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 nosebleeds » Thu May 31, 2018 5:26 am

Ok. So I'm not done with the first breather yet, but I wad reading the same thing into Wide Load as a metaphor. Then I had my girlfriend read it and she's convinced he's literally describing a truck on the road. She's also convinced that McElroy knows or has spent time in New Mexico because he writes how they talk down there.
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Postby nosebleeds » Thu May 31, 2018 5:26 am

Oh come on.
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Postby sadville » Thu May 31, 2018 10:46 pm

this passage in "division of labor unknown" really stuck with me and kind of informed how i made sense of the first breather (and the text as a whole thus far):

Museum, or lab, one like hers, and a model was on view, and you walked along it and around it, looked through its windows and its valves and if there was an equals sign looked through the equals sign to what it led to, but to this model there was more than met the eye, and it was a gap between last night's lipstick and this morning's extra-careful shave--at least she did not sport a five-o'clock shadow!--or you had balls with rods sticking out of them from ball to ball, and then another cluster of balls with rods, but between the clusters nothing, and you put the two parts of the one model together but without doing anything to them, for you put them together in your mind. (6)


many of the motifs of the early part of the novel, at least in some connection, pertain to gaps or emptiness:

the "power vacuum . . . [a]n as yet unfixed emptiness simply asking power to rush in" (9)

the Wide Load is a disruption, a gap in what is generally considered to be a straightforward means of travel

Grace and Jim operate (rotate?) with gap between them in which "we are the relations between them" (11)

the whole breather section is a series of non-sequential blocks of text with literal spatial gaps between them

so like, we as readers (the "we" in the text? are "we" "angels"?) are confronting various gaps in the text at this point, and we construct meaning/make sense of things by finding ways to fill in gaps, to make connections (to function as "relations"?). however, as we can see from our collective exegesis, we can't answer all of these questions, and maybe that addresses the Much/More/Mass and sound/light motifs (sound and light, perhaps, being generic means of making sense of our gaps in understanding?):

To find that our understanding could prove to be just plain light--for there's no reason to think angels can't learn too--while light in our case had recently proved sometimes sound. And, given off from us, this sound had more to it or less depending on the viewer's place--that is, how much you were, and where you were coming from, and how. What mattered, though, was that among all points of view the more Much averaged a shade greater than the less. So we had not just differences in point of view: we had a net more Much given off, and this might mean so much in the long run that the shade greater More felt downright massive. And so we chose for Much the new term Mass. (41-42)


re: the breather, is that where we breathe meaning into the text? are the breathers there for us "to find the tack to harness the void" (43)? mcelroy does tell us, that, in doing so, "that's where the power is" (43), after all.

BUT IT'S HARD AND A LOT IS GOING OVER MY HEAD

regarding the rotation/spinning motif, we cycle around, go through the rotation of images/symbols/motifs such that, like if we were to rotate/spin around too much, too quickly, we would become dizzy, disoriented. the text does that to me sometimes.

just some thoughts. not sure what to make of the thighs, would love to hear some explication! :)
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Postby rushedbehind » Fri Jun 01, 2018 2:42 am

sadville your questioning and thoughts are helpful to me but i have little to contribute at this point
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Postby hey nathan » Sat Jun 02, 2018 1:34 am

took abt 20 pages (of a 1987 hardback my library had) for it to click but I'm liking it

I didnt start reading literary novels til my late 20s so theres gaps in my frames of reference but what I think I like is the leapfrogging thought to thought back and forth like Proust maybe rather than just stream-of-consciousness (the few I've read) but also how that's happening inside this myopic fog of contextlessness like JR, or that's what came to mind I guess

this resonated for me but idk why exactly:
"Meaning something is like growing up to someone."

happy to be starting this project!
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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:16 am

yeah good stuff sadville. i have some thoughts that ill try to type up during my insane babys first nap today. meanwhile re: wide load - the frederick karl piece from the mcelroy review of contemporary fiction reader has some good things to say:

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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:18 am

every time i read joe im struck anew by the facts that hes 1) handily my favorite writer 2) the writer whose brain i most want to get inside of 3) his writing style and approach to storytelling is absolutely singular
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Postby mudd » Sat Jun 02, 2018 8:41 am

oh I never saw this thread. Sorry I can’t join now but if I can catch up I might join later.

Good luck thread!

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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:07 am

please do if possible, would love to have you :)
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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:56 am

sadville wrote:many of the motifs of the early part of the novel, at least in some connection, pertain to gaps or emptiness


definitely. and when we're introduced to the alloy plate and the (spoiler tagging this since i think it happens in section 3, but its really not a "spoiler") combining of two people into one when they go to the earth-moon colonyToggle Spoiler this is effectively closing this gap.

mcelroy believes that humanity if fundamentally intersubjective but also acknowledges the gulf of the subjective, that gap that can never be truly closed between one person and another. that the gap is sort of force-closed through technology is an interesting anti-heideggerian move in a novel that otherwise feels quite heideggerian to me.

sadville wrote:Grace and Jim operate (rotate?) with gap between them in which "we are the relations between them" (11)


so like, we as readers (the "we" in the text? are "we" "angels"?) are confronting various gaps in the text at this point, and we construct meaning/make sense of things by finding ways to fill in gaps, to make connections (to function as "relations"?)


right. joe really does seem firmly committed to the notion that meaning creation is fully collaborative. along with him "we" (us, the readers) come to bear on the gaps even if they don't actually close in the narrative action (as is said 'Yet if the chance remains that they [James & Grace] should never meet to our satisfaction, still we ourselves are their relation.")

sadville wrote:not sure what to make of the thighs, would love to hear some explication! :)


joe says "if male is to female, moral is to femoral" (12) - obviously this is a bit of wordplay but i think we can read more into it. in the first section there are two discreet passages that deal with the woman giving births reaction to her husband moving from her head down between her thighs. beyond that, we have grace (metonymic for women as such?) illlustrating the ways in which women in the novel are more engaged with corporeality than men. but what of positing moral opposite/apart from femoral?
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Postby nosebleeds » Sat Jun 02, 2018 11:45 am

The first breather section feels like when my friend's father would play around with his shortwave radio gear. It's making me feel really disorientated. I might be too stupid for this book.
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Postby mudd » Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:31 pm

don’t worry about that with McElroy! Yeah there is a ton of information but that disorientation is the goal not a failing on your part.

(Based on other books,that is)

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Postby bongo » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:21 pm

nosebleeds wrote:The first breather section feels like when my friend's father would play around with his shortwave radio gear. It's making me feel really disorientated. I might be too stupid for this book.


try to keep pushing and lets talk about stuff! is there a desire for 'recap' posts just going over "plotpoints"?
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Postby bongo » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:44 am

how we doin?
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Postby ripersnifle » Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:15 pm

sorry everyone. had some stuff come up over the last week that has made me have to abandon this for the time being. was really looking forward to digging into the book. still hope to maybe catch up at some point in the next 2 weeks maybe.
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Postby winjer » Thu Jun 07, 2018 3:34 pm

where can i get a physical copy of this
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Postby bongo » Thu Jun 07, 2018 3:42 pm

dzanc direct is prob best
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Postby winjer » Thu Jun 07, 2018 4:25 pm

seems they are sold out
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Postby forest design » Thu Jun 07, 2018 4:31 pm

I've been too intimidated to start this yet
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Postby iacus » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:12 pm

Chugging along slowly, really appreciate peoples posts in here. I am mostly appreciating it on the level of the poetry of language so far, and not grasping onto much else.
(there was a hyperbole)
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Postby largecrow » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:20 pm

Found out my girlfriend three months was pregnant on 6/1 so my start is a bit delayed but am still in on this/will catch up with everybody
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Postby rushedbehind » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:42 pm

would be interested to hear how people are reading the depiction of ny feminist workshops in the grace kimball chapter
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Postby bongo » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:45 pm

there’s a lot to talk about there, we should wait til those weeks i guess?

who is actually reading? was hoping to get some discourse going. i’m planning on reading each weeks sections twice (midway through my second reading of the choor mountain chapter now).
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Postby bongo » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:49 pm

but from the first two sections regarding that question some things to consider are the corporeal priority given to women as such. the first chapter has the birth, which the woman experiences in a bodily way which the men cannot (they’re relegated to waiting and recounting the experience). the moral to femoral as men are to women is something i haven’t parsed yet.

we also should note that jim is concerned with reporting the events of the world while grace focuses on helping people with issues connected to the corporeal
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Postby hey nathan » Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:04 pm

mister bingo sir please recap me some plot points

like is Jim Mayn the kid who was given birth to at the beginning

is Grace his mom?

is this set in like Pinochet regime era Chile?

does it matter?

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Postby bongo » Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:11 pm

a) no, the birth is opened up on as its underway and those are two characters we dont know anything about
b) no
c) no, i assume this question emerges bc of the chilean man that jim is trying to find again in florida in the choor mountain chapter/the bits about jim giving the order to fire? the choor chapter is incredibly discombobulating (i actually think its a tougher section than the first breather). i think the giving the order stuff is a strange fugue-like riff on him and the reporter he picked up at caneveral waiting to order drinks
d) yes!
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Postby rushedbehind » Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:16 pm

yeah, agreed. i am finding it difficult to stick to the timetable because i'm taking my reading time where i can at the moment, and this is the only book i have on the go, so i'm a little ahead. just starting the second breather (which is much harder for me to parse than the first).

i'll try to sketch some basic thoughts. what i'm getting from the corporeal/cerebral divide you mention is that despite mcelroy assigning the former to the feminine and the latter to the masculine, his intention in doing so isn't to suggest some essential gender binary but to set up a sense of irreparable distance; he's not interested in the specifics of polarities /the differences therein but more the space between oppositions, is there a meeting point between them, what meaning is created in that space, is there a "synthesis" possible, etc. it's almost like mcelroy uses gender not to examine the sexual politics specific to 1970's NY (though he does seem to be doing that as well) but to get at something more fundamental. i am having trouble articulating what that something might be though. (as an aside, i'm also wary of imposing more contemporary gender theory onto a text that might not be that willing to receive it -- i've not read enough of it to say)

oppositions aren't just a thematic concern but are becoming a structural one as well. as with the basic premise of having grace and jim live in the same building but never meeting despite their considerable mutual relationships, there's a sense of duality building, and much of the book seems preoccupied with the orbits of these two people and the almost gravitational space between them. there are images/plotpoints that recur and seem to develop associations with either character, but it's unclear at this point what they are.

it's a slippery text to try and write about and even after trying i don't feel any closer to understanding it. it just resists typical methods of interpretation. but i'll keep embarrassing myself in trying
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Postby bongo » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:04 pm

rushedbehind wrote:his intention in doing so isn't to suggest some essential gender binary but to set up a sense of irreparable distance; he's not interested in the specifics of polarities /the differences therein but more the space between oppositions, is there a meeting point between them, what meaning is created in that space, is there a "synthesis" possible, etc. it's almost like mcelroy uses gender not to examine the sexual politics specific to 1970's NY (though he does seem to be doing that as well) but to get at something more fundamental.
oppositions aren't just a thematic concern but are becoming a structural one as well. as with the basic premise of having grace and jim live in the same building but never meeting despite their considerable mutual relationships, there's a sense of duality building, and much of the book seems preoccupied with the orbits of these two people and the almost gravitational space between them.


i agree with all of this stuff. i don’t think he’s going for hard binaries either, in fact that seems diametrically opposed to his aims. i think he’s very concerned with “spaces between” (the sexes, two fictive people, sign/signifier, author/reader) and the question of if the gap can be closed and who can close it. we see a corporeal gap being force closed with Lotus T but we don’t know much about it yet other than that it opens up more questions (“who’s clothes do they wear?” etc).

seems we’re on a similar page
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Postby alaska » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:29 pm

Catching up -- should have a post up in a day or two!
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Postby David Lobster Wallets » Sun Jun 10, 2018 12:11 pm

I doubt this will be the last time I say this but Bingo thank you for the work you're putting in, I'm barely 50 pages in and your posts have been a massive help. Thanks so much.
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