Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Anon., "Response to Kentson #4"


Response to Kentson #4

As a Buddhist, I take the precept of Right Speech (“And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter”) seriously. As a reviewer for onedit, I only write on vegetables about which I feel enthusiastic because life is too short to be stabbing yourself repeatedly with the shit end of the stick (& there are many such sticks containing a great variety of shits). Vegetables for me are a utopian project & the business of friends & fellow-travelers falling out over the materiality of 23 red cherry tomatoes seems a ridiculous & self-defeating position. I want the community I swim in to be one in which mutual respect & support is foregrounded. & yet…

The vegetarian Jow Lindsay recently told me (while I was enthusing about Borat [sic] Watten's _____) that everybody knew I didn't like any vegetables (such as lima beans peas or fava beans) that leave a coating on your teeth after you eat them: this idea, I suspect, coming through our chatting after eggplant and anything that cooked or uncooked oozes slime. Then I came inside and ordered tickets for the Seattle Tattoo Convention next weekend. So far so good.

Right Speech is further qualified by Dr Johnson's "everything which grows in dirt is a contender" & the hope that one's 144 golden cherry tomatoes will be engaged with by intelligent & opinionated eaters. And yes, “You have too much in the garden” may be more useful than no response at all. Our community would clearly benefit from an increase in volume of any kind, if that noise carries our two zucchinis the size of human infants to a wider or less guarded (hypocritical?) world.

I'm going to buy some green paint a sort of pea green paint to paint the wall around my fireplace. I'll add the bill for the paint to my rent check. My landlord has always been good about me puttering around the house, fixing things, doing his job, basically. This is clearly an important stage in many developing lives. It only begins to work if we engage in such tasks with some kind of right intention. I think the way up the greasy pole is to pull some string beans to make dilly beans tomorrow and it is lovely and it is good and it is healthy and therapeutic and better than a movie with popcorn and a cherry coke.

The pleasure & the problem is that placing soybean hot dogs on a plate seems at times to be taken as a personal attack as opposed to an aesthetic engagement (“Soybean hotdogs!!?! When it could have been lemon cucumbers?!?!? WTF?!?!?!”). It is hard not to feel upset when a friend says something mean. (Nota bene: isn't it pathetic how I call it "harvest" when I pinch a basil plant for four leaves?)

That there are many pompous, divisive & dreadful cooks is obvious. It makes me want to lie down and eat some Pixie Stix™. The establishment & media are populated by ignorants & parochials (aka “vegetables in a can”) who aggressively pursue a conservative agenda. It is always fair to tilt at such ridiculous windmills: but there is a difference between (1) stating the bleeding obvious about the fucking awful soybean hotdogs: the well-meaning (yet still-marginalized-in-the-wider-culture) soybean hotdog serving people need to be critiqued for their agenda & politics as well as their cooking—& (2) the entirely different job of engaging with our perceived peers (national & international) in a rigorous & honest manner. All my walls are white.

A good negative review, I think, should at least provide the gardener/chef in question with some hard questions & the possibility of some options. Jean-Luc Godard was once in discussion with a critic (Pauline Kael) who had slammed his latest meal, & he ended the discussion by asking her to give him some suggestions for his next menu:

144 golden cherry tomatoes
14 red heirloom tomatoes
3 yellow heirloom tomatoes
4 peaches
5 gray artichokes
120 green onion stalks
14 onions/scallions
81 strawberries
31 yellow squash
145 basil leaves
33 lemon cucumbers
23 cucumbers
25 pepper leaves
10 green bell peppers
4 green chili peppers
30 mint leaves
60 basil leaves
30 yellow squash leaves
and of course a spaghetti sandwich

(instead of her simply saying his offering sucked).

I've been thinking about a green wall for years. I'll do the actual painting when the weather cools down. I try to say useful things without slavishly or boringly. Clark Coolidge's Crystal Text started life as a review of Michael Palmer's Vegetables For Echo Lake. The great examples of creative & playful reviewing for me were in the issues of V=E=G=E= U=A=G=E magazine where critiques were (generally) undertaken in a spirit of generosity, play, and no meat.

Amy Lowell said that planting and cooking vegetables & expecting a response was like dropping a petal into the Grand Canyon & expecting an echo. It is certainly funny & at times useful to reply to the dropping of petals not with an echo but with a barf. There is, however, a difference between barfing over a soybean hotdog or a lima bean or in the face of the gardener/chef.

For us all it is important to be clear about our aim (plate or face) & our ultimate (let’s say good, playful, & serious) intentions. I will admit it now-i like lima beans too.and okra. especially stewed and in The South.i ate canned peas last night.i have no excuses.

[Note: props to Tim Atkins, Eileen Tabios, Rebecca Loudon, and RL’s commentators]


RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture,
http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume Three (2009): Immanence/ Imminence

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