Morass & Moretti [may 2015, yes, tempus fugit]


If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

–Haruki Murakami

Moretti has conceptualized Distant Reading, a type of reading that functions at such a remove that it can take in the larger literary movements that happen at the world, national and historical scale…..I think. To the common reader this might sound uninteresting, as, in theory, Distant Reading does not involve the actual reading of any single novel e.g. you will not be hunched over Die Papiere des Immunen trying to figure out what precisely Lötscher was getting at in Theater des Stolperns. Instead you will have question marks circling above your cranium in pursuit of answers to questions such as: What are the commonalities in terms of narrative technique that marked the successful Helvetic lit-mavericks? Do they in anyway fit in with others in the German-writing world? Have they any other narrativesakes in the global Graphosphere? What sets them apart and what was the evolutionary genesis of this different lit-outliers?

tumblr_lm31lpy8gX1qiekv3o1_1280…At first sight, such questions might make one‘s lids feel heavy for they seem to imply nothing more than the stratospheric yet oxygenless flight of theory. In search of patterns whose beauty one would think are revealed only at close range, that is, close reading, actual sentence for sentence drudgery-equanitmity-epiphany. But assuming for any readerly mind a minimum-modicum of curiosity, what one, your average reader, gets out of it [if, for a few moments, we can bear pragmatism] is a fascinating road-map or network of the interconnecting dots of the graphosphere: you catch a glimpse of what you could be interested in reading next in a way that deviates from the algorithmic vista provided by Amazon‘s „Customer‘s who bought this item also bought“-galley.
Rather than focus on the now and taste, Distant Reading affords one a wicked appreciation of the underlying narrative skeleton. What‘s up with crime novels in the 19th century? How to compare the western to the Chinese narrative? It shifts one‘s attention away from the pure flesh and blood of present prose. I adore prose at least as much as I do Jolly Rogers, but it are the latter that pique my minimum-modicum: from up high I want to see the burried bones. Read so much until one finally unreads, connects the nodes between authors and readers and centuries. But what, anyway, could this mean? After all, no matter how high, one always wants to experience the gravity of meaning, the unavoidable pull of signification, be it structural or semantic.

textile-1_detail_emWell, for example, what could one search for in a literature of present-day EurAfrica, these wildly seggregated continental shelves and people? Tragedy! The tragedy of being kept apart by waters and inhuman policies. When actually, reading Moretti in a pro-humanist vein, this tragedy should be avoided in the name of diversity, a literary fertile diversity: “Once more, the Europe we need is Guizot‘s , with the constituitive dis-union of its cultural scene. And this means that Europe doesn‘t simply offer ,more‘ space than any nation state, but especially a different space: discontinuous fractured, the European space functions as a sot of archiipelago of (national) sub-spaces, each of them specializing in one formal variation”(Moretti 2013: 12).
This is not an attempt at high-cultural frivolity, where the indescribable, unforgivable suffering of the migrants is forgotten for the benefit of cosmopolitan culture, it is just one more argument out of millions [each migrant being one] for dissolving the barbarian borders of Europe. The be humane, to be fertile, we must allow for diversity. For a moment we might step away from Moretti the literary-critique and consider his argument in a sociological, even a civilizational light: “Space, spaces, plural, of neighbouring, rival cultures; where the exploration of formal possibilities may be allowed….the space of a divided Europe”(Moretti 2013: 13).


298904bd61f0251a4537c66775c07c19a375115ece7d27c53f9f1e4cd325c4c6I suppose there is a middling to good chance that I am attempting to do too many a thing at once: I want to identify the state of the world and the state of my mind, in toto, via the books I read, also in toto. Foolish and idealistic, for I hardly even read the daily news, nor muster much interest in present affairs. The Zeitgeist, as antiquated a notion as there is, seems more tempting. But now, without more dillydallying, I must state that I can recognize a present day collective neurotic disorder that haunted coffee-sweating Vienna at the turn of the last, those days when Freud learned how to ,sweep the chimney‘ from Pappenheim via Breuer. Yes, a woman was the mother of both Sigmund‘s Oedypus and Electra – what a smallish surprise, what an instructive fact. The condition these Viennese doctors and intellectuals found themselves in might for our times‘ sake undergo a slight name change and be called “pragmatic nihilism”, though the outcome is much the same: the diseases of society defy curing! And if there is no cure there are only a few alternatives: the jeremiad, the palliative care [monetary donations to NGOs] and the acid whirlpool of cynycism [you think you‘re having fun but you‘re actually dissolving]. There is nothing to be done so the best we can do is acknowledge this very fact and shrug our shoulders. This allows for more passivity than one of the many other options, e.g. a) something can be done but it‘s pretty damn hopeless

b) something can be done but not by me; i just got back from work

c) something can be done but that‘ll make matters worse, my friend, etcetera.

But then if indeed nothing could be done, why go on? Because of the egomaniac phallacy, a phallacy that might rest where Freud claimed such dissonances rest, deep down & burried: I myself am divinely exempted from the human lot.
Do I believe fully in the above account? Half a page for the grand human contemporary condition? Nobody could; one couldn‘t believe in a 10‘000 page account of the present state of affairs with a flak-canon held to one‘s head. German_12.8_cm_Flak_40_-_static_mount
The very least one could do is introduce a second account running in parallel: the optimistic take on what is going on. Unfortunately, our consciousness, at least mine, does not really allow one to hold in mind two seemingly mutually exclusive concepts at the same time. Thus I will first think of a guy on the bus who accidentally shoved me as an uncaring pr%ck, then perhaps later when I‘ve rezened myself and happen to see him with his nuclear loved ones [his Nulos, this will be a thing now for me, Nulos] down by the lake feeding a goddamn swan, then see him as a sort of decent family guy, just a Griffin-grade Joe Schmo. But to hold those two images in this sore head of mine at the same time as his begrimed shoulder rubbs up against my ribs on the bus, what a thing that would be! To know that even through the mud of a DSDS conversation shimmers the genius of human ingenuity, that one could wish for for the human mind. Because if we are allegedly such great multi-taskers, why not attempt the same thing at the cognitive level and, whenever cynical images arise overlay them with a gossamer of friendlyhearted optimism? The 19th century Viennese have played their bit in history, no need to repeat their masterly performance.


The jaunt is as brief as ever: you step into the restaurant wagon, read a few chapters of fine US lit 1990s vintage [take your pick], order a massive cold foamer [which this time i did not because I‘d brought my own], strike up a few random strands of conversation concerning the time of year and the boon as well as unpredictability of public transport, watch the mountains and the greenest, steepest mountainsides slide by just outside the window….and… tadaaaaaah: welcome back to Ticino! Locarno to be precise, as the remainder of the Canton is really an unknown quantity to me. I am trying to understand the shift, to make some sort of passing, acceptable sense of the total chop&change of being that takes place from the Alps‘ North to their South. Some vast phantasmatic part of it is due to my imagination, I suppose, has to be. Still yet anyway. Suddenly balmy greenery is encroaching on all sides, the green hell of Switzerland, so fertile that even the Palm has a go at it and other fauna and flora unknown. I think that the soil, uniform matrix of life, is suddenly willing to unfurl its plenitude of forms….and does. The meteorology, obviously is different too, the surplus of shinshine is enjoyable but not remarkable in any way; the rain is: instead of the temporally limited downpours one gets accustomed to in central Europe, cold and deprogenic, poured from an unrelenting grey blanket laid across the lands, you get the daylong deluge, pouring down from the early am to the late pm, deluvian and with no non-apocalyptic outcome in sight. In the dead middle of the night it did end after all, just to be followed by a day of all out splendor. back-of-fart-bus-locarno

But why such an ado about litle bits of water from up high and workaday rays of sunlight? This meteolallia of us humans just never seems to improve, the one aspect of nature that [together with disease] escapes our most flagrant manipulations. Something out there, everyday, amigo, beyond civilizations‘ beck and call.
Having arrived, the mother and the sedan came to pick us up. All the stuff we had brought along was going to be trucked up the hill by this manifestation of human ingenuity and the petrol exported to us [reluctant] courtesy of the Middle East. Imagine almost any spot on the face of the planet and there will be some sort of vehicle-cum-human-being to pick you up and transport you to your appointed location, one of the established miracles of modern lifing. Like not dying from appendicitis and crossing oceans during extended naps. As you gun up the roads, slowing only for the hairpin turns, the city falls into view under your gaze: a wild mix of Southern-style buildings ripe for the wrecking ball and more modern configurations given birth by a bastard offshoot of architectural modernism, the mutation of this particular infrastructural biome [Switzerland/Italy, of which I know perfectly nothing]. It is clustered around the base of a silty triangle sticking out far into Lago Verbano.
The triangle was filled into place by the Maggia river that snakes back up a boulder- and rock-strewn lavish sandbanks for clicks and clicks, hemmed on either side by an ultra-verdant and steeply-wedged vale. The river is not to be classified: at times wide with broad vegetation-sprinkled riverine biomes and rock-choked shores, at other times a regular whitewater snake and along still other runs, twisting and winding and pooling peacably in deep rock gorges for death-defying redbull-employees to plunge down into. Which they do dutifully as a nearby drone records their doings for late-night youtube watching; all the things one will never do taking place on a little screen.



About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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