I’ve mentioned several times that I have the fantasy of retreating to a cabin somewhere, watching an egregious amount of horror films (though I wonder how many one has to watch as I’ve already seen around 200), and writing a book called Thinking Horror (named after the fourth issue of Collapse which has had such a huge impact on my thinking on horror. While I want to study horror in a more abstract sense, in terms of philosophical frameworks (horror in terms of its ontology, epistemology etc) I do not want to disregard so much of the work that has been done on the social aspects of horror (quite a bit of which has had a feminist focus). But I do not think that these are diametrically opposed: in fact I think addressing what horror is (outside of the cultural constraints) can allow it to be employed in ways which move beyond them (as long as the cultural problems with the original films is not forgotten). It’s tempting to use Hegelian language here, to suspend the cultural baggage of horror in order to overcome it (not to forget it or pretend it was never there). In fact, the very form of horror (which so often relies upon an initial trauma) allows for this: the formative horror of the killer (here I am limiting myself to slasher films) provides the back story for the film.

Ben Woodard
From Last Girl to First Woman: Blood, Psychadelics, and Pink Dresses

a threatening warning

September 4, 2017

The woman who eschews femininity, who is content with her natural shape and size and smell, who is impatient with the lengthy rituals of femininity, is condemned by both sexes. To women, she is an uncomfortable reminder of the extent to which they have abandoned themselves to the demands of men. To men, she is a threatening warning that their domination is not total and that women still have the power to regain themselves.

Anne Summers
Damned Whores and God’s Police

go back to school and think

September 3, 2017

We must do away with the notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery…So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

Buckminster Fuller
Interview with Elizabeth Barlow
New York Magazine 30th March 1970

secret of the whole world

September 1, 2017

Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front.

G. K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday

Snakes hold a place of importance in folklore and mythology from around the world. A snake’s ability to shed its skin has made it a symbol of immortality in stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. This also may be the reason that snakes appear as deities or representations of rebirth or the return to youth in stories from many cultures.

Snakes as Symbols

Images of intertwined snakes symbolized healing and fertility in ancient Babylon. One of the oldest mystical symbols in the world is the Ouroboros, literally “tail-devourer,” which dates to ancient Egypt. The Ouroboros is the symbol of perfection, the endless cycle of being. It usually is pictured as a serpent with its tail in its mouth, forming a perfect circle. The Greek god of medicine, Asclepios, is depicted holding a caduceus, which is a staff with two intertwined serpents coiled around it. According to the myth, he discovered medicine by watching a snake use herbs to heal or, in some versions, to resurrect another snake. Since the sixteenth century, the caduceus has been a symbol for various medical organizations.

Snakes as Symbols of Divinity

Snakes appear as deities in many ancient cultures. The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the feathered, or plumed, serpent, whose Mayan counterpart to Quetzalcoatl is Kulkulcan, is a powerful god of civilization, credited with providing corn, the arts, and science to humankind. Ancient Egyptians worshipped Renenutet, a cobra goddess associated with fertility and the protection of children and the pharaoh. The Egyptians also idolized Nehebkau, a snake deity that guarded the entrance to the underworld, protected the pharaoh after death, and travelled with the sun god, Re, during his nightly journey through the underworld. In Australian aboriginal culture, Wollunqua is the Rainbow Snake, a giant snake connected with the rainbow as well as with Creation itself. Eingana is an aboriginal snake goddess and mother goddess who made the land, the water, and all living things. In Hindu mythology, nagas are a race of demigod serpent-people that are half human and half snake. Some African cultures look upon rock pythons as sacred and consider the killing of one to be a serious crime.

Snakes as Symbols of Evil

In the Old Testament, a serpent tempted Eve to taste the forbidden fruit. In Greek mythology, one of the god Apollo’s earliest deeds was the slaying of the deadly serpent Python. The goddess Hera, who hated the infant Hercules, sent two serpents to destroy him in his cradle, but Hercules triumphed, strangling them. Later, Hercules slew the Hydra, a terrible serpent with nine heads.

Josepha Sherman (editor)
Storytelling: An encyclopaedia of mythology and folklore


I deserve to be mocked

August 12, 2017

Making a living by my writing? No! I have a job, and the writing I do is a sideline, a hobby. I use this belittling word on purpose. My literary endeavours bring in no more than pocket money… In some ways, I deserve to be mocked, not because I carry on writing literature without understand its posthumousness, but because I go on regardless of the very real material proof of its posthumousness!

There is something glorious about Kafka’s night-time writing in his room in his parents’ flat. Something wonderful about his obscurity, about the fact that he published so little when his friends published so much. We can read his diaries and letters and think: there’s a man of integrity! That’s what it means, really means, to be a writer! But our impression is dependent on Kafka’s eventual success, and on a culture, his culture, where there was a potential audience for his work all along.

Lars Lyer
Interview in Full Stop
6th January 2012

erotic device

August 6, 2017

Writing is an erotic device. The imaginary gaze of the gentle reader has no function other than to give the word a new and strange consistency. The reader is not an end; he is a means, an instrument that doubles the pleasure, in short a voyeur despite himself.

Jean Paul Sartre
Introduction to Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers

It was while writing a Diary that I discovered how to capture the living moments. Keeping a Diary all my life helped me to discover some basic elements essential to the vitality of writing…

Of these the most important is naturalness and spontaneity. These elements sprung, I observed, from my freedom of selection: in the Diary I only wrote of what interested me genuinely, what I felt most strongly at the moment, and I found this fervour, this enthusiasm produced a vividness which often withered in the formal work. Improvisation, free association, obedience to mood, impulse, bought forth countless images, portraits, descriptions, impressionistic sketches, symphonic experiments, from which I could dip at any time for material…

The Diary, creating a vast tapestry, a web, exposing constantly the relation between past and present, weaving meticulously the invisible interaction, noting the repetitions of themes, developed in the sense of the totality of personality, this tale without beginning or end which encloses all things, and relates all things, as a strong antidote to the unrelatedness, incoherence and disintegration of the modern man. I could follow the inevitable pattern and obtain a large, panoramic view of character.

Anaïs Nin
On Writing

misfortune of poets

August 3, 2017

The poet Stephen Dobyns, who is also the novelist Stephen Dobyns, once remarked with just irritation that the narrative, as a poetic strategy, is usually misread, or not taken for what in his opinion it is: a metaphor. As though when the poet couldn’t think of anything interesting, he told a story.

Like Homer. Like the Bible.

Contemporary critics prefer, it appears, the static/rhapsodic, in which the translation of event to art is more literal: what is event in the world becomes, in the poem, luminous image. In fact, narrative is also transformation and recreation, and the use of stories managed in more ways, to more ends, than one. In the old battle to determine the greater form (a subject in itself) poet critics, eschewing the story, seem, like the Puritan fathers, to eschew entertainment, as though having a good time couldn’t happen in the presence of sublime art. But the impulse to use narrative informs the work of some of our best (and certainly most original) poets. Dobyns, obviously, but also, in a quite different way, Robert Pinsky.

It is a standard misfortune of poets (and artists in general) that their work continues to be read according to whatever impressions or verdicts attended its debut. In consequence Robert Pinsky is often regarded as a poet of extensive dispassionate curiosity and wide learning, ethical by disposition, rational in bias, a maker of grids and systems, an organizer – the opposite of the fiery prophetic, the poet claimed by, overtaken by, emotion – and, in his calm, somehow disguised or withholding. Even when, as now, he is regularly and perceptively admired, he tends to be admired for his masterful interweavings of public and private, for his formal brilliance, for the extraordinary variety of his gifts (even passionately reverential notices sometimes digress with odd eagerness into Pinsky’s work as a translator, his explorations of high-tech forms like computer games).

It is difficult to account exactly for the tone of this approbation. Pinsky is neither a poet of lyric compression nor a rhapsodist – the two forms to which readers habitually ascribe warmth, or intense feeling. And readers are, often, genuinely overwhelmed by the breadth of his erudition. But neither that erudition nor the poems’ virtuosity completely explains the curious reticences and demurrals of even his most impassioned reviewers. It has sometimes seemed to me that he is read as though he were a cultural historian, in whose mind individual agony and enterprise are subsumed into, or emblematic of, panoramic history. Readers are, I suppose, distracted by Pinsky’s considerable memory, his grasp of (and fascination with) data. But they mistake, I believe, the background for the foreground.

Story Tellers
PN Review 117 Volume 24 Number 1, September – October 1997

Reflections, echoes, reverberating back and back to infinity: I have discovered the pleasure of having a long past behind me. I have not the leisure to tell it over to myself, but often, quite unexpectedly, I catch sight of it, a background to the diaphanous present; a background that gives it its colour and its light, just as rocks or sand show through the shifting brilliance of the sea. Once I used to cherish schemes and promises for the future; now my feelings and my joys are smoothed and softened with the shadowy velvet of time past.

Simone de Beauvoir
The Woman Destroyed
transl. Patrick O’Brian