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have you heard the one about … : kinda a follow-on from the yobbism post

With serendipitous timing Adam Shatz’s Writers and Missionaries: Essays on the Radical Imagination (Verso, 2023) arrived today, serendipitous because of what I left out of said yobbism post. I had Oliver Bottini say it instead. There it came down to no longer belonging to a community of whatever sort and not missing it but instead missing the feeling that what one said, did and wrote was in some sense an answer to that community, had a necessity, the necessity of being answerable.

This is Levinas’s definition of responsibility. It has an ethical dimension that is absolute. God, for Levinas, is an individual to whom one is answerable.

In turn we are put in mind of Lingis’s categorical imperative. I made it the basis of the last phase of Minus Theatre’s work.

Lingis takes categorical imperative from Kant for whom it was, in Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, 1785), those foundations or that groundwork, the basis of moral obligation. Lingis takes this literally. He invokes the ground, the earth the other stands on, the air the other breathes, the fire of life in her, the water life in him depends on, the elements. Here, like Levinas, he says the basis of ethical behaviour is in a disposition towards the absolute other, God-the-individual.

He has us in a supermarket in a country where we don’t speak the language. Someone in front at the checkout turns to us. They smile in recognition at our mutual helplessness before the elemental dependence we share, both of us. We smile back in recognition of what the elements make imperative: we stand on the ground, we breathe the air, we are warm with life and our bodies, watery objects, move and flow in time. Perhaps we are not conscious of this but the point is that we can recognise it, we can recognise it in our disposition towards the other, as an absolute, an imperative.

Or the other calls on us by name, Hey, Simon! And I find I have to answer without the mask of a social role but in my own name. I affirm in so answering that I am answerable. I choose for this, in my own name, I exist, Simon.

Or we are ill and illness pushes us up tight against the body. It is unescapable, the unavoidable fact of our existence, its dependencies absolute. Take them away and we cease.

In Minus Theatre, a development of our practice that I didn’t carry over into the exegesis but was the reason I called it Minus Theatre: Scenes | Elements, this elemental imperative was to be consciously recognised. It took time. One actor faced another across a distance that became significant since it contained air, the air both were breathing, ground, the earth that let them stand, warmth, the warmth from their breath and bodies, and the moisture, the wateryness of those bodies in their movements. And then one would move … and the other would become answerable to that movement. The movement need be no bigger than a smile.

Yes, there is this community and the question it posed to me too to which I was answerable. I was after all responsible for this group, Minus Theatre, coming together; although it was my practice for a PhD. it was a group practice that that work followed.

And there is the community into which I politically awakened in 1981. This was not only the year of Halt All Racist Tours, the year we protested the visit of the Springboks to New Zealand. This was the year the union, Actors’ Equity, a poor thing now, took all actors out on strike, technical staff joining them in solidarity. (Some of the history is here.) Theatre’s were closed, the professional theatres, the profession a poor thing too, the community theatres. Almost unspeakable now, there had been 10 of them, in all the major centres, the communities, in NZ. And to speak about it is what that political awakening asked from me. To Whom Can I Speak Today?–the words of a poem adapted by Lambchop as the following lyric, also covered by David Byrne, the link for which at the Dalhousie University bears this note, (A dispute over suicide, Egypt, before 2000 BC):

To whom can I speak today?
The brothers they are evil
But the old friends of today
They have become unlovable
To whom can I speak today?
The gentleness has perished
And the violent man has come down on everyone

To whom can I speak today?
The wrong which roams the earth
There can be no end to it
It is just unstoppable
Death is in my sights today
And when a man desires
To see home after many years in jail

February through December
We had such a tragic year
As separate as the fingers
Or suddenly
As one
As the hand

And the violent man comes down on everyone
And the violent man comes down on everyone
And the violent man comes down on
Everyone

It’s odd to see how much of my work is a struggle with the idea of community. Political philosopher Roberto Esposito brings the ideas of community and immunity together. They are from the same root, munus, meaning an individual’s service or duty to the public body, including and going up to the sacrifice of his or her body, for example in the gladiatorial arena. And I suppose it could be seen to include self-sacrifice in the political arena or self-immolation.

Esposito does something similar to Benjamin, in suggesting that when state-violence enters into the moral relations of a cause it becomes yobbism or, in the old style, totalitarian. He points out that if a positive value is attached to us to distinguish us from them the result is totalitarianism, so that the positive way through is to choose for the negative, the nothing, the void, which must then itself be annulled.

With regard to community, Esposito writes, “It’s only through the abolition of its nothing that the thing can finally be fulfilled. Yet the realization of the thing, which is necessarily phantasmic, is precisely the objective of totalitarianism.”

I’d heard the one about the death of the author. From the eponymously titled essay by Roland Barthes, 1967: “It is language which speaks, not the author” … To assign an author is to foreclose on the possible meanings of the writing.

I hadn’t heard the one that Shatz, in Writers and Missionaries, follows it up with: Foucault defines the author as “the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning.”

Foucault two years later undoes what Barthes does: not the author’s suicide but a principle of thrift applies.

Barthes is calling for meanings to proliferate, Foucault calling for de-proliferation. The reader is a means to proliferation, the author a means to de-proliferation, of meaning: a sponge, a filter or screen.

Shatz reads as the antidote to Claire Dederer’s Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma. That book set out the dilemma of our choices as consumers being raised to the status of ethical decisions. The dilemma is what we choose to avow has too much meaning, meaning that continues as it prolongs the meaning that preceded it, meaning that we cannot shake, choosing to or choosing not to, not to see, read, serve, work, listen, feel and so on. Shatz says,

“In this book, I try to describe how such works [as have changed the way we think about the world as have Wright’s Native Son, Lévi-Strauss’s Triste Tropiques, Derrida’s Of Grammatology, Barthes’s Camera Lucida, Said’s Orientalism, Lanzmann’s Shoah] came into being: their position in intellectual history, but also their place in the lives of their creators. I make no attempt to present their authors as models for contemporary emulation or social media branding.”

… and,

“The flaws that I describe may, for some, call into question the value of my subjects’ achievements. That is not my view. It is impossible to study intellectual history without suffering heartbreak from time to time. (Just think of Arendt on Little Rock, Chomsky on Cambodia, Foucault on Iran, Angela Davis on East Germany, Sartre on Israel, Malcolm X on gender, or any number of writers on Stalinism.)” … “The purpose of these essays is not to establish a moral balance sheet but rather to explore the difficult and sometimes perilous practice of the engaged intellectual: the wrenching demands that the world imposes on the mind as it seeks to liberate itself from various forms of captivity.”

Explaining what to liberate means, Sartre:

“And he captured the desire for freedom that, as he saw it, lies behind all creative writing. Freedom, he insisted, is ‘at the origin’ of writing, since ‘no one is obliged to choose himself as a writer.’ Writing, therefore, ‘is a certain way of wanting freedom; once you have begun, you are committed.'”

3% writes D. to me, the 97% need to be able to other 3% of its number, just to be safe. And, therefore, the 3% have this service to perform of being the inside-outsiders.

What if no matter how many are othered there is no safety to be found?

Is it the same thing, human advantage over other humans, as has driven the biological advantage of humans over other animals? And would this not be less technology, technical advancement through prostheses, than social advancement? the need for variation within human community leading to big-brain-edness being therefore the big social brain of humans compared to other species (with perhaps the exception of aquatic mammals and primates who are also social-brained)?

Communities in Esposito’s political deontology have to be destroyed that are improper. These are the ones who abjure social relations, who keep their gifts for themselves, sharing economies. The social organisation crushes them and keeps a blank space where the obligation of relation was, that obligation which led to those services (of munus, munera) rendered within community, the commitments made by individuals to each other. It becomes an immunological space … of nothing given that is not first discounted for being an improper use of time, work, commitment, freedom and so on and displaced by symbolic exchange, by a conventional sign that sits on nothing and so annuls nothing.

For example this library has been made into a council service centre. A fellow librarian was subjected to a complaint regarding roading. I suggested posting it as anonymous on behalf of the complainant on the Auckland Transport website, since roading is not within the remit of council, however, the library is. We are council employees. This has allowed to the service of being a library the addition of extra services to the public.

Librarians here are council officers so I ought to have said that it’s not within our remit to deal with complaints in regard to roads but, I abjure this relation.

Does this mean that librarians form some kind of community on the basis of holding the relation to council in contempt? It would be one where we share amongst ourselves values that do not fit and are improper; it would be an improper community: but council does not go out of its way to crush it. It would rather turn libraries into a sort of parasite.

The reason is the yobbism that prevails prevails in general and librarians are complicit in it. We are not then we but further divide. We are dividual.

The evidence for this yobbism in the library has everything to do with work culture, in the old style, and a downgrading of, professionalism. So it goes to an ethical consideration, the ethical consideration of what constitutes professional practice and practices.

The library has become a parasite on technical culture and it is this that has detrimented library practices, or, as has been said here, destroyed the profession. It can be said then council, through its technical culture and its imposition of a work culture in its place, has brought about the destruction of the professional community.

Now what the object was above in speaking of the place of nothing that replaces community, in the example professional community, is both to draw attention to the void left and how a shifting series of signs nullifies it. Among these can be counted the imposition of work culture that no longer has a chain of command but a reporting line, that is no longer designated library service but is part of connected communities.

Nullification can take the form of doubling and simulating. How we know it’s a double is the plural. There are always small flaws in the simulation. Of course this is how we recognise God’s work as well, by its small cracks, by the irreality that survives in its interstices.

We might talk about AI as the grossest yobbism of technical culture.

“We, the indivisible divinity that operates within us, have dreamt the world. We have dreamt it resistant, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and firm in time. But we have consented within its architecture tenuous and eternal interstices of unreason to know that it is false.”

— Jorge Luis Borges, “Avatars of the Tortoise”

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the yobbism of the given

The tenets of civilisation are now being written by the authors of the gravest barbarity. Times have changed since Walter Benjamin’s day.

I’m informed I’m up to 1,990 posts and 298 pages. My father before he died said, Life is too short to read square white world.

Space is a social construct within the many, many, many dimensions of time. The notion offers no consolation to people who cannot negotiate the space they’re in, like animals, in the words of the title of Gilles Châtelet’s book–To Live and Think Like Pigs: The Incitement of Envy and Boredom in Market Democracies.

Justin Clemens reviewing my doctoral thesis lauded the concept of minoritarian conventionalism. I had a very specific context when I came up with the idea, a group formed around my practice, Minus Theatre.

We can choose the conventions we follow so long as we limit the number of people included in the subject, we. If we do not we are bound to follow the conventions of the space and spaces we inhabit, the same for any other animal in its habitat.

The point is elective rather than selective. It’s out of habit that we say the sun will rise, and rise in the West; the beginning of science fiction: the sun rose in the East.

Deleuze follows the line of Spinoza, Hume and Nietzsche, on his own and then with Guattari. This line is not of good sense and public morality and not, according to the conventions, determined to be natural and belong to human nature, we have no choice but to accept, of common sense.

I have left Bergson out but he can be placed anywhere in relation to the other points on the line, which are, a body’s powers of action are in relation to its power to be affected (Spinoza), custom is to the social as habit is to the individual: both may be chosen (Hume), and the social is the sum result of the choice of those forces that would affirm it in its values and that only return through the individual’s re-affirmation of them, that is, as resentment (Nietzsche). All three concern the basis of freedom that Bergson leaves undefined because it is in indetermination.

Music, the answer is music. “He had the great courage to place his knowledge and energy at the service of a cause that could never be won in a single lifetime, at any price. Fighting doggedly in a western world traumatised by guilt at having allowed the genocide of the Jews to happen, while having redeemed itself on the cheap at the cost of denial and blindness in relation to the Palestinians, Said managed to maintain his positions without ever ceding an inch of his territory to the anti-Semitism he abhorred to the same degree.”

Dominique Eddé is writing about Edward Said. Said and Daniel Barenboim together founded the Divan Orchestra, now known as the West-Eastern, its website here.

Friends, Said and Barenboim, the website tells us, together “realised the urgent need for an alternative way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The most recent post on Divan’s website, an opinion piece by Barenboim, is dated 16 October 2023. Today’s date is 23 February 2024.

As at 21 February 2024, Al Jazeera reports a death toll of 29,708 Palestinians and 1,139 since 7 October 2023 in Israel. Of the first number, it reports 12,300 were children and 8,400 women.

Common sense and good sense are like night and day, which does not mean there is not a twilight, an horizon between them, a morning light and a growing gloom. On 31 October 2023 Le Monde featured an opinion piece by Dominique Eddé, author of Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel.

She writes there, “it is time for each and every one of us to make a huge effort if we do not want barbarism to triumph at our gates.” She echoes Walter Benjamin, who, according to his friend, Gershom Scholem, held that were three things Zionism must abandon, its racism and “racist ideology” and its “‘blood experience’ arguments.” (source)

… “a cause”, writes Benjamin, “becomes violent, in the precise sense of the word, when it enters into moral relations.” The source cited above links to that for this statement and also provides a gloss on Benjamin’s essay in which the statement occurs, “Zur Kritik der Gewalt.”

Benjamin’s word for violence, Gewalt, is defined as state-violence. State-violence when it enters into the moral relations of a cause becomes yobbism, we might say.

Is there any state and any state-violence that has not currently entered into the moral relations of a cause? How, when the given is yobbism, take up a cause against this cause?

Victor Double said to me, Thank you for your help, Mr Taylor. My help consisted of contacting AT (Auckland Transport) on his behalf, as an AT agent, about which I could say more, since I work at a public library, to ask that his AT Gold Card be credited with the price of his ferry ticket, approximately NZ$30 from downtown Auckland.

Since the Gold Card allows the holder free travel on public transport if used before 9am, he had he felt been wrongly charged. He’d caught the 9am ferry which boarded at five minutes to, he explained; he didn’t usually travel with his poodle; and there were a lot of people, tourists, to board.

He gave his name, asked to confirm his identity, and, asked for his date of birth, he hesitated before giving the year, 1939. He was, he said, afraid that made him 85.

Were they going to refund him? A query would be raised, for review and, pending that, no definite answer.

I was aware, I told him, that even catching the ferry five minutes before nine you could be zapped. Thank you for your help, Mr Taylor, once the transaction was complete, said Mr Double, and left with his straw hat and his poodle.

Why burn books when you can burn libraries? Burning Al-Kalima library in Gaza is not an isolated event. Since October 7 at least 14 other libraries have been either completely destroyed or badly damaged by the Israel Defense Forces, enough to confirm the burning of libraries as an objective.

The list given by Literary Hub includes,

Gaza University Library, on October 9

IBBY Children in Crisis Library (destroyed by air-strike once before in 2014)

Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library (also used as a shelter for people), on November 25

Al-Israa University Library

the National Museum (looted and then demolished), on January 18

the Central Archives of Gaza

the Great Omari Mosque and library (housing one of the most significant collections of rare books in Palestine)

An earlier article lists librarians and archivists killed. Justine Profane, a guest (her name recalling Walter Benjamin’s “Theologico-Political Fragment”), comments:

“Barbarous cancer is idiots like you. Change your avatar you specious racist as you seem to have a problem with Jewish lives and this is all you can muster. You accuse us of barbarism but yet here we are as you parade around sounding more and more like David Duke and sending money for the slaughter. The Leni Riefenstahl Arts Council applauds you. You also never answered my question earlier: How long have you hated women? Here’s another questions: You think a beta like you could handle a loud mouthed real woman, especially a Jewish woman like me?

“Sit down, you misogynistic troll.

“Your hatred is on your and your support for it is the ugly reflection in the mirror. Not mine and not on me.”

Edward Said Library (Beit Lahia) has also been destroyed. (source: Librarians and Archivists with Palestine) David Lloyd writes on the conference and workshop which took place in Ramallah, “Walter Benjamin in Palestine: On the Place and Non-Place of Radical Thought,” in December 2015:

“To emphasize the contradiction between intellectual study and a commitment to practice, or between the privilege of the foreign scholar and the burdens of the Palestinian living under occupation, seemed almost too easy, a form of hasty thinking, even. Those of us who had committed to engage in these workshops, unsure even whether we would be allowed by Israeli authorities to enter Palestine, despite the workshop’s focus on a major and self-consciously Jewish intellectual, had chosen to participate in study under a state of occupation. We came there from diverse and incommensurate histories and motivations. We were philosophers by training, artists, film-makers, historians and theorists, activists and translators, and sometimes several of those at once. … Above all, we had committed not to a mere intellectual exercise but to the furtherance of a principle, which is that the intellectual life of the occupied and oppressed is not a luxury, but a fundamental expression of the possibility of living in common.”

“The attempt to destroy Palestinian intellectual life is as unstinting as the uprooting and burning of the ancient olive trees of the Holy Land, some 800,000 of which have been destroyed in the course of Israel’s occupation.”

I am at the end of this post and I have not yet said what I came here to say (as usual). And as usual, I have let others speak. In the end it was easier to let them speak, like the crime novelist Oliver Bottini, who says of his character Louise Boní, “For years she’d been pleased she no longer belonged to a community of whatever sort…”

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recently I struck a strange cavil on fakeduck

It was as follows:

I’d posted a list, shared, from Peter Larsen, a list of all the arts bodies, organisations, institutions, potentially affected by Mayor of Auckland Wayne Brown’s austerity policies. (The plan is to claw back some $300m+ by further gutting the gutted and hamstrung and hung-out-to-dry (because it has been very wet) city of Auckland, supercity, super.) And a nice person commented

Wow that is a lot of jobs and a lot of mental health support removed from the community… 🙁

I answered

please don’t reduce the role of arts to mental health

The nice person:

excuse me? Having art in peoples lives improves peoples lives. Having community outlets and hubs to join. Please don’t simplify my comment when I obviously wasn’t stating all benefits to having arts funding. 🤦‍♀️

And:

I’ve grown up in the arts community since I was born and pretending art doesn’t improve mental well being is just ignorant.

Now. I just want to say this here. Perhaps you will be able to make sense of it.

Please increase the role of arts in mental health

but

Please do not reduce the role of arts to mental health

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Dubravka Ugrešić R.I.P. literature? 27 March 1949 – 17 March 2023

Who knows, maybe one day there will no longer be Literature. Instead there will be literary web sites. Like those stars, still shining but long dead, the web sites will testify to the existence of past writers. There will be quotes, fragments of texts, which prove that there used to be complete texts once. Instead of readers there will be cyber space travelers who will stumble upon the websites by chance and stop for a moment to gaze at them. How will they read them? Like hieroglyphs? As we read the instructions for a dishwasher today? Or like remnants of a strange communication that meant something in the past, and was called Literature?

— Dubravka Ugrešić, from her website, https://www.dubravkaugresic.com/

I loved Europe in Sepia and regularly dip into her other writing. If you haven’t read her books, they remain and, despite what she says above, that literature does not mean forever, they are forever literature.

(And that of course means that literature and she herself are only, as my friend P. says, dead at the moment.)

In another of Dubravka Ugrešić’s books, The Age of Skin, LARB notes that she is documenting

…“the last battle […] being waged between banning the red star and fully destigmatizing the swastika. The swastika is winning the fight […] black and swarming like cockroaches.”

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A Hoke Moseley Novel

Donald E. Westlake asks in his introduction to Charles Willeford’s The Way We Die Now… Well he starts out by saying “I knew Willeford some,” and knowing Willeford some he found him to be secure in his persona and to have attained a calm plateau that his character Hoke Moseley had in no way attained. And then he asks where the character came from. Since Willeford had laboured away without the world giving much notice to his well-wrought, well-written books, it’s there Westlake thinks. Hoke Moseley had his genesis in the wilderness.

His career might stutter along in obscurity, but the books were solid. And I think the only way he could go on doing that, year after year, without either giving up or turning bitter, was that he trained himself to know that the work was very important but at the same time it didn’t matter at all. And the extension from that was that all of life was very important but at the same time it didn’t matter at all. I believe that particular self-induced schizophrenia got Willeford through the lean years and let him keep writing, and I believe it ultimately produced Hoke Moseley, who doesn’t so much share that worldview as live it.

…looking for a visual reference for this post I hit on the wiki entry and the quote below, from David Cochran, America Noir: Underground Writers and Filmmakers of the Postwar Era:

Willeford created a world in which the predatory cannibalism of American capitalism provides the model for all human relations, in which the American success ethic mercilessly casts aside all who are unable or unwilling to compete, and in which the innate human appreciation of artistic beauty is cruelly distorted by the exigencies of mass culture.

I really, genuinely wanted to be published in shabby pocket-sized editions and be neglected—and then discovered and vindicated when I was fifty. To honor, by doing so, Charles Willeford and Philip K. Dick and Patricia Highsmith and Thomas Disch, these exiles within their own culture. I felt that was the only honorable path.

— Jonathan Lethem [- from here]

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John Ash

Poetry magazine suggested, “John Ash could be the best English poet of his generation,” which prompted John to remark wryly, “Why ‘could’?” [- from here]

I know I mix the present with the past,
but that’s how I like it:
there is no other way to go on.


- John Ash [- from here. Chancing on an old post [here] where I quote some of John Ash's "Unwilling Suspension," from Disbelief in a book from the Poetry Book Society that was how I first read him and finding the interview [again, here] was the occasion for this post.]

John Ash was a great poet and a meditator on spiritual landscapes, which in his case, was all too casually named as "travel writer." [- from here]


I should like to write something for John Ash
I should like to write something to John Ash

                                                       John Ash,

I should like to have written something to you
I should have written sooner.

so, I should like to write something for John Ash
I should like to write something

I should write something
I
              write something

                                                      

            write 
                                                              Ash


I should like to leave the city
                                               for the island
I should like to leave the island
                                                  for the city

I should like to leave for 
                                       Aphrodisias

I should like to leave these ruins

                                                 for those
Nero subjugating Armenia, personified and depicted after Penthesilea, the Amazon Queen, at Aphrodisias, 20-60CE, Western Anatolia.
The inscription:
Ἀρμενία
[[Νέρων{ι}]]
Κλαύδιος
Δροῦσος
Καῖσαρ Σεβ-
5αστὸς Γε-
ρμανικός
– in its place the name of Claudius,
the name of Nero, in the dative case,
indicating that Armenia is subjugated to him?
has been erased after damnatio memoriae,
his memory damned, his damned memory

John loved the waiters who made him feel at home; in fact, they were part of both his physical and emotional landscape. [- from here]

my father also made this discovery in hospital, Simon! Come on! He’d smile like he knew the game was up and I’d be forced to admit it. Yes, those swing doors did go through to the dining room and kitchens of a restaurant and not out onto the ward.

When my father was dying,
he did a lot of traveling.
There were nights in the Tyrol,
Days spent by the banks of the Rhone
or Rhine, and for reasons we couldn't
fathom, frequent trips to Bristol.
Then there was the matter of his sight,
which had begun to betray him years before.
We didn't know what he was seeing,
so each day became a desperate act
of interpretation, but sometimes
the things he saw, or thought he saw,
made him almost happy for a time,
and towards the end, he invented
an underworld that took the form
of a crowded bar or pub, located
directly below his hospital room.
It was entered by means of a long staircase,
And a narrow passageway, at the end of which
the doorman checked your papers carefully.
Once inside, there was singing and dancing,
And everyone drank "good, Irish whisky."
This was puzzling:  he never drank whisky,
never frequented a pub.  Even his phantasm
of the good life was not his, and soon
these inventions or borrowings failed him.
He became convinced that a key was lost
under his chair.  Nothing more. Always the lost key.

- from To the City, John Ash

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I SPOKE THUS

I spoke. It was the end of the second world war.

Thus I spoke.

                Let the lesson not begin.

                Let the lesson continue from the camps.

Let the counting begin, let the milling begin, let the

great rendering down of the fat of the,

of the survivors continue, in the joy of the showers,

continue, of the victims, set out the moulds, there

at the outset was hope, hope was the outset, let the
 
making of soap and hope survive, and survive hope,

survive hope. 


                Let this not be the lesson,

                            that hat der Herder gesagt,

in the hundred-yard stare in the silence in the fat

silence, in this light and thinness of bones

in the skin, in this fat hope founded

found no hope in hope. You see, I spoke, 

I spoke without raising my eyes

from the wall, and the wall and the wall and the fence,

were not taken dancing or music or love or death even

but hope, sagt der Herder, was dead, death, led to death.


Silence in that science, science of fat and hope,

where the thinness of soap, grausam,

grey gruesome things washing grey grey water

survive hope, thin gruel drips from the lips,


the lips, too, thin, giving order to the order:

start the lesson. At the end of the lesson

will be a test. You will pass the test,

you will sit down and pass it, and go on, you

will be the lesson and the test and the start

and the end. 

                You will text the test, you will

write the test, you will like the test.


I spoke to the rest. I made my request, saying

           who shall I praise? and what hands upraise?

these are the tools, these are the teeth, and this is the

        truth, this is the truth we shall not forget and lest

    we forget it shall not be told, it shall not be told 

what hands are these and what they have made. Forgive said the old

old poet old Ez. I talked to the rest, duly, burble burble they


said, so, burble burble said old Ez. And this was the test.


Let the lesson not begin but let the pall be lifted,


    let the appalling not be shrouded or muffled

or clouded

    one more moment by silence, let voices replace

the violence, and the violins play in silence, 

            lest the truth not be forgotten

                may another beautiful saying not

                    be spoken and no more be

                        begotten. What hands

                            upraise...?


I spoke to the grey where the rest were standing

    understanding not because of manners

may no more various things, vari-coloured, mottled

    mixed be glorified,


Down tools, I said. Now, now you are free. The human

    wall was grey and left the pink before the

        bulldozer.


Understanding the wall, it rose in a wave, in a

    fuck off sort of wave, waved me away


mixed together arms, legs, faeces though no more

faeces were left, no guts spilled because none were

neither nor hair either, bones in the thinness, in the thinnest

of soils, the soil that is like air


and the lesson went on into the air. Who shall I praise?

    no human you


        buried


because that is the truth. Gather then in the future of soils

    in the future of ills, the test is that too. 


Together you have waved me away. I spoke then to praise

    the silence

                and that you understood because it was

                    your skin I spoke of


                        no longer mixed or various

                            but unseeable


in the many pointed night, in the night nothing like

unanimous.


but there see you had raised 

       whatever you like to call it the measure of a

        farm or camp where the humans are in exile, yes



there above the mess or yes more or less measuring the 

rest


    as if measuring the distance, with faces like sieves,


 the thickness of a skin, still the silence couldn't get through


and you knew,


knew it in the shadows where shadows of living, 

            lived lives gathered 

                together        gone


                    like a lividness 

                        rubbed back to health


and coming back to yourself with a fuckoff sort of wave


what are these shadows I still see on my skin?


they are so various and fleeting, I must be overheating


water the earth


I spoke thus I spoke to the crust rolling, to the whole

    hurtling through space and 

        thus speaking in this place

            lost your trust. Disgrace


followed me. Until I saw, though I could easily


have missed it, that I might


                               turn and stare


turn to where I'd come from down all the long

years


and take its poor hand or the paw it offered me



        to lead me back to whom as if home.









...

24 December 2022
for Christmas 2022

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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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