This issue: Darkness – Value as a Part – Pools – The Other Eye – Abundance – The Favor – A Secret Mission – Passage – Another – The Tramp – and some thoughts (The following is a work of satire. The people and events depicted, including those based on real people and events, are all entirely fictional.)
I don’t remember if these chapters felt quite as timely when I wrote them as they do now (they may have: history always feels timely to me), but I have long been fascinated by the double life of the United Kingdom.
As for my own reading:
*A couple of interesting articles related to Tom Vanderbilt’s You May Also Like here and here; two more on Internet culture in general, and ranging everywhere from silly-absurd to terrifying-absurd, here and here. All of which should ease you gently toward the apocalyptic vision of Don DeLillo’s latest book, the first work of fiction by a major American writer I’ve been curious about in a long time.
*Also from Nathaniel Rich, a really nice piece on James Baldwin. I’ve always thought of him alongside John Cheever and J.D. Salinger, both stylistically and as writers each tackling the myth of mid-century, Golden Age America with a kind of moral and spiritual earnestness already long out of fashion by the time of their activity.
*Some of Hannah Arendt’s thoughts on statelessness (I often think of this when I hear the way people talk about immigration, i.e. illegal versus undocumented). I always feel curiously protective of Ms. Arendt, like I have to be constantly ready to jump to her defense. Of course, she doesn’t need to be vindicated by me; she only needs to be read. If her life is any example (and it is), there is no reason at all not to take her at her word.
*Found Barthes’ speculation over Proust’s creative process eerily familiar. My solution to most problems is to create an even bigger problem.
*I’ve always been fascinated by this brief, more or less anecdotal phase of Wittgenstein’s career (it will be coming up shortly in the Notes); but it’s only the jumping off point for a really beautiful piece on utility in aesthetics by Chris Benfey.
*Shostakovich, too, will make a brief appearance, though much later on. I’d forgotten I first learned about him reading William T. Vollmann’s Europe Central. His life and work apparently cry out for fictional interpretation.
*A lot of Coherence itself deals with the relationships between artists and their work. Here, Alyssa Rosenberg talks about the responsibilities of interpretation in regard to the films of Woody Allen. She’s right, of course. The love story in Manhattan was always creepy and off-putting; it took a conscious decision to ignore it.
*Been slowly working my way through Isaiah Berlin’s Russian Thinkers. Embarrassed to say it’s the first I’d ever heard of Alexander Herzen. (I’ll also be reading Tony Judt’s Postwar for the foreseeable future.)
*Amanda Petrusich compares the music of Steve Gunn to the writing of Rebecca Solnit, and touches on a much wider cultural trend in lostness (though I think I would have used the term responsive instead of reactive).
*Not a great interview, but Chester Brown is great, and so is his new book. You should read Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus or anything else by him you can get your hands on.
*Loved Oliver Sava’s take on Mike Mignola and Hellboy in Hell. Immediately reminded me of what I love about Moebius. Another genius, Brian Eno, tackles a few of the same themes here and here; Curtis White here.
*Most of the new fiction I read these days—and most of the narrative non-fiction, too—comes in comic form. Obviously I don’t think prose literature is dead, even if it isn’t showing a whole lot of life right now. To paraphrase Calvino from somewhere in the Six Memos (I can’t seem to track down the exact quote): literature will only remain alive so long as it attempts the impossible. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem to be attempting much of anything lately. There are probably a number of reasons for this, but I think they all fit, broadly speaking, under the rubric of materialism.
I don’t want this to sound like an accusation, necessarily; I’m sure there are people at every level of its production, distribution, and study who care just as much about art and literature as I do, and are every bit as concerned for its survival. Call it rather a crisis of confidence. Aside from the most common use of the term (materialism, that is), it seems to me the art and literary worlds, always eager to keep pace with the breakthroughs of scientific discovery, have come to accept a highly qualified sense of what art and literature can and should do (I mean everyone except for Brian Eno and Curtis White). Hopefully this is only a temporary slump.
If you have any thoughts on it yourself, feel free to contact me here. Otherwise, just a quick reminder that the next two installments of Coherence will be a little shorter than usual, but also that every issue of The Dreadful Point from next month’s on will be supplemented with a short story backup feature.
Next Issue: August 2nd.