11 January 2012

Favorite Things 2011: Divya Victor

1. A Young Girl’s Diary, by Anonymous, with a preface by Sigmund Freud. Seltzer, New York, 1921

“It was lovely. Father was awfully Jolly and we pelted one another with pine cones. It was jolly. I threw one at Dora and it hit her on her padded bust. She let out such a yell and I said out loud ‘You couldn’t feel it there.’”

A rarely read, difficult to find diurnal autobiography written by an unnamed girl born into the most privileged of classes. Like a lawnmower over freshly pinked toenails, it runs over what we’ve learned about the emergence of pre/post pubescent longing, the clumsy exit from girlhood, and the warm, sticky pleasures of adolescent narcissism through other diaries like Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank, in English, 1952) and Bonjour Tristesse (Françoise Sagan, 1952).

2. I Am Love (Io sono l'amore), Milan, Luca Guadagnino, 2009.

Because, in the words of Tilda Swinton, it works outside its tongue.

3. Don’t Look Now, Nicolas Roeg, 1973.

Laura Baxter: One of your children has posed a curious question: if the world is round, why is a frozen lake flat?
John Baxter: That's a good question.
Laura Baxter: [flipping through book] Ah, here it says that Lake Ontario curves more than 3 degrees from its Eastern end to its Western end. So frozen water really isn't flat.
John Baxter: Nothing is what it seems.

Because, in the words of user mocpacific, “I was afraid to swallow, to make any noise. The unspeakable was all around me”

4. The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law, Vanessa Place, Other Press, 2010.

“In Dante’s Inferno, one of the damned, a friar, describes how he counseled his Pope on how to betray his enemies, but only after the Pope absolved him of this treachery before he committed it. When a devil came to collect the friar at his death, the devil pointed out that it was impossible to repent and sin concurrently. ‘Perhaps you didn’t reckon I’d be versed in logic.’”

In the case of collective or individual guilt, like the Scream franchise taught us, the call is always coming from inside the house. Or, in the words of my mother, “Don’t make me tell you what you know you won’t want to hear from anyone but yourself.”

5. American Psycho, Brett Easton Ellis, Vintage, 1991

“Once out of the shower and toweled dry, I put the Ralph Lauren boxers back on, I apply the Mousse A Raiser, a shaving cream by Pour Homme, I press a hot towel against my face for two minutes to soften abrasive beard hair. Then I always slather on a moisturizer (to my taste, Clinique) and let it soak in for a minute. You can rinse it off or keep it on and apply a shaving cream over it—preferably with a brush, which softens the beard as it lifts the whiskers— which I’ve found makes removing the hair easier.”

Because, as Amy Taubin, in Sight and Sound, puts it: “With just 5 per cent of the world's population, the US is believed to have about 75 per cent of the world's serial killers.”

6. Mourning Diary, Roland Barthes, published posthumously, translated by the tireless Richard Howard, Hill and Wang, 2010.

When his mother died, Barthes returned home, cut up squares of paper roughly the size of index cards, and wrote once each day on one scrap of paper. This constraint based project, spanning 330 squares and days, overspills its own procedure every time composition falls short of intent—which is, always. In notating a mourning, “I’m trusting myself to the banality that is in me.”

“October 29
How strange: her voice, which I knew so well, and which is said to be the very texture of memory (‘the dear inflection . . .’), I no longer hear. Like a localized deafness . . .

October 29
In the sentence ‘She’s no longer suffering,’ to what, to whom does ‘she’ refer? What does that present tense mean?”

7. The Lazarus Project: Alien Vs. Predator, Joey Yearous Algozin, Troll Thread Press, 2011

“The Alien’s bio-mechanoid body is an intense white light, an orange light, sunlight, blinking blue lights, shafts of light, a portable neon light, ceiling light, first light the next day, twin searchlights, exterior lighting, yellow pools of light, numerous rotating coloured lights dotted around the platform starting to blink on-and-off.”

Because the only thing more arrogant than claiming to bring the dead back to life is doing it over and over and over and over again. Yearous Algozin does what everyone else claims to want to do but is terrified of doing. In his own words: “I used to make poetry, but I stopped. Now, I make pages.”

8. Poems For Baby Trilogy, Holly Melgard, Troll Thread Press, 2011.

Because it does to Vis-Po what the Rubik’s cube does to Rothko. Because Melgard’s ideal audience is post-fetal, like most of us. And because poetry needs to be at least as funny and redundant as geometry.

9. The Collected Tapes of “Criminal case 40/61” or The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, begun in April 1961 in Jerusalem before the Jerusalem District Court, now up on You Tube.

Because it is worth watching how Eichmann adjusted his spectacles and how Hausner created his.

10. Night and Fog, Alain Resnais, 1955.

In the final scene, as the camera pulls away from the camps, the eye pores over a sunny field replete with summer flowers swaying in the breeze, and Auschwitz-Birkenau retreats as the frame takes stock of the “crematorium ruins; twisted wires; broken watchtowers; crumbled chambers; slabs of cracked concrete; abstract figures of stone,” the narrative voice lingers, pointing at us: “Those of us who pretend to believe that all this happened only once, at a certain time and in a certain place, and those who refuse to see, who do not hear the cry to the end of time”

11. Neighbour Procedure, Rachel Zolf, Coach House Books, 2010

In 1937, Adolf Hitler wished for a volkloser Raum—an empty space, a state-free space, or a space without people of a state. It was one of Hitler’s first wishes to resignify geographical space as a purely biopolitical one. He wished for neighborhoods that would allow for people to pass into populations and for populations to pass away into corpses. It is thus that we may admit today that a death camp has no neighbors.

12. Tragodia: Statement of Facts, Argument, and Statement of the Case, Vanessa Place, Blanc Press, 2011

In transcribing, re-appropriating, and performing her own appellate briefs, Place witnesses innumerable testimonies without testifying her own place in them. She continues, carries over, and transfers instances of discourse from other mouths into her own. She speaks in the disguise of being non—pure representative, a zero that is also a vocal O, an open mouth, a sifr, a laughing Medusa who finds nothing hilarious—a witness. The nom de guerre and the nom de plume that pertain to the combative position of an appellate lawyer destroy each other, carrying forward only a signature of a voice into this emptying of the speaking subject in the scene of legal enunciation.

13. The Field, Martin Glaz Serup, Les Figues Press, 2010.

“The field sometimes thinks it’s unhappy in a mild and ordinary way that makes it happy because it thinks that it’s probably perfectly normal, and that makes it happy because it thinks things could be much worse, which makes it afraid because it thinks things could still get much worse, so it tries to think of something else.”

This can be paraphrased as the wonderful failure of Simone de Beauvoir’s wish in Ethics of Ambiguity (1955):

“I should like to be the landscape which I am contemplating, I should like this sky, this quiet water to think themselves within me, that it might be I whom they express in flesh and bone, and I remain at a distance. But it is also by this distance that the sky and the water exist before me. My contemplation is an excruciation only because it is also a joy. I can not appropriate the snow field where I slide. It remains foreign, forbidden, but I take delight in this very effort toward an impossible possession.”

14. Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps, Tzvetan Todorov, Holt, 1997.

Because of unforgettable details such as the culinary diary entry of one Dr. Johann Paul Kremer, surgeon at the Auschwitz Medical Corps, Sep 6, 1942: “Today an excellent Sunday dinner: tomato soup, one half of chicken with potatoes and red cabbage [20 grammes of fat], dessert and magnificent vanilla-crème.”

15. Model Homes 4, Lil Norton, 2011, eds. Marie Buck and Brad Flis

Featuring Vanessa Place, Brian Whitener, Carol Mirakove, Matthew Gagnon, Josef Kaplan, Michael Casey, Diana Hamilton, Gordon Faylor, Sara Wintz, Amy Berkowitz, Brandon Brown, Sean Casey, Chris Sylvester, Brian Ang

Because it interrupts your sentimental armored car ride with a Molotov cocktail and nurses your wounds with some generic brand Himalayan pink salt. And because Buck and Flis have the editorial stamina of wildebeest.

15. P-Queue Journal 8: Document, Buffalo, NY 2011, eds. Joey Yearous Algozin, Holly Melgard.

Featuring David Buuck, CA Conrad, Thom Donovan, Brad Flis, Lewis Freedman, Lawrence Giffin, Josef Kaplan, Ish Klein, Jena Osman, Chris Sylvester, Andrew Topel, Divya Victor, Anna Vitale, David Wolach

Because of its bold departure from and continuation of P-Queue’s magnificent editorial history (Andrew Rippeon, Sarah Campbell). To quote Melgard quoting Acconci: “If, as Vito Acconci says, ‘the function of public art is to de-design,’ then we found design was most active, despite continuity, in its resistance to and withdrawal from assimilation.”

16. The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony, Denise Riley, Stanford, 2000.

“So exiled, I fell for Narcissus.

I had no voice to plead so I'd pursue.

He called ‘I’d die before I'd give myself to you!’

I shrieked ‘I'd give myself to you’ and ran nearer.

If he'd cried ‘I'd rather die before I'd fuck you,’ at least I could have echoed back that ‘Fuck you.’

Sorry—I have to bounce back each last phrase. Half petrified, I voice dead gorges."

17. Item Numbers, Shiv Kotecha, Gauss PDF, 2011

This poetry is a much ado about the song and dance of infinite difference and repetition in the biggest industry of desire located in the biggest democracy on Earth: Bollywood dance sequences or “item numbers.” Because to be an object looking at a subject is way better than being a subject looking at an object. Way, way, better. Except not

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