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Barns & Nobel Bookes Presents: The Torrent, by Joe Milutis
Our Featured Book of the Month Selection, October 2009 
Author appearance cancelled!

Hudson, NY—October 1, 2009


Playing the author is like looking into the abyss of one’s inconsequence.  It almost seems a little bit embarrassing to have to play this role, as if I were a child acting like an adult.  There’s a sort of sadness in playing the author, in lieu of being one.  Who gets to play the author?  It all seems a little juvenile to play this role without being granted it. 

Yet, self publishing, contrary to what you might believe, is not an act of juvenile egotism, but a way to erase one’s self in the very process of entering into a desperate relationship to one’s self through a book object.  This act of self-erasure is part of our literary heritage. There are, of course, Blake and Whitman, who we usually think of somehow routing around the coteries of publishing to address “the people” with their words.  It’s framed as a drama of individualist heroics in the service of democratic ideals. But it’s not as if they were getting into literary history through an opportunistic backdoor, nor as if their words were longing for a popular consensus.  The very nature of their work points to a desire for immolation (they’re asking for a relation to the god of nature or the nature of God).  It’s only through some kind of cosmic joke that they become literary “greats,” when in fact their work is the epitome of the unliterary.

I have been using the term “virtual literature” to apply to this vast unliterary terrain that usually goes unnoticed behind literary (and filmic) productions.  What we may call, without reproach, the “virtual illiterate” is not only to be found in the fallout of networked-virtuality (the massive dumping grounds of web words and various other filemes), but also as old as language itself.  Hopefully, the modest goal is to expand or rectify 90s-era notions of the virtual as it might apply to literature, basically any of the over-hyped, underwhelming computer-based experiments which continue to be, without irony, appreciated only on the basis of their newness.  Instead, I’m interested in the only superficially poorer theater of the “French” virtual—which, while engaging the substance of the “future” and its potential, can work at the level of the enunciation where illiteracy and the notion of the “literary” vie in a more creative way than we might imagine.  (The virtual illiterate happily plays with the computer, if—to use the Deleuzo-Guattarian lingo—this opens lines of flight.)

The Torrent provides a small example of this virtual literature.  So far, you may have encountered only the promotion of this book and the world that this promotion has created rather than its readible surface.  And there IS a “readable” center at the heart of these promotional textures, although that center has been absented at multiple points, as will be explained later.  There’s an interesting anecdote about Fellini’s 8 1/2: Fellini shot the final scene of this movie, perhaps one of the only convincing testaments to the creative impulse in the history of cinema, originally as its trailer.  We think of the trailer—against the grain of the what that word actually implies—as those fragments through which we imagine a film BEFORE seeing it.  But the idea of a trailer happening at the END of the film, and one, at that, about an aborted sci-fi production, points to a wholly original way to make science-fiction, to open up the future—this virtual territory—by various feints and strategems of avoidance and anticipation and identification.  This film existed in the unfilmed, just as literary work can be imagined in the (unimaginable) unwritten, ill-written, or unreadable.  The dangerous possibility in these maneuvers is suicide, but there is also a chance for renewal.  'What is this strange feeling . . .'

This experiment started with a damaged BitTorrent file of Jean Rollin’s The Night of the Hunted (1980), a campy horror flick about a secret, sinister hospital in which the mostly female patients have no memory and are constantly faced with the terror of their own erasure and rape.  The file had no subtitles, and would not play all the way through, so I could only fill in plot and dialogue with my own pseudo-mediumistic surmises.  I created a deck of stills from this file, rearranged them and appended written material, then assembled the book object.  Part of the benefit of working with a text that had both erotic and violent resonances is that, in surrealist fashion, one could harness these by now laughable sensational contents to break through certain real censoring mechanisms, which the surrealists rightly pointed out as the tyranny of the notion of the literary.  Adjunct to this tyranny is getting the approval of friends, editors, etc. before exposing the work to the world.  Part of my retentiveness about this object is precisely to keep this objet petit a from that fate, and thus, by exposing it as little as possible, retaining some sense of its psychic verisimilitude.  A fragile inexpose is-tense. 

That I didn’t quite know what I was doing as I was doing it has left this absence open to various “unauthorized” recontextualizations, many of which were even more skillful than mine, even though some of these “un-authors” did not know what they were doing as they were doing it either (“to do,” “to make”: perhaps these words are anathema to the virtual, especially in their more fundamentalist embodiments?)  These unauthorized versions include, to date:

Le Torrent: La Fiancee de Wittgenstein Par Jo Maludies, By John Roland

In a reversal of public art installation trends, where through a politically calculated policy of salutary neglect abandoned storefronts become the locus of the artwork, here the storefront in Hudson has been reverted back to its role as a place of commerce.  In aping the style of independent booksellers, whose windows are increasingly as dismal as any mega-chain, the window at Incident Report hopefully makes one wonder why artists don’t hijack these high-visibility venues to actually sell stuff more often!  The abysmal compromises of “alternative” cultural products seem to demand this type of “temporary autonomous business” for those artists lucky enough to attain a window.

But, where is the cash register?  This, dear reader, is one of the many remaining mysteries of The Torrent.  How should I know?  I am not the cashier.  I am, very sincerely yours, the humble author




Written as if he’s blackening some paper, with a praiseworthy disdain for what might result.
                                    --Andy B

For him, both writing and the spoken word are privileged fetishes that hide social space.

                                    --Henry L.

It is in their courage in bearing the intolerable relationship to the Supreme Being that these characters recognize and choose each other.  Their ethics is manifestly “beyond sex” (hors-sexe), so much so that I would like to give it the accent that Maupassant provides by enunciating somewhere in his work the strange term ‘Horla,’ or, in Milutis’ case ‘The Torrent.’
                                    --Jackie L

A kind of ‘stereo’ effect enhances the experience.  We are following him on one level and almost but not entirely missing him on another, a place where secrets remain secret—
the ‘Republic of Dreams’ where ‘The Torrent’ presides.

                                    --John A.

You say this story is about sex and violence and therefore isn’t worth considering because it uses content much less lots of content and all the middle-range bookstores and reviewers (which is all of them) say Milutis is a disgusting violent sadist.  Well, you know nothing of The Torrent except how to eat your own hearts with envy, you don’t eat cunt, writing isn’t a viable phenomenon anymore.

                                    --Kathy A.