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


“the tyranny of the Particular”: some impressions 

“Habit may weaken all things, but it also stabilizes them; it brings about a dislocation, but then it makes it last indefinitely. For years past, I had been roughly modeling my state of mind each day on my state of mind the day before.” -- Marcel Proust

Two days affording good stretches of reading; and while I’m endeavoring to spend a fair amount of time reading Proust, I should note that it’s not my intent to keep a running commentary here. But should I note that random moment earlier, outwardly marked by the sign of an epiphany?-- I was sitting in the reading room, and the sun suddenly broke out at an angle so steep that it could only pass quickly, shedding its light through the yellow and red panes of one of the rosette windows -- & for a couple of minutes I sat transfixed in a beacon of amber light, so intense that for most of its duration I couldn’t read, and so struck by its suddenness and warmth, I closed my eyes a little and sat there. This seems "precious," -- and in a sense it was. Does this reading, this near-immersion, with its moments of sparkle and clarity, its moments of dullness, its moments that correspond -- does this correspond to a“new realm of feeling” -- an altered way of seeing things as that brought about by a new job, a new love, a Yasujiro Ozu retrospective? “I have said that, on that day, Albertine did not appear to be the same as on previous occasions, and each time I saw her she was to seem different. But at that particular moment, I sensed also that certain changes in the appearance, the importance, or the size of a person may interpose between us and the other.” Ephemeral as a sunset, the effects of wch it duplicated, I read that passage at that particular time of “epiphany” -- did it signify especially, this one passage among many? “However, quite often they were nothing but images: I would forget that, beneath the color of them, there was the forlorn, empty shoreline, with the uneasy evening wind which had so upset me in my arrival in Balbec.” The passage marking the transition from this post and the previous might well be noted by a chance encounter with George Oppen, found the morning after I read Proust’s description of the changing light in Balbec, the view framed like a painting from his hotel room.* Oppen begins his book with an epigraph from Maritain: “We awake in the same moment to ourselves and to things.”

George Oppen, from “Image of the Engine, ” in The Maintains:


Endlessly, endlessly,
The definition of mortality

The image of the engine

That stops.
We cannot live on that.
I know that no one would live out
Thirty years, fifty years if the world were ending
With his life.
The machine stares out,
Stares out
With all its eyes

Thru the glass
With the ripple in it, past the sill
Which is dusty -- If there is someone
In the garden!
Outside, and so beautiful.

* from Place Names: The Place: in James Grieve’s translation, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, pp.384-388; in Scott-Moncrieff, Vol. I, pp.860-864.


In the shadow of.... 

I'm hesitant to put myself forward on this, but I've been reading Proust. I'm pushing myself, having embarked on this path before; I'm in the second volume now, so there’s hope, some progress. Mixed feelings -- it's an enormous book, but I've taken some strength from a remark Gabriel Josipovici made about not approaching it like a monument. It's just a really big book. And flawed. I find these flaws reinforce its power, and if we're somewhat "taken" by a book as we read, if we adopt, subconsciously or not, some of its author's or narrator's point of view, this constant coloring or recoloring of memory, these quickened enthusiasms and disappointments of life, they come home in me here. Walking back to the library reading room the other afternoon, where I read to eliminate distractions, I felt a tinge of helplessness... That isn't quite the right word, but despair is perhaps too grand a term for it. Emptiness? This feeling came across me like hints of dusk in the afternoon, a deepening of shadows; similar, in its signaling, like the first intimations of a panic attack. I'd had lunch, coffee, browsed the bookstore: went through my usual routine, and thought "I'm just going through the motions. I am, and always have been, a little blank."
I dawdled a bit, smoked a cigarette, walked the long way around the library, and, perhaps as away of delaying the reading -- am I really up for this book, this level of minute self-examination? -- I browsed the stacks and looked at Christine Cano's Proust's Deadline, where I read:

“‘Life is too short and Proust is too long’: Anatole France’s wry remark has long made the rounds as a humorous summing-up, and an implicit casting-off, of one of the most important and most difficult literary works of the twentieth century, the 3,000 page À la recherche du temps perdu. France’s sharp assessment, whose repetition is always greeted with delight, reveals something about the famous readerly ambivalence that haunts Proust’s novel even as its canonical status grows even more secure. What it reveals is the extent to which all reading, but perhaps paradigmatically the reading of Proust, is defined by an extra-textual temporality that is quite simply the time a text “takes” to read -- time taken away, France implies, from living itself. Life is too short: this banal adage inscribes every reader’s mortality into the project of reading Proust, conjuring up and image of the page-turning reader’s lifeblood seeping away as she makes her way to the end of yet another complex Proustian sentence. Proust is too long: now almost an axiom itself, this tautological formula seems either to sanction the blithe abandonment of our reading efforts, or to call for a remedy to the excess -- abridgment, condensation, omitting a volume here and there. Either way, the brevity of life and the length of Proust remain fatally pitted against one another, underscoring the inevitable implication of actual lived temporality in the reading process.”

It was a mood; it passed. I feel its after-effects and, writing of it now, at a short distance, I think of the coloring of moods, or situations: the way a person's blue eyes can look green or grey, depending on what they're wearing, or the light in the room. The light in the room: reading, the day before my attack, as Proust's narrator related the coloring of the sky at dawn and the complexion of a country girl encountered on his train trip to Balbec, as I perhaps subconsciously dwelt on train trips and the idea of travel; transported as I was, simply pausing in the moment of reading, the setting sun shone through the stained glass set in the rosettes topping each of the eleven clerestory windows of the reading room; oranged light cast on the stone wall opposite. The physical, material and "real" world and that of the text found themselves in me, their correspondent.

Broken Time 

Up at 5 a.m., for no apparent reason -- it's not like the radiator, making its strange, grinding noise woke me up. Later... I was looking at an object in my room, and thought of a phrase spoken to me by someone I was once involved with; we no longer speak. "You have a shelf full of broken clocks -- no wonder you're depressed." Later. Out back, smoking a cigarette, a few high clouds blushed with early light, the sun just below the horizon. This hour I love so much, and the resignation that the rest of the day will literally pale away into something cold and other. I look at the clouds and this thought drifts to that of sunset ("When I look at one thing, I'm really thinking of another" - Edgar, in Éloge de l'amour) and in particular the shot of a sunset in Godard's Passion: the crew had wrapped for the day, and Godard saw the sunset, and liking in it the fact that it was not "pretty," not beautiful, grabbed a camera and filmed it. Later. I glance through a few books, looking for Godard's exact remark on the shot and come across another line of his, from Passion: "Once in a while, take advantage of the fact the sentence isn't finished to begin speaking and begin living."


"putting one's house in order" 

Not that this project should be confused with anything more than a notebook (I do put on airs, don't I?), but I've added a few more links. There could and should be more, but hey, my handwriting's terrible and my notebook's a mess.
I'm glad to see that the Eclipse site is back up, with a good selection of out of print and otherwise hard to find L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and associated texts; what makes it really nice are the scans, enabling you to see how the actual books appeared. And my, wasn't the IBM Selectric a wonderful typesetting tool! (Possibly the only electric typer I'd want to own. Ooh, there's the 1965 Olivetti Praxis, too). Feast your eyes on some of the eye candy and finger foods here. Ok, enough hot typewriter fetish action. Speaking of "putting one's house in order," there's some sraightening up that must needs be done. I need room to pace. Pacing: a gestural sort of walking. And walking: "Walking, when it is thinking" -- Virginia Woolf.
My apologies for the strange, conversational tone tonight. Give me a moment.

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