Monday, January 28, 2008


or, Nigga I'm So Minimal, I'm Invisible

photo by Bret Pittman

1. Weekend Prince: So Minimal

Track List:
This mix is so minimal, the tracks don't have names.
Except for the last track.
The last track is "Computer Cowboy" by Neil Young. From his techno-inflected album Trans. Where he sings through a vocoder. (True).
It is hard out there to be so minimal. In fact, I can't even hang that small. The fact that this mix verges into disco territory is testament to the great nimble delicacy needs to hang so small for so long - you need sushi-chef precision.

Jonathan F. passed us a remix of Animal Collective's recent single "Peacebone" by minimalist Pantha du Prince. It is a long minimal epic and its serious dopeness causes us to regret that we developed the So Minimal mix prior to encountering it. Consider it a supplement of the highest order.

Peacebone - Pantha du Prince Remix

2. The New York Review of Books' recent contribution to literary minimalism, "Novels in Three Lines" collects items written for the fait-divers in the French daily papers by Felix Feneon in 1906.

Something like having a writer of Flaubertian precision regarding sentence construction write the brief incidental items. The result is a haiku-like distillation of the daily accumulation of murders, fatal accidents, and assorted nefarious hijinks:

"Some drinkers in Houilles were passing around a pistol they thought was unloaded. Lagrange pulled the trigger. He did not get up."

"Napoleon, a peasant of Saint-Nabord, Vosges, drank a liter of alcohol; very well, but he had put in some phosphorous, hence his death."

"Lit by her son, 5, a signal flare burst under the skirts of Mme Roger of Clichy; damages were considerable."

"The former mayor of Cherbourg, Gosse, was in the hands of a barber when he cried out and died, although the razor hide nothing to do with it."

3. Further down the line of literary quotidian minimalism, Scottish designer and writer Oonagh O'Hagan maintains the website Flatmates Anonymous, which in a manner akin to the methods of U.S. publication Found Magazine, gathers written emphemera that serve as odd, funny accidental testimonies to the absurdities, frustrations, micro-dramas and general quotidian mayhem endemic to the sharing of living quarters.

Knowing that Oonagh is currently preparing an American edition of the Flatmates Anonymous book, we cannot imagine she would be disheartened if readers of this site were to visit hers and post their own related texts. For more visit Flatmates Anonymous

4. NYC blogger Self-Divider has written an enlightening post on 'infinite smallness' in Franz Kafka and Robert Walser, a Swiss precedessor of Kafka. He quotes Walser from his novel Jakob von Gunten: "to be small and stay small", and dismisses the idea that such a credo of smallness has nothing to do with modesty, humbleness or cuteness. This is not the smallness of a young polar bear cub.

In contrast, Self-Divider writes, "There is a disruptive element in [Walser's] writing which comes from a force that is more disturbing and radical: the self-destructive desire to vanish completely from society. From 'Helbling’s Story' -

I ought really to be quite alone in the world, me, Helbling, and not a single living being besides me. No sun, no culture, me, naked on a high rock, no storms, not even a wave, no water, no wind, no streets, no banks, no money, no time, and no breath. Then, at least, I should not be afraid any more.

It is a well-known fact that Robert Walser spent the last decades of his life in a mental institution. And that, on the Christmas of 1956, some kids in a town called Herisau found his frozen body in a field thickly crusted with snow."

Regarding Kafka, Self-Divider writes, "in the story “The Great Wall of China,” Kafka retells a Chinese legend to an unnamed “you.” He says that the dying Emperor has sent “you” a message via a messenger. In a gesture that mirrors K.’s oral recitation of a message to Barnabas that is to be relayed to the Castle (in fact, the short legend seems like The Castle condensed, reincarnated into an enigmatic parable), the dying king whispers his message into his messenger’s ear. Being a Kafka tale, of course, the messenger is mired in the infinite folds of the palace’s chambers and courtyards; he will never deliver the message. Thousands of years would pass. “But,” Kafka writes, “you sit at your window and dream [the message] to yourself when evening comes.”

Walter Benjamin tells us that it is not difficult to intuit that the unnamed “you” in the story is Kafka himself. And that Kafka has done everything in his power to make himself unknowable by making himself small.... Benjamin recognizes that Kafka’s smallness is not a contented smallness of a pleasing kind, but a reductive maneuver by which a writer can vanish, become invisible:

It is impossible to overlook the fact that [Kafka] stands at the center of his novels, but what happens to him there is designed to reduce to insignificance the person who experiences it, to render him invisible by concealing him at the heart of banality. And the cipher K., which designates the protagonist of his novel The Castle… is certainly not enough to enable us to recognize the person who has disappeared. The most we can do is weave a legend around this man Kafka.

For the full article and more literary commentary visit The Self-Divider

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