Jul 24, 2010

Incomplete and unworked-out thoughts while waiting for planes that didn't come

1. What if we think about America not as a nation of places, but of transportation? Places are cross roads, eddies, depots, rest stops within the thing, which is the system of movement. (Philip Fisher says, why is it we always say it feels like home?)

2. I think my favorite moment of Mad Men is this moment early on, where Don and Roger are drinking the office, and Roger says something snarky and old-manish about kids these days, and Don says, just flat, "well look who they have to look up to." The show is this infinite regress of male confusion. The only man on the whole show who's not bluffing is the grandpa withAlzheimer's.

3. For me, the trick of experimentalist novels is when the do not just present an experience or describe a situation, but create a situation where the reader must engage with the basic problem. They are, in this way, thought problems. And they can only really be read if one asks oneself the question "how do I read?"

4. Two ideas that seem to get positive responses, though I haven't worked them out beyond a thesis: One: The American aesthetic of simplicity emerges out of the Second Great Awakening's need for something to moderate between doctrine and experience, and Andrew Jackson presidential campaign, which empowered/created a populist class and a frontier experience, both of which reinforced or feed into each other; Two, the post-WWII boom of the suburbs shaped and formed American evangelicalism (as we know it today), and the other way around. I'm leaning towards the second one, essentially because I'm more interested in the 20th century.

5. Isn't one of the functions of reader response theory commonly to protect the author and/or work from criticism, and make whatever's objectionable the reader's fault?

6. I don't know that I particularly like maps themselves, but I find thinking about maps, and about how maps are a model of thinking, about how they work and also fundamentally don't, pretty fascinating. Recent examples: Thomas Jefferson's Cartesian land-plotting map,Jasper John'sMap, the way subway maps allocate distance, and a Pynchon quote:

"The ba-sic theory, is, that when given an unstruc-tyred stimulus, some shape-less blob of exper-ience, the subject, will seek to impose, struc-ture on it. How, he goes a-bout struc-turingthis blob, will reflect his needs, his hopes -- will provide us with clues, to his dreams,fan-tasies, the deepest re-gions of his mind."