Things We Like | Vol. 2
The fields staff will be sharing some of the music, reads, artwork, and other cool stuff we’ve been digging lately. You can check back on Mondays for new ideas and perspectives from our different editors. This week, editor Ismael Ricardo Archbold relates his nostalgic fixation on some American protopunk and how he feels about a book he finally finished reading.
I often hear Andy Shernoff yelling inside my head, “My favorite part of growing up / is when I’m sick and throwing up!” Lately I feel like I am growing up. I want to put a name to the feeling.
I haven’t much to say most of the time anymore. When I say something, I am not always sure it is me speaking. I keep thinking of Wittgenstein’s statement: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent [the final proposition in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus]. My copy has the sentence translated instead as “What we cannot speak of, we must pass over in silence.” My grasp of German is an oily hand clinging to a high-tension wire.
I read a lot. I read things out of order. I read when I find a moment. I walk and read. I read the ingredients of everything. I squint to read signs as the bus speeds over MLK. I read too much.
My horoscope by Rob Brezsny this week says a few things about lakes and Scotland and various animals, then gives me, an Aquarius, the assignment “to name at least some of the unnamed things in your world. It’s an excellent time to cultivate a closer, warmer personal relationship with absolutely everything.”
At first I misunderstand and think I am to give name to the unnamed as in identify & qualify; I am prone to wild flights of imagination and sometimes go in fear of concretization. No, he means things like my pet rock Fred. It is not unusual to overhear me saying, “What’s in a name?”
The feeling I have been having lately, Fenster. that is my name for it… Fenster is the reason why I am obsessively listening to The Dictators’ Go Girl Crazy! and Dead Boys’ Young Loud and Snotty. They lack inhibition, suffer prohibition only under grave duress, do what they want. Fenster, The Dictators and Dead Boys remind me of being a kid, stringing words together to no particular purpose, trying to decide which flowers were related, then naming them after dogs in the neighborhood, when I would write down different kind of bombs named after the elements because I heard about the hydrogen bomb: sodium-argon torpedo, lead chlorine cadmium bomb, the deadly mercury barium bullet (good for vampires). To have no need for sentence is one of my ideations of childhood.
Rainy season and serially getting grounded: ingredients for bibliomania.
Escape in names: Minneapolis, Africa, California, Robin Hood, Clifford, World War Two, Revelation.
– A grammar relates to not liking to see again those you used to know.
“Arthur A Grammar,” Gertrude Stein
Growing up at home these past few months, I ‘ve slowly read through Marjorie Perloff’s Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary (University of Chicago Press, 1996). This was my third attempt; sometimes I’m too grown-up. Sometimes you have to read a book at the right time in your life to really get something from it.
Most of the writers Perloff discusses – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, Robert Creeley, Rosmarie Waldrop, Joseph Kosuth (a conceptual artist), et al – are interesting by themselves. Set within the context of their milieus and in relation to Wittgenstein, that unlikely center of anything, the book is an interesting discussion of language and its limits, how context can obscure meaning, ‘ordinary’ words stranded or tediously recurrent im-/ex-ploding context. Wittgenstein’s philosophy, Stein’s playfulness with meaning & grammar, Beckett’s characters struggling with exposition in a world in which everyone speaks a kind of code, Bachmann’s subversion of sentence & human relations – the relevance of their abstractions in a material world cannot be overstated.
If there really is such a thing as the Age of Aquarius, let this book be a signpost. In such an age of information and deluge, communication is and will be at the heart of endeavor. In an America like today’s, in which literacy seems predicated toward acronym & symbol, scientific illiteracy rages like California wildfire and most channels of information are dammed & tolled, I tread gleefully into abstraction because how describe & understand the world depends on my language. We need to understand each other. We need our words. We need to find old and new ways of using them. Just like a band gives one permission to act the fool or at the least have some fun, a good book can. You may not be into philosophy or literary criticism or poetry but most of you like stories. Stories, one way we communicate, is not just an escape into names; it is how one continually learns how to name. So if not Perloff, I recommend you read Samuel Beckett, Ingeborg Bachmann or Thomas Bernhard. Start at the beginning, immerse yourself, learn a new language (I mean figuratively though reading Bachmann in German, I hear, is the only way to read her.).