Special to AC Douglas (and George Hunka)–there is no transcendent world, and no work of art can help you reach it. However–(fake-concerned voice-over, beautiful daffodils swaying in the wind) if you insist on trying, may I suggest you ask your doctor if new Letho is right for you!

Seriously guys, I think every artist worth his/her salt works in order to “open up intercourse with the world” (that’s Mr. Hawthorne’s phrase, not mine). It’s not about accessing the divine (Beckett said “to be an artist is to fail”), nor is it about “self-expression” or anything so godawfully Oprahish (Opraish? Opratic?) as that–it’s about creating something irreducibly “real” (in the same way that the people in our lives who mean the most to us are “real”–meaning that we are drawn to them for what they are and not for what they can do for us).

What’s it all about?I think Frank O’Hara’s mocktrine of “Personism” is the finest answer anyone is ever likely to come up with:

Personism has nothing to do with philosophy, it’’s all art. It does not have to do with personality or intimacy, far from it! But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itself to one person (other than the poet himself), thus evoking overtones of love without destroying love’s life—giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poet’’s feelings towards the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person. That’’s part of Personism.

It was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It’s a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages. In all modesty, I confess that it may be the death of literature as we know it. While I have certain regrets, I am still glad I got there before Alain Robbe-Grillet did. Poetry being quicker and surer than prose, it is only just that poetry finish literature off.

I do agree with Mr. Hunka (whose blog–Superfluities–is excellent, by the way) that works of art have no utilitarian purpose–but while he treats them as quasi-mystical portals into the realm of the Ideas, I think of them as undeniable ends-in-themselves, as real as the first person you ever loved (or your love-letters to them).

In other news–I’m just about finished Auster’s The Book of Illusions (I would have read it straight through in one sitting if it weren’t for this insane flu-related cough that just won’t quit!), and I’m happy to say, it’s almost as brilliant as Oracle Night! I feel pretty safe in contending that Auster’s project (like mine) is intimately tied to Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance (the greatest novel ever written), and I’ll go into this in more detail later in the week.

Good night friends



  1. Special to AC Douglas (and George Hunka)–there is no transcendent world, and no work of art can help you reach it.

    Oh, poor baby! That PoMo indoctrination you went through has rendered you deaf and blind to the true wonders of the universe, and left your thinking and sensibilities horribly earthbound with only Spiderman comic books and their like for consolation.

    Here’s hoping the condition isn’t permanent.



  2. …do you consider Hawthorne a PoMo reprogrammer?

    I assume you mean deprogrammer.

    Well, reading Hawthorne is a start. But then you have to move on to his acolyte Melville, and Moby-Dick in particular, to get the full course, and the maximum benefit. (Yes, I know you’ve read M-D. Read it again. Its essential core seems to have passed right over your PoMo-indoctrinated head.)


  3. I should have added that in reading Hawthorne you have to read him on his terms, not your own. Ditto Melville. In fact, ditto the works of every author who ever wrote.


  4. ACD,

    I meant “reprogrammer”–presumably, from your point of view, we’re all hard-wired to desire the Ideal, and only misguided bourgeois materialism interferes with that situation (of course, you’re right–from my perspective, an artist like Hawthorne is very valuable as a “deprogrammer” and demolisher of Idealist constructs…)

    I’ve read Moby Dick a few times, but Pierre is where you get Melville at his most astonishing–Pierre Glendinning’s descent into madness is the direct result of his refusal to cease struggling to achieve the perspective of a God, despite the good council of Plotinus Plinlimmon…

    And while we’re on the subject of anti-Platonists–how about Epicurus? Is he a PoMo too? I share a lot of his feelings re:reality…


  5. Quoth ACD: “I should have added that in reading Hawthorne you have to read him on his terms, not your own. Ditto Melville. In fact, ditto the works of every author who ever wrote.”



  6. “The ideal”? “Reality”?

    How did idiot philosophical concepts like those creep into this colloquy?

    Don’t speak to me of philosophy, son. Philosophers are idiots. We were talking beyond philosophy. We were talking about the Transcendent, man. That which transcends our totally insignificant lives and selves. You know. The only true reality.

    You want a quick intimation of the Transcendent that even an earthbound, PoMo corrupted mind such as yours can experience? Take a click over to the Hubble Space Telescope website, download the image nicknamed “Tadpole”, load it up on your screen as wallpaper (i.e., so that it takes up the entire screen), let your mind go completely blank, and stare at it for just a few minutes letting your mind wander where it will. Don’t, however, stare at it for more than a few minutes at a time or you’ll risk going mad. If at the end of that exercise you still feel the Transcendent and “reality” are two separate entities, and mutually incompatible, your poor mind is beyond all hope of reclamation.

    No. No need to thank me. Only too happy to be of help.


  7. Oops.
    <>I wrote: “…and stare at it for just a few minutes….” The “it” in that sentence refers to the *entire* image, not just the central object that gives the image its nickname.

  8. I must admit, I’d never think of myself (or my portals, for that matter) as quasi-mystical. That’s a new one on me. But perhaps you’re right, and for the wrong reasons.

    The artistic experience is not solipsistic; it does not exist for itself, and how useless it would be if it did. In fact, I wouldn’t call art useless at all in those terms.

    What was it, after all, that Beckett failed at in his art? What the hell is it you mean by “real”? If there’s any cue for the 101 Strings, it’s in statements like this. And so far as a world goes — I’m sorry. One transcends to a non-world. And we couldn’t know if we were there, anyway.

    Before you pick up another awful book by a contemporary novelist, you might find that Kant or Schopenhauer would be more useful to you. They do delightfully clear away the cobwebs.

    Best wishes,

  9. ACD,

    I checked out “Tadpole”. Unfortunately–as I’m sure you could’ve guessed–my awe-receptors just ain’t workin’, and it left me awfully cold. I have a sickness…

    George, if you knew the first thing about me–you’d know that it’s a big deal for me to read a novel by a contemporary author. I’ve dwelt with Transcendentalists (& behind them, the Puritans) and other nineteenth century figures for about a decade now… I got my ideas through forging a real realtionship with them (Kant is a favourite, and a very much in “my” camp–not “yours”). You may not think you are “mystical”, but you’ll just have to take it on faith–you are! Anyone who believes that anything is a stepping-stone to something else is a de facto mystic (not to mention a debaser of lived experience…)

    Have a nice day.

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