from Jack Spicer‘s ‘The Unvert Manifesto’
1. An unvert is neither an invert or an outvert, a pervert or a convert, an introvert or a retrovert. An unvert chooses to have no place to turn.
2. One should always masturbate on street corners.
3. Unversion is the attempt to make the sexual act as rare as a rosepetal. It consists of linking the sexual with the greatest cosmic force in the universe – Nonsense, or as we prefer to call it, MERTZ.
4. Sex should be a frightening experience like a dirty joke or an angel.
5. Dirty jokes and angels should be frightening experiences.
Thanks to Kk for sending me this link.
Geoffrey K Pullum on stupid grammar advice
The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it [...] “Use the active voice” is a typical section head. And the section in question opens with an attempt to discredit passive clauses that is either grammatically misguided or disingenuous [...]What concerns me is that the bias against the passive is being retailed by a pair of authors so grammatically clueless that they don’t know what is a passive construction and what isn’t. Of the four pairs of examples offered to show readers what to avoid and how to correct it, a staggering three out of the four are mistaken diagnoses. “At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard” is correctly identified as a passive clause, but the other three are all errors:
- “There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground” has no sign of the passive in it anywhere.
- “It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had” also contains nothing that is even reminiscent of the passive construction.
- “The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired” is presumably fingered as passive because of “impaired,” but that’s a mistake. It’s an adjective here. “Become” doesn’t allow a following passive clause. (Notice, for example, that “A new edition became issued by the publishers” is not grammatical.)
Krish Ashok explores Indian film songs in graphs
Terry Eagleton on multiculturalism and metaphysics in the time of terror
Lukewarmness about belief is likely to prove a handicap when one is confronted with a full-bloodedly metaphysical enemy. The very pluralism you view as an index of your spiritual strength may have a debilitating effect on your political authority, especially against zealots who regard pluralism as a form of intellectual cowardice. The idea, touted in particular by some Americans, that Islamic radicals are envious of Western freedoms is about as convincing as the suggestion that they are secretly hankering to sit in cafés smoking dope and reading Gilles Deleuze.
[...] The more capitalism flourishes on a global scale, the more multiculturalism threatens to loosen the hold of the nation-state over its subjects. Culture, after all, is what helps power grow roots, interweaving it with our lived experience and thus tightening its grip on us. A power which has to sink roots in many diverse cultures simultaneously is at a signal disadvantage. A British defense think tank recently published a report arguing that a “misplaced deference to multiculturalism” that fails “to lay down the line to immigrant communities” was weakening the fight against political extremists. The problem, the report warned, was one of social fragmentation in a multicultural nation increasingly divided over its history, identity, aims, and values. When it came to the fight against terrorism, the nation’s liberal values, in short, were undermining themselves.
Katy Evans-Bush on the Times‘s advice to young poets
And here, from the pages of the venerable Times, is what I wouldn’t say:
1: Make contact (“online poetry groups dedicated to supporting young poets, such as Pomegranate.me.uk and the Poetry Society” – ridiculous.)
2: Get social networking (Facebook poetry groups)
3: Self-publicise (“Start your own poetry-dedicated social networking page or blog – or post your work on your existing MySpace or Facebook entries” – so that no magazine editor will then take it!)
4: Do a workshop (workshops are “fantastic for sharing”)
5: Build up a portfolio (“Use poetry magazines to showcase your work and raise your profile” – suggests TLS, LRB, Poetry Review – perfect for first-time submitters and egotists)
6: Enter a competition (what??)
7: Get published (“Approach a publisher about how to get a pamphlet of your work produced”, then suggests a list of publishers who don’t do pamphlets)
In short. Don’t read as much poetry as you possibly can, don’t write, don’t labour till you drop to improve your poetry, don’t assume you have anything to learn from other poets, don’t do readings, don’t develop a peer group for any other purpose than self-promotion, don’t be prepared to wait years for publication, don’t learn about the poetry world, don’t get to know who people are, don’t take it seriously, don’t think about anything except yourself.
It’s just the worst “advice” I’ve ever seen.
Aditya Bidikar dedicates art to JG Ballard
Decca Aitkenhead attempts to characterise Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s fiction is acclaimed for the spare elegance of the writing, a testament to the power of what is left unsaid. But he is not spare in conversation — in fact, he talks readily for more than two hours. The curious thing is that, by the end of it, I still have no idea what he’s like. You couldn’t say he was closely defended — he is too personably forthcoming for that — but there is an opacity about him that eludes description, giving no glimpse of what might lie within.
His features are unlined, his voice smooth, his movements compact and fluid, almost feline, and, as always, he is dressed in black. Even his house is difficult to read, for though spacious and book-lined, it sits in unfashionable Golders Green, and looks from the outside like somewhere an accountant — or my grandparents — might live. I have no idea what makes him laugh, or what could make him angry, and realise later that he is very good at talking without conveying any real sense of himself. I’ve never met anyone who lends himself less to characterisation.
Never mind, Ishiguro says interesting stuff anyway
… you can’t get complacent in your 30s, saying, ‘Oh I’ll fart about and do some restaurant reviews and have a good time and when I’m in my 50s I’ll settle down to write my masterpiece.’ There’s something very misleading about the literary culture that looks at writers in their 30s and calls them ‘budding’ or ‘promising’, when in fact they’re peaking.
Stephen Fry writes to his sixteen-year-old self
I know what you are doing now, young Stephen. It’s early 1973. You are in the library, cross-referencing bibliographies so that you can find more and more examples of queer people in history, art and literature against whom you can hope to validate yourself. Leonardo, Tchaikovsky, Wilde, Barons Corvo and von Gloeden, Robin Maugham, Worsley, “an Englishman”, Jean Genet, Cavafy, Montherlant, Roger Peyrefitte, Mary Renault, Michael Campbell, Michael Davies, Angus Stewart, Gore Vidal, John Rechy, William Burroughs [...] You spend all your time in the library yearning to be told that you are not alone, and an unlooked for side-effect of this just happens to be a real education achieved in a private school designed for philistine bumpkins. Being born queer has given you, by mistake, a fantastic advantage over the rugger-playing ordinaries who surround you. But those rugger-playing ordinaries have souls too. And you should know that [...] Somehow, as you age, a miracle will be wrought. You will begin by descending deeper into the depths: expulsion, crime and prison — nothing really to do with being gay, but everything to do with love and your inability to cope with it. Yet you will, as the Regency rakes used to say, “make a recover” and find yourself at university, where it will be astonishingly easy to be open about your sexuality. No great trick, for the university is Cambridge, long a hotbed of righteous tolerance, spiritual heavy-petting and homo hysteria. You will emerge from Cambridge and enter a world where being “out” is no big deal, although a puzzlingly small number of your coevals will find it as easy as you to emerge from the shadows. Before you damn anyone for failing to come out, look to their parents. The answer almost always lies there. Oh how lucky in that department, as in so many, you are, young Stephen.
But don’t kid yourself. For millions of teenagers around Britain and everywhere else, it is still 1973.
Murray N Rothbard on the Ayn Rand cult
The Randian neophyte typically joined the movement emotionally caught by Atlas [i.e. Atlas Shrugged] and impressed by the concepts of reason, liberty, individuality, and independence. A series of crises and growing inner contradictions was then necessary to gain power over the minds and lives of the membership, and to inculcate absolute loyalty to Rand, both in ideological matters and in personal lives. But what mechanisms did the cult leaders use to develop such blind loyalty?
One method, as we have seen, was to keep the members in ignorance. Another was to insure that every spoken and written word of the Randian member was not only correct in content but also in form, for any slight nuance or difference in wording could and would be attacked for deviating from the Randian position [...]
Another method was to keep the members, as far as possible, in a state of fevered emotion through continual re-readings of Atlas. Shortly after Atlas was published, one high-ranking cult leader chided me for only having read Atlas once. “It’s about time for you to start reading it again,” he admonished. “I have already read Atlas thirty-five times.”
The rereading of Atlas was also important to the cult because the wooden, posturing, and one-dimensional heroes and heroines were explicitly supposed to serve as role models for every Randian. Just as every Christian is supposed to aim at the imitation of Christ in his own daily life, so every Randian was supposed to aim at the imitation of John Galt (Rand’s hero of heroes in Atlas.) He was always supposed to ask himself in every situation “What would John Galt have done?” When we remind ourselves that Jesus, after all, was an actual historical figure whereas Galt was not, the bizarrerie of this injunction can be readily grasped. (Although from the awed way Randians spoke of John Galt, one often got the impression that, for them, the line between fiction and reality was very thin indeed.) [...]
The all-encompassing nature of the Randian line may be illustrated by an incident that occurred to a friend of mine who once asked a leading Randian if he disagreed with the movement’s position on any conceivable subject. After several minutes of hard thought, the Randian replied: “Well, I can’t quite understand their position on smoking.” Astonished that the Rand cult had any position on smoking, my friend pressed on: “They have a position on smoking? What is it?” The Randian replied that smoking, according to the cult, was a moral obligation. In my own experience, a top Randian once asked me rather sharply, “How is it that you don’t smoke?” When I replied that I had discovered early that I was allergic to smoke, the Randian was mollified: “Oh, that’s OK, then.” The official justification for making smoking a moral obligation was a sentence in Atlas where the heroine refers to a lit cigarette as symbolizing a fire in the mind, the fire of creative ideas. (One would think that simply holding up a lit match could do just as readily for this symbolic function.) One suspects that the actual reason, as in so many other parts of Randian theory, from Rachmaninoff to Victor Hugo to tap dancing, was that Rand simply liked smoking and had the need to cast about for a philosophical system that would make her personal whims not only moral but also a moral obligation incumbent upon everyone who desires to be rational.
Thanks to Michael for this one.
Congratulations to Carol Ann Duffy on her laureateship