New Evan Lavender-Smith short story, “For This Relief, Much Thanks”

At The Offing, read “For This Relief, Much Thanks,” a new story by Evan Lavender-Smith. First two paragraphs:

Worried, even certain, will die on upcoming Peru trip — card-carrying hypochondriac — so jotting down some instructions for you. Here goes.

First thing, ms. on ugly brown reclining chair in study, containing, near end, these very instructions — card-carrying metafictionist — requires thorough proofreading before sending out. Aim high initially, as I am of opinion this one may deserve proper publication by proper house, proper distribution to brick-and-mortars, etc., unlike first two. Hopeful royalties, if any, suffice to cover boy’s dental care in upcoming years. Good boy, as you know, deserving of straight teeth. Maybe royalties enough to cover Little League uniforms/dues, though doubtful. Sorry couldn’t afford term life with smoking, unemployment, etc. Baseball equipment stuff way cheaper on Amazon. Try to find ways to make it work. Boy already knows how to be broke. Dentist is one next to Pro’s Ranch, only Spanish spoken there so have him keep moving ahead on his Duolingo app.

Read the rest of Evan Lavender-Smith’s story “For This Relief, Much Thanks.”

Barthelme has managed to place himself in the center of modern consciousness (William H. Gass)

Barthelme has managed to place himself in the center of modern consciousness. Nothing surrealist about him, his dislocations are real, his material quite actual. Radio, television, movies, newspapers, books, magazines, social talk: these supply us with our experience. Rarely do we see trees, go meadowing, or capture crickets in a box. The aim of every media, we are nothing but the little darkening hatch they trace when, narrowly, they cross. Computers begin by discriminating only when they’re told to. Are they ahead that much? since that’s the way we end. At home I rest from throwing pots according to instructions by dipping in some history of the Trojan war; the fete of Vietnam is celebrated on the telly; my daughter’s radio is playing rock—perhaps it’s used cars or Stravinsky; my wife is telling me she loves me, is performing sexercises with a yogi Monday, has accepted a proposal to be photoed without clothing and now wonders if the draft will affect the teaching of freshman chemistry. Put end to end like words, my consciousness is a shitty run of category errors and non sequiturs. Putting end to end and next to next is Barthelme’s method, and in Barthelme, blessed method is everything.

From William H. Gass’s 1968 essay “The Leading edge of the Trash Phenomenon,” an ostensible review of Donald Barthelme’s collection Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts.

“Final Curve” — Langston Hughes

final curve

“IIIIIIIIII.” — Gertrude Stein

“IIIIIIIIII.”
by
Gertrude Stein
from Geography and Plays (1922)

INCLINE.

Clinch, melody, hurry, spoon, special, dumb, cake, forrester. Fine, cane, carpet, incline, spread, gate, light, labor.

BANKING.

Coffee, cough, glass, spoon, white, singing. Choose, selection, visible, lightning, garden, conversation, ink, spending, light space, morning, celebration, invisible, reception, hour, glass, curving, summons, sparkle, suffering the minisection, sanctioning the widening, less than the wireless, more certain. All the change. Any counselling non consuming and split splendor.

Forward and a rapidity and no resemblance no more utterly. Safe light, more safes no more safe for the separation.

M—N H—.

A cook. A cook can see. Pointedly in uniform, exertion in a medium. A cook can see.

Clark which is awful, clark which is shameful, clark and order.

A pin is a plump point and pecking and combined and more much more is in fine.

Rats is, rats is oaken. Robber. Height, age, miles, plaster, pedal, more order.

Bake, a barn has cause and more late oat-cake specially.

Spend rubber, holder and coal, high, careful, in a pointed collar. A hideous south west is always a climb in aged seldom succeeded flavoring untimely, necessity white, hour in a glaze.

Break, sky blue light, obliquely, in a cut carpet, in the pack. A sound.

COO—GE.

Press in the ink and stare and cheese. Pick in the faint and feather and white. White in the plume.

M—N H—.

No noon back. No noon settler, no sun in the slant and carpet utterly surrounded.

No pressed plaster. None.

No pressing pan and pan cake. Not related exactly. Not related.

Matter in the center of single sand and slide in the hut.

No account of gibberish. No sky lark utterly.

Perfect lemon and cutting a central black. Not such clouding. A sugar, a lame sugar, certainly. No sobriety no silver ash tray. Continue reading ““IIIIIIIIII.” — Gertrude Stein”

We nullify the consciousness of others. We make their experiences unreal. (William H. Gass)

You can measure the reality of an act, a man, an institution, custom, work of art in many ways: by the constancy and quality of its effects, the depth of the response which it demands, the kinds and range of values it possesses, the actuality of its presence in space and time, the multiplicity and reliability of the sensations it provides, its particularity and uniqueness on the one hand, its abstract generality on the other—I have no desire to legislate concerning these conditions, insist on them all.

We can rob these men, these acts and objects, of their reality by refusing to acknowledge them. We pass them on the street but do not see or speak. We have no Negro problem in our small Midwestern towns. If someone has the experience of such a problem, he is mistaken. What happened to him did not happen; what he felt he did not feel; the urges he has are not the urges he has; what he wants he does not want. Automatically I reply to my son, who has expressed his desire for bubble gum: Oh, Peppy, you don’t want that. Number one, then: we deny. We nullify the consciousness of others. We make their experiences unreal.

–From William H. Gass’s essay “The Artist and Society” (1968). Collected in Fiction and the Figures of Life.

Kafka’s Statue of Liberty

As he entered New York Harbor on the now slow-moving ship, Karl Rossmann, a seventeen-year-old youth who had been sent to America by his poor parents because a servant girl had seduced him and borne a child by him, saw the Statue of Liberty, which he had been observing for some time, as if in a sudden burst of sunlight. The arm with the sword now reached aloft, and about her figure blew the free winds.

The first paragraph of Franz Kafka’s novel Amerika.

The translation here is by Mark Harman, from his reworking of the novel “based on the restored text” and published by Schoken as Amerika: The Missing Person. I reviewed Harman’s translation several years ago.

The Medusa v. The Odalisque (Infinite Jest)

But this one other short high-tech one was called ‘The Medusa v. The Odalisque’ and was a film of a fake stage-production at Ford’s Theater in the nation’s capital of Wash. DC that, like all his audience-obsessed pieces, had cost Incandenza a real bundle in terms of human extras. The extras in this one are a well-dressed audience of guys in muttonchops and ladies with paper fans who fill the place from first row to the rear of the balcony’s boxes, and they’re watching an incredibly violent little involuted playlet called ‘The Medusa v. The Odalisque,’ the relatively plotless plot of which is just that the mythic Medusa, snake-haired and armed with a sword and well-polished shield, is fighting to the death or petrification against L’Odalisque de Ste. Thérèse, a character out of old Québecois mythology who was supposedly so inhumanly gorgeous that anyone who looked at her turned instantly into a human-sized precious gem, from admiration. A pretty natural foil for the Medusa, obviously, the Odalisque has only a nail-file instead of a sword, but also has a well-wielded hand-held makeup mirror, and she and the Medusa are basically rumbling for like twenty minutes, leaping around the ornate stage trying to de-map each other with blades and/or de-animate each other with their respective reflectors, which each leaps around trying to position just right so that the other gets a glimpse of its own full-frontal reflection and gets instantly petrified or gemified or whatever. In the cartridge it’s pretty clear from their milky-pixeled translucence and insubstantiality that they’re holograms, but it’s not clear what they’re supposed to be on the level of the playlet, whether the audience is supposed to see/(not)see them as ghosts or wraiths or ‘real’ mythic entities or what. But it’s a ballsy fight-scene up there on the stage — having been intricately choreographed by an Oriental guy Himself rented from some commercial studio and put up in the HmH, who ate like a bird and smiled very politely all the time and didn’t have even a word to say to anybody, it seemed, except Avril, to whom the Oriental choreographer had cottoned right off — balletic and full of compelling little cornerings and near-misses and reversals, and the theater’s audience is rapt and clearly entertained to the gills, because they keep spontaneously applauding, as much maybe for the film’s play’s choreography as anything else — which would make it more like spontaneously meta-applauding, Hal supposes — because the whole fight-scene has to be ingeniously choreographed so that both combatants have their respectively scaly and cream-complected backs 155. to the audience, for obvious reasons… except as the shield and little mirror get whipped martially around and brandished at various strategic angles, certain members of the playlet’s well-dressed audience eventually start catching disastrous glimpses of the combatants’ fatal full-frontal reflections, and instantly get transformed into like ruby statues in their front-row seats, or get petrified and fall like embolized bats from the balcony’s boxes, etc. The cartridge goes on like this until there’s nobody left in the Ford’s Theater seats animate enough to applaud the nested narrative of the fight-scene play, and it ends with the two aesthetic foils still rumbling like mad before an audience of varicolored stone. ‘The Medusa v. The Odalisque’ ’s own audiences didn’t think too much of the thing, because the film audience never does get much of a decent full-frontal look at what it is about the combatants that supposedly has such a melodramatic effect on the rumble’s live audience, and so the film’s audience ends up feeling teased and vaguely cheated, and the thing had only a regional release, and the cartridge rented like yesterday’s newspapers, and it’s now next to impossible to find.

155. The Medusa wears a kind of chain-mail backless evening gown and Hellenic sandals, the Odalisque a Merry Widow.

From David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest.