Control – Ruins – Beasts – Technical Services – Notes – Fortunes – Migration – The Good Guy, a story, Part One of Three – with some more thoughts on appropriation and appropriations (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 wish I didn’t have to, either because the political situation was different or because I was a better writer, but I feel at some pains to explain that last chapter of Coherence. The unnamed genre whose parody was more or less the impetus for this work has many (and perhaps mostly) terrible examples—but a few very good ones, too. I would consider John Berryman’s Dream Songs to be one of the latter, though it has an obvious and terrible flaw. I don’t believe it was intended maliciously (though I can’t say how far that should mitigate the offense, if at all), yet while I felt compelled to acknowledge Berryman’s influence, it didn’t seem possible to do so unless I was willing to grapple with the problem posed by one of the cycle’s main narrators, Mr. Bones. He seemed to me a prime example of, and perhaps, as I used him, symbol for, the kind of cultural appropriation that white Americans—but particularly white American artists—are all guilty of on some level, and which is itself an ill- or, at best, ignorantly-conceived expression of that guilt. (I wrote a little about the pitfalls of cultural appropriation at the bottom of the fifth issue, but, fortunately for me, Jacqueline Valencia has touched on many of these subjects more gracefully than I ever could, and just in time.)
As for the story, I got the idea from Jules the first time I saw Pulp Fiction. I had mainly wondered what a real, life-long mobster’s conception of heroism might look like; but feel free to invest the piece with more intelligence than I have, and, in light of the recent events in Syria (including the responses of some of those in the media), consider it a meditation on the American tendency to both glorify violence and conflate it with justice. The first installment is the shortest and unfortunately the weakest.
Before I move on to the other readings, however, I should point out that while some of the works I feature in this space are intended to provide a certain context for my own writing, or an alternate approach to one or more of its themes—even to note a piece in which I’ve found some inspiration, and whose influence I suspect may show itself later on—others I share just because I like them and want to support their creators, though I can’t always afford to do so financially. Which is to say that if you can afford to support these or any artists you like financially, then please do. I think it will be one of the most important jobs of criticism for the foreseeable future to cajole audiences into paying for the art they enjoy, and to convince those who have the means to help subsidize it for those who don’t. It can be a difficult proposition. A society like ours will always have artists at a disadvantage, if only because, on a personal level, they really have no choice but to create. I tend to agree with David Foster Wallace that art is (or should be) essentially gift-like in nature, but the market either exploits or discourages that idea, and thus very nearly robs it of its most vital function. Here Anthony Williams makes the case for reciprocity and generosity with regard to the labor freely given to activism and independent research, but I think the argument holds just as well for the arts, especially in a political environment such as we now find ourselves, where the full extent of their overlap has been so plainly revealed. So, with that in mind:
*I was excited to learn that German Sierra’s new piece is an excerpt from a longer work in progress.
*Joshua Rothes’ latest experiment is intended for print and distribution as the reader sees fit.
*And, finally, I’ll leave you with a bit of hopeful political news.
Next issue: June 6th