joseph mcelroy "women and men" reading group STARTS 6/1

Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick your ass in

Postby bongo » Sun Jun 10, 2018 1:11 pm

good to hear. i’m planning/hoping to read each section twice this time around.
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Postby bongo » Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:56 pm

i’ll post some thoughts/pathmarks for the choor monster section tomorrow i think. for now just felt compelled to highlight this passage which i quite like

your large, soft-oiled first baseman’s mitt enfolding a slightly reddened and browned American League hardball there beyond where your thumb and fingers reached that would always let the long mitt do its own finding of a ball coming at you high overhead or vacuum a low throw out of the dirt—a mitt with powers of trustworthiness beyond even the warlike leverage of your friend Sam’s black rubber fins at the lake, which were fun, but cheating—but magical.
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Postby sadville » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:13 pm

I liked that passage too!

i'm finding it hard to carve out chunks of time to devote to this with my current work schedule. i'm only about 15 pages into choor :/

it is supposed to rain the next few days so that should keep me indoors and give me some free time so i'll try to get caught up and contribute!
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Postby bongo » Wed Jun 13, 2018 8:20 pm

breaking the choor chapter into two parts for the purpose of speculative/explicative/whatever discussion

Choor Monster of the Long White Mountain (48-67)

(49/48)
-we begin with the narrative voice/jim experiencing sarah's musicmaking, specifically her playing violin. again joe directs us to sound, memory, and the gap between being the doer/author and the describer/auditor. we're introduced to the metal alloy plate (located, we'll learn, on locus t) which allows two people to teleport/travel but combines them at their destination into one person. we're told the plate is "not made in a lab" but made of a unique and naturally occurring alloy.
-jims mother asks him about choor, hearing him reference it. her mother and jims grandmother, margaret, tells him stories about choor but sarah doesnt know about it. jim thinks that margaret made up choor, but doesnt seem certain. margarets manner of telling the stories is said to recall being a "listener" (as if shes hearing the tales from without or from a muse?).
-we learn that there is a princess there who "got sent away on a mission or something by her father, who was king of choor" (this woman leaving motif of course mirrors sarah going away and margaret being told to go west... women leaving places and the question of who leaves and what leaving is and what its effects are seem of great importance to jim's narrative). the princess went west on a giant bird and after she leaves choor "gets darker" and monsters appear (the implications here seem pretty obvious w/r/t sarah leaving, though whether she actually left and what that means we still dont know).
(50)
-image of the plate and people being teleported and combined. we're told jim has quite literally been to this place in the future. its not a dream or fantasy because jim doesnt dream
-we're introduced to the hermit-meteorologist who is working on a seemingly crackpot (but actually, we're told, rather conservative and quite rational) new theory of weather from his "railroad flat"
(51)
-the meteorologist has other "correspondents" - a pueblo adolescent who calls him great uncle and mails him artwork and a prison inmate who sends him "tips of some telepathic iceberg" (read: other, crazier/less rational theories i think?)
-the meteorologist has no phone, lives off the grid more or less, but communicates in via postcard (he sent jim a postcard which summoned him)
jim is ostensibly visiting the meteorologist as part of a beat for his newspaper (he works for a somewhat fantastical seeming newspaper run by an argentinian from connecticut who sends him on all sorts of crazy wild goosechases for news). the meteorologist seems skeptical of the news/journalism. hes a private person but doesnt view jim as a threat.
(52/53)
-more here on the "new weather" and a woman's voice is heard babbling in the meteorologists flat, telling him to "go tell your message"
-bottom of 53 cuts to another scene entirely
(54/55)
-jim is in a roadhouse tavern with a woman (jean) he has met that day at a press event covering an unmanned rocket launch in florida. before this narrative gets underway we're presented with a small vignette mentioning "OM" (open marriage) and possibly alluding to jim and grace. we're told they cant meet yet though because it takes so long for people to meet.
-the spaceship above is referred to as a house throughout this section
-first reference of "shoot, kid" which will also recur through this section
(56)
-locus t introduced
-"the gap" is discussed again and in relation to arms. arms and gaps - this is recurrent throughout this section. i''ve touched on the gaps above but the arms element has me grasping straws a bit for now.
(57)
-a package for the future, which is said to be the story of the hermit-inventor giving a "secret send-off to a regal young woman" (margaret).
this bit is really mind-bending. joe tells us about jim and his comportment to the future, then says that a package should be made for the future to receive.. and the package is the tale of margaret going west? whats going on here??
(59)
-more on locus t, descriptions of the facility ('the place is a station not a lab')
(60)
-more locus locations mentioned (locus s, g, n, and so on)
-locus l has numerals associated with it (sub stations?) that are called "libration points." these seem to be like, rest areas for time travelers? you can "stay put because the pull of earth and moon balance ou with another force you were not maybe to know"
(61/62)
-we're back in the bar, more toying with the football coach/execution/act of ordering
(63)
-jims assignments and travels, mention of "the 'real' choor" which is proximal to siberia
(64/65)
-the chilean naturalized german beekeeper mentioned (is this the same chilean that jim went to florida to hunt down?)
-a freelance diver mentioned, jim talks to him about assignments
(66)
-oysters with jean, a bit on how they met and their sexual tension

*on "shoot, kid"/giving the order/shooting/etc
this is pretty opaque stuff. to me, this is joe weaving a number of different threads in jims history (and world history at large) with his "present" through semantic association and, possibly, through the "leakage"/slipperiness of temporality jim experiences due to time traveling. disjointed vignettes of a high school football coach urging his players to action, a commander in charge of a firing squad, and jim being tasked with ordering him and jean drinks. its very disorienting to parse on first pass but comes much clearer when thought about this way (at least for me!) we get punning on shots, ordering, etc


this is a heady section! more tomorrow/friday :)
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Postby a is jump » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:17 pm

I got a late start, been trying to play catch up this week when I can. Are we supposed to be starting or finishing the sections listed in the weeks in the OP? Right now I'm with Mayn and Barbara-Jean at the Skylab launch.

So far, I'm digging it. My closest point of reference is someone like Alain Robbe-Grillet, whose prose can also be super dense but also who makes use of repetition to help bring the important things into focus.

It's funny-- I think I engage texts like this on a different level than some of you seem to be doing. I know there's often or maybe even always SOMETHING beneath the surface, but as I've encountered Wide Load thus far, my mind is pretty much fixed on a house being carried on a flat bed truck moving down the highway.
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Postby alaska » Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:13 pm

Alas I don't think I will be able to swing this rn -- too many projects on my plate :(

If I get a big chunk of time I may try to catch up at some point. Godspeed everyone
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Postby bongo » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:36 pm

Choor Monster of the Long White Mountain (67-end of chapter)

decided not to do page by page this time (theres too much!) but i wanted to point out things that i find interesting/confusing/important and connections ive made/am trying to make along with a general summary. so...

in the "present" of this section (which is the skylab launch in 1973) jim is out on date of sorts with a girl named jean (or barbara-jean), shes a plucky younger news reporter that was sent down to cover the launch (whereas jim is not covering it, hes there for a pseudo-vacation/to try to find a chilean man he interacted with the previous december at the 1972 apollo 17 launch). jim and jean go out for oysters, then hit a roadhouse tavern, go for a walk along the coast, and finally return to a hotel to make love, talk, and sleep (they alternate phasing in and out of sleep as jim tells hazy stories and jean half-consciously responds and, occasionally, speaks at length herself).

on the chileans
plural. there are two but it requires a bit of diligence to sort this out (theres even a little joke made of the ambiguity as jim talks to a sleepy jean). one of these chileans is a german born beekeeper (80/81 gives a bit of his context/story). the other is a "tall, bald man with a moustache" named dr. mackenna, a statistician and economist. its really cool how joe folds these two characters together a bit in memory, almost encouraging us to conflate them (two people turn to one). mackenna is encountered 3 times in december by jim, each time w/ a sinister man with a ponytail named ray spence ("an ageless little villain [who] gives information a bad name")

on "the redneck"
jim and jean play pool with a guy at the roadhouse who is skeptical of news. he also is skeptical of the space program and angry at government spending on it. jim lectures him on economics, focusing on "leakage." the man tells a pretty haunting story that amounts to a sort of riddle which i feel like has to connect to leakage. anyone got a read on this? the car crash with the woman who has dried blood on her face but is smiling but the wreck is so recent the tire is still spinning. how is the blood dried? why is she smiling? whats the timeline. jean also mentions a woman who has to be grace here (a new yorker, "a celebrity in feminist circles") who realized she needed to divorce her husband while swimming in a pool (pool/pool)

on the colloidal unconscious
'between solution and suspension, fine particles in a liquid' this seems synecdochical for joes methods in this section/the novel at large.

on futural beings
jean owns the sleazy natgeo reporter by talking about how humans will be post-sex soon ("its getting towards the end of this kind of dopy thing" (69)). mackenna talks about reptilian people who have a new cool bloodtype (type r) and who can live outside of earths atmosphere (89).

on florida timeline
so we have, as i read it, trips to florida in 1968, december 1972 (apollo 17) and the present one, may 1973 (skylab)


mayns formula for finding love again must somehow join
(1) his uncontrollable power to witness [two people turned into one]
(2)his faith that the Chilean economist matters more even than his connection with post-Allende politics and the Spence link
(3)his lifelong inability to dream'


will post some notes on "the unknown sound" tmorrow
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Postby hey nathan » Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:07 pm

thx bingo this helps me a lot, I reread the parts you covered before and def enjoy/get more now

taking a break this week tho and rereading Ulysses today
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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:18 pm

the unknown sound
a brief and really quite tender section, quite welcome after the twin densities of the first BREATHER and the Choor chapter.

we should note that there are three styles of chapter headers in the book: ALL CAPS (BREATHERS), Standard (eg "Choor Monster of the Long White Mountain"), all lower (eg "the unknown sound"). this is significant. the BREATHERS are big dumps of information and formal/narrative experimentation, the Standard sections adhere more closely to the narratives of jim and grace, the lower case sections are vignettes of characters in our universe - here we get a depiction of romantic(ish) evening shared between an unnamed woman (is it grace? or perhaps someone who participates in the body workshops? she scans as somewhat bohemian and body conscious (she "only eats living things")) and the freelance diver (nee marvin/martin) who jim talks to about the nature of his own work in the previous chapter.

not a ton to talk about here really as this is sort of a tonal chapter, a place to dwell. that said it is worth noting that light and sound are at the forefront of joes concerns here. the woman is trying to get the diver clued in to a sound made from the television set. we remember that sound is presented as more malleable than light, even prioritized between the two in joe's sensory world. also sound is linked to the feminine whereas light (connected with numbers, precision, techne) aligned with the masculine. i dont think these are hard attributions and i wouldnt claim them to be rigid either, but it is how theyve been presented to us thus far.

to me this is a beautiful, warm chapter. this novel is obviously "about" intersubjectivity insofar as we can say it has a focus that can be concisely articulated. i believe here and in the other lowercase sections joe is giving us embodiments of the intangible, beautiful, unremarkable yet so very poignant stuff of the everyday
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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:18 pm

hey nathan wrote:thx bingo this helps me a lot, I reread the parts you covered before and def enjoy/get more now

taking a break this week tho and rereading Ulysses today


glad to hear it
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Postby rushedbehind » Sat Jun 16, 2018 11:52 pm

i know this is leaping ahead a little bit, but i've got some thoughts on ship rock that i'd like to get down while they're fresh in my mind. maybe we can come back when the time comes

as a reader of w&m this chapter has anchored many of the themes and concepts that have been elusive to me so far, which may not be coincidental given that the rock is what anchors everything in this chapter. it also makes sense that prior to the novel's publication this chapter was put out as a chapbook (under the title ship rock: a place) –– though it alludes to earlier sections, it is largely self contained, and can be read on its own merits as well as a section of a larger work.

ship rock is a section preoccupied with systems of knowledge, belief, and ideology, and the spaces between language and the real. though he isn't named in this chapter, it can be inferred from his role as an interviewer and photographer that it is Jim who has been brought here.

the chapter examines several "origin stories" of the rock. on the one hand, the navajo myth that the rock functioned as a ship, moving them to the southwest. on the other, the geological interpretation of the rock as having emerged from the earth, shooting up out of the plateau. on top of this, the chapter also shows the space being taken over by capitalist enterprise and the consequent environmental degradation (imagery of litter, decay, etc.). the characters want to know: does the rock bring jobs? who earns money here, and for what? the narration in the chapter oscillates between several discursive styles, each appropriate to the mode of knowledge at hand (i.e mythic, scientific, corporate, so on). they each hover around the image of the rock.

the rock exists as both name (jim hears ship rock as two separate words, though he later realises it's written as Shiprock) and place –– it is referred to as being a place in itself as well as of a place. this reminded me of wallace stevens's "anecdote of the jar":

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.


it's like the rock acts as a structuring mechanism for a plurality of meanings/interpretations (something capable of supporting a multiplicity of small scale units?). like the jar, we perceive knowledge, time and space as "surrounding" the rock, rather than the rock merely being a part of its surrounding environment.

there is a lot in this relatively short chapter. because i have a 1st ed hardcover i'm not making any annotations which is making writing these posts a bit difficult. but oh well. hope this is useful. i also loved the phrase "like a photograph of something you know is moving".
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Postby bro tones » Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:50 pm

sorry i haven't contributed. been to two destination weddings the past 2 weeks and haven't got this started. going to try to use this as a guide and hopefully catch up at some point. thanks for all the good work you guys are doing in here.
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Postby a is jump » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:00 pm

Can't believe there wasn't a mention of bellowing in your recap, bongo.
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Postby bro tones » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:03 pm

wait, this book has bellowing??
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Postby forest design » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:24 pm

Finally starting this over an afternoon coffee. The long detailed posts had me real intimidated, but I'm loving it so far. Just want to add my support and encouragement - keep up the good work folks, really appreciate it
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Postby a is jump » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:35 pm

bro tones wrote:wait, this book has bellowing??


If I recall, there were two sentences that had back to back bellows.
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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:48 am

shorter notes this time, as im traveling/moving right now. i may add to these later but really i think these are the most accessible sections so far by a far margin and ive just made notes for reference and pulled out some stuff i found particularly curious/interesting.

What Found Grace Kimball, Goddess Quite Much Taken

this chapter (titled in Standard formatting ie a chapter that concerns, ostensibly, central narrative/plotting) introduces us to grace kimball and her world, specifically a day in her life. the section begins with the humming of a vibrator, with grace in her "fully mirrored Body Room" masturbating (or engaging in "Self-Sex, her term for it"). sound and touch are again linked to the feminine here - and words linked to the masculine. grace derides words a few times in this section. [for me the dichotomy joe is setting up - which id hesitate to call rigid, but so far its consistent, is one in which women are linked to experience/sound/touch and men are linked to explication/explanation/light/language. many of the men report and explain the mysteries of the world, they seek to dis-enchant the world, in phenomenological terms, or they flatly cannot experience them, while women are in tune with the unspoken/mystical/unknown in a sort of preternatural, abiding way)].

grace gives lectures on the body and feminism, working to empower women through a sort of mindful/sensual corporeality and self-love. ive seen joe accused of lampooning 70's sex-oriented feminism but i dont really get that myself, i dont see it as sardonic or poking fun. curious what others think.

there are a handful of new characters introduced here: maureen (grace's assistant, connected with "baby's breath", vaguely militant, keeps a sketchbook, sections of which appear in the text), cliff (a close friend, a sculptor, suicidal), clara (chilean, last name mackenna, dr. mackenna's wife, we learn) sue (workshop participant, recently out, mother of larry), dave shae (cliff is "keeping" dave from maureen we learn, dave references natural birth, theres a duality with shay from the first chapter which is surely intentional, but i don't think theyre the same person - but who knows! 2 into 1...), lou (grace's ex-husband), manuel (super at grace's building, gets fired)

questions/notes:
who is "our dude" referenced on 111? it may be jesus christ, but its such a strange section syntactically (shocker!)
clara and grace's relationship - they recognize each other's previous selves. theres nothing in here to unpack yet really, in terms of what we've been given as readers. i believe more will come of this.
two wheeled vehicles are a recurrent trope in this section (bicycle, motorcycle)

dividing the unknown between us
-mackenna reading a letter from the inmate we learned about in the choor chapter. clara has been spotted visiting grace by amy, dr. mackenna's assistant. clara tells him he has nothing to worry about
-the mackennas know the freelance diver, martin marpe, clara knows dave shae.
-mackenna's doctor is the doctor of the diva with the tapeworm
-again we see a link between sound/touch (or the non-visual/light) and the feminine, as mackenna entreats clara to find the bedroom with her eyes closed.
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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:51 am

also wanted to draw attention to this cool passage where the diver is made to listen to ambient/minimalism/modern composition back in “the unknown sound”. wonder what she gave him? seems like harold budd or something haha

She’d lent him a piano record. It sounded like a half-magical, musing mishmash of Debussy, Schumann, pre-War nightclub songs and barroom rag heavy on the pedal and old American songs he could not identify, only respond to, a tune from Stephen Foster maybe, or a camp meeting by a river. He’d lent her Delius and the Bach partitas he liked.
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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:59 am

good post on ship rock, rushed. thats one of my favorite chapters from my previous reading.

the way joe writes about the earth/geology/ecology makes me really excited for the non-fiction book on water that hes supposedly close to finishing
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Postby rushedbehind » Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:26 am

thanks for the clarification on the mackenna/clara/amy connection, bongo

i've had heaps of spare time recently so i've plowed ahead to page 600. i've only just noticed that from here on there are very few short chapters to break up the breathers. the breather i'm in the middle of (breathers thick and fast) is 150 pages long. whew. it's my favourite one so far but it is fatiguing getting through this thing
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Postby rushedbehind » Sat Jul 07, 2018 7:09 pm

finished this bitch
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Postby sadville » Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:05 pm

Damn. I just quit the job that was killing me so I’ll be reading/posting a fair amount in the next week
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