day 383 – day 444: forget Thought Police & newspeak – it’s time for the NEW MORAL ARMY – in extreme contrast with Janet Malcolm’s double-secret meta – and the arachnocapitalism of the webwork

“the spiders are taking over the interior, and capitalism—that dirty bitch—is still unstoppable and fucking is all up”

— on Antoine Volodine and post-exotic literature, here

and I don’t know if it is appropriate or not. Whether it is entirely inappropriate … for the missed-aches of Volodine, Bassman, Draeger’s postrevolutionary decadence to be marrked by mistakes. Fucking, I suppose, is all up.

Or, like this, when the use of whose goes bad : “Camp 801 in this place was composed mainly of abandoned construction sites and houses whose windows were sealed with bricks or planks, or which were demolished.”

— Manuela Draeger, Eleven Sooty Dreams, Trans. J.T. Mahany, (Rochester, NY: Open Letter, 2021), 107.

“The camp belonged to a distant epoch, that’s all. It had been abandoned, the door had been forever shut and padlocked by its last occupants. The humidity, lunar acidity, terrestrial gravity, silence, and wind had seen to its disintegration.”

— Ibid., 46.

“She couldn’t stop herself from having a sexist thought. It’s often that way with men, she reflected. When the situation is a dead end, they don’t know what to do.”

— Ibid., 120.

RIP Janet Malcolm June 8 1934 -16 June 2021

Writer of my favourite book on psychoanalysis, particularly psychoanalysis as critical method, The Purloined Clinic. In which, as the blurb has it, she expresses her conviction that the best criticism is “an exercise in excess and provocation,” a process of “disfiguring the work of art almost beyond recognition” that allows us to see it in a radically new way.

Janet Malcolm exemplifies “all of the best truth-gathering instincts a journalist can have”–introduction 6’12” aka Crabmeat Pie.

The introduction also considers the meta and meta meta levels to Malcolm’s writing, particularly in its self-critique as journalism. Here the source of the title to this post: double-secret meta for the extreme subtlety of Malcolm’s writing.

13’33” Malcolm reads from 41 False Starts.

Every book I’ve picked up today has involved the disappearance of people. Juan Cárdenas’s Ornamental, in the best scene in the book–not the best idea. The best idea is very close to describing Minus Theatre: it’s the action that creates beauty as its ornament left to itself without a product; some might say an empty gesture, devoid of any meaning, but Cárdenas calls it through one of his unlikely female characters grace.* The best scene is the one where the female character referred to only as Number 4 applies cream to her mother. Her mother lies naked on the floral bedspread. Too many cosmetic surgeries have made her painfully hypersensitive to any sort of covering. And the daughter is required to rub cream over every part of her but the cream is vanishing cream. Erasing cream. And the body starts to smudge under her hands. The flesh does not disappear without effort. Number 4 leaves a mouth. An eye. In the streaked smudge of her mother’s face.

– Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait of
Henrietta Moraes, 1964

Then I was passing a shelf on which Paula Cocozza’s How to be Human was on display. I opened it to the page where the principal character has woken up drenched in sweat. We are told her duvet froths on the floor. The side of her finger is slick with sweat when she runs it between her breasts. And she imagines an early menopause might be induced by the absence of sexual activity. Her boyfriend appears, he walks at her, up the garden into the kitchen, until he presses her, with his new muscles, up against the unit, its knob kneads into her buttock. Just as he slides his finger into the leg of her knickers, like a blade opening a tin, we are told, he starts to disappear. Unlike the mother in Ornamental, he comes away in strips. The description suggests wallpaper or burnt skin and here again an effort in the gradual removal of the pieces, strips coming off his face, revealing underneath the face of the fox. The fox is something like the character’s tutelary spirit animal, as well as an image of an irrational wild sense that is growing in her.

At the end of the same set of shelves was Richard Flanagan’s The Living Sea of Waking Dreams. Here the disappearances of parts of bodies as they fly out through an open window concerns, as in Ornamental, the relationship of mother and daughter. It illustrates the death that is taking the mother away piece by piece but is also an infection that the daughter contracts as pieces of her fly off … or so the frontispiece says. Perhaps in the body of the text nothing quite so literal takes place.

*Ornamental–too much struck me, even as the arbitrary and the necessary are the work’s themes, as being too arbitrary. Too little struck me as necessary, except this idea of the accident of meaning, and of the action to which the beauty produced is ornament, and nothing more–is not the point, target or purpose, but a residuum. Like Francis Bacon’s “slugtrail” of human presence. And where reviewers have contrasted the formal self-consciousness of the doctor’s prose, in a narration that is part doctor’s report and part diaristic, with the informal poetic prose, stream-of-consciousness-like, of his experimental subject and then lover, Number 4, I found hers the more self-conscious, but having the self-consciousness of the author, whose female characters–and characterisations–do not, to me, ring right and I found neither the doctor’s wife nor Number 4 convincing. In the latter’s case, trying too hard for the irrational feminine voice, and a cliché.

These we do have: Adam, Aymer, Oddo, Gilbert, Hemmet, Gerolt, Roger, Hugh, John, Ralf, Nicolas, Wilkin and Watty. These we don’t: Bonnacon, Basilisk, Chimera, Siths, Fauns, Devils, Leucrota, Ghosts and witches folk. Or either foul things in the forest. Or neither objects that don’t obey. Screaming in the houses–that we do. But not little people that are no bigger than a conker. Trees that have voices, never. Hunchbacked longears–that we do too. Childers born with two heads, a pig with six legs, that sort of thing–no, no we do not.

— Edward Carey, “These Our Monsters,” in These Our Monsters: The English Heritage Book of New Folktale, Myth and Legend, 2020.

Ezra Pound, from Canto CXV, “The scientists are in terror”

— ubuweb, sound:

after that brief musical interlude, he goes on. Fails again. Not better. If anything worse. Because what does it mean to us that the Gulf Stream stalls? (aka AMOC – Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – aka a major component of earth’s heat conversion unit – and conveyor belt of minerals and nutrients to the oceans – here)

is that even news anymore?

is a new word required?

a word that would sound like a whimper and build and increase in volume over days months years and decades, so gradually you would not notice it? … that would build into a moan, increasing gradually in volume to a howl …

over years decades becoming shriller … building to a scream and … more years … a shriek …

[this is turning into a children’s picturebook. Picture it!]

louder than a jet, louder than a tornado, rising in pitch to a scream … and …


yes, I can imagine such a word.

of course, beyond a certain point there is silence. Or simply the sound that is in your head right now.

…a word then that deafens. But thereafter does not so much cause hearing impairment as cognitive dissonance: causing the inability to hear it.

A form of news and therefore information that brings about the state in which it cannot be heard.

Sometimes I think we are in a camp where we are submitting to experiments. Experimental technologies are trialed in the camp because in a camp we are expendable. We voluntarily submit to these experiments because we are in a camp. Not only this, the trials are by no means logical.

The introduction and the withholding of technologies is in fact entirely arbitrary. One day that which we came to rely on as an effective treatment for our ongoing anxiety is withheld. The next month an improvement is introduced, but by this time our anxiety has increased beyond the point that its replacement has any sort of effect. … One month the virtual, the next the placebo, the next the real drug. So that we no longer know, can no longer know, which is which, what is what, because we are in a camp.

We might trial new foods on the populace. We might be told one week that what we were eating the last is no longer available. That it never was. Far from doubt that might lead to questions, we move on, because in a camp.

New policies might come into force that restrict our movement and by way of compensation we may be told we are being kept from harm, from risk of infection, and so on. And by way of compensation, we may be told we no longer need to work, because, by way of compensation, we will be paid as usual, for not going to work. Or, in compensation for our inability to have social contact or indeed any kind of contact with those outside the bounds of our domiciliary arrangements we may be encouraged to find new ways of interacting with others, through devices. We may be encouraged to form relationships with our devices so close they amount to intimacy. We may be required to transfer our intimacy from persons to devices, along with our memory and cognitive faculties.

We are in a camp so that the rules managing us, making for the efficient running of the camp, the country, and so on, are beyond us. We will have to put up with the reasons we are given knowing they are at least partially, if not wholly, untrue, for how things are run. We must endure being told what we know is untrue. While not believing it, we will not fully be able not to believe it. After all, it is we who are in the camp and that explains everything.

We may live and die without ever knowing anything but this. All the rest is subject to change at a moment’s notice, whether it is the truth of the matter or not and while such changes as do occur one moment, day, week or decade are readily deniable the next. No, it has always been like this. Yes, it has always never been otherwise.

The same applies to words: what meant one thing yesterday or last year means something else today and this year, as if it always did. If it means now the opposite to what it did is the same as if the meaning had only shifted by a shade, a fraction. This shift is not even to be accounted a process, it is, as Adler recognises, to do with the imposition of the amorphous.

H.G. Adler on Theresienstadt:*

Although I made an effort to write this book using an untainted German, because of the topic involved–an SS camp set up for Jewish inmates–the text came to reflect and was often subject to the general deterioration of language in the age of mechanical materialism, as well as, in particular, the amorphous, coerced language of the National Socialists and the colloquialisms and written language of Theresienstadt. But the demon that created this camp and left it to vegetate must, certainly, also be conquered linguistically. To show that a sound mind seeks to distance itself from amorphous words and phrases, which have been emptied of meaning, have been perverted to mean their opposite, or are simply wrong, I most often put such terms into quotation marks, even if I make frequent use of them. I purposely placed the glossary–which helps explain the nature of this “ghetto” and also demonstrates what components went into creating the camp’s language–at the beginning and not the end.

Experimentation and Destiny in History

In introducing his essay “Psychology of Life in Theresienstadt” (327), Emil Utz remarks that the camp was an “experiment” like no other, and other prisoners, too, could not avoid the feeling that they had been the objects of a monstrous experiment (91, p. 8a). But this expression should be used only with great caution. Every experiment is premised on conscious preparation and implementation. Yet this hardly was the case in National Socialist Germany, and particularly not in Theresienstadt. The SS leaders were, to be sure, imbued with a fantastical play instinct; they could also be curious and sometimes developed a bizarre love of systematic processes, but in the strict sense, they certainly were not experimenters. One must not be misled by the fact that the reality of the “ghetto” was the result of tendencies that developed into a caricature of a planned economy and thus forced human beings into a network of instructions and prohibitions, to the point that their natural independence virtually vanished and they took on the character of objects of decreed measures.

*from the preface to the first edition of his book, Theresienstadt, 1941-1945: The Face of a Coerced Community, Trans. Belinda Cooper, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017, xxiii, and the second excerpt from chapter 20, entitled “The Psychological Face of the Coerced Community,” 557.

Interesting this phrase Adler uses, mechanical materialism. As a rider on whether conscious agency engages in preparing the arbitrary experiments of our submission, we will say that such agency has been taken out of the hands of those who serve it, who serve in the experiment as the kapos and functionaries, whose governance engages the policies conducing to the experiment in its pursuance. So if we are in a camp it will be due to perfecting techniques that were already in play in Adler’s description–that is, the technical itself, the discourse of technology as a self-contained consciousness. The market after Hayek fulfils the role of the ‘brain.’ That is, it is the locus of rational decision-making preparing the experimentation to which, because in a camp, we submit. Here it is not a matter of our coercion but of our adoption into, as Adler writes, a network of instructions and prohibitions, to the point that our natural independence virtually vanishes and we take on the character of objects of decreed measures, otherwise known as data.

und jetzt das Lied zur Erde

and because minus theatre has not yet performed for the land: