Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Berfrois' intellectual jousting in the Republic of Letters

…fortnightly—featuring Hashtaglingerz, Summer in France, The Bard of Borundpoetry, essays, images, videos, links & more

Berfrois Newsletter Issue 37

Bobbi Lurie: Hashtaglingerz
The stoicism of the stars
To love anyone is a miracle. It is the state of feeling the other is you. It is a truth allowing one to face The Truth. It is a joke. It makes one laugh. It makes one cry. Because it is simple and the mind complicates the simplicity of what it means to stop invented meanings, which only cause us to avoid living. I am speaking of love without an object. I am telling you, The Comments Section, that all the love you will ever feel for anyone or anything is in you now.   More
An addendum to Love Dog
I spoke too soon. I am always afraid of speaking too soon, clocking my joy too prematurely and jinxing it. And yet, I also want to be grateful for the joy I've had. A joy that crashed tonight. After camping in the woods for three days by himself, G shows up at an exhibition at L's barn for the woman L is seeing, a photographer. He looks shaken. His face is grave. I listen. He is emotional. I well up.   More

Vijaydan Detha (1 September 1926 – 10 November 2013)
A master of the short story form, Detha often mentioned that his thought was inspired by Anton Chekov, Rabindranath Tagore and his most beloved Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. However, his style belonged most truly to his surroundings, his rural environment and to the inherited lyric of his forefathers. Detha's writing was of dust-laden bookshelves and thirsty throats on a summer afternoon in the small village of Borunda, where he had been living for half a century.   More

A secret without content
It struck me that many literary works from antiquity to the present display a pattern similar to the one that I detected in my nighttime thrillers. This might be termed a paradigm of conspiracy. It involves in every case a quest inspired by some arcane lore, whether good or evil, possessed by a secret group. We peruse these works not simply for the adrenalin kick of the adventures they contain, but also with the hope that we will gain insight into the secret of the conspiracy. But the point of all these works is not so much the secret itself as the adventure of the quest.

Fragmentation, consistency, unity
When reading Simmel's work and his many short essays on various aspects of social life, what we find is a diverse thinker who is interested in capturing the underlying social dynamics of our everyday lives. The consequence of Simmel's wide ranging interests and his pursuit of often small-scale phenomena is the sense that his work is quite disjointed. He is often not seen to have been pursuing a grand and overarching intellectual project. Henry Schermer and David Jary argue the opposite, however. Their new book suggests that a consistent 'general method' lay behind Simmel's output.   More

Ways of Seeing, redux
I put the fame of Ways of Seeing down as one of life's minor mysteries; surely, it must have been felicitously timed. Now, however, the original is available on YouTube, and finally I understand. For once, the book is a lesser manifestation than the film. John Berger's clothing and hair may be sorely out of fashion, but his voice and the expressivity of his face would suit any decade. Eminently thoughtful without being the least pretentious or sententious, deeply subversive without being even a touch hysterical or desperate, he offers choice company. Life, which he likes to remind us provides the ultimate source of value, rarely offers a companion of such astuteness and intellectual honesty.   More

An interview by Daniel Tutt
We are constantly bombarded with commands that we enjoy ourselves, and we feel guilty not for our sins but for our failures to enjoy as much as others seemingly do. Psychoanalysis shows us that this command to enjoy is integral to how authority operates and that obedience can feel transgressive. This is the key to the power of contemporary authority. We obey but never experience ourselves as obedient. The task today is to see that we aren't being revolutionaries so that we can be.   More

Wearing silly wigs
I wasn't going to write this letter, but today i've been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in HTMLGIANT your bathtub reading video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares to Showers … So this is what I need to say … And it is said in the spirit of fatherliness and with love. I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way 'cool' to be wearing silly wigs in your twitter pics.   More

Karl Marx in Japan
The Japanese Communist Party was formed in 1922 and today boasts one of the largest memberships of any international communist party. However, during a multi-generational era of socio-political and economic upheaval caused first by the Meiji Restoration and then by the depression of the 1930s, Japan lurched not left but right, towards extreme nationalism. The JCP now advocates change from within the capitalist system and rejects social revolution, the very essence of Marxism. How can we account for the failure of a truly revolutionary communist movement to develop?   More

A tale of two fandoms
The tragedy for Anonymous is not an absence of an object as a metaphor for their cause, but the fatal erasure of the object's difference. If anyone or anything can be Anonymous, then Anonymous ceases to make any difference. The only recourse we have is the otherness of the object, for it is when the object is set apart that it can touch and arrest us in its difference. Such is the tale of the pop idol, for she reveals herself to us within a mediated space, a space that is as close to her as it is to us. Now, we see that Tiffany was smiling for her adoring fans, but for whom does Guy Fawkes smile?   More
Sometimes with poetry you can know too much about what the poet thinks. After she publishes a poem, it's not hers anymore, you know? Though that doesn't stop some of the poets - or their loving anthologists - from trying to control how you construe the poems (or at least prevent egregious misconstruals) via scholarly footnotes. But do poets always know the truth of what they've wrought?   More

The Poet uses books to think with. They don't have to be open. I'll walk into a room and see him standing in front of the shelves, looking intently at them. I've long since stopped asking what he's looking for. He isn't looking for, usually, he's looking at. It helps him think about…the cultural history of bombing…the mediocrity of contemporary fiction…Wyndham Lewis…a poem he's writing…a supervision he's planning.   More

Never to have had a brilliant dream, and never to have had any delirium, would be to live too much in the day; and hardly less would be the loss of him who had not exercised his waking thought under the influence of the hours claimed by dreams. And as to choosing between day and night, or guessing whether the state of day or dark is the truer and the more natural, he would be rash who should make too sure.   More

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