A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality

July 17, 2017

Do you know the work of the Montreal writer Jacob Wren?

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Luther Konadu: So knowing that as a writer, how do you carry on and continue to sustain a writing career knowing that maybe no one might read your book?

Chris Kraus: Well, it’s not one. You can find people to read your book, even if it doesn’t have that corporate media support. Do you know the work of the Montreal writer Jacob Wren?

Luther Konadu: No, I don’t.

Chris Kraus: He hasn’t been commercially published, but he’s prolific, persistent and important, and he puts his work online all the time. He’s built a tremendous following in the last ten years. He started at a point where no one knew his work, and now pretty much everyone in the alt-lit world, where the real readers are, knows his work and takes it seriously. And touring helps. When I Love Dick came out in 1997, I toured a lot. Maybe fifteen people would show up, and then they’d talk about it to their friends. And often, a book will mean more when people discover it themselves than when they order it on Amazon because it’s all over the internet.


[From In Conversation With Chris Kraus.]

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Dr. Ahmet Yusuf Quote

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The world experienced a revolution in 1492. In 1498 it experienced another. The results were hardly beneficial but they have come to be remembered as revolutions. Let us accept them and assess them as such. In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. In 1498 Vasco da Gama was exploring Africa and passing behind Africa was able to reach India. Following these two encounters a period of savagery and oppression begins on earth. The wealth of the locals whose land had been “discovered” were seized. The foundations of the capitalist nation-state were being laid in the flows of Mercantilism. The nation-state, whose foundations had been laid in this period, became much stronger during its classical period in the 19th Century. The savagery which emerged with this development was of its own creation. It also had the name of capitalism. It looked upon life, communities, societies, and nature only with the eyes of the colonialist. Externally it developed through oppression, colonialism, and pillage, while internally it did not recognize the right to life of the poorer classes. Representatives of the church also played a role in these developments, for example Robert Malthus. Economic developments in the world grew along this first course.

The second course began with the publication of the Communist Manifesto developed under the leadership of Karl Marx in the 1840s. Existing savagery and oppression in the market was to be taken from the capitalists and transferred to the state. The second course developed in opposition to the first. The 20th Century saw a little development in this direction but it was not able to produce a solution for the social or economic problems of humanity. Nor could it solve the problems of freedom for communities, peoples and cultures. Communities were only considered with respect to economic factors. For that reason the problems of freedom, equality, and justice could not be solved. This [second] course was shaped by Marxist-Leninism. It became concrete in the guise of the Soviet Union. It saw some development. However it was also organized as a dictatorship of the Proletariat. Capitalist countries closed themselves against it in fear. They were seized with fear that communism would spread from Eastern to Western Europe. For this reason certain social and economic schools of thought founded in the West came out with a third course. This was a new course. Its goal was to obstruct the spread of Communism in Europe, to prevent it. They planned to accomplish this by returning some of the rights seized from the poor and from workers during capitalism’s development. This third course became stronger through the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This course created a beautiful life for the workers of Germany, France and Switzerland. Workers became the bearers of other rights than just labor rights. In the Scandinavian countries workers achieved this at a very high level.

In 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union, this course disappeared. Capitalism took back the rights which it had recognized for workers out of fear of communism one by one.

The course set out by the Kurdish People’s leader Abdullah Öcalan emerges in the 1990s after this collapse. It strengthened as it went forward. For that reason I don’t think that calling it a third course quite fits. In fact it sounds as if it is an attempt to identify it with the third course that has collapsed and is disappearing [in the West.] This course, whose foundations were laid in the 1990s, became laid in more general terms after 1999. The details became clearer after 2007. Because in these years a crisis of capitalism was emerging. In my opinion this course is a fourth course as regards the economy. Not the third course. It is a course that rests on society, social development, life, and the organization of life. It is a course which comments on and evaluates Capitalism, Marxism, and the opinions of Rosa Luxembourg. It is a course which is against a monopoly economy. It is a course that will protect the existence of communities in so much that it is a course that pays attention to ecology to the upmost. It is a course that will find a solution for the social and economic problems of the people of the region and the world. Of course for this course to develop it must be well-presented. We cannot keep it to ourselves. We need to familiarize [others] with it through practical steps.

- Dr. Ahmet Yusuf, from A Small Key Can Open A Large Door



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July 10, 2017

Barbara Browning Quote

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Maybe you're thinking I should take everything my friend Lun-Yu tells me with a grain of salt. She also told me that day one of her favorite psychoanalytic theorists was Wilfred Bion. I'd never read Bion before, so after she left I read a bit about him, and I found online the complete text of a seminar he held in Paris in 1978. The beginning of this seminar is very interesting. At least it was to me. Bion says that he wants his listeners to imagine a scenario: they're seeing a new patient, a twenty-five-year-old man who comes in complaining of some dissatisfaction in his family life. Bion says he's not sure what family the man is referring to, and asks his age, which the man gives as forty-five. Bion is confused. He just said the man was twenty-five, and then he notices that the patient has wrinkles, and appears in his sixties. He asks his listeners to consider this confusing state of affairs and to determine whether they would, under the circumstances, take on such a patient.

He says the question is much like the question of what you would do if you walked into a bookstore, picked up a book, and read the scenario he just described. He asks you if you would continue reading this book. Then he says, imagine it's not a book, but a piece of music. Or a building you're in, and you see the way the light falls, you see the colors coming through the window. Do you want to think about the window some more?

I imagine these questions were somewhat perplexing to some of the participants in the seminar. At one point in the transcript, someone in the audience makes an "inaudible reference" to "psychotic experience." Bion calls that a very "cerebral" question, not a practical one to the analyst. He says that analysts shouldn't be blinded by labels like manic-depressive or schizophrenic. Rather, they should be asking themselves what kinds of artists they are and whether there's an interesting spark that occurs with a potential analysand that might lead to something productive in the consulting room or, as he puts it, the "atelier." Somebody asks what an analyst is supposed to do if he's not really the artistic type, and Bion says that if that's the case, then the person's in the wrong line of work. In fact, he says, he doesn't even really know what would be the right line of work, since a person needs to be an artist in everyday life.

The he throws out the term artist, which has obviously become meaningless. The point is, he tells them, that reducing things to "scientific" diagnoses or narrow definitions is really the death of things. "You will have to be able to have a chance of feeling that the interpretation you give is a beautiful one, or that you get a beautiful response from the patient. This aesthetic element of beauty makes a very difficult situation tolerable."

Obviously I loved that. I wrote Lun-Yu and told her about the seminar I'd read and how it had moved me. She said, "Oh, that's the 'bad' Bion, from his mystical phase. That's also the part I love best." Apparently sometimes he wasn't quite so wacky.

- Barbara Browning, The Gift



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May 2, 2017

J. C. Sutcliffe review of Rich and Poor in The Times Literary Supplement

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Jacob Wren explores the boundaries and overlap between art, politics and fiction in his writing and filmmaking. On his blog, “A Radical Cut in the Texture of Reality”, he returns repeatedly to ideas of activism and, in particular, ending, subverting or re­organizing capitalism. But Wren never fully inhabits a fixed ideology: wherever his work takes a position, it also questions that position.

Wren’s previous works include Polyamorous Love Song (2014), a multi-narrative novel about resistance and identity in both artistic and political movements, and the fragmentary Families Are Formed Through Copulation (2007), by turns paranoid and cynical. His new novel, Rich and Poor, is perhaps more accessible than his earlier fiction, being told through a straightforward alternating narrative, but is equally replete with ideas. As the title suggests, one narrative follows the story of a poor person, a former concert pianist and current restaurant dishwasher who decides to kill the CEO of a massive corporation; the other narrative is the perspective of this billionaire CEO. In the first half, the poor character fails to kill the CEO despite having got a job with his company for this precise purpose. In the second half, he tries a rather different approach.

There are subtle echoes of each story in the other – confirmations, elaborations and contradictions. Both extreme positions are tempered by each character having experienced the other’s situation to a degree, and by their ability to understand, although not agree with, the other’s position. The rich man is presented not as some kind of unknowable, sociopathic enemy but as someone who makes compromises and accommodations like everyone else:
You drive your car knowing it is disastrous for the environment, and yet continue to drive anyway... You think it is terrible but not so terrible you are ready to drop everything and take action. Myself, I would prefer to run my business without any recourse to violence, but also, I have to admit, I don’t feel so strongly about it. And if I were to do so, it would be impossible to remain competitive. Profits would suffer.
In Rich and Poor form and content are an intriguing blend. It might seem odd to praise a writer known for surrealism and experimental forms for creating complex, believable characters, but Wren’s ability to do this allows him more leeway with some slightly improbable plot twists and a formal style that packs in a great deal of political argument. This is writing that campaigns against complacency while avoiding self-righteousness. Like Wren’s other work, this book is essentially not so much a call to action as a call for the reader to step away from apathy and to take seriously, however briefly, the most radical of positions.




[You can also find the above review here and here.]



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April 11, 2017

Permaculture

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Last night I went to see the documentary Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective and for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I really felt: this is a solution. I knew about permaculture before, and always thought highly of it, but watching the documentary it suddenly seemed to be so much more. As a way of thinking, a way of understanding our lives, a way of regenerating soil, earth, land, ecosystems and everything that lives on them, a way of producing healthy food and maximizing clear water, it seems to me to create endless possibilities and therefore to effectively replace despair. I don't know particularly what to do with this information. I don't think I'm ever going to get involved with farming, so for the time being my only thought is to learn more about permaculture and encourage others to do the same.



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March 13, 2017

Book

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I feel a perverse desire to try to write a book that every single person will hate. (I believe it has something to do with feeling imagined reader expectations before one even starts writing.)



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March 9, 2017

Ten years

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Facebook has just informed me that I joined Facebook exactly ten years ago.



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January 30, 2017

“neoliberalism” and “global warming”

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“Neoliberalism” and “global warming” are two terms specifically designed to make things that are absolutely horrible sound not that bad. (“Turbo-capitalism” and “climate chaos” are, in my humble opinion, two of the more accurate terms.)



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January 26, 2017

Alicia Garza Quote

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Intersectional politics (and practice) is not just theoretical – it is the lifeline upon which we depend for our collective liberation.

- Alicia Garza



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January 15, 2017

A few actual dreams from the past six years

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In my dream last night, the last thing I remember saying just before I woke up was: ‘Alain Badiou says the most nihilistic song is All You Need Is Love.’



In my dream last night, the name of my band was: This Unstable Honorarium.



Last night in my dream I googled: how do you fight capitalism.



Last night I dreamt I was an arsonist: as I headed to set one last fire, I got a text saying it’s a trap, turned around, and decided to go see art instead.



Last night I dreamt the telescope was invented by aliens, who sent it to us telepathically, to put us on the wrong track.



Last night I dreamed I had writer’s block.



In my dream last night I read an essay that began: “We’re sick of reading books that are only men writing about their loneliness. We want to read books by women writing about their ________.” But I couldn’t make out the last word. (I had a sense that the last word might be rage.)



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January 13, 2017

A politics of caring for one another.

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"And then I wonder if the way to fight requires some extremely long term thinking, to lay the mental groundwork for changes that might very well bear no fruit for many generations to come. Because, it seems to me, what we need now is a completely different way of thinking about what it means to live in the present and work towards the future. A different way of thinking time and accumulation. A present and future with breakthroughs but without linear progress, with commerce but without endless growth, with politics but against winner-take-all. A politics of caring for one another. I remember an indigenous saying I heard once: there is enough for everyone but there’s not enough for everyone’s greed. All of these goals seem so far in the future that I’m not even sure where to begin."

- Jacob Wren, The Year 2017: A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations



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