march 26–march 29

Books

  • Jacques Roubaud, Some Thing Black (trans. Rosmarie Waldrop)
  • Grégoire Bouillier, Report on Myself (trans. Bruce Benderson)
  • André Malraux, Museum Without Walls (trans. Stuart Gilbert & Francis Price)

Films

  • Donald Judd’s Marfa, Texas, directed by Christopher Felver
  • Dracula, dir. Tod Browning
  • Cerný Petr (Black Peter), dir Miloš Forman

Exhibits

  • “James Castle Drawings: Vision and Touch”, Knoedler & Company
  • “James Castle”, Ameringer & Yohe Fine Art
  • “Philip-Lorca diCorcia: Thousand”, David Zwirner
  • “Lisa Yuskavage”, David Zwirner
  • “Julianne Swartz: Terrain”, Josée Bienvenu Gallery
  • “Robert Mangold: Drawings and Works on Paper, 1965–2008”, PaceWildenstein
  • “Playing This Litho Instrument: The Prints of Barnett Newman, Part II”, Craig F. Starr Gallery
  • “Donald Judd Colored Plexiglas”, L & M Arts
  • “Pablo Picasso: Mosqueteros”, Gagosian Gallery
  • “Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West”, MoMA
  • “Paper: Pressed, Stained, Slashed, Folded”, MoMA
  • “Words in Freedom: Futurism at 100”, MoMA

novel ii

This is another novel, maybe the same.

A man, alone because of a death, gets a phone call. The call is from the woman he loves, who is dead.

He recognizes her voice. She calls from a different, possible world, in every respect like the world he is used to except for one difference: in that world, she is not dead.

But what will he say? What has happened in that world in the last thirty months? What will he tell her? How could he enter that world where the horror has not taken place, where her death is abolished, where the struggle against it continues, where they still stubbornly fight the battle that, here in this world, where he still is at the moment he picks up the receiver, has been lost?

He will pick up the receiver and hear her voice. This world where he still is (the phone has rung, but he has not yet moved his hand in order to answer) will be forgotten.

This world will not have been. It will have existed only as a possible world where there is death, and not life. A world he will always think of even though it is unthinkable.

Imagining, in his imagination from that other world, this world where she would be dead. But he will not, in fact, be able to imagine it.

The telephone does not ring. As long as it does not ring, that new world, that possible world, is still possible. It is still possible that the phone will ring and the voice be the voice of the woman he loves, who is dead. Who is no longer dead, has never died.

The phone will ring. The voice which the man who is alone because of a death will hear is not that of the woman he loves. It’s some other voice, any voice. He will hear it. This does not prove he is alive.

(Jacques Roubaud, from Some Thing Black, section III, pp. 51&ndash.52.)

would have been read by no one else, not even by the author

“I would have liked very much to explore certain of these parallel fictional universes, and I had proposed to my Publisher, in spite of the enormous amount of additional work it would have imposed upon me, to furnish him with an absolute forest of multiple diverging and reconverging tales, with approved spatio-temporal travel maps, and a guide provided for the tourists of the fiction. The same unchangeable book would not have been stupidly printed for everyone but, rediscovering good old thirteenth-century customs (it was only yesterday), during the age of manuscripts, each reader would have his own personalized book. The book would not be available in stores. Or rather, in good bookstores, you would have had the chance to choose: either the standard edition, everybody’s book . . . or else you would have placed an order for your edition, chosen according to a “menu” of possible forkings in the course of the tale. This copy would not yet have been printed. By pressing here and there on a keyboard, the bookstore clerk would have transmitted to the computer-printer the specifications of the novel and at once, thanks to modern typesetting/composition processes, vroom, vroom, the book would be on its way; and it would arrive in no time.”

(Jacques Roubaud, Hortense is Abducted (1989), quoted in Dominic Di Bernardi’s afterword to The Great Fire of London, pp. 321–2.)

the shape of a city

“(And how many houses or streets does it take before a town begins to be a town?) Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses.”

(Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, section 18; cited in Jacques Roubaud’s The Great Fire of London.)

believability

“The clouds drew closer and gusts of wind ruffled the surface of the brown water. Drops of rain struck the windows. I left my stool and moved across the room for a better look at things, taking a table next to the American woman. Four pelicans in a column were gliding over the water, almost touching it. Behind them came two more. These two were flapping their heavy wings and they were climbing up to the misty edges of the cloud. A shaft of lightning struck the second bird and he contracted into a ball and fell like a rock. The other one took no notice, missing not a beat with his wings.

I was astonished. I knew I would tell this pelican story over and over again and that it would be met with widespread disbelief but I thought I might as well get started and so I turned to the woman and the boy and told them what I had seen. I pointed out the floating brown lump.

She said, ‘It looks like a piece of wood.’

‘That’s a dead pelican.’

‘I heard the thunder but I didn’t see anything.’

‘I saw the whole thing.’

‘I love storms.’ ”

(pp. 159–160.)

“I told them about the pelican that was struck by lightning. They didn’t believe it. I tried to tell them about Symes and Webster and Spann and Karl and their attention wandered. I saw then that I would have to write it down, present it all in an orderly fashion, and this I have done.”

(p. 243 of Charles Portis, The Dog of the South.)

march 15–march 22

Books

  • Helen Moore Barthelme, Donald Barthelme: The Genesis of a Cool Sound
  • Donald Barthelme & Seymour Chwast, Sam’s Bar: An American Landscape
  • Charles Portis, The Dog of the South
  • Jane Bowles, My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles

Films

  • Berlin Alexanderplatz, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, parts XII, XIII & epilogue

Exhibits

  • Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas
  • Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas

life, rowena

“ ‘Life, Rowena, is a song. By that I mean it’s short, like a song. It’s got an unhappy ending, like a song. It repeats itself, like a song. It can be loused up, like a song. You can go reggae or you can go heavy metal. You want fiddles I’ll give you fiddles. You want synthesizer I’ll give you synthesizer. You want to head sandpaper, I got guys that can sandpaper your heart into little pieces. So I ask you, is life not a song? Essentially?’ ”

(Donald Barthelme & Seymour Chwast, Sam’s Bar: An American Landscape, unpaginated.)