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UPDATE: um, how about a link to the new URL!

I got jacked with not being able to muck around with the look of my blog when it was hosted by WordPress.

In particular, I wanted to link my Google Reader feed to my blogroll, because I don’t want to have to be arsed updating my blogroll everytime I find a new blog, but I want my blogroll to be a kind of what-I’m-reading-now list.

I’ve carried over as much of the stuff as I could without dying from a documentation overdose.

I went to see this guy last night:

The Great Urban Cowboy (via Facebook)

The Great Urban Cowboy

Here’s a video of one of my favourite tracks:

And a link to Tattooing the Surface of the Moon, Sean’s blog.

I fell in love with Sean M Whelan’s work when he was performing with The Mime Set. Pepped up on sangria on holiday in Melbourne years ago, their performance at the (now closed) Spanish Club blew my brain.

Great surrealist romantic poetry to rock music!

I have a question to ask that seems simple, but which grows increasingly complex when you think about it. How do you consider author intention when reviewing a novel?

I’ve come up ambivalent about a book I’m reviewing. When this happens I like to make note of the positives and negatives and try to round up with a suggestion that readers should check it out for themselves.

I have no problems suggesting that readers don’t bother if a book is below sub-par, but if something comes up halfway decent, I assume that one person’s free review copy is another person’s first edition.

My problem is that in the process of scraping the barrel, I find myself ploughing deeply into speculation and interpretation of the author’s intentions. I tend to say things like, ‘The author didn’t quite carry this theme, but that’s because they were focussing on this other theme, which is explored well.’

Is this a problem? I’m worried that I’m making concessions for books when they should be flagged as undeveloped. That I might save people the trouble if I were more honest about the book.

If I think the book warrants being supported – if it’s a debut novel and the author has demonstrated considerable promise for certain styles and techniques – is that enough to warrant concocting a positive interpretation? It’s not just this novel in particular – I come up against this with many young-adult and debut novels.

This has been just like trying to fix a car engine: as soon as you start pulling it apart, you find more things to fix, or questions to answer.

So it turns out this Lee Siegel fella might be a total douchebag.

He got busted for sockpuppetry at his blog for The New Republic, was hounded out of there and proceeded to get angry about internet anonymity, among other things wrong with the internet, in his book, Against the Machine. That this book is subtitled, ‘Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob’ should have said enough. Siegel’s posts have been deleted from The New Republic.

I though I might have found a discerning, dissenting view of the internet, which I have been extolling the virtues of endlessly, lately. But the more I delved into this character, the more I realised I was dealing with the sort of person who rallies against baseball caps for affecting ‘a lazily defiant casualness’.

This reminded me of Andrew Bolt hating on tracksuit pants once, which unfortunately I couldn’t dig out of the archives.

I’m dismayed that there is another person out there like Bolt. Maybe I should still give Siegel a go – Socratic ignorance and all that. But it’s hard to respect a guy who began criticising the internet when he found himself challenged by the unwashed masses of ‘blogofascists’.

I’m really glad to be working on a book that’s not government funded. A stack of money has been poured into this and we need to earn the money back to pay off the debt.

or, How to Stop Whining and Start Living

This just came to mind when I was talking to a guy who put out a bunch of comics with a group called Silent Army. He said they never had a real distribution model – they used half the grant to make an approximation of the funded book, then the rest to make the book that didn’t fit within the funder’s criteria.

Fine, but this guy was disappointed they could never really get the books out to a broader audience. Government funding has a tendency to hinder considerations of sustainable business models in the arts – especially with literature, which is so labour intensive, in a culture where production skills outweigh business acumen considerably.

Today we figured out we need to sell half our print run to break even, then we have the potential to make enough to for Breakdown to do another book.

This is the sort of thinking that I’m really happy to be a part of.

I’ve been interested in this guy Lee Siegel lately, since I found his critique of What is the What and the cult subculture that Eggers has spawned with McSweeney’s.

This was the first well-considered and in-depth critical review of the whole phenomenon that I had read since feeling awkwardly contrarian in criticising What is the What myself on The Book Show. (There is another one here.)

Siegel has written a book called Against the Machine, which seems to be an outspoken, sarcastic and scathing critic of The Internet. Ray Bradbury would love him – Ray Bradbury, the guy who reckons we should burn books, but burning The Internet’s alright.

And I’m reviewing a book called Say Everything, a book about ‘how blogging began, what it’s becoming, and why it matters’.

And I’m starting this blog, obviously.

According to Three Degrees of Uncoordination, something is about to pop.

Meanwhile, check out this short video of Siegel acknowledging that he would never want to punch the internet in the face – ‘there are two many faces – it would take me a lifetime to do that’. The guy on the left’s a cack – he’s gotta be on coke.

I have this thing – a kind of guiding principle – that I have come to call Three Degrees of Uncoordination. Calling it a principle is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like an explanation for my disorganised, frenetic, fumbling approach to life. For a long time, before I labelled my own methodology of life, I just read and wrote and observed the world, noticing things and ideas and wondering what on earth to do with them. And I talked a lot of shit.

Recently I began to get pretty tired of all the talking, and frustrated by the lack of doing. But I’m reluctant to act without conviction in my opinions, so I got kind of stuck: how could I act without conviction about my ideas, but how could I reach conviction without experiencing life (without acting)?

This was all happening at the end of my tenure as Voiceworks editor, where I had been reading a lot, talking a lot, editing a lot, crunching spreadsheets a lot, and not writing a lot. I was leaving my editorials to the last minute, but they came naturally when I finally got down to them.

This, I found, was because all of the reading and talking I was doing had a place to coalesce: as I drew from things that had happened in the three months since I last wrote an editorial, usually about three separate instances of something like intellectual coincidence would occur and I would have an idea – something to write about, some intention for the editorial.

Usually the process of writing the editorial had forced me to think about something in a way that I had not previously considered. I would express this, with the intention of encouraging readers to do the same.

Since then this ‘principle’ has developed naturally as a way of connecting ideas into some form of coherent thought, without which I get wickedly confused and forget my opinions all the time. I still chase ideas down rabbit holes until I find bits of grit, around which all those ideas coagulate.

I don’t have editorials to write anymore, but I have posts to write for this blog. The themes will develop sporadically, as I process ideas and output them here: kernels of principles I will then use to guide my way through life in an approximation of goodness and decency. Maybe, dear reader, you will too, as, here, in the category Three Degrees of Uncoordination, I will capture those kernels in the hope of disseminating something useful.

These are some photos of the warehouse I might be working in if I get
a temporary gig with Breakdown Press, which I’m really excited about.

The Tin Man #WhereAreTheyNow?

The Tin Man #WhereAreTheyNow?

The Vegie Patch

The Vegie Patch

Front Windows

Front Windows

Pot Belly Replete with Couch, Hammock and Actual Flu

Pot Belly Replete with Couch, Hammock and Actual Flu

I met Tom and Lou from Breakdown Press about me possibly managing the sales and distribution of their forthcoming title, How to Make Trouble and Influence People. I’m interested in making more trouble these days, as well as learning how to sell books. I’m also volunteering for The Lifted Brow in a similar capacity.

This makes me consider that it might be worthwhile adding this sort of thing to the list of services that Paine Management will provide.

Consultancy might be another. When I have a specific project or or book to riff on I realise I know more about this business than is immediately present in my mind most of the time.

But all of this makes me wonder if I’m trying to spread myself too thinly. if I come off as a hack – as a jack of all trades, master of none – writers and publishers might be less inclined to trust or value my judgement and quality of work. But then I know that I need to offset my ignorance of literary agency with my current skills and experience. As I build up networks as a publishing contractor, I might lever in a sneaky manuscript here and there until publishers come to me as the go-to man for new talent.

I know that I can’t expect to survive as an agent yet, and that I don’t want to limit my work to writing and production. I also know that I don’t want to get a real job, so working part time to subsidize the agency is not an option. And I figure that freelancing in the industry is bound to complement my plans for the agency to a degree that outweighs any possible dilution of Paine Management’s business identity.

So Paine Management will probably be a full-blown publishing-services business, and one of those services will be literary agency.

I’ve been mulling over the whole idea of ‘agency’ recently, in terms of the business as well as in general. I like to hook people up if they have similar interests but don’t know each other. I read people’s work, give feedback and have forwarded their work semi-formally to editors I know. I’ve been trying to agitate thought about the Productivity Commission and continued to agonize over a letter I want to send to my MP. I like to party and talk about ideas in a manic fashion on trips between the fridge and the dancefloor.

It’s all a sort of agency, in a way, and I feel that Paine Management is simply the natural progression in my career. I feel like this is how I can pick up where I left off at Voiceworks – after nurturing writers and editors into new chapters in their careers, I’m convinced that there is greater cultural capital to be generated through facillitating the publication and professional development of writers. I get to help contribute more ideas to the public debate and our nation’s cultural life than if I were to merely work away at my own writing – in a ‘hole-and-corner way’, as Orwell described it in Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

When I told my friend this, she asked me why I didn’t try to become a publisher. The long haul I’d have to put into that would yield influence on a single publishing house’s list (or my own, if I wanted to go down that path). With an agency I can pick and choose the writing I think is the best and sell it to a wide variety of publishers, yielding a more dispersed but diverse and targeted influence.

And that, ultimately, is what I want to do – influence Australia’s literary culture out of a post-colonial, post-twentieth century rut. I want to help bring in the new guard, and then another and another, perpetually, until I die. Grandiose but true.

And easier said than done. I don’t know quite how to structure Paine Management to achieve this goal, but I’m thinking that I need to just structure it somehow and get a move on. Nothing needs to be set in concrete in a hurry – isn’t that the whole thing about being self-employed? I get to make it up as I go along, which is the way things roll for me.

This is liberating and exciting beyond compare. I have never felt so sure that I had found something to do for real, for serious, for cereal. I’ve always thought a career in writing and publishing would be orright, but never have I felt so confident about going out on my own and pouring a good five years into something that may or may not bear fruit.

So this is the plan, according to right now: finish out the year eking it out on the dole, continue to faff about and mull over the future; start Paine Management on NEIS in 2010, get a work-experience placement with an Australian agency, spend twelve months establishing myself as a freelance writer, editor and production-nerd; go to New York in 2011 and get a paid placement as an assistant to an agent, continue Paine Management from abroad; move back to Melbourne in 2013 and vamp up the agency side of Paine Management; by 2015 I’ll be back on a plane, touring the world like a snake-oil salesman or something less seedy but equally manipulative, selling Australian literature into all of the world’s publishing territories (note to self: research the geographical and economic boundaries of international territories).

Indeed, they are opposites. According to Socrates’ oracle, the wisest of them all is the person are aware of their own ignorance. Such an awareness cultivates an ongoing, organic interest in gaining, challenging and validating your knowledge. Doing this, and then applying that knowledge to life is what I do, and the central theme of Socratic Ignorance is Bliss.

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