Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Show Must Go ON

Just after quoting Goffman came across DFW on the Charlie Rose Show back in 1997, new to me if not to you, which says everything I might have wanted to say about life, the universe, postmodernism and Your Name Here

DFW: Well I'm just gonna look pretentious, talking about this
CR: Quit worrying about what you're gonna look like and just be
DFW: I've got news for you, coming on a television show stimulates you're what am I gonna look like gland like no other experience, you may now be such a veteran that you're like you don't notice it anymore
you confront your own vanity when you think about going on TV so, no apologies, but just that's an explanation
the footnotes in the
there's a way um
there's a way that it seems to me that reality's fractured right now at least the reality that I live in
the difficulty about writing one of those
writing about that reality is that text is very linear and it's very unified
and you you um I anyway am constantly on the look-out for ways to fracture the text that aren't totally disorienting I mean you can you know you can um take the lines and jumble them up and that's nicely fractured but nobody's gonna read it

the rest here


roswitha said...

Have none of your screaming fans discovered your blog yet, or do you keep their posts screened? I love you, and that is all I have to say.

Ithaca said...

I haven't been screening posts. I get a lot of e-mails from people who for one reason or another don't want to make their comments public. There is a culture of secrecy in publishing which makes people prefer to say things off the record. Even leaving an Anonymous comment on a blog feels too risky. (That is the reason people give for writing e-mails rather than posting comments -- the ones who don't write at all may have all kinds of reasons for not doing so. We can only surmise.)

Mithridates said...

I saw this a while back and remember thinking that DFW made me feel like I was being dragged by my feet down a flight of stairs. Drag, bump, stop; drag, bump, stop. He does this in all the interviews I've seen - prefacing his statements by anticipating what they'll sound like. I don't know. It feels absolutely correct and yet at the same time like a terrible fear of pretentiousness. He also cringes a lot as he talks, which is weird because it seems like an "authentic" or unscripted or whatever reaction to the artificiality of the reponse and of the interview forum in general, but it's so pronounced that I wonder if it isn't something he's worked on. Like he's performing and constantly aware that he's performing and letting us know that he's not doing performing well or not really wanting to perform with his verbal and facial tics--which are also part of the performance.

I just made my ears bleed.

I love this bit about why the footnotes though. And speaking of the what I'm going to look like gland: mine has suddenly been overstimulated with this blogging business. I see some of the other blogs (Tired Dad, for example, which is just HILARIOUS and brilliant) and I just want to spill my inkpot. Talk about feeling pretentious and uncomfortable and self-hating and all the rest of it.

DFW wrote a great thing on Roger Federer in an issue of NYT Magazine. It's about beauty and grace in sport.

You wrote to me the other day about Bakhtin and how that seemed to say so much about YNH. Does the Bakhtin have anything to do with what DFW's saying? And which Bakhtin website was it you were looking at?

Mithridates said...

To clarify:

"Like he's performing and constantly aware that he's performing and letting us know with his verbal and facial tics--which are also part of the performance--that he's not performing well or that doesn't really wanting to be performing."

Mithridates said...

"...or that HE doesn't really WANT to be performing."


Sometimes I think there's a railroad pike jammed in my skull.

Mithridates said...

I just watched the interview again and I retract the being dragged the stairs comment. It's been almost a decade, sorry. He's just really smart and stimulating and great here. I must have been describing what it's like reading my comments on your blog.

Ithaca said...

I like the way DFW performs inability to perform. When he talks about what he is doing in his texts, one thing he says is there is conflict between the desire to seduce the way TV seduces and the desire to present the fragmentation of reality. The apparent seamlessness of a performance may conceal all kinds of extremely technical information, various ways of understanding the performance, which can't be put on display within the performance without loss of seductiveness. In a text there is a solution of sorts (in texts on the web there are even better solutions, maybe), because the complexity can be nodded at with an endnote or a link. But what is the solution within a TV appearance, where there is no separate space where complex issues can be set out? There is no solution -- but in presenting this awkward performance he can act out something, the impossibility of being purely seductive without oversimplification, the impossibility of grappling with the necessary complexities without underseduction. (Looking pretentious. Saying things people don't say on "Friends" or "Seinfeld".)

This is the Bakhtin link. Bakhtin is talking about how the language within different strands of a society are ideologically constrained, limiting what it is possible to think -- and arguing that the novel, which can bring in other forms of discourse, including technical language, legal language, the language of structures of power, makes visible those constraints. So probably relevant to DFW.

p.259 ‘…the study of verbal art can and must overcome the divorce between an abstract "formal" approach and an equally abstract "ideological" approach. Form and content in discourse are one, once we understand that verbal discourse is a social phenomenon - social throughout its entire range and in each and every of its factors, from the sound image to the furthest reaches of abstract meaning.’

‘Stylistics is not concerned with living discourse…’ - its abstraction kills the social power and overtones of the work, the ‘social life of discourse’.

p.262 Bakhtin lists the basic types of compositional-stylistic unities into which the novelistic whole usually breaks down:

Direct authorial literary-artistic narration (in all its diverse variants);

Stylization of the various forms of oral everyday narration (skaz);

Stylization of the various forms of semiliterary (written) everyday narration (the letter, diary, etc.);

Various forms of literary but extra-artistic authorial speech (moral, philosophical or scientific statements, oratory, ethnographic descriptions, memoranda and so forth);

The stylistically individualized speech of characters.

‘These heterogeneous stylistic unities, upon entering the novel, combine to form a structured artistic system, and are subordinated to the higher stylistic unity of the work as a whole, a unity that cannot be identified with any single one of the unities subordinated to it.’

The stylistic uniqueness of the genre is in the combination.