toward something that is about to be

“Reading,” he says, “is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something else that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it can only be thought, imagined, or because it was once and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead….”

“Or that is not present because it does not yet exist, something desired, feared, possible or impossible,” Ludmilla says. “Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be….”

Calvino, Italo. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. 72.

a dynamically indeterminate coastline

Fractal models (with their scalar self-similarities and unpredictable variations) bring into the foreground of our attention the large patterns and erratic details, the dynamic equilibrium of order and disorder in complex life systems like weather and coastlines. …I have begun to think of certain forms of art (for example, the post-1940s music of John Cage) as having a fractal relation to the rest of life. They are complex constructions that, among other things, present their material presence as a dynamically indeterminate “coastline” for audiences to explore via their own complex cultural and psychological dispositions.

Ocean beach and Steinian page are equally contingent and dynamic zones whose life principle is change. The beach changes in its conversation with the vagaries and variabilities of meteorological elements; the page changes in its conversation with variable epistemologies, grammars, and genres, as well as with the associative lements of a reader’s mind as that mind lives within multiple intersecting forms whose rules are neither simple nor readily apparent. All this occurs of course within another strange constancy—the changing cultural climate of the developing contemporary.

Or rather I sense that languages and coastlines operate with similar kinds of principles. If one thinks of a coastline as just one site of mutually transformative exchange between different kinds of complex dynamical systems, then language as it exists in the active mediation between neural network and world ecosystems is surely such a site. There are specific things one gains in thinking of language in this way, particularly when confronted by literature that won’t resolve into simple mimesis or tidy containments and conclusions.

It saves a certain amount of frustration to remember that you will never solve a coastline.

Retallack, Joan. “The Difficulties of Gertrude Stein.” The Poethical Wager. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. 153-4.

radically unfinished thought

The random function exercised by the writer’s/reader’s mind is the operating principle of the essay as form. One might ask how to understand forms whose pleasure it is to violate or exceed generic expectations. Perhaps the point is not understanding at all, at least not in the sense of grasping. Essays, like poems and philosophical meditations, should elude our grasp just because their business is to approach the liminal spectrum of near-unintelligibility—immediate experience complicating what we thought we knew. In this case “to write” means to engage in a probative, speculative projection of the often surprising vectors of words as they graze the circumstances of ongoing life. “To read” means to live with the text over the real time of everyday life so it can enter into conversation with other life projects. Forms that move the imagination out of bounds toward pungent transgressions, piquant unintelligibilities intrude into our tangible surroundings. They maintain an irritating presence, pleasurable or not, as radically unfinished thought. They give the reader real work to do. If the essay is a worthwhile wager, it is about startling the mind into action when much is at stake and intelligibility is poor.

Retallack, Joan. The Poethical Wager. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. 48.

on the point of or sooner or later

We feel an affinity with a certain thinker because we agree with him; or because he shows us what we were already thinking; or because he shows us in a more articulate form what we were already thinking; or because he shows us what we were on the point of thinking; or what we would sooner or later have thought; or what we would have thought much later if we hadn’t read it now; or what we would have been likely to think but never would have thought if we hadn’t read it now; or what we would have liked to think but never would have thought if we hadn’t read it now.

Davis, Lydia. Collected Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. 310.

reading to become writing

… To be able to do something quick and then be incredibly slow; that we shouldn’t be all on the same timeline churning out products. I would argue for scenarios that allow for reading to become writing or listening to become talking or looking to become making and for scenarios where there are multi-temporal approaches to engage with the social and what rhythm you want to give to those exchanges. These are the things I find most enjoyable about dealing with art.

Korman, Sam. “BOMBLOG: BOMB GLOBAL: Jan Verwoert by Sam Korman.” BOMB Magazine: Home Page. N.p., 14 May 2012. Web. 23 May 2012. .

books are for use

Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader.
Save the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.

Ranganathan, S.R. The Five Laws of Library Science. Madras: The Madras Library Association, 1931.

calls the reader the operator

Mallarmé calls the reader the ‘operator.’ Reading, like poetry, is an ‘operation.’ The term retains for him, throughout, its dual connotation of work and of something almost surgical, derived ironically from its functional nature: operation as amputation, rather like the Hegelian ‘Aufhebung.’ Reading is an operation, a labour of self-suppression which is substantiated in a self-confrontation and simultaneously abolished and asserted. …Mallarmé emphasises the danger and daring of reading—daring apparently to claim authorial rights over the book….

Blanchot, Maurice. “The Book to Come.” A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About the Book & Writing. Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay, eds. New York: Granary Books, 2000. 156.

appreciable difference

Is writing an answer to why?
By reading do we know why?
Is there an appreciable difference between writing and reading?
Must I read forever and will my writing cease?

Bordowitz, Gregg. Volition. New York: Printed Matter, 2009. 141.

as though I wrote it myself

Must I read what I write? Must I read what others have written, and can I read what others have written as though I wrote it myself? Must I write what others have written, whether or not I’ve read the same lines before?

Bordowitz, Gregg. Volition. New York: Printed Matter, 2009. 60.

changed through his reading eyes

Once upon a time there was a reader.

He read everything: world-literature, art works, music, sound, the weather, pictures on the newspaper, the television, real estate ads, his own mirror image, the publicity posters for the circus, and so on. Of course, there were also writers who produced world-literature and artists who made monumental art works, composers who created symphonies lasting an evening, or an opera-trilogy lasting a week. …

But the reader preferred to read.

As he himself claimed, he read to transform his life and used his life as reading matter.

He who reads, he thought, is between himself and that which is read. There isn’t only air there, but an expanse of land where not the inviible, but the visible is the mystery.

He collected fragments of what he read and invented conjuring-tricks with them, so that you seemed to be seeing things which weren’t intended. …

What he read changed through his reading eyes.

Van Weelden, Dirk. “A Different Kind of Never-Never-Land.” F.R. David. 3 (2008): 21.

*The text was originally commissioned by de Appel in 1991 to accompany a solo exhibition of work by Allen Ruppersberg.