Friday, February 24, 2017

「A song from Japan by ハヤシユウ(Mr. Hayashi Yu, age 24)that has gone viral around the world -- "HOW_TO_PLAY"」

なんと、「HOW TO PLAY」をきっかけに台湾の記者の方から取材を受けました。めっちゃ褒め倒されてます。

A Man, A Plan, A Song: Yu Hayashi

「A song from Japan by ハヤシユウ(Mr. Hayashi Yu, age 24)that has gone viral around the world -- "HOW_TO_PLAY"」

see NEWS STORY at this link below, my other blog account:



Friday, February 24, 2017


 


Dear World!

I want to tell you about a cute instrumental song from a composer in Japan that is making waves around the world. His name is Yu Hayahsi ( ハヤシユウ in Japanese ) and he is 24 years old and a very humble and modest.

When I contacted him recently and asked him if there were any English-language news articles about this simple yet catchy song that has gone viral around the world, he answered me right away on the internet and said that there were no English language news reports about his song yet.

So here is the first report in English and I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to translate this news article to French or German or Norwegian or Chinese or Spanish, please feel free to do so.

The amazing thing about this song and its composer is that Mr Hayashi wrote the song at his small studio in his home in Niigata in Japan and released to the world on YouTube FOR FREE!

Yes, he does not charge anyone any royalties or payments to use his song. He is both a genius and a music humanitarian.

My first question to Yu was: "May I interview you for my blog?"

His answer in English and in ''internet time'' was: "Thank you for your message. Yes, I'm the composer of "HOW TO PLAY", you are right."
 
So I asked Yu a few questions online  such as ''who, what, where, when, and why?'

Mr Hayashi answered:

who : ''It's me, ハヤシユウ(Hayashi Yu)(in English style we would call him ''Yu Hayashi ''in the Western style of naming, which is common now in Japan, but in actual Japanese his name is ''Hayashi Yu.'')''

what : ''a song titled ''HOW TO PLAY'' ''

when was the song composed : ''maybe, I think, in December 2013.''
 
where was the song composed : ''at my house''
 
why did he compose the song : ''to practice making a funk music ''

When I asked Yu about payments or royalties to use his music, he said very humbly and modestly:
"The song is free for everyone to use as BGM (background music)."

The song is now very popular around the world, but it is not easy to find out how many people are using it on their websites and personal blogs and as YouTubers for background music, but Mr Hayashi's fans are legion. Worldwide! From Japan to the world!


"I don't know who exactly is downloading the music and using my song, and I do not know what they use it for," he told me. "I cannot receive messages about using it from all of them. However, I have been able to find some videos that use "HOW TO PLAY" on Youtube."



In Japan, Yu explained to me, there is a channel for videos that are famous and created by "You Tubers (people earn some income on Youtube). The channel is here:
https://www.youtube.com/user/MASAIandHamzael

Mr Hayashi told me that now "HOW TO PLAY" is used as ED theme of this channel.

"I'm proud of this," he said.

How old is the quiet, soft-spoken composer with the entire world in front of him?

"I'm 23, and I'll turn 24 in next month in March," he said during our February interview. "I have ben making BGMs since when I was 20."

And Yu added at the end of our interview: "Thank you for your all messages about my song.  It makes me happy, and it's fun.​"

Before I end this short news report about HOW TO PLAY, I want to thank my friend Akane in Japan, and her husband and their daughter Sana, who produce a series of YouTube videos in Japanese about the life of their cute and talkative daughter at their ''Sana37'' channel. that was where I first heard the music being played and after hearing it over 25 times on their channel, the music began to grow on me.

Then one day in Taiwan, where I live, I heard the very same music coming from the lobby of a movie theater, as a kind of advertisment jingle, and I asked the box office clerk if she knew the name of that song or who composed it and she said "No. I have no idea. It's on on computer so it plays in the lobby from time to time. I think the song is on YouTube but I don't know its name."

That's when I became very curious and interested to to know more about this song, so I asked Akane by Facebook and she replied: "The song is called "How to Play" but I don't know who composed it."

So I went to YouTube as soon as I heard the name of the song and found it right away. Here:




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc0go11BLmU


Now you know the story behind the song. Pass it on. Tell your friends. Yu Hayashi is a genious and generous as well, because he did not create the song to become rich and famous and he gave it to the world for free. Anyone can use it.

What a nice man he is, creative and generous. BRAVO, YU HAYASHI!

=======================================

P.S. By the way, the song title is written in a special way, with underline marks (_)  between the words How_To .....and..... To_Play. If you are searching for the song, use those marks, too. You will find it that way.

HOW_TO_PLAY

====================================


Yu Hayashi also tells me:

My twitter account is 884yuu: https://twitter.com/884yuu
(In Japan, we can call the number 8 (hachi) as "Ha" or "Ya", and 4 for "Shi" so Ha-Ya-Shi my name here!)



He also asked me to add this information:The original source of the BGM is not on Youtube, it is on this site:
http://dova-s.jp/bgm/play2253.html

It's a Japanese site that passes out loyalty-free BGM, there are over 100 composers like me. They upload their music on this site, as free BGM.


P.S.
You knew "HOW TO PLAY" on sana37 channel! I know the channel, too!



Monday, February 20, 2017

UPDATE ---- The Cli-Fi Report" has been retitled as "The Cli-Fi Report from Taiwan"

 
 
 
UPDATE ---- The Cli-Fi Report" has been retitled as "The Cli-Fi Report from Taiwan"

Saturday, February 18, 2017

HOW Michael Crichton in STATE OF FEAR (2004) got climate change and global warming issues wrong blnd-sided by the times he was living in then.

HOW Michael Crichton in STATE OF FEAR (2004) got climate change and global warming issues wrong blnd-sided by the times he was living in then. VANITY FAIR mag has this:


...''One needs only to look at the sheer number of books and movie tickets sold to get an idea of how popular — even beloved — Crichton was throughout his 40-year career. But there was controversy as well, in the wake of his novel State of Fear (anti-global warming). That novel took a jaded look at the politics of climate-change science at that time in USA history and has as its villains a group of environmental activists. He got hate mail after State of Fear was published to mostly negative reviews.

“He was ready for the ridicule; he was ready for the conversation,” said his widow Sherri Crichton, when asked about why Crichton tackled this subject in the way that he did. “He challenged science and the models.”

Steven Spielberg believes that when the book was written in 2004 the science wasn’t as settled as it is now, and what Crichton was really arguing for was a less emotional approach to the topic. When the book came out, “people were not talking about global warming. And I think Michael was trying to shake things up and get people to listen, and I think he had to go out on a limb to get people to pay attention.”

On Charlie Rose’s show, Crichton described environmentalism as a kind of religion and argued for a coolheaded approach to the subject.

When asked about the writer’s conservative views in this area, Charlie Rose said, “I would hope that Michael would look at the world today and say, Whatever I did in terms of creating that piece, we’re living in a different world, and I see more evidence—and it is one of the great challenges in our world that I see now. At least I hope he would say that.”

Paul Lazarus, producer of the original Westworld and Crichton’s closest friend during his early years in Hollywood, and currently on the faculty of Santa Fe University of Art & Design, recalled a long discussion he had with Crichton about the issue. He remembers telling him, “Michael, you’re on the wrong side of history on this one.”

The editor Robert Gottlieb worked on Crichton’s novels while at Alfred A. Knopf. In his 2016 memoir, Avid Reader, excerpted in the September 2016 issue of V.F., Gottlieb recalls, “Michael had a strong background in science. And he had a keen eye, or nose, for cutting-edge areas of science—and, later, sociology—that could be used as material for thrillers while cleverly popularizing the hard stuff for the general public. You got a lesson while you were being scared. What Michael wasn’t was a very good writer. The Andromeda Strain was a terrific concept, but . . . eventually I concluded that he couldn’t write about people because they just didn’t interest him.” Gottlieb adds, “Michael, for all his weaknesses as a writer, was unquestionably the best of his techno breed, and easily deserved his tremendous success.”

Still, Crichton was plagued by feelings that his books all fell short of the mark. “I’ve never worked on anything, either a book or a movie, without, in some really deep way, feeling disappointed in myself—feeling that I missed it,” he admitted in his Great Train Robbery commentary.''

SEE FULL TEXT AT VANITY FAIR

Friday, February 17, 2017

ADAM MORGAN THE EDITOR Introduces BURNING WORLDS, Amy Brady's new monthly literary column about cli-fi trends nationwide.

ADAM MORGAN THE EDITOR WRITES:

ADAM MORGAN THE EDITOR Introduces BURNING WORLDS, Amy Brady's new monthly literary column about cli-fi trends nationwide.

It's been a busy year at the Chicago Review of Books, an online literary journal that is just one year old.

Since January, weveve launched a lot of new columns and features — all of which are aimed at expanding our mission to make the literary conversation more inclusive, in every sense of the word.

In case you missed them, here are our new ongoing features at the CHIRB.

pablo-8


Burning Worlds is Amy Brady’s new monthly column (named after JG Ballard) examining trends in climate change fiction, or “cli-fi.”

In her first piece, she spoke with the man who coined the term “cli-fi” (Dan Bloom) about his reading suggestions.

Next month, in MARCH, she'll speak with science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson about his forthcoming novel, ''New York 2140,'' set in a partially submerged Manhattan.

 https://chireviewofbooks.com/2017/02/15/whats-new-at-the-chirb/

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A new Taiwanese movie is shooting now in Chiayi City in south Taiwan with Director Hsaio [蕭雅全] [Hsiao Ya Chuan] at the helm during a 30-day location shoot. Some informal unofficial still photos taken by this blogger's friend Mr Liao in Chiayi. Thank you Mr Liao for the good photos.

UPDATE! see link below: with PHOTOS!

http://cli-fi-books.blogspot.tw/2017/02/a-new-taiwanese-movie-is-shooting-now.html



DIRECTOR 蕭雅全 -- Hsiao Ya Chuan

國立藝術學院美術系 


in 2000 he made ''命帶追逐'':
 


in 2010 he made ''第36個故事'':
 
 

A new Taiwanese movie is shooting now in Chiayi City in south Taiwan with Director Hsaio at the helm during a 30-day location shoot. Some informal unofficial still photos taken by this blogger's friend Mr Liao in Chiayi. Thank you Mr Liao for the good photos.
As we learn more about this movie, this blog will add some information. The movie's theme is about air pollution and it is not a comedy but a serious Taiwanese drama about serious issue. The director decided to place his story in the "local" city of Chiayi where a different kind of life obtains that the one seen in Taipei or Kaohsiung. A crew of about 100 people were on hand the other day to help with the shoot, from grips, microphone technicians, video camera people, still photographers, and the lighting and camera crews, not to mention the assistant director and the two young stars of the movie Miss Chen and Mr Huang from Taipei.
The story of the movie partly takes place at a local dry cleaning store where the woman in the movie, about 25 years old, is working. Her friend comes in the ask her to dry clean his clothes and that was the scene the film crew was shooting in these photos taken by Mr Liao, a local guy in Chiayi who kindly resent his photos to me via Facebook last night. The shoot was along a small roadnear the Mistukoshi Department store during the day and the night, and many local people who passed by on motorscooters and by foot while shopping or stopping off at nearby food stalls and restaurants stopped to watch the action, like a Hollywood movie location shot. More locations will include scenes in Chiayi County -- perhaps Minschiung and Budai and Putsu and Tongshih. We will tell you more as we learn more.
The movie has a tentative unofficial name now in English, "After That" but there is not official title yet and things might change of course before the movie is released in 2018. In  addition to the famous KANO movie, about the 1931 baseball team in Chiayi during the Japanese Colonial Period, this is the first Taiwanese movie to locate the main story in modern Chiayi.
Director Hsaio has made two \films in his career, and this is his third one. He is known as a very good director for TV commercials and MV shoots. PHOTOS HERE --
 

A new Taiwanese movie is shooting this month in Chiayi City with Director 蕭雅全 [Hsaio Ya-Quan] at the helm during a 30-day location shoot for "在一個死亡之後" (''Beyond Death'')

Image may contain: one or more people and text
The digital clapboard reads: roll 4, scene 2, shot 7, take 6
director 蕭雅全, cameraman AJ
date: 2017. Febuary 7. LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!


 The name of the movie is "在一個死亡之後" (''Beyond  Death'')

黃仲崑 is one of the actors.

國立藝術學院美術系 


2000 命帶追逐:
54 屆坎城影展導演雙週 

19 屆義大利都靈影展最佳處女作
42 屆希臘鐵薩隆尼齊影展最佳藝術成就獎、最佳導演獎 

2000台北電影節最佳影片、最佳新導演獎 

15 屆日本福岡亞洲影展最佳影片 


2010 第36個故事:
12屆台北電影節觀眾票選獎、最佳音樂獎
47屆金馬獎最佳電影原創歌曲

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, child, closeup and outdoor
The Director!
 
 
A new Taiwanese movie "在一個死亡之後" ("Beyond Death'') is shooting now in Chiayi City in south Taiwan with Director 蕭雅全 [Mr. Hsaio Ya-Chuan] at the helm during a 30-day location shoot. Some informal and  unofficial still photos taken bymy friend Mr Liao in Chiayi. Thank you, Mr Liao, for the good photos.

As we learn more about this movie, this blog will add some information. The movie's theme is about air pollution and it is not a comedy but a serious Taiwanese drama about serious issue. 蕭雅全 the director decided to place his story in the "local" city of Chiayi where a different kind of life obtains that the one seen in Taipei or Kaohsiung. A crew of about 100 people were on hand the other day to help with the shoot, from grips, microphone technicians, video camera people, still photographers, and the lighting and camera crews, not to mention the assistant director and the two young stars of the movie Miss Chen and Mr Huang from Taipei.

Image may contain: one or more people
Director 蕭雅全 and his crew and cast at a Buddhist ceremony to mark the beginning of the production in Chiayi City asking  a blessing from the Gods for good luck and good fortune in the making of the movie. The photo is courtesy of Director Hsaio. The name of the movie is "在一個死亡之後" (''Beyond Death'')




 黃仲崑 is one of the actors.

 
Director Hsiao, born in 1967, (蕭雅全) is a screenwriter and a director. He was the screenwriter and director for the movie ''第36個故事 ''.
 \He also made the short film ''命帶追逐 '' in the year 2000. (35 minutes long)



 THE DIRECTOR WRITES ON HIS FACEBOOK PAGE:

經典賽沒贏,也不是假日,電影劇組卻在收工後,在主場景五金行裡喝起來了。嵐姐帶來三瓶高粱,當場全部解決。廣告比較少這樣的氣氛,雖然大家都是好朋友,但廣告太短暫,總是來去一陣風,明天各有各的事。

來嘉義拍片,已經進到第五週,再一週就要離開,轉往北台灣與東京。很珍惜這樣的相處,一群人窩在外地拍片,像營隊,當然也有衝突,但還不會太劣質。關於這部電影,並不是容易的片,但默默地,也走到這裡了。
...

前仆後繼,是我對這部片子的感受,也幾乎是這部片子的主題。我們用掉了一堆演員,用掉一堆場景,每一兩天都會有不同的演員或場景殺青,就像車輪戰,一波接著一波。這次我們又造了一個景:五金行,細節鉅細靡遺,可惜不能像朵兒咖啡館一樣留下來,只能讓它存在電影裡。

音樂的核心是進行曲,一切都指向同一個方向:前進、前仆後繼、在一個死亡之後。
Chiayi resident Joanna Ho translated and summarized the above comment for me: thank you so much, Joanna!

Cause of this film, "After That", the director felt the "family atmosphere". It's never gotten before. After Chiayi, he needed to leave to North of Taiwan and Tokyo so he treasured every moment with everyone in the job. Although it's not easier than the advertisements, everyone still stay to the end. I think the definition of this film was "前仆後繼" that taking up the positions of the fallen and rise to fight one after another. This time, there are many actors and scenes. It's like the "Wheel War" which was tactic of fighting an enemy by turns to wear him down...next and next. We also made a filmed scene, Hardware Store which was exquisite and specific. The heart of the music was “the march” and everything was the same direction, then moving, taking up the positions of the fallen and rise to fight one after another and "After That".




黃仲崑 is one of the actors.

The movie has a tentative unofficial name in English, "Beyond Death" -- [The tentative name of the movie in Chinese Mandarin is "在一個死亡之後" but there is no official title yet and things might change, of course, before the movie is released in 2018.

In  addition to the famous KANO movie, about the 1931 baseball team in Chiayi during the Japanese Colonial Period, this is the first Taiwanese movie to locate the main story in modern 2017 Chiayi. Thank you, 蕭雅全! Gambatte, cast and crew!

Director [蕭雅全] has made two films in his career, and this is his third one. He is known as a very good director for TV commercials and MV shoots.

The Chiayi story of the movie partly takes place at a local dry cleaning store where the woman in the movie, about 25 years old, is working. Her friend comes in the ask her to dry clean his clothes and that was the scene the film crew was shooting in these photos taken by Mr Liao, a local guy in Chiayi who kindly resent his photos to me via Facebook last night. The shoot was along a side street near the Mistukoshi Department store during the day and the night, and many local people who passed by on motorscooters and by foot while shopping or stopping off at nearby food stalls and restaurants and stopped to watch the action, like a Hollywood movie location shoot.

The director is in the center of the photo.
 

Here are some informal scenes of the movie being made on the streets of Chiayi on February 12, along the a side street in town near a ''Dry Cleaning Shop'', since the movie's story or part of it, takes place in a fictional dry cleaning store in Chiayi.

Filming a scene with two actors in the lobby entrance of a local dry cleaning store where the actress Miss Chen is chatting with a young man who os her friend (not her boyfriend) who brings some clothes to her store in the movie to be cleaned at the dry cleaning store in the movie. LIGHTS CAMERA ACTION! - [PHOTO BY MR LIAO]



 

Filming in Chiayi City on a small side street at night. LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! -- [PHOTO COURTESY OF MR LIAO IN CHIAYI]

 
Another location inside a wood-panelled hardward store with a gorgeous and atmospheric interior inside in Chiayi City on a small side street near the train station. The cast and crew have been shooting there for a few days, before moving on to some scenes at the main train station in Chiayi City later in the week. [ Photo by Chiayi resident Mr. 張振瑋 ]

And the movie crew and cast also shot some scenes at the Chiayi Train Station on March 9 in the afternoon. They were shooting on the platform. This photo is from the Internet and is not from the movie location. But the platform looks like this:

Picture
嘉義市 火車站 (Chiayi Railway Station) 

http://www.bit-films.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDYd5Xs6kA4

THE DIRECTOR SPEAKS ON YOUTUBE!

雅全老師
1967生,畢業於國立藝術學院美術系,21歲開始拍攝短片,1994年開始拍攝廣告。2000年首部電影長片《命帶追逐》入選54屆坎城影展導演雙週,並在19屆義大利都靈影展榮獲最佳處女作及多項國際大獎。2010年完成第二部長片《第36個故事》,入選第12屆台北電影節競賽片,獲觀眾票選獎與最佳音樂獎。

The movie he is making in 2017:








Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Exhaustion of Literature: --------- An Interview with Croatian literary activist Dubravka Ugrešić

The Exhaustion of Literature: An Interview with Croation literary activist Dubravka Ugrešić

 
Dubravka Ugrešić (pronounced [dûbraːʋka ûgreʃit͡ɕ]; born on March 27, 1949) is a post-Yugoslav writer. A graduate of University of Zagreb, she has been living in the Netherlands since the 1990s, currently living in Amsterdam. Ugrešić majored in comparative literature and Russian language at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Arts, pursuing parallel careers as a scholar and as a writer. After graduation she continued to work at the university, at the Institute for Theory of Literature. In 1993 she left Croatia for political reasons. She has spent time teaching at European and American universities, including UNC-Chapel Hill, UCLA, and Harvard University. She is based in Amsterdam where she is a freelance writer and contributor to several American and European literary magazines and newspapers.
 
 
Dubravka Ugrešić
DubravkaUgresic.jpg
Born(1949-03-27) 27 March 1949 (age 67)
Kutina, Croatia, Yugoslavia
OccupationWriter
NationalityDutch/Croatian
CitizenshipAmsterdam, Netherlands
Notable awardsNeustadt International Prize for Literature (2016), Vilenica Prize (2016)
Website
Official Website
FROM
http://www.verbivoraciouspress.org/the-exhaustion-of-literature-an-interview-with-dubravka-ugresic/

VP Editors: Can you start by telling me a little about your interest in literary activism, and what revelations sprang from the Kolkata conference you mentioned attending last year?

Dubravaka Ugresic: Literary activism, as I see it, should be a useful corrector of mainstream literary values, a reminder and promoter of unknown literary territories. Literary activism is supposed to usurp our comfortable and rigid mainstream opinions, to shake up our literary tastes and standards, to promote unknown writers and neglected literary territories, to bring fresh knowledge about literature. The role of literary activism is irreplaceable especially today, when one can’t rely on national literary canons (they are predominantly male and operate with the old-fashioned, dusty concepts of national literature). We equally can’t rely on the literary marketplace, because it operates like any other marketplace. When a book becomes a product, we are no longer talking literature, but about sales and trade.
 
Literary activists can do a lot. Wonderful literary magazines such as Music & Literature are the outcome of the literary enthusiasm of a group of young people and their wish to bring a bit of “evaluation justice” to literature and music.
 
Young literary enthusiasts, such as Chad Post, the director of the small publishing house Open Letter Books and the Three Percent website; such as Benjamin Moser, who rediscovered Brazilian author Clarice Lispector and made of her a world literary star, really can do a lot.
 
True, for such an achievement one has to possess genuine literary passion. It can’t be faked.
 
Many writers are literary activists themselves: I have been a literary activist my whole life.
 
All I’ve done, including my own writing, naturally, I have done out of passion.
 
Many famous writers become famous only thanks to the enthusiasm and efforts of literary activists. Such people are rarely mentioned, they usually stay in the shadows, and they are rarely credited for their work. Most of them were and are true literary activists. Let us not forget that there are false ones too. The history of culture confirms that there are quite a lot of Salieris, and just a few Mozarts.
 
 
dubrava2
 
Q. How do you see your role as an academic in contributing to this shaking up of literary standards, and do you find students are receptive to challenging or ‘difficult’ books?
 
A. Thank you for bringing this up. The question of “literary standards” and “literary evaluation” is probably the most difficult all of the questions in our contemporary cultural world. Who establishes literary standards? National academies, critics, media, readers, ideologies (religious, political), national ministries of culture, even politicians (when they publicly announce their favorite writers), pop stars, cultural managers, lobbies of all kind, media, digital media (twitter, social networks, blogging, vlogging, etc.), publishers, booksellers, professors of literature, social groups, editors, agents, scouts, enthusiasts, literary activists, literary prizes, juries, fellow-writers, jurors, etc., etc. For a long time I thought, idealistically, that literary justice exists in our independent Republic of Letters. There is no justice from above: there is only a process of cultural negotiation and unstoppable cultural production where every participant has his/hers/its five minutes of fame (as Andy Warhol predicted). I would just say five seconds, that every participant can count on five seconds of his/hers glory. It is very difficult to be an educator, or arbiter, or even a responsible participant in such a “democratic” educational system where “students” are replacing “teachers”, both not knowing that they have already been replaced by “readers” (take this as a metaphor, please).
 
 
How do you find your style or approach to writing fiction has evolved or shifted since your first novel, Steffie Cvek in the Jaws of Life, to your most recent, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg?
 
 
Although it’s a bit embarrassing to act as one’s own literary critic, I will bluntly skip the shame, and say: it hasn’t. My approach to writing fiction hasn’t changed through all these years, and exactly because of that fact, my “style” (narrative strategies and devices, themes and motives, etc.) changes from book to book. I wrote two short story collections before I wrote Steffie Cvek in the Jaws of Life. Steffie Cvek is a short novel, but it is a novel as much as Closely Watched Trains and A Too Loud a Solitude are novels. That doesn’t mean that I am comparing myself to Bohumil Hrabal in any way. His was a God-given talent, and God is not known for being overly generous in the literary department. Otherwise so many people would not be rushing to be writers.
 
The set of literary ideas, the theory that had the most formative impact on my writing, was Russian formalism, or the Russian formalists, such as Viktor Shklovsky and Yuri Tinyanov. A bit later came Yuri Lotman and his famous Tartu school, then other schools of literary theory joined, American and European. And I found myself in a rich cultural system of serious and competent thinking on literature. I didn’t have the ability and the time to absorb all this knowledge, but I developed respect for the literary text and attentiveness to the practices of its interpretation. I admit, I became a writer in a very fortunate historical moment when literature was still respected as a serious and important “practice” and literary theory and criticism were taken equally seriously. I say “fortunate” historical moment because in the meantime things have changed, and for the worse.
ugresic3
 
To make a long story short: I wrote five novels. The first, Steffie Cvek in the Jaws of Life, plays with the pattern of the romance novel. It also plays with the heavily stereotyped women’s commonplace (women’s magazines, fashion, cooking, advice, beauty parlor talk, gossip, Hollywood movie stars, and so on and so forth), and with literary works belonging to the literary canon, such as Madame Bovary, for instance. In Steffie Cvek in the Jaws of Life I bared the narrative devices, or, in other words, I made visible all my authorial tricks. Playing with the bare construction of the text was a self-sabotage of sorts. I was sure that my novel was going to be a failure in terms of popularity among the readers. However, in spite of the ironic play with the reader, the constant interference by the author and her “theoretical grumble”, in spite of the visible authorial “stitches”, Steffie Speck won the hearts of ordinary readers. That little female hero of mine appeared to be more authentic and bigger than her pretentious author (me). Ordinary readers identified with her, they loved her, they felt sympathy for her. There was no sympathy left for me, her creator.
My second novel Fording the Stream of Consciousness is also a “project” that I never repeated, e.g. I never wrote anything similar. It’s a novel about a literary conference in Zagreb before the fall of Berlin wall. Twenty-eight years have passed since its first publication. I dare say this novel is still highly relevant, maybe because of the Bulgakov-like character of Mr. Flagus, Flaubert’s nephew, and his dystopian (or just — corporate!) ideas of total control over literature. English critics said that my novel was written in the tradition of David Lodge and Malcolm Bradbury, which is simply not true. I hadn’t read Lodge and Bradbury at that time, but I had read Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Composer Foltin by Karel Chapek, Marshlands by Andre Gide, and similar books about artists and their world.
My third novel is The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, a novel with a complicated structure that doesn’t follow a single story, but links its parts together with interplay of motives. The novel works as a juxtaposition of different fragments and they do not behave like “bugs in a sack”, but they cooperate, support each other, and work together to produce meaning.
The Ministry of Pain is a different novel, it has a rich subtext, the city of Amsterdam (like Berlin in The Museum of Unconditional Surrender), which serves not only as topography, but as a metaphorical projection screen, a mirror to everything that is happening in the novel. As to the use of the city as a metaphorical space, The Ministry of Pain and The Museum of Unconditional Surrender make a match.
The latest novel Baba Yaga Laid An Egg uses a different narrative procedure then the previous four novels. It consists of three parts, each is written in a different style and genre. These three parts talk to each other, support each other, and enrich each other. The first part is the author’s (first-person narrative) encounter with her dying mother; the second part is a “fairy tale” (third-person narrative) about three old hags in a luxurious health spa; and the third (an unreliable first-person narrative) is a long scholarly letter written to the editor of a book. The narrator of third part is a Slavic scholar (Abba, a young woman who appears as a character in the first part of the novel), who explains all the secrets and symbols used by the author in the previous two parts.
All in all, each novel uses a different narrative procedure, different structure, different composition. I would die of boredom singing the same song. Writers are supposed to explore, to create and to invent, to bring new forms and ideas, to surprise us with each new book, I guess. In any case, I aspire to that ideal. As a reader, I expect my favorite writers to be “new” with each new book, but also always recognizable. Their recognizability is their precious substance.
 
Your fiction is considered ‘experimental’, at least in terms of form and structure. Please tell me about your formative years as a fiction writer, how you developed your approach, perhaps touching upon your early literary influences?
 
We use the notion of “experimental”in contrast to predominant mainstream writing. “Experimental”, which is often just a synonym for “inconprehensible”, “complicated”, “heavy”, “challenging”, “unusual”, should have a more nuanced use, I guess, otherwise all “serious literature” (even the writing that follows the tradition of the 19th century realistic novel) might be subsumed under the umbrella-term of “experimental”. I have always been led by pleasure, the pleasure of reading first of all, and then the pleasure of making the text. When I use the word “making” it doesn’t exclude words such as “responsibility”, “emotions”, “moral responsibility”, “ethics”, “warmth”, “pleasure”, and so on and so forth.
 
In your essay ‘Can a Book Save Our Life?’ (from Europe in Sepia), you ruminate on the quantity, and impermanence, of books being produced today. What is your prognosis for the future of serious writing, and is there any way for us to escape the gross commodification of literature?
 
 
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I don’t think there is an escape. There will always be various forms of personal, authorial escapes, forms of intellectual gestures; there will also be group initiatives, literary activism, and literary elitism, but as far as publishing and the creative industries are concerned, things will go on and on.

Q. In that same collection, your essay ‘A Women’s Canon’, you highlight the power a male literary elite has over women authors, and the social and gender implications of forming a ‘women’s canon’. You state that “subliterary genres have had a greater emancipatory effect than middle-class culture”. What role can publishers play in helping move away from the problem of colonization, of women adapting to stereotypes?
 
A. I had in mind genres like comics, tv-series and movies, fantasy novels, speculative fiction, science fiction, and so forth. This cultural zone often produces female (and not only female!) characters, relationships, spaces that are much more emancipatory then those produced in other culture zones. The pleasure of emancipation could be the reason for the popularity of popular culture. The fictional character of Lara Croft had a huge emancipatory impact on young girls, I’d say. That impact can’t be compared with the impact of academic feminist theories. And the opposite, of course, books like Fifty Shades of Grey are able to (temporarily) enslave women much more than the preachings of popular “religious mullahs” .
 
How have your exile experiences shaped your attitudes to literature?
 
They definitely have. As Brodsky said exile is a lesson in humility. Exile does something to a writer’s personal literary “ethics”. A writer in exile is not protected by his/her national culture, language, institutions, readers, academies – and retirement plan. A writer in exile communicates with readers he/she doesn’t know and is exposed to the judgement of readers who do not know him/her. It’s a risky literary life. The harsh facts of exile make an exiled (or self-exiled) writer more modest. She/he is constantly confronted with his/her insignificance. At “home”, within the national literature, the writer’s vulnerable ego is much more protected and pampered. The “national writer” has a sense of his purpose and value within the frame of the national literature and language. The “homeless” author can’t feed his/her ego with such illusions. He/she is totally alone. The “out of nation” writer’s life is restless, he/she is constantly learning and keeping a fresh view of the world, even if it is a wrong one. It’s also a state of constant evaluation: it might be tiring, of course, but it might bring you an awarding sense of openness and connectedness with the world.
 
What do you think is the future of literature given free market economics dominating most of the global allocation of resources?
 
I can’t predict what is going to happen. As we know from the history of our culture some genres could disappear, (though, they also might re-appear in some other form); borders between arts might get blurred (they already are); things might get more “inter”, “cross”, “trans” and “post”. The language might change (it has already) because of technology. The attention span has already changed because of technology. Not so long ago I was at the MET, attending an opera performance. The translation titles were displayed on the seats in front of us in the audience. This was a new thing for me, the last time I was at opera surtitles were displayed above the stage. It was a weird experience, listening and watching the opera singers and following the translation of their words on the small display on the seat in front of me, while at the same time being aware that the person behind me was reading his titles practically on my back. The situation was deeply inspiring, and as I listened to the opera, I imagined new ways of communicating. All in all, literature will exist, but probably not in the form we know it now. Who knows what will happen, maybe one day we’ll all communicate in one language, the language of emoticons. Maybe future poets would use a combination of little round faces, pulsating hearts and all sorts of graphic signs to write their poems.
 
What do you think of the likely impacts of technology on the directions which literature can take in terms of form as well as function?
 
 Soon we are all going to write, I’m afraid, and nobody will have time, or need, to read us. We are all going to produce art, but nobody would have time to see it, I’m afraid. The visitors to museums, libraries, and exhibits are going to be school children, no older then 12, because at that age children will aready be producing their first novel, or/and their first piece of art and further on they won’t have any time, or need, for consuming works of art. They will produce their own art using mostly copy-paste techniques. Copy-paste technique will enable the future creators to consume and at the same time produce literature, art, music…
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Do we still have a literature of exhaustion, or is it  now merely an exhaustion of literature?

A. I am personally exhusted by literary-market manipulations, e.g. every minute of my reader’s life I am distracted by warnings of a brilliant book that just appeared on the market and I’m missing it.
 
 
Good and dynamic book culture is the result of the interconnection of many elements that work together and support each other.
 
For instance, literature does not exist without its readers, critics, literary theory, literary criticism, literary history, academia, institutions, book sellers, bookstores, supporters, translators, literary activists, literary agents, publishers, editors, literary magazines, professors of literature, literary educators . . .
 
The system called literature is slowly falling apart. It seems that only the two strongest elements are holding the structure up: booksellers and readers. One might predict that soon booksellers and readers will get rid of the author. Because the author is obviously not the crucial element in the whole business.
 
The book reviews gradually shrink, for instance, and ordinary readers are more and more deprived of the “instructive” part of book reviews (e.g. how to read the literary text). Readers are almost totally in the hands of booksellers. Good bookstores and educated book sellers are gradually disappearing.
 
Bookstores are standardized today, they all tend to look like airport bookstores.
 
I recently took a train from Amsterdam to Frankfurt: the railway station bookstores in both towns had almost identical selection of books in the international section, just in different languages, in Amsterdam in Dutch, in Frankfurt in German.
 
Imagine, after a couple of years of such a practice booksellers will be standardizing the taste of millions of readers and making them into an obedient army of book consumers.
 
Did you ever ask yourself why the books of a certain author, an author with a good reputation, can be found in all the airport bookstores? Why this particular author and not another?! What is the secret?
 
It seems that some authors in spite of their popularity, or quality, will never ever be exposed in airport bookstores and others will always be there.
 
All in all, literature is not an innocent field and it probably never was. Buying food in eco-bio-whatever stores is no guarantee that you are consuming five-star food.
 
 
Are there lesser-known books or authors of particular significance to you, works untranslated or available in English?
 
 
I don’t think translation is a crucial problem. Today books get more easily translated and published. There are prizes for the best translation, translators are appreciated, in some countries with strong translator’s societies, translators are paid even better than the authors. The crucial problem is how to provoke the quality boost in the richer production of “cultural goods”.
 
The problem is not a discovery of works of untranslated authors, but how to ensure a more sustained interest in authors and their body of work, how to slow this crazy and at the same time indifferent cultural production and consumerism, how to re-discover and re-read classical authors, how to raise the standards of reading and understanding the text, how to reconnect cultural “consumers” with cultural history, in other words, how to develop a culture of reading.
 
The world has become fragmented and messy, and reading a book is not a moment for pleasure and contemplation, as it used to be.
 
New generations of people spend half of their lives in fitness centers, many of them have been hooked on the prospect of improving their bodies.
 
And human bodies indeed have become more beautiful than they were. Can you imagine a new culture, a culture of mental-fitness centers that would last long enough to produce a new generation of people, a generation of high-standard readers?

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SHE WRITES ON HER WEBSITE:
 
Who knows, maybe one day there will no longer be Literature. Instead there will be literary web sites. Like those stars, still shining but long dead, the web sites will testify to the existence of past writers. There will be quotes, fragments of texts, which prove that there used to be complete texts once. Instead of readers there will be cyber space travelers who will stumble upon the websites by chance and stop for a moment to gaze at them. How they will read them? Like hieroglyphs? As we read the instructions for a dishwasher today? Or like remnants of a strange communication that meant something in the past, and was called Literature?
 
I have watched The Wizard of Oz many times, and always feel both sympathy and antipathy for Toto. You remember him, Dorothy’s little dog who, prompted by his doggy instinct, tugs back the curtain exposing the Great Wizard of Oz for what he is: a charlatan. In my texts I often behave like Toto, as if Toto’s spirit is inside me, egging me on to tug back the curtain. This role is thankless because after his grand gesture Toto remains what he was: a little dog, a minor character overshadowed by the Wizard’s greatness. I love the Great Wizard’s extravaganza, the fuss, the smoke and flames, as much as the next person. But despite the lure of it all something won’t let me be, and I tug at the curtain. Gustave Flaubert announced: “I am Madame Bovary!” And I? What can I say?
 
Once, in response to my question about what makes a book good, a student of mine shot back:” It should sparkle!” Whenever I finish writing a book, I lean my ear to the manuscript and listen in panic. Is it bubbly or still? Does it pulsate or is it flat? Warm or cool? A sparkler, or a charred, sputtering little stick?

I need to apologize – this is another piece on the death of the novel: Tristan Foster in Australia on our obsession with Literature

 

 

Tristan Foster, who is a writer from Sydney, starts off by saying ''I need to apologize – this is another piece on the death of the novel'': Tristan Foster on our obsession with Literature. He writes:

                      


I need to apologize – this is another piece on the death of the novel. On the death of the novel, but also on a fractured, stupefied publishing industry.
 
 More than that, it’s a piece on the decline in the public’s investment in literature as a cultural phenomenon.
 
But before I begin, it could be useful to try to offer a definition of what I mean by ‘literature’ here. Zadie Smith characterises it simply as writing that engages with the culture – as opposed to that which doesn’t.
 
It’s the kind of writing which Mark de Silva, in an essay for 3:AM Magazine, calls ‘art fiction’ – as opposed to ‘leisure fiction’.
 
I am talking about writing that challenges, that is more than entertainment, that makes demands of its reader. Which isn’t to say literature can’t be easy or entertaining or without demands entirely … You know when the punchline to a joke needs explaining? It seems we have arrived at an equivalently awkward stage in the history of literature.
 
 
In an interview with Verbivoracious Press, the Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić says:
 
‘When a book becomes a product, we are no longer talking literature, but about sales and trade’.
 
Bundled in with the idea that the novel is dead is the notion of commerciality.
 
It seems silly to say, but Don Quixote cannot die.
 
Nor can Crime and Punishment or The Waves.
 
Many terrible novels are very real, very physical objects without any sort of life to take.
 
What can certainly die, however, is the novel-as-consumer good.
 
This, it seems to me, is everybody’s secret worry. Those on the side of the debate who argue literature is not dead, or anywhere near it, very often have a vested interest in it not dying.
 
In the erection of Dymocks book towers and in banal reviews appearing in weekend newspapers and in waterside festivals continuing forever and ever.
 
Without intending to appear disingenuous, I’m not going to quote book sales figures. Instead, I’m going to list some markers which I interpret as being indicative of publishing’s vital signs:
 
government funding to the arts continues to fall;
 
humanities departments are shrinking;
 
newspaper book pages have disappeared;
 
the two largest publishing houses merged to have more leverage with online vendors;
 
on and offline literary squabbles result in little more than further fractiousness;
 
people on my morning commute are reading fewer books than ever before; and here we are still discussing the novel’s deadness.
 
These are not the signs of a robust industry.
 
[Also, making demands of culture can seem laughably obtuse at the best of times – I wonder if the Trumps and the Brexits will soon prove too big and too serious a distraction for anyone to really give two shits about any of this.]
 
But there are still readers and writers, and new publishing venues continue to materialise.
 
The fabled democratising force of the internet means anybody can write, publish, promote and discuss literature.
 
This isn’t not true – after all, here we are on the internet.
 
Here I am writing something and having it published on a website, there you are reading it.
 
The desire for community, too, has not gone away.
 
But giving everybody on Earth access to Facebook is not, as it turns out, democratic.
 
Democracy only works if children are taught what a democracy is and why they need to play a role in it. I digress.
 
If the state of things is such that reader-writer-publishers are primarily writing for other reader-writer-publishers to the perceived detriment of an industry, then that’s the state of things.
 
This smallness is something we can embrace. Bear with me while I begin to defend the current, weakened position of literature.
 
‘I don’t think serious fiction is written for a few people’, US writer Percival Everett says in an interview in BOMB. ‘I think we live in a stupid culture that won’t educate its people to read these things. It would be a much more interesting place if it would.’
 
Mainstream, anti-evolution standards and narrow ideals of what literature is – and therefore can be – are what got us here.
 
Tim Parks explores the restrictive nature of globalisation on literature in the essay, ‘The Dull New Global Novel‘; ironically, serious fiction is the space in which writers have the most freedom.
 
A clean break from existing standards opens up both the possibility for a rewriting of these standards and a reorientation of how book-objects are pitched to a readership.
 
Ilana Masad’s opinion piece in the Guardian, ‘Are small (UK) publishers doing all the hard work for the big ones?‘, looks at the prevalence of independent presses publishing award-winning fiction, like 2016 Man Booker winner The Sellout by Paul Beatty and the multiple award winning A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, with these writers then later being picked up by major publishers.
 
 (Did the headline writer read The Sellout? ‘A long time ago, my father taught me that whenever you see a question on the cover of a news magazine, the answer is always “No”.’ I digress.)
 
Masad states: ‘The big publishers swoop in and profit from the hard work and risk-taking of the small presses.’ This is sort of true – Masad uses most of the piece to demonstrate this. She goes on to say it’s actually a good deal, at least for the writer: ‘It means everyone makes more money from the art and a wider audience is reached.’ Which is a nice idea. But earlier in the piece Masad mentions, ‘the capitalist nature of big publishing and the doom-and-gloom forecasts’. Presumably – she doesn’t elaborate – she means a broken, shrinking publishing industry and long term predictions for what is a slow, analogue product competing in a swift, digital entertainment landscape.
Small presses were curious about what a novel can be long before any awards came their way. So this is less about small presses doing more than it is about big publishers doing less than ever. Major publishers are giving writers a chance, but only if they have struck sales gold before, one of the gold-striking metrics being awards. But there are only so many literary awards, and the writers being picked up for their stylistic unorthodoxy are few. How long before that number ticks down to zero?
I need to stop myself here, before I get tangled too tightly. Masad also measures success by award wins and nominations. This needs to end. I agree, more people reading Beatty is no bad thing, but literature is not a sporting contest. Awards are subjective acts of recognition. Reiterating that a book has won an award is recognition of the recognition. That’s it. Using awards as metrics is one method of actively piloting literature nose-first into the ground.
 
In his 1957 essay ‘On Some Obsolete Notions’, Alain Robbe-Grillet wrote about how the language of criticism even then represented an idea of the novel, ‘a ready-made idea, which everyone admits without argument, hence a dead idea’.
 
Three years earlier, in the essay ‘Pre-Novels’, Roland Barthes wrote: ‘The ideal novel – the innocent novel – is now impossible’.
 
Yet major publishers carry on today as if it were not only possible but very nearly the only possibility.
 
Do readers want homogeneity? Are they – and writers, and publishers – not interested in evolution and possibility?
 
 I refuse to believe it, but what I believe doesn’t matter: the approach is killing literary culture.
 
Any further downsizing will not be victimless.
 
Less than writers, who, at least locally, are already earning incomes so low as to require different degrees of supplementing, it’s likely the publishing office staff who will suffer most. Far from being arbiters, and already earning unenviable salaries, their loss will be felt as it is they who are propping up the industry.
 
As such, those enthusiastic about literature are going to have to do more for less.
 
This small mob is going to have to muster passion and energy to make even small things happen. We all need to become literary activists. Again, maybe locally, this is already the way of things – the next step is wholesale acknowledgement of it.
 
Crucial to a shrunken yet successful literary culture is education and accessibility.
 
Literature is not for the few, but the idea that its value is implicit is void. Indeed, the industry is built on the naively solipsistic notion that everyone already knows that literature is important and it’s not going anywhere.
 
Continuing to act this way is another reason that it is in this commercially unenviable position.
 
Helpfully, Ugrešić has a resolution here too – literary apprenticeships:
''I think that the notion of a literary work ethic is extremely important, especially today when practically anybody can write, produce, and distribute his or her own work. This work ethic presupposes knowledge and a deep respect toward – and compassion for – your ancestors and contemporaries, toward your trade. It also assumes a deep awareness of what one is doing, why one is doing what one is doing, what the sense of the work is, what it brings to the cultural context, what it brings to the reader, and so on.''
At the centre of any discussion about accessibility must be the humble drive to make reading words easy, because God knows it gets complicated. Accessibility includes affordability: affordable books, cheap, DRM-free ebooks and festivals with an emphasis on the reading community. These are controllable and achievable. Access to writing is the simplest way to encourage and nurture an interest in literature and its possibilities.
 
I hope I’ve been clear: I am suggesting not that the gates to literature be bolted, but rather that a shrinking industry is opened up with the ultimate goal of liberating it. Go small to go big, you might say – if you need to say.
 
‘Maybe one day there will no longer be Literature,’ Ugrešić writes on her website’s homepage. ‘Instead there will be literary websites. Like those stars, still shining but long dead, the web sites will testify to the existence of past writers.’
 
For now, literature remains. We know the value of it and recognise its importance as a cultural phenomenon. Whether we like it or not, it’s up to us to ensure that more than the memory of literature persists.
 
-- Tristan Foster is a writer from Sydney.
 
COMMENTS FOLLOWING:
 
  1. From Cathy Atkinson on
  2. These are thoughts I’ve fostered since we entered the 21st century. I’m a fan of the Moderns…the great authors and novels they produced, the publishers’ seeking them out, the stories of the publishers regeneration and their stories, the art,every expression of art and how the world events and cultures influenced and was reflected in every genre.
  3. I’ve been trying to figure out where is literature and where do we stand. I follow developments of world, national,art…events and I still don’t know where we stand in the writing arts.
  4. I enjoyed your comments and insights on this subject. Good read.
  5. If you don’t know it, google The Death of the Novel and Other Stories by Ronald Sukenick (1969).
  6. Hi, nice to find another editor from the excellent 3:AM magazine. I just note the difference — to me, a gulf — between Zadie Smith’s definition and your own idea of writing “that challenges, that is more than entertainment, that makes demands of its reader.” For me, Smith is entertainment, and cultural engagement is not the most interesting purpose of novels. Part of the problem in public discourse is this sort of elision.