On Reading 1 (or Quantum Field Theory of Literature; or On Finnegan’s Wake 1)

The paradoxcycle dilemmena: the langauge theories (gauges more typtopically ordered to put the Four Forcemen of the Antipocolypse (BANG!) into their group theorhetorical cages to prove onceandforall, onallstages fourallayges, the symmetrickly (it’s super!) allelegance and the scaley invariance undoudubitably sphericentral to our infinidismal variexistence) novel is all about rhymerhythm and flow (from swerve of shore to bend of bay), which requires the reader ‘listen’ carefully, meaning quite literally sounding out everything on the page in your head. Honestly, it’s a distinct advantage to have engaged in conversation with or to have listened to one or the more the merrier for a significant length of time enough to pick up some idiomatic or colloquial language, to experience the cadence and inf(l)ections and the compoundplexity: the constant fissioning and fusioning of so many of the words you’ve come to know and love forward momentum in the writing you need to hear it in your head as you read it on the page


Lists Part One (or Novels Part One)

Humans love lists. This is not a criticism, merely an observation. Perhaps I will write an essay on this phenomenon related to organizational thought and general mental storage/organization processes. I will also write a lot about literature, one of my deepest passions.

Lists are typically annoying and boring and reductive, so I am going to avoid using any general superlatives. These lists will simply be jumping off points for me to discuss some of my favorite works of art. I learned at an early age that if I found history’s profound, transcendent, genius voices and the creative work in which they express and filter the knowledge of eras, cultures, generations et al, then I could quickly filter out much of the noise permeating and saturating modern life. Straight to the source so ta speak.

These lists will be lists of ten. I will write a lot about numbers, groups, rings, fields, bases, primes, ideals, transcendents, the great modulo ten debate, the binary obsession/misconception, zeta functions, gamma functions, infinity, closures, extensions, Galois, Riemann, Cantor, Langlands, Poincare etc etc you will have so much fun learning math in the future with me that it makes me quite giddy. And I don’t just get giddy fo nuttin (nuttinness aint even real). However, for now, ten is an acceptable list number, just ask Georges Perec if one day you happen to randomly walk into him in the Hall of Geniuses section of the afterlife. Once I learn how to blog better to better my blog, I intend to link each list item to a brief (brevity is the soul of witevah) piece containing further thoughts on said item, its influence on my life and all life, and whatever else comes to mind. Again, I only intend to write things (sometimes it’s ok to use common, general words…I do what I want) I would find Good (more on false dichotomies and continuums of ideas later).

Ok, let’s start with ten novels. I’m going to separate literature into a few generally accepted categories (more on category theory later, but I don’t intend to make any distinctions that go beyond fundamental common characteristics): short stories (likely in the form of story collections), short novels or novellas (potentially collections), novels, plays, poetry, and possibly non-fiction with a few extra subcategories. Other lists will cover film, art, music, television, restaurants, and whatever else I feel fits into this format that I would like to explore. Like all structurally sound ideas, this one will remain dynamic and open to suggestions.

Again, not BEST, certainly favorites, moreover meaningful creative achievements in human history/thought. All great novels are in some sense historical in that they by definition serve as commentaries on life experience and the experience of life in a historical context. Novels are primary historical documents with a voice and purpose. These first selections are of the go-big-or-go-home variety (more on algebraic varieties and their invariant properties later). These authors and their works shape my life past, present, future. The lists might skew modern/post-modern, but I appreciate all brilliance, dislike semantics, and enjoy traveling around in place and time in my airship in the cloud atlas, against the day. I will only include one work per author per list, though I have spent the most time standing on the shoulders of these giants standing on the shoulders of other giants I imagine like a superstable human pyramid of greatness. I want to write longer pieces on each author and specific works. I realize this is ambitious, but, again, go big or GTFO (more on parenthetical statements later).

The written word is the most human-versal (I avoid universal here because of mathematics) means of communication across human existence in space+time, and history is the story of people. RIP Howard Zinn, DFW.

Novels Part One (or The Big Ones Part One (now with mine-own subtitles):

  1. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
    (sub: How I Learned to Keep Worrying and Hate the Bomb)
  2. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
    (sub: Ensō)
  3. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
    (sub: Man: You Monster)
  4. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
    (sub: Man: You Fool)
  5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
    (sub: War: What is it Good For?)
  6. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
    (sub: Melancholia and the Finite Sadhappyness: Life)
  7. Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec
    (sub: LISTS!!!!!!!!!!…and representation theory)
  8. The Recognitions by William Gaddis
    (sub: Art or Fart)
  9. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
    (sub: Let Women Rule)
  10. Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov
    (sub: Time and Love (and Incest) by Vivian Darkbloom)


On Postermodernism (Or Chaos Part One)

It is a misconception to think of postmodernism as a cohesive movement or umbrella under which some arrayed vector field points generally towards a common direction, a vision or goal or set of principles: literary, moral, thematic or what-have-you like the many preceding literary movements that whether because of the separation of time and other movements in between seem to have definable, finite, focused convergence toward a common worldview amongst its artists (ie romanticism, Victorianism, modernism). Or perhaps it’s more like we take a common set of basis representative works for a particular era and assume this finite set spans the entire space of the movement such that the pertinent knowledge is effectively filtered into said major representative works. This is indeed how knowledge works sometimes.

Of course, it’s often reductive to apply broad labels spanning connected places and times simply because our brains are hard-wired for this kind of linear-temporal ordered narrative of history. In any case, as certain technologies advanced writing and as literacy spread over time and as different groups of people gained the freedom, through loosening oppression, to explore their history/culture and hone their voice and craft (that there are far fewer famous women novelists in literature is not in any way a function of a gap in ability, and is wholly due to the fact that women had no way of disseminating their viewpoints in their appointed role as housewives and mothers throughout much of history, a role forced upon them so that men could go off on power trips both constructing and destructing civilizations with equal fervor and aplomb because of superior physical strength lingering from biological evolution but rendered null with the awakening of the conscious being and consequent branching of the evolution of the mind that separates humankind from all predecessors), literature as a whole branched more and more to accommodate the vastly disparate perspectives that define humanity’s existence.

I cannot overstate the significance of this progression towards shared perspective and experience, of the spread of knowledge in all its infinite forms, where individual, independent views and stories exist as separate entities through which a discerning mind can begin to synthesize knowledge and find universal themes and meaning while remaining cognizant that every mind is unique.

This brings me (by commodius vicus of recirculation…) back to postmodernism. Postmodernism should first be taken literally: the era of literature beginning with the Cold War that immediately followed modernism. Easy enough, and relative closeness of time of publication is really the only true invariant trait of postmodernism. At first, it was a reactionary movement, but the nature of the reaction created divergence rather than convergence. Postmodernism is primarily a leap of faith into exploration and experimentation and idiosyncrasy that represented the broader shifts in thought brought upon humans with the exponential growth of technology, science, and society, but also of course by the infinite void of wars and world-destroying weapons.

Regarding literature, the events of the first half of the 20th century catalyzed a denouncement of more classic structure, form, and language, but what emerged is much more aligned with how the universe actually works: ordered chaos. I have a fairly specific meaning when I invoke chaos: in a broad sense the philosophical implications of the discovery (and subsequent ubiquitous supporting evidence) that, even if we ignore random processes which certainly exist, many deterministic systems actually functioning in reality, besides often being dependent on unaccountably innumerable variables (but at least we can model these and even probabilistically so), abide by chaotic dynamics. The bane of the weathervane is just this: even if we can take a slice of time and call it time zero and measure every significant variable affecting climate with an aim toward prediction, chaos by it’s very definition stops us dead in our tracks eclipsing any hope of predictive value beyond local time scales (days, sometimes hours). This is one of the beautiful and damning secrets of the universe, the ultimate pro/con: chaotic systems are deterministic such that we can uncover their underlying structure and properties globally and even assign values to variables at time zero, but to attain the complexity necessary for a universe to evolve, these systems have to be otherwise unconstrained and specifically, among other things, they have the property that arbitrarily small perturbations (limit at infinity nonzero) in the initial values of aforementioned variables change the evolution of the system unpredictably and over the long run this often means vastly diverging results.

In other words, nature can define a system that will dynamically evolve over time, and it can set the initial values itself, but it won’t necessarily know the results with these values, hence the whole idea of experimentation. For us, because of inherent measurement error, even when minimized to seemingly negligible scales (but never zero), every single initial value will be off by some non-zero factor and any single error in a single variable renders prediction futile. We want to know properties that are invariant over all possible results. We will continue to explore self-similarity/scale invariance as core concepts leading to a comprehensive universal worldview throughout this blog. Human beings matter, each one no more or less than any others. Life matters. Everything matters.