Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Mark Wallace Never Commits Himself? You Be The Judge
This post is going to be the first in a series between Joe Safdie and me, each one of us trading off responses, with Joe going first. Please join us by commenting if you're so inclined.
"Last night, while on an occasional and sporadic journey through several blogs I've bookmarked, I came across a post of Kenny Goldsmith's on *Harriet* -- not really a "post," it showed the picture of a dollar bill crumpled up so that the words "United States of America" read "Tits of America" -- the caption underneath it was "Flarf"; underneath that, the same dollar bill was elongated to its normal length -- the caption underneath that was "Conceptual Poetry".
My immediate reaction, after laughing, was to commend its brilliance. But before posting that to Harriet, I saw a comment that had already been posted from Mark Wallace, who's become a friend since we both moved to San Diego four years ago. Mark wrote: "Very relevant, in a way that sits right at the relevant/irrelevant nexus in an irrelevant way that's somehow relevant. And the other way too, of course, and not quite. Show me the money."
I interpreted this post of Mark's as similar to some recent posts he's made on his own blog, as well as comments to others' -- as an indication that he was somehow avoiding taking a stand, one way or the other -- and that this was irritating. So instead of posting to Harriet, I wrote him an e-mail:
Mark . . .
Hi. Too long a time for neighbors.
But listen . . . I now monitor the blogs, including yours, and I can't help but notice that you NEVER seem to take a stand about anything . . . I mean, really! You're obviously a very talented writer, certainly enough to present an engaging paragraph or three, but you never state any *poetic* opinions -- I mean, I take it back, you did urge your readers to vote for Obama, but you never seem to go out on a limb and COMMIT yourself to anything, in any of your blog posts, in any of your comments on other people's blogs -- and for this reader, it gets irritating after awhile. You categorize and classify quite well, but even when presented with an engaging choice like this latest one from Kenny, you just seem to weasel out.
Since I never want to be like Pierre Menard, I'll say that I thought Kenny's post was pretty brilliant, and that I'll take the elongated dollar bill every time . . . "realism" . . . for all the post-structuralist-modernist critiques that can ever be marshaled against it. But for what it's worth (probably not much), I really did want to register this deeply-felt critique -- for me, the second half of your latest book was forgettable -- while the first had real possibilities.
I'm never gonna be part of the echelon, partner, but I did want to register this personal critique -- which, of course, you should feel free to ignore.
P.S. I just got tenure -- you too, right?"