B Rant: Thoughts On The New Issue, Part 1

by Brantly Martin

26 August 2015

 B = me 

Rant = declaim violently and with little sense; rave

First or last or both is Veneto. Always Veneto. Even from the East Village. Those cities: Valdobbiadene, Covolo, Asolo, Cornuda, Montebelluna, Belluno, Bassano del Grappa, Treviso, Castelfranco, Crocetta del Montello, Trevignano, Maser, Caerano di San Marco—and of course, Venice. Those meals: Prosecco, Amarone, Cabernet Franc, Polenta con Funghi, Radicchio, Lo Spiedo, La Puccia, Speck, Coniglio—and once, Piccione. That restaurant on the Piave with the WWI memorial in the (sorta) parking lot and the couple/owners—Renato and Deborella—serving you while (sorta) yelling at each other (“Renato!”) before they take you down the secret path to have a look at their pet Vietnamese pig. 

Veneto: Italian but … German? Austrian? (Slavic?) A mad misto—and they love hoops. (Shout out to my man and maestro of all things Heidelberg printing, Michele—unfortunately a Lakers fan. Or, in case he reads this: Un saluto al mio amico e maestro di tutte le cose stampa Heidelberg, Michele—purtroppo un fan dei Lakers.) 

Veneto is where we print; where we sometimes lay it all out; (where I speak shite Italian); where we commandeer that room senza windows; where we argue over that violet/red feel over this violet/red feel; (color proofs, ciano ciano ciano—new paper?); where we watch our damp bambino roll off German machinery, ready to be bound by Italian hands. Precise, if not always on time … (Lo so, lo so: Mad dramatic!)


Our friend and contributor, the novelist Julian Gough, recently tossed this into the digiverse: A novel is a script for a six-hour dream. To edit it is to find and fix all those moments where your clumsiness might wake the reader. Giusto, dude. Giusto. To that I’ll add: A good novel remains the best Other. (This Other is set to be Corporate America / GoogAppAzonBook replaced by the impending Virtual Reality onslaught—vedremo.) One wish is that Grey has found its calling somewhere between Dream and Other—as only the tactile can—while all the subterranean hurdles to each new issue remain invisible exposition. (In the “indie world” one often has to shank—or at least shake—Peter to publish Paul.) 

Julian contributes a nimble and happy-go-____-the-modern-world piece to this issue (“Filling In A Form”), turning his struggle to fill out a form for The New York Times—a form that once filled out, would result in him getting paid—into a flow/riff/meditation on blank-space hunting data, America, the CIA, torture, David Foster Wallace’s suicide, Irish politics, the female orgasm, second-hand bicycles, the IRA and the IRS, James Joyce and the Dalai Lama. It’s a piece that grows on one like a tumorous schmeckel. 

One of the enjoyable parts of laying out a magazine is the license it gives one to time travel via the wormholes that exist inside a single author’s output that one (moi) is in his small way adding to. The increasing—rattle … drum … (cannon?)—sonic disturbance of nationalism, racism, extremism and brokism that seems to be two-stepping across the Atlantic and back—(how much is high-speed digital pollution?)—no doubt plays a role in curating the pop-up recall-shop in one’s head. While laying out “Filling In A Form,” and absorbing the global shenanigans ricocheting about, chapter 44 of Julian’s book, Jude: Level 1 (Old Street Publishing), kept materializing on my limbic bookshelf. And yeah: that exact chapter (it’s short). And no: if I’d read Jude on a screen that wormhole would not exist, the memory would have been lost to the digiverse. Here’s the chapter, reprinted—I mean transmitted via a flatscreen to other flatscreens—in full and without any permission whatsoever (bold mine): 

Above and around me soared the magnificent tiny houses and occasional blocks of flats for which the Northside of Dublin was famed. Dear dirty Dublin! The open spaces between the flats were full of the vibrant life of a tight-knit community which had remained unchanged for a thousand years, apart from the massacre of its original inhabitants by the Vikings; the decline and defeat of the Viking settlers in the eleventh century; the crushing of both Celt and Viking remnant by the Norman foe in the thirteenth century; the inter-tribal warfare, betrayals, and collapse of Brehon Law; the decline, isolation and stagnation of the Middle Ages; the utter devastation, rape, slaughter and population displacement of the Elizabethan plantations of the sixteenth century; the brutal oppression, sectarian massacres and decline under Cromwell; the annihilation of the Irish language and suppression of Irish Catholicism under the Penal Laws; the devastation of the 1798 rising, the decline of Dublin after the illegal abolition of Grattan’s Parliament and the bribed passage of the Act of Union in 1801; the brutal crushing of the 1803 rising; the malnutrition, population displacement, emigration, immigration, mass deaths and social disruption of the Famine from 1845-1851; the brutal crushing of the small 1848 rising, the brutal crushing of the large 1867 rising; further population displacement and social havoc wrought by the delayed and partial Irish Industrial Revolution; the subsequent demolition of the old slums and replacement by new slums; the massacre of volunteer manhood in World War One, the shelling of the city by British gunboats and the massacre of civilians and volunteer manhood in the rising of 1916; the slaughter and devastation of the war of independence; the economic stagnation and emigration following independence; the betrayals and devastation of the civil war; the social and economic devastation of the abolition and destruction of the brothel district in 1925; the total economic implosion of the Economic War against England under de Valera; the economic collapse and massacre of volunteer manhood in World War Two, the economic stagnation and emigration following World War Two, the economic stagnation and emigration of the 1950s, the economic stagnation and emigration of the 1960s; the demolition of the new slums and replacement by yet newer slums of the 1970s; the economic stagnation, emigration and devastation of the heroin epidemic of the 1980s; and the heroin, crime, economic stagnation, paramilitary racketeering and violence, social collapse, emigration, immigration, drug gang warfare, betrayal by successive governments and soaring property prices of the 1990s.
     Dear dirty Dublin, entirely unchanged.

Perhaps this chapter, and especially the bit I bolded, jumped back into my cranium as a possible tonic to some of the insanity taking place under the guise of many things that, in the end, often come down to supposed “blood lines.” (And that goes every which way amici—no time for PC/victim bullshit.) Maybe there’s a formula out there to guide us in our search for sanity—the Drake’s Equation of CHILLING OUT? Something like:

(Historical Perspective + Self Deprecating Humor) (DNA Awareness + Relax!) 
/ Weekly Sweat Lodge

DNA = real Advancement

Real advancement as opposed to technological advancement. Funny, that one: technological advancement. It’s anti-Orwellian. It means exactly what it says. No more no less. We (Americans) sometimes forget the first word and assume the second—see: net worth. (“What’s he worth?”) What I’m preaching is: If we’re playing interactive score-keeping video games anyway, maybe some genius could come up with an app that took the cotton-swab-your-mouth … send-to-National-Geographic … view-familial-migration-online gaming experience to the next level. Merge the DNA with the next (next) wave of Virtual Reality, include Likes and Followers—mindful that any new video game will succeed by combining Popularity Contest with Addiction and that the lingua franca of the world is soon to be Visual and not English—and you’ll have the smash hit of the 21st century. And one with legs! … sustainability! … scalability! … (blah! blah!) … Trump! … Jeb! … Hillary! …

Imagine ragazzi: A (video game / ”interactive experience” / app / full-blown addiction) life where one—no, all the world’s citizens, cuz it’ll be free right?—could hop backwards along the linear sangue that brought them to this point. DNA combined with input from the world’s top historians—I mean crowd-sourcing—and we could all, given enough time and Likes and Followers (they’ll figure it out) head back 10, 20, 30 thousand years! Take note all you ten-year-olds logging onto the Dark Web to release your inner Libertarian. Shift course! You can bring us together and make mad loot!

Where was I? 

The new issue. Julian Gough. He’s dope. Pick up the issue. Pick up his books. Life is good. Here’s an excerpt from Julian’s “Filling In A Form.” Later. 

Answering this questionnaire is now mandatory for all New York Times freelance writers and videographers. You may not use any other part of this site until you have answered all the questions and clicked “Submit” . . . The questionnaire is a new step arising from our Ethical Journalism policy . . . Please answer these questions as completely as you can in the spaces provided.

Seriously? As completely as I can? I’m a novelist. I once wrote twenty pages about a piece of string. It wasn’t even a long piece of string. I could hit 90,000 words on this thing.

OK. Ten questions. Let’s go.

1. Please list your other current employers, whether full time or part time.

I have no employers. Indeed, I became a writer to avoid having employers. So, I sit in a room that never receives the sun, making up stories about people who don’t exist. If there wasn’t a publishing industry, I would have been locked up since childhood (but in what way would that be different from this life?).

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