What I’m Reading Right Now

Since January 20th, the flood and fury of information regarding the new team in DC has been overwhelming. I was still out of the country for the first few weeks and unable to take to the streets, although the fact that the protests made the mainstream media in Japan was heartening, even as I continued to find myself obsessively finding things to criticize about the protests themselves. Like the Goldilocks of political resistance, I found the cop-hugging elements of the Women’s March and the crowing of “not a single arrest!” too blinded by racial and class-privilege to amount to anything, and the sudden surge of violent antifa against douchenozzles like Milo too in love with its own macho romanticized insurrection to have much tactical relevance. (In this, I find myself in agreement with Tarzie.) I still find myself completely unable to engage in any type of political discussion on social media, because I’m not sure what I want to argue or who I want to argue with.  But nobody’s clamoring for my hot take, thank god, and I’ve got nothing to say anyways. I have a tight deadline ahead of me with my dissertation, and frankly spending the next few months lost in the library seems like the best possible course of action. (And I fitting way to embody the name of this blog.)

In addition to the books written by my dissertation buddies (I suppose the proper term is ‘figures discussed in my dissertation’ but we’ve spent so much time together over the past few years, and I don’t think many people from the 21st century are hanging out with them, so I think we’ve all kind of become friends, in a way), I’ve got several other reading projects going on. I’m still chipping away at Harry Cleaver’s Reading Capital Politically. Yesterday I finished Jan-Werner Müller’s What is Populism? and haven’t formed an opinion on it yet, probably owing to the general political fatigue in my brain. Right around inauguration, I decided it was a good idea to dive into something diverting, and began Jan Swafford’s 1077 page Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. I’m now 200 pages in, and Beethoven is 26, a few years into his life in Vienna, and jealous as hell that Haydn has written Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, because Haydn has so successfully linked his composition to a major historical moment. Napoleon is on the move, and Beethoven is contemplating how to take his composing to the next level, or as Swafford writes, “How could he step out of the role of entertainer and into the stream of history?” (As we all know, Beethoven eventually made his biggest impact on history after playing a bitchin’ synth solo at San Dimas Mall  and helping Bill and Ted get an A+ on their history report.)

I can’t find a good youtube clip from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so please settle for this video of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore and their brilliant interpretations of five Beethoven lieder.

Still finding myself utterly stymied about how or why to write a post-Y2K-style blog in what will soon officially the Trump era, yet still feeling compelled to do so. I’ve overthought lots and lots of potential post ideas, all vetoed for one reason or another. But as Antonio Machado said, se hace camino al andar.  This week I’ve been reading a lot about and by the writer Mark Fisher, who died this week by suicide. I was not aware of his work before, but the outpouring by many thinkers I respect has been massive. A 2010 interview, recently reposted on Verso, mentions blog writing as a potential antidote to the trauma of doing a PhD, and “tricking [oneself] back into doing serious writing.”

Rowan Wilson: Your blog, k-punk, is one of the leading blogs for cultural analysis. When did you first start writing it and why did you start?

Mark Fisher: Thank you. I started it in 2003. At the time, I was working as a Philosophy lecturer in a Further Education college in Kent – I reflect on some of my experiences there in Capitalist Realism. I was then quite badly depressed – not because of teaching, which I enjoyed, but for a whole series of long-term reasons – and I started blogging as a way of getting back into writing after the traumatic experience of doing a PhD. PhD work bullies one into the idea that you can’t say anything about any subject until you’ve read every possible authority on it. But blogging seemed a more informal space, without that kind of pressure. Blogging was a way of tricking myself back into doing serious writing. I was able to con myself, thinking, “it doesn’t matter, it’s only a blog post, it’s not an academic paper”. But now I take the blog rather more seriously than writing academic papers. I was actually only aware of blogs for a short while before I started mine. But I could quite quickly see that the blog network around Simon Reynolds’ blog – which was the first network I started to read – fulfilled many of the functions that the music press used to. But it wasn’t just replicating the old music press; there were also sorts of strange, idiosyncratic blogs which couldn’t have existed in any other medium. I saw that – contrary to all the clichés – blogs didn’t have to be online diaries: they were a blank space in which writers could pursue their own lines of interest (something that it‘s increasingly difficult for writers to do in print media, for a number of reasons).

Blank spaces are often just as terrifying as they are exhilarating. I think I’ll have to start this blog by scribbling all over the pages.

Soundtrack by William Onyeabor, who also died this week. Wish I could stop meeting such tremendous talents this way.



the first post.

I don’t know what this blog is going to be, so I have no idea how to write a first post. I do know that it is time to write more, even if there are no readers, and that I stumbled across a potential blog name while reading Borges that was unclaimed, and that January is a fine time to begin things. I haven’t written online since the olden days of the post-Y2K era, when the word ‘blog’ was hardly used and people spent time crafting testimonials for their Friendsters. Since then, the internet has undergone a thousand incarnations, all more horrifying than the last, and most of which has passed me by. Starting a blog in 2017 is suitably retro for me. There’s no particular niche where I seek to establish a reputation, the idea of ‘cultivating a personal brand’ makes me want to set fire to my computer. But I do want to start tossing words out into the void again.

I’ll probably write a lot about books; old books I stumble across in dusty library basements, and books I’m reading for my dissertation and for fun. I read a lot of stationery blogs, so I imagine I’ll yap on about the various notebooks, pencils, pens and folders I like. I spend much of my free time studying foreign languages, so there’ll be notes about that. Maybe I’ll share pictures of things that I make, or plants that I see, or interesting scenes from the places I go. I’m very left and spend a lot of time thinking about left politics, but I can’t imagine I’ll want to write a lot of hot takes on the outrages of the day in the left internet. I think that would require looking at Twitter, which I categorically refuse to do. I will post a lot about music, mainly classical, many of subgenres and sub-subgenres that could all be lumped in as “punk,” and all manner of other types of music. Will definitely be a lot of 90s nostalgia because we all long for our glory days. All this is to say, content will be obscure and random, but who cares, I’m not telling anyone about this blog for at least the next several months.

This non-post was written while listening to 90s Northwest sludge gods Karp: