Notes on not publishing a book from a really extremist ultra-leftist

Guy Debord’s Biography in 45 Notes

Guy Louis Debord (/dəˈbɔːr/; French: [gi dəbɔʁ]; 28 December 1931 – 30 November 1994)
  1. Think of how your book would look if you published a book. If it looks anything like any other book, do not publish that book.
  2. If by some reason you think of a book that has never been done before then caution yourself from thinking about what that book would be about for as soon as it becomes about something then it becomes in the service of the commodification of that something. Not under any circumstance should it be about anything in the service of Capitalism. If it happens to be about anything, it should be about the fact that it is not about anything.
  3. Think of your book as an “art project”. Less text, more image, or the text should be like images. Screw that. Your book is against the hegemony of the written text or any other text. cf. Lettrisme. Do not call yourself a writer or an author, that is a gross teleological understatement of who you actually are: a really extremist ultra-leftist.
  4. Detournement:  An artistic practice conceived by the Situationists for transforming artworks by creatively disfiguring them (OED). As it applies to your book project: Why publish a book when you can unpublish one and make it your own? Conversely, unpublish one by disowning it via a legal document; anything I said here can no longer be used against me in the courts of law or the books of history.
  5. Now that you know what détournement means. Take note of its double purpose: on the one hand, it must negate the ideological conditions of artistic production, the fact that all artworks are ultimately commodities; but on the other hand, it must negate this negation and produce something that is politically educative. Ok, scratch the part about the book being an “art project”. It is an educational project. The education of whom exactly does not concern you at this point. It is simply for the education of all marginalized peoples of the world. Except: white supremacists, flat-earthers, and anti-communists even if they are actually people of color, scientists, or card-carrying communists. Believe me, these people exist. Your book will never be for them.
  6. Heady stuff. Why even begin with thinking about a book when you can think of something else. At this point: Think of anything but publishing a book. Some cues: how to get a job? If you have a job, how do you get out of that job you don’t like? If you like your job: why write a book? Write a book but do not publish.
  7. You are allowed to think of the details of the book, but not the entire book: think of the thingness of the book. How useless or obsolete, aside from gathering dust, or taking megabytes. You can certainly add details or paint over a book but that has been done before. See note no. 1. 
  8. Think of how to reveal a previously obscured ambiguity within any book. i.e. Gather all the books titled “Through a glass, darkly” or its translation in Swedish or French or Tamil, etc. Think how this range of works can be recombined and mashed up in new and surprising ways and then forget about it. Someone has certainly done this before. About ten other guys in artist residencies in some obscure German town. Oswaldo, yes. That’s right. Oswaldo has done this before. If Oswaldo can do something like this, it is not worth doing. 
  9. Why publish a book? Get an MFA or a PhD first. That is a good way to delay writing a book if not to sap out the momentum of writing a book altogether. 
  10. If we must strictly follow Debord, we should not make anything out of sheer novelty, and it is this that must be guarded against in producing the negation of the negation.  This is a good thing if you plan to not publish a book. You really don’t plan on publishing something that has been done before and neither would you want to make something new for the sake of making something new. Newness and unoriginality are not mutually exclusive, of course. There are new things that are unoriginal published every day. The road up and the road down is the same – Heraclitus.  
  11.  Karl Marx was unoriginal. But what is important is his testable social theory (i.e., his model of society and culture and associated hypotheses), and that is the work of a genius. Marx might as well not have written any of his books but his ideas will remain relevant. Socrates never wrote his own books.
  12. On that note, take any of a great philosopher’s ideas and hijack this for partisan propaganda purposes, by which Debord and Situationist et al, would mean, the promotion of radical politics. Mix Marx with anything. Your book is a Marxist-Lenninist-Maoist rewriting of anything and it promises to ruin the world for anyone.  How about, Marxist-Lenninist-Daoist, in other words, of Marxist-Lenninist-emptiness. “The Tao is the emptiness of a vessel; and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against all fullness.”
  13.  Reconsider, the advantages of détournement. That it is cheap but powerful and that makes it a weapon anyone can use to break through what Situationists famously call the Chinese walls of understanding. 
  14.  Marcel Duchamp’s moustache on the Mona Lisa is regarded as consistent with this aim, but too tame; similarly, Bertolt Brecht’s re-staging of classical plays by Shakespeare is regarded as a crucial prototype, but again it is seen as being too conservative. The poète maudit Lautréamont (pen-name of Paris-based Uruguayan writer Isidore Ducasse) is generally regarded as the main precursor; his Les Chants de Maldoror (1868) is cited by Debord and others as the perfect example of an extended détournement. The main exponent of the practice of détournement was Danish painter Asger Jorn who, along with Guy Debord, was one of the founders of the Situationist movement. See also cognitive mapping; dérive ; deterritorialization; flâneur.

If in case you get successful at publishing a book  via unpublishing a book:

  1.  Act surprised that any journalist thinks he can review your book. Act even more surprised if he gives your book a positive review. Act extremely surprised that anyone would get it at all!
  2. Anyone who claims to have read your book is faking it on the basis of being a pseudo-reader.
  3. Create a book club without members. 
  4. Hold a book launch by recalling all the copies from a book shop.
  5. Read the book in a cafe that does not serve coffee.

Advice on the unwriterly and unpublishable life:

  1. No one, without exception, is intelligent enough to claim truthfulness which is necessary to pass judgement on their own writings.
  2. Do not doubt or compromise. Instead, you must master the political method of insulting people. This is useful for keeping people at a safe distance and given the pandemic you are better alone than dead.
  3. Anyone who feels he is your ally or kindred spirit is not basing this feeling on mutuality.
  4. Hold constant purges of your literary clique. You have no use for proto-extremist leftists or passive admirers of your unwriterly and unpublishable cult personality. 
  5. Your association of radical intellectuals can always get smaller. Be proud of being few.
  6. When asked how your group of radical intellectuals work, present a thesis, which you will constantly refer to as the yet-to-be-published-thesis or the “Manhattan Project”.
  7.  When asked what it is about, say “Basically, these are deliberately kept secret conclusions from a theoretical and strategic discussion that governs the entire procedure.” No further explanation.
  8. Ask the person asking to keep it-off-the-record even if he is not recording. Before he goes, tell him “This discussion never took place.”
  9. Meet interviewers in a bar which you will randomly select via a game of darts or roulette. 
  10. The simplest summary of rich and complex conclusions can be reduced to one sentence: “We must, now, make philosophy a reality.” Even this sentence should never be written down.
  11.  In other words: A handful of left-wing bohemians go on a drinking spree, think up an allusion to the young Karl Marx and, for reasons of formal radicalism, declare it necessary not to put anything in writing.
  12. Make a daily habit of fooling a Stalinist you are a Trotskyite and a Trotskyite you are a Stalinist. 
  13. Be disciplined in your political and theoretical work. Always devote a good part of your writing in assessing political situations in the Global South. At the first instance: stop writing and intervene. 
  14. What slogans and demands? In which form? Debord once said of his Situationist International: “What we did was bring oil to where there was fire.”Always attempt to stir up unrest.
  15. Rare and fleeting moments is the mark of a successful endeavor. 
  16. Instead of writing a book, why don’t you make a film based on the perpetually yet-to-be-published-book? 
  17. Regardless of the result, report the book to be better than the film.
  18. Stalinist never cared for the working class!
  19. Why is everyone suddenly a filmmaker or a DJ? 
  20. Read Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist. BUT never quote and recommend to friends for reading. 
  21. Instead of publishing a book, why not develop a complex board game. One that is without winners or losers.
  22. Revolutionary hope will leave traces in the twilight of your years. Beware of the pessimistic cultural criticism that takes hold. 
  23. In 1985, when Debord criticized the “immigrant question” and spoke of “cultural differences”, he wrote: “Which cultures? There is none left. Do not talk about those absent. If you look for a moment in the face of truth and obviousness, there is only the global, spectacular (American) decline of all culture.” 
  24. Along with unpublishing a book, think of avoiding New York, the center of the world’s cultural life, as much as possible. It is better to go to the boondocks or become an exile.
  25.  Whatever you do, you will always be marked by surviving COVID-19 and Donald Trump and the last four years. The worst is yet to come. And what is about to come will be the epoch of extreme and general stupidity and dulling if it isn’t already here.
  26.  Check the boondocks and town of your exile for a listing of shrinks and therapists. Suicide is always “on the table”.

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