[Jandek] the whole thing as a holistic revery

Gavin rangoon at ntlworld.com
Thu Nov 24 19:12:18 PST 2005

> above all I'm interested in the
> whole thing as a holistic revery. Every album has its flaws that become
> qualities when considering them in the jandekian system. One great
> installation/composition, not singular albums.

This is how I see the albums as a whole as well...upon discovering
Jandek (about five years ago), and also seeing the frightening homogeneity
of the entire Jandek corpus, the thing that most struck me was the
similarity to how Robert Walser (Swiss prose-poetry writer from the
early 20th century, admired by Kafka and Robert Musil, translated into
English by Christopher Middleton, Wikipedia entry here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Walser_(writer)) characterises his own
work in a passage quoted as a prologue to the translated 'Selected Stories':

'My prose pieces are, to my mind, nothing more nor less than parts of
a long, plotless realistic story. For me, the sketches I produce now
and then are shortish or longish chapters of a novel. The novel I am
constantly writing is always the same one, and it might be described
as a variously sliced-up or torn-apart book of myself'

and that the Jandek albums (at least to me) are all chapters in one
long 'book of myself', 'a long, plotless realistic story', that keeps
unfolding album by album, and will one day end, and its end will be the
culmination of the 'novel' of Jandek...obviously there is a lot of personal
projection on my part here, but the oft-maligned Irwin Chusid 'Key Of
Z' essay (my introduction to Jandek) does contain one or two rather crucial
details that aren't often requoted, especially those relating to the seven
novel manuscripts that were submitted for publication prior to 'Ready For The

'but after they'd been rejected by New York publishers, he'd burned the

and later in the essay Chusid says

'I received one more handwritten note from Corwood, explaining the
seven incinerated novels: "Regarding the book burnings...we took the
printed matter to the countryside for an unfettered, proper cremation.
Stirred into ashes into the ground...the countryside dirt was

and then the Jandek project was (presumably) undertaken, as if the novel
form was not working as the chosen mode of expression, and a new form was
needed, this being 'Ready For The House' and then everything that
followed...that Jandek's artistic background is literary rather than
musical per se, and that a substantial body of work was destroyed (in a
similarly-final way to how Harry Partch ditched his 'formal' compositional
work in the 1920s prior to venturing off onto his own idiosyncratic path)
before a completely different form of expression was undertaken says to me
that he wasn't making amateurish-sound blues records (say) for want of
anything better to do, or for a lack of intention...it's this aspect of
Jandek that sustains me through the more difficult records, and justifies
the need to

> suffer through something you don't enjoy

(although there is little Jandek that I find either meaningless or
pointless) - my belief has always been that the entire body of work
is one long...well, *something*, some kind of artistic form that has
neither label nor precedent, like an impressionistic and selective
autobiography in regularly-released and homogenous parts...but
Jandek's absence of context, ie. no statement of intent, ever (another
pretty-much unprecedented state of affairs in 'pop' music, but not
uncommon in the 'art' world) does mean that the listener can bring
pretty much whatever he or she might want to the work, and where one
person sees Art, another sees Bluff...nobody at Corwood is going to
contradict another we say here, however we judge the work - but the
(rather prurient) speculation about Sterling Smith's health does at
least address his mortality, and that this will end, somehow, and
sooner rather than later, and if nothing is ever confirmed or denied
about 'artistic intention' prior to this point, all that will be left
will be a genuine enigma, and that's a real rarity in an age where
information about anything or anyone else is more readily accessible
than at any other time in human history...


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