Back to work yesterday. Received my mom’s holiday/Festivus/birthday present, a little 3 lb. laptop (Asus 1000H), perfect for writing my memoirs. I named it “Momotaro.” On the whole, spent too much time with/on/thinking about computers yesterday.
Once back home, made a beef stew. I’m tired of eating beef, it seems so wrong, but I do it for health reasons. The stew at any rate was good, wine-y.
Got on Gary’s case for posting that I had given my best reading ever without actually supporting that assertion with details. A few people said that, which only made me think, Jewishly, “so what was so WRONG with the other ones?”
Very interesting discussion on the Flarflist on “Flarf and Embarrassment.” Rodney had written that he felt “embarrassment” was more germane to flarf than “offensiveness.” I agreed and responded:
As an artist, I am not at all interested in offending anyone, but I am very interested in embarrassing myself.
I suppose I think of Swoon (which might be construed as a kind of warmup exercise to flarf) as an exercise in pushing the limits of embarrassment. Especially if embarrassment is thought of as a kind of unveiling.
Last night Rick Snyder read many wonderful poems, but my favorite was the one in which nearly every line sounded something like this: “stricken reference to Valery’s injunction here” – that is, each line was a testament to the writer’s embarrassment at having written it. Without actually embarrassing himself, he was laying bare the device (i.e., embarrassing!) of embarrassment. He said later it was the poem he was most nervous about reading, although I loved it. I felt the same way about the poem I read for Emma, which I thought was lugubrious and not very formally intricate and thus sort of embarrassing, but that was the one most people commented on afterwards.
Also thinking of a line from my Navrang benshi, sung to the red-faced Sandhya: “everything embarrasses me/ everything embarrasses me”…
The principal weakness, it occurs to me, of much of 80s langpo, [or any art that valorizes Pure Form, for that matter] was its unwillingness to embarrass itself.
So what is it about embarrassment that is desirable, I wonder? A kind of trembling? Does it “make us [ugh] more human [ugh]”? I’m afraid the answer would have to be yes.
The key question: are there superior and inferior modes of embarrassment? or do I mean… are there works that succeed because they are embarrassing and others that fail for precisely the same reason (OK, I don’t like “succeed” and “fail” as art terms, but can’t think of better words at the moment: maybe “interesting” and “uninteresting”)? And how do we describe the difference?
Anyway, if I vampire on other people’s embarrassment to make flarf, it’s only because I identify with it so much.
Ben went on to quote from the seemingly wonderful book Keats and Embarrassment, which I promptly ordered from Amazon.
p.s. “Take this day off from heavy-duty thinking,” my horoscope says. Uh, when do I do “heavy-duty thinking”?