Johnson vs Goldsmith
Since Kent isn’t allowed onto the Buffalo POETICS list, I thought I’d note a conversation about this book that is taking place there.
Jonathan Ball wrote:
I presume the “blurbs” in support of Johnson’s book are also appropriated or fabricated. This is a clever joke, but I don’t see how it is conceptually interesting. Unlike Goldsmith’s DAY, which recontextualized text in an “uncreative” gesture (a Duchampian raising of “journalistic” prose into the realm of poetry), and thus produced a rich text, replete with previously dormant meaning, Johnson’s DAY does little more than repeat the gesture, and thus the only significance it seems to hold is to question the validity of assigning such a work to any single, particular author, something already implicit in Goldsmith’s project and only superficially interesting in the first place.
And Skip Fox concurred with the “superficially interesting” characterization.
Here’s my response:
It’s interesting, Jonathan, that you’d defend Goldsmith’s DAY (and dismiss Johnson’s DAY) in the name of originality (”produced a rich text, replete with previously dormant meaning”), when this is the regime of value that Goldsmith explicitly and repeatedly rejects. (See Goldsmith, internet, passim.) I presume that you, like many other people, accept that rejection as a pose, a mere mockery of public modesty, even though Goldsmith, apparently, does not see it that way. (”In fact, every time I have to proofread [my books] before sending them off to the publisher, I fall asleep repeatedly. You really don’t need to read my books to get the idea of what they’re like; you just need to know the general concept.”)
Or maybe you take Goldsmith’s word for it that “In conceptual writing the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an author uses a conceptual form of writing, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair.” If that’s the case, then tell me, please, what makes Goldsmith’s idea interesting? Given that the same idea has been had, and executed, by thousands of others, including Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, and anyone who’s “written” a found poem, why should we see Goldsmith’s project as any more or any less interesting than Johnson’s?
But here’s a thought: what if the dismissal of Kent’s DAY as “superficially interesting” was exactly the point of his project? I don’t say that it is; Kent can speak to that (or could, if he weren’t banned from this list, though I’m sure he’ll find a way to participate somehow). But what if? What if one took the annoyed response to Johnson’s DAY as exactly the reaction he wanted, since it proved the fact–which you may take to be obvious, but which no one seems willing to publicly acknowledge [NB: I should have said "confront" here]–that there is a bright line between the kind of people whose uncreative writing allows them to reap every reward the culture industry has to offer—publication, glossy magazine interviews, fellowships and tenured academic positions–and those whose *identical* uncreative writing gets them shunned as wannabes? And what if that bright line has nothing to do with the work, or the ideas behind the work, and everything to do with the fact that one has gone to the right schools, lived in the right cities, and licked the right boots? I think you’d have to admit that it’s a superficially interesting thought, at the very least.