. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought

Writing Light

And how hard it is to do. I tried, in the last post, to say something about secrecy.

I don’t even care about secrecy, usually, because the scenario of exposing what’s unjustly censored has always seemed overdramatic to me, a distraction: all communication amounts to a defense, a performance of knowledge management that approximates some parts of reaching out to a thing while bracketing out others; and when information is hoarded to consolidate power, often the fact of the hoarding is overemphasized (Lies and Lying Liars, etc.) relative to the substance that was hoarded in power’s treasury (see etymology in the last post).

Think about the word “disclosure.” In the event of the revelation of the secret it just feels big because it reveals that control over history and the present has already been stolen from you (or the body politic), and thus the revelation delivers a quadruple shock (we discover and are forced to adjust to the news that we have not known a particular thing, nor known how to read the world, after all).

But I’d read an article that had excited me, and I wanted to report on how reading a thing had opened me up to a cluster of associations and bridging energies to do with my older work on the new state realism that embraces coping with terrorist secrecy by copying it and papers I’m going to write this spring countering some traditions of everyday life theorizing about encountering the present. The event of the secret, its meaning and force, is, paradoxically, how it’s shared. That was the animating revelation for me.

But my mood was at so many removes from my writing. I could barely stay focused on feeling out the thing. So the writing in the last post sucked in such a deeply familiar way (my fingers typed “failed” and “familial” before they allowed the word they intended). Clotted. I was unhappy at how long it took to say a thing, anything, about the privilege of state secrecy and secrecy in love. So because I couldn’t write with the energy I actually had I had to invent a new genre of riffing, the side effect. Yet even in that incarnation it feels, still, too heavy, each phrase adding a weight rather than folding in light.

Then today I’m rereading Eve Sedgwick’s “Paranoid Reading” and “White Glasses” essays, the former of which I find such a strange combination of careful and willful argument and which I treasure for what it wills to hold out when it replaces “depressive position” with “reparative reading” on behalf of its commitment to creating, through writing, luminous part-objects or potentialities for gathering up qualia, intimate and associative knowledge. It is trying to convince itself that anger and paranoia can be not the whole story, that they can be interrupted by theory, an orientation toward an affective tendency to appreciate disorienting juxtapositions, mistakes, tenderness, and sweetness. Ideally there would be no compensations, one could just appreciate what’s now. But that’s not the plot of the thing, that’s not the energy of repair.

I am writing this in a cafeteria of sorts. I smell french fries, and when I leave I will smell of french fries. That is not the vehicle I imagined myself being. Sedgwick: “If every refusal is, finally, a loyalty to some other bond in the present or the past, refusal is simultaneously preservation as well” (“White Glasses,” 258). What did I want to be the transistor for, then? She cites Michael Moon’s claim that this refusal is not just of all the sexualities with which one doesn’t identify but a whole range of perversions that we deny without mourning. But is the sensual richness of polymorphous porousness merely amputated when one finds some comfort in being organized? Is the pleasure of form, of becoming oriented, only a defense against the pleasures of desire’s perversity? Is mourning a structuring appetite, a structuring hunger from not being or having everything? (My old shrink said once, “You’d want everything too, if you thought you could get it.”) Is the appetite for optimism the same thing, the slow and manageable leakage of a kind of exuberant animal greed that refuses the finality of loss? I don’t intend these as rhetorical questions.

What lightens me most about Sedgwick is the need to connect, “the bitterness of not doing so” (260), and the need to make theory give permission to bunt one’s head toward the beyond of what feels impossible. The style of “White Glasses” is to reiterate phrases and elaborate on them, to produce a kinetic energy to find new shapes of potentiality for the rageful, destructive, self-shredding affects. I want to build my skills for patience to stay longer than that in the transitional spaces, to not be overwhelmed while I pay attention to what’s cracking irritatingly and inconveniently, to what’s opening, what’s confusing, and what’s flourishing in the transitioning cracks. (The history of the present-in-transition.)

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I don’t think it sucked, per se. Rather, you were being effusive in *your way,.* Unless one is particularly anal retentive, blogging doesn’t go through peer review unlike most academic books and most journals. You end up having to risk your bare thought. I end up re-editing my entries all the time well after people have read them. I am a cheater.

I feel like the risk of thinking out loud is greater on a research blog not only because your thought process is revealed, but because I’ve seen a lot of academic blogs and most have the professional sincerity thing going. One tone of voice for each entry. I don’t write like that which is why every academic paper I ever wrote acted as sort of a parody of academic papers. Eve Sedgwick is one of the few people out there who lets herself go with a voice at odds with itself; “disorienting juxtapositions, mistakes, tenderness, and sweetness.” And some other less syrupy ingredients.

Comment by darknessatnoon

Thanks, I appreciate the support. But alas blogs aren’t just thinking out loud, but writing out loud, and writing in a space that’s both occasional and serious in its desire to track an impact toward a further opening. I’ve always been a bad writer: clotted with flawed storytelling skills, but with some sense of sound and rhythm. I work hard at it, but people still often tell me that the writing works a lot better once they’ve heard me speak. So I have a long way to go. But so often, like in that post, I start stentorian and airless and have to pump in the grace later, when I can find it.

I often think about Minima Moralia, and what TA had to do there, to manage living on by writing in the units the writing took on, with a commitment to beauty and style, as though that’s what one can do amidst the ruins in transition.

Comment by supervalentthought

I sometimes sense both the management and the approximation, but I’m not forceful enough or optimistic enough to see a real I can get to. You are actually quite optimistic. I often feel like a cheap cheerleader, like I have to find the “good” in everything I raise or else there’s just no point in raising it. So the conversation is never about what it is supposedly about, but it’s always a sideways move that takes on something else. I can’t force it. This is the defense part for me, I suppose, because then I can’t feel bad about my own inauthenticity, or lack of expertise, because what happens in writing is something I am ultimately pleased to have contributed to, although it certainly is NOT the road I took or the question I tried to ask with my will, or wanted to ask. Does that make sense? Something else happens on the way and takes its own shape, and knowing that can happen means it’s all a surprise rather than disappointment. But it also means I have to be satisfied with what I get, which limits the scope. I realize this gets way more complicated when you are trying to make writing do your bidding, as you do, and NOT acquiesce to a limited scope. You want to eliminate the opacity of language to try to get to a clear realization from it, to squeeze its fruits out of its secret and withholding mouth. I feel like I mostly brush its scales and watch it wriggle, while you wrestle with it. And what you are saying here is that what that serpent tells you, grudgingly, makes you want even more, and the maddening secrets in its eyes as it looks back at you drive you crazy and make you feel inadequate. But really, give yourself credit for insisting, always, that it divulge something that is difficult to know. Because, as this post shows really well, you did.

Comment by Sfrajett

I was writing today about “queer”–and about the question, asked after a panel of queer readings in field X (which is to say, who cares what field?), “Is everything, then, queer?” I love this question–and I was writing about why the answer to the question is “yes.” And further that that answer also–though the most accurate one because it resists the question’s demand for normal, ie normal answers to normal desires–doesn’t begin to say enough in some ways (the answer merely signals a resistance to normal), which is the thing I like about queer–that it insists that you always have to say more and go further. Which got me to writing a whole paragraph of something that I realized I don’t actually believe. I like it when this happens. What I was writing was that queer always has a partner which is not itself–and that partner is its own point (its object). I was thinking about what a critic of a book I like said (I like the book he was dissing, I am ambivalent about him): that “the mere fact of a queer reading” won’t suffice. And I wanted to say he was wrong–but I was basically saying he was right, I think–I was saying not that queer has to have an object in advance but that it always produces an object even when it doesn’t want to. Because I think there’s no such thing as “the mere fact” of a queer reading without that reading having produced something outside “the mere fact of a queer reading.” But I worry that what I’m saying about queer always making something outside itself–is wrong. I worry not that it is wrong like I am getting something wrong on a test–but wrong because it’s a dangerous thing to say…

Comment by Mandor

Wow, Sfrajett, the end of your post blows me away. Serpents! Did you mean to be Edenic, Miltonic? Anyway, on a good day we’d describe ourselves similarly, crafting an aleatory analytic that feels satisfying if it holds its focus. But when my writing is ugly (heavy) it bugs and shames me then. Who’d want to read it, who’d want to take the risk of becoming absorbed? Because without taking up and magnetizing material into something transformed is the least writing can do (whether or not one has amassed a special archive).

Comment by supervalentthought

Mandor, say more. I love the narrative of writing against your own knowledge (following the logic of an instinct into a position you could reverse, and who hasn’t done that!) but I don’t understand your conclusion that it is queer to do so and then *dangerous* to say that queer always taps into the logic of the supplement, both performs supplementarity and demands it, makes new objects at all places in the analysis. Maybe! In theory so many love “excess” and outsideness, and talk about its threat to x; and I’m always skeptical of how much of a threat is usually posed. I want queer to remain a disorganizing intensity in proximity to a scene of desire; not just any elasticity that tweaks a norm. I just heard another queer temporality talk: and all forms of temporal stretching were called queer. Why that? Is “why not” a good enough response? Stupidly, LB

Comment by supervalentthought

“But so often, like in that post, I start stentorian and airless and have to pump in the grace later, when I can find it.”

I think I tend to start with an ersatz or anyway aspirational grace, full of leaps that sound poetic to me at the time but often are just universalizing, and then edit my way into coherence. Which coherence at some point becomes airless because too much of the coloring book is filled in, heavy dark crayon and way outside the lines. At which point, if I’m taking enough time to edit, I try to go back and prune. Here, for instance, I would have to start by figuring out what coloring books have to do with topiary.


Comment by kris

“Why not?” can be a perfect response, yeah, I getcha there LB. On the danger–I’ve just gotten phobic about suggesting that anything produces anything else–in light of exactly the temporality-speak you bring up. As for time and time-stretching, it’s funny, I feel like queer and space did a lot more interesting things than queer and time are doing–but maybe that’s just me.

Comment by Mandor

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