Al Sarrantonio’s “The Cult of the Nose” has been following me around all day.  Appropriate, since the story is about a secret cult that shows up at massively traumatic events.  People in catastrophic photos are wearing fake noses.  The protagonist tracks them down.  I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s obvious how it has to end.  The story makes me think of two things.  First, structure.  Massumi calls structure that place where nothing happens.  The Cult of the Nose is structure, and the story comports to that theory of how structure works.  Second, why Nose?  Is it because the nose is a hindrance?  It shadows our eyes, it is a permanent blot that we somehow learn to deal with.  It’s obtrusive, and a cult that wears a fake nose which is larger than actual noses must be especially competent or powerful to embrace such a handicap.  That’s the Nose on the field of vision.  But there is something else, dealing with smell and its primacy and/or subsequent downplaying.  Not sure.  yet.

Germany and Argentina played to-day.  The intersections of these two is rife for more conspiracy theories.  Watched for Noses.  As well as Martin Borrman.

Even though I read a lot of Zizek, I am not intolerant of multiculturalism.  I do see proof of the argument that it’s counterproductive, but rarely.  And it does make us feel better about ourselves; there is value to that.  However.  The emphasis FIFA puts on ending racism seems overly cynical to me.  Racism is a problem among futballers and their fans.  It makes sense to reach out and try to prevent these racist outbursts, but these measures are too demonstrative.  I wonder if they are so demonstrative precisely because those in charge are either racist or see the problem as too big to overcome and so they do it as a distancing move.  I may be cynical, but this distancing move of the over-the-top protest is a more insidious cynicism.

Sarrantonio, Al.  (2010).  The cult of the nose.  In Gaiman, Neal and Al Sarrantonio, eds.  (2010).  Stories: All-new tales (304-312.)  NY: William Morrow.

I am no longer sure ‘Distractions’ is appropriate.  The summer gig is under way and that is the main distraction from my writing.  But it’s not superfluous like a distraction is.  It’s just a higher priority for the time being.

A lot of processing is done on the computer, so I have spent a lot of time on Netflix streaming The Office.  Why don’t more TV vendors do this?  It will end up on the Net eventually, but if on Netflix or on Hulu then, at least, they make some money off of it.  Here’s the better test.  The shows that I do follow, that are available for me to view for free, even though Netflix is a sunk cost, are harder for me to find on the free non-compensating sites.  Plus, the HBO shows could probably fetch higher premiums from Netflix because havign those shows stream might attract members.

It’s always comforting to find a well known author speak to my overriding sense of theory: there is too much focus, often unacknowledged, on the mind and not enough on the body/mind organism.  Here’s Paul Auster talking about the organism:

Writing is physical for me.  I always have the sense that the words are coming out of my body, not just my mind….Not only do you write books physically, but you read books physically as well.  There’s something about the rhythms of language that correspond to the rhythms of our own bodies.  An attentive reader is finding meanings in the book that can’t be articulated, finding them in his or her body. (2007, 27)

How very Massumi of Auster.

Alexander Star, the editor of Lingua Franca, has a piece about the state of fiction.  It’s mainly a review of literature, which concludes by aping the famous Jonathan Franzen essay.  Not impressive, but it is a good read if you are interested in a survey of the debate.  A debate that has apparently been put to rest since 1996.  Yawn.

A short diddy by a high school friend at The Second Pass about Glenn Beck’s new novel.  It includes links to more robust … hilarity.

Auster, Paul.  (2007).  Jonathan Lethem talks to Paul Auster.  In V. Vida, ed.  (2007).  The Believer book of writers talking to writers (25-42).  NY: Believer Books.

She [the Minerva] floats only because boys mind her pumps all the time, she remains upright and intact only because highly intelligent men never stop watching the sky and the seas around her.  Every line and sail decays with visible speed, like snow in daylight, and men must work ceaselessly worming, parceling, serving, tarring, and splicing her infinite network of hempen lines in order to prevent her from falling apart in mid-ocean with what Daniel imagines would be explosive suddenness.  (Stephenson 2002, 217)

That’s a marvelous passage and needed applause.  Only one adverb to detract from its beauty.  Few adjectives.  Plenty of descriptive verbs.  It also acknowledges the infinite struggle against nature for technological stasis.  More importantly, it does not chalk up the struggle to labor, but highlights the labor intensiveness of the struggle.

I am reminded recently of a talk by Alan Weisman, author of The world without us, where he remarked about the popularity of his book among conservative talk shows.  He had anticipated being lumped into the tree-hugging environmentalist camps, but was instead surprised that the conservatives glommed onto his praise of the common laborers.  The book does, after all, read like the show Dirty Jobs would.  Not that Stephenson has never been suspected of not being a friend to labor.  But why is labor friendly to the conservatives?  A question I have yet to find a satisfactory answer for.  False ideology, sure.  But how does it work?

What is also interesting about Quicksilver is that much of the beginning is set aboard the Minerva.  At the same time I started this tome I also started and finished another book which involves the Minerva. Only a few chapters of Linebaugh and Rediker’s The many-headed hydra were assigned, but I had to read the whole thing.  It is about the role of sailors, slaves and commoners in the revolutionary Atlantic.  Tracing labor through the major struggles, it was a fascinating read.  Its dovetails with Quicksilver were too odd.  Nearly sublime.

While I am speaking of sublimity, I am really excited about the latest book I just started reading to-day: Massumi’s Parables for the virtual. All four of these writers are extremely gifted and I have no doubt that had their interests changed any, had their body-sites been repositioned slightly on the grids of identity, then they all could have been best of friends.  Or competitors.

This clearly was not labelled as a post about reading and yet I can do nothing but think about what a strange confluence these three books have created for me.  Especially in such a short period of time.  I know I will be speaking more about the Massumi book as I already have some ideas to knock around before I take them to the faculty.

And…notice the comment Stephenson makes about the snow melting in the sunlight?  I have never really seen it at work until to-day.  The past few days were spent in delirious moments of waking between naps as I slept off illness.  Watching the icicles dissolve was fascinating.  But seeing the snow on the ground recede to the shade line was doubly amazing to-day as I trounced around the city celebrating the new warmth. It was a good day to be alive and in Minneapolis.

Linebaugh, Peter & Marcus Rediker.  (2000).  The many-headed hydra: Sailor, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press.

Massumi, Brian.  (2002).  Parables of the virtual: Movement, affect, sensation. Durham, NC: Duke UP.

Stephenson, Neal.  (2003).  Quicksilver. NY: Harper Perennial.