A friend in the Math Department wants to write a book on the local farmer’s market, but even as a full professor, he feels the time is not right. “Oh no,” he says when I prod him to write the book. “My department would never go for that.” “But you’re a full professor!” I insist. “It wouldn’t work. Not right now,” he insists right back.
We always want to write something else. I want to finish the next academic book (though that won’t be for awhile yet), and then immediately afterwards, I want to write about beer culture and obsession. The craft movement is an obsession; it is my obsession, but it is also an obsession that belongs to a larger movement of folks seeking out tastes and experiences. I don’t want to write a history of the craft movement, nor do I want to write a memoir. I want to write an obsessed text. A text about and that is obsessed. Not academic in scope, style, or substance, this writing I will do can only be defined as the writing you do elsewhere.
What is the “writing you do elsewhere?” I was reading Brian’s blog today and saw that Ray has written a new book on film and the ABC method. What Ray teaches that is so useful is the detail. Fed up with the rhetoric of critique and academic essays that all sound the same in their analysis and cultural studies stagnation, he searches for writing that comes from something other than the text’s supposed meaning. Following Barthes’ interest in details, this “something other” is captured in details, or in the case of Ray’s work, the filmic detail.
The writing I do elsewhere is always in debt to a detail. A liner note. An album cover. An anecdote. A memory. An image. A joke. A bit of the imaginative. A beer I want to drink. Always, a beer I want to drink. Most of the time, I want to allow the detail to drive my writing. For now, the writing I do elsewhere, I do here on this blog. This writing is marked by obsession (always on the heels of the question: why would anyone blog?) and desire (the urge to express).
This writing is told in details. Today I have a cold. Every day, we stop much of what we do around 5 p.m., and we have a beer. The fridge offers up its choices. We drink via the logic of the share. One beer divided into two glasses. One beer shared. One extends the tastings by the share. Jenny mostly lets me choose what we will have for each day. I have a six month rule for the beer stash. By six months, if it has not been opened, the beer must be opened. The cellaring movement popular in beer circles still has little meaning for me; I am eager to taste, not to age. Still, I have to pay attention to styles since IPAs are better with freshness; stouts, barley wines, saisons, and porters can sit longer. But today I have a cold. The Austin airport does me in every time I pass through it. I have never passed through the Austin airport without being sick a day later. Thus, we did not have a beer today. The stash did not shrink by one beer today. The obsession associated with building a stash is the same one you have when you are trying to work your way through it. For every purchase, a consumption must occur. Austin has delayed my consuming power.
And why write this? The details. A cold. A pattern interrupted. A story. A moment. If narrative is the driving force of print culture, and the database is the driving force of digital culture, the detail might be the driving force of writing done somewhere else, regardless of print of digital media. I don’t imagine this book on craft beer being short anecdotes about having colds; I do imagine, however, a series of obsessed moments, points, anecdotes, experiences, and so forth. I imagine its rhetoric as that of details.