Lost David Foster Wallace Interview from 1989

The great literary critic and scholar Steven Moore reached out to us this month to say that he had discovered an interview with David Foster Wallace in an obscure and forgotten journal/fanzine called Engender.

This is likely Wallace’s second “published” interview, albeit in a very limited venue. His first, more traditional interview, came as part of a profile for the release of The Broom of the System, published in the Wall Street Journal in 1987.

This interview takes place at the most vulnerable time in Wallace’s life. Engender was published in Tucson in January 1990. In the summer of 1989, Wallace decided to return to academia for good rather than pursue a career in writing. His application for the graduate philosophy program at Harvard is in some ways, a running away from a possible career as a “fictionalist.”

“I don’t want to be part of the literary world; I’m scared of it. Writing is a lot like sex; I love to do it, but you’ve got to be in the mood, you can’t do it for hours and hours, and I don’t want to fuck for a living,” he told the interviewer, Martin Schecter.

At this moment in time, he is not yet sober, but careening toward the breakdown that will give him the space and courage to write Infinite Jest. He describes himself here writing Girl with Curious Hair as a “confused and angry grad student with a drug problem who watched a lot of TV.”

This interview, almost 30 years old, is a reminder that, although the young Wallace almost immediately secured a major trade publication deal after starting grad school, his sophomore work situated him squarely in the experimental camp—relegated to interest from journals such as Engender, Whiskey Island journal, and SPEAK magazine. Not until Infinite Jest does he veer back toward mainstream recognition and Time magazine.

What’s striking here is how settled so many of his tastes and interests were even before he began working on Infinite Jest or his essays or what would become The Pale King. For someone who didn’t use computers regularly for another decade or more, Wallace was laser-focused on the potential psychic damage of constantly re-calibrating “how to be a human being in a world that constantly changes day to day.”

Almost no trace remains of Engender. It is the 1980s version of an online journal begun in earnest and then abandoned to the scrap heap of forgotten blogs. Much of the first Engender pamphlet (was there a second?) is devoted to the Arizona alum Wallace. However, the emergence of this interview inevitably leads scholars to wonder: is there more?

 

NOTE: This interview was transcribed by Andrea Laurencell Sheridan and we thank her deeply for her work. Any nonstandard punctuation or hyphenation is from the original. Some typos have been corrected for clarity. If you have more information about Engender or know of other unpublished interviews with David Foster Wallace, please contact us: info@dfwsociety.org Thanks again to Steven Moore for sharing this with us and the world.

 


ENGENDER

David Foster Wallace

EDITOR’S NOTE: WHAT FOLLOWS IS A RECONSTRUCTION OF A CONVERSATION BETWEEN MARTIN SCHECTER AND DAVID FOSTER WALLACE.

Little white noise

M: What sort of fiction do you like?

D: I’m into the more idea-heavy fiction than this David Leavitt/Ann Beattie stuff. But first you have to accept that there’s a division between two types of fiction. Both are about people, but the first is just basic people and emotions, and the second is about emotions and a compendium of the world, an interaction of idea, signal, contemporary culture…and people, of course, but how people live within a context that’s almost entirely “ideal.”

That’s a gross over simplification, of course; I’m interested in the stuff that gets me off. Actually, I’m more into poetry right now than fiction: Ashbery and Larkin, Stephen Dobyns’ narrative poetry, James Tate, Rimbaud, and weirdly enough, Pound and Walt Whitman.

I think–with the exception of Larkin–a lot of people I’m interested in can be grouped in the idea camp.  Wallace Stevens, for instance.

M: Why do you choose metaphors like “Signal?” How is that supposed to describe idea-prose, the kind you admire?

D: I don’t think “Signal” is a metaphor, at all, anymore. The average American gets up, goes to work, he’s bombarded by seven to eight hundred advertising images a day, thousands of facts every day, it’s impossible to assimilate all that–it’s just there, constantly in the background, white noise. That’s how it comes in as a context for any kind of work about how people live in the world.

In the late 20th century, we’re in a relationship with the electronic world of information in a way that’s never been seen before–not all that much fiction has been written about how to be a human being in a world that constantly changes day to day. So how are we different now? Anybody writing in the last ten years must have thought about this–certain prose and fiction, the kind that addresses this, just punches you in the gut. With only about ten thousand exceptions, of course.

What about the exceptions? I find Auden’s poetry tremendously interesting, the plays of Joe Orton, Tom Brown’s School Days. There’s a book with ideas for you. All the ideas are so clumsily rendered, it’s half propaganda. But it’s charming the way he pulls it off. I like reading Updike–it’s gorgeous art. You know what I mean: vapid, but still gorgeous to look at. I could go on. Early Jayne Anne Phillips, early Louis Erdrich–now there’s a fabulous writer in the other camp.

M: The traditional camp.

D: She seems very traditional. She writes ethnic fiction. She’s half-Chippewa. Her work has a social nimbus about it, but it’s not overtly about how does one stay human in late-capitalist 20th century American…rather a soul to be saved or a problem to be solved.

The post-post modern zoo

M: There seems to be a pattern here: in the Bill Marsh interview, we also talked about the two different traditions that seem to be developing, two different sorts of post-modernism.

D: Martin, what are you talking about? People abuse that term so much. The term post-modernism has lost meaning–as a reaction against Modernism it’s dead. There’s a quote from Heidegger: “The Gods have flown, the Gods have not yet arrived.”

The thing is, there is not an important American school anymore. But you can’t sit around wondering, well, what next? But it is an exciting time. It is a very free environment to be writing in. I’d hate to be a young Latin American writer right now–you’d either have to be writing in magical realism, following Marquez and Fuentes, which you’d do if you wanted any success, or you’d have to be in opposition to it. But either way, you’d be defining yourself against a tradition.

That was my problem at the University of Arizona. I spent a lot of time there angry. I either gave the teacher what he wanted or tried to piss him off, but either way I was being derivative. I’m sure you’re realizing too, Marty, that once you’re out of school, that goes away, you no longer have a theology to genuflect to. Outside of school, there’s no one, inflexible movement like some artistic mental illness.

M: Well, what about minimalism, for instance? It seems to me that there are a lot of trends out there right now.

D: A trend is precisely different from a movement. A trend is like a person’s mood, it’s a temporary belief. Trends are fashions, they’re imposed upon 200 million people in a thirty second commercial spot. But a movement–things like realism, naturalism, modernism, post-modernism–they’re flavors in the air. Minimalism is a trend, it’s already fading…there hasn’t been a movement since Nabokov/Coover/Pynchon.

M: I know it’s been said a lot, but minimalism goes back to Hemingway.

D: Hemingway always gets trotted out as the progenitor-ad seel imprimature of minimalism. But there’s so much difference between someone like Anne Beattie and Hemingway; the only affinities are formal.

M: What about Marguerite Duras?

D: You can’t compare. If you want to talk about her then you’re going to have to bring in Celine and Colette.  I’m interested in American fiction. Europe’s influence is strictly theoretical. I read foreign stuff the way I go to a zoo: it’s a curiosity. I’m writing in an American tradition and that’s all I can really talk about. There’s no country as chaotic, empty, busy, full as America.

M: On the jacket of Girl With Curious Hair, your editor describes you as “post-postmodern.” What do you think he meant by that? Do you find some irony in seeing your own work categorized and commodified–the selling of anti-capitalism, so to speak?

D: I think the editor means something that’s in the bulk of the postmodern tradition but hates that tradition in the same puricidal way postmodernism hated modernism. It’s not just ironic–it’s dumb: how many “post-’s” can the ken admit? Post-post-post-pre-post-modern? It just goes to show–once a term’s emptied of meaning you can do what you want with it.

The Brat Pack Thing

M: Why has there been such a venomous critical backlash against writers like Jay McInerney and Bret Easton Ellis?

D: The critical backlash is the result of critical hype–they got imposed on people’s psyche a lot faster than they deserved. I feel sorry for them, to be so quickly deified and then dismissed.

What happened to them happens all the time in film and music, but it’s almost unprecedented in literature. It reflects the mid-80’s Hollywoodizing of young writers.  But if you take advantage of that hype, it just as quickly turns against you. The image of the coked-out upscale artistic youth–that trend lasted about four years. It’s sad to see McInerney trying to keep the debate going.

I’m sure McInerney preferred the backlash to the boredom. The literary community is very malignant now. It’s all tied in with money, marketing, image. I’ve been on the extreme fringes of it, know a couple of these guys and have been able to watch what’s happened to them. I stay as far away from it as possible. I don’t pose for pictures for Esquire, don’t go on Good Morning America. All that is so far away from writing. But, of course, that stuff is so much more exciting, so much less lonely.

But once it happens to you…McInerney, he’s going to have to spend years and years trying to reinforce it.

But now we’re no longer talking about aesthetics.

Strange new worlds

M: Let’s talk about your book, Girl With Curious Hair.

D: Again, it’s the question of how do people live and stay human and think about themselves and the world and a kind of realism.

A lot of the book has to do with TV and public images; LBJ, McDonald’s. It seems that for a long time, fiction functioned to introduce people to other worlds and cultures and other possibilities, it functioned to make the strange familiar. But our situation today is just the opposite.  Take the story about Jeopardy, “Little Expressionless Animals.” Forty-five million people have the same experience for the same half-hour. My idea is to try and take these experiences and transfigure them so that they remain realistic but become absolutely unfamiliar–to make the familiar strange, to sort of wake people up. That’s a human being back there behind the camera, not just a collection of dots. A human being behind the image.

It sounds like the book is very much the derivative of an idea, but that’s an oversimplification. I’ve been spending a lot of time arguing with lawyers, justifying what I’m trying to do, because of all the public figures in the book.  Actually, the book is the product of a confused and angry grad student with a drug problem who watched a lot of TV.

I’m not advocating that the organizing principle of fiction be ideas. Fiction that starts out with ideas makes for bad fiction. It has to start off with a feeling in the gut. Any time you write about ideas, you’re walking a fine line between criticism and fiction.

I leave the planet when I’m writing: I don’t think critically about what I’m doing until it’s done. But it’s hard to do once you’re published. Once your stuff starts getting talked about by other people, how do you deal with that? How do you keep from developing a hard aesthetic line? The story has got to write me.

La Parole

M: Let’s discuss language. I’ve always admired your skill with language.

D: The one talent I do have is for voices; in writing, I can do anybody. In college, I used to write other people’s papers for them. I was always good at sounding like them. No mode of realism is more powerful than a certain type of voice or mood; I use language mostly for reasons of realism.

Most of the stuff that I do, part of it is sexual. One of the things I like to do is see how far I can push a reader–to break a lot of rules. I like to play with rules about grammar.

I’m more into language than story. After Westward it got out of control; I wrote whole novellas that were one sentence long. Henry James is my big hero. His sentences were fucking gorgeous.

Getting the theory rocks off

M: From our previous conversation, I got the sense that you were a bit burned out with writing fiction at the moment. You’d said you’d taken a break.

D: I can’t do drugs anymore, so fiction is my only escape. I’m halfway through a second novel. What I did was, I took a break to write some non-fiction. I decided I’d…I don’t know…my stuff tends to get real long and stay right there on the point. To bring me down, I co-wrote this long essay about rap music–it’s going to be published by Ecco–I’m three-fourths done on this other work of non-fiction, about pornography. I need a breather.

When I’m not working on a story, I do exercises. For instance, I tried writing sestinas. I’d spent all my time dismissing forms; it’s turned out that now I’m interested in trying to write within a very tight genre. I’m fascinated by conventions–like in a gay pornography, how the penetrated partner always turns his face away from the camera. In fiction, there is a satisfaction in being able to make decisions within these tight conventions. I want to do a Harlequin Romance, someday.

M: Science fiction…

D: Yes, or cyberpunk. There really are no rules anymore. Just as there are no rules in sub-atomic physics.

M: So, if there’s this much freedom in the current scene, what should we be looking for? What’s good?

D: There’s so little big press attention paid to the small press. Richard Vollman’s [sic] The Rainbow Stories at Atheneum got a disappointing review in the Times. A fabulous book is Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson. It’s about a woman who believes she’s the only person on the planet. It comes out of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, the book that invented atomism–this is a final transformation of his philosophy, but absolutely devastating, separates your socks from your feet. The guy made maybe $2500 dollars on it. But it’s so much better than big publisher books.

If any trends or movements appear, it will be in the small presses, not associated with market hype. It’s the small presses where people are taking risks, houses that don’t have to show a profit. Critics don’t know how to pigeon-hole it. Personally, I’ve been real lucky because my editor is very smart and ballsy. You’ve got to luck out and get a good editor if you do any weird stuff. I don’t regard Leavitt and McInerney as lucky.

The credit for this book (Girl With Curious Hair) goes to Gerry Howard; he gets first crack at everything I do. I’m feeling loyal to this guy–I moved to Norton to stay with him. He mediated between me and the lawyers. I really value what Gerry has to say. The thing about editors is that these people aren’t writers, or academics, but professional readers.

M: You’re going to start a philosophy degree this fall (in the fall of ’89). The question probably doesn’t need to be asked, but why philosophy?

D: It’s really more of a math degree than philosophy. I’m very good at math. I’ve written some stuff for math journals; proof theory, set theory. If I’m a professional mathematician, that’ll be a way to get my theory rocks off.

Why another degree? I want to feed my family without depending on fiction as my livelihood. I don’t want fiction to become work; the times I feel like I have to do it, I don’t enjoy it. I want another job so that fiction remains my play–serious play.

And I don’t want to be part of the literary world; I’m scared of it. Writing is a lot like sex; I love to do it, but you’ve got to be in the mood, you can’t do it for hours and hours, and I don’t want to fuck for a living.

[NOTE: That’s the end of the interview. What follows is an essay / review of Girl with Curious Hair presumably written by Schecter.]

__________________________

David Foster Wallace

Fictionalist

Girl with Curious Hair, a collection of short stories and a novella, marks David Foster Wallace’s entry into the most prized of literary realms: the category-less, the singular. His success with “difficult fiction” in the major market is rare, an event to be celebrated. Although David’s work foregrounds language, his real talent is voice (which along with moral action–according to Aristotle–forms the basis of character), and he’s a master of many of them, including polit-speak (“Lyndon”), Oakie (“John Billie”), Yiddish (“Say Never”), and especially a coldly automatic no-voice, the author-voice that periodically interrupts Westward and psychoanlsyes [sic] itself in “Here and There.”

“Words as fulfillers of the function of signification in artistic communication will wither like the rules of form before them. Meaning will be lean. No, she says? Assuming she cares enough even to try to understand?…I invite her to see a crystalline renaissance; cool and chip-flat; dawn…No more uni-object concepts, contemplations, warm clover breath, heaving bosoms, histories as symbol, colossi; no more man, fist to brow or palm to decolletage, understood in terms of a thumping, thudding, heated Nature, itself conceived as colored, shaped, invested with odor, lending meaning in virtue of qualities. No more qualities. No more metaphors.”

The voice here is distinctly modern and sexless (emphasized by the events in the narrative), implying a running self-critique which prevents the prose from becoming Author-itarian or the theory it espouses from becoming dogmatic. All of David’s texts convey a sense of continual vision and re-vision (a fact demonstrated in the revised “Here and There,” which less meticulous artists would have let slip from their minds after inclusion in the O’Henry awards).

As with all the best deconstruction-influenced texts, Wallace unapologetically writes about the precedents of his aesthetics, for in this type of work, theory and text are one. Each writer furthers the theory, each theorist furthers the writing. The aesthetic territory opened up by deconstruction, like the Louisiana Purchase inscrutably before them as the Sooners lined up ready to race to stake their claim, is new and possible. Wallace leads the stampede West (Sorry David).

In keeping with this spirit, I’ll let David explain some of the aesthetics himself, as he does so eloquently in a quote from the novella, Westward the Course of Empire Makes its Way.

“As mentioned before–and if this were a piece of metafiction, which it’s NOT, the exact number of typeset lines between this reference and the prenominate referent would very probably be mentioned…a required postmodern convention aimed at drawing the poor old reader’s emotional attention to the fact that the narrative bought and paid for now under time-consuming scrutiny is not in fact a barely-there window onto a different and truly diverting world, but rather in fact, an “artifact,” an object, a plain old this-worldly thing, composed of emulsified wood pulp and horizontal chorus-lines of dye, and conventions, and is thus in a “deep” sense just an opaque forgery of a transfiguring window, not a real window, a gag, and thus in a deep (but intentional, now) sense artificial, which is to say fabricated, false, a fiction, a pretender-to-status, a straw-haired King of Spain–this self-conscious explicitness and deconstructed disclosure supposedly making said metafiction “realer” than a piece of pre-postmodern “realism” that depends on certain antiquated techniques to create an “illusion” of a windowed access to a “reality” isomorphic with ours but possessed of and yielding up higher truths to which all authentically human persons stand in the relation of applicand–all of which the Resurrection of Realism, the pained product of inglorious minimalist labor in countless obscure graduate writing workshops across the U.S. of A., and called by Field Marshal Lish (who ought to know) the new realism, promises to show to be utter baloney, this metafictional shit…plus naive baloney-laced shit, resting on just as many “undisclosed assumptions” as the “realistic” fiction metafiction would try to “debunk”–one imagines nudists tearing the poor Emperor’s clothes to shreds and then shrieking with laughter, as if they didn’t go home to glass-enclosed colonies, either–and, the New Real guys would argue, more odious in the bargain, this metafiction, because it’s a slap in the faces of History and History’s not-to-be-fucked-with henchman induction, and opens the door to a fetid closetful of gratuitous cleverness, jazzing around, self-indulgence, no-hands- ism, which as Gardner or Conroy or L’Heureux or hell even Ambrose himself will tell you are the ultimate odium for any would-be passionate virtuoso–the closest we get to the forbidden, the taboo, the odium, the asur…”

Because Wallace’s writing traverses well-established lines (between “fiction” and “criticism,” between invention (Ambrose) and libel (L’Heureux), between high brow (Lost in the Funhouse) and low (Hawaii Five-0)[)], it violates  literary taboo; it’s this violation that gives the text its extra kick. The text is NOT metafiction, as metafiction exists in strictly a one-to-one commentary with itself. Wallace’s text includes more; it opens up to reveal a whole variety of discourse, a politically useful world. But this does not mean that his work is a “window,” either.

“I admit to seeing myself as an aesthetician of the cold, the new, the right, the truly and spotlessly here.”
–“Here and There”

Here for Wallace, then, is being-in-language, language not as signifier but as thing itself. Marxist purism aside, a super-presence of a variety of cultural discourses (slang, literary, psychological, mass-media), when presented as things-themselves and contrasted in a single story (or several stories in a collection), surely must highlight the specifically political origins of language, and therefore be a political act.

Wallace’s use of sexual minorities as voice further decenters the text–lesbians, gay men, writers, the elderly (who may not be a minority but are certainly sexual); we’re in the realm of an otherness given primary focus by David within a mass culture that habitually lacks words to translate their (our) experience. While America revolves around Nancy Walker selling Bounty Towels, Wallace attempts to construct a language (and thus a reality) for the people who inhabit the perimeters. But this is not without cost. At the center of these newly-constructed worlds there’s always a feeling of fear and responsibility, on the part of the writer-figure, for the pain that writing and creation inadvertently causes others.

“I will wait for the arrival of those who [sic] orbits I’ve decayed. I will wait through the publicness of the thing–the collective countenance, the conferring, recriminating, protestations of loyalty, betrayal, consequence. And then that too will end. The hurt will take the harmed away. My constellation will be outside by ken”.
–“Say Never”

Like “Say Never,” many of David’s stories have several “characters” as their focus (as in Faulkner or early Jayne Anne Phillips), conflict for Wallace existing not in the subjective “self” of a Romantic individual, but in the conflux of several socially-determined dictions. This may explain why his stories don’t have movement in the classic sense–a logical cause-and-effect sequence of events and their illusory influence upon a privileged protagonist (the exception being the story “John Billy,” which plays with this very convention called traditional narrative)–but instead build toward a rhetorical synthesis of discourse (which proves to be not always possible). In the meantime, some narrative events are causal, some surreal, some metafictional–whatever it takes. Wallace may be jazzing around, as he admits, but what he says and the way he jazzes is important. Like Charles Newman’s White Jazz, Wallace’s stores [sic] exemplify Barthes’s Author-less texts (that is, a scriptable text that exists beyond the delimitations of the physical book).

The discourse of the television world especially bleeds into the text of Girl With Curious Hair. “Little Expressionless Animals” (the Jeopardy story) and “My Appearance” (the Late Night with David Letterman story) are explicitly about television (just as the novella Westward, is explicitly about commercialism, a commercial). But theme here isn’t the issue so much as language. These aren’t sealed off literary meditations on a TV world “out there.” Such meditations would have little to do with the feeling, the truth of being in a world continually mediated and delimited by game shows, news broadcasts, and half-hour sitcoms.  The truth is only conveyed through the discourse itself.  One of Wallace’s methods is to introduce “real life” figures such as Alex Trebek and David Letterman into the fictional matrix of Dee and Fay and Edilyn.  The names of the famous need no characterization: they’re pre-referenced. The reader therefore brings to bear a whole burden of sensory overload that becomes “defamiliarized” be Wallace’s story (in a process the reader can find explained in Julia Kristeva’s essay, “The Speaking Subject”). “Real life” advertising slogans and modes of speech also make up the narrative.

“You deserve a break today,” says the television. “Milk likes you. The more you hear, the better we sound. Aren’t you hungry for a flame-broiled Whipper?” [sic]
“No, I am not hungry for a flame broiled Whopper,” says Dee…
-“Little Expressionless Animals”

More than an esoteric “literary” world, those television words [sic] are our reality, a reality that’s been constructed by television (as absurd as that may seem). Taken out of its daily context and put into the heart of Dave’s story, the disembodied voice of the television carries an almost voodoo-like power. Dee’s reply is a moment of catharsis because it allows the reader to finally negate, through Dee’s voice (authenticated by the fact of its existence in a published story), a falsely created desire that until then has met with only voiceless objection.

More than anything, the texts are fun; Wallace “plays” with language and narrative in all of Barthes’s determinations of the word. The increasingly outrageous turns of events in “John Billy” outpace even the best Woody Allen. “Girl With Curious Hair” places a young Republican in the midst of a group of punk nihilists. The heteroglot text which results resembles the language spoken by the generality conservative and culturally impoverished freshmen and encounters at say, the University of Arizona. Both the irony and charm of the story come out of this paradox–this absurd mixing of discourses drawn from the intentionally impersonal argots of business, popular music and bad grammar, which points toward the disturbingly dangerous development of an a-moral language drained of active meaning that further deprives the speaker of a moral stance.

“I explained to Cheese that dressing in an accepted manner and looking a lot like an angel helps me in my career and that Gimlet comprehended this fact. My career pays me over a hundred thousand dollars per annum, and my mother also sends me checks from her personal wealth, so I have a great deal of liquidity on hand, which makes Gimlet and Big and Mr. Wonderful a very happy bunch of punkrockers…

The manner in which the little melodies were linked was arranged by Keith Jarrett’s sub conscious, stated Cheese, thus his concerts were linear, Keith Jarrett’s piano performance was a line instead of a composed and round circle. The line was like a little life story of the Negro’s special experiences and feelings. I informed Cheese that I did not know what negroes had sub consciousness but enjoyed the sound of the music a great deal…”
–“Girl With Curious Hair.”

From this story comes the title of the collection, giving emphasis to Wallace’s contention 1) that language (argot) forms and informs reality (old hat, this), and 2) that the task of the writer at this time must be to search out those pockets of meaning that have been appropriated and killed by a dominant Other, and recapture and enliven them for ourselves (whomever “ourselves” may be). “The little girl dead behind the rosebushes came back to life,” writes Barthelme (Donald), “and the passionate construction continued.” It’s my contention that because of this revitalization, Wallace’s text is relevant to us in a way that most, as he would say, “pre-modern,” Realist works aren’t.

 

[front cover]

ENGENDER: A Magazine of Popular Interpretation

Issue 1            January 1990              Inaugural Issue           $2.50

The purposes of this magazine are two-fold, which will be reflected in our format of having both interviews and critical analyses for each of our featured artists. First, we wish to provide a look at the cutting edge, and a forum for the voices and visions we find there (as most reviews claim to do…only we reserve the right to draw the edge along our own idiosyncratic line). Second, we’d like to intelligently inform our readers about the new trends in art, without being obscure.  We’d like them to think a bit. Hence, the term popular interpretation: critical theory not limited to any on particular critical vocabulary (although you’ll most likely see us situated squarely in the post-structural/neo-Marxist/psychofeministic nexus).  Still critical, but hopefully understandable (I.e.–without footnotes).  This may make what we say a bit less precise, but in exchange, we believe we’ll achieve more hands-on accessibility.

Perhaps here’s the time to emphasize a subpoint: conditionality. As poet Beverly Dahlen writes, The men make statements. They use the forms of the verb ‘to be’ with confidence. What I write is provisional. It depends. It is subject to constant modification. So too us. We’ve only just started exploring the theory ourselves. We’ll take you along as we go. Don’t be surprised if in later issues we wind up modifying or contradicting something we’ve said earlier. And so, in this spirit of provision, perhaps we should revise our first intended purpose: what we’d really like to do is explicate contemporary art to you. Make it understandable, and hence–why not–more popular. Since so much of the avant-garde these days begins where criticism and theory leaves off, it seems essential that someone (and why not us?) should provide a space for a comingling [sic] of the two.

Since not everyone out there as access to a high-powered academic facility, the first thing we’d like to give you is a quick and dirty reading list–by no means comprehensive.  Just something to give you an idea of where our ideas are coming from. This is meant to be, in a way, deconstruction in an evening.

Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” “From Work to Text.” In Image-Music-Text.
Julia Kristeva, “The Speaking Subject.” In On Signs. Marshal [sic] Blonsky, editor. (or possibly elsewhere).
Barbara Johnson, “Translator’s Introduction,” to Derrida’s Disssemination [sic].

[p. 40: back cover]

ENGENDER is published bi-yearly.  Subscriptions are $10/yr. A copy of Issue 1 can be purchased for $2.50

Mail to:            ENGENDER, 531 S. Russell Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

 

many thanks to Christine Straayer and Jane Miller for their critical guidance

thanks to Ted, Jessica, and Daniel for support

for the face of Derrida we thank Christopher Weaver

this issue is dedicated to the memory of Robert Mappelthorpe

ENGENDER: A MAGAZINE OF POPULAR INTERPRETATION
531 S. Russell Avenue
Tucson Arizona 85701
© 1990 by Discipline & Anarchy

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