Thursday, May 29, 2003

From reader to writer to purveyor—or should I say panderer? Tomorrow I start work at The Bookery, Ithaca's independent bookstore. I've worked for chain bookstores before and I look forward to being able to ring up a purchase without trying to foist one of those damned "preferred reader" cards off on the customers. Also I can call it the register, or even the till, and not the "cash-wrap." The chains insist on calling their registers that, which always baffled me—it makes me think of shifty-looking people wrapping up fat bundles of cash in tissue paper and putting them in a briefcase with handcuffs on it. I'm doing it for the discount and to give my summer a little structure. The more time I have, the less I get done.

Just spent the whole day putting together a little anthology of favorite poems for a friend's birthday, sidetracking me from my main priority right now, which is a reworking of my manuscript Fourier Series to make it more Fourieresque. There's a great webpage on Fourier here, if you're interested in learning more about him. He was an anti-semitic nutjob and yet I find the largeness, the ambition, and the sheer arithmetic looniness of his thought utterly compelling. He's an interesting one to pair with the Marquis de Sade, as Barthes does in his great book Sade/Fourier/Loyola—Barthes calls them logothetes, the inventors of new languages. Fourier's mania, or genius, was to claim an irrevocable link between the human world and the world of nature: he wrote, "the features of the animal, organic and material movements must represent the play of the human passions in the social order." The liberation of human passions would not only create a utopian society capable of unlimited productivity; it would also liberate corresponding forces in nature itself, causing a new round of creation to begin. From this new Creation, hostile beasts like lions and rats would be replaced by benevolent anti-lions and anti-rats; the Northern Lights would coagulate into a "crown" that would heat the arctic regions of the earth and make them viable for agriculture; and the salty sea itself would turn to a sweet beverage resembling lemonade.

Fourier decided that there were twelve passions (he was a great one for making lists: 16 kinds of workers' despair, 9 types of bankruptcy, 49 kinds of cuckold, etc.), as you can learn on that website: my book has a section for each of them, plus one for the 13th passion, "unityism" (the oceanic feeling of oneness between oneself and the multitude of mankind). I'd love to put some pieces of it up here but the arrangement of the poems is in quadrants (one to three lyrics arranged with what looks like a giant + sign) and I have no idea how to reproduce it in HTML. Jim Behrle took a couple for can we have our ball back? a while ago but they're not up yet. One did appear in the most recent New American Writing and I think there will be another one in next year's VOLT, but that's a long ways off. It's the most blatantly experimental thing I've ever attempted and I would love to publish it next—as different from Selah as it could be.

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