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Radio interview with Joachim Scholl at Deutschlandfunk Kultur

(in German language)

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Scholl: Sie haben, wie ich finde, eine ganz intensive Sprache gefunden. Ich lese mal einen Satz vor, es ist mein Lieblingssatz. Da erklärt die Erzählerin, dass ihr Hund davongelaufen ist. Sie sucht ihn, findet ihn nicht, kommt dann mit einem anderen, der ihr zuläuft, wieder nach Hause. Und dann heißt es, Zitat: “Und so waren wir heimgekehrt mit einem Hund, einem nassen, hungrigen kleinen Hund, der mit einem tiefen, erschöpften Seufzer in meinen Armen zusammenbrach, als ich sein klatschnasses Fell mit dem Handtuch trocknete.” Ich weiß jetzt nicht, ob es daran liegt, dass ich mit jedem Jahr sentimentaler werde, aber ich habe so entzückt und tief geseufzt, als ich diesen Satz sah, diesen wunderschönen Satz. Ich habe mich gefragt, wie haben Sie diese Sprache gefunden?

Scrima: Das kann ich nicht beantworten. Man schreibt nicht mit einer Schreibstrategie im Hinterkopf. Ich glaube, es geht vielmehr darum, dass man versucht, den Zugang zu sich selbst möglichst intensiv zu ermöglichen. Und ich kann das selbst nicht unbedingt sagen, wie ich das gemacht habe. Das ist für jeden anders. Für jedes Buch ist es anders. Ich arbeite noch an einem Roman, der mir das Leben sehr schwer macht.

Scholl: Sprachlich kann ich mir das nicht vorstellen bei Ihnen, Frau Scrima. Vorhin sagten Sie kurz, dass Sie das Buch geschrieben haben, als Sie Ihr Baby gerade hatten. An einer Stelle, glaube ich, zieht das Baby unterm Tisch den Stecker aus dem Computer, und dann schreibt sie “Alles ist verloren”. Da dachte ich, ist das hoffentlich erfunden, oder war das so?

Scrima: Das ist sozusagen die Metapher für die Mutterschaft in den ersten paar Jahren. Wie das Kind einem immer einen Strich durch die Rechnung macht. Das ist in erster Linie auch als Metapher zu verstehen.

“A linear narrative is sacrificed in favor of a porous, associative composition that blurs dimensions through its mantra-like ‘but that came later.’ History becomes palpable as a background murmur. The reconstruction of the turbulent decade in which the narrator’s vagabond life takes place is achieved through newspaper clippings, which she appropriates artistically. What remains is an inquiry into the time-space continuum: to what degree is the artist today the person she encounters in the layers of her painting surfaces, her texts, the layers of her past? These are things Andrea Scrima writes about wonderfully in her autobiographically colored debut.”

— Senta Wagner, Buchkultur 177  2/2018

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March 15, 2018

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The wonderful Daniela Fürst interviews Andrea Scrima on her book “Wie viele Tage,” Literaturverlag Droschl. Live at the Leipzig Book Fair.

Listen here at Literadio

Literario Leipzig

 

Bedford Avenue; ich stand vor dem U-Bahn-Plan, sprach die Namen aus und spürte den Nachgeschmack, den sie auf meiner Zunge hinterließen. Wie weit entfernt sie schienen, wie aus einer anderen Welt, einer anderen Zeit; wie unwahrscheinlich, dass ich mit diesem Plan in der Tasche hinausgehen und tatsächlich in einen Zug steigen könnte. Und dann überwand ich schließlich meine Lethargie, ging die Bedford Avenue hinunter und stieg die Treppe zur U-Bahn hinab, während mir der Schweiß zwischen den Brüsten hinunterrann; wie ich ohne einen klaren Plan im Kopf in einen klimatisierten Zug stieg, mich oben an der Haltestange festhielt und die Gänsehaut betrachtete, die sich auf meinem nackten Arm bildete, als der Schweiß auf meiner Haut kalt wurde. Ich stieg mehrmals um, zuerst am Union Square, dann an der Grand Central, betrachtete beim Einfahren des Zuges in jeden Bahnhof flüchtig die wartende Menge, meine Augen huschten von einem Gesicht zum anderen, suchten nach jemandem, den ich vielleicht kannte, irgendjemandem, unvorstellbar, in einer Stadt aufgewachsen zu sein und niemanden wiederzuerkennen, absolut niemanden. Meine Augen glitten vom Fenster des U-Bahn-Abteils und dem Strom der draußen vorbeihastenden Menschen nach oben, zu den Streifen Plakatwerbung, Hotlines für misshandelte Frauen, misshandelte Kinder, Zentren für kosmetische Chirurgie, Zahnchirurgie, mit einem Bild von Dr. Soundso und seiner Unterschrift darunter, gekrönt von einem irgendwie medizinisch aussehenden Schnörkel. Und dann stellte ich plötzlich fest, dass ich mich auf dem Weg zur Bronx befand, und beschloss, an der 149th Street auszusteigen und nachzuschauen, ob das alte Gebäude noch dort stand, wann war ich zum letzten Mal hingefahren, ich muss noch ein Kind gewesen sein. Ich ging die Brook Avenue hinunter, ohne ein einziges Gebäude wiederzuerkennen, einen einzigen Baum, bog an der 148th Street ab und ging in Richtung St. Ann’s, begann die geraden Nummern auf der Südseite der Straße abzuzählen, hin zur Nr. 516, dem Haus, das meine Urgroßeltern nach ihrer Ankunft in diesem Land gekauft hatten, dem Haus, in dem meine Mutter aufwuchs, meine Großmutter aufwuchs, zwei lange Reihen fünfgeschossiger Gebäude zu beiden Seiten der Straße, mit zwei ausschließlich aus Durchgangszimmern bestehenden Wohnungen auf jedem Stockwerk und Frauen in langen Röcken und Schürzen, die Abend für Abend den Bürgersteig fegten. Hier war Nr. 514, ein etwas zurückgesetzt stehendes, zweigeschossiges Haus; ein Dreirad lag auf einem kleinen betonierten Vorplatz, aus dessen Rissen Unkraut hervorspross. Ich ging weiter zum nächsten Haus und sah die ins Holz über der Tür genagelten Ziffern 518, und dann blieb ich stehen und ging noch einmal zurück; ich muss daran vorbeigegangen sein, dachte ich, doch es gab keine Nr. 516, nur ein Gebäude mit der Nummer 514 und ein anderes mit der Nummer 518, beide aus einem vergleichsweise jüngeren Baujahr, doch keine 516, und ich stand da, starrte Nr. 514 an, dann Nr. 518, und begriff, dass das Haus bereits vor langer Zeit abgerissen worden sein musste, nachdem sich das Viertel in einen Slum verwandelt hatte. Und später, nachdem im Zuge einer Stadtteilsanierung die Grundstücke neu gezeichnet und andere Häuser errichtet worden waren, war die Nummer 516 einfach aus der Reihe der Adressen in der East 148th Street komplett verschwunden, und ich stand da, wo die Eingangstür zum Haus gewesen sein musste, und stellte mir vor, wie meine Mutter als Kind auf der Vortreppe gesessen hatte, meine Großmutter, ein Kind, hier, genau an diesem Fleck, wo das Haus einst gestanden hatte, jetzt nur mehr manifestiert durch eine Lücke in einer numerischen Folge. Ich stand eine ganze Weile da, betrachtete die Häuser und die Größe der Grundstücke, außerstande zu erklären, wie eine Adresse verschwunden sein konnte, die neueren Häuser waren nicht größer, nicht breiter als die älteren es gewesen waren, sie hätten nicht so viel zusätzlichen Platz in Anspruch genommen, um ein ganzes Grundstück einfach verschwinden zu lassen, dachte ich und ging die Straße hinunter und bog an der Ecke ab, an der meine Mutter ihre ganze Kindheit hindurch jeden Tag abgebogen war auf dem Weg zur Grundschule gegenüber dem Park, wo die wilden Jungs auf Pappkartons die großen Granitsteine hinunterrutschten und hohe Bäume aus den Spalten dazwischen wuchsen, jetzt zugemüllt mit alten Zeitungen und zerdrückten Bierdosen und im Unterholz verstreuten kleinen Haufen gebrauchter Spritzen.

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In the booth of Literaturverlag Drochl, Leipziger Buchmesse, March 15, 2018

 

 

“Teaching writing is a virtual impossibility. Faced with the prospect of mentoring students intent on becoming writers themselves, Goetz arrives at the conclusion that the university is not there to promote, but to hinder the results of independent thought, to discourage and intimidate them. He goes so far as to say that the aim of the professorship he is in the process of accepting is to prevent texts from being written in the first place: ‘In certain cases one could even, perhaps, find reasons for this. But even these reasons are essentially uninteresting. What is interesting is that most texts are bullshit. First and foremost, of course, those that arise in front of one’s own eyes, one’s own texts: nearly always bullshit. Bad, weak, useless. Why? I don’t know.’”

Read the full essay and excerpts from Goetz’s lecture in The Brooklyn Rail. 

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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

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.”

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Originally published in Quarterly Conversation

Republished by Three Quarks Daily, January 2021.

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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.

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I formulate the words, yet I’m beginning to understand that it’s you who writes the script; in it, my protests sound like Greek tragedy, the unwitting assurances of a character that is bound, by an elaborate twist of fate, to annihilate the very person she seeks to protect. You predicted that I would leave you; this is one way of looking at it. Another is to ask why, from the moment we first understood we were in love, your mind leaped ahead to the end.

I am turning this into a book, I said. Is that OK, I said. How many blog entries will you have to write, you said. I don’t know, I said. However many I need to work through this. I am writing about love because I want to understand what it is. Take a guess, you said. Eighty? I said. Oh good, you said. We aren’t even halfway there.

Another way of looking at it is this. To understand what you’re writing, you need to know how the thing will end. One day I write something, and suddenly I understand that this is how the various things it describes will come to a conclusion. All at once a circle closes and the entire conglomeration crystallizes, acquires form. But I’m not there yet, I say. I have no idea what it’s about, I say. Eighty entries, that’s halfway, you say. We still have some time, you say. I am perplexed. Are you saying it will end with the book, I say. Do you really think that’s what this is about? But what use will you have for me after that, you say.

Another way of looking at it is this. You’ve decided it’s over, or will be. You’ve written the final scene, you’ve fine-tuned the lines: they’re exquisite and sad, and you ascribe them to me. I am the character chosen to recite them, but when the moment comes I stand there, perspiring beneath the hot and blinding spots, and remain silent.

When scripts collide, it’s time to turn off the lights, to shut down the stage. There are entire stories that still need to be told, and none of them as well-crafted as a book or a play, all of them far messier than that. Half of them preserved in a kind of amniotic sac of amnesia and the other half stuck in the muck and sludge of experience, but all of it life, and very different from this.

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— from the essay published January 2013 in Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics

 

Andrea Scrima

… Because we can’t absorb the waves of information crashing over us, because there is no time to reflect, compare, or develop a critical stance to it, we resort to elimination: we take mental note of things and move on to the next with ever-increasing speed, retaining only very vague impressions of what we believe we’ve understood. Acquiring knowledge is increasingly replaced by developing systems of cataloging it for a further use that, more often than not, never takes place. Goetz himself assumes the stance of the deeply impacted observer, alternating between outrageously oversimplified claims and finely differentiated perception. His métier is the present, together with all its glaring contradictions, described in highly charged works in which both his zeal and his disgust are barely kept under control. Goetz, a seminal figure in the German pop literature movement of the late 1990s along with Christian Kracht and Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, is a kind of modern-day literary ecstatic. Only partially comparable to their American and English counterparts Bret Easton Ellis and Nick Hornby, the movement’s achievement was to cast off the ponderous weight of post-war German literature to capture the mélange of modern-day culture in all its immediacy and brashness: marketing and media, trademarks and labels, bands and deejays, drugs and TV, capitalism and celebrity became some of the new subjects deemed worthy of literary scrutiny. Goetz was one of the very first writers to keep a blog when the Web was still going through birth pains; in 1998, he began work on Abfall für alle (Garbage for Everyone), which was published as an 864-page volume one year later to great acclaim. Although it is anything but obvious today, at the time, the notion that a renowned writer would put unredacted work “out there” for anyone in the world to see, in real time and on a daily basis, was nothing less than sensational. Moreover, the fact that this act of literary innovation was later followed by tens of millions of greater and lesser blogs is only one small example of the galactic changes writing’s status has undergone over the past 15 years.

 

From the lecture “To Live and to Write: The Existence Mission of Writing”

Rainald Goetz, Freie Universität Berlin. To see the full lecture

(in German): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJk2_Yopxcw

Excerpts translated by Andrea Scrima

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1.

The essence of this ongoing practice of writing is the difference between text and thought: the reading of one’s own words. And that is the fundamental experience of writing: that what’s there on the page doesn’t say what one wanted to say, that the self-will of the scripturality, the act of fixating, the textual verbality constantly impose themselves; very powerfully, the text says what it wants to, not what it’s supposed to according to the will of the writer. To experience this autonomy of writing, the texticity of statements, one needs to experience as a writer, as often as possible, constantly, how great the distance really is between a statement’s intent and what the words actually convey.

2.

It’s often been observed that the everyday practice of writing has undergone a spectacular rebirth over the past years due to electronic communications devices. All this incessant writing everyone’s been doing in mails, text messages, forums, on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook has also, however, had the tremendous effect of promoting standardization, stereotypes, truisms, and empty talk to the degree that there’s practically no thought, experience, or even a second of life anymore for which a hiatus of speechlessness still exists; in every situation, everyone knows perfectly what sentence is supposed to come next.

3.

The right kind of writing is very easy. Anyone who types and texts and presses ‘send’ knows this. When the feeling is right, the words are too. Writing is breathing. It used to be the writer’s life that was constructed this way, a singular existence, privileged, even sick, fantastically engrossed and absorbed in everything etc. And today, everyone lives this way: writing, constantly writing their existence-text, writing away.

4.

Which world. — That’s wonderful, of course, but at the same time, the sensibility for it has decreased along with everybody’s me-empowerment, via their own text among other things, and that’s not wonderful. It’s a very extraneous, very alien world that the self encounters, unknown in a way that should unsettle everyone, arouse their curiosity, incite them to all kinds of everyday world exploration measures, etc. But that is not the case.

5.

The world arrives on each person’s screen in a manner that is highly liquid, continuous, and quick: news, information, dispositions, images, and films, preselected by a collective of friends and acquaintances in a quantity so incomprehensible that self-protection requires erecting the wall of bored composure that used to typify the way the flood of TV information was dealt with. The gesture of composure today is that of the hand sweeping away towards the right, that staves off what one has seen, wipes it away, marks it as read and sends it down into the underworld of dead information that will never again inundate one.

6.

Today it’s easier to know more, in more detail, than ever before, but it’s not this easy access that’s made it harder to profit from the fact. The great rupture in recent years comes from the subscriptions, the alerts, the dispatching automats that have been in use since around the mid-2000s, initially to facilitate things, to not have to concern oneself all the time with all the websites one wants to consult, which have since gone on to prevent any possibility of consulting a site oneself, to specifically seek out a blog that one happens to be interested in; once subscribed to, everything intrudes on the interested person unbidden and in an absolutely overwhelming continuity and number.

7.

This intrusion forestalls appreciation. Even the most valuable messages, highly interesting new thoughts of someone’s on some blog, take on the status of annoying advertisement, become a thing to fend off: gone, gone, gone. I’m aware, I know about it, don’t need it.

8.

Only for friends. — As the old millennium was drawing to an end, in 1999, my God, how long, how absurdly long ago that is, the German pop literature faction was also experimenting with this social media thing early on. Elke Naters and Sven Lager thought up an event and a site called “Am Pool” [Poolside], where maybe twenty or thirty people talked to one another internally, textually. I took part in it back then too, with my day-poems KRANK [SICK], which I uploaded there on a daily basis. It only took a few days to observe the extreme limitation in thought and intellect this social circumscription injected the texts with that were based on and conceived for it: the poison is the pretense, the texts automatically want to brag, the writer to present himself to the others in a braggardly manner. The underlying tone that emerges here is unpleasant, the nonchalance in one-uppance repugnant.

9.

The reason Facebook has commercialized this so successfully is because it’s precisely the real-life loser — in the majority, naturally, in real life exposed as a zero in a matter of seconds, this is an effect of the flesh, to embody a person’s truth and to externalize it visibly for everyone to see — that especially yearns to be a really cool dude in the abstract space of the Internet, in a purely verbal sense. The braggart’s verbality is such a success because there are so many of these tricksters trying to fool one another, which explains why a sensibility for these subtle gradations in tone is not a particularly coveted commodity. Now, in many journalists’ texts, you can hear this sound that emerged in the braggart-contest on Facebook. Not a very nice development in language to come from pop literature and to have since turned into journalism.

10.

Authorship is wrested from a highly specific limitation. If relevant texts arise, it’s not due to some sort of skill, a technique that can be passed on, but because they’ve emerged this way out of one’s response to a defect-complex configured in a highly individual manner, because the defect has brought forth sensoria that have enabled its exploitation for the purposes of text production. Objectively speaking, this is all completely uninteresting.

11.

As a reader, one senses that every author that is somehow of interest is also crazy in some way. But that doesn’t matter, that’s irrelevant. What’s interesting are the results, the work, the books, the output in written form that goes beyond the author’s confines, that sheds, by proxy for everyone, the fear of being an existence-nothing paralyzed by a defect-complex.

12.

Nothing else can be passed along. With writing time, in my case it’s been thirty years now, what becomes strongest of all in an author is the experience: how insanely rare it is that it actually works out. That is the essence of writing: it doesn’t work, I can’t do it, I don’t know why.

13.

The Demon. — The demon inside me that rules me is cruel. I don’t know him, I hunt him with my intellectuality, I probably expend more energy than on anything else to find him, to understand, recognize, and in the end, hopefully, to finally disempower him. The effort fails. I can’t find him, I can only find his tracks, register the way he makes it impossible for me to live the way I want to: productive, steady, open, free.

14.

In any case, the demon is a magnifying glass that enlarges everything that happens to me, brings it into focus. The completely normal behavior of the people around me: gigantic, in excessive detail, the horror. Just like in me, the thoughts and feelings inside me, the confusion: gigantic, oppressively gigantic and overpowering, dictating the moment completely. The next instant: gone. As though it had never existed. A mockery of the insane agitation that just now prevailed, gone. The skittishness of the demon torments me, it’s the self-contradiction of the obsession’s monstrousness a moment before. The demon is the gaze emanating from my eyes, which are extremely close together, every year they grow more closely, obsessively, absurdly together. I hate.

15.

The demon wants to be alone and never write again. Read, lie in bed, sleep, read, and actually, quite honestly, more than anything else: perhaps to be just a little bit dead sometimes, or maybe completely dead, forever? Peace, peace is the longing, a permanence of total panic the reality.

16.

Demon for sale, cheap, gladly. The demon impairs my work because it makes my life so insanely complicated. The work does not profit from a complicated life, actually I’ve always hoped that, hoped it would. But that’s wrong. The complicatedness stultifies me, weakens me, narrows my mind. When the demon is gone, I can see what I mean, think, want to say. When the demon is there, I’m blind. And then I try with a mad energy to concentrate, and this purpose locks my frontal lobe in a brutal torture vise, where it’s pressed together and wrung out, the result of this effort of concentration being an unfathomable depletion of the frontal lobe, the worst state of depletion, without any kind of concentration resulting from the exertion at all. The demon is a life-energy-annihilator of galactic dimensions. A life-annihilating galaxy pulsates inside me.

17.

Then the person next to me says something while the person opposite is still talking: a brainwave short-circuit is the demon-induced result. Other people find it normal when two or three conversations are conducted simultaneously right past them, but when it’s exposed to sound in this manner, my demon emits a maddeningly piercing whistle that grows louder and louder until the short-circuit cuts it off. This is why the demon doesn’t love the sociability that I so revere. Even in the company of other people, the demon has one goal and intention: to drag me down, to make my delight in people impossible. My demon is bile and Saturn. Heavy and mean.

18.

Go away, Demon, the compensatory hyper-focus delivers its ultimate demand, be silent, die, stop talking so that I can finally concentrate better, finally live better. The demon nods, amused. He is not at all funny himself, but the text about him is. This contradiction is called, text-typically: grace, clemency, nonsense, delirium.

19.

Reading. — Constantly, incessantly, of course, everything. Reading as the fundamental vitality-enforcement of the mind, an indefatigable joy in gazing at these tiny black things, letters strung together into type, their beauty over and over again, in all its forms, inscrutable.

20.

One’s feeling for language is always in a state of becoming, is unstable, changes constantly through what one reads and writes. Watch out! A feeling for language is highly vulnerable, it belongs to the sphere remotest from rationality, that of language’s musicality; even the keenest intellectuality fails to bring every dimension of this feeling in all its crucial subtleties under the control of its explicative verbality.

21.

Because the social always inundates the brain with an unworkable profusion of individual data, and not everything can be grasped, much less deliberated during the situation itself, it is once again the reception of text, reading, which makes a retrospective reenactment of personal experience possible through the example of other, comparable social situations evoked by the text; thus, what develops as the reading material presents and makes available to the reader the interference of his own experiences and those of others is this: a knowledge of human nature.

It is the specific interiority of this kind of knowledge of human nature that reading brings forth and that differs strongly from those formed in other arts — particularly the viewing of films calls for and creates a completely different type of identification with the other, one far less contemplative, of course — from the racing stream of time that sweeps events along as though in real life, for the most part even faster, makes them race and hurtle past one, etc. Which, complementarily, gives rise to an especially elaborate discursivity upon which aesthetic theory has always prominently developed, first in music, then film, pop music, and opera, from Adorno to Diederichsen.

22.

Wanting to write begins with being fascinated by other writers only a few years older than oneself whose books can take on an ostensible ultra-plausibility, because an individual text project has already attained a work-generating precision, there’s someone who can actually do that, in all its infinity-dimensionality: write — while at the same time he still lives in the common here and now which one also, as the younger one, has access to and is fascinated by. Which is why, in the arts in general, and especially in literature, the most wonderful masterliness is inherently: young.

 
 
 
 
 

Published in issue 7–1 of Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics. 

Senior Editors: Andrea Scrima and Carole Viers-Andronico.

To view the PDF:  Hyperion Goetz 2013

You are faintly indignant at the superhero image. You offer an alternative: you wouldn’t crash through the hotel window in a superhero suit, but enter through the door with a pass key and cross over to the armchair where V. threw his clothes. Just as he begins shouting for you to get out, you’d pick up his clothes, regard them with an air of amusement, turn around to allow him to finish yelling, and then you’d unbutton your jacket to show him a Saville Row label stitched over the inside pocket. “Shaddap,” you’d say.  “This is what I call a tailor-made suit. What’s that stuff you wear?”  And then you’d walk over to the bed, grab his ear lobe, pull him out from under the sheets, stuff his rolled-up clothes in his arms while he’s wincing in pain, and, still pinching his ear, you’d lead him slowly but firmly out the door.

We now speak to each other on the phone nearly every day now; what you don’t see is that I am smiling throughout. All I want to do is laugh with you, laugh at everything: your mother; the neurological details of transsexual orgasm; the Swiss; the way you gallantly beat up on all my old boyfriends, in retrospect, to teach them a lesson; the scientific demystification of déjà vu as an anomaly of the memory apparatus; literary fans; the French; the size of my feet. I have drawn you into my book, which is not quite like dropping a live creature into a bubbling pot, but is sticky nonetheless, would scare any sensible person away. Yet you play along; you’ve pulled up the chair opposite mine and laid your elbows on the table and we’ve settled down into a very serious match of—what can we call it? Ludic love? Who was it that wrote of Huizinga’s Homo ludens that play is similar to aesthetics in that it is essentially irreducible? This is not about something; it is the thing.

I return to the work at hand, my English translations of the German writer Rainald Goetz, fragments that address the limitations of language: “The mission of writing is to walk away from it. To lead a life, namely in the best way and as rich in everything as possible, one that breaks open the isolationism inherent in writing, debunks it, makes it impossible, but at the same time retains it in the stillness of the texts as a longing for a true life, a better life, thus inducing one to move in this direction over and over again. The experiment ‘to live and to write’ is meant as an absurd, lifelong attempt with an ongoing succession of texts to remain subjected to both, to maintain one’s attention to both and not let oneself be torn between these conflicting powers.”