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Not TMI: Kate Zambreno’s Kafka Essay
Kate Zambreno has written about depression as passivity, dying on the Internet, and a scroll of like-minded helpings for those of us who write at her blog Frances Farmer Is My Sister. It’s an untimid read, braced by Kafka’s birthday last week. An excerpt:
I know because it is the summer and I am not working, haven’t worked for some time, I am supposed to say that I am writing when I meet people, that I am productive, but this is false. I am not working. I am not writing. I am barely reading. I have been queried by about 6 presses/authors for blurbs that are due around now, and I sometimes remember this, in a sort of anxious way. I did tell them not to expect anything from me, that I didn’t know whether I was capable anymore of this act of “blurbing,” something like a peppy excretion. Even more perverse, I am supposed to find blurbs for Mutter, I would like, as always, dead decayed authors to blurb my books, or of course no one, it is a humiliating act, finding a blurb, blurbing, it centers the act of writing as one of production, of the book as sellable product. I would like to put into the mouth of Helene Cixous: “This is unreadable melodramatic shit.” I would like to imagine the indifference and perhaps hostility of Violette Leduc and Jean Genet, I would like Kathy Acker to roll her eyes and pen an obscene drawing of how small and repetitive I am, I would like to reanimate the corpses of Danielle Collobert, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, I would like to stir them, reawaken them, imagining them regarding my bizarre and overlong text blinkingly and say, honestly, “I don’t know, let this text wait 50 years, maybe it is something, can you make me a cup of coffee.” Superlatives ring false to me, kitschy to me, it makes me nauseous…and I cannot do it, I cannot vomit up ringing endorsements, I can not listen to them when they are directed at me…only time will tell isn’t that true? Kafka and Kafka and Kafka.
Melville House tweeted a joke about how on Kafka’s birthday everyone is tweeting his quote about how writing needs to be the axe for the frozen sea within us (our memories, our frozen sea), and if they do it again they’ll know what a real axe feels like (okay, this is why I’m bad at Twitter, my rewording basically just took the juice out of the joke.) I felt a twinge of recognition, as I quote that line in Book of Mutter. Which I think is the worst thing about Mutter – how precious and poetic it is, maybe. But it also makes me think about how social media has made literature kitsch, the celebrating of dead author’s birthdays and the constant quoting, in the way museum shops made, say, the Impressionists kitsch by Van Goghing all over magnets and tote bags.
Kafka surely wouldn’t have blurbed anyone. He who begged for his writing to be destroyed, for the axe to be taken to it, – is that really true? But perhaps that’s the only way to truly be an authentic writer anymore (I have been obsessed lately – with this idea of authenticity – because I am feeling totally fraudulent, I think because of the experience of publicity, of the marketplace.) Perhaps one needs to destroy one’s writing. That is the only way to separate it from capital, from its commodity status, from something that is sold and bought. But then how does one have readers? I have realized that I stopped this blog, because it was public, and I thought I was too obsessed with being read instantly, but I realized that it is the book projects that is more a desire to be taken seriously. Perhaps everything doesn’t have to be a “project.” Maybe I need to stop thinking of books. Of genres. Of this is fiction, this is nonfiction. A book with a title and an author’s name. Maybe there is no book. Maybe it’s just one unending scroll. A friend describing the works of Thomas Bernhard in this way – one unending paragraph, punctuated by covers. Almost always about the paralysis, of the artist in society, an artist who wants to be authentic, who is always a fraud, and usually unproductive, unproductive except for the monologic scream of the narrator.
There’s much much more—GO!