Monday, January 26, 2009

ooo, your dislikes are so impressive, show me some more

I, for one, have read more Flarf books than I'd like to remember, & I wasn't magically converted to a sympathetic view.
I'm going to, sort of unapologetically, take this quote by "Superman" out of context (but only a little really). Click here for all the context you can handle.

OK, so it actually amazes me that this sentence I quoted could ever have been uttered by an intelligent person (not to completely single out "Superman" here, intelligent people say this kind of shit all the time). "Hey, you know that band you like, I've listened to them, and I really don't like them". Why do people take so much pride in the things they've somehow "managed" to hate?

I know this sounds crazy to a lot of people, but: If you don't get Flarf, why are you talking about it? Reading a bunch of their books and hating them is a failure not an accomplishment. I'm not saying you should be ashamed or anything. there's a lot of stuff I don't get and don't like, but I'm not proud of it.

I may guide someone away from the New Formalists. But what kind of asshole would I be if I actually entered into an arguement with someone who loved them and tried to tell them that they didn't write "real poetry"?

someguy: "hey, I really love the New Formalists"
Me: "on the contrary, they are stupid because I have read a bunch of their books and think they're stupid"
someguy: "yeah, but... aren't you kind of an asshole?"

And they would win because I am, in that scenario, being kind of an asshole.

And so what if the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes? Why are you being such a prude?


Michael Robbins said...

This is truly ridiculous. You're not taking that comment a little out of context; you're turning it on its head. What it means is: why do you keep telling me that I need to read Flarf in order to critique it? I have read Flarf - it did not convert me, as you keep insisting it will.

What it does NOT mean is "since I read Flarf & didn't think anything of it, I am right in saying that it is worthless." Yr mischaracterization of my position is telling: many folks who argue with me about Flarf seem to believe that my dislike of it is indicative of a failing on my part. Imagine the scenario along the lines of yr parody: I don't like X. Oh, well you must be stupid, then, for X is a truly revolutionary art form.

But it's not about whether I like Flarf. It's about Flarf. The quote you single out (unfairly, as you correctly note) is simply a response to the charge that if I would only spend more time engaging with Flarf, I would be converted. It in no way claims that my dislike of Flarf is proof of anything other than my dislike of Flarf, except that I have read enough Flarf to know I dislike it.

To get from here to what you wrongly claim I claim - that my dislike of Flarf is evidence of something about Flarf rather than something about me - you have to be remarkably unwilling to contextualize my comment in a larger discussion. Anyone might dislike some particular art form or genre - some people recognize that X is a great artist, but he or she is simply not to their liking - without deciding that that says anything about the art form or genre.

If I want to dismiss Flarf, it will have to be on the back of an argument. To suggest that I am ignorant of this is really churlish.

Iain said...

No one really ever insisted that you would be "magically" "converted" though, which is unfortunately what your statement seems to hinge on. Drew just suggested that people should read Flarf before critiquing it, which you have, so uh... he wasn't even talking about you.

Also, I said I was taking your comment out of context because I didn't feel I had enough context as to your actual positions to speak on them. I was merely riffing off of what it sounded like you were saying, which resembled many aesthetic arguments (involving art) that I had been hearing lately on a variety of topics. I didn't mischaracterize you, because I said right at the beginning that I was being unfair. I never claimed that you claimed anything, that was the whole point of the disclaimer.

You say "If I want to dismiss Flarf, it will have to be on the back of an argument". Why? Why not just dismiss it outright and get on with life and poems? I mean, you can't like everything, and arguments can be such a waste of time. Arguments, like poems, are constructed objects. They always end up revealing more about the framework they were constructed in than being actually useful in any sort of referential sense. We really don't "have to make elaborately sounded structures" to justify (in the religious sense) our opinions about poems. Flarf makes me think about poetry in new and interesting ways. Do you really have to create arguments that show how that's "wrong"? It all seems so superstitious.

Michael Robbins said...

Are you trying to be funny? Your "disclaimer" is not one, since it states, incorrectly, that you are taking my comment "only a little" out of context, & is then followed by this: "it actually amazes me that this sentence I quoted could ever have been uttered by an intelligent person." How could this amaze you if you "never claimed that [I] claimed anything"? So, let's see: your entire post is a response to a quotation wrenched from context that you now claim you did not claim represents an actual position. The purpose of this is what? If no one holds the position in question, why attack it? If someone does hold it, why not track down a quotation from someone who holds the position instead of using a quotation you acknowledge does not actually represent the tendency you employ it to represent? I don't get it. You might as well make something up & attribute it to Superman & attack his position.

Iain said...

The comment does represent actual positions. You were brandishing your inability to appreciate something. The words themselves reminded me of various people's tendencies to wield their their dislikes around in arguments. And speaking of out of context, your comment was in response to something no one ever said: that you would be "magically converted" merely by reading the poems. Flarf is not a religious experience, and good poetry takes more effort than it does magic. The words themselves, in any context, are at least a little silly. I only really took your words a couple steps further than you intended, and indicated so. However, if it makes you happy, I'll change your name to Superman.

Superman said...

If you wanna think they're silly, go ahead. You've already established that you don't need an argument for anything you claim. Strange point, & new, but whatevs. The whole inane discussion was started when Drew complained that people didn't read Flarf but felt free to criticize it, which seems to me a proposition in need of some defense, & just as silly as anything I said. Not to mention that Drew readily agreed with my sarcastic parody of his position: if people were actually serious they wouldn't criticize Flarf. So Flarf is above criticism, except, ipso facto, by non-serious persons. I'm amazed at how many contortions people will go through to evade having to look at the untenability of their own critical formulations, but that's the internet for you: no doubt my opponents accuse me of the same thing, when they're not resorting to innuendo, calumny, belittlement, & lies.

Iain said...

if you're going to complain about being taken out of context, you can't really say that I said "you don't need an argument for anything you claim". I'll discuss the tenability of critical arguments all day, but that's what I"m interested in. I'm interested in the mechanics that arise out of working in various frameworks (whether or not I "agree" with those frameworks). What I"m not interested in is "dismissing" anything, especially a movement that is so energizing to so many people. Art (like evolution) cannot "progress". It merely adapts to a changing environment. "Dismissing" an art movement makes about as much sense as a biologist "dismissing" certain phenotype variations. This all just goes for critics of course. Poets can be as narrow-minded as they like. Some of the best poets have terrible taste in poetry.

On another note, I'm only somewhat being a smart-ass by changing your name to superman. I'm also trying to correct my mistake, being that I didn't actually intend to offend you, or to suggest that you really intended the quote to be taken to the extent that I took it. "innuendo, calumny, belittlement, & lies" seems a little hyperbolic, but sure, I'm sorry. I should have made myself much more clear and probably not have used your name at all. Back when I wrote that, I wasn't used to having anything I'd ever written be read by anyone. I'm not a published anything, or a student, so I just figured I was some nobody with a blog. Since then, I've been linked to, subscribed to, and engaged with by various gracious individuals, and I've thought a little more about this blog's role and I try to be a little more responsible with the things that I write. In any event, I do apologize.

Michael Robbins said...

Oh, I wasn't referring to you with the innuendo/calumny bit. I'm never as outraged as I sound. I enjoy yr blog, & will keep reading.

Iain said...

thanks Michael.

you're right too, that somehow the Internet fosters shit-talking faster than good discussion. I do believe that more is possible though, that the web can be used for more in-depth discourse. Perhaps I believe this for my own sanity's sake, as it's all I have access to at the moment. who knows.

anyway, thanks for reading.