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headfucks & shitstorms, writing prompts:

DBC Pierre in Release the Bats:

  1. Nothing is at it seems. Show what really is.

3. The taste in your mouth is ultimately what you’re writing out. Whether you know what it is or not: trust it.

4. What would you write if you weren’t afraid? Write that.

[similar to: Joe Lansdale’s “Write as if everyone you know is dead.” the epigraph to Charlotte Grimshaw’s memoir; not to be confused with Kate Zambreno’s “To write as if already dead.”]

6. ‘The tigers have found me, and I do not care.

[see 16.]

[a quote from Charles Bukowski (here)]

8. It’s far easier to improve crap than to originate brilliance. Love crap.

10. Thomas Wolfe had to stand naked fondling his genitals in order to write well. Do what you have to do.

13. Headfucks are symptoms of an underlying mass. We don’t lose it, we move it.

[surprisingly helpful.]

16. Events don’t arise from purposeful steps. They arise from walking through accidents.

[a good one. Before you try writing out the trauma, write through it. Or Lacan, traverse your fantasy… for fantasy, while holding onto it, substitute identity. When you think about it, not too far from Joseph Campbell’s Follow your bliss.]

[links to and how to understand 6. ‘The tigers have found me, and I do not care.‘]

17. The human immune system is at its most effective against the ideas of others.

25. A fifty-two-hour meat stock doesn’t gel till the last ten minutes. Simmer your work until then.

[Anthony Bourdain would agree: when you can, always cook meat on the bone. Same for writing. It has more flavour.]

to:

31. Writing down an idea for a story is like planting its seed.

[there’s a line from Lessons of Darkness, Werner Herzog’s 1992 documentary (here): the firefighters have finally extinguished the burning oilwell; a moment: “Two figures are approaching an oil well. One of them holds a lighted torch. What are they up to? Are they going to rekindle the blaze? Is life without fire become unbearable for them?… Others, seized by madness, follow suit. Now they are content. Now there is something to extinguish again.”]

32. A shitstorm looms. Get writing.

— still from Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness, 1992

Most of Mario Levrero’s The Luminous Novel is taken up with what he calls a narcissistic monologue or is the record of the narcissistic monologue in which his relationship to his computer and past publishing projects consists. He attempts to decipher a section of his past. He says,

That whole section of my past is a cryptogram I need to decipher. The narcissistic monologue is working on a higher level. I mustn’t condemn it or reject it as pure pathology, because there are many different routes back to where I need to go. And I mustn’t forget that where there’s no narcissism there can be no art, and no artist.

— Mario Levrero, The Luminous Novel, translated by Annie McDermott, 2021, p. 161

There exist I would think two narcissisms, at least two. One of these narcissistic conditions is not at all aware of itself as such. I am thinking of cases that I know of. Both of them follow the same pattern, since it is their mothers they ascribe narcissism to, not themselves.

Both of them describe themselves as having a sensitivity to others of empathy that borders on being painful. Yet neither of them is aware of the pain they cause others in the slightest degree. A young woman hurt by one of them burst into tears the other day. The one who had inflicted it on her followed her into the toilets, refusing entry to anyone, as if, on the pretext of managing the situation, holding her captive, or hostage. In fact she was being held for the exclusive attention of the narcissist so as to prove to herself, if not others, how empathetic she is.

The other sort of narcissist, the one who engages in narcissistic monologue, like Levrero, the narcissistic artist, resembles the figure in the case of false recognition described by Henri Bergson. Bergson shows what is perceived to be false recognition of an event taking place that is doubled. On the one side there is the experience of the event taking place; and, on the other side, the impression simultaneous with it of a kind of foreknowledge of it; or, another way of putting it: even though it seems to have happened before, it is actually taking place at the same time.

That is, the knowledge of it seems to come before the event. Yet this knowledge is contemporaneous with the event; it is not true foreknowledge, therefore called false re-cognition. Or else, the event seems to have taken place before, yet occurs at the same time as this impression arises.

The figure is of a split. The one who experiences this split is divided between being an actor in the event and a member of the audience, an audience of one, who seems to know what is going to happen next. This feeling of a repetition happening in the same instant as what is being repeated is familiar to artists whose material is often their own experience. As a relation to self, it resembles, in fact it is, since it involves a kind of bewitchment with one’s reflection, narcissism. It does not however, despite the image of the self-absorbed artist, equate with any decrease in sensitivity to others.

The two types of narcissism can coincide in the same person. They can, and do, because of the split, go on doubling. Meanwhile, the second type, of the narcissistic artist, goes along with finding out what happens as it goes along.

Bergson gives another view of the split to be that occurring in the figure of time in the present between past and future. Consciousness, which is largely that of the past, of memory, impends over the future. The present treads on the future which recoils from its advance.

[recoil, here]

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HVA DET BETYR AT VÆRE MENNESKE

(What does it mean to be human?)

— HVA DET BETYR AT VÆRE MENNESKE (What does it mean to be human?) starts @18:35

…“a peer of the Norwegian pessimist Peter Wessel Zapffe [argued] ‘against Zapffe’s view that life is meaningless, that life is not even meaningless.’”

— Rob Doyle, Threshold, (London, UK: Bloomsbury Circus, 2020), 75 [unless otherwise indicated all quotes following from this source]

The peer in question is Herman Tønnessen. Is one the peer of the other? If so, Arne Dekke Eide Næss, responsible for the term deep ecology, allegedly on the inspiration of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, is also a peer.

Here are their dates:

Peter Wessel Zapffe, December 18, 1899 – October 12, 1990: Zapffe called himself a biosophist. He defined biosophy to be thinking on life. He “thought that man should and will perish to exist [sic.]. The only thing we should do before we go is to clean up our mess.” (Perish to exist: sounds right. It’s from here.)

Herman Tønnessen, 24 July 1918 – 2001. His works appear to be out of print. Although the article “Happiness Is for the Pigs: Philosophy versus Psychotherapy,” 1966 is available here. The title is strikingly reminiscent of Gilles Châtelet’s To Live and Think Like Pigs: The Incitement of Envy and Boredom in Market Democracies, 2014 (original work published 1998). A small excerpt of this latter work’s epigraph is worth citing: “And there is no way to escape the ignoble but to play the part of the animal (to growl, burrow, snigger, distort ourselves): thought itself is sometimes closer to an animal that dies than to a living, even democratic, human being.” This is from What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari, whose notion of shame provides its motivation: hence the ignoble, responsibility before the victims; in turn from Primo Levi (and Emmanuel Levinas, although he is not cited). I would add that this thought stands distinct from either Tønnessen or Zapffe’s meaning. Having shame, the shame of being human, as one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs, this thought does not arise exclusively in philosophy, except inasmuch as philosophy and thinking are practices among other practices, including film-making, theatre, painting, sculpture, writing and expression in all its forms and modes in what I have elsewhere described as the inhumanities.

Arne Dekke Eide Næss, 27 January 1912 – 12 January 2009. His notion of deep ecology correlates with deep time, illustrated by Robert MacFarlane’s Underland, 2019. Næss’s article “The Shallow and the Deep: Long-Range Ecology Movement. A Summary” is available here.

Rachel Carson, May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964. Her Silent Spring, 1962, drew attention to the effects of chemicals, particularly pesticides, on the natural environment. She is credited, along with being perhaps the best ‘nature’ writer of the twentieth century, as being an ecologist before ecology and before the ecology movement. (I have put ‘nature’ in scare quotes because in contrast to the nihilism of human existence, its negativity, nature should not be thought of as being entirely positive: nature might be said to be outside the human, in the same way as it is for Spinoza Deus sive Natura (God or Nature), and that this is for Deleuze immanence.)

We have what Deleuze and Guattari call thought as distinct from what Zapffe calls meaning, when he says that life is meaningless, and from what Tønnessen calls meaning, when he says that life is not even meaningless. Having thought as being rare is one of the rare cases Deleuze (or Deleuze and Guattari) give credit to Heidegger. We also have it that the rarity thought is is in the responsibility the practices take for themselves: they are practices of the inhumanities, for which “man should and will perish to exist.” [sic.] Thought stands outside the human; inasmuch as it exists, this is its existence.

(For this notion of practice, see Minus Theatre: scenes | elements; for moving-image as such a practice see here; for writing as practice, here.)

…anyway, as much as we might say, not meaning anything, Rob Doyle writes Threshold, an autofiction (the question, why put yourself through the fictional process is a good one), and not the book on (of or about) Emil Cioran (Cioran looks like Eraserhead, possibly for good reason) that he talks about in it, the book he intends. Does he write Threshold instead of that book?

Doyle introduces Zapffe (and Tønnessen, without naming him) in view of Cioran and the book on Cioran Threshold in a way (not meaning anything) chronicles either the gestation of but not the nativity. (Zapffe is identified as an antinatalist, not for his abandonment of children (unlike Jean-Jacques Rousseau) but for his abandonment of hope in light of the birth of new (human) life. He writes: To bear children into this world is like carrying wood into a burning house; and: In accordance with my conception of life, I have chosen not to bring children into the world. A coin is examined, and only after careful deliberation, given to a beggar, whereas a child is flung out into the cosmic brutality without hesitation.

(Of his own nativity, he says, “The synthesis ‘Peter Wessel Zapffe’ was formed in 1899.”)

I read Threshold some time ago. And I read Cioran much longer ago, in The Stiffest of the Corpse. This volume selects and collects items from the magazine, Exquisite Corpse, where Andrei Codrescu, who edits the collection, was also editor. 1989, Leonard Schwartz translates:

Standing, one admits without drama that each instant which passes vanishes for ever; stretched out, this obviousness appears so unbearable that one desires never to rise again. (Cioran)

When a human being takes his life in depression, this is a natural death of spiritual causes. The modern barbarity of ‘saving’ the suicidal is based on a hair-raising misapprehension of the nature of existence. (Zapffe)

I had the misfortune to read in MetaFace (call it that) a comment someone whose name I did not recognise had appended to a photo of Leonard Cohen. The poster of the photo usually posts art, paintings, photos, images (why, they are not hers? another good question). This time she had posted a photo of Leonard Cohen, standing in his dressing gown, in a galley kitchen, at home, possibly, possibly an apartment (New York, why not? in the older style, white tiles in the kitchen, a sink; no appliances visible, but not spartan, a shelf with things both decorative and useful), and she had written above it something like, I’m not used to seeing Leonard Cohen in a domestic setting.

In addition to the dressing gown, he has a beard. He holds a mug of coffee. The possibility of coffee is further suggested by the cigarette in his other hand. He is staring into the camera, straight at the viewer, as if he has been surprised and he too is not used to being captured in a domestic setting. A flash might have been used.

Leonard Cohen holds the mug in his fist, at waist level. It is level with his dressing-gown cord, tied in a tight bow. The dressing-gown is full but not over-large, with vertical stripes, that could either be navy blue of black. Since the photo is in black and white, we cannot tell, but my guess is blue; and the material appears plush, soft and warm (whether it is velour or velvet, but not whether it is velveteen, this useful resource addresses (here)). Its broad long collar crosses his chest diagonally, completely covering it, while going down as far as his ankles, his pale thin ankles, his feet in slip-on slippers.

In his other hand the cigarette stands at an angle erect, between index and middle finger. (The shape of the hand is as is usual for a blessing.) As is (also) usual, his elbow is crooked, his upper arm against his torso, and his lower arm describes a similar angle to the cigarette, a sequence of angles. The cigarette has just been lit.

The comment was: (it went something like) I had a friend who loved Leonard Cohen, he listened to him all the time, and he committed suicide. No, it was stranger still. I went to some trouble to find it and I have found it now.

“I had a friend in college who worshipped Leonard Cohen and his music. My friend has since committed suicide, no thanks to Cohen’s depressing and warped view of the world. I truly despise and have a distaste for this man who so many venerate as a great poet.”

The original poster replies in a friendly way (this also is verbatim; when I relied on the resources of my memory to recall what she had said, all I came up with was: Yes, and what about those others people call poets, Nick Cave and _____?… She cited another name. It escaped me, hence my reason, although it took some time, to go back to find out exactly what she had said, to find out the name of the other person, poet, artist, song-writer, whom people so wrongly worship; and of course to see what the commenter actually had written.): “well, we can agree to disagree. John you of all people know my views re Palestine, the occupation, & Zionism!
That said I own one record by Cohen, unlike those worship at the alter of any musican/song writer, artist is a fool.The Nick Cave & Dylan worshipers are the worst!

And then:
“Also if we remove from the Arts, all of the people whom conducted themselves in shitty ways, personally, politically etc, it would be a very bland landscape indeed, that said, it seems to me that is what is desired by a self professed bunch of white middle class, liberals, who have appointed themselves the gate keepers of what is & is not acceptable, without context etc, a polemic I refuse to buy into at any level!”

It was worth going back to find out the exact wording of both the comment and the reply made by the poster of Leonard Cohen’s photo, to quote them accurately and in full, and not only for comic effect (worship at the alter? and so on), but also to get the other name, of the one Leonard Cohen called Mr Dylan, whose worshipers, alongside those of Nick Cave, are not only worse (I think this is the intended meaning) than Leonard Cohen’s (and we should think here of the commenter’s friend in his worship) but the worst. They are the worst for believing something is great when it is execrable.

Then, while the commenter rates Leonard Cohen’s expressing his depressing, warped world view, that is he says worthy of being despised, highly enough that the worship of Leonard Cohen can lead to death, the poster splits her angsting two ways. She splits it between the worship, of Nick Cave and Bob Dylan, and the judgement of the self-professed white middle-class liberals.That they are self-appointed to pass judgement she cannot buy at all.

The issue here is not gate-keeping so much as its disavowal, its enthusiastic disavowal, from the poster. Yet the commenter is, no less enthusiastically, slamming the gate in the face of Leonard Cohen, and his poetry, art, song-writing, expressing his warped, depressing worldview. He will not be getting into heaven, and it is to be regretted that he ever made it into the tower of song.

He is no better than the lousy little poets going round trying to sound like Charlie Manson; and his followers are as misguided as well. This is, as Leonard Cohen sings, the future (here). It is the future when everyone is self-appointed gate-keeper.

Emil Cioran (8 April 1911 – 20 June 1995, Deleuze died later that year, in November, allegedly throwing himself out of the second storey window of his apartment, 84 Avenue Niel in the 17th arrondissment, in Paris: he could, according to Dan Smith, because of his pulmonary condition, have been trying to get a breath, trying to catch his breath. Smith talked to a specialist in pulmonary diseases who, asking what floor Deleuze lived on, said we never put them on the second floor or ever anything above the ground.) (I admit, I have not yet watched the above documentary, but I wanted to hear Cioran’s voice.), he is often associated (and note the long lives of these famous pessimists. A commentator, echoing the common wisdom on Deleuze’s death, writes “this flight from the window and illness was not one of pessimism, but affirmative action”, (here) as if it could have been anything but), with contemporary writer Thomas Ligotti, born on 9 July 1953, and at the time of writing still alive.

Madness, chaos, bone-deep mayhem, devastation of innumerable souls—while we scream and perish, History licks a finger and turns the page. (Ligotti)

Is Ligotti another lousy little poet trying to sound like Charlie? (here) (John Moran’s Charlie Manson opera is here. It is worth a listen as a celebration of some of the themes I am handling of in this post.) Ought we despise him for his outlook on life?

As for procreation, no one in his right mind would say that it is the only activity devoid of a praiseworthy incentive. Those who reproduce, then, should not feel unfairly culled as the worst conspirators against the human race. Every one of us is culpable in keeping the conspiracy alive, which is all right with most people. (Ligotti)

Thomas Ligotti explains to what extent his pessimism, nihilism and antinatalism is due to his medical (some would say chemical) condition. He suffers from anhedonia, broken by periods of hypomania, during which he writes (he says here). Ligotti uses the technical terms, to describe his bipolar disorder, as if they name artistic techniques; and I think they do.

Anhedonia, incapacity to experience pleasure, hypomania, phases of over-excitation and irritation, bipolarity, depression, chronic pain, frantic activity: these are all tools. Rather than explain why they tell how Ligotti writes. Writing itself can equally be considered, along with these, to constitute a technology and this technology to be a writing-with or writing-through these means.

Can the work of Zapffe, or Cioran, or Tønnessen, who wrote it is not that human life is meaningless, it is that it is not even meaningless, be explained as Ligotti does his own, in terms of emotional or physical illness? Can we accord to science, brain chemistry or medicine the pessimism of Zapffe, the nihilism of these, in the one who diagnosed nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche, or give a medical causation to the warped depressing worldview of Leonard Cohen?

Can we give a medical or scientific meaning? Can we say it is brain chemistry, or even an aspect of neurodiversity, leading these men, as all of them are (is it hormonal?), to the conclusion the human being is a tragic animal, to a tragic view of life? We should note that it is a tragic view of life unalleviated by the slightest heroism, an unmitigated disaster, and not meaning, not even not meaning, anything.

The problem is not that to give a diagnosis drawn from brain science or medicine is reductive. The problem is that it explains nothing. It explains nothing, unless it is, as it is for Ligotti’s work, a tool or technique of that work, a way of making and writing.

What motivates this thought that is nihilism is neither its meaning nor its meaninglessness. It is found elsewhere. There is a voice.

The voice says to find justification for living or the purpose of life, or its meaning, is just more loot to come home with.

“Sitting opposite me on the Métro was an impossibly chic woman who was reading a book by Félix Guattari. In Paris, you could have been forgiven for reaching the conclusion that the printed word and literature as we know it were not issuing their death rattle. People read, often in public, on the Métro or alone in cafes. And their choice of reading material was generally not the bloodbath bestsellers and child-wizard fuckery to be seen on the metros of other capitals, but books by authors whose very emblem of authority was their unreadability. I had already spotted a pretty teenager burying her face in Levinas’s Totality and Infinity as her boyfriend tried to plant kisses on her neck, and a tiny woman who looked to be pushing one hundred thumbing through Derrida’s The Archeology of the Frivolous while wearing an expression of indulgent scepticism.” (Doyle, 79)

Doyle on Cioran:

“One of the constraints I had set for myself when I decided to write about Cioran was that I would not quote his work, the reason being that it was too quotable. If I quoted one passage, I would want to quote another, then another, and many more, until I was not so much writing about Cioran as presenting the reader with his entire body of work”… (82-83)

“Having already decided that I would write about Cioran without quoting him, it now seemed would have to write about him without even writing about him.” (83)

“What had Cioran ever given to my life, other than pessimism and discouragement? He had exacerbated the very tendencies in myself I had spent my whole adult life trying to curb: withdrawal, cynicism, nihilism, despair, spleen, derision, scowling, indifference, resentment, defeatism, contrarianism, torpor, detachment, provocation, rage, arrogance, insolence, bitterness, hostility.” (83-84)

“Nous sommes tous au fond d’un enfer dont chaque instant est un miracle.” (Cioran, at 87)

“She said: ‘We are all deep in a hell, each moment of which is a miracle.’” (88)

And this:

“Imagine this. Even if the most extreme pessimism accords with how things are, and existence is a nightmare, and consciousness is a chamber of hell, and Western civilization is awaiting its coup de grâce, and we’re all adrift in the Unbreathable, or the Irreparable, or the Incurable, or all these things he writes about; what if, in spite of all this, the very articulation of this pessimism was so exquisite, so profound, that it redeemed our moments here in the nightmare? What if the writing itself, the beauty of it, not only pointed towards but provided reason enough to stick around a while longer? Wouldn’t that be strange?” (87)

What if that beauty were not only an accident but also ephemeral and fleeting, in flight from one void to another?

Says the Tao Te Ching: nature never hurries, yet everything gets done.” (90)

… “I was alone in Asia, with no real reason to be there other than an aversion to what other Westerners I met called real life, which seemed to mean doing what you did not want to be doing.” (101)

“The Vajrayana account of the afterlife … was hardly reassuring. Next to it, Western annihilationism seemed an easy way out, rendering not only death but life, too, weightless and without risk. The Tibetans believe that in the bardo following death, when one peers into ‘the mirror of past actions’ and the moment arrives to decide the nature of the next rebirth—hellish or exquisite, brilliant or debased—it is no external agency that issues the judgement, but one’s deepest self. The idea struck me as terrible, profound and, in some sense, true.” (107-108)

“Terence McKenna, who remarked that ‘the notion of illegal plants and animals is obnoxious and ridiculous’, insisted that government bans on psychedelics are motivated not by concern that citizens may harm themselves while under the influence, but by the realisation that ‘there is something about them that casts doubt on the validity of reality’.” (299)

Doyle on DMT:

“You can still be an atheist up to forty milligrams”… (310)

What is strange about the metaphysical shock of DMT is that it upsets the technoscientific framework of human reality and its anthropocentric presumption, … “there is categorically another consciousness present AND they have better computers than we do.” (310, my emphasis) (Note the Kantian categorical.)

We can overcome this meaningless world order by constantly letting two become one and over and over again until the last human dies out. (Zapffe)

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on transcendental experience … after Mario Levrero

Mario Levrero begins The Luminous Novel… he is a writer from Uruguay, was. An unnecessary detail, perhaps. Alejandro Zambra, a writer I admire, Chilean, as it happens, or happened, like Bolaño, yet very unlike him, writes about Levrero that we cannot, we readers, we cannot hope to understand that mythical beast, that chimaera, that the literature of Latin America is, without taking in the part Levrero has in it. He says something like that.

And we might for a moment consider the chimaera. Mythical, yes, but also a fish…

…although to call it a fish is to dismiss the inventiveness that’s gone into it. …but also man-made, the chimaera:

…here pictured as a kind of babble of bodies.

Chimaera is mythical, fish and … here made by Kate Clark:

Or, consider the following, in view of literature, from E.V. Day:

The chimaera is also a work of conscious and deliberate construction. Matching chicken and lion, bird and reptilian parts. To put on display, and this is the key word, don’t you think? display.

4222 years ago, the Egyptians weren’t engaging in the earliest known taxidermy for the sake of producing chimaera to display. Embalming and processes of corporeal preservation, of animals, including humans, was conducted not for the living but for the dead on whom these practices were being used. Unless we consider that the exhibition of the dead was not as we understand it but for religious purposes.

Was the intended spectatorship some kind of cosmic audience?

Probably not, because the way out into the cosmos was back in through the world, a world of living deities and cosmic entities present rather than having to be presented, not requiring elaborate rituals, for example, in order to be presented, but already there, in attendance. And these were waiting to see themselves join the throng of the dead.

Their embalming and preservation must have seemed like having to join the queue, for the afterlife. Death.

And now they see themselves sail the stygian waters of the Nile into the omphalos of night. They don’t leave their bodies… no Judgement will have to restore the lucky ones who got the winning ticket to their discarded corpses.

Embalmed, taxidermied, they wait in line, the living gods, and travel over into death beside themselves, beside themselves, if everything has gone well with their preservation, beside themselves in the same way as we might think of an other world being beside this one. An early multiverse.

It is also the Egyptians we tend to thank for our first glimpses of chimaerae. (The word itself is something like a chimaera.) The Sphinx, whose riddle is herself. The bird-headed people, the dog-headed, and the alligator-headed dog.

When does this all change?

Is it at the birthplace of the human individual that Siedentop announces with the advent of early christianity? When, he maintains, before a subsequent crackdown by the institutions of a priestly caste, there were just as easily female communities and communities in which women were considered individuals as they were male… children, individually, born with a relation, a corporeal relation, to the living body of Christ, and, to life everlasting?

So Larry Siedentop maintains in Inventing the Individual: the Origins of Western Liberalism, 2015.

If you bear in you this inner connection, in your living body, this special relation that is special to you, would not the display of the dead pass to individuals to behold? Would you not already have in hand your ticket, to join the queue…?

General exhibition would be a thing institutions might want to have some say over, so restricting entry to an other world, and cutting out the ones not worthy for being somewhat… chimaerical. Raising ticket prices, and so on.

Cutting out animals entirely. Women. Naughty children. Saving them who’ve not had time to sin. Little angels. But all would press against the gates, to see… the exhibition.

Instruction enters. Education, and edification. Now it is on how to live beside yourself, next to your immortal part: the real you. It is no longer the practice of separating to be rejoined in the afterlife.

Until we consider resurrection in the body. Then we have to consider which one the dead part is: and it is clear. It is the body of the animal to which the soul is glued on, by cosmic taxidermy. Well, not really. More by transcendental taxidermy:

the human soul stuck to the body of a corpse… and which the afterthought? For the afterlife, the latter.

…Is resurrection in the body metaphorical? or… virtual?

This would make sense. I mean: it would make sense. The rational part of sense, to which the soul is the best proportion, the perfect ratio. … And freed from the body takes off, like this:

Pause.

What part is the insubstantial again? and what the rendered insubstantial? the de-prioritised?

It’s that old body of the animal again, of which the chimaera is the perfect example: a constructed thing.

A mechanical thing, even, that David Bentley Hart rails against with such seriousness. Seriously. (In a nod to Hart I wanted to say, with such wanton solemnity.)

A book I am reading. Roland is a dog. He talks to the narrator on serious subjects like the dismissal of the transcendental experience (of living beside yourself, body and soul) by the mechanistic world view. The book’s success will be in the measure to which Roland separates himself from the views of Hart, the narrator.

From instruction, edification, tutelary and educative purposes, to … entertainment, would seem to be the path followed by chimaerae into modernity. Entertainment and art, that is. And we ought to think of those lesser souls belonging to lesser bodies, bodies more chimaerical, like those, classically, of women. And of the children who are yet to be edified and educated; and of non-whites, yet to be colonised, indentured, and given a mission.

Too embodied, these ones.

Will Hart allow his dog, Roland, to be one of these?

And what of the bodies of literature, like Latin American literature? The chimaera of …?

I don’t think Zambra really uses the word, chimaera. χίμαιρα is the female form of χίμαρος, meaning, in Ancient Greek, male goat: female goat.

– Jacopo Ligozzi, c.1600

I said female goat… but we do have here the fire-breathing part, and the querulous lion: is this masculinisation concessionary?

We can ask the same of literature, of course, as well as we can whether it is non-concessionary.

Mario Levrero begins his novel… this happens in the first two pages… by relating the sort of psychologism that Hart might reject.

Levrero tells us that he had a transcendental experience, which he told a friend about in the form of an anecdote. Why an anecdote? Because the etymology of anecdote is clear: it means unpublished account (ἀνέκδοτος = ἀν- not + έκδοτος published. έκδοτος derives from έκ- out of or ex– and δίδωμι, which is the first person singular of the verb to give).

Levrero’s friend says he must write it down. It would make a great novel. A great and luminous novel, perhaps, like we have here in our hands.

And Levrero says no. Impossible. Impossible to recapture the transcendental experience, to do it justice, in anything more substantial than an anecdote. End of discussion.

Except that it’s not, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

Levrero forgets, and this is the important point: he forgets the friend’s instruction, the friend telling him what he must do; he has, afterall, rejected it. And, anyway, it turns out they are no longer friends.

He forgets it. Levrero says, of course, what he is in fact forgetting is his resistance to his friend’s advice. And from this resistance comes the whole problem. The problem that is The Luminous Novel, in its published form. Because his opposition to the idea inflames it.

He tries again and again to write down the anecdote in which he relates his transcendental experience. And he dismisses each effort, and destroys it. But, the next important point: the urge and urgency to pursue the idea no longer comes from the friend, the friend who is no longer a friend, but from Levrero himself. It comes from inside him.

He attributes to himself, to his inner being or core, or soul, if you like, the demand, the commandment to write … and even tells himself it was own idea. It came from him…

And what is he doing, then, the poor man, torturing himself, when every effort to write down the story of the transcendental experience is in vain?

One thing is for sure, he can’t write his way out, he can’t write himself out of this problem, because he is the problem!

He is the problem and the cause of the problem and he can’t cut himself into two halves, even if they are unequal halves, returning to himself once he has cut himself off from or cut out the criminal part. The corpse, if you like. The animal. He can’t claim transcendence by following the only part that is transcendental.

As I said a psychologism, or a psychological ghost story. And, like Hart’s, a spiritual one.

The friend is ghosted, dead to you, and you tell yourself it is you yourself who told you what you must do because of what you had done.

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thirty-first part, called “the subject XXXI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

the subject

That a beginning actor brings to the stage something of which she feels she is about to be dispossessed is why the notion of sacrifice, that runs through Blau’s reports, manifestos and theoretical writing on theatre, still holds true. Where a selfish actor remains intact, identifying the depths of her personal formation, the formative years, coaching, training, and so on, with the void beneath the stage, identifying it as being what supports her, instead of the real nothing, a beginning actor is able to experience the sensation of these being cut from him. As if all that training was for nothing.

It was all for nothing and means nothing: this is the truth of the matter. This is your first day on the job. And what they didn’t teach you at school is what you need to know around here. Otherwise, you won’t survive.

What’s the good of this castration–this obedience to beginning that means going through each time, risking each time, out of necessity, one’s identity? …but haven’t we said it goes further than risk? That there is sacrifice?

What else is about to happen? What else is the audience here for? If there was no sacrifice to the audience would be returned their capacity for judgement. If there were none, as the selfish actor seems to deny there being, or the necessity for there being sacrifice, to her would be returned the self-congratulation. For him would be the applause: and she stands without the smile that is anyway ungracious and holds out her palms, open, in acknowledgement that this is all I am. Like you. Human.

If the guts left on stage at the end of the performance aren’t mine, then why do I feel this emptiness? I want to be among people again. Among my own. In company, engaged in pointless chat, which to the outside looks like the most pointed bitchery.

At the bar, after the show, well it’s like a very personal slanging match. Like the Colony Room. What a relief to be called a cunt! One knows that the vicious, the really vicious attacks will be those couched in the most childish terms.

One understands that if one is really truly upset or truly upsets another there will be silence, then, Pooh. If the most awful thing has happened, the Arts Council has withdrawn its funding, for the last time, a pause, then: That’s a pooh.

Deflation at the most significant events; inflation of the most trivial. And we should note among the trivialities are counted the most personal of issues, her dose of clap, his impotence. Or the age of a new girlfriend: For Christ’s sake, she’s three! … Yes, I know. But she has the body of a four year-old.

Why is it that personal identity, those things we had hitherto considered our most precious memories and shameful secrets, our depths, when the show’s over are subjects for hilarity? Because it is restorative. Not to be laughed at for them, but to be thought to have them still. For it to be acknowledged one is still in possession of those organs of which one had been relieved by the knife of the stage.

We repeat, but what’s the good of it? Isn’t it exactly for there to have been a hearing, to have been given a hearing by an audience? For the accolades, well of course: but these are due the corpses too left for the stagehands to pick up and drag off after the show. And note the theatrical meaning of corpse is to be overtaken onstage by unsuppressable hysteria. The deflationary language for this, one of the worst things that can happen, is getting the giggles.

Isn’t it exactly for the good of the audience, that good which comes from its exercise of judgement? that good Badiou talks about as going on and as necessary in the interval, pointing to a contemporary trend in France to do away with the interval. Making the interval, for him, into a necessity. A necessity for there to be theatre, as if without the interval’s permission to pass judgement there would be little point to it.

Then there’s the good in itself: it is good to have public sacrifice. In however sublimated a form. But in a form so sublimated as the modern stage, is it really sacrifice? For the selfish actor it is not. To think not, and to agree, we are like selfish actors.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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sixth part, called “what is theatre? VI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

What is it necessary to do now? What is it necessary to say? Two suicides come to mind. Why?

Neil Roberts’s and Mark Fisher’s. Neil Roberts wrote “we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity,” drew a peace sign on the wall, and blew himself up in the toilets outside the Wanganui Computer Centre on the 18th November 1982. He was 22.

Mark Fisher taught at Goldsmiths. He was ten weeks from the end of a seminar called “Postcapitalist Desire” when he died. 13 January 2017. 48.

Fisher’s writings are voluminous. Of Roberts’s we have that one line. Police said of his body that they’d be picking up bits for weeks.

Then the infamous statement of Stockhausen on 9/11, that it was “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.” Next to it, he wrote, composers are nothing. 17 September 2001.

Why do I submit these to my timeline here? Because these are not performances. And perhaps this is what, despite everything, I want to affirm in them.

I was going to begin with Beckett. After asking what is it necessary to do, what is it necessary to say, I was going to say, we can’t go on. We go on.

Until of course we don’t. And this is what, in his way, Beckett was affirming too. The three other figures each go in quite another direction.

I don’t want to reduce the lamentable to the gestural. Make light, or exhort to action. Joshua Cohen, psychoanalyst and writer, says of a case of depressive inertia, the desire not to do anything, completely to stop, is not symptomatic.

Telling yourself to stop is not symptomatic of any other desire. The impasse to productivity has no other outcome, than, Beckett again, failing better. What is as impossible as imagining an alternative to capitalism is always that, not merely difficult.

From this point I was going to talk about the decision to step out onto the void that the line the stage draws under events is stuck to. You will recall Nietzsche’s Seiltänzer, whom Zarathustra bears on his body and buries as a friend. The wire artist. The risk and the necessity.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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fourth part, called “what is theatre? IV,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

Theatre takes place. Whether under a bare tree, or at Colonus, the place divides along the line splitting representation between what is represented and that which it represents. And then there is the unrepresented death of Oedipus, off-stage, packed full of meaning.

If it is kept a secret, this place, Colonus, Oedipus promises it will better protect Athens than shields or armies. Because it is not Colonus. But wherever the show is put on.

This is the line dividing theatre from what happens, protecting what happens in truth from pretense. And it is here that what happens in truth is most vulnerable, at this threshold… What Sophocles’ play stages, for Weber, is both theatricality and medium, of representation. Its theatricality is in crossing a threshold. Crossing it each time it is performed, from what is no more than representation to what it represents, it goes by way of what is outside of the theatre, off-stage and unrepresented, unable to be represented. For it to be would show the rule, all the more clearly: you can’t cross the line.

So for Weber this is the case each time, a referral onto the real that the audience are sometimes said to represent because of a mobility of place. It also gives rise, in theatre, to the participatory–because the audience is the real representation, as opposed to the fake one, it is asked to cross the line. Crossing it, for Alan Read, is the occasion for shame.

Shame to which the individual is prone, to which the individual is sacrifice. For the community, whose community the sacrifice was supposed to affirm, to bind in community, the sacrifice disaffirms and negates community. The opposite effect is achieved from that Herbert Blau finds for in the sacrifice of the actor, on stage.

Under the stage the bodies are buried, according to Weber, and will not stay so for long. Something similar is happening in Blau, but it has to do with the proximity of bodies, the theatrical appearance being the threshold between life and death. And so ghosts passing this way and that, with real bodies on the line.

No. I would note how theory raises the stakes, its own as much as those that are theatre’s own, stakes that are political, ethical, as well as epistemological, ontological, and although I would quote the opening of Herb’s book, The Impossible Theater, this writing is not to put forward a theory. Neither is it to follow a practice, to hang a theory of theatre on a practice in theatre–or to follow more closely the problem that is a practice’s. Neither exegesis nor thesis is intended here, but something more useful that I don’t have a name for yet, out of which, the urgency not purely speculative, a time-contingent writing, a static genesis.

Here’s the Blau quote from The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto, where for ‘America’ you may substitute wherever you happen to be:

The purpose of this book is to talk up a revolution. Where there are rumblings already, I want to cheer them on. I intend to be incendiary and subversive, maybe even un-American. I shall probably hurt some people unintentionally; there are some I want to hurt. I may as well confess right now the full extent of my animus: there are times when, confronted with the despicable behavior of people in the American theater, I feel like the lunatic Lear on the heath, wanting to “kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!”

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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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: https://ubu.com/sound/pound.html

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 …

SCREAMING

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:

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day 320 – Ideonella Sakaiensis – day 382 – Underland

I have just finished Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, subtitled A Deep Time Journey. It ends with the image of a network. The chapter, ‘The Understorey,’ has already dealt with the wood wide web. So it’s not that kind of network. And in a way it is a social network. Although multimillion-dollar-earning and data-farming corporations have done their best to discredit the notion.

Macfarlane is at Onkalo, the deeptime repository for depleted uranium from nuclear power stations in Finland. There is a documentary, Into Eternity, about this burial site, that, as Macfarlane writes, exists to protect the future from the present. It too is as worth seeing as Underland is worth reading–for the excavation of the problem of living in a humanscaled time, a time scaled to human interests, self-interest, in the age of the Anthropocene. The problem that stuck with me from Into Eternity (available here) is that of communicating with whatever future beings come across the burial sites for uranium. Existing languages are unlikely to survive the millennia separating us from what comes after us.

Macfarlane’s book is an excavation of the problem of the Anthropocene, as it persists from the past into the present and will do so into the future, hence, A Deep Time Journey. Deep in the caverns of Onkalo, not as deep, Macfarlane writes, as he has ever ventured into the earth, but over a thousand feet into the bedrock, on a plastic panel attached to the wall of this ‘hiding place’ that is still under construction, he sees the print of a right hand … “left there at some point for the keeping of balance, for the taking of rest–or just for the making of a mark.” (418)* You can see that Macfarlane’s orientation, despite digging into the prehuman past and the posthuman future, remains humanist.

He writes, recapitulating scenes from earlier in the book, “I think of the black and red hand-prints left on the cave walls at Chauvet, of the red figures of the dancers with their outstretched arms, of the spray-can hand stencil on the catacomb wall in Paris, of Helen reaching a hand down to haul me out of the moulin. I think of the many people I have encountered in and through the underland who have been committed to shared human work rather than to retreat and isolation. Many of them have been mappers, really, of networks of mutual relation, endeavouring to stitch their thinking into unfamiliar scales of time and space, seeking not the scattered jewels of personal epiphany but rather to enlarge the possible means by which people might move and think together across the landscapes, in responsible knowledge of deep past, deep future and the inhuman earth.” (418)

… the scattered jewels of personal epiphany… immediately recalls me to my own efforts, in regard to stitching thought, in encounter with the problem of outside the human, or, what David Abram calls the more-than-human world, in his book, The Spell of the Sensuous, my own efforts, in their failure to make networks and to be able to maintain them except for the briefest of times… that enlarge the possible means by which people might move and think together … in responsible knowledge … and efforts made in mapping mutual relations in the absence of social and cultural institutional recognition that the most basic elemental relations are mutual–those in regard to the elements of warmth, light, air, and of earth, of the earth below our feet, our paws, where the fungal fingers find the roots of trees… The elemental refers here to Lingis’s notion of an elemental imperative that we worked through, with, in Minus Theatre, for the brief time it was in existence. (It would persist, persists notionally perhaps, but for my failure to provide the means for this persistence–

(were it not for the retreat and isolation I have bought into… and in the absence of institutional, cultural support mechanisms for this type of venture. Which is the type of venture Macfarlane records, is his own, but also that of the Paris underground, and… is that of many of the people he meets, stays with, journeys into the underland with, in the writing of his book.)

Then… a book. What is it? … or think about the publication I am currently courting for the writing I am doing outside of this website… Or ask yourself as I do, what can I do, what do I think? What do I think with what comes from the outside the human?

And I like that he calls them, these mappers of networks, those not seeking the scattered jewels of personal epiphany, but I cannot also help recalling Rilke, whom he cites, up in the karst of Northern Italy. Poetry. That effort to go down below the personal strata of experience into the bedrock of human experience… and passing through human experience to find the mutual relations that extend to and subtend all of life. All of living experience.

Benjamín Labatut’s book, which I have been reading alongside Underland, is called When We Cease to Understand the World. And as he mentions Heidegger I don’t think it such a stretch to interpret understand from the title as unterstehen. It is this understanding, this sense of undergoing the world, from its bedrock in the earth, and of supporting its living processes that is invoked in Lingis’s elemental imperative. So that ceasing to understand the world performs a counterpoint to the journey of Macfarlane’s book.

Ceasing to understand the world is what the characters in Labatut’s risk. It is their adventure. And it is so for the efforts they make, the lengths they go to, physically, psychologically, spiritually, to understand the world, but to understand it in that other sense of understanding with which we are more familiar than with Heidegger’s, or Lingis’s that he gets from Heidegger, that Heidegger’s effort was ever the tutelary effort for to de-familiarise. So as to start thinking. To start thinking and so form responsible knowledge. What else is philosophy for?

This familiar sense is understanding irresponsibly for Labatut, for his characters, a misunderstanding that doesn’t understand mutual relations of support and nourishment, that shits in its nest for the sake of Knowledge. For his characters it is mathematical understanding as the bedrock of science that reaches a point where it ceases to understand the world.

It is probably this book’s seriousness, where it abuts up against Macfarlane’s. Fritz Haber, the inventor, father of chemical warfare and of synthetic nitrogen production. The latter enabling the nourishment of an exploding population at the turn of the 20th century. The former enabling the destruction of thousands of men in the field–and animals–and anything that ventured into the released gasclouds–horses, mice, rabbits & men–in the most horrific of ways. Grothendieck’s retreat from the world when he recognises the deep horror at the heart of the heart of mathematical understanding. Heisenberg’s and Schrödinger’s negative epiphanies. Their discoveries coming at the expense of crises, of psychoses. And these all being of the nature of seeking the scattered jewels of personal epiphany only to find in them inordinate and impersonal destructive potential.

Then Macfarlane writes, citing Jebediah Purdy’s After Nature, that humanity does not change its course, science neither, we might say, unless the hand held out is burnt; but the burning is not enough. Humans have also to find something to love. Something to affirm in responsible understanding. (419) What is it?

Macfarlane seems to think humanity needs to love humanity once more–in its social mapping, its networks of responsible understanding.

He also writes: “What did the mountaineer-mystic W.H. Murray say after being released from years spent in German and Italian POW camps? Find beauty, be still.” (241)

*references to Robert Macfarlane, Underland: A Deep Time Journey, (London, UK: Hamish Hamilton, 2019)

to Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World, Trans. Adrian Nathan West, (London, UK: Pushkin Press, 2021)

These two NASA pictures show the blue dunes of Mars.

Macfarlane, in his marvelous book–his book of marvels, every chapter–Underland, is in Norway, speaking about the literature of the underland of the early 1800s, when it was believed, by one writer, whom I can’t help think of as capturing in this idea a common belief, in the imaginary of the time, that the earth was a series of concentric spheres, like Dante’s hell, but with the difference that by gaining entry there was under our feet a limitless earth, a limitless series of nested inner earths to exploit, to settle, to discover–in reverse order: to discover new lands, to settle them, and exploit the resources they provided.

Reading this, I couldn’t help thinking of the later science fiction that informs now our cosmology of the multiverse–limitless resources for there being, after every branch in time, another fully perfectly formed ripe universe, all hanging on the same cosmological tree, ready to pick or be picked–and before that the imaginary of the time: other worlds waiting for us to get there, with their opportunities for discovery, settlement and exploitation. Another reverse order of nested boxes of plenty.

So to situate in our time, that I can’t help thinking of tonight as the time of the unexplainable–because it refuses to impart to us its sense and has been set up as a posthuman or nonhuman imaginary. An abdication by it or by us–although it is by us–of human sense-making. Unexplainable. The course of events we now find ourselves locked into. So to situate what was this inner inner earth desire for an underland of riches as for us an outer outer world of … the blue dunes of Mars, of the mineral riches to be found of the moon, of all the astral opportunities on offer through our telescopes.

And worse: to be technologically delivered these riches. Contact with extraterrestrial intelligent to be the fulfillment of this technological delivery. And to deliver our salvation.

From the world’s problems.

When an earlier writer, Eiseley can say, unlike Liu in the The Dark Forest, where to be found is to fall prey to superior civilizations, a universe where to hide successfully is to survive, that Eiseley can say there is no chance of life at all elsewhere than earth given that the chances of it here are infinitesimal. And that despite the infinitesimal probability of life it has here occurred … and is by its own tenets of evolutionary development wiping itself out.

Although written a year almost exactly a year ago, Joseph Nechvatal’s piece, “From Viruses to Algorithms, We Are Always Under Threat,” on the Hyperallergic site, is the smartest I’ve read in dealing with our viral times. (April 19, 2020, here) This is my favourite paragraph:

Locked-down at home, hiding, you are under ever-increasing pressure to conform, to survey, and be surveyed. Probably you are not against this temporary necessity of surveillance and conformity, but these are the perfect conditions in which totalitarianism flourishes. It is ruinous for the creation of daring new art, and effects the shrinking of places that exhibit nonconformist acts of imaginative spontaneity. You may pour your aesthetic energies into your stay-at-home work, but algorithmic cultural calculus is an obstacle you must overcome to realize your aesthetic freedom. Pathetically, algorithm-driven popular culture that uses optimization-driven, actor-critic, neural network for deep learning emotion analysis (such as Apache MXNet, the deep learning framework in Amazon) puts your cultural choices to work even in your imposed quarantined space of leisure. Probably you have little access to art with which to inoculate yourself and think unpredictably with. You dwell in a viral copy culture of increasing cultural homogenization as Google tracks and guides your tastes.

— Joseph Nechvatal, Hyperallergic

It is my favourite for asking the question with what art to inoculate ourselves and with what to think unpredictably?

This inoculation of the virus is like the virus in the sense Nechvatal imagines it to be both medium and message: unpredictable thinking is that with which you inoculate yourself to think unpredictably with it. You inoculate yourself with a nonconformist act of imaginative spontaneity so as to be able to engage in a nonconformist act of imaginative spontaneity. This act is an art act. It is not a performative. Despite the resemblance between the viral (being both medium and message) and the performative there is a difference. It is an act.

Before considering how it works, how, you might say, art works, to stand against the copy format, so that, in face of contemporary art’s challenging stimulus, you enter into yourself and re-emerge with expanded capacities you never knew were there, as Nechvatal writes, I want to say what I disagree with in this piece, either because it is too predictable or because it compounds what Jarry writes of as the powers of the Disembraining Machine.

Andrew Murphie, in a nice essay, “Bicycling to the Limits of Being: Deleuze and Guattari’s machinic thought, Heidegger, and Alfred Jarry’s time travel,” has it that the Disembraining Machine provides the “full Heideggerian nightmare” by attempting to construct systems of total machinic enslavement. What Nechvatal calls totalitarianism.

Although Murphie associates the Disembraining Machine with contemporary cognitivist culture that is a contemporary embraining of the brain I see this cognitivism as itself symptomatic of a displacement of cognition onto the market-brain, the market insofar as it is site of speculation, thought, at as-close-to-the-speed-of-light as contemporary computation (the stakes in this computation being speed and power of computation, speed as power), with which cognitivism aligns itself, can manage. So as to be an active choice of disembraining to attain the advantages of the acceleration in rates of data calculation afforded by the machine. All the rest is infographics.

…aka propaganda… the subject in Nechvatal’s view remains the human. Only in the human world are the characteristics of algorithmic digital viruses transferable to the molecular variety. I want to pause here to consider what this means for the machinic that is Guattari’s invention, since in Guattari’s view machinism is not special to the human world but is a fact of the world outside the human. What takes the machine from human to more than human is its asignifying capacities, its nonperformance of communication, of the communication of meaning, its nonperformativity, but that it acts, its activity. This activity is against the machine of cognitivism–that is, the brain. Against the brain’s understanding as it is commonly understood. And with the brain, against the social network as being modeled on the brain, the brain a network, the three networks: psychic, social and that of the life of the planet, the living planet.

Guattari’s three ecologies and his machines are indifferent to the moralism, the anthropocentric moralism, in its understanding of the brain, the network and the world.

This is then where I depart from Nechvatal, since it is only in the all-too-human world, which valorises symbolic exchange, that the metaphor can be sustained of the computer virus and the molecular virus, of the one transposable–wilfully? poetically? artistically?–into or onto the other. Not only do I maintain that they are mutually irreducible, I find art to be a work of the outside the human. Not an inoculation. An exoculation.

Consider painting–Herzog’s homo spiritualis of Chauvet; never is, never has been homo sapiens: has never known anything–and how painting thinks–or to recapitulate the less common sense of understanding, how painting understands. What the hand of the painter has to undergo is becoming mineral. Because pigment is always at heart a matter of minerals.

In other words, this old art form, painting, is not the awakening of modern human awareness as Herzog in his Cave of Forgotten Dreams at first has it. It is the awakening of nonhuman awareness. Of a mineral thinking. Of what Deleuze calls anorganic life: life in the understanding of the outside the human. That is, the nonhuman.

And perhaps we can think of this as spiritual.

— from here

https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/16-06-2016/five-things-i-was-thinking-about-while-writing-mysterious-mysteries-of-the-aro-valley-an-essay-by-danyl-mclauchlan/

Tranquility and Ruin.* There is an aspect to Danyl McLaughlan’s book that is he has gone there so that you don’t have to. Like Louis Theroux, in the porn industry. But, like Louis Theroux, in porn, why would you want to?

That McLaughlan chooses to, makes me suspicious. Nowhere more so than in the hope industry of the effective altruists. Here’s the webpage: Using reason and evidence to do the most good. Not the webpage for the book but for the hope addicts who support this industry. Like the porn addicts who support that industry.

(Incidentally, hope addiction has been statistically verified to be the number one killer of spontaneous creative acts in the developed world. It is, as they say, a first world problem.)

What do I suspect McLaughlan of? is it naivety? No.

As D. pointed out to me, what hooks you in to McLaughlin’s studiedly plain prose (read: refuses to flatter itself with an intellectual posing pouch by refusing to fill (an intellectual) one) is that his own neuroses keep manifesting. He keeps breaking in to his narrative with his own indecision, depression, twisty fuckupedness. D. finds this, although it is more distasteful than charming, disarming. It makes me want to throw the book against the wall. No. I wanted to read about this evidence of the disembraining machine at work. The disembraining of cognition–using reason and evidence–at the hand of cognitivism (see above).

To cleanse my subjecto-aesthetico-political palate, I wanted to re-read Josh Cohen’s Not Working: Why We Have to Stop. The injunction held in Cohen’s title seems eminently more sensible, practicable, reasonable and self-evident than anything in Tranquility and Ruin. Just stop! What your body and mind are telling you in your breakdown is that you have to stop working. Or trying to work. Or trying to be useful. And above all don’t try and do any good: end your addiction to hope.

(This could also be Rob Doyle’s message in his novels … but they are about the addiction to hopelessness or nihilism that only affirms the addiction to hope: like giving up is part of the addiction, to smoking, for example.)

McLaughlin cannot imagine any alternative to capitalism. This is reasonable evidence that the full Heideggerian nightmare has already occurred: isomorphic with capitalism, cognitivism is the system of total machinic enslavement.

Not by coincidence do we find ourselves experimental subjects in the capital-concentration camp. (This is why I envy Antoine Volodine his “anarcho-fantasist post-exoticism” and it makes me think that in a way Murray Edmond may have been right when he said to me that he didn’t consider the last century to be the American but to be the Russian Century. We had just been talking about Ernie Abbott.)

*Anyl McLaughlin, Tranquility and Ruin, (Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, 2021).

“Unlike other species, we have cosmological belief systems that give meaning to experience and to events like the death of a loved one.” said Professor Nicole Bovin on the oldest human burial found in Africa, here.

“your local shopping centre is actually an elaborate sound collage lampooning the cacophony of commerce”

— Ben Beaumont-Thomas, from here.

from here

https://aeon.co/videos/time-is-fundamental-space-is-emergent-why-physicists-are-rethinking-reality?

Lee Smolin on a universe of events: cf. Hanjo Berressem’s Gilles Deleuze’s Luminous Philosophy (companion volume = Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Ecology) the light on the other side of the dark is the plane of immanence.

On feelings:

“I see it like this,” Benedikt said. Where other people had feelings–in their head, their heart, wherever–he had … He hesitated.

“Well?”

“Things.”

“Things?”

“Things wrapped up. Like little, dark, shapeless presents.”

“And you don’t want to unwrap them?”

“I wouldn’t know where to start.”

[this is a conversation, although a bizarre conversation, as the participants recognise, between a male and a female–both detectives]

— from Oliver Bottini, The Dance of Death, Trans. Jamie Bulloch, (London, UK: Maclehose Press, 2019), 179. The original work has the much more original title, Im Auftrag der Väter.

On the dance of death:

At night the dreams came, for years. … [he] would wake up sobbing and always told them the same dream–hundreds, thousands of men, his father among them, dancing in the rain in a clearing, very slowly as if they were hanging from threads, like puppets being operated in slow motion, and they appeared to laugh and be happy. But then in his dream [he] realised that the men and his father were “dancing” because they were being shot at, bullets peppering their bodies. They were crying, not laughing, and then he saw them die.

— Ibid., 274.

The Man

 (He did more than twenty portraits of the man.)

You could be the Pope and not be able to stop it.

“Anarcho-fantastic post-exoticism.” 

The Nativist Programme

first start with indigeneity. Move on with this as if it is a political programme. (Don’t worry. It will be.)

although truth be told, not a political programme so much as a function or output of ideological programming.

indigeneity itself will perform this function, since it can assume the character of an ideological+political progamme+that of a corrective, positively to discriminate itself from the function reserved to it. The it will come

so from the start we can say, indigeneity as method.

official institutional endorsement is essential. As it has been so will it be–recognising the indigenous at last.

This, then, finality–meaning we can say, finally recognition! Recognition for:

  1. the nativist identity–where it all starts
  2. its mode of address–language
  3. inferring from these, identity+linguistic subject, a set of values to be restored. Finally!
  4. feedback loop between items 1 & 3.

an organisation–adopting indigeneity methodically to euphemise for, to give oversight to oversights, and gross mistakes, translating them into a native idiom that is also nativist: mining a “deep vein of xenophobia and nativism” and “protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.”

striking wordage on mass email app:

NEW AGE EMAIL MARKETING AT AGE OLD PRICING

Level up your email marketing game using our futurist technology at a one-time low fee.

No recurring fee and no success tax!

SKY’S THE LIMIT

– from here

R.I.P. Anita Lane 18 March 1960 – 28 April 2021

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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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