Friday, November 5, 2010

Take a Walk in the Mark

Another week has passed, my Puddlers.  What an eventful week its been.  There is still a lot of stuff coming.  On Monday, you will get the NBA podcast I just recorded with Miles Debas and Paul Sicilian and then later in that week you will get another fantastic, long-winded column and music and literature from myself.

In the meantime, you get the man who could only bring you the material that he brings you.  A man you will save you from the banality of your thoughts and expose you to the complexities of the mundane.  There can be only one, Mr. Mark Jack.

On Methods of Disengagement

Mark Jack

There are far too many angles of conversation to be stuck into the rut of just using one or two. It is my belief that we don’t end up speaking a thing when we find ourselves so stuck to one means of conversing.   The same thing seems to hold true for moving in this world. We never end up actually travelling somewhere or reflecting our desire to move, if we continue to make the same turns and circuitous routes. The importance of the unexpected turn of phrase, or foot in this regard, is invaluable. Now, in my head so often—maybe too often—with all my thoughts structured like a conversation that can only go my way, but strangely never does, I’m making a right turn (as I walk) with little thought but to the mechanics of such a move.

And, slipping endlessly amongst these people of the world, I forget that the taxis, with their dorsal fin advertisements, are not strange dinosaurs; I forget that my tongue has been working constantly, all my life, shouting obscenities and philosophies at passersby. None of my endless language has brought me any closer to these people who swirl around, posing a confused current, leaving me with no safe, lee side. Perhaps, as we approach a greater globalization, our languages will consolidate, drenched in technology, perhaps we now experience the birth pangs of a new community. It's too early to tell. It's always too early to tell. We are in a constant state of telling ourselves that it is too early to tell. Language, maybe, is just a tool with which to create histories, thereby allowing us the relief of knowing that someday it will not be too early to tell, and excusing us from making a decision about now, now. Because of this, I am forced to wonder at all these people, squirming around, on foot, or inside those strange mechanical dinosaurs.

Yet, now here I am, suddenly, having been walking this whole thought through, on Gerry Street, walking north towards Broadway. There is not a soul around me but cat souls and rat souls I imagine. There is an overgrown, fenced-in lot half way down the block, which for all the surrounding attempts at destitution and all the assertions of halted construction, is beautifully insect and bird song filled, like some strange misplaced slice of nature loudly asserting its development of unfocused identity. The street is somewhat unnerving in its ugliness, though. On one trip down the short block or two that is the entire street, I was forced into the middle of the pockmarked road by an inexplicably huge, sidewalk-sitting pile of garbage, astir with the strange forces of putrefaction. The next day it was gone. This may not seem surprising, but this is not a street that speaks of diligence, but rather negligence, as in, where was the trash-responsible party on such a destitute un-lived on street? This kind of occurrence - a set of antagonizing forces harmonizing unexpectedly - is exactly why I have enjoyed this street. The fault in my antagonizing the forms that feed me, what my misplaced vehemence is missing is simple: it is this mysterious element of harmony.  Simple disengagement is not enough, ever. One must constantly re-engage with the words that seem so dead and over-used and re-assert their potentiality, lifting them into sentences that are like foreign land - using those words to reach some insight where previously there could be none.

I invariably think of Beckett, and his trio of novels, Molly, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, especially, in this regard. They are brilliant, but people more talented than I have said enough, and I am also reminded of a contemporary author and his bewildering use of language, Gary Lutz. I saw the man recently at a reading and discussion thing at the Center for Fiction, an obvious and overly busted old building up in the Diamond District.

It was one of the more awkward panels I’ve seen, and brilliant, particularly on the parts of Gary Lutz and John Haskell, the latter an author I was not aware of but with whom I intend to become familiar. Christine Schutt, also fantastic, was also there but mostly hid behind a nervously brooding Ben Marcus.

Gary Lutz is a sentence writer, and his stories are often vastly un-storied, but minutely communicative. By this I do not mean that he communicates only small things or in a small way, but, I mean to say, he is precise, and yet, somehow not. He has an almost prohibitive—to a reader’s understanding—understanding of English grammar and employs his understanding in the most unlooked for ways to approach a subject and/or object. His descriptions do not rely on average cues, visual or otherwise, instead opting for the unexpected modifier, writing things like, “My sisters turned out to be women who wore their hair speculatively, lavishing it forward into swells… ” I don’t think anyone is lost as to the hairstyle discussed here, and what I find exciting about Lutz’s use of “speculatively,” for instance, is that he is able to describe his sisters via a hairstyle but without necessarily only invoking what the reader will generally understand by such a styled character. That is, the narrator’s sisters are not simply characterized by having hair, lavished “forward into swells,” which speaks a great deal to the kind of people they are, but they are also people who style themselves not simply in a manner, but in a mood also. “Speculatively” modifies the way in which they wear their hair but seems to seep into a description of the hairstyle itself as well. Lutz is almost disorienting, and after reading him I find myself paying attention to language so closely, almost as if it were not my own anymore.  I pay attention to the language and it becomes something new; an object once familiar not taken for granted. Almost as though I were suddenly looking at my own hand with all the wonder that such a complex device completely at my disposal should almost always incite. Maybe a Lutz fiction and an unplanned walk a day is perfect medicine for that old conformity concern.

Gary Lutz has written a few collections of stories and I recommend them all, but the one I have in my lap as I write this is a small, “zine-like” one called Partial List of People to Bleach and as I wrote this post and thought of Lutz, I opened this little chapbook and found, “I kept waiting for someone to say something in a language that wasn’t shot.”


1 comment:

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