Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, pedagogy, poetry, Politics, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Berlant, comedy, cruel_optimism, experiment, female_complaint, Katie_Stewart, poetry, writing
A few posts ago I mentioned exploring experiments in observation and form, with Katie Stewart, in a project called The Hundreds. Two of them have just been published in the experimental journal TAG. You can download them there. Here they are, for the record, though: and this way I can revise them as I refine the project over time.
Abusive Encounters for the Revolution
1. I take writing classes because art that says it loves women hates women and it can’t be undone by theory. Any “story about a woman who” is doomed to be but a laugh. As in love, though, a body can have an episode that savages the story-spectacle shackle, blazoning a freedom for which there’s no world yet and bad luck in the one that is. Bette Davis fires gestures, Cate Blanchet lunges into panorama–and then there’s the Mahalia Jackson incident. Insist on the upshot of the encounter. I have deleted five instances of the word “really” from this hundred.
2. A colleague’s combover is a living crop circle whose origin might just reveal the hand of god. His club sandwich of shame and contempt is braced by the sourdough toast of xo’s. After I ate one I blistered in hives and slept hard for two days in a Benadryl haze. I now have spontaneous “episodes.” O love, we know that the fidelity principle makes details inconvenient. O love, your history is only and always one of collateral damage. But what is it when no love is there or lost? It is as though analogy can force itself into full-bore likeness.
3. On a street corner I was accosted by a homeless mind. It pressured me to house it; I mimed a vomit. Having found no time to invent an intention, I am now bound forever to fail reparation. Aristotle says debt is material and moral and Nietzsche says this way debt can’t be retired. As Arendt says, there is no unsaying. Philosophers of the desert make aloneness less lonely. I aspire to deadpan femininity. An anorexia of the encounter would be a gift card allowing for sadism and the feeling of smallness to run free like flies that shoot through screens.
4. The phatic man squeaks with each movement, exhaling ten times more than he inhales, whistling. I lie on the ground to let him step on me so that he’ll be relieved of groaning. I say sounds have to come from somewhere but not just from him: solidarity is vigilance redistributed. But the truth of that shit hits just a bit. Events will surely induce a groan confirming one’s lost omnipotence. But the blame game, the twelve-step, the paranoid tells, the expert shocked once more at what simply is, they’re what haunts in the air of relief at reawaking in the AM.
5. In my dream there’s a power outage and everyone walks outside alone and quietly dangerous, haunted by the zombie, rape, war, and stalking films that memory turns into realism. All of the wishes ever fulfilled shatter in the face of the pressure not to disturb what’s already disturbed. I also fear that my verticality will come to a shocking pratfall. That’s funny! I fear tripping as much as dying! O dreams and your false equivalences. Spectacle has been made the soundtrack to legs moving under a blanket in the dark. Silhouettes emerge from my fingers typing there was no dream.
6. Every time he says hello I atrophy a little, as though yesterday’s saliva had never squirted its business onto the situation, and by atrophy I mean become-jerky, evaporating imperceptibly like the bubbles that pop from plastic rings and make brief stains on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, I’m training to soften my eyes at what’s hard so it doesn’t get any ideas. You could stick your fingers in them now and if it’s raining they’ll just thud the other side softly. Yes, the foundational fantasy lays down tracks for staying with the frightening thing–the wall of noise, the inside joke.
7. Everyone leans on her desk, everyone leans on his desk, the animal does a downward dog and he’s a cat, things go beyond gimmicks, productivity, therapy, and citizenship. OOO sometimes failure is just bad. Not queer, better, redeemable, a profile in courage, delicious, or a genuine experiment. Some days you throw up your—wait, wait, wait–“why bother?” hands. A disaster is what we go with because pleasure might have rested under the scratch-off, Pandora. I eat yam noodles that have no flavor, calories, carbohydrates, or protein, yet smell like fish, hoping vainly to break the neck of oncoming affect.
Life can change in a minute without anything structural changing, and that’s no joke. Once I ran into a friend who beamed as I walked into the office. She said, Laurie, I was just thinking about you! I said, Buffy! but can’t remember a thing after that because completely stunned to be thought of when absent and to have induced some happiness at a mere thought. I was 35. It was the first time I realized it was possible that someone could carry around an image of me and be happier. We called each other by our ridiculous childhood names.
Her iron was low and her sugars were high. She fell asleep during conversations because she could NOT NOT. But also because the noise of the world, although white and bearable, was NOT to be borne. A lovely face asleep, one could love her asleep, except NOT if overcome by worry that her sleep predicted a death later on when the wearing out was final. She had her hair straightened and colored the sheen of the extinct light brown M&M. She wore classic clothes and had posture that would shame a chair. She spends much of her life ridiculously still.
Her best friend was Princess Grace’s first cousin so she was referred royalty. She looked twenty-one when her friends looked sixteen. She had cheerleader breasts and a parenthetical ass. She was a Beverly Cleary heroine who’d known no reversals, the kind who was nice to homely girls, with a big impersonal smile. People who grumble through the world cannot give a big impersonal smile. Hers was like a free brownie or a dollar found on the street. The ordinary is an ocean that moves for the lucky, whose ridiculousness remains a secret so open that it remains a secret.
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