on appetite and a mystic chef, george steiner essays, new statesman 1995

George Steiner August 2008

Or; If Kafka were Hindu…

Every now and then I wonder about George Steiner. Mostly it’s positive wondering but something bugs me about him and it’s not what seems to bug most people I know or read that have met him or committed their view of him to print. Much of the latter is merely a distaste for overt intellect, especially a passionate ‘continental’ mind as well as distrust of the whole dynamic of translation, literally and metaphorically.

There are pedagogic and vulgar ego issues when it comes to Steiner but let me say in brief that I dissociate myself from the cynical Brit approach to him. What continues to bug me is essentially what bugged me when I committed myself to print 15 years ago [in the New Statesman, see below]; I hate it that he won’t credit Kafka, Mozart, even little me with the capacity -effort, hours/years of silent striving and error, the beauty of the attempt- to invent.

Instead, it wasn’t Kafka or Mozart it was “god”. Who? you might say. Religious faith is one thing [later, in Errata, he described himself as a “messianic agnostic”, which is anticipated in what I wrote below], but to misrecognise the grand smallness of human effort, endeavour and appetite is wrong as well as pitiful.

Steiner is a man with a good brain and that brain has famous and all too real appetite but it strikes me therefore as worse that he closes it all down when he approaches a peak to indulge in ‘god’-whistling instead. Such vacuity is the opposite Continue reading “on appetite and a mystic chef, george steiner essays, new statesman 1995”

on admiring a writer like marguerite young

I’m posting this as a note; part a/ so that I have to come back with a part b/…

She flitted through my mind, old interviews and some of my own early wonderment [triggered by a 1989 issue of the often useful Review of Contemporary Fiction, in this case one dedicated to MY, Kathy Acker and Christine Brooke-Rose] at her and her work, never quite resolved [mostly available in Dalkey Archive Press].

If the words US, 20th C. and utopian spirit don’t work in your mind -cults don’t count- then you ought to get to know MY…

That edition of RCF’s interview is here; “…abandoned utopias. I would say my theme has always been paradise lost, always the lost cause, the lost leader, the lost utopia.”

For now then, a fan page of photographs [why not?!] here.

And a Paris Review interview from 1977 is here

New editions of her books available in the UK today start at 0.1p… and $0.40 in the US; an unequivocally good sign!

11.09. one. from cage to antin, cabinet to david

I realised I’d been taking John Cage for granted after finding him in many of the places I looked, listened or wandered in zero nine.

I stacked up his books, enjoyed again his critical acuity and the playful invention in much else, got hold of a copy of A Year From Monday [the volume which followed Silence] in which he mentions the collective building of the Hon at the Moderna Museet [which features in 1039 seconds with brief significance], clocked images of him with Merce Cunningham in the Moderna’s current re-hang, remembered Michael Clark resisting my description of him as an artist [mc is…], saying ‘Merce is an artist’ with affectingly humble respect [but blew it again with the triumphant ‘come, been and gone‘ during November 09], discovered that Tacita Dean filmed Cunningham just before he died for a piece called Stillness, listened again to Cage on Thoreau, etcetera, then was invited to a ‘talk’ by David Antin at Cabinet Gallery one November evening -his first ever performance in London…

Antin talks as he thinks as he performs as he writes as it were, the results being transcribed and published with unconventional conventionality. He’s a living link to the Great Days of an actual avant-garde, of Fluxists, Floating Bears, Something Else Press, a broader deeper bohemia strong enough to exist in opposition to/independent from a ‘culture’ identical with the market and a ‘doing what works’ establishment with its insulating self-congratulation and bottomless complacency.

Antin’s ‘talk’ was fascinating to witness; he ‘strolled’ through it determinedly, digressions cutting back and looping around, enacting a substantial argument for a particular kind of opening out; committed outwards movement, always. I was surprised by his unself-conscious use of the phrase ‘avant-garde writing/poetry’, the way he didn’t play to type -even if context is a great refresher. His London ‘talk’ would read well I think and Cabinet are hoping to be able to publish it. A large collection of his work is forthcoming from University of Chicago Press.

An earlier selection of some texts –i never knew what time it was– is available from University of California Press; here.

Dalkey Archive Press have about half of the interview with Charles Bernstein later published as A Conversation with David Antin [Granary Books 2002], here.

Ubuweb have two short texts as to download here.

There are various audio files of him in recent years out there, but nothing equals presence; catch him if you can.