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Hear the full interview on Yale Radio:

http://museumofnonvisibleart.com/interviews/andrea-scrima/

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Making art was a form of archaeology, of excavating the inscrutable. It revealed itself through fragments, through their reconstruction. Why this dot, this smear—why did they resonate in such an unmistakable way? It was essential to recognize these events, to understand the patterns of their repetition and to narrow them down to a visual vocabulary. These were the elements at our disposal, there were never more than a handful of them, and they remained irreducible. Process was everything: there had to be a truthfulness to it, a conjunction between the act and the impulse that had propelled it, an economy in which every mark stood for something—not as a means to an end, but at the very moment it was being made. It required a suspension of conscious will; it was about locating one’s inner sensorium and learning to pay attention to it, to trust it. It was the point of convergence between the self and the world: the place where, if only for an instant, a universal language might be revealed. I stepped back to view the large canvas. Subtle shadows were visible across the white expanse now, caused by the topography of the scraped surface beneath it. Swirls of pigment had come to rest in the turpentine on the floor, and as I bent down to spread a few sheets of newspaper over the turbid puddle, my reflection bent down with me and reached its fingertips up toward my outstretched hand. 

— from the novel-in-progress Like Lips, Like Skins

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Adapted from a talk given on April 28, 2017 at the New School, New York City, as part of The Body Artist: A Conference on Don DeLillo.

“Live outside your native culture long enough, and you begin to see it as a sort of double exposure in which your sense of family and identity and belonging is overlaid with a strange, shape-shifting disturbance pattern in which everything seems normal until it suddenly doesn’t, and you begin to see the country from a foreigner’s point of view. For as long as I can remember, America has enjoyed its superpower status, exporting the products of its creative industries around the globe, often through aggressive means, and showing little sustained interest in the cultures of other countries. Lawrence Venuti, the translation theorist, has spoken of ‘a trade imbalance with serious cultural ramifications’ resulting in ‘a complacency in Anglo-American relations with cultural others, a complacency that can be described—without too much exaggeration—as imperialistic abroad and xenophobic at home.’ Only a tiny percentage of all publications in the United States are works in translation, meaning that we have comparatively meager resources to examine our society and culture in comparison to other societies and cultures, and that this impedes our ability to reflect objectively on ourselves.”

Read the article in Quarterly Conversation here.

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Featured on Three Quarks Daily

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Excerpt from my essay, (Re)Reading Don DeLillo in Dark Times:

“Are we more similar to animals than we care to admit, caught in vast murmurations and blind herds that obey some ancient code humming in our DNA? Or have we merely gotten used to believing our own stories? I mean not only to celebrate the work of one of our most influential, prescient, brooding, analytical minds but to comb it for clues, metaphors, a vocabulary and a language that can somehow explain us to ourselves. What can literary fiction achieve in a culture that has itself surrendered to fiction? That is more comfortable with make-believe than with doing the tedious work of trying to figure out why things are the way they are? Americans are addicted to fun—it’s what makes the U.S. so charismatic, and so good at popular culture, and enviable in so many ways, but it’s at the heart of a breakdown in discourse and a disassociation from reality that has us, literally, making things up as we go along. Americans want to be fired up, engaged emotionally—they want to get teary-eyed, earnestly confess, make solemn avowals. Does our literature help us to dig deeper, does it peel away the lies we tell ourselves, or does it perpetuate the problem through a self-celebration and nostalgia that reinforce the myths we’ve created about ourselves?”

Watch the full panel here:

 

The conference title, “The Body Artist,” refers not specifically to DeLillo’s 2001 novel, but to DeLillo himself, an artist who has spent a career dramatizing personal encounters with impersonal systems, the human body facing the inhuman machine. The event will feature panels and presentations predominantly by literary artists, fiction writers thinking about this fiction writer’s work—what it is, what it has meant, and what it means now.

Panelists:
— Scott Cheshire, “Don DeLillo’s Gods: A Taxonomy”
— Tyler Malone, “‘You Have Not Convinced Me’: David Markson, Don DeLillo, and the Narcissism of Minor Difference”
— Fred Gardaphe, “Masquerade Americana: Don DeLillo’s ‘Italianitá’ in a Minor Key”
— Andrea Scrima: “(Re)reading Don DeLillo in Dark Times”

The conference will consider not only DeLillo’s themes—paranoia, global terrorism, underground conspiracies, consumerism, digital technology, media, gender, and race—but also his craft, humor, language, style, spirituality and Catholicism, Italian-American identity, and his representations of New York, the city in which the conference will take place.

The New School | http://newschool.edu

Location: The Auditorium, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall
66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011
Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined Gudrun Hebel’s literary agency Agentur Literatur in Berlin.

A German edition of A Lesser Day is scheduled for the spring of 2018.

Publisher to be announced soon.

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Here’s a little taste:

Dieser eine Moment, dies eine Detail, das mir im Gedächtnis haften geblieben ist, doch warum, es war nichts von Bedeutung, nichts ist passiert, ein schräg auf den Bürgersteig fallender Lichtstrahl, ein Rascheln von Laub. Und all das brannte sich mir mit großer Schärfe und Klarheit ins Bewusstsein, jedes Detail prägte sich meinem inneren Auge ein wie die gestochen scharfen Buchstaben eines gedruckten Wortes, das ich nicht verstehe. Ich sage Licht, Laub, doch nichts davon kann die mythische Bedeutung vermitteln, die es für mich besitzt. Und liegt irgend etwas Größeres darin verborgen, und warum habe ich es vergessen – vergessen zum Beispiel die plötzliche Erkenntnis des Selbstbetrugs, dort, damals, bei diesem Bürgersteig, diesem Laub –, oder ist es ein Zufallsprodukt, Strandgut, das in den zerklüfteten Winkeln meiner Erinnerung hängen geblieben ist. 

 

German translation: Barbara Jung

Each time the same awkward gesture, like the tail end of a flourish fueled by a sudden impulse gone askew. A burst of resolve tightens the muscles, focuses the will: a move to begin that falters halfway. We hesitate, the cipher the mind writes wavers, a wobble in the curve. Once again, the momentum trips and we are forced to begin again. The jump rope slapping the pavement of our childhood, the mesmerizing regularity of its beat: we observe, but we already know that we mustn’t linger: swaying with the rhythm, the ropes’ sharp loop too quick to follow, we relinquish control to our limbs, execute a neat leap, and we’re home free.

Again and again, the empty page. The empty page with the number 53 at the top left, and the words Again and again. But the mind is not empty; the mind is never empty. At most, it becomes numb, or perhaps alarmed at the emptiness of the empty page, like a deer frozen in the headlights of a car. Best to smudge something over this empty page, something to mitigate the alarm its emptiness induces. Anything will do: a fragment of a dream from the night before; a list of worries lurking at the very edge of consciousness at all times; a to-do list for the day. Or further concerns: the dentist’s appointment that is continuously postponed; the veterinarian’s appointment; the unfinished second novel. We could try that: the unfinished second novel. We smudge the empty page with the words “Unfinished Second Novel” and see what happens. As in painting, where we smudge the empty canvas with something to mitigate the alarm its emptiness induces, the smudge is merely designed to help us begin. Does smudging the empty page with the words “Unfinished Second Novel” help us begin? We’ll see. (to be continued)

How to describe it? A shift in disposition, a fall from grace; like being banished from a magic kingdom. Not everyone seeks this from love: an ongoing state of reciprocal perception, attunement to nuance, an unbroken thread of communication in which the subtlest allusion is registered with the keenest, the humblest attention. To pay tribute to another’s unique existence, to memorize each path taken, each injury incurred, a repertoire of recollections and the chimera that go unspoken. What was your life really like, I wonder as I listen to your story, a distillation of narratives that have been arrived at through hours of introspection, sifted through and mingling now as the past funnels further away and the future plods obdurately past, as silent and invisible as another uneventful afternoon.

And what is the story I tell myself? I wake up and find myself alone in bed, with a cat to either side of me. There are the facts: the countries I’ve lived in, the course of education and employment, the crises and indecision and meager savings. Dental records and tax returns and a constellation of small surgical scars; years of childrearing, parenting, falling prey to despair. And in between, the actual work: interrupted again and again, maddeningly and to the point of stupefaction, by outside forces and internal storms. Is it wrong to make that a reason to go on? And where does another person fit in?

A lonely business—and yet when you pare it down, when you strip it of its particulars, it resembles everyone else, in a way. What we seek from love—a commingling of perception and emotion, a verification of objective existence. The permission to communicate internal processes and the joy in recognition, the echo of understanding. There is no symbiosis; the mother’s love lures the infant out of his solipsism, but what follows is the gradual recognition that he is alone and without witness to his internal reality. We are astronauts floating in outer space, bubbles of being connected to life by a tube: all the more incredible when my story overlaps with yours, when the superimposition yields a pattern that seems to have meaning—one we invent, perhaps, but that is the nature of the thing.