𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 of course the thing you mustn’t say is

O pray for me St Sasha
in fluent русский or via
yr unusually expressive eyebrows
when you remove the bone as one might draw
a hairpin, smear the rollmop on black bread
and indulge my little
pretence that the Russian deli at Elephant & Castle is
St Petersburg.

O pray for me St Edwin
with all the fervency the envious angels will allow
when, picked out on the dripping verges,
I feel against my cheek
the blowsy petals of the rhododendron.

O pray for me St Effy:
walk with me under the viaduct to Flass Vale
where goldfinches chivvy up &
off across the way;
teach me to live the hours not the years
and do, please, to my dizzy, boring, Venlafaxin thinking what
Oz’s whistling once did to Sunday afternoons.

 

— from Paul Batchelor’s “A Form of Words”, in the London Review of Books

𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 Blissfully Metricized

Academia is not alone in dealing with the pernicious effects of this new system. With Facebook now one of the world’s largest corporations, it is not a loose analogy to say that clicks, likes, follows, page views, and so on are at the foundation of a new global economy. Clicks have radically transformed journalism, for instance, which explains in part why so many New York Times opinion pieces now have all the tone and nuance of a tweet. Increasingly, it is as tweets that they are conceived.

The same click-swipe-and-rate economy has left everyone involved in cultural production dazed and stumbling. Journalism, art, literature, and entertainment have been engulfed by a tsunami of metrics. And dare we mention love, friendship, and political community? These, too, have been absorbed by the mania of metrics coupled with so-called gamification — a treacherous imitation of play. A flood of neurochemicals saturates our dried-out brains when a heart or a thumbs-up pops up in response to a text, or when our dating profiles get a match, or when our hasty yet emphatic political opinions or our pseudo-humble tales of small daily failures are praised and echoed back to us. The more we swipe in the right direction, or achieve whatever minor virality we can get, the more we are rewarded, and the more we hone our future swipes and tweets and posts. The first flood triggers another, and we float along blissfully metricized, trading our subjectivity for an algorithm.

— from “How Social Media Imperils Scholarship” by Justin E. H. Smith

2019

𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 And All This Comes to an End

And you would walk out with me to the western corner of the

castle,

To the dynastic temple, with water about it clear as blue jade,

With boats floating, and the sound of mouth-organs and drums,

With ripples like dragon-scales, going grass green on the water,

Pleasure lasting, with courtezans, going and coming without

hindrance,

With the willow flakes falling like snow,

And the vermilioned girls getting drunk about sunset,

And the water a hundred feet deep reflecting green eyebrows

—Eyebrows painted green are a fine sight in young moonlight,

Gracefully painted—

And the girls singing back at each other,

Dancing in transparent brocade,

And the wind lifting the song, and interrupting it,

Tossing it up under the clouds.

And all this comes to an end.

And is not again to be met with.

— from “Exiles Letter” in Ezra Pound’s Cathay

1915

𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 On Plagiarism

The kernel, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances — is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.

— from “The Ecstasy of Influence” by Jonathan Lethem

2007

𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 A literary version of the Sony Walkman and the Honda Civic

Murakami’s pronouncements matter because he’s Murakami, “one of the world’s foremost novelists,” as AFP put it. But if this is why the English language press latched onto Murakami’s comments while overlooking Levy’s interview, then we’ve arrived at the sad intersection of literary authorship and Oprah-ism, wherein the media’s limited attention span necessitates the selection of a single, self-perpetuating fame figure for whom publicly-disseminated thoughtfulness is reserved.

Credit The New Yorker and other well-moneyed American publishing interests. Murakami – as English readers (including the Swedish Academy) know him – is their fabrication. Translator Stephen Snyder’s work traces the shaping of Murakami’s brand by Robert Gottlieb and examines how Gottlieb’s successor, Deborah Treisman, has fixated on conjuring “the next Murakami.” To the credulous, this is an effort to keep Japanese literature in The New Yorker’s tent; to the observant, it’s an attempt to construct an exotic, saleable façade for American fiction’s tired idioms (the lack of a viable American Nobel candidate is an exhausted topic). As Snyder has noted, Murakami’s American investors set out to turn him into a “literary version of the Sony Walkman and the Honda Civic.”

This would be fine if it resulted in the publication of more Japanese literature. But Gottlieb and Treisman haven’t given us Japanese literature. They have given us Treisman and Gottlieb. Their fingerprints are omnipresent in the New Yorker versions. Alterations are not necessarily wrongful; both previous Nobel laureates from Japan were rendered by activist translators (Edward Seidensticker and John Nathan). But Nathan translated Oe with autonomy and was published by the insurgent Barney Rosset. Now comes the age of pander, where authors provide the raw cultural and biographical materials necessary to make the publishing industry’s pet aesthetics marketable. Treisman – who “made” Yoko Ogawa – withdrew The New Yorker’s interest in one of Ogawa’s stories after the author declined to rewrite the ending.

— Dreux Richard in Japan Today

2012

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