Monday, October 6, 2014

why i am not a painter

On Saturday I was still working on my display for the Library Vaccine installation at Artists Space - a mere 10 days after the opening of the show.  I asked one of the staff whether I might keep the keys and stay after hours; the curatorial assistant, Rachel Pedderson, approved this, so I stayed on under the impression that a few hours would suffice.  Ended up working straight through the night and on up to noon the following day, which did not, truth to tell, feel like a long session -- this is the way I would work if I were a permanent occupant of the library, which was, after all, the normal state of affairs until I left Berlin two years ago to, erm, finish a book in two months. (It's the stalker's biennial. Yay.)

Progress was slower than usual because I was composing for a wall.  These days, of course, a writer normally pours a stream of words into the bottomless well of the hard drive -- no sooner have I committed this metaphor to my as-yet-unpublished post than I see that it's completely up the creek (and "up the creek" seems to have come through the fingers without a brain-check), and needless to say I can remove all trace of this bodge at negligible inconvenience.  Or leave it up simply to remind us all of the importance of revision... Length is not much of a consideration -- if a post is insanely long I can a) put most of it below the fold, b) break it up into two posts, c) break it up into three posts, (and so on).  At any point I can put one or all versions under considerations in the drafts folder. And if new brilliant ideas occur to me as I develop the one or more separate posts into which I am subdividing my initial post this is GOOD -- or rather, the only point at issue is whether they are, in fact, new and brilliant. Allotting them additional posts is not a problem, nor is allotting them space in the drafts folder.

Composing for a wall, or rather a wall and four tables (whose surface is largely occupied by books), is naturally quite different.  The area available is fixed.  And all of it cannot be used, at least not without a lot of ingenuity. Given yet more time I might have used the expanse above the 6" mark by, say, using increasingly larger typeface and images which would be visible from the ground.  The floorline looks less promising, but no, given time perhaps I could have done something useful such as display a range of scripts which might be new to the visitor.  Prime real estate, however, was limited, and typing on a screen turns out to be poor training for gauging how much wall space a text or image will require to be, not just visible, but apprehensible. I would print things out on tabloid paper and stick them up and find whatever it was going on for several pages (i.e. down to the floor), or extending relentlessly down the length of the wall.  Doing the old CTRL-A and reducing the font size to 10 or even 8 pt -- I believe there are monuments which do the equivalent in cuneiform, but --  Long story short, I seemed to spend a lot of time reformatting pieces of paper and sticking them up and taking them down.  Much of this, lately, courtesy of  Barbara Epler of New Directions, who with unbelievable kindness let me move my suitcases to her apartment last Tuesday and stay there when I was not revising the wall.

For a writer, anyway, the point when a document is "finished" is the point when you stand back, look at the thing as a whole, and realize that it can be improved by drastic structural changes.  New brilliant ideas occur.  But Barbara has another guest coming tomorrow, and I can't think off-hand of anyone else who might have a room to spare, and in any case I am already not sure that all this endless revision was in the spirit of the thing.  So I am heading back to Vermont.  For the time being.

One thought I'd had was that having my library in NYC might make it easier to get somewhere with the Mute Inglorious Nabokovs project -- and if I lived in NYC perhaps it would have done so. I don't really know whether it is possible to enable a complete novice to get the hang of the Greek script and a few elements of grammar and read the first 10 or 20 lines of the Iliad or Odyssey in an hour or so - but here was the library, here were four tables and this splendid space, it looked like a chance to find out.  I don't know whether this could be done with a range of texts in other languages - that is, whether variety would be exciting or just confusing - but it looked like a chance to find out.  Various academic friends had said it is actually very tricky to try something like this in a college setting - it does not fall squarely under the remit of a single department, it is not filling a need which any department has already identified, so it would be hard to get funding.  So I thought a different venue might be a better starting point -- and, of course, have not really managed to use it in this way.

If any readers of pp happen to be in New York in the next month, anyway, there are notes and drafts of stories and the novella Paper Pool, not to mention the chance to sit quietly down with Gordon's Introduction to Old Norse or O'Neill's Reader of Handwritten Japanese.  The gallery is at 38 Greene Street, between Broome and Grand. opening hours Tuesday-Sunday 12-6.

(And now I must catch my train.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Library Vaccine (Artists Space, New York)

A couple of months ago Artists Space invited me to contribute to their latest exhibition, The Library Vaccine. They have shipped my library over from Berlin; I have spent the last 10 days organizing books in a new space and trying to incorporate materials which might draw out themes that weren't obvious. Truth to tell I think I need to do more, though the opening was Wednesday night...

The Library Vaccine will run through November 9; Artists Space is at 38 Greene Street, between Broome and Grand, nearest Metro stop Canal.  If any die-hard pp fans are in town this is a rare chance to see a somewhat wayward collection.  (Having the Turkish edition of My Name is Red seems fairly self-explanatory; having The Name of the Rose in Italian, likewise; having Turkish editions of Pride and Prejudice and Zazie dans le métro, a Polish edition of The Name of the Rose, an Italian edition of Lem's Robot Tales, maybe not so much.) Anyone who drops by in the next few days may find me trying to elucidate the connection between The Whist Book and La vie sexuelle de Catherine M.

More on the exhibition here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

faint but pursuing

Short-changed readers of pp will know I spent a long time dealing with a stalker. He was cited for unlawful trespass in May 2013; in criminal justice, the victim of a crime is simply a witness, and I wasn't sure what the legal implications might be of a witness writing about the whole sorry mess online. I had one Victim Advocate after another, and everything the Victim Advocate du jour led me to be believe turned out to -- have been straightforwardly true in a world where English, though indistinguishable from the language familiar to habituates of pp, has a range of vocabulary with widely different meanings from those we think we know.  In other words, I might ASK my VA whether I could write on my blog; I might very well get an answer; acting on this answer would almost certainly land me in the soup.

For better or worse, the legal machinery has run its course. I've published an abridged account of the saga in the LRB


Saturday, May 31, 2014

any states closer to wysiwyg legal system?

I talked to X's caseworker at the work camp.  The camp has 100 inmates, 70 of whom are sex offenders; the other 30 get a special deal under which each day served earns an extra day off the sentence. X had also earned "good time" at Springfield. This was why an additional 2 months were knocked off the sentence on top of the 3 earned at work camp. The system is not set up to inform victims.

I then talked to the Director of Victim Services of the DOC, who was very helpful. She said if the DOC had been aware of the background of the case they would probably not have recommended the work camp. If the State's Attorney's Office had told me to contact the DOC early on the circumstances would have been taken into account. She said they would discuss ways to ensure victims were better informed.

Somewhat the worse for wear.  I managed to get police intervention after X's second act of trespass in May last year; since then, a staggering amount of mental energy has been diverted from work to trying to understand the legal system of Vermont.  One is always in the position of finding out too late that there was something one needed to know -- and the more often it happens, the more the mind is taking up with wondering what it has missed, whether one asked the right questions, whether one asked the right person, and if not what more one needs to do.

The problem is, it's easy enough to comparison shop state laws: one can find the stalking laws of all 50 states and DC, for instance, on the website of the Stalking Resource Center.  With a little effort one can track down the law on trespass in any state.  What one can't so easily find out is whether the laws are implemented in a way that is intuitive to someone seeking to claim their protection - whether there are states which have a fairly transparent system that does not require telepathy to negotiate. (I thought at one point that it might have helped to hire a lawyer -- but when I sounded out a local lawyer he seemed to think there was nothing he could have done to get a better or more intelligible result.)

I wondered whether any readers had experience of other states.  Is it standard for a simple case of trespass to take months, perhaps up to a year, to resolve? Even if this forces the victim to move out in the interim? Is it standard for Victim Advocates to withhold information, even if state law specifies that it should be provided? Are there states where the victim of a crime would in fact be told if a sentence was curtailed? 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

hmmmmm

I spent yesterday morning and early afternoon rushing around organizing paperwork for notices against trespass from me and the other neighbors who share my hill, including, most importantly, the neighbor who had let Edmond Arundell stay rent-free at his place in return for work. I went in to the Sheriff's Department to hand in some forms; the dispatcher was on the phone with this neighbor, who was going out of his way to be helpful.

The dispatcher told me my neighbor had talked to a friend of E's; he was in fact due to be the following day (i.e. today), and there was not enough time to get the papers served at his work camp.

The Sheriff's Department contacted the Sheriff's Department in Windsor, closest to the facility; they could not help. I contacted the Victim Advocate at the DOC, the State's Attorney's Office, the work camp. Everyone agreed that there was nothing to be done. No one could really explain why the correct date had not been revealed in time to act on it.

I talked to a man at the work camp, who explained that every day spent at the work camp knocked a day off the sentence. (E had been there 3 months and they had knocked off 5, so there is presumably some other wrinkle to the formula.)

I spent today talking to an advisor at a women's shelter about the benefit of a stalking order, which sounded likely to do more harm than good. She thought I might do best simply to return for a time to my mother's house in DC.

The neighbors up the hill have very kindly let me come to stay for a few days.








Saturday, May 17, 2014

hm

I went to DC in April  to stay with my mother. On May 2 I got an email from VANS, the Vermont Automatic Notification Service, which sends out updates on an offender's status to registered users.

Edmond Arundell was notionally serving 14 months for breaking into my house at night last August and threatening to shoot me, which is to say that, since he was apprehended and taken into custody in early September, the sentence would presumably end some time in November.  When I say "notionally" I mean that this was the sentence agreed in the plea bargain, which conveys to the uninitiated the notion that the time spent in jail will be 14 months.

Before breaking in he had shown a pattern of obsessive behavior which would have been a clear case of stalking in many states; in Vermont it wasn't so clear; he had been charged with two cases of unlawful trespass in early May.  (I have discussed this briefly in an earlier post.)  What he would do upon release was anyone's guess.

The notification from VANS said he was up for parole or a record review next month, and gave a number I could contact if I wished to participate. It looked as though this was the last month when I could live at my place with the guarantee of not being disturbed: if he was under supervision in the community he might comply with the conditions of his parole or he might not. So I went back to Vermont to snatch of a month to work on a book, and when I got back I began calling the number I had been given. If EA was to be let out I wanted some kind of restriction on his movements so that he could not come back to my place.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Too long for Twitter



Agatha Christe once wrote that, as a girl, she (mis)estimated she would never be so rich as to be able to afford a motor car, but never so poor as to be unable to hire servants.

HT Brad DeLong