Giving up Empire, Cold Turkey

Vika blogged an essay by Vonnegut, Cold Turkey that rails against our addiction to oil and suggests that what is happening now is an empire desperately securing a last fix of petrochemicals before it has to go cold turkey.
What stands out for me is the anger of Vonnegut’s essay, an anger I find in myself. Such anger is a warning, but not rightious. This anger mirrors the fury Republican’s felt about Clinton – an anger that was more than partisan pretense – it included a deep sense of insult accompanied by an intolerance of the other intolerant.
As James Hynes describes Lamar, Texas in Kings of Infinite Space, there are three parts to disfunctional America (and this includes Canada):

There are the musicians, slackers, aging hippies, computer entrepreneurs, and academics in the arboreal old city north of the river; the Republican, Texas two-stepping, cowboy boot-wearing, SUV-driving Baptist middle managers in the sun-blasted suburban prairies south of the river; and the Hispanic and African-American gardeners, nurses, fast-food workers, and day laborers crowded into the crumbling streets east of the interstate, among the taquerieas and truck depots and tank farms. (p. 37)

Lets call them the Whigs, Tories, and Immigrants. These three ghettoes are closing on each other – the signs are that each have their story to tell of the other enclaves, each have their cultivated anger, each are erecting their own types of gates (ironic or ironware) and each have reason to avoid really engaging the other. Vonnegut voices the apocalyptic discourse of Whigs afraid of an empire managed by Tories.
The virtue of Hynes’ book is his refusal to let the Whigs off the hook, or for that matter, the Tories (I don’t know yet how he will deal with the third and disempowered class). He damns us both, and our intolerance of the other, to a Texas hell where, as in The Island of Dr. Moreau, we are asked again and again “Are we not Men?” by those we forgot.

Rescue Tenure from the Monograph

“Rescue Tenure From the Tyranny of the Monograph” by Lindsay Waters in The Chronicle of Higher Education argues that we are spewing out too many second-rate books as we force new scholars to publish one or two to get tenure. His remedy is to return to a few excellent essays for tenure and to publish fewer books that are full of “gusto” (accessible and moving to a larger audience.)
The realities of the pressures to get tenure are unlikely to change, so I doubt the community can easily change course, but what if the form in which early publishing took place were changed? What if blogs, wikis, discussion list participation, and other forms of social/network writing were assessed. Early in a career is when academics should be writing with and for others in order to establish their network of ideas. Books can come later out of what has been tested in the creative common.
How would one assess quality (and quantity) for such writing? I can think of some bibliometric methods (Google as tenure tool), but they would be crude and easy to manipulate. Ideas?
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Blue Company; E-mail Fiction

Thanks to Words’ End blog by Vika Zafrin I discovered Blue Company 2002 Archive which was apparently distributed by e-mail. The notes combine text (formatted) and drawings into original mixed media fiction. Another idea for images and text on the net.

The author’s blog is at There are more experiments there. I can’t help wondering if the web has freed writers to be able to work with images cheaply (without having to worry about publication costs.) Its the future of futurism and futurist typographic poetry.

Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre

Just finished Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre – a disturbing book that won the Man Booker Price in 2003. See an Extract. The main character is a teenager that everyone suspects was an accomplice in a school murder spree. The language makes the book – it starts as trailer-trash talk, but you begin to realize that Vernon is brighter than the awful people of his Texas town almost all of whom are disgusting, overweight, twisted, or manipulative. The end gets surreal as Vernon manipulates others once a fellow death-row inmate teaches him about God and working with people’s wants. It is not clear if the final part is a hallucination brought on by the drugs that kill him, or real events after an unlikely pardon.
Continue reading Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre

Next Episode

Finished another book from the Canada Reads, Hubert Aquin’s Next Episode. Not sure it is that good. While it has the type of dense allusive prose that can impress people and it deals in an interesting way with Quebec seperatism and terrorism, it was a pain to read. At some point the story wasn’t interesting and characters became codes without much depth.
Continue reading Next Episode