. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought


I went back 2 the violent room for the time being

Prince was at the cusp of my unclenching. I’ll never be able to tell the story as long as people are still alive but I won’t tell a cover story either. I mean, I won’t intentionally tell a cover story, but all stories are cover stories: you can’t say everything, even if you would. But if you are not free all the way through you can still build from a space where your freedom’s not entirely crushed. Comedians call it commitment to the joke. Where the lung’s even a little unencumbered, possession and dispossession are just bad memories.

So for the moment, let’s say it’s been seven hours and thirteen days, divided by your weight in dog years, say. Frankness stands in for facts. Thunder sounds out what the lightening speaks. I was driven to tell you something simple. Forgive me if I go astray. Continue reading



Time Out

For the last 24 hours I’ve been unscheduled. I had taken a gig in Amsterdam scheduled right after the term so I could interrupt my habits of working, working out, professing, sleeping a little & waking up, opening the window so that the cat could smell the world and then sitting down at the desk with my habitual combo of detox tea and coffee, because who am I if not balanced, before I extend myself to become unbalanced. The great thing about writing is that it is flat even when it’s other things too.

I never take vacations, and days off are rare failures to be very off at all, as I narrate here yearly if I manage actually to try–it just occurs to me now that my drive to keep my infinitives unsplit (so that your verbs will be strong, I tell my students) has something to do with my drive to hold myself together too, as an action figure of a cool figuration otherwise than to be/not to be but feeling out attachment heuristically. With all this work, I am a slow reviser: I have been ahead of many curves, but now some curves are ahead of me and it doesn’t matter, I hope, because a curve’s curve requires lots of leaning one way by many people before it becomes a thing that’s banking as a stability and not just a longing for solidity at the end of some road, like a home. Continue reading



This Week in Shakes (more Hundreds)

My friend Martha Howard asked me to post my experiment with shakes. I might post others.  There’s a lot of variety among them, as you can already see from the last few posts.
*****

This Week in Shakes

Monday

The protein drink is a chalky substance diluted and well-enough flavored that a small store sample persuades you that you would drink it at home–only to find at home that, no matter how much attention you’d paid at the time, you can’t get the makeup to look as good or the hair to fall again the way it did at the original moment of optimism. I had committed to two tubs of vegan breakfast powder. One recalled the fleck of inhaled bugs and the other a bully pushing my face down thoroughly into tough wet dirt.

When it comes to experiments I commit my mouth. Five months of unquenchably pasty tongue prison ran out finally and I leaped to acquire seven new shake packs full of promise and percentages. Today: Vega One all-in-one nutritional shake in French Vanilla: 50% of daily intake vitamins & minerals, 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber & 1.5 grams of omega 3, plus antioxidants, probiotics and greens. Dairy, gluten & soy free, no sugar added, and 135 calories.  Complete daily essentials to help you thrive. Good for your body and the planet: clean . . . without compromise. The ampersand’s shortcut efficiency figures negativity baroquely.

My shake was green.  The world has not enough water for everyone, nor amounts sufficient to dilute this shake so that its flavor could be rejoined at the party after the chaos of getting in, finding the room with the coats, and moving outside for a quick smoke. Vanilla is a tart baby when you drink it from the bottle and a teasing allusion if you bite the bark. Vanilla is also the sex you slide into, the pleasant-event of that hand again there, or the feeling of feet arching. My tongue sought out but never landed.

Tuesday

The dread of another virtue-breakfast was nuked today by politics, a painful turn of need and interest towards hypervigilance. There was a Punch and Judy Show with all the thrill and erotic boredom of your average sexual antagonism. Punch called Judy a vampire, and then Judy threw her feminism hard, knocking his need to eat the brains he also finds repulsive.  The mob of tweeting lurkers verged with stakes for theory’s heart.

Disgust and love keep me very quiet. The chocolate version of yesterday’s foul mud was eleven additional calories, which will today be soundly punished for my own good.

Wednesday

Last night was spent battling the cat’s episodic loneliness and so this exhausted morning’s Vega Energizing Smoothie was an especially dreadful prospect, reminding me that the verb “to stomach” shows that bodies have not only their own ideas but radically private sovereign tongues. Vanilla Almondilla offers as its main gift what it doesn’t have: dairy, gluten & soy free, no sugar added.  In the Coke Zero era the ideal contribution of a food is its subtraction of dark consequences from pleasure.  90 calories, 10 grams of protein.  Xanthan gum is the aspartame of the health shake, which is also green.

Thursday

The iPad reads aloud in the kitchen this morning while I pull things together. Voice Dream offers a woman’s halting, nasal phonetic literalism to relay a scholarly book on comedy, preferring spectacle’s excesses to narrative’s enchainments. My naked partner enters the white room holding the ginger cat.  He wonders, is it the Russian model of narrative where y is the effect of x or the Aristotelian one of intensities, reversals, and consequences? Raw Protein Beyond Organic Protein Formula features Bob Marley Brand coffee: it is free of gluten, dairy, soy, fillers, artificial flavors, and good ones. I can’t stop laughing.

Friday

I spent the last night alone and so the morning was like a hotel morning with its shapeless offer of waking without obligation to be a particular way. The noise of a mind open to a limited formlessness makes breathing and blinking worth nothing in particular, and I considered taking a break from breakfast altogether because of the quiet. But the night’s move through finitude required some pause after I lifted my head up and laughed at how turtle that everyday stretching is. I say to myself get ahold of yourself.  The Vega Energizing Tropical Smoothie was wonderful, a wonder.

Saturday

I’m well-acquainted with the genre of the Skype dinner date with old lovers. After recipe hunting left me numb, today’s shake was my dinner protein, Vega Reparative in Berry–a revoltingly sweet attempt at Nestle’s Quick Strawberry. I reenacted to my love a scene from Domestic Violence of an old white woman telling stories on her husband, a college professor who had so abused her that she saw an angel flying round her room looking down kindly from the high white ceiling to offer advice. “I know I’m crazy,” she says softly, with her rice-paper skin like mica, pixillated, awry.

Sunday

The woman with Parkinson’s swims everyday and each day seems to diminish a little, which I sense because she always wears the same pants, of a slightly burnt orange hue. Bending stretches things out, so don’t presuppose, I tell myself, knowing that in the future a snapshot of this naked gym tableau might well portray a secret no-one could have known. We used to talk about her bad back, which we now have nostalgia for. She laughs at my Amazing Meals shake, with its grainy and delicious austerity. I dash it down as though it matters that it gets somewhere.



The Game (7)

The Hundreds: Method 2x

The game is a form of life coming into being, extension, and activity, the blinking open at the start of the day and the beyond to anything that was explained.  If I run out of gas but not out of love, if you let a piece go without completion, if the session isn’t finished but definitively over, if the delicious coffee could only wake us forever, if we could come forth as “I” with the other objects, if we would take in that all things don’t happen for a reason, if the flat voice were other than contract or trauma. If we could be the person we would go out with again, if we could hoist our accusations against ourselves, if I could stop motion sugar and labor power, if we could feel the chance touch with soft eyes and no ducking, if you can bear the arbitrary, if they can bear the common structure, or vomit, or accident, if we could take the hard hit that it’s all brevity and struggle, if the form of life turned toward a way of life, sidestepping this event and that one’s tough but only seeming infinity. Sometimes things have to be forced.

(Lee Edelman, Juliana Spahr, Keston Sutherland, Katie Stewart, Lynn Hejinian, Fred Moten, Joshua Clover, Lacan, Foucault, Wittgenstein, Harryette Mullen, Catherine Malabou)



The Game (2)

2. This game is called “Watch Your Step.” I am not sure that it’s a game or that any of the games I’ve described is a game.  It’s more like a scene that stimulates games of encounter, which is to say, scenarios of risk. My thinking about this was world-shaken by Diana Taylor’s article on double-blind scenarios, which came out after her book, which I also loved, but as I was the editor for the smaller, later piece, my bones know it as deeply as a body would that has many times leaned toward its object. This is not objective knowledge.

The best a thought can do, after all, is to make itself available to be found, by documenting its encounter with something so well that it shifts things into a new proximity, as though words in a dictionary had suddenly slid down into each other’s definitions. That’s not too eloquent, but the event of eloquence has only a little to do with meaning emerging. I was researching what a “scene” is while editing Diana’s piece for a “special issue on the case,” which the University of Chicago Press refused to make into a book because they thought it wasn’t “sexy.” Continue reading



The Trumping of Politics

Consider the following examples:

Clint Eastwood:

I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen.
Something that I think is very important.  It is that, you, we
— we own this country.
(APPLAUSE)
We — we own it.  It is not you owning it, and not
politicians owning it.  Politicians are employees of ours.
(APPLAUSE)

Continue reading



For example

I noticed, over the last few months, as my mother was dying, that I had taken pictures that seemed very specific. Now I am looking at the archive, as one appraises a drying hand after a manicure.

My mother died of femininity.  I told her that I would say this about her. She had said, “Will you write a book about me?”  and I asked if she wanted me to. She said “Yes. I want you to say that I left the world a better place because I had you!” I said I thought that this was a bad idea: people would think it an excuse to write about me.  She said, “Can you think of another topic?”  I offered this phrase about femininity, and explained why.  My brother-in-law thought that it would be better to say that my mother died from vanity rather than from femininity. I can see why he would prefer that story; it’s interesting to see how a label shifts the implication.

In her late teens she took up smoking, because it was sold as a weight-reduction aid.  When she died she had aggressive stage 4 lung cancer.  In her teens she started wearing high heels, to enhance the back arch and ass-to-calves posture whose strut transforms the whole body to a sexual tableau, shifting between teetering and stillness. Later, she had an abortion and on the way out tripped down the stairs in those heels, hurting her back permanently.  Decades later, selling dresses at Bloomingdale’s, she was forced to carry, by her estimate, 500 lbs. of clothes each day. Shop girls, you know, are forced to dress like their customers. They have to do this to show that they understand the appropriate universe of taste, even while working like mules in that same universe, carrying to their ladies stacks of hanging things and having to reorganize what their ladies left behind on the dressing room floor. She liked this job, because she liked being known as having good taste.

Continue reading



The Failure to Fail to Thrive is Life

I.  Kathryne Lindberg

Awhile ago a student killed himself and all I could do was take his parents to dinner—it was a nice dinner. Later a friend offed himself and all I could do was take his “next of kin” to lunch and to miss him. Then over a year ago, a lovely, lost while alive ex-student whose people I don’t know killed herself and all I could do was to email mutual friends and protect the loved ones who don’t know me from me for fear of a stranger’s extending a wound, which isn’t worth it.  Then my friend seems to have left her car a shell on a bridge with the keys still in it. She vaporized, although her daily friends reported that in recent sightings she was exuberant. A bipolar friend of mine calls us academics all extroverted introverts. Exuberant was the name of my first blog, which was a failure. In sum: a mood is neither anchor nor plot. (. . .)

II.  The Nervous System

Supervalent Thought has been, among other things, a project that tries to reintroduce dissociation as a mix of psychoanalytic, formal, affective, and performative modalities of detachment from the scene and sense of expressive continuity between outsides and insides, spaces that, like public and private, are effects rather than causes, differentially produced, and existing in projected perceptions of origin and event.  I wanted no longer to presume some naturalized feedback loop between inside and outside, as has been endemic to affect theory, missing the spray of things. Continue reading



Combover (Approach 2)

Us living as we do, upside down…

Another try: I’ve been arguing that a person is a loosely-knotted cluster of impulses, reflections, apprehensions and prehensions moving through ordinary time (imagine a net with head, hands and feet).  Sometimes the difficulty of managing this lability produces the self-image of an extreme solidity of form constantly under threat of dissolution by the fragile infrastuctures for maintaining fantasy. The latter is best exemplified by the iconic image of the combover subject. The subject of the combover stands in front of the mirror just so, to appear as a person with a full head (of hair/ideas of the world). Harsh lighting, back views, nothing inconvenient is bearable in order for the put-together headshot to appear.  No one else can be fully in the room, there can be no active relationality: if someone else, or an audience, is there, everyone huddles under the open secret that protects the combover subject from being exposed socially confronting the knowledge that the world can see the seams, the lacks, and the pathos of desire, effort, and failure.

Who isn’t the combover subject? No-one. The combover subject literalizes the need for ordinary subjectivity to be allowed to proceed in its incoherence and contradictions as though it were in fact a solid structure. Even a philosophical skeptic like Cavell, at home with the failure of language to be adequate to its situation and its desire, finds satisfaction in style; and even a depressive realist like me, who sees her failure to be idealizable as confirmation of her good sense, takes comfort in encountering a version of herself that will not be delighted by surprise but by being the recognizable thing she has come to trust.

Continue reading



Combover (Approach 1)

I sat in at another conference recently, hearing lots of promising work, including a paper by Leo Bersani called “Illegitimacy” that pursues his current project, to understand what the Cartesian attempt to elevate thought over bodies, attachments, appetites, and sociality itself has wrought and what new social relations might be developed alternatively and in proximity to it. He has three models on offer these days for not reproducing the kinds of compensatory fantasy that allow one to feel autonomous, adequate to oneself, and separate/superior to the [enigmatic] other: one, a radically negative abandonment of the normative world, a project of becoming unnamable, illegitimate, and nonviable (he associates this with Edelman’s No Future); two, a sweet Bollasian affective sociality that focuses on effecting attachment in a way that does not require a full revelation of being; three, the Socratic model of impersonal narcissism that Bersani developed from Homos to Intimacies, involving the lover’s loving not just his own likeness seen in the lover (the Greek anteros  or “backlove”) but also loving in the beloved a virtual form of universal individuation that at once gives the lover narcissistic satisfaction but also, motivated by love, induces the lover to foster the beloved’s becoming more like himself.

These three models for sidestepping the bubble of ego inflation do not cohere:  they invoke different models of an alternative formalism that might be found in relationality. But all of them counter in specific ways what Leo calls normative personhood’s murderous drives to eliminate alterity.  In a fine theorist, non-coherence is never a failure, but an expression of an experimentality I love: the feeling out of a problem in real time, even in the mode of a propositional definiteness, is what makes theory intimate, when it is. In Epistemology of the Closet, Eve called such liveness to the whole body work of conceptual transformation the “pincers movement”:  one theory-driven claw forward, another claw lagging, such that movement keeps happening across a field made from scratches that don’t add up quite to an even plane. 

But being me, I would foreground non-coherence as a principle of being rather than a cumulative effect of serial finitude:  I never thought that the subject ought to be seen as in one state.

Continue reading