Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Once you start looking, Ur-blogs & protoblogs abound. Whoever had the bright idea to start running the diary of Samuel Pepys as a blog got it right. Thoreau was a blogger, he just didn’t know it. And Robert Duncan’s H.D. Book (the PDF of which appears to have disappeared from its Factory School location) makes more sense to me as an ur-blog than as a “book” of literary criticism. Indeed, Duncan himself alternately called it The Day Book. Exactly.


What brings these thoughts up however inchoately is the appearance in print form of Bruce Andrews’ “Reading Notes” in the latest issue of PLR: The Prague Literary Review, technically vol. 1, number 4. Ostensibly a series of “notes, at times manifesto-like, on the (often neglected) dynamics of reading radical texts,” that use, as a point of reference, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk’s Ogress Oblige, Andrews’ notes want only for a scrollbar & maybe a Squawkbox to become bloggish in the extreme.


Andrews, in a move that will not be unfamiliar to his readers, is out to take no prisoners:


The call is out for a writing that frustrates, or doesn’t bother with, a leaning back style or comfy ‘read.’


Which is to say without necessarily naming names that Andrews is taking on large portions of even the best younger post-avant writers with such a challenge. Comfy would very much seem to be on the agenda, so Andrews is definitely prodding here. Poking to get a response.


As is so characteristic of the blog form – short note: short note: sweeping conclusion – Andrews’ “Notes” proceed not so much as an argument, but as a list, specifically B-1 through B-5 & its parallel portions amid the C’s or, more accurately, graphically,


B-1 through B-5


& so forth, out of what would appear to be a larger suite, possibly A through J. One need not read them sequentially – indeed they seem programmed to catch the bouncing eye that wanders about this tabloid-sized PLR page. Virtually every section & sub-section appears about to burst into topic-sentence-ness at the drop of a droll quotation:


Action: “to repudiate a lineage.” We can experience such a ripping up of convention as we get over being spooked by those ghosts of coherence & consensus that had been bottled up in them. “Time’s showroom exegete” wants our votes for continuity instead. Yet continuity is little more than the concession that death makes to life, or to dynamic change. ‘Close reading’ is taxidermy The best continuity is death.


Hardly any member of my generation (or, as AARP now titles its new mag for boomer geriatrics, My Generation) has half so consistently pushed for an extreme or complete engagement with the problematics of meaning & society as has Andrews, bursts of wit, documentation, perception, emotion exploding off the page with incredible density – the man never lets up. Trujillo Lusk is extraordinarily fortunate to have, in some sense, found her reader in Bruce Andrews – this is, after all, close reading at its most engaged.


But it’s not a blog – we need to get Bruce to Blogspot or Onepotmeal or Typepad for that – but two pages in a 20-page tabloid, printed on fabulously heavy paper – more the paper stock you would expect for posters than newsprint. Andrews’ first page has, by way of illustration (I read it more as comment), Robert Smithson’s A Heap of Language, the second page wrapped around Carl Fernbach-Flarsheim’s The Boolean Image. Overall, PLR is a great read, tho hardly a comfy one [buyer beware: the lead article in the issue is by yours truly, a piece scribed originally some time back for Leslie Davis’ never-to-appear 20th century anthology]. Steve McCaffery, Drew Milne, Keston Sutherland, Michel Deville*, Ian Ayers, editor Louis Armand & McKenzie Wark will be familiar to many of the readers here. Tho in point of fact it may well just be the names we don’t yet recognize here in the southern environs of Valley Forge who prove to be the real news here, such as novelist J├íchym Topol.


Still a piece like Bruce’s points both ways – it reminds us once again of just how close to journalism the blog itself as a form is (but with so many critical differences) &, vice versa. Andrews himself would in fact make a great blogger. Hey Bruce, you listening?




* Translated by Gian Lombardo, whose versions of Aloysius Bertrand I have also been enjoying of late.