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  • "...academic math..."

    Beginning with this quote: " is a piece that I see as written outside the present industry of academia. I don't believe there's a vocabulary yet that can adequately address what's going on. That kind of academic math doesn't exist now." I'd like to start an investigation into what the Hell he means by this.

    I really know very little about "the industry of academia" so I'm probably the least qualified person on the board to bring this up. But whatever.

    In contrast to of Leaves, as you can see in the concordance, says nothing about s or dwelling places of any kind, nothing about parents, nothing about religions, and especially not the word "or", which I take to mean nothing about binary oppositions.

    So I was just wondering if these were the issues with which academia is obsessed; from what little I know about literary criticism, a good deal of it seems to be concerned with, well, everything in the concordance. Rather than setting itself in opposition to the critical paradigms, however -- which of Leaves seemed to do with its extive lists that apophatically defined what the /book wasn't -- seems to gleefully ignore everything that occupies the realm of literary criticism, except for the the mirrored references in the concordance.

    Even as it seems to ignore certain issues, however, seeks to invert them; the red and blue of of Leaves rotate 180 degrees on the color wheel to become the green and gold of the O's. The concordance being printed backwards seems to indicate that we are on the other side of the looking glass when we enter the world of .

    of Leaves was obsessed with darkness, but Mark has claimed that, in , there is not even any light (the concordance lists every color of the rainbow); the book seems to reflect neither darkness nor its opposite.

    I'm wondering if it was Mark's intention for to occupy, or even be responsible for, the 'gaps' -- the lacunae in certain chapters of of Leaves, the 17 missing pages, and by extension everything academia isn't blanketing in criticism -- or if something else entirely is going on.

    I don't know.

  • #2
    You've asked an interesting question here. For what it's worth, I'll tell you what I thought when I read that.

    Within its world, HoL is (or aspires to be), among other things, a work of scholarship; it's winking and nodding in the direction of not just literary criticism but the sciences, philosophy, history, etc. But, as I sort of say toward the bottom of this post, OR isn't interested in playing games with textual authority. It creates its own world; whatever truth we find in it will be on its own terms and not in appeals to Other Authorities.

    Another possibility:
    MZD is not shy about saying within range of microphones that no novel has been written that's quite like this one. Thus, it's not easily pigeon-holed or schematized (beyond very-broadly identifying it as a picaresque). We lit crit types love our pigeon holes.

    Well, maybe. We'll see what others might have to say about this.

    Comment


    • #3
      In light of MZD's quote, this may take some more thought after all. I felt we had pretty much nailed a lot of what was realized in OR, though we may have been skipping over what was attempted for the most part.

      I'm usually uncomfortable when getting into authorial intent. But MZD seems to invite the inquiry - his interviews are taking the form of a gauntlet tossed at the feet of Academia. Fair enough. But if his challenge is for the academy to develop a new mathematics to explain the new form he invents, I believe it's first necessary to establish that it is in fact a new form and not merely a new stylistic approach.

      That is, it's not a new form just because he says it is. Walt Whitman claimed the same--and he was right. Is MZD?

      I'm not concluding anything, just positing.

      Hello?'s comments make a great start. Where to next?
      Last edited by modiFIed; 09-18-2006, 02:25 PM.

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      • #4
        tall order

        Am I the only one who thinks MZD has gotten a little big for his britches? HoL was a revolutionary work, no doubt, and its safe to say that it has changed my life in more ways than one, but when I got OR I must confess to being a little dissapointed.

        But then, there were really only two options when he decided to continue writing:
        1. write a normal book - everyone thinks hes lost his touch
        2. write something insane - cement himself as a one trick dog

        Now I'm not saying that OR is a bad book or anything, but I do think that it has gone a bit over the top. It seems to have sacrificed gripping narrative and ignored the reader entirely to produce something to be thought about more than read. While this is all well and good, and perhaps I'm not his target market, I find it to be just like HoL, with more nonsense and fewer interesting ideas.

        Making statements like "there is no vocabulary that can adequately express this now." and things like that are just his way of putting himself above the academic community, taking some sort of 'I'm a genius look at this book' stance. Like modiFIed said, claiming to have invented a new form doesn't make it so. Only time and the 'academic' canon will tell whether or not MZD's experiments in literature are worth anything.

        Comment


        • #5
          If you had completed three such differently daunting tasks such as HoL and OR and T50YS (from what I've heard), wouldn't you praise yourself, too?

          I don't think he's gone "over the top" - he's gone in a completely different direction than most fiction writers, and even from himself.

          And I wouldn't say that OR has fewer interesting ideas. They are certainly of a different nature, at least in presentation. In my opinion, they are no less valid, just subtler.

          Comment


          • #6
            Aslid,
            I'd actually make the argument that, good as HoL is, it's actually the more deriviative work--what makes it good is the fact that it pushes to their logical conclusions ideas found in the books to which it's indebted. No crime in that: it's difficult to think of a truly great novel that doesn't do that. Granted, while I like OR's story, its central characters don't have the interiority of HoL's characters--but that's because OR's constructedness is more the point here than HoL's architecture. Sam and Hailey, whatever their charms, are actually in service to the novel's various ordering devices.

            One can certainly argue whether that has resulted in "good art"--the reviews are decidedly mixed on that score. But this brings me to Kat's comment:

            And I wouldn't say that OR has fewer interesting ideas. They are certainly of a different nature, at least in presentation. In my opinion, they are no less valid, just subtler.
            This is where the "academic math" part comes in. Again, keeping in mind that "original" is not always equivalent to "good," because lit crit, as hello? says above, feels it is its job, these days, to seek out connections between a given text and the Things of This World, your garden-variety critic is going to struggle a bit with OR--seeing as it so assiduously attempts to create its own world while history whizzes by our heroes like so many barely-read highway signs (or RSS feeds).

            Maybe--just maybe--OR is a kind of literalizing of the principles of Formalism, the idea that the work itself, not theory, biography, etc., should guide our reading of it. There's something in its obsessive orderedness that seems ancient, mythic, as though it's arguing, Despite the chaos of Now, there's an overarching structure that gives form to existence. An anti-postmodernism, or a truly post-postmodernism. I don't know how "subtle" that is, but it's nevertheless true that "academic math" either doesn't have a language for this novel or will have to relearn one it has long since forgotten.

            Comment


            • #7
              Ha ha - a return to formalism would be akin to the return of the first golden crocus in the spring, pushing up through the frosty crust of neo-Marxism, New Historicism, radical Feminism, Post-mosdernism, Post-structuralism, etc.

              I think you have something there. But it would seem to argue for a return to basics, as you mention, rather than a new system of weights and measures.

              Originally posted by John B.
              your garden-variety critic is going to struggle a bit with OR
              Which I think is a salient point here. Most of the criticism we've seen so far appears to be consumer-oriented or amateur. A bit of an irony that, in fact, no academic critics appear to have weighed in on OR just yet.

              Perhaps they're waiting to see which way the wind blows before they risk their careeers on an unpopular analytical tack. Or they're formulating that new math.

              We need our reps from Columbia and Cambridge to weigh in here. Or even Florida State! Gentlemen?
              Last edited by modiFIed; 09-19-2006, 05:11 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                The only mention of OR I've heard around here was the girl in the bookshop who told me she'd been eyeing it from across the room because it had 'a really cool cover'.

                I told her to wait till she'd opened it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Here's my take on it. It's a very generalized one, and not at all based on personal experience (my own experience of academia is confined to dead authors, preferably writing in dead languages). And I'm pretty much repeating a lot of what's already been said by John B. and modi (because I agree with them, as always).

                  The thing is, it seems to me, the register of HoL is essentially parodic. It plays games with genre, with its intertexts, with literary convention, all of which it takes self-consciously 'too far'. In a way it is a kind of writing 'against language', very much in the lineage of all those familiar obsessions of (late) twentieth-century literature: the perceived inadequacies of language, all the epistemological uncertainties those entail, the 'calculated failure' of literature itself. All this is very easy for academics to write about (indeed the text does a reasonably good job of it itself), because these days literary critics are, on the whole, people who don't really like literature that much: they like 'reading against the grain', 'putting pressure on the weak points', 'exposing the mechanisms' and all that stuff; they like 'reading into' but they don't really like, well, just 'reading'.

                  Only Revolutions seems to me to be much more 'at home' with language. Obviously the consonance with modernist ideas – which John B argued very cogently elsewhere – cannot be ignored (all that breaking-down of no-longer viable modes of expression and rebuilding of a vast and complex-structured edifice from the ruins), but this is a book that is not so weighted down under the gravamina of tradition: it wears its influences lightly, and the melodies it modulates to are, so to speak, unheard. I would almost see it as reaching back yet further than that. OK, not quite as high as the Second Sophistic, perhaps, but the exuberance, the at-homeness of a language whose proliferations and ramifications do not of necessity speak of malaise and ruination, suggest to me an analogue in early modern writing. There is a sense that pushing language to its limits (at least where those limits are as well-defined as they are here) need not break it, need not open up those cracks and fissures in the surface of discourse, because language is capable of repairing itself, and it is, in the end, anchored to the world. Words can be imbued with genuine feeling, can be made to speak of real loves and real deaths; or they can skip off on their own and revel in their promiscuity. Either way, here we seem to be moving always with the flow of words, not vainly against it. And that, I think, is good, especially for those of us who believe that literature is best written (and read) by those who love literature, not by those who wish to see it destroyed.
                  Last edited by Raminagrobis; 09-19-2006, 09:14 AM.

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                  • #10
                    true

                    Actually you all make quite good points. While I can't claim to be as well versed in literary theory as the majority of people here (but I'm only 17 I've got time), my point wasn't so much anything to do with revolutionary new forms or anything of that nature.

                    To me, MZD, instead of proclaiming his genius with the comments mentioned above, should have let his work speak for itself. His comments feel a little cocky and conceited - and while producing Hol, OR, ATLOM and all the rest certainly gives him a right to brag, it doesn't mean he has to.

                    But as Raminograbis says "they like 'reading into' but they don't really like, well, just 'reading'."

                    To just 'read' OR is not to my taste, and that is my issue with the book. I find the plot to be less than exhilirating, and for this I blame the intense structure of the book. It is much harder to write an entertaining and gripping novel when you are bound by various parameters (60 words a page per character, dates on the side, the plants submitted by forum members earlier, so on). MZD could have gotten across his ideas without all the fancy formatting and the book would not have suffered. Like I said, it wasn't the typography and mysterious footnotes that got me in HoL, it was the idea of the itself.

                    It is for this reason that, while HoL is my favorite book, Borges takes the cake as favorite author. The is essentially a Borgesian idea, and that is what, to me, is the most interesting.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by aslidsiksoraksi
                      To just 'read' OR is not to my taste, and that is my issue with the book. I find the plot to be less than exhilirating, and for this I blame the intense structure of the book. It is much harder to write an entertaining and gripping novel when you are bound by various parameters (60 words a page per character, dates on the side, the plants submitted by forum members earlier, so on). MZD could have gotten across his ideas without all the fancy formatting and the book would not have suffered. Like I said, it wasn't the typography and mysterious footnotes that got me in HoL, it was the idea of the itself.
                      He addressed the plot thing last night - that certainly, HoL was plot driven, because it was plots on top of plots. He chose to make OR more character driven, because that's what the book is about - Sam and Hailey.
                      He was not bound by those parameters, because he created them.. He wasn't forced to stay within those lines, he chose to.
                      So you liked the idea of the , but not of teenagers who can seemingly do anything, over a VERY large span of time? While,of course, it's your right to not really enjoy the book, or at least not enjoy it as much as HoL. I just really like it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by katatonic
                        He addressed the plot thing last night - that certainly, HoL was plot driven, because it was plots on top of plots. He chose to make OR more character driven, because that's what the book is about - Sam and Hailey.
                        He was not bound by those parameters, because he created them.. He wasn't forced to stay within those lines, he chose to.
                        Kat,

                        This might more properly be a question for a PM, but it has some bearing on this thread's topic, too, I think.

                        That part I've bolded--did MZD himself say OR is "character-driven"? If he did, I will need to think about either his meaning for that term or my own. I just hope it's not much more demanding than long division.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          He may not have said "driven," (I can't be sure) but it was along those lines.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I would tend to agree with the notion, at least at the highest level. It's all about Sam, Hailey, and what happens with/to/between them.

                            There's a third main character though - US.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              They're not well-drawn characters in the traditional sense though, are they? By the very design of the novel, they're not well differentiated individuals whose character guides the narrative with any degree of specificity. This isn't really a novel of psychological realism.

                              But I can see why you might say that the novel is more character-based than plot-based: isn't character basically style anyway?
                              Last edited by Raminagrobis; 09-19-2006, 11:46 AM.

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