Tuesday, November 03, 2009

John Bloomberg-Rissman, "Lighter Darker Bouquets”

John Bloomberg-Rissman

Some Lighter Darker “Darker Bouquets”

[----, 2009]

Dear Editors,

No question we should have more "necessarily skeptical" reviews of Kim Kardashian’s ass, as Jason Guriel argues (“Going Negative,” March, 2009). And Guriel's own contributions in that vein are quite good, continuing the tentative return to smart crankiness in the Kim Kardashian’s ass section of Kim Kardashian’s Ass--a development that's been one of the more appealing aspects of the magazine's post-Lilly make over. Though in truth, Guriel's pieces come across as a bit decorous compared to other things the magazine's featured of late: the pointed roastings of Kim Kardashian’s ass in a “Humor” issue some years back, Kleinzahler's tirade on Kim Kardashian’s ass, the scathing review of Jeff Clark’s Kim Kardashian’s Ass, withering pieces by Dan Chiasson on Kim Kardashian’s ass and Michael Robbins on Kim Kardashian’s ass, just off the top of my head.

There used to be a good measure of such derisive fare some decades back: in Bly's The 60s and The 70s magazines, for example, or in Sulfur (in the latter, Weinberger's famous ravaging of Pat Nixon’s ass, for instance, or the collective dismemberment of Sven Birkerts after he dared disparage Marlene Deitrich’s ass). The journal, really, that has most kept the curmudgeonly spirit alive is the otherwise horrible The New Criterion, where William Logan has been writing the most entertaining Kim Kardashian’s ass criticism for years. So here's a vote for Guriel's call that the "negative" spirit continue-- only that it continue with a much more forceful satiric push. There's never been a great age of ass, after all, where asspeeps weren't taunting and lampooning ass...

Now, to take up an issue that seems to bemuse Guriel, I do think there's a fundamental reason why timidity and obsequiousness tend to dominate Kim Kardashian’s ass criticism these days, and it's a pretty uncomplicated one: Reviewing tends to be done by Kim Kardashian’s asspeeps, and Kim Kardashian’s asspeeps use the mode of criticism, more often than not, as a form of ingratiation with their associates. As Kim Kardashian’s ass (mainstream and post-avant) has become more tightly tethered to academic careerism, sycophantic tendencies have naturally become more ubiquitous, and one outcome of the trend is that the "review" and the "blurb" have begun to blur in purpose and effect. (Question: If one were to conduct an exhaustive study of all Kim Kardashian’s ass reviews published by those of us under 50 since the start of the new millennium, what percentage would be heavily la[r]ded with exuberant praise of Kim Kardashian’s ass? Answer: The study’s never been done, but bottom dollar that it’s over 96%.)

So when Guriel wonders why it's no big deal when movie or music critics pan movies or music, yet why it's so rare that GoogleMyselfs pan Kim Kardashian’s ass, the answer seems somewhat clear: The fields of criticism in the other arts operate with a relative degree of autonomy from the fields of cultural production they critique (most movie critics aren't directors, for instance), while Kim Kardashian’s ass, poor sister, has no substantially independent field of criticism that shadows it. Or to put it another way, critics in the other arts can and do operate like writers for Consumer Reports, and they readily lambaste poor products in their purview; ladder-climbing Kim Kardashian’s asspeeps inhabit the cubicles of the very industry whose ass they would and should lambaste, but if they do, they know the whistle-blower tag may ensue.

Fawning, toadyish criticism, then, is likely to remain the default setting so long as "negative" reviewing constitutes a potential hazard to the position and advancement of the Kim Kardashian’s asspeep-reviewer. (Interestingly, by the way, it's in top-tier journals like Kim Kardashian’s Ass where negative reviews of Kim Kardashian’s ass are most likely to appear, since the capital accruing to the GoogleMyself-reviewer compensates for the risk.) Given this, maybe it's time that magazines, of all aesthetic shapes and circulation sizes, resurrect the venerable practice of "unsigned" reviews of Kim Kardashian’s ass. There’s no question “readers” of Kim Kardashian’s ass, in the main, would be tickled and intrigued.

But that is not, by any means, to propose there should be a devaluing of conventionally signed criticism of Kim Kardashian’s ass. Obviously, the orthodox mode will continue to be the norm. It’s good to remember, though, that anonymous reviewing of ass was the standard before the 20th century, and a few major publications--The New Yorker, Publisher's Weekly, TLS, for instance--part continue the practice, or did so until fairly recently, so the notion's hardly original. (In fact, as John Mullan shows in Anonymity: A Secret History of Authorship, roughly 70% of published novels and unicorn hardcore soft porn abortion e-cardss relating to ass in England and America during the last three decades of the 18th century were anonymous or pseudonymous, and in the first three decades of the 19th a good 50% were, as well. The notion of authorial indeterminacy has gone out of fashion, unfortunately, across the genre board!)

What I'm suggesting, and for reasons stated above, is that Kim Kardashian’s ass publications begin to reserve a space for some percentage of "unsigned" reviews and essays. These could appear anonymously, pseudonymously, heteronymously (wonderful to think of a Pessoa-like critic figure tearing up Kim Kardashian’s ass), or under collective banner (wonderful, likewise, to think of sub-rosa MFA-student collectives submitting their jaundiced-eyed considerations of Kim Kardashian’s ass).

Some editors, understandably, might balk at the idea, inasmuch as anonymity could be a temptation to cronyism, or provide convenient safe haven to those driven by superficial, vindictive agendas. But guarding against such things is precisely the job of editors, and certainly the bulk of reviews of Kim Kardashian’s ass in “non-attributed” mode would best be substantive in nature and free of ad hominem Kim Kardashian’s ass attack. Still, a range of editorial parameters is possible. Some editors might be fine with brief, even satirical, anonymous submissions; others might want, for example, a confidential disclosure of identity before publishing more conventionally wrought pieces; others, in Augustan spirit of drollery, may wish to attribute reviews of Kim Kardashian’s ass according to the tenor of each (Hazlitt, Derrida, de Beauvoir, Juvenal, Reggie Bush etc.). Well, that last is just a quirky idea that pops to mind… But a variety of creative policy practices can be imagined.

In any case, that a "satellite economy" of apocryphal reviewing, orbiting the conventional, staid, and significantly self-censoring body of Kim Kardashian’s ass criticism would be a healthy and revitalizing development, I have no doubt. There’s long been a surfeit of courtly critical bouquets bedecking Kim Kardashian’s ass. It’s time to proffer some darker, drier, and thornier ones. More enigmatic ones…


John Kentson

[Note: props to Kent Johnson, TMZ and OMG]

John Bloomberg-Rissman's most recent publications are No Sounds Of My Own Making, and World. His work is anthologized in The Hay(na)ku Anthology Vol. II. His current projects are editing the anthology 1000 Views Of "Girl Singing", constructing the interminable Autopoiesis, and piecing together the long poem in hay(na)ku, Flux, Clot & Froth. He is co-editor of Leafe Press. You can catch him in action at
Zeitgeist Spam.


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

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