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Mariya: Good morning, Tom, let me start our dialogue (to follow Fromm here in his claim that the best thing in life is to begin). After reading the stimulating discussions up to now, I thought we might offer an exchange on the other side of the battle field, namely, what are our modes of reading, how do we read (to counter the dialogues of how these authors write), what are our danger zones, where do we pause, how do we attempt (be it often to no avail) to reflect our blind spots (as readers). Let’s talk of situating ourselves, of disloyalty, dissociation, problematic readings and too, impossible ones. Of Glissant’s ’Nous réclamons le droit a l’opacité’ and the ethics of silence; the desire to know and unknow; politics of reading, its perils, vulnerability and possibilities, too. Let’s talk of questions that leave us restless and too, those which stand at the borderline between us and the text.

Tom: Bam Bam BAM! That’s not a start, that is an overwhelming mass of possabilities, no it’s not, but a realistic statement of what is already given (we don’t need to (re-)start things that are already in a ‘state’ of flux, in progress, in a progress of flux, or something like trans-streaming…). I think about our session last Saturday (our Bremen-Kampala-Blog-Group), when we talked about Nikolas’ first chapter (Joseph) of his novel in progress. We stated, that an opening of such a text, that overcharges the reader with a naturlaness of a story (no traditional, or easy accessible introduction where you get to know the charecters, places and else on a dinner tray like in an encyclopedia) and leaves one behind with a situation in which you have to deal with (and in a certain way to accept) a mode of not-knowing (“what’s going on?” and “what exactly is this about”), while simultaneously constructing a minimal, fractional access, to get hit by an influx to get soaked into the text (somehow being rejected by a text and getting caught in an undertow at the same time) – that such a beginning can be the literary translation to a/the concept of transculturalism. Transculturalism as a way to describe reality – social reality as given and grown structures that are influenced by various streams (each one for itself a highly dynamic formation) and directions. Both, transculturalism as a way to describe … world(?)/ a way of perception and the opening of (such) a text (currently I’m thinking that ‘beginning’ is simply a wrong term for handling such texts) alike, are dodgy situations, or better, require a sense for dodgy situations – one simply has to deal with the never wholly knowable background of structures and influxes of a cultural happening, one has to accept the never wholly bridgeable or fillable gap between the given and the/my/ones perception, but one has to create a walkable/walk-on-able bridge, in order not to get entirely lost.

Ok, this is not, where I wanted to go, but now it’s there.
I just felt overwhelmed by your suggestions, but animated as well – maybe now I’m ready to get into a conversation and ready to pick up one of your proposals (proposals or suggestions?)… in the next mail.

Mariya: I like the fact that you open your thoughts with ‘Bam Bam BAM’! Firstly, because this transposes what we are thinking about into the full-blood-ness of the acoustic and secondly, because it points to the contradiction/ explosion/ conflict which have taken place before one even registers the spillage of sound (here an interview which signals to the intense connection between text and sound: http://www.torontoreviewofbooks.com/2014/04/in-conversation-with-m-nourbese-philip/ ) I can decipher different echoes in your comment but I would like to pause on something which reminds me of Glissant’s right of opacity/ of not knowing/ of mystery (and both his ‘Poetics of Relation’ and ‘Poetic Intention’) Do you think that reading with the text (and its open spaces) rises against the violence of the gaze (and its persistent hunt for mirages)? Do we open ourselves (as white readers) to the possibility not to know and not to understand in order to admit to a guilt for white claims over what is valid, what falls into canons, who is there (and who not), of having written over bodies, histories; having spoken and thus vehemently refused to hear (for reference: Morrison’s ‘Playing in the Dark’; ‘Speaking the Unspeakable’)? Is our readiness to read dappled-shaded texts a statement against the corruption and brutality of forced languages?

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Hey Tom, here is another comment…but let me know if we are getting too abstract….perhaps we need briefer questions, or at least more to the point…but I guess I was never a good moderator…

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Shall we just do the surface questions of reading / what books you like, when do you leave a book or when do you read it a second time, etc./ or do you like the direction we took at the beginning? I am just double-checking, otherwise I do like drowning in reflections…

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We can lead our philosophical discussion and attach it as an extra (I can create and external link to our more detailed dialogue)…and as a main body we can some simple questions…like:

  1. Which critical texts serve as your compass in reading?

  2. Reading: an intellectual consumption or a defense against one?

  3. Which book would you ‘steal’ and sign as yours?

  4. The earliest page you have abandoned a book on?

  5. Which book have you read more than once?

  6. Subscription to a particular author?

  7. Characters to identify with or dissociate with?

  8. Which book do you consider dangerous?

  9. Which book do you consider necessary for eradicating dangers?

  10. Reading in or outside canon?

  11. Rather a reader or a writer?

Tom: Hi Mariya, I combined our last e-mails because they supplemented each other in my mind. I like your idea to mirror the talks on writing with a talk on reading. I think though, that our previous conversation and the direction we took shouldn’t be locked-out…to be honest, I don’t see why the detailed (or ‘philosophical’) parts of our dialogue should be separated from ‘concrete’ questions (they belong together in my sentiment). I can’t answer all of your inspiring questions due to my being swamped at the moment (I’m a bit pressed for time, sorry, I’ll write more tomorrow), but I’d like to pick up at least a a bit…

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HOW AND WHAT DO YOU READ?

Tom: I never really reflected my reading (experiences) as a reaction to a guilt of white history, domination, perception, although I think, that my preferences in reading are grown by cultural conditions which in turn are surely influenced by a sensitisation for this guilt. But I can’t deny that though I’m able to formulate that, my hunches in reading experiences are simply likes.

Mariya: I read with disbelief and openness, and too within my own claustrophobic binds. I don’t read nuclear physics‘ and cooking books.

STORIES YOU LIKE?

Tom: stories that are told metaleptic catch me… or at least, always awake my interest at first. Stories, that leave me confused, so that I have to use my imagination to create coherences – or, that I have to accept a state of being confused. I’m often catched by books or stories whose typographies are different from usual visual appearances. But I’m most captivated by books and texts whose stories create meaning through sound and rhythm.

Mariya: stories which are tender and thunder, and despicable ones too; which shock, disturb and challenge; which draw inside of me and too make me draw myself

CHARACTERS TO IDENTIFY OR DISSOCIATE WITH?

Mariya: oh, always the Humbert Humberts of the world, too ‘clean’ characters would never deserve the cleansing of pen and paper. To write or read a character you fear, abhore and would not imagine without disturbance and the rootlessness of pain is not only an intellectual provocation: it is a confrontation with your own personal monsters (it is in the sterility of no-imagination that the conviction ‘others are the monsters’ blooms, which is to say, yes, I believe that hero-identification often ends up breeding more tension, angst and negativism towards certain minority groups. I’d rather read and write about serial murderers (and get a sense of their worlds) than to identify with the claimed good and perfect (too often white and male and almost exclusively in opposition with that exotic freak, the other, uncontrollable, stupefied, wild, abominable, dreadful). To strip yourself of all beliefs and ethics, and burn where only imagination enters, is one of those exquisite forms of misery where thought happens. I like that, a despicable character makes me think, the good hero on a quest made me only hate the dragon. My room is wall-papered with dragons (and has the shape of fire haha).

Tom: I always have a book in reserve to escape the banality of life. The only rule for the choice of such a reserve-book is that it has to be as far away as possible from every other sphere of my (everyday) life. Just for calming me down and for giving me and my thoughts the possibility to get into another world, away from the craziness of daily routine. It’s funny that you talk about killers and characters who are drifted into darkness, because right now my reserve-book is Stephen Kings’ The Shining. It’s my first King (as a book – I once played a video game which he co-wrote and was fascinated by the way it was narrated). I can understand your affectation for despicable characters because I’m discovering a strange fascination for the main character Jack (as well as for his son and his wife) because I’m affected by King’s way of narrating these characters. He merges their thoughts and inner constitutions with the type of the novel and has also an interesting technique for shifting focalization. And all this in a story, that is mostly told ‘traditionally’. Jack is, in my King-virgin-point-of-view, exemplary for King’s universe, because he captures the predisposition for his mania inside but has found a way to cope with it and to deal with it in everyday life until he gets to this secluded hotel: a catalyzer for him and his inherent evil/madness.

And to combine the questions ‘STORIES YOU LIKE?’ and ‘CHARACTERS TO IDENTIFY OR DISSOCIATE WITH?’ – as I said, there is always at least one book in reserve that’s uncommon to my everyday life and on the other hand, there are novels or shorter stories (apart from academic texts) I talk about with others (because of my studies, my performance group, friends or whatever). I’m really into stories which engross my perception in daily routine. The flight from daily routine together with the sense of being somewhere else back up a lot of my reading and enhance the eagerness to go back to ‘the story’ and the state of consciousness. I’m always in between joy and devouring a text.

WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU ‘STEAL’ AND SIGN AS YOURS?

Mariya: I am trying to steal some maturity and sign my own. But I learn from a lot of people: from sci-fi writers such as Robert Sheckley to the ‘axe’ of Canadian literature NourBese Philip. I am constantly reading: it’s the only short cut to writing I know.

Tom: Two short answers – Wolfram von Eschenbach’s ‘Parzival’ and Wirnt von Grafenberg’s ‘Wigalois’, but I would have to travel through time to steal them…

WHICH BOOK CONTESTS DANGEROUS BOOKS?

Mariya: Here falls the hundred-tone critical work (I can’t name one without naming all of it). But I will tell you what I am reading at the moment: Christina Sharpe: ‘Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (Perverse Modernities)’

Tom: I’d like to hear a summary of ‘Monstrous Intimacies’ from you one day. Books that deal with taboos, elucidate discourses whose allegdly ‘true’ direction rests on violence. Books like Richard Sennett’s ‘Respect in a World of Inequality’ (regarding inequality within society); Byung-Chul Han’s ‘Transparenzgesellschaft’ (‘transparent society’ – in which he criticizes the urge for transperancy; texts about opacity are very important because of their critique against the presumed all good and all powerful transparency. Sure, with other topics and in a completely different society, but nevertheless mind blowing (for their time) ‘Parzival’ and Wigalois’ are such texts too.

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RATHER A READER OR A WRITER?

Mariya: You can’t be the one without being the other.

Tom: Rather a performer. I struggled many times with this oppposition of writing and reading (and still do), but I consistently come to the point where I feel comfortable by performing texts. I think it is, because the complementary opposition of reading and writing always opened a difference in my mind, a difference between producing/creating and receiving something – or, in german, the difference between (I cant’ find an adequate translation, do you?) ‘etwas bestimmen/erschaffen und sich (von/durch) etwas bestimmen lassen/erschaffen lassen’. When I perform a text, I usually feel in a state of merging and shifting (between) these constructed contrasts, by playing with my will to mould and shape a text and beeing humble towards it (one of my favourite examples for that is Heiner Müllers ‘Der Mann im Fahrstuhl’ out of his play ‘Der Auftrag – Erinnerung an eine Revolution’, which, by the way, is an interesting piece of literature/poetry in the topic ‘writing the ohter’ or ‘the other in me’ / ‘me and the other’ – now that I think about this piece again, I wolud say that maybe it is still affecting me that much over the years, because (to answer one more question) I can somehow identify myself with this dappled-shaded (I like this term, thank you for that!!) man, who is only existing in a kind of dream that in turn is driven by the fear not having a mission/ an order anymore, but is still existing – and then also in a strange setting, suddenly thinking about and having a sense (and no sense at the same time) of ‘the other’)).

Mariya: Hi Tom, thank you for this detailed and adventurous e-mail. Here is an attempt to make our discussion more accessible (structurally that is) but if you have any other suggestion: please, do feel free to apply the scissors and saw another version of it. It was great to read your remarks on performing, I think there is a lot of courage and talent involved in getting on stage and being as vulnerable as you can be. I freak before every poetry slam and after that realize I can’t recall a thing: there‘s something about stage lights which grows with the shape of a brain damage in me (but it’s a great explosion if you ask Rimbaud haha)

Tom: Good sunday morning, Mariya. Thank you for structuring and correcting our short dialogue(!). I thought about your attempt for one day and a half now and I can’t get rid of the idea to involve the parts of the dialogue, that deal with the form and that question the topic of our conversation. That’s why I formed this version as an attempt to combine a structured appearance and one that still represents the processuality of our thoughts. I did this because I think that this is a topic for itself, especially in a Blog (Blog as a medium, that has reinforced itself as type of text, that’s more immediate and processual than others) that’s about (maybe transcultural) writing.

What do you think?