Friday, August 28, 2015

Editing continues...

Jeffery Hodges has posted photos of the proof copy, HERE.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5 cover art by Ruud Antonius

Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5 is now in the final stages of production. Here is a glimpse of the cover art by Ruud Antonius, taken from his painting The Fourth Plinth  (oil on panel, 100 x 80 cm).

Mr. Antonius is a Dutch painter who lives in the United Kingdom.  He has a large following in Europe where in the world of fine art surrealism enjoys greater support than it does in Britain and the United States.  Please click HERE to visit Mr. Antonius's web site.

Front Cover

Back Cover

Ruud Antonius      

Monday, August 10, 2015

International Authors Meeting in the IBM Atrium, Manhattan, August 9, 2015

On Sunday August 9, International Authors had its third meeting (for reports on previous meetings in London and San Gimignano, see below).

The location was the atrium between the IBM and Trump Tower buildings in midtown Manhattan. We selected the atrium because it affords ample space with tables, good food (click HERE to see our restaurant) and also--reportedly--the space has good wyfy.  Well, two out of three...

Our ambition was to connect with our partners around the globe, and we did make brief contact with Ruud Antonius, but otherwise, alas, our aspirations remained unfulfilled.  After fifteen seconds we lost contact with Ruud, and after further attempts proved fruitless we gave up.  In future we will use a distance education classroom in some university.  My apologies to Mike Chivers, Tessa B. Dick, Peter Dizozza, Tiziana Grassi, and Vitasta Raina for not being able to establish a connection.

In the meantime, we had a good meeting. The participants:

Marleen S. Barr is known for her pioneering work in feminist science fiction and teaches English at the City University of New York. She has won the Science Fiction Research Association Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction criticism. Barr is the author of Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory, Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond, Feminist Fabulation: Space/Postmodern Fiction, and Genre Fission: A New Discourse Practice for Cultural Studies. Barr has edited many anthologies and co-edited the science fiction issue of PMLA. She is the author of the novels Oy Pioneer! and Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir.

Jason W. Ellis, a member of the International Authors Board of Editorial Advisors, is Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn, NY.  Jason's doctoral dissertation director, Mack Hassler, is another member of our board. Visit Jason's blog HERE. 

Carter Kaplan is no stranger to the Highbrow Commonwealth. 
Richard Kostelanetz: Individual entries on his work in several fields appear in various editions of Reader’s Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in American Art,,, and, among other distinguished directories. Website.
Kristine Shmenco is a fiction writer whose short-short stories have appeared in several volumes of Emanations.  She was in on the ground floor of the project back in the days when the journal Prototype X was emerging from the website of British fantasy writer Michael Moorcock. Click HERE for her website. 
Andrew Singer is a poet, prose writer, literary editor and critic presently in New York. He is Director of Trafika Europe, an initiative to showcase new literature from Europe in English translation, with an online quarterly digest, and preparing to launch Europe's first online “literary” radio station trafikaeurope.orgWith a university degree in writing poetry under the tutelage of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, he teaches university seminars in Anglo-American literature and literary translation. 

The meeting was informal and relaxed.  As with our other meetings, we took the opportunity to develop ideas and build professional friendships.  We discussed poetry, books, our projects, and the relationships among the arts, writing, and the academy. It was very enjoyable to engage these areas from an interdisciplinary perspective, and as many of us have academic vocations, we were keen to not only discuss these subjects as subjects and activities, but also as figures in a sort of cognoscenti shorthand that allowed us to explore the nature and character of academic culture, and at stratospheric levels. It was one of the most rewarding philosophical conversations I've ever been engaged in.  (And here of course I mean philosophical in a highbrow sense; that is, a project of inquiring into what the teachers are saying and feeling.)  Richard Kostelanetz was a terrific resource, providing us with engaging anecdotes about his experiences and projects.  For instance, as an undergraduate at Brown University, Richard was the student of S. Foster Damon, whose books on William Blake are well known.  What I did not know about Damon was that he was also a student of the avant-garde. Marleen described her roman à clef novels. Andrew described his Trafika Europe project, and related his experiences living and teaching in Hungary. Jason described a concept he is developing which approaches the study of literary genera from an anthropological perspective. He plans to work the idea into an article for Emanations. Kristine described how her short fiction is evolving into longer projects, and informed us about the writing groups she's involved in.  I reported on the forthcoming volume of Emanations (all 600 pages) and showed the group the cover featuring a painting by Ruud Antonius (stay tuned to Highbrow for a peek at the cover soon).

We entertained notions about alternative models for editing Emanations, perhaps assigning each part--fiction, poetry, essays--to a separate editor.  We discussed the forthcoming International Authors translation of Torquato Tasso's Il mondo creato (Creation of the World), Mack Hassler's recent work bringing the Michael Butterworth show to Kent State University, the history of International Authors (beginning on Michael Moorcock's website,  Darren Partridge's, Prototype X, then the emergence of Emanations and International Authors...), plans for further networking, and we also discussed possibilities for locating grants to support an expansion of the International Authors project.



See also: 
International Authors Meeting at the St Pancras Hotel, London, July 31, 2011 
International Authors Meeting in San Gimignano, Italy, August 9, 2014 
Kristine Shmenco's impressions of our meeting, HERE.

Spring High: Thunderchiefs vs. the SAMs that weren't there

Decades later pilot and filmmaker Vic Vizcarra learned that the SAMs had been pulled out and the AA guns moved in, creating a "flack trap" for American forces.  See the "Summation" that begins at 22:47. It might be observed (perhaps cynically) that the "ruse" achieved in this incident is an allegory for the entire war, characterizing the way the US was drawn into a conflict that was not what it appeared to be.  Click HERE for general conclusions by Robert McNamara.  And click HERE for additional Highbrow assessment.

Animated documentary of "Spring High", the first counter-air Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) mission in history of aerial combat from Victor Vizcarra on Vimeo.

Vic Vizcarra

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"An assuagement of life's vibrations": Conrad's Heart of Darkness, continued

Here is M-A Berthier's response to the remarks I made yesterday on Conrad's Heart of Darkness:
I wondered when they used the term "ambiguity" if they were thinking of one of Empson's "7 Types of Ambiguity," but I doubt it. The work is written with irony, of course, but that doesn't make it all that ambiguous. There is one part of the novella that has always seemed problematic to me, but a lot of criticism I've read on the subject treats this part with a heavy hand. The passage I am thinking of is the final interview with Kurtz's "Intended." Marlow goes to speak with her as an attempted act of "closure." He at one point clearly gets pissed off that she is so blissfully and idealistically unaware of what Kurtz was "really like," and Marlow reacts by making a series of sarcastic replies that are very thinly veiled double entendre. But he makes a mistake, and it triggers a flashback for him that is like the onset of post-traumatic stress syndrome. He realizes that he is blaming her at some level, and circles back, and does penance (in a sense) with a piece of violence to his own principles. Early in the novella, he said that he could never abide lies, because there was a scent of death about them -- but he then escapes the interview with Kurtz's Intended by telling her a lie; and the lie restores the balance of the universe for her, and keeps the "darkness" of his experience from contaminating the poor woman's life further. But Marlow's goal of obtaining closure with the interview is shattered, and now, like the Ancient Mariner, he tells his story to a bunch of financier types on a private yacht in an attempt to get the albatross off his neck. And you know that it never works, and he probably does this again and again and again to people who don't understand the work. (High school students and bad critics and readers.) At least a few critics of the work have taken Conrad to task about that last interview. I think you can criticize it legitimately for the dialogue he gave to the lady, because it's somewhat maladroit, and gives the impression that she has a brain not much larger than a petit pois. But Conrad often had a few characterization issues with female dialogue, so this is hardly a surprise, and I regard it as a small blemish. But to criticize the scene for what happens, or for Marlow's unreasonable anger seems to me to be a failure to come to grips with his psychic burden. Marlow didn't want that burden. He just wanted to go to the heart of deepest, darkest Africa, one of his childhood dreams. It became a nightmare, and it permanently darkened his view of the world. And he had to do that final task for Kurtz, and he wished to god that someone could stop the voices in his head. (The horror… etc.) When I hear Leavis et al. suggest that this is a satire on colonialism, I wonder what the hell he was reading instead of Conrad.
To which I respond: I remember reading a letter in which Conrad expresses disapproval of men who marry when they are young. I recall his saying such a move is driven by insecurity. My sense is that Marlowe is part of that sentiment. That is, Marlowe is Conrad's bachelor avatar, as well as a way to play off the English chap persona, which, in its wilder, cowboy form (a la Marlowe) could be about as good as it gets for expressing irony in our language. As a type, you could compare Marlowe to those Victorians who explored the American west just for the sport of it. Compare our own Francis Parkman. Restlessness. Expectations. But as for the bachelor persona... Conrad married after he became wealthy ( I seem to recall seeing pictures of her, and she express the kind a beauty an artist or a poet finds attractive, indeed the kind of beauty that attracts a deep, active, and vulnerable desire). In contrast to Marlowe, I think Conrad was "larger" in his ability to engage the world as a worldly and wise person, while Marlowe remains that footloose bachelor, which carries with it a heavy onus in terms of accepting the world as it is. Cowboys never have to grow up, and it is a jolly good time, but by the same token, if I am making any sense here, they also never do grow up, which is a lonely place, and a regrettable outcome indeed.   Marlowe's psychic burden is driven by his bachelor scruples, and his "code of truth."  But altogether, life is not so much a problem of resolving ambiguity or remaining loyal to some code; it is a matter of acceptance and compromise. That is, it's a matter of growing  up.

Jesse George, Mrs. Joseph Conrad

According to Wikipedia:
Jessie was an unsophisticated, working-class girl, sixteen years younger than Conrad. To his friends, she was an inexplicable choice of wife, and the subject of some rather disparaging and unkind remarks. However, according to other biographers such as Frederick Karl, Jessie provided what Conrad needed, namely a "straightforward, devoted, quite competent" companion. Similarly, Jones remarks that, despite whatever difficulties the marriage endured, "there can be no doubt that the relationship sustained Conrad's career as a writer", which might have been a lot less successful without her. SOURCE
Lady Ottoline Morrell offers the following observation of Jesse, which is perhaps significant insofar as it directly follows her description of the importance of the Congo experience to Conrad's view of the world:
He was dressed very carefully in a blue double-breasted jacket. He talked... apparently with great freedom about his life – more ease and freedom indeed than an Englishman would have allowed himself. He spoke of the horrors of the Congo, from the moral and physical shock of which he said he had never recovered... [His wife Jessie] seemed a nice and good-looking fat creature, an excellent cook, as Henry James [had] said, and was indeed a good and reposeful mattress for this hypersensitive, nerve-wracked man, who did not ask from his wife high intelligence, only an assuagement of life's vibrations.... He made me feel so natural and very much myself, that I was almost afraid of losing the thrill and wonder of being there, although I was vibrating with intense excitement inside; and even now, as I write this, I feel almost the same excitement, the same thrill of having been in the presence of one of the most remarkable men I have known. His eyes under their pent-house lids revealed the suffering and the intensity of his experiences; when he spoke of his work, there came over them a sort of misty, sensuous, dreamy look, but they seemed to hold deep down the ghosts of old adventures and experiences – once or twice there was something in them one almost suspected of being wicked.... But then I believe whatever strange wickedness would tempt this super-subtle Pole, he would be held in restraint by an equally delicate sense of honour.... In his talk he led me along many paths of his life, but I felt that he did not wish to explore the jungle of emotions that lay dense on either side, and that his apparent frankness had a great reserve.  SOURCE

Ambiguity in Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Highbrow Response

In a recent issue of The Guardian, Sam Jordison writes on "Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad--a trip to inner space."  His subtitle is similarly awkward, asserting:
Only 40,000 words long, this story of colonial brutality is a mesmerisingly ambiguous voyage into the darkest parts of the soul...
My first impression is incredulity.  How is it Jordison finds the tale ambiguous, and how is it that ambiguity could be mesmerizing? What exactly is the soul, and if it has dark parts, might we expect it to have lighter regions as well? More importantly, do other people reading the story experience the same difficulties? Or, even worse, do critics and professors teach students to have these difficulties when they read the story?

 From the article:
I can also go some way towards agreeing with his [Harold Bloom's] assessment that it is Conrad’s “unique propensity for ambiguity” that makes discussing the book so fascinating. Trying to get hold of the novel’s meaning is like trying to catch smoke with your hands. The very act of describing it makes it harder to grasp – and that makes the challenge all the more enticing.
I don't see much ambiguity in Heart of Darkness. It strikes me as being a fairly straightforward adventure yarn. If anything, it could be too grown-up for modern readers, and evidently too playful.  At the crossroads of setting, plot and theme, it is a journey into the aspirations of late-19th century Euro-bureaucrats whose ambitions run amok. That is, rather than a "deep" psychological exploratory, Heart of Darkness is a dystopian story about corporate ambition, with a greasy river as a backdrop.

Compare Conrad's "An Outpost of Progress." The vision in
Heart of Darkness is more intense and is rendered in greater detail. The story (and here I throw an avuncular nod at Jordison) is told in oblique terms to enhance the reader's sense of adventure and discovery, as well as to drive an aesthetically pleasing sense of verisimilitude. Meanwhile, Conrad's (version of) English chap humor and the basic "joke"--and that joke after all is the meaning--remain pretty much the same in both stories.

Jordison addresses the spectre of colonial brutality, placing this theme at the heart of the story.  Nothing new. This is a path through the critical woods that is well-trodden. Moreover, as my friend M-A Berthier puts it, the exercise of that theme is "like calling Moby-Dick an exposé of the whaling industry."  In Heart of Darkness, I see the theme of "brutality" in the terms of a broader human brutality. Conrad through his narrator Marlowe presents brutality as a fully anthropological  problem.  But of course as he reaches that conclusion, Marlowe, now back in Europe, checks himself and says his imagination was ill...  Ambiguity?  Not really.  But youth, adventure, humor, frustration, ambivalence, seeing, and seeing through many things--yes.