"Literature is pathetic" claims Eileen Myles in their introduction to Pathetic Literature, a collection of pieces ranging from poetry to theater to prose to something in between, all of which explore so-called "pathetic" or sensitive feelings around which lives are built. Myles first reclaimed the word for a seminar they taught, rescuing it from the derision into which it had slipped and restoring its original meaning of inspiring emotion or feeling, from the Ancient Greek rhetorical method pathos.
Huge — and (I hope) hugely influential — anthology ... This is a collection that makes an argument or, even more, aspires to frame a counter-tradition of literature ... Rich in allusions ... This is private literature rendered public ... The weave is so all-encompassing, the associations so multilayered, that I feel like fireworks are popping off inside my head ... More than anything, of course, the echoes belong to Myles, which is what gives Pathetic Literature a sensibility that is authorial as much as curatorial ... Pathetic Literature represents not so much a collection as it does an ethos: 'almost a poem,' its creator observes. These texts and voices take us someplace unexpected, beyond the individual and into the realm of a collective, a tapestry of words that add up to a way of being in the world.
Spending time on this book gave me the same feeling that reading Kafka gives me, the same feeling that I’ve been going through the world with after reading nothing but Dennis Cooper for a month or so. I grin to myself—really grin—when I come across both names in Pathetic Literature, feeling like I’ve discovered something incredible, like Myles knows me ... I would recommend Pathetic Literature. It’s pessimistic, kinky, and mean. There’s lots of scat and descriptions of genitals. It might depress you, but probably only if you were depressed beforehand. What I know is that I’ll keep the book with me, just like I keep a German copy of Kafka’s diaries on my bedside.