Friday, September 7, 2012

Current Opus List

Opus Work Title No. Year Rev. Key Dur
1 "The Ruins"

1993 1994
2 Overture to Eden

1993 1995
3 Toccata Prelude and Fugue

E 4
4 Dance of the Goblins


5 Funeral Music for Lear


6 Symphony in Ab Sketches from Dante I 1994 2002 Ab 28
7 Symphony in A
II 1994
A 45
8 Symphony in E In Pursuit of the Millennium III 1994
E 32
9 Cello Concerto in F# Erleuchtung
F# 20
10 Violin Fantasy Variations "Romantic"
D 23
11 Koncertstueck in G Rime of the Ancient Mariner I 1995
G 21
12 Overture to Medea

1995 2002 Eb 6
13 Sonata in C#
I 1995
C# 24
14 Quartet in A
I 1996
A 25
15 Sonata in F#
II 1996
F# 15
16 Quartet in Ab Roman Elegies II 1996 2012 Ab 24

Aurora for String Trio and Oboe

Ab 6
17 Pavanne for a Wedding Vigil

Eb 10
18 Cello Sonata in D Mephisto Variations I 1996 2012 D 22
19 Koncertstück in D# Hyperion II 1997
D# 27
20 Piano Concerto in F
III 1998
F 27
21 Violin Sonata in C
I 1998 2012 C 13
22 Symphony in C#
IV 1999 2002 C# 25
23 Quartet in F
III 1999 2012 F 25
24 Quartet in D Sehnsucht IV 1999
D 21
25 Cello Sonata in C
II 2000 2002 C 19
26 Cello Sonata in F# Sparrow of Beijing III 2000 2002 F# 18
27 Violin Sonata in A
II 2000 2012 A 12
28 Piano Trio in Bb Neo-Modern I 2002
Bb 25
29 Piano Trio in F
II 2002 2007 F 22
30 Symphony in B
V 2002
B 33
31 Symphony in F# Pastoral VI 2002
F# 40
32 Sonata in C Ares III 2002
C 16
33 Quartet in F#
V 2005 2012 F# 26
34 Quartet in Db Hua yang nian hua VI 2005 2006 Db 18
35 Quartet in Eb In the Year of Storms VII 2005
Eb 40
36 Quartet in B
VIII 2005 2012 B 34
37 Quartet in Bb Xaos IX 2005
Bb 34
38 Quartet in G The Neo-Classical X 2005
G 25
39 Quartet in C
XI 2007 2012 C 24
40 Piano Trio in C#
III 2007
C# 23
41 Piano Trio in F#
IV 2008
F# 33
42 Piano Trio in C The Archangel V 2009
C 45
43 Quartet in E
XII 2012
E 38
44 Piano Trio in B
VI 2012
B 33
45 Quartet in F minor
0 1992 2012 f 21

Food Fight Among the Body Boomer Gods - III

Bret Easton Ellis

Franzen's reaction to Oprah's attention shows the raw nerve underneath his yoeman's work of presenting the thoughts of a highbrow mind – which he is – to the middle. He wants to be acknowledge for what he is, in the same way that Tom Tomorrow presents the unvarnished bald faced truth about his time.

This applies exponentially to the last of the three, Bret Easton Ellis. Franzen is trying to heal the middle, and tells them their part in the decline of America. Ellis however, has the number of the elites, people like DFW, for example. He hates pretense, and his most famous work, American Psycho, is a dissection of the pretense of elites. If Franzen gently satirizes America, Ellis it its most brutal effective voice. Consider that Wolfe took a very long novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, to not talk about the sadism of American elites, musing on master's of the universe who think about "the hot little fires" that they dream burn among suburban mothers – note that this is DFW's obsession, seducing mothers – where as Ellis goes into such minds, and brings back documentary footage. Ellis wrote a raw Blair Witchcraft Project documentary of the attitudes that would, 20 years later, bring about the mortgage crisis. DFW wanted to be serious, Franzen to explain serious, Ellis is serious. As serious as a shotgun blast to the face of literature. Franzen reacts to Wolfe's "Stalking the Billion Footed Beast" by going to where DFW pretended to go: towards cold sincerity.

Franzen's anger comes from being recognized as the wrong thing, and Ellis' from watching some one get away with exactly the con he described. Wallace is, to Ellis, a con man: get sort of rich, then get really rich by peddling a fake get rich scheme, with the sort of richness as social proof. Ellis is as loud about his gifts with words as DFW, and this is where he loses: Wallace has better chops. But where as Wallace could write his whole life and not come to grips with even his own inner demons, Ellis nails, time and again, the complex inner demons of America. As with the famous Joy Division cover, which started out as a submission to the art director of the label, he points a camera straight at his own asshole. And it takes a special wit to, as the art director did, say "my that's a clean one." Ellis pretends to portray the messiness, but like all boomer productions, it is very clean.

For example, consider the incident in American Psycho where the main character kills another in mid warble about Iggy Pop, it is an incident that would not be out of place in Pulp Fiction: a forceful end to a narcisstic banality. Then, the author describes, in widescreen detail, the consumer detritus of the place. Note that Franzen, for all his presenting as being quotidian, does not do this, his present is vague. Ellis is specific to a fault, journalistic and cinematic at once about the answering machine, television, and stupid pet tricks on Letterman. This is the product of a writer with an eye. It is also spotlessly clean. Everything works, everything is new, nothing is dented. Like the hive of scum and villainy in Star Wars, the streets are remarkably well scrub. The body bleeds, but the blood evaporates. Grunge isn't there, this is still a big hair band doing down and dirty. Ratt. Poison. The Scorpions.

His output is front loaded, Less than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho are all cultural totems and cult classics, with time showing that they are losing the cult as an adjective. However, like all writers, say Dickens, who get to the point quickly, the rest of the career is a test of technique to expand it. The turning point novel then, is Glamorama. It is a satire, which flirts constantly with parody, and in it Ellis is showing the point in ways more graphically than is possible. It also calls into question whether his early works were, as well,  satires.

Where as my comparisons between Franzen and DFW were to show that the two authors are separate, Ellis and DFW are inexorably interlinked, in that Ellis accepts about himself what Wallace cannot – that he's an asshole, and glorifies this. This makes Wallace the novelist for people who would prefer not to think of themselves as assholes, and Ellis the guy at the party who says "but we all are anyway." As such Ellis has drifted out of the Boomerite obsession with justifying narcissism, and into the X acceptance of it with a shrug. However, like any good post-modern, his collision, lust for ennui, and consumerism overwhelm the inner life of the author. The cleanliness studied.

Ellis, by being the angriest, is also the most productive. He's written more novels than Franzen, and is no less careful about his diagnosis that the world has become a spy state, sold by media glamor. But this is also a boomerite media theory, not an Xer reality theory, of the problem. In this respect then Ellis is speaking forward to Xers in a way that Franzen, a hopless square, is not, and DFW, who exists for himself, does only in the sense that there is always a self-obsessed technical maven in any time and place. Ellis is angry because DFW is beloved, and he is despised, and he despises that he is despised for being honest about what DFW lied about. Franzen has been more gentle about the Saint Dave myth, but Ellis, raw edged and raw nerved, is never gentle about anything.

In fact, at that link is a short summation that proves the thesis that these are three boomer writers, and that DFW was, in fact, insincere about sincerity, this from Gerald Howard, former editor of both, and a self-confessed body boomer:

At the moment, the Wallace style is dominant and that is what drives Bret Ellis nuts. David’s 2005 commencement speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College, “This is Water,” has assumed the stature of a manifesto and ultimate statement. But, soul-pocked baby boomer that I am, I don’t buy it as a guide for right behavior. It feels uncomfortably close to those  books of affirmations, no doubt inspiring but of questionable use when the hard stuff arrives. I truly believe that David was the finest writer of his generation, but his design for living seems to me naïve and likely to collapse at the first impact of life’s implacable difficulties. It badly needed an injection of Montaigne or Marcus Aurelius.
Me, I find Bret Ellis’ scalding, cynical, brittle, savagely unillusioned worldview curiously refreshing. He is the Loki or Trickster of the literary world (or maybe the Lou Reed), poking sharp  sticks in our eyes and daring us to figure out if he could possibly mean that. Deal with it. In a culture that has the phrase “Good job!” on endless rotation, he dares to say, over and over, “You must be fucking kidding me.” He’s incorrigible, he’s not a nice boy, he doesn’t care if you become a better person, he is not in any way seeking your approval. Good for him. Some brave college should ask him to do a commencement address.

Food Fight Among the Body Boomer Gods - II

Jonathan Franzen 

If DFW had the chops as a writer and an introspectionist, his colleague and rival Jonathan Franzen exemplifies normality and the very banality that Wallace wanted to write about, but also disdained. Wallace parodies stupid, unpleasant people, because he's correctly afraid that he is one. Franzen disdains actual stupid people, witness his reaction to Oprah, because he too, is one. However, unlike DFW, he doesn't disdain this, he embodies it. This is also the root of why Franzen continues to churn out observant, high quality novels at an age that Wallace will be dead for over a decade.

Where as Wallace's audience consists of people who think they are geniuses, but know in a reptile way they can't let that on, Franzen is writing for people who want to stand above the middle American families they come from. We hear almost nothing of family in Wallace, he's too self-absorbed, we hear a great deal of it in Franzen. It's a stage of being a comedian, telling jokes about your family.  In his case, that includes, as it does for Wallace, his literary family of the Post-Modern authors, who are the middle wave of the Pop era, the providers of the specific justification for social epistemology – knowledge is what people say it is.

Where as Wallace has perhaps the best writing chops of his cohort, with a meticulous eye for compressing meaning, reception, and stance, into one phrase – what he thinks, what you are supposed to think about it, what he wants you to think of him – but is a terrible thinker, Franzen does not care for exposing in every moment his skill, but he has a firm grasp of the obvious as a thinker, that Wallace did not. Hence Franzen is alive, and Wallace is not.

Let's take the example from "Tense Present" – at the same time that Wallace labels the usage wars as political, he completely misdiagnosis them. Do you hear of them now? No? Why not? Wallace's theory that we all need to be passionately committed, which remember is the opposite of the word rigor, and have humility, which remember is the opposite of real humility, but is in fact sociopathic pretense – as "the Democratic Spirit" – he does not say, nor can he say, that really the entire debate was created as a way of laundering racism, an unpermitted form of passionate commitment, which is, never the less, entirely rigorous, even as it is unconnected to underlying biological reality. Octaroons anyone? For people who need the gory details, Gould's <i>The Mismeasure of Man</i> provides a good place to start. Racism is precisely careful, methodological, and rigorous, because it is trying to deny the obvious. If you want to kill someone for evil reasons, bury them in bullshit, as Racists do.

So according to DFW, the usage wars are a permanent state, but the goneness of them shows that they weren't, they were made, and then unmade, as part of a way of advancing the great American Conservative thesis: no money for black people. It is their fault because they don spick Inglish lahk good muricans do.

Franzen calls America "almost a rogue state" and marked his maturity with an essay entitled "Perchance to Dream," focusing on the meaning of the novel in a society that seems to have become post-literate. The very topics, politics, the social matrix that supports them, the relationship of literature to politics, are a very sharp contrast to DFW's treatment. Where as Wallace sees them through the lens of narcissism, and creates consumerist carictures in Infinite Jest – because he cannot conceive of people trapped in consumerism, Franzen paints very real people, in for example "Freedom," who are much less interesting than DFW's Goethe-esque grotesqueries such as the homunculous in Faust II, but are believable. DFW's carictures are a kind of literary dysphoria of his personality, the thing in the mental mirror.

Franzen, then, does not fall for the trap of pseudo-sophistication, but directly grabs, and did from his first published novel, the painful banality of the decline. His writing is pedestrian, but that is because that's his audience. A person incapable of better writing, could not maintain the iron grip on words that Franzen does:

"I'm not anything," Denise said. I'm just me."

She wanted above all to be a private person, an independent individual. She didn't want to belong to any group, let alone a group with bad haircuts and strange resentful clothing issues. She didn't want a label, she didn't want a lifestyle, and so she ended where she'd started: wanting to strangle Becky Hemerling.

She was lucky (from a guilt-management perspective) that her divorce was in the works before she and Becky had their last, unsatisfying fight. Emile had moved to Washington to run the kitchen at the Hotel Belinger for a tone of money. The Weekend of Tears, when he returned to Philly with a truck and they divided their worldly goods and packed up his share of them, was long past by the time Denise decided, in reaction to Becky, that she wasn't a lesbian after all.
The Corrections, page 380.

This is truly banal writing, but it isn't bad writing, in that while it is loaded with the clunky habits of its age, for example using parenthesis where commas would do, and it is  absent all of the literary fireworks that set almost every note of DFW. But that's the point.  Note that while the Pop-isms are there, they are in the mouth of the character, without the author distancing himself from them. Note how the compressed story of the divorce is woven in, in an intensely economical way, every bit as concise and far more seemless, as DFW's prose. Where Wallace wants to use every technical device for compression possible, and then spills over into the foot notes in big gaudy brush strokes, Franzen's brushstrokes are invisible, he needs no devices, and in fact deflates them by using them: the parenthesis are so leaden as to make any virtuosity seem the same kind of device, that is, a means of deflecting the attention on the absence at the center of the writer.

He's writing not because he cannot write any better, but because his intended audience cannot read any better. Though Franzen exists of himself, and not in reference to other writers, one more DFW comparison is in order here. DFW is talking to other people who are too smart for their own good, Franzen for people who are too stupid for their own good. DFW to people who will ruin the world they live in by trying to do stupid things in a smart way, like say, sleep around after the age of 40 and still feel good about their role as a husband, while Franzen is about people who live in a smart world of technology and capital, while being too stupid to even understand themselves. After all, anyone who says they don't want a label, is a paradigmatic example of a label. People who defy labeling spend their lives pretending to be ordinary.

Thus, DFW is who you read about a smart Post-Modern American crawling up his own ass and disappearing. Franzen is who you read to understand why Post-Modern America crawled up its own ass and disappeared. DFW explains Bill Clinton's repeal of Glass-Steagall. Franzen explains why ordinary people burned by it love him anyway. My friend Ian Welsh is in the same position as Franzen, very aware, painfully so, that he lives in a ghetto because he is preaching moral truths, that were largely known 2500 years ago to most advanced thinkers. Moral truths don't change. Wallace tries to come up with a new scam to cover immorality, Franzen has no need of the dazzling heights of misdirection, because he understands that smart people are merely stupid people with more words on their hands.

How do we know this about Franzen? Take a look at page 117 of The Corrections where he intertwines the fantasy wedding, with the decline of America, by means of the word paroxysmal,  while diagnosing the problem: everyone wants to think of their people as good people. This is intellectual sophistication of the problem that besets Americans of the pop era, which he glides by, a topic that years later DFW blunders away an entire essay about. Writing well is not thinking well, but to be able to think well, and then explain to people who think badly, is a mark of an excellent writer.

Franzen is indeed that, and something else that DFW was not.


Food Fight Among the Body Boomer Gods - I

The late body boomer writers are having a fight. They'd like to be called "Xers" simply because, as the back half of the body boom – because let's face it, they are closer to being bodies than babies at this point – does not share the defining synchronizing middle event of their generation – namely 1967-1972. As children in the house of the young adults, they have the moral habits of body boomers, because these are formed before the age of 7, and much of the intellectual direction, since this is the product of, roughly 6-12. But about there, their tour through the body boomer arc stops. They'd like to be Xers both to escape their generation, and take along enough of it to swamp the generation of the "baby bust." It's typical boomer tactics to cheat to get into an easier pool, and then dominate it not because of skill, but a few year's head start and more friends.

Consider three literary figures who are sometimes associated with generation X, but whose cuspy nature betrays that their real problems are those of being the youngest children of the previous generation, not the first of the next:

Jonathan Franzen (1959-)
David Foster Wallace (1962-)
Brett Easton Ellis (1964-)

Those aren't Generation X dates, and one can show, from the internal structure of their work and what people see in them as people, and as writers. I bring them up because of the food fight that has broken out with the publication of the first literary biography of DFW, which reveals details about himself as a person and a writer which are obvious from his work, but which had not been put on the table as bluntly before. But before examining the slinging of the hash, it is better first to look at the three writers as what they will be remembered for: being writers, and tangentially, for the actual products of it. Make no mistake, all but the most read of writers are more remembered for being writers than for what they wrote as a whole. Even Dickens, is more source material for Scrooge and a Tale of Two Cities, than for actually reading those two works, much less engaging them in context.

These are not X writers, but are the writers that X read, which body boomers read in trying to escape the maze of modernism with its reflexive irony and taking of stance, in search of "sincerity." However, the body boomers are not ironists, Schostakovich – and you should always spell his name this way because he put D-S-C-H as his signature motive in his music, to spell it in English as Shostakovich, is to lose meaning, and English orthography is imfamous for keeping the roots to preserve meaning, hence "school." 

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace engaged in massive acts of moral masturbation, the perpetual attempt to rationalize himself as "good," even though he knew that he failed to meet his own standards. The biography implies that one large part of this was that he focused, to a great extent, on one off sex. That is, he liked to take advantage of his station as a well known writer, and sleep with the groupies of his novels, and he was obsessed with having sex. This, one should note, is not a new obsession among creative men, and may well be the reason that florid brilliance in men evolved: as a short cutting of courtship and a means to social station.

And of these three, Wallace was the most floridly brilliant, and quotable, of the three. To pick one examples:
People who can adjust their natural default-setting this way are often described as being "well adjusted," which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.
This is from the Kenyon College Address in 2005, and it is part of what Franzen would call the "Saint Dave" aura around him, he denies being the "wiser fish" but presents himself as just that: experienced, self-enlightened, even has he admits to being self-centered. While narcissism neither begins with, nor will it end with, the body boomers,  it is the trait that they, more than any other generation as a generation, have to struggle with, because consumerism, the ideology they were swaddled in from the beginning, is about attunement with one's inner utility and needs to a degree which less fortunate demographic cohorts do not every have the luxury of.

But to look at the quote itself, the immense nuance that hides the coldness of "which I suggest to you is not an accidental term" is the crucial bit of work. Suddenly "well adjusted" does not imply a spirit which has landed on its feet like a cat, with silence and grace, but a bicycle that has been turned to a tautness by another with a wrench. One adjusts an object. This objectification is softened by the diffidence of the academicism of "I suggest to you." A very delicate hand is on that mental pen.

This is because while DFW talks about the banal, and parodies its consumerism, he is a native speaker of academic, this is the subject of one of his essays, "Tense Present" from Harper's in 2001:

In ways that certain of us are uncomfortable about, SNOOTs' attitudes about contemporary usage resemble religious/political conservatives' attitudes about contemporary culture: We combine a missionary zeal and a near-neural faith in our beliefs' importance with a cumudgeonly hellin-in-a-handbasket desparie at the way English is routinely manhandled and corrupted by supposedly educated people.

Note the capital "W" after the colon.

But the paragraph that follows is as concisely stated form of the body boomer phenomenlogical quandry as any penned by anyone anywhere:

Issues of tradition vs. egalitarianism in U.S. English are at root political issues and can be effectively addressed only in what this article hereby terms a "Democratic Spirit." A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e. a passionate conviction plus a sedulous respect the convictions of others.
There are, in this one paragraph two incredible logical blunders, catastrophic to the logical unity of the piece, and why DFW isn't a linguist. But they are phenomenologically correct: they feel write to people who then overlook the fact they make no sense as usage, in an article where he is a self-declared "SNOOT" – capital letters essential, as C.S. Lewis taught us to say.

The first is the definition of rigor. On what planet is rigor "passionate conviction?" On Planet Body Boomer, where "Play in the Sandbox" is a moral commandment, since there are too many children, and too few sandboxes. Whatever sandbox the body boom is in, it is full, and no one else can get in. Rigor is the breaking of a process into steps which are so atomistically convincing that their connectedness is difficult to avoid, and once accepted, leads to a particular result. Note that doesn't mean they are in some abstract universal sense, nor that everyone will be convinced. But to attack rigor, one must attack its definitions and postulates: the very means by which it  symbolizes and manipulates the codification of its symbolization. As I just did with DFW. One can't argue against "rigor" as "passionate conviction," that is as immovable ideological faith.

That ideological faith is essential to get the second part: humility of others. That is demands a respect from others. Or, How to Be The Genius In the Room while still Playing Nice In The Sandbox. What is even more pointed here is that the word "humility" had been a crucial part in the elevation of George W. Bush, and again, the most important writer, at that time, of his cohort fails to grasp the irony of the word that would soon send us to Iraq, being one of his two words for the best "Democratic Spirit."  This is because "humility" means not having flying elbows in a place where the individuals are consecrated members of the club – to academics. But not to Christians, or rather Christianists, where it means to be God's instrument. GWB, not DFW, was the genius of nuance about the word "humility," because he was able to tell anti-war liberals to their face that he was going to illegally invade Iraq, and they couldn't heart it, despite being loaded with "SNOOTs."

It is a problem that DFW then proceeds to talk about in the essay: that as a young SNOOT, he couldn't get the dialect of his child peers. Just as he, and others, could not get the dialect of Bush. Despite, and because of, his belief in usage and English, he was a genius at making extremely nuanced distinctions, such as the capital "We." Because of his narcissism, and lack of rigor, he was precisely the person to talk to the last cohort of Baby boomers, and precisely wrong about the relationship of dialects as attractors in a language. Dialects exist because of the attractors of some central power, and in opposition to it. The Christianist Dialect allows empire, because it is the Christianists who provide the democratic, small "d," support for the machine, and the ideological basis for imposing what used to be called "Christendom" on others.

Thus, in an article supposedly about usage, he turns to the only topic that matters to his generation: how to both work with others, and work through the discomforts of ones position as seeing them as chattel to one's ends, as DFW more than once implied, thinking of many women as walking cunts to put his penis in, and as necessary objects of "sedulous respect."

In summary, his focus on himself, as the only topic of his writing in the end, is in relation to how to not impact – and here I rebel specifically against that class where the learn'd professor intoned "impact is a noun, not a verb." in his best Boston Irish accehnt – others in a way that will deem one not part of the club.

In the body boomer world, all truths are social facts. If many people believe it, it must be accepted, with a few bright lines which are necessary of universalization of the Market. If even Mad Men can get its most clueless character on a bus to nowhere to get this, it has to be obvious. One might think that this is sanity, as DFW writes in his essay, to avoid being beaten up. But he's the one who shot himself, according to a supposed friend "in a way calculated to cause maximum pain to those he loved."

Thus DFW's ur-topic comes out of his generation, that is the body boomer generation, and it is precisely this quality that makes him beloved to other late boomers, and extremely annoying to X-ers. We know he's a fake, because sincerity among Boomers is always about masking something worse, self-deprecation designed to thwart confession.

We grew up smoking the pot of the honor students, we knew from the beginning. In this setting of opposition of my cohort to his, let me not persuade you that X is a better cohort – no cohort whose first Vice Presidential candidate is Paul Ryan can have any justified pretensions to moral anything – or that this is my ur-topic – because if it were I'd be more "important," since as a territorial topic it has an audience. But generation war, ironically at the point that it is about to disintegrate, is the ur-topic of political economy in the populist mode. Who is going to get screwed to pay for a clear road to the grave for the silents and boomers? It is a question at once inescapable and totally meaningless.