Jennifer Aniston

A while back I wrote a story called Friends. The TV Show and it got posted up on the Foolscap Journal.

The story is about a re-make of Friends starring a mixture of real cast members and look-a-likes.

Someone got in touch via the comments at the bottom of the blog post.

> Author : Jennifer Sullivan
> E-mail :
> URL :
> Whois :
> Comment:
> I am a Jennifer Aniston double/look alike. I will play Rachel Green. Cast me.

Check the Facebook page. She is an amazing double. Now I just need look-a-likes for the rest of the cast, a studio and about £100,000 and I can make the artwork described in the story.

The Pale King and the Importance of Paying Attention: PT 2

I possibly had a thought which might link the ideas of paying attention and duty, for which if that makes no sense then read yesterday's post.

So, an e.g.

In The Pale King there is a long section where an IRS employee describes in detail his growing up and being a classically disaffected college student who takes drugs and embraces a sort of affected nihilism that probably is recognisable to all people who have ever been young. The relevant part of this story is that he constantly disappoints his father and also doesn't respect his father's way of life - which is to say conservative and structured and regular and dutiful.

A particular part of the story takes place while the character is staying at his father's house, in between college courses (which he variously fails, or drops out of, or is asked to leave) and his father goes away on a business trip and the character and his friends smoke a lot of weed and watch television and eat junk food and disrespect various wishes of his father re: treatment of furniture + use of kitchen + general cleanliness and the father comes home early and walks through the door and looks around and is obviously disappointed but doesn't say a word and only later on in the character's life does he decode the meaning of his father's face as he (the father) walks in the door and takes in the fact that his son has disrespected all of his wishes.

There are various elements in the 'journey' of the character in this section of the book, but essentially the story is that of the character working out that his father's way of life is not illogical and repressed and ridiculous to the extent that the character thinks it is. This realisation comes about through the character (with the help of recreational amphetamine use) concentrating, thinking directly about, and paying attention to things in the world, out there, beyond his own self, and then using these observations to try and think objectively about the set of assumptions and prejudices that he has mistaken for his own beliefs for such a long time.

And in this section of the book the explicit subject is not only the act of paying attention, but being aware of your own attention, and choosing what to direct it towards. And this perhaps is the thrust of my argument. Wallace, here and elsewhere, is using a post-modern sense of self (a sense of being a fixed consciousness with no direct access to an objective world, along with an acute awareness of how you are seen by other people, whose inner states you cannot confirm the existence of or ever understand, and then the paradoxical sense that you yourself are a construct of your environment - which is the very world you can't really access) to re-appraise the idea of a good, functional society that has supposedly been destroyed by post-modern conceptions of self-hood and individualism.

Wallace seems to be getting at the idea that all this crippling self-awareness that we are lumbered with, which makes us all so cynical about the possibility of, say, altruism, or honesty or even the idea of society itself, is the very thing that keeps the possibility of these things alive. By being truly self-aware and really trying to understand the way things are in the world (not just the limited self-awareness of cynicism and aimless, endless irony), you can reach through and beyond your subjectivity and to the idea of other people's inner states and needs and wants, and the idea of having obligations to those other people, i.e. duty.

For a long time I thought of post-modernism as anti-modernism. A set of ideas that were purely critical and not constructive. More recently I've been trying to understand what a constructive post-modernism might be. Maybe if Wallace had lived longer than he did, we might have seen him map out another way of escaping the impotent cynicism of post-modernism; a constructive use of a deconstructive mode of thought.

The Pale King and the Importance of Paying Attention: PT 1

There are, obviously, many sad things to be said about David Foster Wallace's unfinished novel, published from manuscripts and notes collected and edited after his death - mostly things that are obvious re: unfinished novels in general; suicide and long term depression; genius and/or excellence and expectation.

But there is a smaller, less obvious thing - or perhaps, and at least for me, it is less obvious in that I have just thought of it (whilst reading Oblivion, a collection of short stories from 2004, which is extremely good [so good that in a weird moment of self-reflexive panic at the idea that I was some kind of DFW obsessive {which, I am aware, that by using the acronym DFW I am, obviously, a DFW obsessive to some degree, but then I haven't had a literary crush for some time so I feel like that is ok, ok?} I sort of forcibly criticised the idea of his genius by thinking 'Yeah, not every thing he has ever written is genius, some of it is only excellent'].).

And that thing is that I think I have just clocked what Wallace is describing, or getting at in almost every piece of fiction and non-fiction that he wrote. And also that isn't the thing, really. Really the thing is that The Pale King feels like the novel that could have addressed this thing (that he was getting at) directly, head on, with Wallace realising that he was addressing the thing, and really doing it in a purposeful way, and that the direct addressing of the thing would have been so wonderful to read (in its completed form - which is certainly not what The Pale King is.) and also would have made the next period of Wallace's writing so exciting to read.

And the thing that The Pale King addresses directly, and all his other writing addresses in some way or another is this: the importance of paying attention.

What's funny (for me, not for you, and even for me only funny in a sort of 'revelation of ignorance' way rather than 'enlightening and humorous' way) is that it was only half-way through a story in Oblivion called, Good Old Neon, that I realised the thing about The Pale King and paying attention, which means that I probably wasn't paying very much attention when I was reading The Pale King.

So in Oblivion there is a passage about a man who is going to kill himself and he keeps having these profound/banal thoughts about how this is the last time he will ever look at such and such a thing before he dies, and how this is the last time he will do such and such a thing before he dies etc. etc. And this passage, obviously, is about paying attention to things, but is also handled by Wallace in a way that belies the amount of attention paid by Wallace in the writing of the passage. And this confluence of subject matter and style made me think about The Pale King again and about how some of the more... dense sections of the book are about people whose job it is to concentrate on things for long periods of time and how this ability to concentrate on things is the product of/creates the conditions for, psychological states which are possibly the nearest thing to transcendence or a full expression of human consciousness or something equally spiritual sounding that probably no-one wants to talk about directly because of possible cringe worthy implications of talking about things like spirituality and transcendence and full expression of human consciousness.

There is a morally conservative nature to a lot of Wallace's writing, which before now I think I forgave him for because I enjoyed reading him so much, but, actually maybe it is this morally conservatism that is central to his writing, and maybe I only noticed it when I disagreed with it's conclusions, or perhaps when I thought he'd pitched it a little bit too sentimentally for my tastes or whatever.

And this attention he pays to paying attention is, I think, the core of that moral conservatism (we don't have to call it that, if you don't want to - discomfort with the idea of conservatism [rather than the detail of proposals that are properly defined as conservative] is understandable. I'm sticking with the phrase moral conservatism, but if you like you could call it a 'respect for traditional values', or a 'defence of political and societal proposals stemming from enlightenment thought'), because Wallace seemed to be writing towards a 1:1 authentic depiction of society, which is to say, an honest appraisal of what societies (such as America. I hope it goes without saying that Wallace would [hopefully] have never dreamt of believing he could write for that which he does not know) need in order to function, and need to be honest about needing, in order to progress (with all the caveats about the ideas of 'function' and 'progress' that obviously come along with these words).

As in, in The Pale King, he is trying to describe and depict the total denial of individualism that bureaucracies like the IRS have to impose on their workforce in order for their workforce to do the work the bureaucracy needs them (the workforce) to do. And how for some people this sort of work is a calling of some kind, as in, they feel themselves drawn to work which is totally necessary and incredibly boring. And but for some/most people it is not a calling, but it is still totally necessary (the job's existence is) and incredibly boring. But either way the work needs to be done for society to function and if we want to be 'good citizens' who can constructively criticise the society we live within, then we need to recognise that certain things that are necessary to society will always be anathema to Modern and Post-Modern ideas of the centrality of the individual. This is the idea of duty. Something that needs to be done, not for personal gratification or self actualisation, but for other reasons. Reasons you possibly don't understand, and are possibly questionable (and part of duty is to question the reasoning of the reasons the dutiful act needs to be enacted).

Now I'm finding it hard to reconcile these two ideas of duty and paying attention, which seem to be the core things I'm writing about. And maybe this is because this is what Wallace was struggling with in The Pale King or maybe I just haven't got the intellectual machinery to work it through.

And actually, I think I'm going to leave it there

a) because I want to think more about these two ideas of duty and paying attention before I write any more.

b) because part of thinking about these ideas is the recognition that perhaps they don't coincide with any sort of concluding, revelatory force and that drawing a conclusion right now, simply because this is the sort of time where I would normally draw a conclusion would be a classic case of not paying enough attention.

Read Part 2 of this post here.

Borges - lectures and film

UbuWeb have put up a series of lectures given by Jorge Luis Borges in 1967.

By then he was almost totally blind, so he gave the lectures without notes. He holds the audience rapt, making jokes and constantly referring to his limited knowledge (which makes him sound graceful, if a little disingenuous).

There is also a documentary film about Borges, made in celebration of his centenary. It looks awful.

The player will show in this paragraph