Pale King and Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Pale King and Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
From The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace by Adam S.Miller:
The real is boring and user-unfriendly. It resists attention, it’s \""a fact-pattern the bulk of which was entropic and random” (PK 16). The real is full of noise, and more, it’s full of patterns that look like noise.
So much of the real is dull and indifferent and expensive. The cost of the real feels too high and so we dream about something else, something easier, someplace else. We may sit down in our office chairs, but when we do, we’re like Hal, who though he’s managed to sit down, spends his time, \""scrolling through an alphabetical list of places he’d rather be” (IJ 806).
We run from the dull like death itself. Why is it that \""dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention” (PK 85)? What’s so terrifying about an empty room or a silent car or a hard math problem? Why does boredom seem painful? Shouldn’t it just be boring?
Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way … I can’t think anyone really believes that’s today’s so-called \""information society” is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down (PK 85).
[Lane Dean’s] new middle-class with government benefits seemed like a boon, but once there he starts to see what the job actually entails: a desk, a chair, a pencil, some memos, some forms, an unending stream of tax returns in need of examination, and a clock.
\""The way deskwork goes is in jagged little fits and starts, brief intervals of concentration alternated with frequent trips to the men’s room, the drinking fountain, the vending machine, constant visits to the pencil sharpener, phone calls you suddenly feel are imperative to make, rapt intervals of seeing what kinds of shapes you can bend a paperclip into, & c. This is because sitting still and concentrating on just one task for an extended length of time, is, as a practical matter, impossible”
When he concentrates, Shane Drinion levitates. Usually the distance between his butt and his seat is too small to be visible. But if his concentration deepends, he may float a few inches into the air. Drinion is good at concentrating, especially if the material is difficult, and this makes him very good at examining tax returns.
Meredith Rand asks him, is \""paying attention the same thing as being interested in somebody?” And Drinion responds: \""Well, I would say almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting” (PK 456).
The boy has asthma and needs to stay inside. It’s raining on the day that, bored, the boy starts bending himself into new shapes and his life’s work accidentally begins. In the months and years that follow, the boy patiently works away at twisting his joints and loosening the body’s grip on itself. He works mainly in the bedroom and he keeps the door closed. The carpet is white shag. There’s a tree outside the window. Sometimes his father sits outside the boy’s door and listens, trying to tell
what’s going on inside. The father is worried and doesn’t know what to do. The boy’s mother is gone. The boy, though, takes his work seriously.
3. The Other Side of Boredom
\""To retain care and scrupulosity about each detail from within the teeming wormball of data and rule and exception and contigency which constitutes real-world accounting – this is heroism” (PK 231). That kind of connection depends on learning how to pay attention to life’s insignificant details. It depends on learning how to care for their errancy and opacity. It depends on bringing yourself to bear on what presents as boring, again and again, until you finally discover \""that boring activities
become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them” (IJ 203).
Boredom is a head-clearing ascesis. The key to clearing your head is \""to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex. To be, in a word, unborable” (PK 438).
…at this point, it doesn’t really matter what your head thinks. It just matters what your body does. Gately’s rehab sponsors advise him to start praying, but they couldn’t care less if he believes in God. It’s irrelevant. Speaking at an AA meeting, Gately says he
\""feels about the ritualistic Please and Thank You prayers rather like a hitter that’s on a hitting streak and doesn’t change his jock or socks or pre-game routine for as long as he’s on the streak. … He says but when he tried to go beyond the very basic rote automatic get-me-through-this-day-please stuff, when he kneels at other times and prays or mediates or tries to achieve a Big-Picture spirtitual understanding of a God as he can understand Him, he feels Nothing – not nothing but Nothing, an
edgeless blankness that somehow feels worse than the sort of unconsidered atheism he Came In with” (IJ 443).
Prayer ends up being more like baking a cake than like having a meaningful conversation with your long lost father. Cake boxes come with a cake mix already inside, premixed, and \""with directions on the side any eight-year old could read” (IJ 467). There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and make the whole thing all metaphysical.
Underworld, Don Delillio
From Rewiring the Real by Mark C. Taylor:
People, things, and events proliferate in narratives and counternarratives that simultaneously connect and disconnect, until everything becomes somewhat chaotic. The only thing that seems to tie it all together is waste. With every turn of the page, there is more waste – wasted lives, wastebands, wasted bodies, limbs, sewers, dumps, landfills, junk, trash, garbage, shit – all kinds of shit – and, of course, radioactive nuclear waste. There are also other less recognizable and predictable forms
of waste – games, art, and religion.
Underworld is big – too big – and messy. By any reasonable measure, it is excessive – 827 pages! It seems to fall apart more often than hang together.
As pages turn and stuff keeps piling up, readers are left to sort through the historical and cultural debris of the latter half of the twentieth century in the hope of finding patterns where there seems to be nothing but noise.
The temporal organization of Underworld is as complex as its spatial structure. DeLillo’s counternarrative is not straightforward but consists of multiple narratives and counternarratives joined by tangled loop-lines. The events he recounts all take place during the four decades from the summers of 1951 and 1952 and the summer-spring of 1992.
It is too easy to set up a simple opposition between a modernist utopia and a postmodernist dystopia because the liminal spaces Delillo explores are too complex to be contained by such sharp boundaries.
Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves
From Rewiring the Real by Mark Taylor:
The text is about nothing – always about nothing. Nothing is what keeps the text in play by rendering it irreducibly open and in/finitely complex. The nothingness haunts the text marks its border by exceeding it. This excess is the siteless site where difference endlessly emerges.
The complexity of the work is compounded by a graphic design that enacts or performs the ideas that the multiple authors and characters explore.
Though Danielewski’s name appears on the cover and copyright page, the title page indicates that Zampano is the author and Johnny Truant has contributed an introduction and extensive notes.
Zampano turns out to have been a blind recluse who wrote an extensive commentary on The Navidson Record. When Johnny Truant, whose name suggests that he is a Johnny-come-lately, and his friend Lude, whose real name is Harry, discover Zampano’s body in his crypt-like apartment, Johnny inherits a monstrous truck that contains pages nad pages of the old man’s reflections on the film. The twenty-something-year-old kid, wo intermittently works in a tattoo parlor and is in love with a hooker named
Thumper, assumes the onerous responsibility of organizing Zampon’s ramblings into something resembling a coherent narrative. Johnny appends notes explaining his editorial procedures and adding his own observations and reflections, which are so extensive that they eventually overwhelm Zampano’s text.
This book about a book layers text upon text. In addition to Navidson’s film, Zampono’s commentary, and Johnny’s commentary on the commentary, House of Leaves includes an elaborate textual apparatus citing scholarly comments, articles, and books either about the text or relevant to it.
Moreover, though many of the authors cited are real and the articles and books noted have actually been published, many of the passages quoted are made up, and pages referenced are either incorrect or do not exist.
Every time the reader images a new way to interpret the text, he turns the page only to discover a footnote or footnote to a footnote in which some \""author” has anticipated his analysis.
One afternoon, while working as an apprentice at the tattoo shop, Johnny suddenly has the strange feeling that \""something’s really off. I’m off.” What makes this experience all the more unsettling is that \""nothing has happened, absolutely nothing” (26). … he reports …. \""Though my fingers still tremble and I’ve yet to stop choking on large irregular gulps of air, as I keep spinning around like a stupid top spinning around on top of nothing, looking everywhere, even though there’s absolutely
nothing, nothing anywhere” (27).
As speech emerges from silence, so writing emerges from a void that is never completely erased. Yet precisely this emptiness is what much – perhaps most – writing is designed to avoid. … Above all else, stories are supposed to protect us from the emptiness, meaninglessness, absence and the nothingness they nonetheless harbor. All such efforts, however, prove futile because nothing can be a-voided; there can be no story without the haunting emptiness it is written to fill.
(Waiting for -) Texts for Nothing’ Samuel Beckett, in play, Joseph Kosuth
From Circa Art Magazine by Tim Maul:
The manipulation of lighting sets the stage for drama. Entering the gallery’s largest space to view Texts (Waiting for—) for Nothing; Samuel Beckett, in play our immersion in darkness demands one’s eyes’ adjustment to decode the frieze of white neon text that wraps around the room where wall and ceiling meet.
The positive ‘white cube’ gallery is reversed into a negative ‘black’ cube. Kosuth culls excerpts from two texts from Beckett, Waiting for Godot and Texts for Nothing – presenting them in white neon that has been ‘canceled’ by dipping each letter and punctuation mark in black paint which reduces legibility depending on your position in the seemingly cavernous space. Kosuth has lured us into a ‘Plato’s Cave’ of manufactured night where the words of the ‘dead end kid’ of the stage are beheld in
pinpoint celestial grandeur. On the wall to the right a box holds a reproduction of Casper David Friedrich’s Two Men Contemplating the Moon (1819), which inspired Beckett to write Godot. The artist exerts a wry form of control over this romantic favorite by both its colorless reduction in scale and by its display in a structure equally conducive to the reading of menus on the sidewalk. Kosuth has engineered an unexpectedly ecclesiastic space for the gallery; his discrete treatment of the neon
letters risks visual obscurity, blackened neon in a dark room, to produce a Johnsian environment between language and the conditions of its presentation. Waiting around for Godot results in ‘nothing’ but more language.
Ocean View, Gary Kibbins
And he might reply, employing his extended spiritual vocabulary, that all raw experience contains the potential for developing a compelling alternative, like that offered, for example, by the communists, who believe that they have found the path to deliverance from our personal sufferings, thinking that mankind is wholly good, but the institution of private property has corrupted his nature, as again and again we find fault with our civilization for the pitiless imposition of instinctual
renunciation, and for promoting the self’s selfish negativity in a social world which, as everyone knows, is weakened and degraded by such actions, even while knowing that no ego can mature and flourish without first exposing itself to the cruel disenchantments enforced by civilization, while simultaneously competing with other often belligerent egos for the scattered scraps of satisfaction which can be scavenged there, as Bob, who has now acquired a motive for keeping custody of his female,
understanding that historically the process of founding families was connected with the need for continued genital satisfaction, envisions himself gazing out on a vast and melancholy landscape of ill-fated protagonists, all those now defeated, bitter species-males enthusiastically responding to the call for retribution, contriving elaborate strategies for securing the loyalty of their sexual objects in order to prevent them from being seduced or seized by interlopers, only to succumb to the
heartbreak of their never-ending ordinariness, and the knowledge that they represent nothing more than hopelessness and negativity, scavenging, again, for those voluptuously empty experiences that can only defer the inevitability of disappointment, knowing (while not really \""knowing”) that disappointment will be ingeniously (but transparently…) disguised as blissful sensation, where the only recourse is to seek fulfillment in aggression, as a defense against suffering, as that is the one choice
remaining to those whose only real commitment is to survival and reproduction, which may seem a reasonable alternative to giving in to hysterical fear, whose shrill, needy victims whine with disheartening predictability:
\""But what about me?
What about my primary drives?”
Airport Study (Supersymmetrie) 7, Jorinde Voigt
From Vitamin D2 by Martin Herbert:
Later, switching universities and finding herself in the middle of a student strike, she elected to enter art school: here, after some frustration with photography’s limited ability to represent experience, she returned to elaborate note-taking, writing down the reasons why she would have taken a photograph instead of taking it, and classifying the given situation in order to understand its structure.
These works, arising out of a rule-driven, algorithm-utilizing methodology that nevertheless allows room for spontaneity (since Voigt is unable to control the situations it places her in), aim to memorialize, to capture, the underlying mechanics of a given experience. Airport Study 6: Supersymmetrie (2010), with its scribbled notes about the speed and direction of Airbuses, examines how planes take off from an airport, while the rigorously gridded Africa Series (2009) records impressions of
But Voigt does not seem to intend her drawings to be wholly decoded. If she did, she’d write her elegant German notations in amore intelligible way: like Cy Twombly’s texts, her are as much visual as verbal.
Day, Kenneth Goldsmith
From Being Boring by Kenneth Goldsmith:
The simple act of moving information from one place to another today constitutes a significant cultural act in and of itself. I think it’s fair to say that most of us spend hours each day shifting content into different containers. Some of us call this writing.
From Zero Kerning by Craig Dworkin:
To read Goldsmith’s oeuvre, at a certain remove, reveals a consistent concern with spacing – with the collapse of distances into equal measures, and the differences and repetitions subsequently legible within regimes of periodic regulation.
Intervals not only have meaning, but they are, in some sense, what grounds meaning itself: \""the spacing (pause, blank, punctuation, interval in general, etc.) which constitutes the origin of signification.” The semiotic system of language depends on its multiple articulations at different levels: those intervals between letters, words, and larger units of grammar which introduce the physical space of difference that permits us to distinguish, cognitively, different meanings. Moreover, as
evinced by the move from the scriptura continua of western antiquity (in which texts were written withoutspacing between words),such intervals have had farreaching conceptual effects, with changes in textual space changing the way we understand the world around us.
On the other hand, the rigorously uniform and 21 exhaustive structures aspired to by these works are at odds with the modes of their assumed reading: irregular, discontinuous, distracted – skimmed and sampled and dipped.
\""What is decisive in collecting is that the object is detached from all its original functions in order to enter into the closest conceivable relation to things of the same kind. The relation is the diametric opposite of any utility, and falls into the peculiar category of completeness” (Arcades 204).
At the molar level, the newspaper source of Day is twice removed from its original spacing. First, the paper is pulled from the dependable interval of the daily (a single date, September 1 , 2000, snatched from a series that st stretches back before any reader’s memory to 1856 and projects forward to any imaginable horizon). Secondly, the book removes the paper from the multiple printings of that single day’s circulation run, as its text is translated into the new format of a second codex
edition. With this double withdrawal, Day fixes and monumentalizes the transient in the frozen moment of sculpture (like the implicit gossip and fleeting associations of the Birmingham monument).
D8 l the new york times tuesday, september 11, 2001
today Less humid, sunshine
High 79. Noticeably less humid air will filter into the metropolitan region on. Brisk winds from the northwest. High pressure building east from the Great Lakes will promote mainly sunny skies. Daytime readings will peak in the lower 80’s.
tonight Clear, lighter winds
Low 62. Skies will be clear overnight as high pressure crests near the Middle Atlantic Coast. Humidity will remain low, and temperatures will fall to around 60 degrees in many spots.
tomorrow Mainly sunny
High 76. Sunshine and just a few clouds will fill the sky. Breezes will turn and blow from the south ahead of a cold front approaching from Canada
I feel better after I type to you
my bed time
you have bless night
see you later
yellow notice for cable
want miss tv
had it put on basic cable
did watch tv alot
wal-mart 13” for 59.00
i look at everything
isle of black and white
nice patio pillows
not rain proof
fit in my chairs
go back over
lowes has some red setting
looking for four
be here for life
feel better after i type to you
i feel better after i type to you
joe blue line
The Dust, Michael Gottlieb
From Against Expression edited by Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin:
… depends on the reader’s knowledge of its context: the collapse of the World Trade Center towers …
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Re-writing Freud, Simon Morris
The text from Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams is fed into a computer program. The program randomly selects words, one at a time from Freud’s text and beings to reconstruct the entire book, word by word, making a new book with the same words. When one word is placed next to another, meaning is suggested, and even thought he syntactical certainty of Freud’s sentences have been ruptured by the aleatory process, flashes of meaningpersist, haunting the text.
Men in Aida, Book II, David Melnick
From Against Expression:
David Melnick composed Men in Aida by sounding Homer’s Iliad. That is, Melnick listened to the Greek text as if it were English, translating the sound rather than the sense and drawing out the modern language he heard embedded in the ancient.
Articulating \""a theory that strives to find, in translation, something other than reproduction of meaning” (259)
Alloy, men! Rot the 'I,' take Guy and Harry's hippo-core (-rust) tie.
You don't panic? He idea'd Duke an 'aid-'em-us' hoop nose.
A low gay murmur is a cat tap. Prayin' a hose sock 'll lay ya,
Timmy say 'Oh les' see de polyosophy' (new sin: a guy own).
Hey Daddy (yoik!) got tattoo, moan, a wrist tap. high net taboo, lay
limited ability to represent experience,
This seems to verge toward the concerns triangulated in the spirituality/boredom connection…something about how to represent experience itself to ourselves…seems like a question that belongs to the realm of the existential.
writing down the reasons why she would have taken a photograph instead of taking it
Reminds of mid-century conceptualists’ instruction pieces, plus Kenneth Goldsmith’s huge "uncreative" works that you’re \""not supposed to actually read.” In this case, it's almost like a set of instructions you shouldn’t bother following (unlike, say, Fluxus "instruction pieces"), but ones that in and of themselves have some kind of aesthetic value or function.
classifying the given situation in order to understand its structure
Information about information.
Words as objects. If words are not meant to be "wholly decoded," then the words are about the "manual gesture" that expresses something affective with the expressiveness of the lines left as the "inscriptive trace" (Ingold 2007, 3).
Annotation, but also the sense of thoroughness, exhaustive explanation, a compulsion to comment. Reminds of themes of addiction and information sublime David Foster Wallace's work, including his footnotes to footnotes.
This drawing is fairly small, but many of Voigt's pieces are quite large - certainly as tall as she is. Scale does seem to have a place in the field of objects For Boredom is concerned with. Not all written works are long, but a lot of them are decidedly overwhelming, and certainly some of the novels are, too. Voigt’s are a bit different because you can visually take it all in at once, but still, they are large-scale and highly detailed.
Pale King and Infinite Jest,
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and especially The Pale King, fictionalize all of their characters and data sets, and attempt to evoke the volume of information behind the inevitably partial fragment it can show us. Wallace attempts an obsessively thorough and resolutely methodical treatment of information management. (Eg. footnotes to footnotes).
We might contrast this with Thomas Claburn's i feel better after i type to you takes an ephemeral and intensely personal engagement with these processes, desires, and behaviours and allows us to literally lay our hands on them in book form. Claburn’s poem renders personal information doubly public in that it not only highlights something that was leaked, but picks out the unusually continuous and strangely narrative chunk of search queries that appear to sketch a sad autobiography of AOL user
23187425’s intimate life.
Insofar as AOL user 23187425’s search queries stand out from among a vertiginous list of other customer entries, they evoke what Martin Herbert said of Jorinde Voigt's "Airport Study (Supersymmetrie) 7": \""a partial, but still overwhelming, informational sublime."
To retain care and scrupulosity about each detail from within the teeming wormball of data and rule and exception and contigency which constitutes real-world accounting – this is heroism
In a sentiment echoed by many of Wallace’s IRS-employed characters, day-in-day-out dedication to sorting through data is elevated to a sort of spiritual vocation in The Pale King.
In Return of the Real the critic Hal Foster considers "the real" to be art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites. (As opposed to the "art-as-text" model of the 70s and the "art-as-simulacrum" model of the 80s).
In Rewiring the Real, Mark Taylor describes the thought of "god" and "the real" as synonymous. One vision of theism he is concerned with is that of Schleirmacher, Schiller, Schlegel, Hölderlin, and Novalis, through to Coleridge, Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau, and Stevens, where god becomes identified as the creative impulse immanent in the world. He is also concerned with the ontological thought of Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Freud, Poe, Melville, Blanchot, Jabès, and Derrida for whom the real is
"wholly other, or, in Kierkegaard's words that continue to echo, 'infinitely and qualitatively different'" (4). In the latter tradition, Lacan, following most closely on Freud, is especially associated with the concept of the real. For him, the real is the state of nature from which we have been severed by our entrance into language. It erupts, however, whenever we are forced to confront the materiality of our existence, as with needs and drives, such as for hunger, sex, and sleep.
Habit and ritual are so conceptually close in the grid of boredom and spirituality that in The Spiritual Significance of Boredom in the Overload Age I propose the blend-word \""habritual” to capture the co-occurrence of the biomechanical and the psychosocially meaningful aspects.
Boredom is a head-clearing ascesis
One of the histories of contemporary boredom is in askēsis, which English dictionaries now define as the practice of severe self-discipline, typically for religious reasons or meditative purposes. Askēsis is the Greek root of ascetic. The original usage of askesis in antiquity, however, did not refer to the self-denial conjured by the image of an ascetic, but to the physical training required for athletic events. Over the years, various valences of athletic stamina and religious devotion from
different discourses have intertwined. In The Pale King, as the character Lane Dean works silently processing tax returns among a room full of silent people processing tax returns, he contemplates his boredom, combats it, and loses, sliding into some liminal state where he hallucinates a phantom who performs this etymology.
The phantom refers to the personification of boredom in antiquity as \""the demon of noontide,” who was known to attack monks \""in the stillness of the midday hour and empt[y] the world of any meaning” (Dalle Pezze & Salzani 2009, 8).
almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting
Michael Raposa (1999) argues that wherever boredom appears in spiritual life, it brings ambivalence; it can both threaten to \""undermine prayer and meditation” and promise to deepen contemplation and renew religious insight.
Outside its \""simple” form as a passing emotional state, boredom itself represents an ontological position in which the very condition of existence is found to be boring and the world is found wanting for anything intrinsically valuable.
Yet this aspect of boredom is also just one side of a paradox from religion: as Miller says elsewhere in the Gospel of David Foster Wallace, it is as though \""there is a twist in the loop of transcendence that renders it, Möbius-like, continuous with immanence” (2016, xii).
Why does boredom seem painful? Shouldn’t it just be boring?
While self-shattering is nonviolent, there are many other ways that thanatos, the destructive instinct, is twinned with boredom
Renata Salecl acknowledges the twinning of boredom and aggression when she writes that the society \""which allegedly gives priority to the individual’s freedoms over submission to group causes” (2006) and filters choice through the prism of \""opportunity cost” is one that \""causes aggression towards [the self] and apathy in relation to contemporary social problems which are completely ignored by the emporium of individualist choices” (2013a).
Sometimes the aggression turns outward, as well. The Internet troll as bored, isolated malcontent is well established as a cultural trope and borne out by empirical data (Sanghani 2013). Liam Mitchell (2013) even ups the ante on this notion by proposing that the troll tackles the \""desire for desires” problem by erecting \""a conscious barrier to unconscious desire” by eliding investment in its principal object, which is amusement at another’s expense, or \""lulz.” In Mattathias Schwartz’s (2013)
formulation, lulz is \""a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel”; humour derived from \""disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium.” In pursuing lulz, the troll establishes \""a distance from other trolls (with whom he may or may not feel a bond) and from the people who are governed by normal formations of desire” (Mitchell 2013). Insofar as the troll’s pursuits \""bypass or forestall normal formations of desire, they may be characterized as non-subjective.” This is
significant because, as Mitchell says, our choices only \""have lasting meaning, for others and for ourselves … when we can be held accountable to our promises,” and this is impossible in a condition of both online anonymity and refusal of subjectivity.
The study \""Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind” (Wilson et al. 2014) asked participants to spend some time alone thinking in an empty room. There were three study conditions, in all of which participants generally gave high ratings of boredom. In one condition the experimenters gave people the option of giving themselves a mild electric shock. 67% of men and 25% of women shocked themselves. So goes the saying \""the devil makes work for idle hands.”
Or more broadly: there are many ways, as Baudelaire said in Les Fleurs du Mal (1857, xxv), that \""ennui makes your soul cruel.”
This is what Edgar Orrin Klapp meant when he wrote in his 1986 Overload and Boredom: Essays on the Quality of Life in the Information Society that \""meaning and interest are found mostly in the mid-range between extremes of redundancy and variety-these extremes being called, respectively, banality and noise” (). Redundancy is repetition of the same, which creates a condition of insufficient difference, while noise is the chaos of non-referentiality, or entropy. In a way, these extremes collapse
into each other, in that both can be viewed \""as a loss of potential … for a certain line of action at least” ().
There is perhaps something of "the real" here, as well. Volker Woltersdorff (2012, 134) writes that: The law of increasing entropy is a concept of energy in the natural sciences that assumes the tendency of all systems to eventually reach their lowest level of energy. Organic systems therefore tend toward inertia … Freud identifies the death drive with entropy ... within his theory, the economy of the death drive is to release tension."
Adam Phillips clarifies the death drive: \""People are not, Freud seems to be saying, the saboteurs of their own lives, acting against their own best interests; they are simply dying in their own fashion (to describe someone as self-destructive is to assume a knowledge of what is good for them, an omniscient knowledge of the ‘real’ logic of their lives)” (2000, 81, cf. 77).
Like texting, as in Le Fraga's W8ING, Day and other "antiexpressive" or "uncreative" writing can be seen as writing with and through a particular technology of the present, something pursued with the rigor of ritual, something to which is given over astounding time and effort by the maker, and something which might be aimed at self-shattering.
Antiexpressive writing is \""intentionally self and ego effacing” with tactics of \""uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud, theft, and falsification as its precepts; information management, word processing, databasing, and extreme process as its methodologies; and boredom … as its ethos” (Goldsmith 2008). Necessarily, antiexpressive works have to contend with the subject in terms of authorial decision-making.
They tend to refuse \""familiar strategies of authorial control in favor of automatism, reticence, obliquity, and modes of noninterference” (Dworkin 2011, xliv) as a way of responding to the ambivalent dis/enchantments of modernity.
Each carries a slightly different measure of critique and complicity with the encyclopedic impulse whose origins Jutta Haider and Olaf Sundin (2010) locate in Enlightenment \""assumptions about the public character of information and the desirability of free intellectual and political exchange” (Richard Yeo  qtd. in Haider & Sundin 2010). Likewise, each grapples with Enlightenment ideals of universal knowledge, Romantic visions of heroism, and any concepts of teleology as ways to explain
the present meaningfully.
Nonetheless, it seeks to become somehow enchanted with it anyway. Identifying the self-imposed constraints that enable them to explore questions of choice, boredom, patience, endurance, obsession, and iterability, work of this kind can be seen as an \""other” of information overload, and as a cipher for overload boredom described above.
If we imagine Claburn retyping a litany of anonymous curiosities and statements, we might wonder whether he was tempted to answer or suggest better-formed questions and propositions, as we might be tempted to do, and as browsers and SMS software are increasingly tempted to do with \""autocomplete” suggestions.
As they accumulate, en masse certain patternistic features of our search queries materialize. The evolution of computer programming languages used in database management systems and in search engines is toward recognizing these patterns. In 2006, as now, AOL search was powered by Google, which uses natural language processing based on machine learning. Specifically, it uses statistical language models that encode information about how language is used. This information is learned from the web
by looking at billions of web pages.
The search spell checker, for instance, would evaluate AOL user 23187425’s line (not included in this excerpt) \""could have gone to detriot” by suggesting corrections for \""detriot” and evaluate these suggestions in the context of the phrase in order to determine the likeliest candidate for what the user actually meant to type.
But instead of spellchecking and search results, in Claburn’s piece the response to this litany is almost uniform silence. Considering the user’s treatment of the search box for \""confession” (or perhaps prayer), Claburn wonders \""what circumstances prompted the author to converse thus with AOL’s search engine” (qtd. in Dworkin & Goldsmith 2011, 138).
Whereas usually search engine users employ an information management technique of a call and response - the searcher sends out a phrase and a chorus of search results would reply in their different voices - the second channel of the antiphony is muted in i feel better after i type to you. Stereo becomes mono, and as the syncopation drops out, we’re left with a \""soliloquy” or monologue \""of more than 8,200 queries” (Claburn qtd. in Dworkin & Goldsmith 2011, 138).
The result definitely does read as a conversation, as the editors (Dworkin and Goldsmith) suggest in the anthology where an excerpt of the poem appears. Perhaps it is like a conversation where the other party had become reticent; maybe the search engine was only listening, just as it was expected to.
Sophia LeFraga’s (2014) texting reinterpretation of Samuel Beckett’s boredom play Waiting for Godot dramatizes how cycles of waiting, anticipation, disappointment unfold.
In W8ING LeFraga and another performer sit onstage facing an audience and texting each other rapid, terse little messages about the futility of life, passing time-stamped time, eg.:
\""Nothin 2 b done.” \""word – I feel like yr right.” \""all my life I’ve been like wtvr b reasonable like you haven’t tried everything yet” \""but the struggle is real”
In W8ING the performers’ messages scroll by on a screen behind them. Unlike these artists, most texters aren’t within earshot of each other and might spend those blank line breaks puzzling over the accuracy of their readings of the texts, as well as the intelligibility of their own \""Textspeak” (Crystal 2008, 80) - that \""idiosyncratic” dialect where abbreviations economise on keystrokes but threaten ambiguity and misunderstanding.
But actually the content of these messages is, as Christian Licoppe (2004, 141) said of phone calling, \""secondary to the fact of” messaging. The importance of messaging is precisely in establishing what he calls \""connected presence” - that is, \""the feeling of a permanent connection, an impression that the link can be activated at any time and that one can thus experience the other’s engagement in the relationship at any time” (141).
The back-and-forth pattern of texting emerges as both ritual and habit; fostering connectivity and yet, in needing to be constantly renewed, blunting experience with inexorable monotony.
Communication theorist James Carey (1975) differentiates between "transmission communication," which is about the extension of messages in space, and "ritual communication." In the \""ritual model of communication," communication functions as a technology of \""the construction and maintenance of an ordered, meaningful cultural world that can serve as a control and container for human action” (1975, 19).
But if ritual conjures only the warmth of communion or orderly processing, it shouldn’t; amid the antiphony of message alert tones the \""common mood” is about as likely to be one of anxious or bored waiting as it is likely to be the amity connoted by words like \""connectivity” and \""sharing” so often used to describe the digital social world.
\""For me as a user,” says the man who developed the "typing awareness indicator" - the technical name for the three dots pictured at the bottom of the W8ING screenshot - if there’s any unease associated with the typing indicator, it’s not from the added immediacy … but a lack of enough immediacy. It tells you that something is going on, but leaves you to wonder what it is. It builds up the anticipation for a profound response only to disappoint you with the inevitable banality of what your
friend actually says" (Auerbach 2014).
With some hyperbole, the writer Maryam Abolfazli (2014) agrees: "The three dots shown while someone is drafting a message … is quite possibly the most important source of eternal hope and ultimate letdown in our daily lives. It’s the modern-day version of watching paint dry, except you might be broken up with by the time the dots deliver."
The expectation that there will be a return message clearly has a power having to do with the anticipation of a message even apart from its content.
Nonetheless, anticipation is the powerful negative of the same pattern in which reply is the positive. Even as we reach out to others, we put ourselves in the position of having to wait - for something, or maybe nothing, as if for Godot.
flashes of meaning persist
Flashes of meaning persist despite an attempt to eliminate meaning. Perhaps this suggests that meaning is impossible to eradicate?
making a new book with the same words
Connection to Underworld, "hope of finding patterns where there seems to be nothing but noise".
sort through the historical and cultural debris of the latter half of the twentieth century in the hope of finding patterns where there seems to be nothing but noise.
Similar and opposite to Adam S. Miller's statement about Foster Wallace's work in The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace: "The real is full of noise, and more, it’s full of patterns that look like noise."
many of the authors cited are real and the articles and books noted have actually been published
Interweaving real and made up authors could be another form of haunting. Mark Taylor describes "the real" and "god" as synonymous in Rewiring the Real. Sparsely including the real may be a way to draw attention to it.
explaining his editorial procedures and adding his own observations and reflections, which are so extensive that they eventually overwhelm Zampano’s text.
Similar to the annotations in Foster Wallace's writing (footnotes on footnotes) and Jorinde Voigt's writing. The compulsion to annotate and explain is so strong, that it overwhelms the original text.
Collecting objects, here in an act of boredom, removes them from their function.
Craig Dworkin wrotes Arcades in Zero Kerning: "What is decisive in collecting is that the object is detached from all its original functions in order to enter into the closest conceivable relation to things of the same kind. The relation is the diametric opposite of any utility, and falls into the peculiar category of completeness."
The act of collecting has the potential to transform objects into a function outside of everyday utility and monotony, and fulfill a spiritual need of completeness.
organizational form of the list
Listing and collecting items to put them back into their original function rather than remove them from their original function.
imaginative speculation rather than research
Interweaving of real with imagined. Similar to Underworld's use of real and imaged sources.
bored - boredom
The real is the interruption of the basic parameters of human life into people's experience, such as reminding us of death, instincts and drives.
Information is what allows us to make predictions about a system we don't know, based on what states the system can take on. Information is what allows us to find out what we don't know about the real.
Boredom and the real are both affective confrontations with the conditions of ontology.
ontological - ontology
spiritual - prayer - spirituality
algorithm - instruction
database - data
Boredom is a problem of meaning, and it can be the result of information overload or too little information. Meaning is a matter of how things refer to each other. If information is that which allows us to make predictions about what is unknown in a system, then it is a precursor to meaning.
Insofar as information allows us to make predictions about the nodes that will become the points of reference.
religious - athletic - ascetic - extreme