The humanities can do anything but humanize these school children in JR. And your view of art has not changed since The Recognitions, as evidenced by figures like Bast, the composer, Eigen, the novelist, and Gibbs, the encyclopedist. What makes you place art at the center of fraud and counterfeit in the modern world?


Let me start off with this observation, touching perhaps on my earlier ones on the crushing abuses of capitalism. Frequently enough, careless or predisposed readers, John Gardner for instance, see these books as chronicles of the dedicated artist crushed by commerce, which is, of course, to miss, or misread, or simply disregard all the evidence of their own appetite for destruction, their frequently eager embrace of the forces to be blamed for their failure to pursue the difficult task for which their talents have equipped them, failure to pursue their destiny if you like, taking art at the center, as you say, as redemption in, and of and from, a world of material values, overwhelmed by the material demands it imposes. The embittered character in JR, for instance, who is Eigen, is obviously based in part on my own experience with The Recognitions, that it was not a success when it was published and I was obliged to go and work in a pharmaceutical company, which I did not like, but I had a family and had to make a living. Next, Gibbs, who is very much a persona; obviously his name is from Willard Gibbs of the second law of thermodynamics and the concept of entropy. Gibbs is the man who has all of the feelings and the competency but is overcome, overwhelmed by a sense of the futility of doing anything and the consequent question of what is worth doing, which he cannot respond to. And so even though he could’ve done this, he could’ve done this, he could’ve done this, he doesn’t finish anything because he just thinks it’s not worth it, whatever it is. So that finally, when he has been quite a negative figure all the way through, and meets a woman who has great confidence and faith and love for him, and wants him to complete his own work, he tries to go back, but it’s too late. Bast starts with great confidence, the sort I mentioned earlier, that confidence of youth. He’s going to write grand opera. And gradually, if you noticed— because of pressures of reality on him and money and so forth—his ambitions shrink. The grand opera becomes a cantata where we have the orchestra and the voices. Then it becomes a piece for orchestra, then a piece for small orchestra, and finally at the end he’s writing a piece for unaccompanied cello, his own that is to say, one small voice trying to rescue it all and say,Yes, there is hope. Again, like Wyatt, living it through, and in his adventure with JR having lived through all the nonsense, he will rescue this one small, hard, gem-like flame, if you like. Because it is that real note of hope in JR that is very important. It’s the kind of thing that someone like John Gardner totally missed. Finally, it’s the artist as “inner-directed” confronting a materialistic world—brokers, bankers, salesmen, factory workers, most politicians, the lot—that JR himself represents, and which is “outer-directed,” if you want it in sociological terms.



The Body / An Altar or A grave


AS IN THOSE OTHER DREAMS, I’m with somebody I know but don’t know how I know them, and this person suddenly points out to me that I’m blind. Or else it’s in the presence of this person that I suddenly realize I’m blind. What happens when I realize this is I get sad. It makes me incredibly sad that I’m blind. The person somehow knows how sad I am and warns me that crying will hurt my eyes somehow and make them even worse, but I can’t help it—I sit down and start crying really hard. I wake up crying, and crying so hard in bed that I can’t really see anything or make anything out or anything. This makes me cry even harder. My girlfriend is concerned and wakes up and asks what’s the matter and it’s a minute or more before I can even get it together enough to realize that I’m awake and not blind and that I’m crying for no reason and to tell my girlfriend about the dream and get her input on it. All day at work then I’m super conscious of my eyesight and my eyes and how good it is to be able to see colors and people’s faces and know just where I am, and of how fragile it all is, the human eye mechanism and the ability to see, how easily it could be lost, how I’m always seeing blind people with their canes and weird-looking faces and always thinking of them as just interesting to spend a couple of seconds looking at and never thinking they had anything to do with me or my eyes, and how it’s really just an incredibly lucky coincidence that I can see instead of being one of those blind people I see on the subway. And all day whenever this stuff strikes me I start tearing up again, getting ready to start crying, and only keeping myself from crying because of the cubicles’ low partitions and how everybody can see me and would be concerned, and the whole day after the dream is like this, and it’s tiring as hell, my girlfriend would say emotionally draining, and I sign out early and go home and I’m so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open, and when I get home I go right in and crawl into bed at like 4:00 in the afternoon and more or less pass out.

 - David Foster Wallace

Don’t set your hair on fire, y’all.

(Source: Spotify)


It’s as if he didn’t know himself very well. He doesn’t think much about himself, although he believes that he does (albeit without great conviction). He doesn’t see himself, doesn’t know himself, or, rather, he doesn’t delve into or investigate himself. Yes, that’s it: it isn’t that he doesn’t know himself, merely that this is a kind of knowledge that doesn’t interest him and which he therefore barely cultivates. He doesn’t examine himself, he would see this as a waste of time. Perhaps it doesn’t interest him because it’s all water under the bridge; he has little curiosity about himself. He just takes himself for granted, or assumes he knows himself. But people change. He doesn’t bother recording or analysing his changes, he’s not up to date with them. He’s introspective. And yet the more he appears to be looking in, the more he is, in fact, looking out. He’s only interested in the external, in others, and that is why he sees so clearly. But his interest in people has nothing to do with wanting to intervene in their lives or to influence them, nor with any utilitarian aim. He may not care very much what happens to anyone.

Javier Marías, Your Face Tomorrow, Volume 1: Fever and Spear

Can anyone suggest writings on the relationship between Art and Critique to me?

Actinomycosis of the face

While common in cattle (especially young weaned bulls and heifers), actinomycosis is rare in humans. It’s an opportunistic infection, becoming entrenched while the immune system is compromised by disease or malnutrition, and when it becomes established inside the body (most often the chest) is often misdiagnosed as a neoplasm (neoplasm = “new growth” - a tumor).

On the face, it causes a slow-growing, lumpy surface, that ignores tissue layers, and creates sinuses (holes) that spontaneously heal and recur as the disease progresses.

While once thought to be a mycosis, or fungal infection (hence its name), actinomycosis is now known to be caused by anaerobic, gram-positive bacteria. As it’s still a very uncommon condition in humans, actinomycosis has not developed much resistance to antibiotics, and is generally responsive to penicillin and amoxicillin. However, because the bacteria can become so entrenched in areas that do not receive high amounts of blood flow, the antibiotics must be continued for up to a year, if the disease has been present for a long time.

Diseases of the Skin. James H. Sequiera, 1919.

(Source: biomedicalephemera)


Two pages that appeared in Smoke Signal 17 in November. 

(Source: p-kyle)

Rediscovered this gem today. Getting real emo about it.

A younger me experienced years of being totally taken aback by this song. The overt self loathing, the strange mix of aggression and apprehension. It blew me away. Sort of harsh, but still the most tender song on Knife Play, and the only one I could listen to in my parents house - when they weren’t paying much attention - without headphones. How many times in school did I embarrass myself trying to show any other Xiu Xiu songs to oblivious friends? Just enough. The cover to this album was some obscure landscape, or maybe a microscope slide. Either way this song, like so many others, swayed exactly zero of my friends at the time into Jamie Stewart’s fanbase

I remember noting all the repetition in the titles as if they had some unbound significance, the name “Suha” itself weirdly ambiguous, until I found the sense to Google it and read up on Suha Arafat. I remember getting pissed off for no real reason when I became convinced that this was a “political” song, but even if I hadn’t had occasion to grow the hell up, or missed any of several opportunities to learn about art and using other people to find ways to speak about yourself I think I probably still would have returned to this song for purely visceral reasons.

I hate my body / I hate the desert
I’m gonna hang myself. / When will I be going home?

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