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Semiotext(e), me - and being intimidated by theory

Fozzie Bear

Well-Known Member


chilango 's great thread on what mags influenced you politically has reminded me of things I was put off by.

In the 80s I'd go to Compendium in Camden and buy mad occult books and fiction upstairs and also political mags and books downstairs. They always had a small row of impossibly cool black books on the basement counter.

The impossibly cool black books were also to be found on impossibly cool people's bookshelves. People who understood all this stuff. Sometimes I'd open one of them up and read things like:

If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where the decline of the Empire sees this map become frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts - the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an Imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing) - then this fable has come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.

If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where the decline of the Empire sees this map become frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts - the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an Imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing) - then this fable has come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra. 1 Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory - PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA - it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own.

The desert of the real itself.

And sometimes I'd ask people what these things meant or what they got out of them and I wouldn't understand their answers. Sometimes they'd say, confessionaly, that it didn't matter if you understood it, you could just let it all wash over you like poetry and take from it what you could.

Which was annoying and frustrating. And quite funny actually, in retrospect, like that Tony Hancock episode where he joins a poetry club. :D

Anyway, I recently found copies of PM's "Bolo Bolo" and Sol Yurick's "Metatron" and they are both quite good.

So:

  • Are any of the other early Semiotext books any good?
  • Should I generally be bothering with Virilio and Baudrillard and Lyotard and all that if only to reassure my younger self that I can do it?
  • What is the legacy of this stuff now?
  • What was it that you found off-putting?
 

butchersapron

blood on the walls
Italy
Germania

of the issues.

The wider publication stuff, of course. I can't reply right now, but fuck yeah!

No don't both.

Legacy is introducing french via italian worthies though into anglo time-wasters

It's utter irrelevance and naughty sub-culture vibe.
 

Idaho

blah blah blah
It's bollocks. Even the most complex elements of science can be explained by building up simple sentences. People who claim to be describing the world but cant build up simple sentences are either bullshitters or bad writers. Either way, they should keep their ideas to themselves.
 

butchersapron

blood on the walls
It's bollocks. Even the most complex elements of science can be explained by building up simple sentences. People who claim to be describing the world but cant build up simple sentences are either bullshitters or bad writers. Either way, they should keep their ideas to themselves.
Astonishing - thousands of books published and they should have just asked monkey man.
 

Fozzie Bear

Well-Known Member
You've used two totally non representative examples as well fozzie.
Yeah I was hoping there would be more like them - I've been reading some Midnight Notes bits and found Bolo for 3 quid in Housmans basement (signed, weirdly) and the Yurick I kept meaning to read because of the Mark Stewart album and The Warriors film, obvs.

The others I still find off-putting but I will persevere if there are any non-wank ones. :facepalm:
 

Idaho

blah blah blah
Astonishing - thousands of books published and they should have just asked monkey man.
Is that some attempt at racism?

If you can't write well and your ideas are incoherent garble, then you shouldn't write a single book, let alone thousands. i am only commenting on the paragraphs quoted. If they have knocked out pithy prose elsewhere...
 

Fozzie Bear

Well-Known Member
It's utter irrelevance and naughty sub-culture vibe.
There's an interview with Lotringer where he says that the main audience was artists and not philosophy people or political types. Quite telling. And Kraus saying the books could be fitted inside a leather jacket...

Yeah I think good translations of the autonomist stuff is more for me...
 

chilango

Neither Westminster nor Brussels....
Yeah I was hoping there would be more like them - I've been reading some Midnight Notes bits and found Bolo for 3 quid in Housmans basement (signed, weirdly) and the Yurick I kept meaning to read because of the Mark Stewart album and The Warriors film, obvs.

The others I still find off-putting but I will persevere if there are any non-wank ones. :facepalm:
Midnight Notes is "easy to read" ime

Their book on oil and war is superb.
 

chilango

Neither Westminster nor Brussels....
Are we counting Autonomedia stuff as well then? Not just semiotexte)?

Cos I think I've a bunch of that stuff.
 

butchersapron

blood on the walls
There's an interview with Lotringer where he says that the main audience was artists and not philosophy people or political types. Quite telling. And Kraus saying the books could be fitted inside a leather jacket...

Yeah I think good translations of the autonomist stuff is more for me...
They've done some great stuff in that way on last decade - straight up politics like Christian Marazzi on debt. (as said, can't access books right now)
 

Fozzie Bear

Well-Known Member
They've done some great stuff in that way on last decade - straight up politics like Christian Marazzi on debt. (as said, can't access books right now)
That sounds cool - don't worry about posting up a gazillion PDFs unless you want to - I can't read everything but am always after things to add to the list of things to check out.
 

butchersapron

blood on the walls
He has a point. That stuff in the spoiler is just indolgent wank anyway.

I’ll agree complex ideas require effort to get into of course. But bad writing obfiscates.
None of them 1000s of books have anything to do with that crap writing beyond enduring meetings about being published. Well, some might have.
 

Lurdan

old wave
In the 80s I'd go to Compendium in Camden and buy mad occult books and fiction upstairs and also political mags and books downstairs. They always had a small row of impossibly cool black books on the basement counter.

The impossibly cool black books were also to be found on impossibly cool people's bookshelves. People who understood all this stuff.
Lol. Rang lots of bells :) Just thinking about Compendium the other day as I contemplated what to do about my own overstock of books by once trendy authors and schools of thought I'm never likely to look at again.

In the past I took the view that you never know when you might want to refer to them and how annoying it would be if you had to hunt for (or even worse pay for) them again. Sometimes it's true. There's a stack of situationist stuff I will very occasionally want to look up references in but it could go into a storage box behind everything else until then. The transgender bunfight led me to dust off some of the materialist feminist stuff I hadn't looked at since the 90s, and that has made me unexpectedly glad I didn't cull some of their less interesting socialist feminist opponents. But I'm pretty certain I'll never need any Deleuze or Guattari - except maybe Communists Like Us and that only to remind myself how small c conservative it is. Baudrillard ? Bataille ? Barthes ? WTF.

Much of this stuff is going to steadily lose whatever lingering intellectual or hipster cachet it currently has and become as irrelevant as texts by 1950s Reichians, or by Orage and the English Nietzscheans. Useful for tracing the roots of more recent forms of fashionable thought but not for much else.
 

ska invita

back on the other side
Deleuze or Guattari - except maybe Communists Like Us and that only to remind myself how small c conservative it is. Baudrillard ? Bataille ? Barthes ? WTF.

Much of this stuff is going to steadily lose whatever lingering intellectual or hipster cachet it currently has and become as irrelevant as texts by 1950s Reichians, or by Orage and the English Nietzscheans. Useful for tracing the roots of more recent forms of fashionable thought but not for much else.
Id agree with you, but arent they all still being pushed at universities to a next generation?v Maybe less so.

On a slight parallel (continental intellectuals beginning with B), I tried to read the picture book beginners guide to Badiou last year. Introducing Alain Badiou – Icon Books Likely the hardest thing Ive ever read! Good brain tickle though I guess. I think I could have persevered but after a while I started questioning the point of it, other than smuggling a bit of left wing politics into philosophy syllabuses, and after that its too easy to stop bothering.

I've dipped into Bolo Bolo - its 'fun' at least - and finished Pirate Utopias (which i enjoyed) and vaguely remember looking at TAZ (but theyre both Autonamedia), but none of those really count for full on theory

Some of these new ones look a bit more readable Semiotext(e) / Intervention | The MIT Press
 
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