Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"The Order is All Things Happening Now" (Tom Raworth)

Several things, all occurring at once:

1/ The Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, where there were more film and film theory books than I can begin to describe. Yup, I spent most of my time in the book room -- although I did go to several panels and events about Web 2.0 happenings, including great papers by Julia Lesage and Paul Hertz as well as meeting the excellent crew from academic multi-party blog Dr. Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope -- interesting things afoot!

I was particularly drawn to the tables set up by Wallflower and Continuum, whose respective editors Yoram Allon and David Barker were both very friendly. Duke University Press's table was also heaving; I don't know who their designer is, but the books in the Next Wave series are highly desirable. I bought Amy Villarejo's Lesbian Rule, which should really be called Lesbian Drool, -- it's so beautifully presented and gorgeously written.

Duke were celebrating the 30th anniversary of Camera Obscura, which is probably my favourite film journal. Certainly the one I consult the most. And it's now online for subscribers. Among other things, Camera Obscura published the first academic article on Thriller by Jane Weinstock. Also, they had chocolate-covered strawberries at their party.

When I wasn't rambling round and round the book room desperately trying not to buy things (other accidental purchases included Geetha Ramanathan's Feminist Auteurs from Wallflower and Petra Kuppers' The Scar of Visibility from Minnesota, whose Visible Evidence series could have caused serious wallet hemorrhaging), I also caught Michelle Citron's new media project, Mixed Greens, a choose-your-own-structure set of intertwined films each identified by a salad vegetable icon on the home screen. Each story comprises the same number of sections featuring the same themes (heartbreak, family, desire, etc). There are two strands: Citron's Irish-Jewish family history, conveyed through interviews with relatives and footage shot in Ireland as well as historical photographs; and a history of lesbian America, and specifically coupledom and changing butch-femme dynamics, from the 1950s to the 21st century. Like many of Citron's films, this latter is composed of intermixed found and staged footage, using voice overs to narrate the intimate histories. My primary reaction to it was emotive - charmed, moved, engaged, sad and happy, aroused and amused - so I'm not ready to write anything analytical yet.

Her analytical voice is one of my favourite in film theory: Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions is probably the only volume of film theory I've ever given as a gift, for its wisdom as well as its style. It moves between film script, essay, double-column essay a la Kristeva, autobiography, confessional, photographic essay, arranging an act of witness without insisting on a binary of truth and fiction. Speaking, as Cathy Caruth says, from the wound. It's one of the beautiful Visible Evidence series, so it's a deeply seductive book to handle, even as its disturbing narrative demands that you keep reading and avert your eyes.

2/ Speaking of -- I read two incredible books while I was at the conference that have become entwined in my mind with each other, with the experience of SCMS and with my travels. The first was Stevie Davies' The Eyrie, which I saw reviewed in the Guardian by AL Kennedy, who could sell me on walking over a cliff. Suffice to say that I sobbed over the blazingly sunlit Great Lakes, utterly immersed in and gripped by the narrative of connections and disconnections between three different, anarchic women. As great as the characters were, and Red Dora is one of the most seductive and persuasive portrayals of an outrageous old age I've seen since the Auntie in YES, it was the waves and wash of language that kept me in the novel.

Similar yet different, the precision of Jenny Diski's On Trying to Keep Still astonished me. Her descriptions of travel through the landscape of the mind made me think of Kay Redfield Jamieson, but also reminded me of Maya Deren's films, in which impossible spaces are united by dream logic and editing -- it's a particular mind that is stepping between beach and ice and wooden floorboard with such elegance to carry you along. It's worth checking out her blog to see that this finely crafted, spiky and witty writing is going on all the time, and to contemplate the blog as a form of going out (public) while keeping still (private), of moving not moving, of engaging community while hiding away.

3/ Community always makes me think of the Toronto Women's Bookstore, where I spent a merry afternoon supplementing the weight of my luggage with a supermarket sweep. As I'm travelling and hanging out with good friends, I haven't had much time to enjoy my booty, but I am so looking forward to Nalo Hopkinson's newbie, The New Moon's Arms and Joanne Arnott's Steepy Mountain Love Poems. Drawn and Quarterly's beautiful newest book Aya is a treat for a rainy day (a fairly safe bet that it won't be long on the shelf in the UK, then), and I'm holding out for a delivery of Betsy Warland's Only This Blue after reading about it in the most recent Herizons.

4/ And after all that Canadiana (yes, it's allCanCon!), to end with a (slight) return to the US and media studies: Buffy Season 8 the comic. I am hyperventilating as I write this, and also predicting a panel at SCMS next year (oddly, Michael Franti is singing about vampires as I write this - the BtVS uncanny is back in business!). Can a comic be a TV series and vice versa? What does it mean when the paratext is rapidly becoming the text (tee hee)? The Buffy is My Life essay contest on Dark Horse's MySpace page is a curious example of the ways conventional publishing is harnessing online fan community energy and new media convergence. SCMS panel for sure (any takers?)

3 comments:

als said...

And we've just begun a discussion of books at Dr. Mabuse . . .

I'll add your post under the general heading, and mention that you paid particular attention to the books?

Delirium's Librarian said...

groovy. i'll be writing more about the books once i get around to them.

tom raworth said...

Interesting to see the words in use: thanks, and good wishes. TR