. . . Anniversary Narcissism

. . .

Special Anniversary Narcissism Week!

We analytic egotists have to keep an eye out for mirrored abysses, which is why I've mostly resisted the impulse to dribble endless mission statements and explanations into the Hotsy Totsy Club until the sodden floor collapsed under me. But the Hotsy Totsy Club is a year old now, and as an analytic egotist I can think of no better way to celebrate than to spend an entire week on mission statements and explanations. Hee haw!

Hoozoo, by Cholly Kokonino

Let's start down to earth (or even lower) with Paul Perry's reasonable query, "Where is the Hotsy-Totsy Club?"
I currently live in Berkeley, California. The "original" Hotsy Totsy Club is a crummy bar, not far away from me on San Pablo Ave. ("The Most Beautiful Avenue in the World!"), where grizzled old boozers start congregating around 9 am. The neon in its sign seems to be burnt out in a new combination every day.
And Paul followed up with the equally reasonable, "I wonder exactly what role Cholly Kokonino had in the Coconino county of old?"
In all the strips I've seen, Cholly Kokonino was only a name without a character, a fiction within the fiction, a gossip-columnist pseudonym occasionally appended to Herriman's gorgeously overripe narrative setups.

The simultaneously snooty and slangy name is modeled after "Cholly Knickerbocker," a society columnist (or, more precisely, a series of society columnists) in one of the New York papers.

Applicability to the Hotsy Totsy Club is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Special Anniversary Narcissism Week! (cont.): Secret Origins of the Hotsy Totsy Club

In an email interview for The Industry Standard (which I never saw, since it wasn't put on their website), Mark Frauenfelder asked, "Why do you keep a weblog?"
Like most of the writers I know, I want to be rewarded for being self-indulgent. This is the latest attempt.

The structural assumptions built into formal essays and short stories don't match what gives me the most pleasure in writing. House styles drive me nuts, and even when reviewers achieve a measure of stylistic and structural freedom, they're restricted topically. I offered to write a column called "You Kids Get Out of My Yard!" for GettingIt, but that, uh, didn't pan out. (More precisely, the editor laughed at me but still stood a drink.)

Finally, a couple of friends (Juliet Clark and Christina La Sala) suggested that I just start my own online magazine. I knew pretty much right away that it would take the weblog form, though I hadn't yet heard the term: I wanted frequent additions of mostly short pieces; I'd be providing most of the material, but I'd want other voices; there would be lots of linking, since a fair amount of what interests me is on the web and since I always begin research on the web.

Email to Fred Pyen:
All of which semi-coordinates with a decade's worth of wondering what this thing I'm doing is all about and wanting an excuse to drag more of those thoughts into print ("and out of my mind," as Daniel Johnston says). The Hotsy Totsy Club being just another attempt at doing "this thing I'm doing" more directly, after having published criticism and feeling sickish and having published fiction and feeling sickish.

Your "Is this the way I used to fall off this log?" is a pretty beautiful summing up of my "official publication" history.... But, yeah, inasmuch as I can come up with a no pressure form right now, the weblog is it. No economic pressures, therefore no care about numbers, therefore we can push offputting when we feel like putting off and push offshowing when we feel more like showing off and mostly we can just point offstage and say "No, over there!"

From the Generosity discussion group:
I specifically started the Hotsy Totsy Club (complete with dopey name) to escape questions of "responsibility to an audience," "working with the editor," "academic protocol," and so on, having previously run myself several fathoms into the ground on them. Not that I dislike audiences or editors or academics, some of my best friends etc., but for whatever reasons of personal neurosis such considerations were starting to keep my inchoate yearnings permanently inchoate. I like self-indulgence (when it's truly self-indulgence rather than a sleazy attempt at group flattery) and ephemera and overweening pretentiousness, but can't seem to handle long forms at present. In short, I'm trying for a self-indulgent ephemeral overweening pretentious bite-sized unprofessional mess, and, thanks to the web publishing model of low cost and wide distribution, I think I can get away with it for a while longer.

Kinda perverse, kinda oblique, but it's the one thing right now that I like doing-as-consumer that I can also do-as-producer....

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Special Anniversary Narcissism Week! (resumed): Audience

From the email interview with Mark Frauenfelder: How popular is your weblog?

Beats me. I've tried to not pay much attention since the hit counts passed those of my two ancient Yahoo!-linked pages.

Unless you're advertising, popularity doesn't matter on the web. That's the whole point of the web as a medium: wide distribution is cheap, and therefore not dependent on things like popularity. I know the readers who'd enjoy my crypto-cornpone style are a small minority. I just want as many of that minority as possible to get a chance to enjoy it.

I used to tell my web design students that they should count success by the amount of nice email they got. I've gotten some nice email for the Hotsy Totsy Club.

To Paul Perry:
Perhaps I'm overoptimistic, but I think the distinction between community and incest is easily maintained with a little conscious exogamy. As Aquinas says, incest is sinful because its cramming together of multiple social relations "would hinder a man from having many friends." To share an interest in a form is one thing, and a nice thing. To share all the applications of that form would be incestuous if consensual; simple plagiarism if not. Which doesn't appear to be a problem in the ontogroup you've posited -- I doubt that you and I have ever had a link or a line in common, for example -- probably due to the very things that interest us in the form....
Answering David Auerbach: My question to you, about writing on the web: how do you react to the choice/imposition of a very imminent and particular real audience that trumps any thought of an ideal audience?
I recognize the words you're using, but I would've used them to describe my issues with print publication. The painfully particularized audience who happens to be subscribing to a particular magazine during my particular appearance or to have bought a particular anthology containing my particular story is (precisely because it's the target audience of the publications) more than likely to be bored or annoyed by my work.

Web publishing, on the other hand, is only "ideal audience." There are no promises, no presuppositions in those fluffy network-diagram clouds; anyone might bump into anything. No "ideal audience" right away? Well, put the pages into the search engines and wait. No "ideal audience" ever? Well, at least it was cheap. On the web, the non-ideal audience will simply not bother reading what I've written; that is, it doesn't exist as an audience.

The biggest problem I have with web publishing has to do with that very fluffiness -- the lack of antagonism and risk means fewer itchy stimuli to respond to, less friction to push off against, less lying but more solipsism -- which is where I'm hoping that crosslinking, email, and public discussion can help....

Although it seems to make sense that conventional publishing should lead to more topical and less personal discourse, that hasn't been my experience. In the shorter forms of paper-publishing, anyway, public commentary tends to be driven by professional feuds and personal friendships, and private commentary restricts itself to messages like "Would you write something similar for my publication?"

Books are available to a more diverse readership and thus receive more diverse reactions, but book publishing is much more big-businessy than magazine publishing, and its barriers seem well-nigh insurmountable to the easily discouraged or stubbornly erratic.

I've gotten many more direct and diverse and therefore useful responses from web publication, partly because search engines don't worry about enforcing an editorial tone, thus allowing for more startle effect, and partly because email makes it easy to send responses.

As for the cult of personality, I'd be happy to admit that I think it's impossible to separate "voice" from "content" -- at least for the kind of content and the kind of voice I have. What journalism and academia might describe as the "privileging of content" or as "self-discipline," I hear as "mendacious (if useful) voice of authority," and it makes me sick with hypocrisy when I mimic it. Scholarly and commercial venues would be accessible if I could stick to the point, and hip venues if I could stick to aggressive role-playing; but when de-emphasizing the performative and the off-putting is required for writing, then I simply don't write. And since I still seem to want to write, I make the working assumption that it's not required.

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Special Anniversary Narcissism Week! (cont.): Technique

. . .

Collage by Christina La Sala
Special Anniversary Narcissism Week! (concluded): Rooms for Improvement

Over the past year, I finished a long essay, collaborated on a short film, wrote some letters, and made a living. But mostly it's been Hotsy Totsy.

Over the next couple, it won't be too big a surprise if I finish some other essays I've been promising for years (on Patricia Highsmith, on Jean Eustache...) or months (on Barbara Comyns, on Karen Joy Fowler...), or even something unexpected. And I better make a living. But mostly I expect it to be Hotsy Totsy.

Well, if this is gonna be my standard watering hole, I got some suggestions to make to the proprietor, if he can rouse himself up from behind that 1.5L jug of Wild Turkey for a moment....

. . .

Admission Statement

Alongside calamondin, Geegaw, and (soon) metascene, this venture enters its fourth year.

Over the past twelve months, the trends here have been toward fewer gags, longer (often serialized) texts, more political and philosophical pomposity, more inter-weblog discussion, and more online editions of rare print material. Without rigorous supression, they'll probably continue. An anonymous reader recently asked:

How long does it take to hold a dwarf bunny?
And I aim to find out.

Speaking of anniversaries, I just today realized that Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren is now twenty-seven years old.

  Chester Brown's Late Night Snack
Holding a dwarf bunny


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