velvet & vomit

Since you asked (my little joke), my writing is going a lot better, thank you, more smoothly. Foucault required of his writing style that it feel like velvet, that it have a velvet surface. This velvet-surfaced prose for some reason, perhaps because of the expression velvet-tongued, makes me think of a tongue. He wanted the surface of his writing to have this quality or, he wanted his writing to have the surface quality of velvet.

An unusual turn of phrase in Levrero: an hallucination allows us to see things that are not there. On the one side, there is the epistemology of an hallucination; on the other, its ontology. Saying, It was an hallucination, allows what was seen, despite it not being there, to pass over to the side of things seen and known. What about its being? What about if an hallucination were a pass to visibility for what is not there?

At any point, a thousand hallucinations press on the air. We are given leave to see one. We do not say, It is merely an hallucination or afterwards, it was merely an hallucination; we thank the hallucination for allowing us to see what is not there, what was not there: a thousand unseen things, and we were granted access to one. Or, rather, the hallucination granted that access, giving it to be seen.

The same might said of all those instances when epistemology becomes confused with ontology, where the concept or the word is like an empty form, a voucher that is made out in the name of what was unseen, because not there, before, but is now. The situation recalls the song “Haddock’s Eyes.” That’s what the name is called, says the White Knight to Alice, but not the song.

The song is called “Ways and Means.” While what the song is is really “A-sitting on a Gate.” The tune, the White Knight says, is pure invention.

Ferrante writes in Incidental Inventions, collecting pieces written for the Guardian in January 2018 to January 2019, There’s nothing I wouldn’t write about. In fact, as soon as I realize that something has flashed through my mind that I would never put in writing, I insist on doing so. This is on 5 May 2018.

On 12 May, she writes about the urge to write, But be careful: we have to refrain from taking our barren, proud, cruel creative deliriums for a mark of quality.

Sometimes it is the urge to write that insists you write what you would never put in writing. It is not you. But this does not mean it is not a barren, proud, cruel creative delirium that you (or I) mistake for having quality.

I was reading Carrère on his search for Luke Rhinehart, writer of The Dice Man, pen name of George Cockcroft, about a man who makes decisions of exponentially growing importance in his life based on the throw of a die.

What is it, I thought, about Carrère’s writing?

I had also been listening to a reading of The Adversary. What is it that makes it not to appear the willful imposition of a distinctive voice or personality onto his material and yet to be full of a voice and of personality?

I mention The Dice Man because of the aleatory device of the die, because of the introduction or intrusion of chance operations in writing and in life.

The whole idea then, when the novel came out, in 1971, was escape from the self.

The self is a product conditioning; today it is simply a product: so, now, it is thought to have greater or less utility by those entrepreneurs of the self. But I am getting away from my question.

If I read Carrère, or, yes, Ferrante, as willfully writing against their own ideas of what either of them would write, as insistently imposing this on themselves, I would be able to tell; and I would see it as an intrusion, as an imposition on the writing.

It might be entirely authentic. But I think it would read as being forced and artificial, as if the writer were asking too much, not of the reader (Ferrante seems to say this), but of the writing.

Rhinehart has to obey the die in The Dice Man.

If, since this is one of the alternatives he may have assigned to a number on it, the die says commit murder, the die is responsible. For him the die is responsible; regardless of how the rest of conditioned society may view it, he is not.

Murder and the alternatives of killing someone he knows or a stranger are put on a throw of the die.

As they say, the dice are loaded. Is writing itself the same kind of technique or practice?

Burroughs and Gysin’s cut-up technique might say it is; but in being so, is such a technique only bringing out what is true of the practice in general?

There is something attractive about Ferrante’s, if it flashes through my mind, and I realise it is not something I could put in writing, I insist that I do, that I write it. (Put like that, that is a lot of I’s.)

There is also something appealing about letting the die take the hit.

Deliberately writing against or in flight from oneself, whatever the reason: is it a lie, like the one about, If you go far enough to the Left you end up on the Right? that if you do you go full circle? And, by writing the opposite, finish by writing the same?

You end up by writing what you would have had you gone all out to please yourself and indulge your personal inclinations, or follow your heart. Is this true?

A swerve away from what you would certainly put in writing, in the direction of what you never would, perhaps is a good thing. But is it not a matter of degree? Is it not a matter of introducing small degrees of difference, rather than of imposing on oneself, in life or in writing, the inescapable duty to do the opposite of, as it were, being true to oneself?

Another way of saying being true to oneself is the currently popular excuse, Telling my truth.

What it is an excuse for is, at best, testimonial writing.

The origin of that word, testimonial, is in testes; something Mussolini is said to have done before making a public speech: fiddle with his balls.

Dorfman, in Some Write to the Future, 1991, gives the best, most sensitive analysis, being the least morally judgemental one, of testimonial literature, specifically that of Chile detailing the “the brutality with which the military, decades after it was supposed that Hitler and Mussolini had been defeated and buried, punished the Chilean people for having dared to pursue their liberation.” (from here)

Dorfman looks at how this literature came to be written.

He analyzes the political, moral and commercial demands for it:

1) in the political domain, the need for denunciation;

2) in the moral, the need for these crimes to come to light, to be seen to be the crimes they are;

3) in the commercial world, that popular impulse feeding on vicarious experience, arousing a sentiment of national outrage, of shared moral indignation, and setting, from an identification with the victims, this in the place of any shame in complicity or sense of shared historical responsibility, in place of any more nuanced or problematic response.

In New Zealand this weaponised empathy, called identity politics, is good for sales in the moral arms race of the culture wars.

To meet these demands requires a certain format, a degree of tidying, organising and shaping, to make the testimony into narrative, but also, at the same time, to conceal signs of tampering and of editorial intervention.

What the editor is after, who with the testimony giver may be one and the same individual, is not expression in the raw, with its lumps of undigested because indigestible truth, not the atrocity itself but the exhibition of atrocity.

The inhumanities of humanity are like animals in a zoo, curated according to species and on display as examples of species, not for being exemplary in their own right, as would be the case with individual experience in, say, a novel by Ferrante or an autofiction by Carrère.

That is more it: autofiction is not testimonial but anti-testimonial. It sets individual experience up to be so exceptional that it needs to be accounted for or borne witness to by the writing.

Witnessed, observed, experienced is not a truth of, say, evil, an absolute leaving no room for witness, the individual observer. Not a matter of individual experience, that it is one of national significance or significance to the species, crimes against humanity captures well.

Autofiction registers and records the fictionalisation that Dorfman’s analysis finds is part of a type of writing, that cannot bear the thought of it, as narrative.

As narrative, it tells the truth in the form of a fiction even if it is not itself a fiction. The point of autofiction is admission of the inadmissable; and this goes to Ferrante’s point too: to admit the inadmissable, in fact, to insist on it.

Why does she insist on writing what flashes through her mind that she would never put in writing?

Her insistence has not to do with her exclusion of her self but her exclusion of getting in its way: this is her insistence.

It is not because what flashes through her mind is intrinsically worthwhile, possesses some special significance for women, for society, for humanity. That it is not is the reason for her second admonition, her cautioning, Be careful: we have to refrain from taking our barren, proud, cruel creative deliriums for a mark of quality.

Our barren, proud, cruel creative delirium is, she writes in the piece it comes from, the product of another exclusion: the isolation of the writer.

The writer isolates herself from family, from affection, from society and from, inasmuch as she is herself a product of the social absolute and so conditioned by it, herself.

She does so because of the urge to write, to fulfil the demands of writing. Or, writing makes her do it; like the die made Rhinehart do it.

It is further to fulfil its demand that she insists on writing what flashes through her mind that she could not put in writing.

The inhuman part that is indigestible, inadmissible and must be isolated is in this case the writer. It is not the suffering of the individual and the truth of that suffering, the truth of that individual or even the individual, speaking a personal truth, who has to speak this truth. It is the writer writing, the technical practice of writing, that isolated is put on exhibition, its own sort of atrocity.

I was surprised to hear Andy Warhol on Vivienne Westwood’s hate list in Roddy Doyle’s adaptation into a TV series of Steve Jones’s autobiography, called Pistol, book by Steve Jones. I was thinking about kitsch. Yesterday, it must have been.

What is wrong with New Zealand place names?

First off, Nigel Corbett, brother of Jeremy who hosts the TV show 7 Days, and has done since 2009 according to the wikipedia page (quite funny: gives the format of all the ‘games’ in the show), his, Nigel’s comedy routine: presented maybe 1992 or 3 at the Watershed Theatre, now no more, like most of Auckland’s theatres (including the university theatre, The Maidment; The Mercury remains, but as a venue for hire: Creative New Zealand seems to like it better that theatres remain venues rather than have the expense of actors and so on), Nigel’s routine riffed on New Zealand place names.

What do you call one of the most beautiful places in the country? … Russell. Russell. (Perhaps only beaten by that part of Auckland that used to have a sign on the road announcing, You Are Now Entering Rodney.)

Russell? why not call the Milford Sound, ummm, Trevor, or perhaps, Milford?

New Zealand place names are kitsch for being nostalgic, nostalgic for a fake 1950s colonialism, the Six O’Clock Swill, violent simple hearted and minded men, women who baked, caravan holidays, barefoot childhoods and some of my best friends at school were Maori, at school where they were punished for speaking Maori, grey woolen shorts and scratchy jerseys, choice of future occupation and therefore of training and education for girls, teacher, nurse or housewife (my grandmother’s sister, incidentally, Ava, was one of the first women to go to Victoria University, Wellington; my grandmother, my mother, both teachers, grandfather and great grandfather, school principals; on the paternal side, freezing works and housewifery).

New Zealand place names of colonial imposition have that whiff about them. What is it? wet wool. Also dissociation, spiritual, mental and genealogical: a supposed binding of ties to England that, cut from locality and source, sets the name floating above the place.

It is kitsch because the name covers over the reality of the colonial past and that past where the colonial one was already thought past and buried. It is also kitsch for that nostalgic evocation.

In other words, the colonial imposition of names is a first cover.

The second (kitsch) cover is the one that inserts the placename for that history’s sake that did not exist, the one evoking nostalgia.

The third (kitsch) cover is the retrospective maorification of placenames, for being a cover of a cover, of a cover.

Now the Maori placename covers the actual or potential English placename, or, in the case of Dunedin, a city planned in facsimile to Edinburgh in hair-rising denial of local topography, its streets taking their names from the ‘original,’ the Scottish one, Ōtepoti. Dunedin is called Ōtepoti; Dunedin is the name for this Edinburgh; what its actual name is is a matter for your own invention. (See the Haddock’s song.)

Then the pakehackification of Maori placenames: the Kworra and the Why-mack rivers. Tie-happy. Paraparam.

Although frowned upon, there is something autofictional about these bastards. For, after all, that is our theme: and, after all, autofiction, is not about authenticity but, as an act of self-originating, is about originality. I was talking with P yesterday.

P asked me what I think the Bible is.

The Bible sent me back to Carrère and the essay I referred to earlier, “Resemblance.”

After a lengthy peroration on what the Bible is not and what it excludes, those writings called apocryphal, and what it includes in the effort at achieving a kind of root-hormonal synthesis, Old Testament, rooting it in Judaism, and on that period of synthesising and standardising (knowledge, in the encyclopaedia, language, in the dictionary) and species-being, in all kinds of hierarchical trees, because of the threat posed by the Outside in the imperial onrush of global domination of Western nations, after that I said to P, The Bible is a portrait of one man, an historical person, someone who actually existed, lived and breathed, from several different points of view.

Now, P did not necessarily want to hear that.

P told me that some people consider the Bible to have been directly dictated by God and therefore to be of unimpeachable authority.

P told me about a transition or conversion that many former New Agers are undergoing. In this period of uncertainty and chaos they are turning to Jesus Christ and finding in him a sense of certainty and faith. One person she knew became a priest.

They are leaving the New Age and going to Jesus. Jesus might be the opposite of Luke Rheinhart, the Dice Man.

Jesus is not an aleatory technical detour or détournement, a circuit breaker in either the continuity or discontinuity of lived experience. Or is he? In some cases the Bible might serve this function, as does the Book of Splendour, the Zohar, for Cabbalists.

The indeterminacy of throwing a die to effect choices resembles pre-alphabetic indeterminacy in Hebrew, a symbolic system representing spoken language through the consonants alone. Lacking vowels, the meaning of a given word is open to multiple interpretations: God could as well be Gouda.

Abram in The Spell of the Sensuous (1996) says like philosophy written language as a determinant symbolic system is a Greek invention. The Greek addition of vowel sounds, well, Abram identifies vowels with breath and breath with temporal presence.

To animate a word is to fill it with breath, anima and spirit having comparable etymological origins, in Greek and Latin respectively, as words for breath. Seen (or heard) this way, the word is spirit, world spirit.

How this pertains to philosophy is by enabling abstract qualities to be interrogated. It enables qualities to be abstracted from the present and to be interrogated in themselves. This is Socrates’ method: all very well to talk of the justice of the wise king, but what is justice in itself? Or good?

The good in itself must be the highest good, the ideal form of goodness. It must determine what is good in all the many instances when what is good occurs.

Qualities as concepts come to have ideal forms determining the myriad instances of their instantiation, in their actualisation. In other words, the hallucination allows the invisible to be seen: to be seen and known is the path to being.

The Bible, its original language Greek in large part, so an animate inanimate, a writing having in it the decisions about meaning breath makes, has enjoyed many hundreds of years of interpretative debate as to true meaning, as if some indeterminacy still ineradicably attached to it, that would, by extension, attach to the written word.

The source of this indeterminacy is usually put as a question of faith and a matter of authority.

Its truth is doubtful, for those who doubt it, for the reason of authority, not for cleaving or not cleaving to reality, for the reason of its authority being doubtful. It is not for those who doubt the Word of God. Neither is it animated by Spirit for them, nor does it in turn animate them with its spirit: it is as if, exactly, its spirit did not speak to them, and was not dumb but meaningless, as the speech of animals is said to be.

The faithful in contrast must come to terms with its certainty, the surety of its fixed meanings, through either understanding, the expert advice of priests and other institutionally invested representatives, or interpretation. This is like Dani Rodrik’s policy trilemma that holds democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration to be mutually incompatible, saying, we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full. (from here)

We can have faith in the spirit of the Bible; in the authority of the Bible; or in the meaning of the Bible: and we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full. The historical reason: the big interpretative, exegetical spree that occurred in Protestant homes, particularly in the 19th century, was due to taking out the middleman, after Luther, making it possible or even necessary to enter into direct relationship with God, to allow your own personal Jesus, in a passage from being able to be known to his reality being abundantly manifest. Yes, said P, The people I have talked to talk about their relationship with Jesus like that.

It must have been the day before yesterday, the conversation with P. Yesterday I was talking with M and the conversation suddenly veered towards the Bible.

We were talking about a book review in the Guardian, An Inconvenient Apocalypse, Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen, 2022, released the day we were discussing it, September 1.

M accepted without reservation that we are headed towards global societal collapse. It was self-evident to her, and I assumed that this was because Things Can’t Go On Like This.

According to the Guardian review, Jackson, an agronomist, and Jensen, a journalist, offer something like a panchreston, a universal origin or original sin to explain how We Got In This Mess. Farming or harvesting is the original sin. With it came human settlement, territorialism, population explosion, competition for resources, technical innovation, to feed a settled mass of humans, each ratchetting up the other… to arrive after 10,000 years or so at Where We Are Today.

What is called for, after the societal collapse that the authors and M accept as being inevitable, is to be hunters and gatherers forever after; and called for as well is a scripture reinforcing this message: in other words, a return to scriptural authority.

Yes, said M, unsurprised, this also in her view an inevitability. So, the Bible.

I picked up Mojo. Good News! I read, Lambchop’s latest release is The Bible.

The truth by received wisdom, expert advice; the truth by personal discovery, personal relation; the truth through understanding, election and affirmation: the truth, although there are the everyday conventional truths, seems to elude convention; it is rather the institutions allowing the truth to be seen that enable different and diverging truths.

The institution of a personal relation with Jesus allows one truth; while the institutions of religion, having their professional cohorts, their own professional managerial class, allow another; and the institution of freedom of belief allows another truth, this trilemma.

The other meaning of apocalypse Derrida has written on, and, I suspect Heidegger (I do), is the veil being rent from our eyes. That is the other meaning besides personal, general, social or natural destruction or self-destruction.

The veil being rent is something again other than the pressing of invisibles like dark matter (Levrero writes of this in The Luminous Novel, 2021) up against the veil and the hallucinations (he writes of) that sometimes allow certain of them to be seen.

If we consider an inconvenient apocalypse, of the sort described in Jensen and Jackson’s book, to be like this, we are then given to see it at a time or in a place where it may be inconvenient. It may be more convenient for Things To Continue As They Are, in other words.

The apocalypse is the being its hallucination allows or gives us to see, and to know.

Is it true?

Jensen and Jackson give the event agency in its coming to be seen, to be known and into being, however; they do not allow it to be known in any other way than by its brute imposition.

This for them is apocalypse: and their answer to Hell is, if not Heaven, then the promise embodied in a writing, a scripture and determined by it, a New Bible. Good News!

It can only be good news on the strength of the bad.

I wonder what the trilemma of faith says about the trilemma of the mutual incompatibility of democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration?

After testimonial literature, and this is what the Bible is, isn’t it? After testimonial literature, that Speaking Your Truth is at best, comes the confessional writing that it is at worst. The weaponisation of empathy called identity politics in the moral arms race of current culture wars can occur to either the worst or the best. It is relative.

At worst, Ferrante’s insistence on writing, where, as soon as it flashes through her mind what she would never write about, should it be sufficiently insistent, leads to confession; or, it does without her caution: But be careful, there is no guarantee here of quality.

What sort of quality?

Is it that of Karl Ove Knausgård? who once said in an interview (he said it in fact in different places. I heard him say it at the Writers’ Festival, Auckland, before Covid.), Kill off your internal censor.

He said this is the only way he could manage to write so much so quickly: by not writing so well, because, he also said, Sometimes the life is shit, so sometimes the writing is shit.

The internal censor is not imposed by the social absolute and that is to say it is not opposed to the social absolute: to oppose it is to be on the level with it, and that, I suppose, renders it no longer absolute but relative.

The internal censor could also be what Ferrante is talking about, and the thing would be not to oppose the internal censor either, not deliberately to write for censorship, as if this internal game, like the external one of calling attention to yourself for being contrarian so as to raise your profile worked in your own mind, raising your profile internally and elevating yourself in your own esteem.

Truth, is what DBC Pierre calls it, Release the Bats, 2017.

Where is the self-awareness of the writing that allows it to know itself not to be vomit?

It is both in its presence and on its surface, Foucault’s velvet and what it has to be so that it is true to itself as writing. Autofiction comes closest to honesty when it is closest to itself as writing.

Carrère, again, gives the example. Talking about Jesus, he asks how we can tell that Jesus is an historical person who actually existed. How do we discern from his multiperspectival biblical portrait that he lived and breathed, existed in historical time?

Carrère’s answer is the superficial, the trivial and unflattering detail. Made to look too good, Jesus can only be a fake. When we read he performs a miracle, raises the dead, we have to doubt it (or take it on faith). When we read he talks to a soldier and the soldier is named, this trivial fact alone is enough to consider the possibility it may be true. Why else would the soldier be named?

To whose benefit is it for the soldier to be named? It is one of those facts that has made it through the standardisation process of the Bible, an extraneous detail, a detail that is not flattering but is included in the portrait, and is a matter of indifference to the subject of the portrait.

This is key for Carrère: do we believe the portrait of the king with the wart? The portraitist has not added the wart as an afterthought.

The only explanation there can be is that the king actually had a wart, and, for whatever reason, allowed this unflattering feature to slip through.

If the wart is exaggerated, as it might be if it were your confession, and, say, the wart not available to public view, or if the wart were a wound and you working on your personal mythology, it ceases to be a disinterested observer on the main subject. The testimony again becomes doubtful.

Going too far in either the direction of making yourself look good or making yourself look bad causes something like a separation. The smooth consistency starts to turn. Lumps and clumps appear on the velvet of what appears now to be indigestible as the truth; not the avowal of inadmissability, but an imposition on the writing it cannot support, a sticky vomit.

Autofiction seems to oppose fiction in this way, but it is also in opposition to fact: the line it walks, that it risks walking, is not the one between true and false.

If there is a crack (Deleuze) or a hyphen (Bergson) between inner experience and its expression, an expression that will always differ from the experience, by the addition of the totality of the experiencer, an infinitesimal difference, as it were, linking virtual to actual, an actual that will always differ from the virtual; if there is a break (Deleuze) or link (Bergson) (that for both Deleuze and Bergson is the body), this is the line autofiction walks. At risk are both the body and the whole of writing. It comes down to this, the indifference of a detail, that is however singular but not special: a trivial, surface detail; and one that has nothing to say in the end, that is not the telling detail.

No amount of interpretation will resolve it, and no special meaning attaches to it. Neither does it resist analysis; then nor does it give analysis, say, the purchase, leverage, angle of a chink in the armour, or weak link, or slip. In other words, the crack (Deleuze) or hyphen (Bergson) that is the line autofiction risks walking is entirely unmetaphorical and literal.

Autofiction could not be any more unlike autobiography, because its practice requires the inclusion of the totality of the subject, and his, her, your experience, and all of what he, she or you have experienced, as no more than a part, and an apart.

Wayne Koestenbaum writes:

Because I’m rereading Giorgio Agamben’s Remnants of Auschwitz (which acknowledges the impossibility of testimony), I’m moved to tell you the following story. My father’s cousin Wolfgang survived Auschwitz, though Wolfgang’s parents were gassed upon arrival. I wasn’t nice to Wolfgang. That’s part of my poetics–not being nice (not being a mensch) to Wolfgang and not being nice to his wife, Luisa, who also survived Auschwitz, I wasn’t nice to her, either, I wasn’t a mensch, and that is part of my poetics, not being nice to survivors of death camps, my permanent culpability and rottenness is part of my poetics, an integral part. I could go into detail about my not being nice to survivors; going into detail would be part of my poetics. (I wrote this final paragraph while eating chocolate cake at a hotel restaurant.)

— from “Play-Doh Fun Factory Poetics,” (2009), in My 1980s & Other Essays, (2013)

luz es tiempo

Comments (0)


“the past is a fire that eats up the present”

“Our vast imaginations pull in the opposite direction from our small, frail bodies.” – from here

Consciousness covers itself.

Consciousness covers itself with abstractions, with the abstract, as much with materialities, in the pragmatics of everyday life.

In the pragmatics of everyday life, the “social absolute”–Seitaro Yamazki’s fossils of the future.

Reminds me of “not the relativism of truth, the truth of relativism”–Deleuze and Guattari.

A critic questions the absolute. Is it capitalist? Is it not so much absolute as absolutising?

Is it relativisable? for example, through historicising what was thought absolute, see if it has been constructed, when and how. Then it can be made relative to historical circumstance, some determinations some accidents.

Is this deconstruction? No. Deconstruction starts from what is already there in the construct, the social construct, the epistemic construct, that is always at work to undo it: deconstruction has to do with an inner contradiction, a tiny difference and an infinitesimal crack in the foundation which will be singularly responsible for bringing the edifice down.

To see how it has been made so that it can be unmade: how the trick was done to undo it. It is usually words and their effect on institutions: is this Foucault’s genealogical method?

Yes, first is showing the social absolute is not absolute, but not by using the critical method. Not by using the critical method because the critical method is also historicisable, is too timely.

Another absolute is called for… this is a bit like Alex Hochuli, George Hoare and Peter Cunliffe‘s suggestion that leaderless political movements are ineffectual; especially so when looking at anti-politics. Anti-politics has its leaders, leaders whose appeal is of a different quality than political, that is mythic, iconic and demagogic. (probably why political dirt does not stick to them)

Social absolute covers: a social self.

Yes, social self is individuated: the Other is an individual. God is. Absolute is.

…so the individuation has a timeline that it is relative to, so what? Critic of the critic asks.

Consciousness, political consciousness, covers itself in its timely exercise: in the pragmatics of everyday life.

Under consciousness is not the time of the social absolute but the individuating absolute, an internal time. An infernal time: the past is a fire that eats up the present.

knowledge is a determination of the future: use it

luz es tiempo
thigein & conatus

Comments (0)


the significance of dissolving sugar: or, the earth has lost its centre

The image appears in Bergson’s Creative Evolution of mixing sugar and water. In some readings it is either a lump or a spoonful of sugar. The quantity is unimportant. What is important, Bergson says, is that I must wait until the sugar melts.

“This little fact is big with meaning”, he writes.

Deleuze takes up the image as shorthand for its big meaning: the time it takes for the sugar to dissolve. Now, this duration cannot be measured as it transpires. Only when the time has expired can it be.

Neither can this time be, Bergson writes, protracted or contracted. It is, he says, an absolute: on elapsing, it will have been the duration required in order for the process to complete itself, in order for the sugar to have dissolved. On the basis of its necessity, the actual elements, water, sugar, glass, Bergson says, are abstractions. Time is not here the variable, it is the a priori and a posteriori condition for the process to take place.

Nor can this be said to be contingent on the will of the observer or contingent on observation: the time it takes will always be the time it takes. I can attend to or not attend to the passage of time. It will have the the same quality, and its quality will not be that of a quantity: its duration will not be its measurable duration; two instances of dissolving sugar in water even if measurably identical in duration will occupy a duration that, lived, is absolutely different each time. It is then of a different quality and is an individual, unique, incapable of replication and irreducibly singular, such that Bergson writes it is in the manner of a consciousness.

It can be said that consciousness has for Bergson the qualities of irreducible and radical difference, and a uniqueness of interiority, a subjectivity that is singular and individual, because of the time it takes to pass through, because of its duration, not that the sugar dissolving in water is conscious or participates in the subjectivity of an observer or by participating in an inner experience of time that is consciousness. Consciousness is what it is because of its duration and it is from the qualities of an individual duration that the individual receives its qualities, not the other way around.

Duration can be said to be the source of difference, and this is what Bergson’s Creative Evolution is about: duration as being where creativity originates.

The difficulty reading Bergson today I believe comes from having lost or covered duration. Our inner experience of time has been replaced by screen-time, the digital involves images that are always moving whether or not movement is depicted, or cinematic time. Movement itself it not the key. The temporality movement occupies is.

The time it takes for sugar to dissolve in water: on screen, this time is no different each time footage of sugar dissolving in water is shown; the time it takes is no different each time it is watched. We may be different but, again, this duration does not gain its qualities of irreducible and unrepeatable singularity from us, either in our paying conscious attention or in our inattention to it.

The other way around: we have covered or lost in duration the source of the individuality of consciousness, its creative source, and that of our own individuation.

Consciousness comes from time. This notion of time, or duration, is unscientific, anti-scientific even; but then I wonder how much science owes to the technology that gives us our primary experience of time, that technology concerned with the moving image?

Emmanuel Carrère, as a finalist for the Gregor von Rezzori prize, gave an address in Florence in 2014. In it he considers the difference between fictional and historical characters, those drawn from life and those made up, for example as ideal types. Doing so he describes well what distinguishes the ones who lived, in this case Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate:

These two men, Jesus and Pilate, weren’t mythological figures, gods or heroes, living in a fantasy world where everything is possible because nothing is real. They were a colonial officer and a local visionary: men like you and me, who had specific faces, wore specific clothes, and talked with specific voices. Their meeting didn’t take place like things we imagine, in one of an infinitely variable number of ways, but the way all things happen on earth, that is, in one specific way that excludes all others. We know next to nothing about this specific way, this unique way, that had the privilege of passing from the virtual to the real. Yet it happened.

— “Resemblance,” translated by John Lambert in 97,196 Words: Essays. It handles really I suppose of what makes the unique individual unique. Yet it is called “Resemblance.” I would say that in the singular quality of duration it is not identity that is at issue, or that identity is so only in so far as it is resemblance. Duration has rather to do with difference than identity, Deleuze would say, difference in itself, whereas identity goes towards the same.

The event of sugar dissolving in water or Christ appearing before Pilate: I am more struck here by Carrère’s statement that this is the way all things happen on earth, in one specific way that excludes all others; and of course I am also struck by his coincidental and parallel statement that we know next to nothing about what way this was, which excluded all others, that had the privilege of passing from the virtual to the real, that is, of occurring. Bergson, and Deleuze from him, says the virtual is no less real. Bergson’s duration depends on it. This passing is, for both, from the virtual to the actual. Only the event in actuality, actualised, can be measured; quantity, number, for Bergson, presupposes the setting out of one thing and another in space, not the qualitative difference that is in duration.

That quantity, number, setting out for example images one after another, belongs to space, and not time as Bergson understands it, tells us why he held cinematic time to have no relation to understanding absolute time, duration. He rejected early cinema in much the same way Freud did, and for similar reasons: it is all just chases. Although there is something Freudian in this.

For Bergson, it was all merely motor-sensory, without a memory or spiritual, or artistic, component. He liked it for the study of biological processes and thought it outside of enabling to be seen natural processes that are ordinarily invisible to be trivial. Yet, in his cinema books, Deleuze takes him to the cinema for its philosophical importance.

There is an intermediate point to be made here. Bergson’s and Freud’s rejection of film for being trivial is based on subject matter and genre, and the first subject matter, from the first commercial screening made in Paris in 1895, developed into genre was not either the chase or highly kinetic, motor-sensory, movement-based moving image sequence we are used to thinking of, in for example L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat

On the approach of the train the audience is said to have rushed for the exits. The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station was only the year following the Lumière brothers’ first commercial showing of a programme of short films. What grabbed the attention of the audience at the earlier screening was not the chase elements, or the thrill of speed and movement.

It was, the leaves on the trees are moving. It was, the dust from breaking the wall billows in a cloud. It was the smoke, steam, spray from waves and the waves themselves in all their chaos that were appreciated. From this appreciation grew the Wave Film. (Support for the notion that the Wave Film was the first genre can be found here: Jordan Schonig’s doctoral thesis, “Cinema’s Motion Forms,” 2017, p. 62.)

This too is a little fact with a big meaning. I deal with some of the implications in my moving image lectures (6, 7, 8, 9, 10). I would love to think that these have an afterlife.

I opened The Needle’s Eye, Fanny Howe, by chance on this passage:

Babette Mangolte, the French filmmaker, wrote that now, with digital image, and “no shutter reprieve, no back and forth between forty-eighth of a second dark followed by one forty-eighth of a second of projective image, with no repetitive pattern as regular as your own heartbeat, you are unable to establish and construct an experiential sense of time passing.”

— 2016, p. 86.

This goes to the question of what enables us to establish and construct an experiential sense of time passing. Where do we hear the heartbeat of time? With Deleuze, I would answer that in cinema we do, whether it is digital or not. The movement in the image is the issue because this movement has a distinct duration, and, replayed, it has the same duration.

Should it surprise us that the individual clip is the same individual each time it is played? The significance of the Wave Film is that it did surprise. That what in nature was unique and unrepeatable could be repeated on screen captivated audiences of early cinema.

We should also bear in mind the reach of cinema from its beginnings. Within in a few years almost every country in the world had seen cinema and in many places cinema was in production. This accounts for major advances in cinema being able to take place outside of the traditional centres of culture. For example the first feature film was made in Australia, The Story of the Kelly Gang, and released in 1906.

Film was, considering the forces of production mobilised, considering its global mobility, what might be called a first (world-)war-machine. The means of production circulated as rapidly as the films made. What was spreading, what spread so rapidly, was not simply a new form of representation, medium, a new art form or a new from of entertainment, production and consumption, and it was not simply a new way to represent movement and time, but was a new regularisation or gave a new norm to time and to the experience of observed movement, and therefore scientific knowledge.

What might happen from this point is attention might suddenly cut between topics. We see this in modernist literature, in parataxis. It is strange that accounts of modernist poetry treat this as if the juxtaposition of dissimilar topics in a newspaper or their coincidence with the commodity-form might explain it. It is strange, because what distinguishes cinema is the ability to jump between spaces, to be anywhere and at any time in the next cut, as long as it is the next, and then the one after that, as long as it is in the temporal sequence of the moving image, and along its duration.

In cinema and screen time over all, the time element specific to it is strengthened at the expense of its spatial element; and this spatial element includes historical succession, just as Bergson suggests that number and quantity follow on from a setting out that has less to do with time than with space. The time element of cinema and screen becomes rigid and for that reason replayable, no matter the chaos of movement in the shot or the distance in space or space-time a single cut leaps over: for example, the millions of years between the bone being thrown into the air in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the spaceship it cuts to.

Deleuze is right to think about screentime in terms of duration, in Bergson’s terms. But this leads to the greater problem he addresses in Cinema 2. This problem is the loss of belief in the earth. The problem is also stated by Deleuze this way: the earth has lost its centre. It has not because of loss of belief. Both statements belong to the problem of duration as the source of that creativity, its origin, that the earth is.

How still to tackle this problem? How, when our own creative origin has been lost or covered over in the inner experience of time by screentime? I would suggest… doing nothing.

I would suggest passing through screentime. I would suggest making images adequate to pass through. We cannot restore a centre to the earth or an experience that has become alien to us. That is belief in the earth.

We must not try. We must not must. We pause, stop working, pass through …

luz es tiempo

Comments (0)


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.]


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]


Comments (0)



(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)








luz es tiempo

Comments (0)


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:


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.

thigein & conatus

Comments (0)


a note on Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” from lecture 7, Theory & Context

Walter Benjamin is misunderstood in his essay of 1935 if it is thought he is referring to what is particular to an artwork, or to what is unique and singular in general: the reproduction he is referring to is not so much to do with the reproduction of an original as to do with the overcoming of any sort of origin or process or event of origination as happening in an original and unrepeatable time by the fact that time itself can be repeated, in the here and now, of the shot. That is, the moving image, or movement-image.

The word he uses to cover a sense of loss, without himself giving way to any sense of loss, is aura. And by this word we are to understand not what is intrinsic to the object or the kind of movement that is intrinsic to it but what is and that kind of movement that is incidental to it. This is the action or agency of time: it’s the wear and tear, the traces of history, which mark the passage of time.

And here, in the age of mechanical reproduction, the object and its movement, as the actor and theirs’, that Benjamin also mentions, is freed from time.

The aura is lost, without a sense of its loss: in fact this sense is the coming attraction.

Now, the title of this essay, is usually given in English as reproducibility to be closer to the German Reproduzierbarkeit, but this seems wrong to me, since it undoes in part that on which the essay is premised. Where reproducibility suggests the reproduction is yet to come, the work of art in the age of … reproduction suggests it has already arrived. Or its coming is in the future perfect, as having arrived.

Reproducibility would be of the entirety of what is to come.

luz es tiempo

Comments (0)


this poem departs (introduction to poems that don’t exist #3)

       This poem departs from the idea which is not my own that all that we think of as objective knowledge is subjective knowledge.

       I suppose I can call it a poem, I am introducing poems that don’t exist. It doesn’t exist, this poem.

       When we think of the object of knowledge we think of it as outside ourselves. Someone told us. Or we saw for ourselves. Most often it’s someone, teachers, friends, parents, parents rarely. They are hardly believable. It’s even difficult to think of their existence, of them being objectively real.

       Why would I not call it a poem should it not exist and not if it should? I think in my first introduction, if you go back there, this was the case.

       Most often, more often than not it’s a body, giving out what then becomes public knowledge. That is, publishing, but as such bodies are in the business, they sell it, are selling it. That is, publicity. So they are private bodies, businesses; and even if public institutions, like schools and libraries, and institutions of government, they think of themselves as businesses. They have adopted the business model; even organs of government, those organs telling us what’s going on in our own society, what new laws have been made, these are not, as is sometimes thought, political mouthpieces, organs of propaganda: they are private companies or separate departments engaged in public relations, that is, PR.

       I wouldn’t call my writing all through these years poetry, because it has never been published as poetry for a start. But it has been read as poetry... but not like, and this is where these introductions to poems that don’t exist come in, it has not been read like those people I hesitate to call poets because I all too readily recognise their voices. Yes, I all too readily hear in the voices of those who read their poetry who know it to be poetry, poems, they are reading, who are for the most part published poets, and those who aspire to be published, to have their poetry published, I all too readily hear in their voices other voices. Other voices which all come down to one voice. One voice that we know to be the voice of poetry, which, in other words, serves, pays exactly lip service, to our knowledge of what poetry already is.

       The change from public to private organs of knowledge we recognise as participating in the change from knowledge to information. But this part is exaggerated when we, as some do, maintain the change from knowledge to information to be to the former’s detriment. Or go as far as to say it marks the demise of knowledge. Or complete symbolic breakdown.

       When I read poetry I read it in my own voice. So I’ve never been concerned about what my voice is on the page. It shifts, drifts. I can’t go as far as to say I have multiple voices. I am not Fernando Pessoa.

       There are those informing us of what we take to be the case. With some practice we can separate out commentary from exact description. We can separate the facts from opinion, or from the taint of subjectivity. We suppose we can. I don’t intend in the poem that follows to be gainsaying this supposition. This is not the reason for my poem.

       Without too great an uncertainty, and despite the inroads made into the world of poetry, of poetry publishing, a large part of which relies on its own PR, its own good publicity, in allowing those inroads to be made, by black people, by coloured people, by people belonging to ethnic minorities and by women, queer, trans people, those who are in the middle of transitioning and those whose identities are fluid, among whom I do not count myself, we may call the voice of poetry despite this progress, despite the progress made by all these factors, we may call it his master’s voice.

       This poem then is not so concerned with the passage to privatisation of knowledge where knowledge equals power and the globalisation of that power. It’s not so concerned with the politics of knowledge. It’s not that idea, the idea of science and civilization going hand in hand and then knowledge being taken out of the hands of the civilizing process, siphoned off into privately owned silos, it’s not this idea that it departs from; and neither is it the idea of there being some good attached to the history of knowledge in its relation to power, nor is it the idea of some bad, of the process of civilization being one of conquest, of colonisation, of empire, of slavery or of emancipation.

       His master’s voice takes up poetry in a way that ruins it for me. And it does so for the slam-poetry poet-performer as well as for the academic poet-teacher: the little chat introducing the poem over, he, she, they, launch in, with a change in voice, a change in speech to what is in quotation marks. His master’s voice.

       The following poem, that, remember, does not exist... is not about freeing knowledge or of planting and harvesting it, of stockpiling or of weaponising it in some kind of economic arms race... It’s not about its advantage or disadvantage. It’s not above it. It departs from this... at that point when... all that we think of as being objectively known becomes subjective. That is, the point at which we, any one of us, either stupid or smart, poor or rich, powerful or powerless, grasp it, understand and know. What do we know?

       I’m not saying hear me, I am an authority on this, you can bet the academic poet-teacher of poetry does her best not to write, in fact and defensively tries to avoid writing, poetry suited to the seminar. And you can bet the slam-poetry performer does not try to avoid writing and presenting the stuff suited to the society of slam poets: he, she, they, want to belong. The poet-teacher disowns. She, he is, they are uncomfortable in their professional skins. That’s why we laud the laureate’s appointment who manifests to us the inroads poets have made into the poetry business who have different skins: we appreciate their struggle with having to wear them that can only mean progress for poetry, and be filtered back into the process of teaching it, the civilizing process.

       What I am saying, and it’s not an original thought, it’s not an original thought and it’s not because it’s not that this poem departs from it, is, what I am saying is that because all we think of as being objectively known is only ever subjective, is that the poem has to depart. Knowledge is always this departure. And a poem is too.

       I am not saying I have altogether avoided his master’s voice by calling it out. My failure to publish poetry is my failure. It’s not turn-around-able into a successful strategy to avoid his master’s voice that I don’t call my work, my pieces of work, writing, poems... except those, like the following, that doesn’t exist.

       What I am talking about in the poem that doesn’t exist is not freedom from slavery. What I am talking about in the poem is a new I. The new I that follows the departure that to know is and that a poem is.

       I am he who—

       I am she who—

       I am they who—

       Language is a found object.

       I hear its murmuring. A background to the world. And forming it into words...

       It’s said. Is not enough. As if the fault lay with language.

       The impossible to express.

       It does not. And changing it or knowing how to is simply irresponsible.

       The proper response is to let him go let her go let them go

       It’s called this poem departs

luz es tiempo
point to point
thigein & conatus

Comments (0)


introduction to a poem that doesn’t exist

       This is a poem called ‘a nice friendly chat,’
       ‘the familiar bathos at the unfamiliar time, at bath time.’ Or:
       ‘as I look out upon the devastation we have caused, I can’t help thinking,
       I should write about this.’ or, have you noticed when ... poets begin to read their own work. 
       Something happens. Cadences occur, that would not, in everyday
       speech. And the words tend not to fly out or up
       but fall down, dying, at the end of the line.
       Is this why I prefer the introduction to poems,
       that don’t exist?

       I don’t think the Beats did this, but I have heard singers who do.
       Who don’t let the song speak for itself, without
       a little chat. This is a song about
       happiness. Listen,

       I was happy once
       before I had to get up in front of you and sing, and this
       is the song I wrote about it—And I was in love,
       now you have forgotten about it—It’s about
       sadness. So the song

       becomes a report, that is sung
       without looking at the words and if looking at the words
       without reading them. Singing them
       ‘a too sincere apology for my insincere behaviour,’ or
       ‘if time heals all wounds then I think I’m running out,’

       This morning magpies were singing omicron
       half a moon lay in the sky like a piece of bone       
       discarded and spilling its contents on the sky
       it lay there rolling I know this tells you nothing
       about how to live since life among people
       has become unbearable

       and we have to wonder today what the function of all this talk is if not trying to tie up like a thousand shoelaces connections some force has undone

       and every effort made, even after a short walk in your shoes I feel I must correct you, you are falling falling further apart,

       and I feel I must, I must tie up your shoelaces for you

       I could guess it’s a moral or a spiritual force, for the—and have you noticed it’s always in writing?—wanting to tie your shoelaces

       I want you to know, it was me who tied them for you.

       This culture of communication we live in, that because it is written we ought not call conversation simply,

       becomes an excuse for constant fucking moralising

       the fatuous comment of those trying to alleviate the situation, whose every attempt at levity is

       equally conservative moral. It’s poetry-heavy.

       Heavy with portent, fat with good breeding, stock full of references, and good for you...

       or poetry-lite, it’s called stand-up:

       ‘I yawned so hard I think I dislocated my jaw, ouch’

       It goes,

       I want you to know, it was me who tied your shoelaces

       this poem is about How to fight the endless fucking moralising

       that has become the Other in the world,

       who forecloses the world from me

       with his judgement, with her jokes, just jokes, and doesn’t seem to be able to enjoy herself and doesn’t seem to mind

       A world that is dying, expensive, crushing and disappointing, unjust, controlling, racist, cancelled, sexist, corrupt, sick, I’m sick of it

       The problem is no longer that the self is the synthesis of secondary images, the self is the synthesis of secondhand opinion

       It is no longer a question of what’s true or false and of their contention,

       it is the contention itself as every alternative is raised up to be or lowers itself to be

       . I tie your shoelaces together and watch you fall over .

       the laughing end

       it is a world

       without possibility

       there is no option but to stand outside

point to point

Comments (0)


sketches of Kawaeranga

don’t trust bird stories

they have short lives

	are pleased to please themselves

	tell of quick movement

quick and alive and

don’t trust the pain of trees

	they bear up the sky


the sky is blue


	the big kauri on the ridge

supports half the sky

	calls endlessly for help

distresses the children

for brothers and sisters’


to the wind

	distresses its

over a thousand



my ankle gave way on the tramline

	coming down the cutting

no tram

	no trestle

the dams remains

	no kauri

numbers to support the efforts

	taken to remove them

the exorbitant efforts


4 . 1 . 2022

luz es tiempo
point to point
thigein & conatus

Comments (0)