streets” and other accoutrements, that “tipped her over from stunned awe into howling despair.” One’s ‘identity in culture,’ so to speak, is only a series of habits, the “long customs” Baretti talks about, and, bereft of the material context in which to perform one’s usual habits, the traveler experiences something perhaps comparable to the confusion of trying to imagine being human without having language.

If we suppose that culture is the ways people live, then technology plays a fundamental role in defining culture. The Turkish-style hole that the Bulgarian mother is familiar with has nothing to do, inherently, with Bulgaria. But “long custom” turns it into a symbol for her nationality, and humans, probably thanks to language, live in mostly-symbolic realms. All of the material and ritual that comprises culture offers potential sites of imagined ‘cultural difference,’ and this book offers a thoroughly-enjoyable and thought-provoking look into some of the discourse surrounding the politics of piss and poop. As a good book should, it leaves you wanting more.

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Manuel Arturo Abreu is a writer based in Portland and NYC, with more work out atnatrices.tumblr.com and twigtech.tumblr.com.

Hum by Jamaal May

by Marty Cain

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by Jamaal May
Alice James Books, Nov 2013
80 pages / $15.95  Buy from Amazon or SPD

Robert Frost’s “Out, Out—” depicts perhaps the most famous dismemberment in American poetry: a young boy loses his hand while working with a buzz saw, bleeds to death, and at the end of the poem, his parents indifferently “return to their affairs.” The poem induces a naturalistic sense of spiritual doubt, and it’s also suggestive of a wartime paranoia about technology’s potential for violence and destruction. Jamaal May’s debut collection Hum (Alice James, 2013) is driven by a relentless confrontation of the lines between natural and artificial, and it reinvents all of our typical assumptions about the relationship between technology and humanity. In a sly invocation of Frost, “Hum of the Machine God” depicts a father who loses his thumb while operating a snow blower. But unlike Frost, May doesn’t evoke the expected sense of lost innocence: the boy is not the victim of the tragedy, but rather, the witness. The machine isn’t a harbinger of modernist alienation, but rather, a spiritual entity in itself: Continue reading

Stupid Teaser Hed Goes Here

by Reynard Seifert

Because sexism isn’t something we can turn off like a faucet, or fix like a leak, I asked Lazenby to talk about how we might consider the function of our actions in the context of systems we can’t control, which in fact inform our approach to their demolition.

TOPSHOTS-BELGIUM-EU-FEMEN-TUNISIA

I don’t really understand the particulars of what Reynard asked me to write about, because I don’t know any of the people involved. What I do understand is the incredible stability of systems when they are attacked on their own terms.

One system that we all live in presumes women can be treated as a bloc. It understands women as creatures who share a common, female essence that gives each woman her female traits. Things like frailty, irresponsibility, vanity, and above all, the need for a type of security—emotional and material—that men are uniquely equipped to provide. The system says: ‘Act as though these presumptions were true, and I will reward all of you with an immensely stable set of relationships between men and women.’ Continue reading

Inventory

by Mike Meginnis

I have been persuaded, by the comments of others, and by further reflection, that my initial reaction to the recent fustercluck, (i.e., “fuck this place”), was neither mature nor productive. And worse, some of what I said along the way was hurtful and ungenerous. If I value this space — and I must, because I am still reading, and certainly I did value it once — then I should be the change I want to see.

It has generally been my feeling that the sexism, racism, and general hatefulness of the HTMLGiant community has been consistently overstated, both because of the unfortunate human tendency to confuse the worst of any given group of people with the essence of that group, and because this blog, like any blog, seems to get the most attention when its contributors act out. That being said, I know for a fact that many women and people of color are not comfortable reading these pages. (There are times where I’m not comfortable either.) I don’t like that. I don’t think the vast majority of our contributors, current or past, like it either. So I’m going to try to address the problem head-on in a series of posts designed to make it clear that HTMLGiant is, as a whole, intended to be an inclusive environment. Again, I think that’s where our hearts (mostly) are. If you want to contribute something to this series, I’d be glad to have it, so please email me (at mike(dot)meginnis(at)gmail), because I don’t know what the next post is going to look like. Continue reading