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Process Letter to My Advisor 5.2

March 1, 2009

Dear XXXXX,

How have you been? I’ve been in LA for almost a week and spent my birthday somewhere in Oklahoma. Working on this packet while sitting next to the hot tub has been a nice change from Buffalo winter…er… as that’s not my usual practice. Now I’m at the conference and finishing up. Today was mostly people presenting papers on panels and Friday is Robert Irwin. I’m staying at the Biltmore for the next several days, which I have come to discover was the site of a couple of early Oscars ceremonies, oh and the last location the Black Dahlia was seen alive before her murder. It’s kind of glamorous in an old hotel way with elaborate ceilings and fountains (the sphinxes have very large breasts… which led me to realize I am indeed in LA), but the rooms themselves are rather lackluster or standard I guess. After the conference we go back to staying at M’s parent’s place to the south of the city.

So after sending out my last packet early I had a bit of a writers block… couldn’t find any inspiration to work on my process paper. I sometimes get a little annoyed with all this forced introspection mid-writing. I’m a WAY over thinker, so the hurry up and think-ness about thinking about thinking halts me in my tracks when I would have preferred to jump right into my revisions and completing what’s supposed to be the culmination of my manuscript. I’m naturally introspective about my process. Um isn’t that enough? No? I’ve already written about my process a lot. But the good news is leaving home seems to have opened me up. I noticed the difference in Nashville actually. My theme as of now seems to be a crisis of faith, as I’m discovering that that has become central to my process. The previous seven years leading up to Goddard culminated in my complete loss of faith in visual art after building a nonprofit and running a gallery and exhibition space, against the backdrop of hostile executive board posturing and a complete whitewashing of my life in order to gain funding… needless to say I’ve come around through writing. Then in the last several weeks I had a crisis of faith in my novel, or the idea that it isn’t exactly a novel, but something else? We’ll see, but for now it’s a novel so no need to panic on your end. I blame Agnes Martin (that’s a joke).

Did XXXXX send you a copy of her notes to me? You both had good feedback. She had a idea that clarified how I conceptualize the piece for myself, but she also seemed to have a problem with my attempt to keep the writing in the present tense. Do you have a problem with that? The thing is, for me the work is closely tied with it being as present tense as possible. Memory and thoughts are all now, and if they weren’t they’d cease to exist… at least the way I’m conceptualizing this character and it also feels tied into the TV show interest for me. It’s that play between passive viewer and engaged that I’m playing with. I also think a lot of what you subconsciously responded to in my writing last semester was the engaged-ness of the present tense ride-along approach here. I actually went back and re-translated the bulk of the novel into present tense to make it more consistent, and I suspect that a lot of XXXXX’s problems were tied to this translation process of older sections. She also didn’t seem to get the structure of the dialogue… which I really like. I agree that the content of the dialogue needs to be punched up in sections, but I like the structure. I’ve been thinking about it in “lived-in” (John) Cagean terms where the present tense, durational, and multiple sources blend together into a composition. Woah, deep. I still think of it as collaging elements. What do you think? I’m cleaning them up.

I am also working on a mini scene about the kid’s mother and a mini-scene about the father that get paired up with Claire chapters. I’m hoping that the juxtaposition will help them all work more effectively. I also need to go in and cut more fluff…

So for this packet I’m annotating Agnes Martin’s writings, which is great timing and fits well with where I am. I’ve always liked Martin, so it was a great recommendation. How do people get so deep and clean? I actually didn’t locate her book for cheap, but got it through interlibrary loan… and had to return it in four days, so photocopied entirely and worked from that. That book should not be out of print. Also I’m including my entire annotated bibliography and general bibliography. I also put together my course equivalents. I tried to tailor my equivalents with an eye towards PhD applications, as to keep them flexible and oriented towards my art and critical theory. I was actually thinking that I probably would have done my manuscript as a collection of art essays and writing if I had found somebody who had enough of a background like you early on… that may have been part of what sparked this recent crisis of faith in my novel. Have you heard much either way about the European Graduate School? Maybe immense mountains of debt appeal to me, but dude, Switzerland and more critical theorists than you can shake a stick at, and I like idea of John Waters having taught there with a bunch of French critical theorists.

Later: So I just got back from a one-on-one career mentoring session with an art historian and was discussing my plans to do curatorial mixed with writing. He gushed over my CV, curatorial, and gallery/exhibition experience and said I had to do a PhD. I was a little shocked by his reaction, but he was really into the projects I’ve done and the people I’ve worked with over the years. He wants me to apply for or look into MIT, Chicago, Yale, USC, U Toronto, Duke, Slade, SUNY Binghamton, and we added U Santa Cruz to the list. He seemed to think I had a lot more experience and a leg up over most people who’d be applying… which was nice to hear. Is it true? I just want to make sure I go someplace smart and as top notch as I can, but that isn’t too stuffy. I thought I had finally figured a loophole to never take the GREs, but. Any advice?

Now I have to go figure out if the hotel business center has a printer I can print this packet out on and get it into the mail. Otherwise it’s going to suck. Do you realize how hard it is to get around downtown LA without a car? That’s the kind of thing they should write a new wave song about, right? I hope you are doing well and not buckling under the weight of so many finishers this semester.

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