I recently just read two book sort of about pleasure and sort of about eros: Crudo and This is Pleasure (on another person’s recommendation). First off, Crudo by Olivia Laing is f*ing brilliant. It is about Olivia, the author, who is in the process of getting married in 2017. The story takes place right before, during, and after her wedding. However, post-modern twist, it is written as if the author is Kathy Acker, the experimental artist, dead since 1997. It is a recording and reaction to current events, marriage, subjectivity, and narration, birds, food, whatever crosses the author’s path and can be commented on in 140 characters or less. The writing is dynamic, propelled forward by its own momentum, like a social media feed, or news ticker at the bottom of CNN.
Immediately I imagined ways I could knock off this exquisite novel. Imagine autofiction told by Chantal Akerman, autofiction told as beautiful cinematographic, detail oriented films (or sequence of shots). Imagine autofiction told by an AI, by a video game, by kant (or Reza Negerestani – just got off a board meeting with him – actually that would be an amazing novel). Imagine, in perhaps a Jungian sense, that ourselves and our consciousnesses are comprised of multiple daimons or impulses or desires. Then, we can interpret Crudo as a meditation on one’s life external recording and internal reaction through the lens of one aspect of this personality. There is something mythic in Crudo. Kathy Acker is the god(ess) that Olivia channels in writing her own life.
Next I listened to “This is Pleasure” by Mary Gaitskill. This is a genre of writing that I don’t like. When I read this I was reminded of another story I also don’t like, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, but at least Mary Gaitskill does not use magical realism. So what is my complaint? THE STORY IS NOT TRUE. It is too well made. It is like the well made play – like Hedda Gabler – anesthetized- although instead of a character blowing their brains out – I want to blow my brains out.
What does it mean for fiction not to be true? This is sort of a strange complaint to make of fiction. But I always imagine that fiction is the lie that is more true than the truth. But there is no truth here since the story is a hermetically sealed perfect confection- there is only the story. The only interface to reality is the conceit around #metoo.
Yes this is a #meeto story. One third of the way through this story, I am slow, I was like why am I listening to this, and then I realized… Oh this is about #meeto. Still not a good reason to listen, but at least I understand why the author wrote this. Because otherwise it makes no sense.
I am aggravated by stories with a punch line. I am not aggravated by stories with a good post-modern twist. That is my personal proclivity.
The story is written from multiple points of view, Rashomon style, about the actions of a man (Quinn), and how he interacts with women, which is almost entirely sexual without being seductive. He will smack a woman on the butt with something, but then go to lunch in a platonic or non sexual fashion. Okay, not sure what that means. Quinn’s is the only male voice we hear. The rest of the characters are various women he interacts with over the years. There are some lines that are so offensive, and put into the mouths of women, that I cannot imagine how a woman wrote this.
Why this book is called “This is pleasure” is beyond me. There is no pleasure, it seems Quinn is not even pleasuring himself. It does seem like there is this reduction of sex to power, since the story opens with the line that Quinn bragged that he can understand what every woman wants to hear (or something like that). So his escapades seem just to be a drawn out personal experiment in proving this hypothesis. I had no new insights into me too or anything, The only thing that seemed similar between Quinn and real life me too events, were the actions.
Not sure why I felt compelled to post about this, but I read these stories back to back and my contrasting opinion to both, especially while editing the tower, compelled me to record my thoughts.