His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com


We Are And We Are Not 

- Heraclitus.

The aphorism is a curious sort of writing; a fragment at once indicating the possibility of a larger argument while representing a sort of summary of it. It points, but the gesture is always at least partially directed towards itself. It can stand alone or collected with others of its kind; never in any other sort of position, save that of the epigraph.



A notebook I saw in the stationery shop bears the line: "I want to know things before others do." A puzzling message. Would I? Considering the privilege, responsibility, implied elitism of such a line... assuredly not.
Most people know far more than they think they know; realizing that - shouldn't that be enough??
... the blink of style...

Red Threads (2) 

For the Roma peoples, to find a red thread is a sign of good luck.



Sometimes the event occurs only in retrospect.


Sometimes seeing is to make it happen; at other times, seeing has nothing to do with the event.


Hidden in Plain Sight 

It is a fatal error to fail to account for writing's essential self-subversion. Claims to "naturalness" and transparency -- worse, taking this for granted, as a given -- relegate writing, not to the margins, where writing always exists, were it possible -- but places it firmly, irrevocably, in a virtual blind spot; not even hidden in plain sight.

"We are all agreed upon the pleasure of ruins."



“Full bibliographical data for a certain number of references are missing in this volume. I am responsible for that. After hard and dedicated work by the translators in locating the quotes, Helen Tartar, who did a meticulous general revision of the manusc ript, asked me to fill in the remaining references. In some cases, however, it has been impossible to do so. Some readers may take this to be an oversight or a blameworthy hastiness, even if the reference is to a well-know text. (“What is ‘well-known’ isn’t known at all,” writes Hegel; I know this sentence well, but I don’t know where to locate it the Phenomenology of Mind.) Maybe some French have a lack of philological seriousness. But, without trying to make excuses, one should also take into a ccount a Nietzschean heritage of rebellion against a certain philology. Therefore, the omission was sometimes done deliberately from the outset: I wanted to let certain citations stand by themselves in their proper value), out of their initial context, be cause for me their usage didn’t implicate any reference to the context. Thereby the sentence is given as much value as it carries. You sometimes have to take books out of libraries, and sentences out of books; that’s a way of giving them another chance of letting them run another risk.”
-- Jean-Luc Nancy, from "Acknowledgments," in The Birth To Presence (p.viii)


M., finding the following to be of interest, e-mailed it to a group of friends. It bears quoting:

"Ambiguity seems to be an essential, indispensible element for the transfer of information from one place to another by words, where matters of real importa nce are concerned. It is often necessary, for meaning to come through, that there be an almost vague sense of strangeness and askewness. Speechless animals and cells cannot do this. The specifically locked-on antigen at the surface of a lymphocyte does not send the cell off in search of something totally different; when a bee is tracking sugar by polarized light, observing the sun as though consulting his watch, he does not veer away to discover an unimaginable marvel of a flower. Only the human mind is designed to work in this way, programmed to drift away in the presence of locked-on information, straying from each point in a hunt for a better, different point.
If it were not for the capacity for ambiguity, for the sensing of strangeness, that words in all languages provide, we would have no way of recognizing the layers of counterpoint in meaning, and we might be spending our time sitting on stone fences, staring into the sun. To be sure, we would always have had some everyday use to make of the alphabet, and we might have reached the same capacity for small talk, but it is unlikely that we would have been able to evolve from words to Bach. The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."

-- Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell


When I make reference to someone, it’s by a letter of their name -- not so much in the interest in preserving their anonymity, but more to avoid creating any mini-narratives along the way and maintain the regularity of an already fragmented surface. This might end up restricting me to a cast of 26 “characters,” though this is highly unlikely: [“There are only twelve people in the word / The rest are paste.”] A single letter may be a sort of composite, containing remarks or references made by more than one person, either due to artifice on my part, or spotty memory.



Waking before 6am this morning, my first thought was not to read Heidegger. Maybe my fourth or fifth thought was to watch Tarkovsky's Nostalghia again. I've thought of this before; it takes me awhile to wake up, and entering the day through a really great movie would be interesting; would lend that post-dream state to the entire day. In practical terms, I'd be screwed. But at least twisted in an interesting way. Suffice it to say, I didn't watch it. It's on The List. As for The List, watch this space for an upcoming post, "My Deficiencies, Part 96."

Heidegger, and 

Martin Heidegger. The elephant in the living room of 20th C. philosophy.
[You know the story; the three blind men with the elephant, one is touching the trunk, the other the hide, the other the tail, and each think they have a different animal]. Certainly important, but one can (I hope) well read the responses of Blanchot, Levinas and Nancy, for example, w/out necessarily reading Being and Time; of course, I'm sure that book has much to recommend it, but much to discard. I don't see, with time as precious as it is, where a detailed reading of MH will lead when the writings of his heirs are of more interest to me than those of Das Herr. I mean, there's too much to read and I don't want to spend too much of it with a dead Nazi, getting the ass-end of the elephant in my face. (Elephantine digestive systems are inefficient, to the point where elephants often eat their own excrement. Now THERE's a fact that could help illustrate the history of Western philosophy). This came up from a recent conversation with T., who pointed out The Ister, a new film dealing with Heidegger and Holderlin.

Casual Dismissal?
Am I being too casual in my disregard for MH? Perhaps, in the way Pound's Cantos are so easily dismissed: people too lazy to do the work, to actually read something with attention, so that "Oh Pound; he was a fascist" becomes a convenient excuse to get around reading the actual work, and, by extension, modernism in general. (Except, of course, "The Waste Land." You can knock that sucker off in a class and a half, 'nuff said).
The Cantos is, I think, a different sort of beast. Pound's monumental ego is, for better or worse, the primary organizing principle -- but what a wealth of information coheres around that peripatetic point. Part of Pound's genius lies in his breadth of knowledge and his infectious enthusiasm, argues Guy Davenport in an essay in The Geography of the Imagination; that, while reading him, you're seized by the sudden impulse to study quattrocento painting or suchlike.
Getting back to my earlier point in this post, you'd have to read a library to prepare yourself for the Cantos. (Or "The Waste Land," for that matter). But you take it as a singular work, and you draw what you can from it. Can I read Blanchot's The Step Not Beyond without copious note-taking on Nietzsche, say? Certainly. Will I get a cull a richer field of meanings reading TSNB after brushing up on my Nietzsche? Surely so. But reading doesn't require an a priori shuttling back and forth through the alphabet between B and N; one could spend enough time bogged down in the H's ["Too many H's" said J. in the philosophy section of the bookstore. "Too many L's." (And then there's F.'s, and D's, reading through F.'s "L before K" routine)]... Shit. T=I=M=E

Everything is research.


Black Ice 

Writing "Process" post, I thought My god, I'm just coasting here like I hit a spot of mental black ice... And yes, writing/thinking and the space of the accident are not inappropriate. Went to save the draft, and Netscape crashed; luckily, crashguard kicked in and saved it. How long before I go in and re-edit / delete it?


The train trip took me out of the city and through a wide valley, created a thousand years or so ago by pyroclastic flows that scoured it clean, reaching as far as the waters of the Sound. Reviewing my notes, ideas, preparing for the reading, I thought about sedimentation. I worked, jerkily with the motion of the train and my sleep-deprived brain, until I reached the city where I'd be reading.

The river was swollen, muddy brown, thick with detritus near its banks. A line of logs moved down the river like a film of old battleships on parade. Walking along the shore in the rain, thinking about the peculiar dynamics of river cities, the way the river behaves... looking out across the surface of the water, seeing whorls and eddies currents and counter-currents, distortions in the surface created by underwater structures; the way lighter run-off rainwater will pool and form riverlets atop the flow (how fresh water does this in salt water; they say you can catch freshwater fish miles off the mouth of the Amazon, past any sight of land)... This particular sort of dynamic seemed relevant to the way I write and read, and how I'll process a text after composition; how I choose to present it, frame it with(in) an epigraph. I thought I'd say something about sedimentation and river flow to introduce the reading. The following day, when the time for the reading came, I said something else, instead.



Nature of most blogs seems to be to connect community of bloggers, who skim across the surfaces of various friends' blogs. Not much digging down unless someting grabs them, the surf washes them against something new.

The reverse nature of this writing is part of what appeals to me; in another blog, I'm trying to construct an essay, or rather, let me say I'm in the process of constructing an essay, that starts to echo itself strangely as one scrolls through. I assume I'll get to a point with it when I'll print it out, chop up sections, move them around & write in the interstices of those notes.

But for here (and there), my thought is to write out longhand, away from the machine, and enter pieces in as I see fit. I don't like -- or trust -- this action of sitting at the keyboard. Future posts should, I think, be written longhand; buy a cheap notebook in keeping with the discardable nature of the medium, and enter items when I find the time / inclination.

8:50 am Sunday 8.II.04.
Started this post yesterday; I have the option of altering the date when I post, so can slip this into the stream at some past date, reweaving the thread ever so slightly. Would a post-dated entry hang out in digital space somewhere, waiting for the moment to be realized? I'm thinking this primarily because, elsewhere, I added a line that I altered from a book I was reading last night, so technically -- if I were trying to document my thought process accurately -- I shd have dated as such. Here, I'm actually using the draft feature of this blog to write something for later upload, despite my reservations given above. Not to say they don't hold; I'm not as much a purist as I'd like to be. But then, you're reading this, so there.

One possibly valid critique of MB's writing is that it's "only about" writing; it's his starting point, his ending point. Self-conscious more at certain times than others. But writing simply is that; writing about a philosphical idea, a trip, etc., cannot get away from its constructed nature. Does this make writing a sort of fatal loop, existing only in and of itself while paradoxically outside of itself? I thought, several weeks ago while walking down the street, how is it I can call myself a writer, what is it that makes me one? Having been published? Being labelled "a writer" by others? The time I spend doing it, thinking it? Where does the thinking of it separate from the act; is it purely at that point of contact of the pen on the page? It's a lovely image, the glistenng ink still wet, seeping into the fibers of the page. Can one become too obsessed with questioning, love the questions too much? But there's only not-knowing, I think; as soon as one reaches a conclusion, states a fact: that [this] is an allusion is to _____; that I'm "awake" and it's still "dark," etc. -- one is quickly -- or immediately -- confronted with what isn't known. A sort of thinking thinking thinking being Aristotle's view of the Divine.

MB and the impossibility of death. Thinking about Heraclitus' famous line about the river, several things at once, one night, it was weeks ago, dark, on the bus, rain lashing aginst the windows, lights outside, the bus turning down an unlit street then, I found myself literally lost in thought; sensing a totality as near -- provoking the same intimation / reverberation --as what I can near enough call a "genuine" spiritual experience -- a sort of timeless present in which I wasn't making connections so much as seeing the possibility of them, and it seemed to me that death was quite impossible. Can one feel a sort of comfort and terror at the same time, perhaps akin to a sense of knowing not-knowing? Two things language tells us are irreconcilable becoming manifest?

The moment passed; I could write it off to tiredness and/or low blood sugar; there's something Levinas writes about fatigue I'd like to reference here. Suffice it to say that I went home, and likely, later that evening, watched Becker. I'd like to be able to say that I viewed the following exchange that night (it was another night), but that would be pure artifice. It's apropos, though:

Linda: Margaret, I just had an idea...
Margaret: How do you know you just had an idea?



I had spent the better part of a month till the beginning of December, in W., and for more or less the entire time I had been the only guest at the Englewirt Inn. Only occasionally did one of these solitary commercial travellers appear, who spend the evenings in the bar rooms finishing off their day’s work, calculating percentages and rates of commission. As I too was forever bent over my papers, they may well, at first, have taken me for another salesman but, after a closer look at my outward appearance, they probably decided that mine was a different and perhaps more dubious profession. Disturbed not so much by this scrutiny as by the first preparations that were being made in the house for the beginning of the winter season, I resolved to leave, particularly as my writing had reached the point at which I had either to continue for ever or break off. The following day, after changing several times and spending lengthy periods waiting on the platforms of draughty provincial stations -- I cannot remember anything about this journey other than the grotesque figure of a middleaged chap of gigantic proportions who was wearing a hideous, modishly styled Trachten suit and a broad tie with multi-coloured bird feathers sewn onto it, which were ruffled by the wind -- on that day, with W. already far behind me, I sat in the Hook of Holland express travelling through the German countryside, which has always been alien to me, straightened out and tidied up as it is to the last square inch and corner. Everything seemed to be appeased and numbed in some sinister way, and this sense of numbness soon came over me also. I did not care to open the newspapers I had bought, or to drink the mineral water that was there before me. Stretches of grassland swept past on either side and ploughed fields in which the pale winter wheat had emerged according to schedule; neatly delineated fir-tree plantations, gravel pits, football pitches, industrial estates, and the ever-expanding colonies of family homes behind their rustic fences and privet hedges, all of them painted in that slightly greyish shade of white which has become the preferred colour of the nation. As I looked out, it made me uneasy that not a soul was to be seen anywhere, though enough vehicles were speeding along the wet roads veiled in dense mists of spray. Even in the streets of the towns, there were more cars than people. It was as if mankind had already made way for another species, or had fallen under a kind of curfew. The silence of my fellow passengers sitting motionless in the air-conditioned express carriage did nothing to dispel such conjectures, but as I looked out at the passing landscape which had been so thoroughly parcelled up and segmented, the words “south-west Germany”, “south-west Germany” were running over and over in my mind, till after a couple of hours of mounting irritation I came to the conclusion that something like an eclipse of my mental faculties was about to occur.
The compulsive fixation did not wear off until the train pulled into Heidelberg station, where there were so many people crowding the platforms that I feared they were fleeing from a city doomed or already laid waste. The last to come into my compartment of those passengers who had just boarded was a young woman wearing a beret of brown velvet whom I instantly recognised, without a shadow of a doubt, as Elizabeth, daughter of James I, who according to the chronicles travelled to Heidelberg as the bride of the Elector Palatine and, during the short periods in which she held court there in great splendour, became known as the Winter Queen. No sooner had she sat down and settled herself into her corner than this young woman was deeply immersed in a book entitled The Seas of Bohemia, written by an authoress unknown to me by the name of Mila Stern. Only when we were travelling alongside the Rhine did she occasionally look up from her reading and glance out from the window at the river and the steep slopes of the opposite bank. A stiff northerly wind must have sprung up, because the flags on the barges that were ploughing their way upstream through the grey waters were not flying backwards from the stern but forwards, as in a child’s drawing, and this lent the scene something that was at once touching and awry. The light outside had steadily diminished, and the great river valley was now filled with a faint luminescence. I stepped out into the corridor. The slate- and violet-coloured vineyards, hatched into the hillsides, were covered here and there with turquoise bird-netting. Snow began to drift by, scoring delicate slanting lines over a view which was constantly changing as we slid past yet always remained the same. Suddenly I felt we were on our way to the far north, approaching the furthermost tip of the island of Hokkaido. The Winter Queen, who I believe had brought about this transformation of the Rhine landscape, had also come out into the corridor, and had already been standing watching the beautiful scene for some time before I heard her reciting, entirely to herself, as it seemed to me, the following lines, with a long-lost inflexion in her voice:

Grasses white as driven snow
Veils far blacker than a crow
Gloves as tender as the rose
Masks for faces no one knows.

That I did not know what to respond at the time, did not know how this winter verse continued, and, despite the feelings within me, could not say a word but merely stood there stupid and mute, looking out onto a world that was now almost gone in the fading twilight, is something which, since that day, I have often much regretted. Presently the Rhine valley opened out, gleaming apartment blocks appeared on the plain, and the train drew into Bonn, where the Winter Queen, without my having been able to say even a word to her, got out. Time and again since then, I have attempted to find that book, The Seas of Bohemia; but although it is undoubtedly of the greatest importance for me, it is, alas, not listed in any bibliography, in any catalogue, or indeed anywhere at all.

-- W.G. Sebald, Vertigo (pp. 252-256)


Void 2 (Some Small Comfort) 

It doesn't argue; the void neither accepts nor rejects.
Yet our constant dialogue with it sustains us.

Destination X 

Traveling to where I'm at now for a reading. Thursday night, asleep at 2am, set alarm for 7, woke at 6.
Friday, went to bed around 3, up at 7 to get to the train.
It's not nerves, or a matter of preparedness: somehow, I don't permit myself sleep as the event approaches, awaiting the manifestation of the reading, the collapse into the text.

[notebook fragment] 

In the midst of Forgetting

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?