Danielle Dutton (and Dorothy, a publishing project)

It’d be easy to praise Danielle Dutton’s writing by contrasting it with less inventive contemporary fiction. Fiction in which the writer doesn’t understand that inept similes snag in one’s minds (“his tongue moved quickly in her mouth, like the little men on a foosball table”). In which characters are dutifully described from haircut to shoe laces, as though when we meet somebody, we do a full TSA scan. In which the author’s primary ambition seems to be shallow acclaim (in many cases, to evaluate fiction by its success in current publishing is like evaluating a giraffe by whether it’s a shoe). That is, fiction that is sure to disappoint a poet.

Dutton’s writing doesn’t, though it’d be better to praise it for what it is. Permit me blurb? How about: In the portraits, tales, and figments of autobiography in Attempts at a Life (Tarpaulin Sky, 2007), in the poignant farce and onrushing suburban lyricism of her novel Sprawl (Siglio, 2010), Danielle Dutton shows that precision can be giddily disorienting, that the voices we are made of soar in and out of narrative, and that’s the real story.

Here’s a passage from Sprawl:

“It’s bewildering, the way faces pass in and out of my line of vision as I sit in the car and wait for the light to turn green. This place tends to take on a benevolent glow when birds peck at the grass in front of the gas station on the corner. I turn left, then right, then left again, right, left, and then I go straight for quite some time, and then I take a right, another left, a right, and then I’m home: driveway, garage, linoleum, a flight of stairs, a river leading west, south, south-east, east. It’s so old-fashioned, a memory, unimportant events. Lisle and I once heard a branch fall to the ground.”

Dutton is the editor of Dorothy, a publishing project, a press “dedicated to works of fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women.” The press seeks “to publish books that, whether conventional or un-, are uniquely themselves, that do not lean against preconceived ideas of what is wonderful, but brilliantly and purposefully convince us that they are, themselves, wonderful.” Dorothy is among my favorite publishers of current prose; I’m eager to see what they publish next. (You can read a review of two of their recent books, both by Renee Gladman, by Elaine Bleakney in KROnline.)

"The novel I am constantly writing is always the same one, and it might be described as a variously sliced-up or torn-apart book of myself."

— Robert Walser, Eine Art Erzählung (via litverve)

(via thecryingofblog49)

snpsnpsnp:

Duras, to Xaviere Gauthier, on reading for wholeness versus not.

snpsnpsnp:

Duras, to Xaviere Gauthier, on reading for wholeness versus not.

selahannsaterstrom:

 

Agnes Richter was a German seamstress held as a patient in an insane asylum during the 1890s. During her time there, she densely embroidered her straightjacket with words, undecipherable phrases and drawings which  documented her thoughts and feelings throughout her time there. This remarkable object was collected by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who ardently collected the artwork of his patients at a Heidelberg psychiatric hospital in the early 20th century.

selahannsaterstrom:

 

Agnes Richter was a German seamstress held as a patient in an insane asylum during the 1890s. During her time there, she densely embroidered her straightjacket with words, undecipherable phrases and drawings which  documented her thoughts and feelings throughout her time there. This remarkable object was collected by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who ardently collected the artwork of his patients at a Heidelberg psychiatric hospital in the early 20th century.

"Sometimes you find that what is most personal is also what connects you most strongly with others."

Grace Paley (via theparisreview)

theparisreview:

PEN has announced its 2013 Translation Fund winners, including Daniel Borzutzky for Chilean poet—and Paris Review contributor—Raúl Zurita’s El País de Tablas (The Country of Planks).
from “Villa Grimaldi Prison”
This is how the chilean prisons were emerging   the snowpeaks of the Andes were nothing but planks nailed to those barracks
In the middle of the ocean’s abyss   as if they had wanted withtheir shredders to remind us of the infinite pain of the campsthe quarters   the infinite sheds where they killed us
When the Pacific opened up and we carried one anotherwe saw the stakes of a cordillera and then a dead skysinking into the slit of the sea until it became the final silencethat covers our remains   still nailed down   still brokenour eyes still open   looking out from those barracks thedead gaze of the ocean

theparisreview:

PEN has announced its 2013 Translation Fund winners, including Daniel Borzutzky for Chilean poet—and Paris Review contributor—Raúl Zurita’s El País de Tablas (The Country of Planks).

from “Villa Grimaldi Prison”

This is how the chilean prisons were emerging   the snow
peaks of the Andes were nothing but planks nailed to those barracks

In the middle of the ocean’s abyss   as if they had wanted with
their shredders to remind us of the infinite pain of the camps
the quarters   the infinite sheds where they killed us

When the Pacific opened up and we carried one another
we saw the stakes of a cordillera and then a dead sky
sinking into the slit of the sea until it became the final silence
that covers our remains   still nailed down   still broken
our eyes still open   looking out from those barracks the
dead gaze of the ocean

"

But bedtime stories for the end of the world don’t end where they are supposed to end.

They end awkwardly, in the middle of some mess that was probably not worth making to begin with.

Here’s an alternative ending.

Imagination Challenge #2:

It’s night-time. You’re decomposing in a cage or a cell. Your father is reading the testimonies of the tortured villagers to you. He is in the middle of a particularly poignant passage about how the military tied up the narrator and made him watch as his children were lit on fire. He has to listen to the screams of his blazing children but he can not listen to their screams so he himself starts screaming and then the soldiers shove a gag in his mouth so that he will stop screaming, but he doesn’t stop screaming even with the gag in his mouth. But these are not screams, actually. They are unclassifiable noises that can only be understood as a collaboration between his dying body, the obliterated earth, and the bodies of those already dead.

Write a free-verse poem about the experience. Write it in the second person.

Publish it some place good.

- See more at: http://www.pen.org/poetry/blazing-cities-your-rotten-carcass-mouth#sthash.i0u2kGfN.dpuf

"
"

I had a boyfriend once. He was important. I was 26; he was 46. Now he is my Facebook friend. I occasionally see his updates, noting his television appearances. He is on shows I haven’t heard of, but which nonetheless exist. Shows with names like CASTLE or JUSTIFIED. Also commercials for Southwest Airlines. It is good that I watch neither television nor commercials, which might leave me watching this ex-boyfriend and considering his place in my life. Facebook is enough, is too much.


It had to do with timing. I fell out of love. But when it began, he did not love me enough. This is how it felt to me. That he would not love me enough and perhaps that was where it was meant to stay—me wanting more, wanting him to love me more; him just out of reach. He was going through a divorce, is how he put it—and the concept seemed foreign, far away and sad. His wife was 35 when they married. We looked good on paper, he told me. Which also felt foreign. The way New Yorkers care about paper. Marriage and 35 and divorce were all very far away. I read the announcement in the Times. I found it online. It didn’t look good online.


Sometimes I want to write about fucking but mostly I want to write about love. This is why I write or have ever written. As if trying to love.


What happened was his soon-to-be ex-wife told him, the man I loved, that she never loved him. She told him this some years into the marriage. When he wanted children which she didn’t want. Plus she stopped sleeping with him.


But what really destroyed him was that: that she’d never loved him. His suffering kept him from loving me as much as I needed to be loved but also it made me love him even more. That I could feel how deeply he suffered.


I’m not good at love, as J Franzen might note. I’m good at some things but usually I want all of the mutually exclusive things and I want them at the same time. You understand. This is normal. I will normalize my fuckedupness.


Once my friend described her partner’s mother as “normalizing” and that was a very freeing concept for me. I have often felt oppressed by these women—the suburban normalizers.


Lately I consider myself from an objective 3rd person perspective and I wonder if I am a fuck up. Or pathological. Certainly there are a number of people who, based on various evidence w/r/t my life, would deem me pathological.


Why this matters to me I’m not sure.


The point is that eventually the boyfriend did love me enough and yet by then I no longer loved him.


When I loved him, when he wouldn’t love me enough, we went to see the Macy’s fireworks display. This was the only time in all my years in NYC that I did anything for the 4th of July. I was too unhappy to do these normal American things. But that day, going to see those fireworks, I thought to myself: I am happy. This is happiness. We stopped at a bodega and bought cherries and mangoes to snack on as we watched the fireworks. I wore a black dress.

"

squeela:

I was coming from the East Village and late to work as usual, so I took a cab instead of the M15. “Water and Broad,” I said to the driver, an older Asian man. “You are going to NYU?” he asked. “You a student?”
"Just to work," I said.
"You remind me of my daughter," he said. "She is so…

Explaining Lacan’s Concept of “The Real” to My Undergraduates

officehoursareover:

image

(via cryingneedforthat)