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  The Hotsy Totsy Club 2000-06-14. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting

Movie Comment: Gold Diggers of 1937

The last of the Gold Diggers (the finale's martial glitter may explain why there wasn't a Gold Diggers of 1939) but the first to center on the glamorous world of life insurance. Evereh-body! (270 KB)

You'll get pie... in the sky...
You'll get pie in the sky
When you die! die! die!...

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Sticky Fingers

This graphic (via Beth Rust) does for connectivity what Microsoft Outlook has done for love letters, prompting the question: Might David Cronenberg have a future in Bell Canada commercials?

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How Ahab Really Lost His Leg

I'm glad to say that the strength and mighty power of my love was never crushed by a Starbucks toilet, but once, while on my way to a job interview, my hand was gashed by the sharp metal edge overhanging a recalcitrant Starbucks toilet paper roll holder.

. . . 2000-06-15

Mamas, Don't Make Your Babies Executors

It's corporations that have forced the vicious new copyright laws upon us and it's mostly corporations that reap the scattered profits and work the universal havoc. After all, corporations have the rights of an individual, are richer than an individual, but can't be institutionalized for criminal insanity like an individual. But because corporations do define themselves as individuals, the monstrous growth of their "rights" has to some extent trickled down to those individuals who have done individually absolutely nothing to merit control of an absent individual's work: to wit, relatives.

The Astaire widow's vacuum-cleaner-financed defense of posthumous dignity may be the most visible outcome. But, as with corporations, the true cultural danger of these suit-threatening and suit-hiring relatives is loss of the marginal rather than exploitation of the famous. Corporations and corporation-like individuals both prefer the risk of eradication to the risk of losing control.

Thus, word on the rue was that a major delay in bringing Jean Eustache's The Mama and the Whore back into distribution was the heir's hope for a windfall, and that a continued obstacle to bringing Mes Petites Amoreuses to videotape is the same. Since Mes Petites Amoreuses was an international flop as well as my favorite coming-of-age movie, if rue-word is true a windfall is unlikely and the stalemate will continue.

Moving past cinematic rumors to literary documentation, "difficult" poet Louis Zukofsky has gotten still more difficult as incarnated in his son, Paul. Possibly understandably teed off by the tongue-clucking directed towards his father by Lorine Niedecker scholars (after all, Niedecker never complained about her treatment), Zukofsky fils refused to allow the teensiest scrap of père's letters to enter into the otherwise excellent Niedecker and the Correspondence With Zukofsky. But gagging the accused isn't such a hot idea: a writer's best defense is usually their own testimony. Witness how the fuller disclosure of Pound/Zukofsky: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky easily snuffs the calumny that Zukofsky sucked up to Pound's anti-Semitism.

(Could be worse, I suppose, and it is in the case of Zukofsky's lifelong comrade, Basil Bunting, whose life and letters remain in darkness due to the mortar-and-brick combination of his estate's reticence and England's Official Secrets Act.)

The granddaddy of such repressers has got to be professional grandson Stephen Joyce, who's redirected the kind of smug never-forgive never-forget selfishness that usually gets expended on family feuds towards all scholars everywhere. In A Collideorscape of Joyce, a festschrift for angelic if plain-spoken Joycean Fritz Senn, Stephen Joyce plays the villain again, preventing inclusion of a new German translation of the last chapter of Ulysses and of a study of the manuscripts of the "Nausicaa" chapter, and, most unforgivably, blocking publication of exactly the sort of calumny-snuff referred to above:

"I'll never forget the moment when Lili Ruff produced a copy of the German translation of Ulysses, inscribed to her father by Joyce, with letters stuffed inside.... I was flabbergasted, honoured (never mind that I would later be thwarted by Stephen Joyce from publishing them). Because among those letters... were Joyce's sentiments regarding the treatment of Jews before the outbreak of World War II, and more evidence of his active participation in helping Jews to escape from Nazi Europe." -- Marilyn Reizbaum, "Sennschrift"

. . . Bloomsday 2000

What selfevident enigma pondered with desultory constancy during 20 years did Davis then, having extinguished natural obscurity by the effectation of electronic enlightenment, silently suddenly comprehend?

I'm very sorry to admit that I no longer remember which of my old Digital Equipment Corporation friends pointed this out to me in a Bloomsday email (Tom Parmenter? Dave Juitt? Mark Eaton?), but of course what Mr. Bloom intended to write in the Sandymount sand was:

I. AM. A. stick in the mud

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What anagrams had he not made on his name in youth?

Bell mood loop
Bold mole polo
Boop lolled mo'
Doom Loeb, poll
Elm blood pool
Loom, bold pole

. . . 2000-06-18

What proofs did Bloom adduce to prove that his tendency was towards applied, rather than towards pure, science?
Insofar as wise critics have looked at science fiction, critical wisdom has it that the genre's most distinctive form is the series, and particularly the "fix-up": the novel built up of mostly-previously-published more-or-less integrated more-or-less independent short stories and novellas.

"I do not like that other world"

"More-or-less" being the distinguishing factor here. The close relationship of the pulp magazine and pulp novel industries led to many hero-glued fix-ups in other genres of popular fiction (Dashiell Hammett's and Raymond Chandler's early novels, for example); the short attention spans of protosurrealists, pseudosurrealists, and other artistes-fines led to a number of single-hero multiple-narrative (Maldoror, Miss Lonelyhearts) and single-narrative multiple-hero (As I Lay Dying) assortments.

"After God, [insert name] has created most..."

But what defines sf is not a peculiar approach to character or narrative but a peculiar attention to the implied context of the fiction. This implied context is usually called the work's "world," as in the quintessential sf skill "world building" or the quintessential sf hackwork "shared world" writing. Because the constructed context is what defines a "work" of sf, a single sf "work" can cover a great deal of time-space ground (as in Robert Heinlein's "future history") and incorporate many different lead characters and closed narratives.

"He's dead nuts on that. And the retrospective arrangement."

Given a long enough lifetime, sf authors sometimes start to wonder if all their worlds might somehow be "shared" in the all-in-one person of the author: Isaac Asimov's attempt to combine his Foundation universe with his Robotics universe to make Asimov Universe TM; Samuel R. Delany's multi-decade cross-genre remarks toward the modular calculus....

"...if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book."

Outside the sf genre, what this reminds me most of are Jack Spicer's notion of the "serial poem," Louis Zukofsky's notion that a poet's lifetime of work is best considered as one long work, and James Joyce.

(... further reflections generated by the essays in A Collideorscape of Joyce: Festschrift For Fritz Senn ...)

As Jacques Aubert points out in "Of Heroes, Monsters and the Prudent Grammartist," child Joyce's writerly ambition, like that of many genre workers, was fired by reading heroic adventure stories: "Madam, I never eat muscatel grapes." And, also like many genre writers, Joyce continued (would "compulsively" be too strong a word?) to use the notion of the heroic (alongside the notion of author-as-trademark) as an organizing principle while undercutting it with a self-awareness that ranged from scathingly bitter to comically nostalgic.

In "Dubliners and the Accretion Principle" Zack Bowen very convincingly treats the collection of mostly-previously-published stories Dubliners "as a single unified work... the stories so interrelated as to form a type of single narrative" with a clear structural pattern and a loose but extensive web of inter-episode linkages. (A biographical tidbit unmentioned by Bowen backs this up: Joyce knew "After the Race" was a weak story but felt compelled to include it to save the overall shape of the book: a common architectural problem for the fix-up author.)

On the next hand, Christine van Boheemen's "'The cracked lookingglass' of Joyce's Portrait" makes a case for breaking apart A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, since all the chapters use the same semi-self-contained bump-down-and-bounce-up narrative structure rather than gliding smooth-and-steady towards maturity: "Instead of psychological and emotional growth, the fiction depicts repetition." Each episode imagines itself to be first, last, only and alone whereas it is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.... Van Boheemen's approach would imply that the "final" flight to Paris on the wings of artistic vocation is merely another roundabout to the next repetition. And Stephen's bedraggled comedown in Ulysses, so embarrassing to those who pictured him ascending to glory at an angle of fortyfive degrees like a shot off a shovel, certainly seems to give her approach the edge.

There hasn't been much need to remind readers of the heterogeneity of Ulysses, starting from its serialization episode by episode, each episode a chronologically, thematically, and stylistically closed unit. (Are there any other novels for which we refer to "episodes" by title rather than to "chapters" by number?) Timothy Martin reminds us again anyway in "Ulysses as a Whole" that inasmuch as anything can be said to tie the book together it's a shared context -- implicitly an externally documented day in the world, explicitly the inter-episode allusions and reflections, "many of them added late in the book's composition."

As always, the limiting case is Finnegans Wake, whose compositional history also includes serial publication and last-minute blanket-tucking additions. But here the repetition and fragmentation go simultaneously down and up the scale to such an extent that almost no one ever reads the book except as scattered sentence-to-page-sized episodes semi-explained by references to other episodes: "holograms" and "fractals" became rhetorical commonplaces for Wake scholars as quickly as for sf writers.

Maybe that's why Exiles seems like such a flimsy anomaly: it's a self-contained traditionally structured single work where a revue or a burlesque show might have felt more appropriate....

. . . 2000-06-19

Distribution of English Words in Diary of a Shinjuku Thief
30 "nonsense"
8 "sex"
2 "American"
1 "why"

. . . 2000-06-20

m. panse

c'est un film Paramount!
datefrancestill more franceother
06.20.00 hippy toast
only a silly, dirty, lazy, stoned hippy would be silly enough to try to make toast out of hamburger.

bob hope was so right about hippies! and everything else.

or maybe this is some kind of horrible retort to "french toast".

french toast is delicious but you never know what will offend french people.

[thanks Juliet.]
le chat perfect
cats are good.

we are all agreed that cats are good.

but parisians know that anyone can be better if they make an effort. even cats!

simply unstrand their pearls and you will see.

thus we stride proudly with verve toward the perfect cat.

[thanks Juliet again.]

mr. pants
i am sorry.

. . . 2000-06-21

From Samuel R. Delany's new book, 1984: Selected Letters

"Thoroughly enjoyed your descriptions of B- A-, though I'm sure you're aware of all the myriad ways academia passively encourages hysterical women -- especially if they truly are intelligent -- and actively discourages level-headed ones, the latter usually by simply saying, truthfully, there are a whole lot of situations other than this one where you'd probably be happier. Underneath the ire that such odd and odious behavior as Ms. A-'s produces in her colleagues, somehow men -- and the overwhelming majority of her colleagues are, certainly, men -- find themselves being protective of this sort of twit. I've had more than one academic woman tell me, with some indignation, that if she tries to play the game by male rules, going entirely on good fellowship and intellectual competence [of course you and I know that someone was just kidding her about those being the male rules! - RD], she's totally ignored -- until one day she decides to get hysterical in a departmental meeting and flees the room in tears from a too-intense reaction to the wallpaper texture or something; whereupon she suddenly finds herself co-chairman of some juicy interinstitutional symposium.

"Somehow university women seldom reap the fruit of prestige and advancement unless the men of these same institutions can feel that they are giving it, graciously, to bright but fragile emotional paraplegics -- otherwise, zilch.... I recently saw a T-shirt that declared, sensibly enough: 'If Reason and Understanding Fail, Bitch!' Well, social evolution being what it is, if you have a situation where reason and understanding aren't given much of a listen, eventually you end up with a small but unprecedented number of bitches."

Although Mr. Delany doesn't specifically address the question, this also explains why so many successful and purportedly feminist women in academia are so horridly rude to their female students and colleagues: people who are convinced that they're being victimized on all sides and are barely able to hold it together -- and are also being rewarded for their loudly expressed convictions -- are very unlikely to give any time, energy, or even sympathy to anyone else in objectively similar circumstances: they're seen as unworthy rivals for attention, not as comrades. Besides, how could someone who feels so barely able to hold it together possibly view (and responsibly behave) themselves as a success?

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Counterpoint via Cyndi Lauper via Usenet via Robot Wisdom:

Someone in the back yelled "We love your new album!!"...then a few other people shouted in unison, "It's better than Madonna's!!". Lauper looked very uncomfortable for a few seconds and then said something like "Please don't take this the wrong way, but...Never put down one woman in order to raise up another... but I'm glad you liked the album, thank you."

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 2000 Ray Davis.