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Creature, Trip–thanks to Z who played me this amazing album

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day 296 – 319 illogical imagery|of|nonconsecutive events

he wanted no part in the continuity

What I was experiencing was not déjà vu. Reality was repeating itself. This country moves through history too slowly for time to go forward, so it folds back on itself instead.

— Ahmet Altan, I Will Never See the World Again, Trans. Yasemin Çongar, 7.

a dinosaur in the holy sepulchre

cartoon in a classical landscape

“the affected part of people is the interesting side to me. It’s the real side of them that’s boring” — George Condo [from here]

…”I like what Miles [Davis] said, “Play what’s not there.” That’s why people like Rembrandt’s portraiture. He really painted what was not there. He used paint. That’s what painting is all about, discovering a way to paint because you love paint. I could roll myself in it, drink it, eat it and kill myself, suffocating in it. Some people hate paint and I understand that, too. I can understand people who claw through it, can’t get out of it, can’t put it away.”

— Ibid.

““This is a painting. It’s not a fake painting, it’s a painting from an imaginary character’s reality.” That’s why I work with a cast of characters, all created carefully. As each of them becomes real, so do their environments, their place of being. Sometimes, I think they even come from some imaginary character’s mind. (laughter)”

— Ibid.

“The sexual aspects of my women paintings … what are those?” … “From my point of view, they are used to enhance any sexual qualities that humanity may have left, not to diminish them. I try to make sexuality into something else, maybe it’s not what you’d want, because it can assume any form. And yet, it’s not repelling sexually. For example, the food chain could be an analogous subject. I’ve discussed this with Felix Guattari, he’s a good friend of mine. He deals with incredibly hard-core cases of schizophrenia. He does rip things apart, but not to degrade them.”

— Ibid. (Guattari and Condo lived in the same apartment building in Paris)

… “and I picked up this charcoal gray latex. I came home, put down the canvas, got out some scotch tape and put it on. I was just about to make this white line all the way down, I made the stroke and suddenly—the gray—when the light went on, the gray became a deep forest and the white became a streak of light that started to move between the pines. And it broke like a shimmering apparition. And then it paused, left a space, a black space and a charcoal gray space, and then it continued again. I looked at it. I went over and took some paper towel to scruffle the edges of each of the white lines. This painting had just become a shattered line, a line that could never be connected again. Barnett Newman could have done it. He did it. A lot of people did it. But there was no truth in it for me until that moment.”

— Ibid.

Condo’s interviewer, Anney Bonney, says: “How could God have created the universe if he’s everywhere? Where was there room for the universe? The answer is that God’s ability to withdraw allowed him to create the space for the world.”

— Ibid. and that ties in nicely with what David Chai has to say about meontology, for example here. … grounded in nothingness … the void. It’s a stage, really, isn’t it? A space where a cartoon figure walks into a classical landscape.

“What if you’re seeing a news broadcast, they just bombed the White House and in the middle of that you have little Miss Daisy doing her dishes …

This is the ideal psychological foreshortening we talked about earlier. This is not Cubism and walking around the canvas. This is Psychological Cubism.”

— Ibid.

“The future of painting is to be determined at the moment when the fuse of the present is ignited, a fuse lit many years before in some forgotten cave by primitive man as he etched out what came to be the future. That is and will always be how man perceives his own reality. Reality, which, since its initial definition as the world which exists external to us, independent of our perception, is now comprised of artificial components. Thus bringing the lexicon of art and reality together to create what I have arrived at and call artificial realism.

— George Condo, quoted at Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, 2015, p. 53. And this segues, without transition, or is psychologically foreshortened into what I’ve been thinking with regard to David Abram’s work on pre-alphabetic, nonliterate cultures and their relationship to the land and landscape. Alphabetic literate cultures have a corresponding orientation towards and in a topography of logos, a symbolic landscape, and a literature, so long as we think of literature as being composed, as Foucault seems to say, Deleuze’s archivist, of statements. Proximities and distances are measured according to statements, so that what I say can be a cartoon in a classical literary landscape.

Antipodal Being (1996)

Another thing Condo is great on is the little fractal beings, our antipodes, as antipodeans:

First Huxley, to situate Condo’s statement:

“Like the earth of a hundred years ago, our mind still has its darkest Africas, its unmapped Borneos and Amazonian Basins … The self-luminous objects which we see in the mind’s antipodes possess a meaning, and this meaning is, in some sort, as intense as their colour. Significance here is identical with being; for, at the mind’s antipodes, objects do not stand for anything but themselves.” [from Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, 1963]

“Thousands of miles across the earth primitive man [again!] experiences identical encounters with the antipodal self. As did Leonardo da Vinci many years later: his laughing maniacs were merely Pods admitting they exist–humiliating Leonardo… Forcing him into an anatomical safari to hunt them down. His enemy was not himself but the army of antipodal beings lodging in microscopic camps nested in his own body.” …

And further:

“The visionary taps into the periphery. Within the periphery of our consciousness there exists an entire species of beings that are subject to the artist’s description. Guston described them his way, Bruegel described them his way, and I describe them my way. They are basically out there in the bleachers, cheering; they’re driving forklifts; they organizing the molecules that make us work as humans, yet they live a life totally independent to ours.”

–at ibid., pp. 77-78

“If the art was good enough, I tried to destroy it. You have to be severe with art, because you don’t want to be a slave to it. Why would Picasso take David’s painting of the Sabine Women and tear it apart? Because that’s what you do. If you don’t love it enough, you walk away.”

“the realistic representation of that which is artificial.” Artificial Realism. Or, Irrealism.

— from here.

“In effect, the novels are a prelude, the stories an aftermath, each gesturing urgently at the scale of the biographical explosion that must lie in between.”

— from a review of Bolaño’s Cowboy Graves, here

… I have been thinking about what it might mean to be rejected from one’s autobiography … or memoir.

… “the loss of youth inscribing a larger loss of historical possibility, in an elegy for a future that never came to be.”

— Ibid.

“But at least inside the fiction, the possibility of” … we are conducting more tests to exclude possibilities… [change, of] “poetry, isn’t lost for good — just gone underground, like Bolaño”… whose poetry, we remember, in Hemingway’s words, sits in front of a typewriter and bleeds… as if his prose did not.

if one is rejected by the memoir one is writing, is the Mythic World then disturbed? is it, as a Terry Brooks title has it, put up for sale?

necessarily a fire sale… then isn’t this what the memoir is?

the memoirist fleeing the fire?

this would indicate that “The living are only a species of the dead, and a rare species at that.” — Nietzsche, quoted here

that one had died

from the New Yorker ‘user’s guide’ to the Bolaño ‘labyrinth,’ explosively centred, cited above:

“Avoid “2666” for as long as possible, and for heaven’s sake, don’t start with it. The book is a desert of negative space across which the panting reader will search in vain for the traditional pleasures of the novel: form, character, coherence, meaning.”

here

“It’s strange how the event one remembers attaches itself to the moments surrounding it, which without it would have been lost, since they don’t contain anything memorable. Yet those are the moments we live our lives in, while those we remember, which we construct our identities around, are often the exceptions.”

— Karl Ove Knausgård, Inadvertent, Trans. Ingvild Burkey, 2017, p. 19. …in other words: we are the exception to our own memoir.

“This was what I had been longing for. This was writing. To lose sight of yourself, and yet to use yourself, or that part of yourself that was beyond the control of your ego. And then to see something foreign appear on the page in front of you. Thoughts you had never had before, images you had never seen. It was the form that created them, for if what I put into the writing was my own and familiar to me, the form changed it, and that change demanded that I put something else into it, which in turn was transformed, so that even without moving I was moving away from myself.”

— Ibid., p. 81

…”annexed by the other.”

— Ibid.

…”Turgenev’s characters and descriptions don’t lead to anything beyond themselves, they are not part of a larger chain of events, and they stand open to everything–except the moment and the place. And that moment and place are the locus of our experience of the world.”

— Ibid., pp. 89-90

…”after ten years of trying and failing, I one day wrote a few pages about something that had happened to me, and which I felt so ashamed about that I had never told it to a single person, and did so in my own name, I didn’t know why I was doing it, and I didn’t at first see any connection with the novel I was trying to write, it was just something I did. I sent it to my editor, he called it “manically confessional,” and I got the impression that he was taken aback, for it was pretty intense, and in literary terms rather poor. But it had something, both he and I could see that.

“What was it?

…”freedom.”

— Ibid., pp. 91-92

…”the remnants of Marx no longer form any logical system of ideas, but only a series of suggestive images and slogans (a smiling worker with a hammer, black, white, and yellow men fraternally holding hands, the dove of peace rising to the sky, and so on and so on), we can rightfully talk of a gradual, general, planetary transformation of ideology into imagology.”

— Milan Kundera, Immortality, Trans. Peter Kussi, 1999, p. 118

“Their vocabulary is limited to fewer than fifty words, and their sentences mustn’t contain more than four words each. Their speech is a combination of three technical terms I don’t understand and of one or two breathtakingly banal ideas. These people aren’t ashamed of being themselves and haven’t the slightest inferiority complex. And that is precisely the proof of their power.”

.”I’d be willing, when it comes to it, to give in to those cretins and change the weather reports into a dialogue between clowns”… and the news too, if I worked for the New Zealand media.

— Ibid., pp. 122-123

…”in all languages derived from Latin, the word ‘reason’ (ratio, raison, ragione) has a double meaning: first, it designates the ability to think, and only second, the cause. Therefore reason in the sense of a cause is always understood as something rational. A reason the rationality of which is not transparent would seem to be incapable of causing an effect. But in German, a reason in the sense of a cause is called Grund, a word having nothing to do with the Latin ratio and originally meaning ‘soil’ and later ‘basis.’ From the viewpoint of the Latin ratio, the girl’s behavior, sitting down on the highway, [waiting to be run over] seems absurd, inappropriate, irrational, and yet it has its reason, its basis, its ground, Grund. Such a Grund is inscribed deep in all of us, it is the ever-present cause of our actions, it is the soil from which our fate grows. I am trying to grasp the Grund hidden at the bottom of each of my characters, and I am convinced more and more that it has the nature of a metaphor.”

“Your idea escapes me” …

“Too bad. It is the most important thought that ever occurred to me.”

— Ibid., p. 243. But is this really so? Is it not the other way around? Isn’t the ground of every metaphor a character?

…”Laura swam the crawl, clumsily but all the more passionately and with a sort of anger.

“It seemed to me that each stroke was falling on Paul’s head like successive years: his face was visibly ageing before our eyes. Already he was seventy and a moment later eighty, and still he stood there holding his glass in front of him as if he wished to stop the avalanche of years hurtling toward him. “I recall a famous phrase from my youth,” he said in a voice that suddenly lost all of its resonance: “Woman is the future of man. Who actually said that? I forget. Lenin? Kennedy? No, no. It was some poet.”

“Aragon”…

… “What does that mean, woman is the future of man? That men will turn into women? I don’t understand that stupid phrase!”

“Literature will die out, and stupid poetic phrases will remain to drift over the world”…

— Ibid., pp. 350-351. Just like the characters, ideas, images they are. Over a world that is nothingness, the nothingness that is their root cause, soil, generative, reason and ground.

If we think of ratio in terms of measure, we can see that effects are measured against their causes. And rated. For something, some event, to be significant, to be worth talking about, is for it to have significant effects, perhaps even far-reaching effects.

For Raymond Ruyer, writing his metaphysics of biology, in biology it is entirely a different case that causes should cause proportionate effects. It is the opposite: the first cell stimulated into division will have the effect of giving rise to a form completely out of proportion to the original stimulus and incommensurate with it.

No matter how many environmental, genetic stimuli are present, as causes, these are insufficient to have the consequence of effecting, in all its complexity of form, the human nervous system. This form is against all reason.

Liu Yong, 柳永, 987–1053, poet of the Song Dynasty, died an ‘ignominious death’ with noone but a poor prostitute to mourn him, and the principal character of Qiu Xiaolong’s detective novels asks himself if he is so different? What is he good for, in a materialist society? the author of a few sentimental songs.

Where shall I find myself

Tonight waking from the hangover--

The riverbank lined with weeping willows,

The moon sinking, the dawn rising on a breeze.

Year after year, I will be far,

Far away from you.

All the beautiful scenes are unfolding,

But to no avail:

Oh, to whom can I speak 

Of this ever enchanting landscape?

— at Qiu Xiaolong, Death of a Red Heroine, 2000, p. 348

“It is not people that make interpretations, but interpretations that make people.”

— Ibid., p. 457. The actions we make are interpreted by others and, no matter what we say, we cannot change others’ views of what we have done, of what we do, or of what we will do. This against Kundera’s character, narrator of Immortality, who finds the essence of a character in the metaphor that nails him or her.

“They should be able to live in the world of their own discourse, not just in other people’s interpretations.”

— Ibid., p. 462

hoju – void element in Japanese sotoba

Perhaps the Quixotic can be accurately defined as the literary mode of an absolute reality, not as impossible dream but rather as a persuasive awakening into mortality.

— Bloom on Cervantes (Edith Grossman’s translation of Quixote) (here)

In consuming internet porn–as everyone here does some way or another–we observe and feed into this [algorithmic—for which Galera uses the brilliant example of Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom] logic’s production of the erotic. And yet, this same logic extends to all fields of human experience. We also apply it to our own genetic material, to the succession of fad diets and our behavior as spectators and readers, our sleep and work routines, our concepts of happiness. We apply it to scientific research, dating apps, or those apps that count a users’ steps and heartbeats. We’re talking about the absolute quantification of existence. We’re talking about digitalizing every cultural manifestation imaginable. We treat all our free-world desires in the same way that de Sade, confined between the stone walls of a cell deep inside a castle, treated them.
— Daniel Galera, Twenty After Midnight. Translated by Julia Sanches. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2020. Original work published as Meia-noite e vinte, 2016. p. 84.

Writer Angélica Gorodischer on the situation in Argentina under conditions of monetary devaluation and public debt, where there is no arts policy, there are no official cultural policies, no funding for the arts and those who would support, sponsor and back the arts, not only have no incentive but have no money to do so in 20 questions to Angélica Gorodischer … then, given the dissimilarities, why do I relate to it…?

… they have stolen everything from us — our money, our future, public education, work, everything except culture. And they can’t steal this from us because it doesn’t interest them. And it doesn’t interest them because they don’t understand what it’s about. But we, those of us who write or paint or sculpt or make movies, this is something that we do understand.

what this recalls, this failure to understand, this success of the arts in slipping free of official understanding, is the Wallfacer Project in Cixin Liu's Three-Body Problem (see here).

thanks, Z.

art expresses nonhuman species

isn’t pigment at base a mineral so that painting involves a becoming-mineral?

meaning, we have to include in species anorganic species

also, I would replace the notion of becoming: art–the hallucination of what it is not to be human. i.e. it shows the dream that human being is. Showing it for the dream it is. Both psychic and social.

— Why is it a certain kind of love brings out our worst selves?

— That’s the real one does that.

— Jenni Fagan, Luckenbooth, (London, UK: Heinemann, 2021), 21.

I have a … well, this book moved me towards a feeling of impending doom, by reminding me principally of the miners’ strikes when Thatcher was crushing the Trade Unions and of the hope that flowered briefly at Tiananmen…

…and that now is crushed.

Is being crushed, with the right to protest.

Nothing is being done to help humanity. Not even any self-help efforts are any use. Humanity is named shamed and blamed for the despoliation of the planet. Kill it, they say. Those that will survive the arrogation to the market of political will and decision-making because they are rich and powerful. Kill it.

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Goodbye, Peter

                 My own songs awaked from that hour

 our families were very close

                 You know his voice

 but you think of him saying other people’s words

                  and you think of pronunciation

 when words are words. I have kept embers of that time

                  Have asked the wind to blow on them.

 Not in Wellington. Surprise, his eyebrows almost shot out of his head

                  to find me with my own beard.

                              I was a child who said surprising things

 which he saw through. Perhaps the wind will not come,

                   the voice is gone. I was not so golden

 in his regard. He laughed. Had a pipe. The time, the Whole

                   Earth Catalogue and Little Red Schoolbook,

 of cultural answers to political questions, was rather beginning

                   than drawing to a close. And the pipe had to go.

 Not the pipes. But certain words. Socialism. Egalitarian society.

                   Socialist utopia. I heard him say too soon to say

 in the brief gold sunrise before, presage to the coming age, when

                   If we speak kiwi, if we do, then, she’ll be right.

                               But I would stay up precociously late

 to hear, bear out the heaviness, of any argument again, about

                  the human element, its burden to government,

                               when we cast our vote by machine,

 when we do. Again have my first glass of cherry brandy, hear

                  on your headphones Switched-On Bach and

                              and hear, His mind is blowing!

 Who is here to see through me if I should presume to say he was

                   an actor unlike any other I knew and how he

                              was, he was my father’s friend, how

 like no other, again, you hear the voice and not the words,

                    what are words? not the song, and if I

                              pronounce he spoke with his fragility

 and his intelligence, how should I presume? without gesture, without

                     face, with the presence of his body.

                              Seat, self-

 aware, and self directed, as my father knew,

                      knew him, vulnerable seat, of his working mind.

                              His angles graceful

 elegant songs. A photo of him like this, in State of the Play

                      resting his elbows, on the side of the stage,

                              the classroom. So the older writer I knew him as,

 awaked my own songs at that hour. With an irony

                      hurt by its own distance

                              by laughter overcoming it. And I have at home

 A Choice of Whitman’s Verse, ten years after their wedding, I

                       remember. That day, Farm Road.

                              And in it, written in the front cover, is

 Simon. and a choice for a young poet, with

                       regards from Peter & Sue V.J,

                              christmas 1980. I don’t know how they

 thought of me. Did they consider the first line for Peter

                        of this song would be from there?

                              Consider at that time I was reading

 Jean-Paul Sartre, I awaked precociously late

                        with only embers, hoping for the wind

                              which changes direction frequently

 on these islands, to the hour of the gifts they gave,

                        in that generous brief and golden sunrise.

 That I was not golden in his regard. You see how he saw

                         through me? to my youth, a child of Whitman’s

                              who stayed young for you and sings

 and shares, with that poet forever youthful, his birthday.

                         At Rotoiti, we liked to pronounce it, aping the

                              accent of the well-to-dos, as leak,

 Another photo. This time, taken by Peter. I am on the jetty.

                        My younger brother is there beside me.

                              News of his birth came

 when I was in the bath at Peter and Sue’s. My parents’

                        game, If you had other parents who

                              would they be? So there I was.

 In Peter’s black-and-white photo I had freckles, a soft brim

                         hat, old clothes, a trenchcoat and belt,

                              gumboots. With perhaps no intelligence

 at all, but thoughtful, and no intelligence of what,

                         I am looking into the grain of the photo,

 the water and the mist, it is agreed that

                         it is of Christopher Robin, so it is.

 So it is Christopher Robin

                         who says,

                              Goodbye, Peter.













 [for Peter Vere-Jones,

  21 October 1939 – 26 January 2021,

  by Simon Taylor, 14 February 2021]
 

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day 203 – 231 … Children, Go On Strike!

at 9:16 am on 16 November 2020, M. John Harrison wrote on Twttr:

Complexity, weirdness, characterisations like little stained glass sideshows. Characters do things because they want to. Equally, the text shows you something because it wants to. I see a book controlled by its own mood swings and emotional surfaces. But then I always do.

Today I’ve been writing about hikikomori and the cynicism–without experiencing it–of the answer to this ‘social problem’: restating the social imperative–to participate, engage, make contact, connect–that led to their being shut-in; as if in the great transparent snowglobe or bubble of communications’ technology–aka affective data industries.

The smartest people I knew at school lost their brains when they reached puberty. What is intelligence in children?

What is intelligence to children?

How do children understand intelligence?

Andrés Barba’s novels, The Luminous Republic (2020 in translation from Spanish to English), and Such Small Hands (2008 in translation), give an idea of an intelligence belonging to children. Here children are not captured in or at some kind of developmental state or stage. Neither is there moralising about the capacity to form judgements, the judgement-forming faculty belonging to morality, that children are said not to have acquired; nor in these books do we see an emotional view–in the image of which children’s inner emotional lives create their worlds: no magicking and no sciencing.

The intelligence of children is shown to be that of reason, of a reason unencumbered by … a hesitation here: is it experience of which children’s use of reason is unencumbered? is it judgement? or the judgements of others of which children’s reason is free? … No.

I would say that children’s use of reason is free because it is free of play, unencumbered by play–or free of a freedom with conditions. It is free of the kind of freedom that comes with conditions, the conditions that play has, where you might say to me, You’re not playing any more!

Children’s use of reason does not have parameters within which it has play. The reason of children is free of the parameters of play, unencumbered by the conditions experience of others–the word of others–might impose.

Where did I read that children’s perception of the world was close to that of schizophrenics?

Deleuze writes in The Logic of Sense that we have to take care not to mix metaphors, to go from the series of children, poets, to madmen, madwomen. He cites the example of Artaud against Carroll.

And it would be possible to go in the opposite direction to a similar effect and similarly to err. To go from the pure reason of children, via the application of pure reason in the adult world, that is, science, to the madness of things like human instrumentality or holocaust. The madness of the human object.

According to this second madness that is a surfeit of reason, what is in reason would be insensitive. It would lack empathy. Its very neutrality and purity would have become its liability.

Children lack emotional maturity–a phrase that has evolved with a hole at each end. One end eats what the other shits. What one end eats the other shits.

The automaton-like reason of children. Yes, this only goes so far to explaining it. What it lacks is not emotional experience, the experience of consequence. It lacks system.

And the lack of system of the use of reason in children is the same as that lack of system Kundera finds–and I suspect Deleuze finds–to be characteristic of Nietzsche. Nietzsche lampoons the savants for their system. Kundera places this ‘freeing from system of philosophy’ in apposition with ‘freeing from form (the rigidity of the sonata in particular)’ characteristic of Beethoven, the winning of new freedoms … that can be referred to the problem facing any artist, which has to be answered each time anew–I can’t think of a better word, although I don’t like it, neither anew nor afresh. This problem can be usefully compared with what Julio Ramón Ribeyro (whom I talk about further and cite a reference for below) says about the novel: “For some time now, French novels have been written by professors for professors. [The citation of Ribeyro below might shed light on why it is French novelists.] The French novelist today is a gentleman who has nothing to say about the world, but very much to say about the novel.” And, “Each new writer cross-checks his work with that of the writers who came before, not with the world. In this way we reach rarification in the novel’s material, which could be confused with esotericism.” New writers, Zambra [another novelist, cited below] writes that Ribeyro writes, “try to make of their work not the personal reflection of reality, but rather the personal reflection of other reflections.” [see xv in the work cited below]

Deleuze and Guattari say of Nietzsche’s aphorisms–and speak in a similar way of Kafka’s researches–that they must be plugged into the world. That is, they came from the world. Not its reflection. Not in esoteric abstraction from it. Not trying to curry favour with the taste-judges of today on Instagram. And are not founded, therefore, in emotional maturity, that maturely sets its own expectations of consequence. Ambition.

The reason of children is free of system.

This the works of Andrés Barba show.

Speaking before–although whether this is in the sense of ‘in front of’ in spatial or temporal terms is uncertain*–the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord, Greta Thunberg said “there was a state of complete denial when it came to the immediate action needed, with leaders giving only distant promises and empty words.” The same Guardian article [here] reminds us of her solo school strike that “snowballed into a global youth movement” (strange choice, snowballed).

More effective than going on strike from school might be following Greta Thunberg’s example and going on strike from being children.

What if all the children of the world walked out on their parents, their caregivers, accusing them of the grossest incompetence?–bearing them into a world for the calamity facing which they, the adults, take no responsibility–proclaiming their care, their love, for children equates with setting them into a situation which they, the children, are helpless to reverse or stop–by making children, parents, grownups, are, in fact, making them children, that is, helpless!

So they should quit.

So, they leave being children from henceforth to the adults.

We have seen that most of the adults who wield real power are in fact children.

Children, walk out! Go on strike!

Walk out on your own heavy responsibility of being helpless!

Emotionally immature? Not at all!

You have reason! And reason gives you the reason to act!

In other words, stop performing as children. You don’t even get paid!

Take control!

Sieze it!

… Or,

Steal it!

*[it’s not in fact uncertain. The UN-led summit on climate change has been … postponed. A one-day online summit replaces it. One day! Ridiculous when students are paying to attend classes day after day online.]

{also, see here for a nice summary timeline naming climate change milestones … or nails in the coffin … or just stages in the snowball picking up speed …}


“A man should neither conceal nor misrepresent the facts concerning the way in which he conceived his thoughts. The deepest and most inexhaustible books will certainly always have something of the aphoristic and impetuous character of Pascal’s Pensées.” — Nietzsche, The Will to Power: An Attempted Transvaluation of All Values, Trans. Anthony M. Ludovici, available online here, section 424 p. 342

Considering its source, in the volume The Will to Power, selected from the notebooks by his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, wife of Bernard Förster, whose antisemitism she endorsed, the original German source of the foregoing in the Nachlaß eludes me.

Nietzsche’s strongest statement of affinity with Pascal is cited with approval by Kundera in Testaments Betrayed, the first section of Part Six, “Works and Spiders” which I quote in full:

“I think.” Nietzsche cast doubt on this assertion dictated by a grammatical convention that every verb must have a subject. Actually, said he, “a thought comes when ‘it’ wants to, and not when ‘I’ want it to; so that it is falsifying the fact to say that the subject ‘I’ is necessary to the verb ‘think.'” A thought, comes to the philosopher “from outside, from above or below, like events or thunderbolts heading for him.” It comes in a rush. For Nietzsche loves “a bold and exuberant intellectuality that runs presto,” and he makes fun of the savants for whom thought seems “a slow, halting activity, something like drudgery, often enough worth the sweat of the hero-savants, but nothing like that light, divine thing that is such close kin to dance and to high-spirited gaiety.”

“Elsewhere Nietzsche writes that the; philosopher “must not, through some false arrangement of deduction and dialectic, falsify the things and the ideas he arrived at by another route…. We should neither conceal nor corrupt the actual way our thoughts come to us. The most profound and inexhaustible books will surely always have something of the aphoristic, abrupt quality of Pascal’s Pensées.”

“We should not “corrupt the actual way our thoughts come to us”: I find this injunction remarkable; and I notice that, beginning with The Dawn, all the chapters in all his books are written in a single paragraph: this is so that a thought should be uttered in one single breath; so that it should be caught the way it appeared as it sped toward the philosopher, swift and dancing.”

Nietzsche to his sister on the subject of her–it can be assumed?–future husband:

“It is a matter of honor to me to be absolutely clean and unequivocal regarding anti-Semitism, namely opposed, as I am in my writings… I have been persecuted [pursued; verfolgt?] in recent times with letters and Anti-Semitic Correspondence sheets; my disgust with this party … is as outspoken as possible, but the relation to Förster, as well as the after-effect of my former anti-Semitic publisher Schmeitzner, always bring the adherents of this disagreeable party back to the idea that I must after all belong to them…” – from here

apologia pro vita sua

“It’s not uncommon for music superstars, after decades atop their scenes, to try to demonstrate fluency in the music of prior generations to bolster their claims to contemporary authority.” — Jon Caramanica on Bad Bunny, NY Times, 2.12.2020

sadopopulism:

“Permitting either the State or the individual to use murder as part of a political or ethical process forecloses any hope of partaking in a legitimate future. It is like the vengeful Marquis de Sade who, locked in his prison cell, dreamed of a twisted oligarchy that sustains itself through the murderous consumption of everything other than itself. However, the killers are unable to escape the very logic of their system, and they inevitably fall victim to the violent energies they have been fueling.”

— Joseph McClellan, Michel Onfray’s translator, on Camus (in The Translator’s Introduction, A Hedonist Manifesto: The Power to Exist, Trans. Joseph McClellan, (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2015), xi-xxxviii, xvi)

These themes meet in the shared theme of brutality, a subject on which the following sheds some light:

William-Davies-The-New-Neoliberalism-NLR-101-September-October-2016

“What mysterious alchemy vaults people who were largely ignored, or at least by their own lights insufficiently valued, in their own time to this privileged niche in the imagination of their posterity is never fully explainable and is not to be confused with reputation in the conventional sense. … Musing on one of these cult people, their admirers often exclaim, “’ink what she would have accomplished had she lived.” — from here

ink what?

from the same: “In the early 1950s in Cambridge, Massachusetts, [Susan] Taubes and her then husband, the rabbi and philosopher of ideas Jacob Taubes, were the closest friends of my parents, Susan Sontag and Philip Rieff. … It was left to my mother to identify [Susan Taubes’s] body. Much later, she told me: ‘I will never forgive her . . . and never recover from what she did.'”

..

.

In literary land this week: the Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been cancelled, Roald Dahl’s family has apologized for his anti-Semitism, and John Freeman has been named Knopf’s new Executive Editor. — from lithub book marks bulletin 12/11

“Ribeyro’s face is that of a law student who had contempt for the legal profession, or a Lima native who wanted to live in Madrid, who in Madrid dreamed of Paris, in Paris longed for Madrid, and so on, chasing grants and lovers, and especially in search of time to waste writing, in the solitude of Munich, or Berlin, or Paris, again, for a long stay.”

— Alejandro Zambra, in his introduction (“Ribeyro in His Web”), to Julio Ramón Ribeyro’s The Word of the Speechless [which might have been better mute, closer to the Spanish: La palabra del mudo], Trans. & Ed. Katherine Silver, (New York, NY: NYRB, 2019), vii-xvi, vii.

Ribeyro called the diary he wrote, which spans four decades (“Even in the most confessional pages of his diary, an impersonal mood persists,” writes Zambra, “that keeps him safe from exhibitionism or anecdotalism.”

(“Ribeyro writes to live,” he continues, “not to demonstrate that he has lived.”

(“A fragment from 1977 is, in this sense, revealing: ‘A true work must start from the oblivion or destruction (transformation) of the writer’s very self. The great writer is not one who truthfully, in detail and intensely, describes his existence, but one who becomes the filter, the weave, through which reality passes and is transfigured.'” [Ibid. viii]) La tentación del fracaso.

The Temptation of Failure.

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day 188 – 202: Joe Biden’s true identity revealed

One of Our New Allies, Japan, c.1901-02

by Australian artist: Mortimer L. Menpes, courtesy John M. Harrison.

Таисия Ювелева writes, my humour is the best and I am strongest of all. Then: “I am Tara I create account wiht my amazing photos. I will waiting youth messages”

you could look at the recent democratic referenda–you might not want to but you could–as not at all being about what they were purported to be:

one was for the market;

two was for medical science.

two might have been objected to on the basis that support for euthanasia desacralises life, but in fact the sanctity that life has is returned to it with the illegible signature of medical authority, like on a prescription.

the power of life and death–there’s to be a law written about it, but it is not in the law’s name, or for the sake of any legal principle, except that medical science can be believed properly to respect a will to die. Now I understand for the religious veto on suicide or otherwise taking a life, abortion as well, to be removed is a good thing. But …

several beers into a new acquaintance I made an argument in favour of having the courage to throw oneself out of a window before the medical authorities got hold of one. Better to die on the streets of Hong Kong, of any great city, than in a hospital bed…

I supported my argument with the case of my father and the medical professional’s insistence that their drugs had not–because no clinical trial had shown them to have–passed over the blood brain barrier.

What a phrase!

My dad could not have been hallucinating on haloperidol, or the mixture of it and the wonderfully named Effexor and others … Doctors said he was not.

you want to trust them when it’s time?

not that they … would get it wrong. But that it–that death–would be to their standards, according to their understanding, when they have not understood life.

one is obvious: the market is a better arbiter and a fairer one when it comes to the disproportion in the numbers of brown people done for possession as compared to white: … again it’s not that it wouldn’t be fairer, better to let the market decide, but in that arbitration who is going to be the winner? the consumer, or the supplier? … Price will be the winner on the day.

there was an old man called … Trump again-again or Joe Bideninnen …

… there’s only one thing worse than not being accepted, being undesirable … not even worth exploiting, subordinate …

: perhaps this is the rule of subordination at work in sadopopulism … there’s only one thing worse than being exploited, not being accepted even for that, being excluded;

and this would be the rule decreeing that any blame and resentment is passed on down the line, collecting interest as it goes ever downward. A snowball of hell.

Sadopopulism is not answered by a masochism but as we know from the triad of perp, victim, witness, the victim becomes the next perp…

and then it was done. And Humpty Trumpty kept sitting in his white house behind his wall or fence and all the new king’s horses and all of his men could not put America back together again.

time for a song

President Elect Joe Biden in … his early pilot TV show (he had one too, just like his predecessor):

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days following, 105-143

I just watched Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz. More frightening, I just watched a plane disappear above the clouds.

The advice is insistent on how to deal with COVID. From the Stoics. It is part of the general onslaught, a how to of personal reconciliation that would be worthless were it not for the Romantic and soteriological tradition of personal salvation. (That would be the Romantic tradition of nationalist salvation and the soteriological tradition of personal salvation.) For example, suicide and the idea of a personal death. See Schopenhauer.

The two, nationalist and personal, are combined in the idea of Brexit:

Here is a snapshot of nationalist culture in auto-affectionate self-parody. And here is a portrait of Schopenhauer with his poodle.

painting inside my skull

it might be useful to think of it shaped like a donut.

and be not conformed to this world

— thanks Isaias Braga

“It was bad back then; society was diseased.”

— writes Julianna Baggott, Pure, (London, UK: Headline, 2012), 63.

“[He] imagines that this isn’t real, that, instead, it’s just some elaborate reenactment of destruction, not the actual destruction itself.

“He remembers once being in a museum … Each display was dedicated to a theme: before the impressive prison system was built, before difficult children were properly medicated, when feminism didn’t encourage femininity, when the media were hostile to government instead of working toward a greater good, before people with dangerous ideas were properly identified, back when government had to ask permission to protect its good citizens from the evils of the world and from the evils among us, before the gates had gone up around neighborhoods with buzzer systems and friendly men at gatehouses who knew everyone by name.”

— Ibid., 236.

“My body is the truth. It’s history.”

— Ibid. 413.

Notes, you might say. But don’t you think we are no longer free to float happily with fragments?

No need.

Yet the demand is more imposing than ever personally to reconcile the contradictions, that are quite public, evident in our political lives.

I would say that our political lives impose but that they are equally irreconcilable for being mutually incompatible, a clamping down here with a liberalisation there, liberalisation of cannabis or euthanasia laws with mandatory mask-wearing and the possibility of mass vaccination being mandatory as well.

The rift is not between the public and the private, making one irreconcilable to the other. It is a general crazing of the public to which the private is not equal, is not enough crazy.

There is no point of view given by state mandate but the mad movement of a conflicting polity, so that any attempt personally to reconcile oneself to it can only end in disaster.

Or in the absurdity of believing a conspiracy is behind it.

As we used to say, undercover of human malice or stupidity, the conspiracy of confusion and disinformation serving political ends–but this time, unpoliticisable, irrecuperable to any recognisable political viewpoint, ends set for self-destruct.

And yet, are we happy to be getting on with the craze of fragments?

There seems to be something like an expectation we ought to be able to understand we take on; we should be able to make sense and reconcile for ourselves the competing interests the results of which we can only anathematise.

That is we cannot undo them.

Cannot analyse them.

Slippery as,

So neonatology as well as neontology concern the study of neons.

— at the antilockdown rally aotea sq. 4.9.2020,
courtesy Simon Wilson
(note cap)

One sometimes thinks that for a voyage to the depths of the human soul one needs a powerful submarine, and in the end is surprised to find oneself in a wetsuit trying to sink into a standard household bathtub.

— Andrés Barba, A Luminous Republic, Trans. Lisa Dillman, (New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2020), 11.

…the demands of international treaties trumped by nationalist interests…

…but also the ramifying in the nationalist arena of conflicting global interests…

It is worth restating these are not macro interests, rather a micro fragmenting … and this bespeaks a kind of vulnerability to the broader strokes–hammer blows–of which the Left seems to have become wary.

Given that you are a force of opposition, what do you want?

Calming devices used to be those narrow perspex boxes in which you could see and witness particulate sorting processes. Sometimes with oil.

Then diving you see a skate, a ray, shake off the sand in which it is camouflaged, and the sand settle.

…it settles without you doing a thing.

This is what you are watching slowly coming down–the pretence is that it happens quickly.

The pretence is that it can–that it can operate by some human, humanly imposed scale of time, of time reduced to the technologically available advanced scale of minute increments speeding past, speeding into the past under what Virilio calls dromological pressure. Speeding into the future. This is what you get speeding into the future.

This is what you get, I have been writing in my other writing: it is not speed except that it is communicable and the speed is of the communication. Which makes a joke of communication.

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day 74 – day 87 of the world winding up business

“When times are hard, like they are now, what’s the use of knowing stuff?”

— the end of Cixin Liu’s Of Ants and Dinosaurs (Trans. Elizabeth Hanlon, (London, UK: Head of Zeus, 2020), 248).

OPERATION LEGEND: “a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime.”

MEETS

Wall of Moms

Portland

…although involuntary hospitalisation and treatment is deemed to violate an individual’s civil rights in the US, running for president would seem to meet the conditions of posing a danger either to themselves or others in order to be held for evaluation…

“Police said they have recovered 420 bodies from streets, vehicles and homes in [Bolivia’s] capital of La Paz, and in [its] biggest city, Santa Cruz, in the span of five days. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of them are believed to have had the virus.” — from here.

…winding up business:

For those who might have thought a drug to treat COVID-19 might have a value beyond measure, no. That its value is capable of measure is a measure of its value.

COVID-19 presents–and is presented by the Guardian article breaking news of the breakthrough–an unprecedented (the article says there ought to be a stronger word) opportunity … to make money.

This is not turning others suffering into profit, profiting off others’ suffering, as the soul is said to off the body, as the body is said to turn the soul’s suffering to its own profit, but a profitable speculation on turning the suffering of others around, profiting off the prospect of the positive outcome of their future health.

You can read it for yourself and make sense of what kind of breakthrough is being celebrated here.

Have you been wondering about representation? American critics have been pointing out the debt–suppressed–still owing–20th century dance in the West owes to Africa, and in America, black dancers.

This is not any kind of reciprocation, payment or token but look at Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring being prepared for a tour that with COVID-19 didn’t happen:

Evening. I have been reading about von Zemlinsky in a poem by John Ash. The first part dwells on or in this word evening in English, German and Turkish. Ash has adopted Istanbul as his home city. I wonder how he feels about the Hagia Sophia, about Erdoğan leading the first prayers–at least in the front row of bent over figures, for the camera op–since it has become a mosque and is no longer a museum. Did I imagine him wearing a mask? Erdoğan that is.

What does it mean for the Hagia Sophia to become a mosque? has it reverted to being a mosque? is this a reversion or is this progress? and if progress to what far horizon are we bound? and we might even ask so literally.

I have been following Tim Mackintosh-Smith in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta. He stops in Turkey, second leg of the journey, in three episodes [1, 2, 3]. The Hagia Sophia is a place when our documentarian visits that epitomises the interpenetration of Christianity and Islam in its architecture–high above the heads of those bowed in prayer now, are images, not so much graven as mosaic, Christian icons.

Strange to have seen that the Hagia Sophia twice in very different circumstances so recently.

Von Zemlinsky is yet to reappear. Or perhaps he has pre-appeared.

Besotted with the Alma who wed Mahler and on Mahler’s death married Gropius, of Bauhaus–of the building, incidentally we used regularly to visit of an evening in Berlin, evenings spent following the Wall in its nearby span through our neighbourhood of Kreuzberg–he, von Zemlinsky, held himself to be so ugly he could not bear the sight of himself. A dwarf. And writes Ash, how many of these giants of the Western musical canon were short: Berg towered over most of them. Stravinsky. Mahler himself. Schönberg. Von Zemlinsky, the dwarf.

Where would he have pre-appeared but in the poetry of Bolaño? where there’s always a dwarf, and a hunchback, like he inhabits a Tom Waits song.

There exist slow-acting déjà vu. Perhaps I am yet to hear von Zemlinsky’s 4th Quartet, to have tears–what does Ash say?–dashing from my eyes? Unless I … and haven’t we all imagined we would sooner or later meet this criterion … have not the heart, not the sensitivity, cannot feel, do not understand the musical language, have lost the sense of its symbolic relatability? have been rendered with the rest of these generations who are now living deaf to it? We might not be falling into hyperbole to ask whether this is not a deafness or an intellectual dwarfism, a dullness that afflicts the whole of our civilization. And what would it mean if it did?

My friend–long distance–by email–but I hope she does not mind that I name her as a friend–Aliette Guibert-Certhoux liked to say we have lost in the West a common symbolic frame of reference–we have lost the Symbolic. She includes among her own friends Guy Debord and Baudrillard.

She wrote very movingly on the death of Baudrillard he was a favourite of the nurses, the old … I was about to write roué, and, as I am lacking acute accents within easy reach, I looked up the word. We know that a roue is a wheel. What roué refers to is the wheel which would be the punishment for a debauchee, for all those litanised by the #metoos: he would be broken on a wheel.

Does this make any sense?

The wheel. The Wall of Moms. The #metoos.

I was surprised that an Australian feminist thinker could not countenance–that means face–the late Irigaray. She would only consider the early Irigaray. Not the Irigaray of the evening who wrote so strongly it is perhaps only a true understanding of sexual difference that will, that can, save us.

And Oscar Wilde? will it also save Wilde? … He enters the poem of Ash, by way of “The Birthday of the Infanta.” And this pre-appearance is so striking I have to quote what it turns up, noting first that it handles of a dwarf hunchback:

“The Dwarf mistakenly believes that the Infanta must love him, and tries to find her, passing through a garden where the flowers, sundial, and fish ridicule him, but birds and lizards do not. He finds his way inside the palace, and searches through rooms hoping to find the Infanta, but finding them all devoid of life.

“Eventually, he stumbles upon a grotesque monster that mimics his every move in one of the rooms. When the realisation comes that it was his own reflection, he knows then that the Infanta did not love him, but was laughing out of mockery, and he falls to the floor, kicking and screaming. The Infanta and the other children chance upon him and, imagining it to be another act, laugh and applaud while his flailing grows more and more weak before he stops moving altogether. When the Infanta demands more entertainment, a servant tries to rouse him, only to discover that he has died of a broken heart. Telling this to the Infanta, she speaks the last line of the story ‘For the future, let those who come to play with me have no hearts.'”

You see? It is as we feared.

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days 62-73 showing 60% at 17:17

There is nothing “most beautiful and most wonderful” about the coronavirus, to return to Darwin’s words, but it, too, is a thing of nature. We cannot wish away our connection to it.

— from LA Review of Books

We cannot wish away our connection to COVID-19. Darwin, Karl Kusserow writes, doesn’t allow us to forget the connectedness of all life and to wish away the parts we don’t like. Not that we have a right to life equal to or comparable with the virus, any virus; not that it can be claimed the virus, that viral life, because alive, mutating, reproducing, like us, is alive in the same way as us. This is not connectedness–and is as far from connectivity mediated in communication as we can go. Still our connnectedness constitutes us together. We are as connected conditions. For different forms of life.

We don’t simply depend on the same or a comparable structure of particles in aggregate. We depend as much as the virus on life being possible, on the conditions being available. They are to us and they are for the virus.

We don’t need to understand COVID-19 in its clever opportunism or admire its survival strategies. How like a body, how like a gene of our bodies, it is selfish, as Dawkins wrote, and how its wants are not so dissimilar from ours.

But the virus, this one, and the next zoonotic species-leaper, are connected to us and the climate we have and continue to disrupt, parts of the same planet we are spoiling. And this is Kusserow’s point. That image of “magnificent desolation”–the earth floating in darkness. The darkness on the face of the deep. Swirly blue marble–a kid’s thing. The darkness undivided and too deep ever to be divided.

So what did God actually do? to make such a strange bedfellow for hermself as Creation, and such a strange one for us as our virus, the one we are connected to; the one whose claim is that of a gene, a viral gene, like ours.

My note here read: what if connection in community were more like this?

How develop communities when we are in community with the agents of our destruction?

It is for the sake of everyone in the world that the slave asserts himself when he comes to the conclusion that a command has infringed on something which does not belong to him alone, but which is the common ground where all men–even the man who insults and oppresses him–have a natural community.

— Camus

the big nudes

if we can delay one day

On the virtues and aporia of economics:

In the meantime, the reduction of a society and culture to dependence on mathematical abstraction has infantalised a grown-up civilization and is well on the way to destroying it. Civilizations self-destruct anyway, but it is reasonable to ask whether they have done so before with such enthusiasm, in obedience to such an acutely absurd superstition, while claiming with such insistence that they were beyond being seduced by the irrational promises of religion. Every civilization has had its irrational but reassuring myth. Previous civilizations have used their culture to sing about it and tell stories about it. Ours has used its mathematics to prove it.

Yet, when this relatively short-lived market-society is gone, we will miss its essential simplicity, its price mechanism, its self-stabilising properties, its impersonal exchange, the comforts it delivers to many and the freedoms it underwrites. Its failure will be destructive.

— David Fleming, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy, Ed. Shaun Chamberlin, 2016, from the epilogue.

Roberto Bolaño warns of the dangers of picking up and reading Osvaldo Lamborghini with bare eyes. He also attributes to Lamborghini a third but secret strain running through contemporary Argentinean literature, from the writer Bolaño calls his literary executor, César Aira.

Lamborghini, writes Aira , “insisted that all of the great novels were run through with a slight melody, a little jingle.” He has earlier remarked on Lamborghini’s fascination for a single line in Dickens’s David Copperfield which makes the rest of this work redundant.

David accompanies his maid Peggotty to feed the chickens. She throws the grain and the hens peck. “But the boy is looking at the freckled arms of the woman and he marvels that they don’t prefer to peck there.”

Aira writes, “That passage enchanted him.”

Aira, who, Bolaño writes, takes up the secret third strain running through Argentinian literature commencing with Lamborghini, invokes Leibniz to explain this monadic aspect of Lamborghini’s writing, of expressing the whole universe in microcosm.

He writes, “I remember, incidentally, Osvaldo had a method for writing when, for some reason, “he couldn’t write”: it consisted of writing one small, unremarkable phrase, and then another, and then another, until he had filled a number of pages. Some of his best texts (like “La mañana”) are written that way; and it is conceivable that everything may have been written that way.”

Bolaño has several times saved my life. Reading his Unknown University led to this work: a kind of record.

I had just finished my PhD. I thought I was doing what I should be doing. In the academy, but not of the academy, since also engaged in artistic research, I thought I had proven myself. Both as a teacher–I taught through the years I was working on my doctorate–and as a scholar-practitioner. But…

And just the other day I picked up his essays, Between Parentheses. His work returns me to the fact of the value of literature. Of course it’s religious but not ass-kissing. And sometimes Kundera will do, with his emphasis on humour and the irony the regime can’t stand. And with his reminder of how easily we sink into moralising, moralising by proxy, decreeing on behalf of … Phoebe Bridgers’s screaming has just now interrupted my thought

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days 40-50 – or, walking in circles

Doug McEachern, says his bio, in the book I have in my hand, left school wanting to be a writer. The book I have in my hand evidence he succeeded.

Having left school, he was caught up in the ’60s. The bio puts it that he was “led astray by the political urgency of the campaigns against the Vietnam War and conscription.” This was in Australia.

It gives some indication of what is to follow, Stardust and Golden–the name of the book I have in my hand.

The author then enjoyed a long and “successful” academic career, where is not stated, before leaving university tenure for South Australia “to become a writer.”

This, his first novel, might give us a clue: Stardust and Golden is published by The University of Western Australia, 2018.

It returns us to the 1960s–

Several days of persistent heat forced forward memories of life before all-pervasive air conditioning.

–runs the first line of the novel, making redundant all of the foregoing.

We might recall the opening line of Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers: It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

And we might consider there is no common measure.

Or we might consider the 1 million planets Raymond Ruyer invokes to demonstrate “that the power of chance is very limited”:

“Consider 1 million planets, each inhabited by 2 billion humans. Each of these humans (106 x 2 x 109) during 1 billion years, tosses every day a die forty thousand times (in one thousand series of forty), that is, practically does nothing else. Approximately how many times would a series of forty sixes arise?” The impression is that such a series will be produced at least some of the time. We can wager 19 against 1 that it will be produced, because (106 x 2 x 109) x (109 x 365 x 103) is still 20 times smaller than 640. Because the duration of life on earth is approximately 2 billion years, it is easy to see why it is extravagant to attribute to chance alone the formation of a nervous system, a circulatory system, the eye or the internal ear, whose ordered complexity has no common measure with the arrangement of a series of forty sixes.

— Raymond Ruyer, Neofinalism, Trans. Alyosha Edlebi, (Minneapolis, MI: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 163. (Note: original work published in French in 1952.)

From the puffline of Graham Swift’s Booker Prize winning Here We Are the phrase–

pulls back the curtain on the human condition.

The removal of the statue of Hamilton in Hamilton, Morgan Godfrey writes, augurs in a new age: …”and after him every statue celebrating the men who made the empire. It’s 2020, after all, and postcolonialism is giving way to decolonisation.”

There are then in his article for the Guardian some nice turns of phrase with “the tragics” and “the nostalgics” used to call out the empire defenders. That is defenders of the misbegetting of colonial monumentation in the present time of decolonisation.

Morgan Godfrey ends with, “The only way to acknowledge the history they made–invading the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki–and the society they’re responsible for–where Maori are on the wrong side of every statistic, from incarceration to joblessness–is to tear it all down.”

There are many wears of tearing it all down.

Consider the work of Nicola Samorì:

– from the Cannibal Trail series, 2017, oil on copper, detail
– from the Malafonte series, black Carrara marble, 2018

Donna Tartt recently described the process of writing a novel as like “painting a large mural with a brush the size of an eyelash”. My own favourite–

writes Edward Docx, also for the Guardian

is that it’s like trying to fill a swimming pool with a syringe. Or, in a different mood, that writing a novel is like trying to hold a vast and intricate maths equation in your head that seeks to represent reality and through which you are trying to lead people without them ever getting wind that said equation is, in fact, impossible to solve or that, actually, it might not represent reality at all.

Docx, a writer, is introducing his review of Daniel Alarcón’s novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, which, he writes, makes gains (walking in circles?) on the side of the equation, while losing on the side of “immediacy, intimacy and involvement.”

Docx, the writer, answers the question, what we might call the ontological question, on his personal website, of the meaning of the writer’s existence, by writing that being a writer means “to give precise and enduring expression to the human experience”.

Alarcón is not found to have failed in this regard. But the assumption that immediacy, intimacy and involvement are what is being calculated in the above equation is not given as part of the equation.

Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream makes me think of two other perfect short novels, or novellas, Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami, and The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima.

I just noticed that the puffline on the front of Alexandro Zambra’s novel Documents is Daniel Alarcón’s.

On page 51 of Documents, Zambra writes this suggestive phrase–

I sometimes think, from this suspiciously stable place that is the present

From this–the same?–suspiciously stable place that is the present, I think–

the poem

is much better

now you

are looking at it.

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days 31-39

My copy of Alejandro Zambra’s Not to Read in its white card cover blue inside embossed with the logo of Fitzcarraldo Press, having taken as long as it does to push a ferryboat over a mountain, has arrived. The day of our return from Rotorua.

Its translator says about writing: “We write to multiply ourselves.”

Its writer, on the other hand, Alejandro Zambra, in another, a beautiful book written about being a secondary character, against the notion the author is (ever? always?) a primary character, Ways of Going Home, says about writing:

“To read is to cover one’s face …

“To read is to cover one’s face. And to write is to show it.”

Faces might be understood in the fullest sense Levinas then his translator, Lingis, gives: an absolute imperative to which we respond because we must, for which we are responsible.

Faces call on us to respond. With all sorts of ruses, cupidity, nudity–eyes rolling in viscosity, entirely as exposed as uncovered genitalia; entirely as penetrating as the genital (and other, neuroliberal, for example) penetralia.

J. went running in Rotorua. A good place I have discovered is a place where water comes out of the ground hot.

In this period following the COVID-19 call not to let aerosol spit loose, not to be promiscuous in our gazes or exchanges, face to face, she found the ones she encountered while running on the path through the redwoods would set their faces and not meet her eye. She remembered, as I do, as we do, the New Zealand of threat: and she speculated that we still do not meet each others’ eyes because we might want to beat each other up.

Well, this is true. You don’t meet my eye on the street if you think you are being confronted with the threat of violence.

Whatchoo lookin at?

or, then you answer, and:

Come ere n say that!

In this NZ, reading a book is not hiding or saving face, it is exposing it to:

fuckin poof!

Reading? clearly an elitist white colonial pastime.

(It’s always intriguing to know what translates poof to the female equivalent. Lezzie it ain’t. Doesn’t contain the requisite threat of violence.

(fuckin bitch! perhaps. But this is more likely to be preceded by a short interchange in which presumptions to intellectualism are invoked and questioned.

(fucking bitch! Think you’re smart! & so on.)

J. had been worrying, running on, worried, about the averted gazes and looks of the women she passed. Turned a corner, then, at the beginning of a track leading uphill she had intended to take at a walk, she saw a group of patch-wearing men. And she decided to take the uphill track at a run.

But what were they doing there amongst these giant trees? They were of course walking. Not on bikes. They were walking in the trees.

And how can anyone amongst the redwoods not be affected by them?

Lingis writes of the sequoia in the way that they face us with an imperative too. We take it on ourselves to breath in to our cores and to pull ourselves up from the depths of ourselves upright. We learn not rigidity but the reaching up of our uprightness from them. We stand straighter and breathe deeper from them. And we discern in them the deepness of life into which they plunge and from which they soar upwards. Their solidity. Not their stolidity. Their airiness, their breath and rootedness. Not their territorial uprootedness. Not the threat they experience of that territorial rootedness being challenged.

So there are challenges to the colonial experience of Maori here. The redwood is an import. The plantation of redwoods here at the edge of Kaingaroa forestry is a colonial imposition on the landscape.

Driving through this landscape, from Auckland to Matamata to Tirau to Rotorua the “home of Maoridom” as a sign by the Blue and Green Lakes put it, how can anyone escape from the sense of a colonial imposition that has razed the forests, impregnated the land with foreign grasses, and, in autumn, with trees which colourfully lose their leaves? Land for which the use is farming and the economic advancement of populations in a global marketplace for primary produce?

Striking vacant land, you ask, seeing no meat or milk producing occupancy of animals, you ask, What’s the use?

Then these gangmembers in the redwoods, as J. said, aren’t they enjoying the trees? Isn’t this good for them and for us?

I didn’t need to think too long about this theme we, because we grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, have often revisited–of the threat of violence every look may contain–to say:

But it is their exposure that is in these eyes. They feel exposed.

And probably more now since COVID-19. They are exposed to a threat of invisible violence. They are also socially exposed: someone may be judging them as to how well they follow the rules, social-distancing, self-isolating, uniting against the virus.

We feel and have felt so vulnerable in this country, that we do or do not choose to expose ourselves.

That we hide as if from the threat of violence. But strangely the cultural order tends to be maintained that we do not expose ourselves in writing or film-making or dancing or theatre-making or composing music or poetry and do not write books to expose ourselves and do not appreciate those who do. As if we ourselves were being exposed.

Then, by the same wariness of local censure and fear of the threat of violence, we still now look to cultural production–to even the production which is that of our own culture–to put us on the world stage, to take us to a global audience, which exposure we will not experience as our own, personal exposure but claim as national pride.

So we are proud of ‘Jacinda’ and of our efforts in the world and we look to the ways in which we may capitalise on our success in fighting COVID-19–and we find culturally we are succeeding, inviting Avatar here, getting Benee airplay, without the least exposure of the facts.

And isn’t it good to be exposed in this way?

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