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In Which I Try to Disburden Texts but Also Thank Reading for Swallowing Up My Problems

By Corina Copp

variety still

That’s “Reading” taking shape as Edith Sitwell’s “hot sun,” that “country giant that has swallowed up all the gold spangles of the dew…and has dried all the haycocks until they are dry and rustling as his own rays.” Mm. (I blame Alexander Pope.) I think if you are reading enough—”enough,” of course, would be a feeling; that is, up to you, feelings being up to you, no no—that your problems (immaterial lusting ones, or maybe the more pyramidal angst) begin to diminish . . . . Always a tradeoff though: “Science will not suffice, nor Art, / But Patience, too, must play her part.” (Mephistopheles)

It does matter what you are reading, as so much of what I am nervous about (read: enjoy) reading (that which will not unloose unextraordinary thinking; i.e., a magazine, or even news, though these are def a happy/necessary component of what to read, not to mention the dregs [sometimes my pocket's as empty as my brains]), I am actually consuming, not reading; whilst on another level my mind’s dispairingly on the old ones (true story). Dwelling in the voiceless boudoir, or the john, or at the cricket game, or trying to be fearless in some other imperceptible way, like when phantasie and actual need are both shunned so’s I can buy something I don’t want or write some droopy word (coulda been croquet! I’ve actually played that!) in a machiney window. Is that “interpassivity,” though, as Zizek calls it? No, because the text can’t enjoy anything for us so that we can remain passive…right…

Or as the marvelous Marianne Morris writes in Commitment (and more on this in another post) (from the poem “Art Will Save Your Life”): “…Safety in knowing that what holds you up / isn’t alive, and therefore can’t leave. Only you can leave, and you will / mouthing your twist like an undisciplined lover and throw in its face / hands empty of pen, calling it husband-hungry / in tutu with dayglo.”

The undisciplined lover suggests the disciplined lover, h/sh/xe who holds the bourgeois power, and I love the idea that in our rage we’d call our art out for being “husband-hungry,” as if it needed to attach—but back to our problems diminishing because we read so much (which I understand is kind of just why education is good). I’ve been waiting for the phone to ring, let’s say. You know, this guy, he’s completely undermining my ability to think about the world. Or let’s say he is the/a world, and he’s completely undermining my ability to think about the/a universe. Or let’s say he’s the dark matter, which makes me SO HAPPY to think about. (Sorry: prepping for this workshop.) Calls to mind Christine, the female ticket-taker at a Times Square porn theater in the Bette Gordon/Kathy Acker film Variety (1983). She’s eerily game for any situation. But this particular subjectivity does not abut acquiescence nor does it mean holding reins; it is perhaps utter potentiality. Eventually I imagine we’d see Christine spelling everything backwards and talking to giant rabbits in a movie not made by women but still doing serious hysteria/dream frippery. Except not really—Gordon is dreamish but also makes things out of the real (must use the word “gritty”? or that’s just early-Eighties/NYC-movie descript). Like, locker rooms, docks. I fucking love this movie. As for being game: Lauren Berlant talked about this mood in a lecture at NYU I attended yesterday, referring to Maria Schneider’s character Jeanne in Last Tango in Paris. She is capricious, Berlant said, will be in any mood she wants. “But ultimately she cannot find a genre that will make her the subject of her own incoherence.”

Are we lost? Here comes Lady Hectick in her sedan-chair.

Berlant used “genre” mostly as it relates to the joke—a comic appeal; or to an event (“event is the genre of interruption”), both being affective promises of a shared world. I read somewhere else recently (forgive me, it’s a blog) that upon finishing an enjoyable text we are immediately selfish, crying out for More. Berlant noted Jeanne’s “Encore! Encore!” in her attempt to bring Brando back to banter/fuck. But the promise of “More, more” is temporal. It’s not the promise of a mood or a building of a life. It’s a throwing oneself into, a de-dramatizing of the event, a delaying of calculation, an accumulation of “comic love”: We do not want to fail at love, she said, but are okay with the awkwardness (this could all be related to Morris’s work, btw). My question: Do our texts serve as a chorus that can suck up all the emotional hardship for us? If anything, we throw ourselves into them and must figure out our relationality later.

This post is turning into wishful thinking. Poetry, at least, is itself completely irresponsible, moving from place to place without persisting too long in any one train of thought, lest it become resigned to omnipotence. Game, maybe. Berlant: “Being game for sex, for joking, for revolution, it’s the same game.” “Being stuck with oneself if it doesn’t work.”

And poetry is close to dream in that way, though a dream of course is not intended for anyone else to see. I’ve been reading Freud’s Dora (can you tell?). Actually what I want to quote from is an essay, “General Remarks on Hysterical Attacks (1909),” that follows the Dora text in the edition I have. “When one psychoanalyzes a patient subject to hysterical attacks one soon gains the conviction that these attacks are nothing but phantasies projected and translated into motor activity and represented in pantomime.” Incroyable, as Megan Draper says in the recent dream episode. I do wonder what a hysterical attack might look like on the page, since I’m averse to hysterical dreaming in front of you open-eyed. “In some societies,” says Zizek again, they used to hire women to weep at funerals: “[T]hey can perform the spectacle of mourning for the relatives of the deceased, who can devote their time to more profitable endeavors (like dividing the inheritance).”

Quel societies (no source). I don’t want to think about the inheritance, nor put things into perspective, which is the boring/nondistorting/patient end of my slightly obvious thesis that, at best, offsets melodrama. HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH; MAY ALL OUR FAILURES BE BARELY COMIC (that’s in skill-building toward the awkwardness of the intimate, re: waning critical faculties, a fine piece of spar, in saying something about someone’s life and character, pipeline plans, with a series of eidetic images, always to impress, etc.). “The attack becomes unintelligible through its representing several phantasies simultaneously by means of the same material, that is, through condensation.”

But to have an abstractly damp, somewhat benign problem to dwell on, endlessly, seriously upendingly…I mean it just tires the ear with too much of the like sound. And then, somehow, we find the like sound/sympathetic spirit in the texts we choose to read. So maybe the great merit of being neurotic, which is what I think I am getting at, is that it is a sort of poetic joke.

[Photo at top taken by Nan Goldin on the set of Variety.]

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Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, April 13th, 2012 by Corina Copp.