The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

Inque § Matching cuts / 2014-09-05 13:27:23
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Tim § Sooo / 2014-08-21 18:23:13
Gavin § Sooo / 2014-08-21 18:10:44
Robin § Sooo / 2014-08-21 18:06:14

From Readership to Thinkership
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Kenny Goldsmith (teacher, poet, conceptual writer, radio producer, UbuWeb digital archivist) deserves to have a book written about him (a book that, unlike his, people will read):

My books are better thought about than read. They’re insanely dull and unreadable; I mean, do you really want to sit down and read a year’s worth of weather reports or a transcription of the 1010 WINS traffic reports “on the ones” (every ten minutes) over the course of a twenty-four-hour period? I don’t. But they’re wonderful to talk about and think about, to dip in and out of, to hold, to have on your shelf. In fact, I say that I don’t have a readership, I have a thinkership. I guess this is why what I do is called “conceptual writing.” The idea is much more important than the product…

My favorite books on my shelf are the ones that I can’t read, like Finnegans Wake, The Making of Americans, Boswell’s Life of Johnson, or The Arcades Project. I love the idea that these books exist. I love their size and scope; I adore their ambition; I love to pick them up, open them at random, and always be surprised; I love the fact that I will never know them. They’ll never go out of style; they’re timeless; they’re always new to me. I wanted to write books just like these. I think you hit it just right when you spoke of reference books. I never wanted my books to be mistaken for poetry or fiction books; I wanted to write reference books. But instead of referring to something, they refer to nothing. I think of them as ’pataphysical reference books.

For more on pataphysics (which I don’t think really needs that apostrophe), aka “the science of imaginary solutions,” read this.

I also found this fascinating, especially coming from the man who wrote “If It Doesn’t Exist on the Internet, It Doesn’t Exist” (back in 2005):

I’ve made a move in the Luddite direction recently by trying to remove UbuWeb from Google. I want the site to be more underground, more word-of-mouth. The only way you’ll be able to find it is if someone links to it or tells you about it, just like music used to be before MTV. But you’ll still find UbuWeb on all the bad search engines that no one uses: AltaVista, Dogpile, and Yahoo! Again, everyone wants to rush toward the center: they even write books about how to get your Google ranking higher. We’re headed in the opposite direction. We want to get off Google.

But actually, even if you go back to that 2005 essay, it has this gorgeous coda, under the subhed “The New Radicalism”:

In concluding, I’m going to drop a real secret on you. Used to be that if you wanted to be subversive and radical, you’d publish on the web, bypassing all those arcane publishing structures at no cost. Everyone would know about your work at lightening speed; you’d be established and garner credibility in a flash, with an adoring worldwide readership.

Shhhh… the new radicalism is paper. Right. Publish it on a printed page and no one will ever know about it. It’s the perfect vehicle for terrorists, plagiarists, and for subversive thoughts in general. In closing, if you don’t want it to exist — and there are many reasons to want to keep things private — keep it off the web.

Something to think about, when you’re too busy not reading.

3 comments

Sharat Buddhavarapu says…

While I applaud the critical eye pataphysics seems to provide, there seems to be a profound disregard for value. Despite the fact that most of the value we find in objects is socially constructed, these social constructions are sometimes useful. For instance, considering the value of resources vs. the value of the end product as an economic exercise also has ethical merits to it. I wonder what such an analysis might conclude about the production of books that cannot be comprehended or read as a way of life.

Murat Gunes says…

The bit about wanting to write reference books (fittingly mentioned next to The Arcades Project) reminded me of the following from Benjamin’s One-Way Street: “The typical work of modern scolarship is intended to be read like a catalogue. But when shall we actually write books like catalogues? If the deficient content were thus to determine the outward form, an excellent piece of writing would result, in which the value of opinions would be marked without their being thereby put on sale.”

EXACTLY. It’s echt Benjamin.

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