When you are walking down a city street and not paying much attention-perhaps you are downtrodden by some confusion-and come suddenly upon a rosebush blooming against a brick wall, you may be struck and awakened by the appearance of beauty. But the rose is not beautiful. You may think the rose is beautiful and so you may also think, with sadness, that it will die. But the rose is not beauty. What beauty is is your ability to apprehend it. The ability to apprehend beauty is the human spirit and it is what all such moments are about, which is why such moments occur in places and at times that may strike another as unlikely or inconceivable, and it does not seem far-fetched to say that the larger the human spirit, the more it will apprehend beauty in increasingly unlikely and inconceivable situations, which is why there is such a great variety of art objects on earth. And there is something else we should say about the apprehension of beauty: it causes discomfort; and by discomfort I mean that state of being riles, which is a state of reverberation.
Rineke Dijkstra, arguably the most essential contemporary portrait photographer.
A photograph works best when the formal aspects such as light, colour and composition, as well as the informal aspects like someone’s gaze or gesture come together. In my pictures I also look for a sense of stillness and serenity. I like it when everything is reduced to its essence. You try to get things to reach a climax. A moment of truth.
While Proust, Woolf, and Nabokov all sought to transform the art of the novel to convey the condition of time, their works have persistently been read in terms of a desire to transcend temporal finitude. In contrast, I pursue a notion of “chronolibido” that challenges this notion of desire. The fear of time (chronophobia) does not stem from a desire to transcend time, but rather from the investment in a life that will be lost. It is because one desires a temporal being (chronophilia) that one fears losing it (chronophobia). The implications of chronolibido that I pursue in the major works of Proust, Woolf, and Nabokov are not simply an extrinsic theory that I apply to the novels in question, but rather a set of insights that I derive from close readings of the texts themselves. Finally, I systematize the logic of chronolibido through an in depth engagement with psychoanalysis. Contesting Freud and Lacan’s notion of the death drive, I seek to demonstrate how the chronolibidinal notion of binding provides a better model for thinking the constitution of the libidinal economy and why the logic of survival is more expressive of the problems of attachment, trauma, and mourning that are at the center of psychoanalytic inquiry.
I remember—I must have been eight or nine—wandering out to the ungrassed backyard of our newly constructed suburban house and seeing that the earth was dry and cracked in irregular squares and other shapes, and I felt I was looking at a map and I was completely overcome by this description, my first experience of making a metaphor, and I felt weird and shaky and went inside and wrote it down: the cracked earth is a map. Although it only takes a little time to tell it, and it is hardly interesting, it filled a big moment at the time, it was an enormous ever-expanding room of a moment, a chunk of time that has expanded ever since and that my whole life keeps fitting into.
We might as well say that minor no longer designates specific literatures but the revolutionary conditions for every literature within the heart of what is called great (or established) literature. Even he who has the misfortune of being born in the country of a great literature must write in its language, just as a Czech Jew writes in German, or an Ouzbekian writes in Russian. Writing like a dog digging a hole, a rat digging its burrow.
Rhythm is at the core of human life. It is, first of all, the rhythm of the organism, ruled by the heartbeat and circulation of blood. As we live in a pulsating, vibrating world, we respond to it and in turn are bound to its rhythm. Without giving much thought to our dependence on the systoles and distoles of flowing time we move through sunrises and sunsets, through the sequences of four seasons. Repetition enables us to form habits and to accept the world as familiar Perhaps the need of a routine is deeply rooted in the very structure of our bodies.
Throughout the book, a central theme-and one I shall return to-concerns how our bodily identity is shape through being touched by the past. What does this complex theme signify? The phrase “touched by the past” signifies more than being merely affected or in casual contact with the past. What does this complex theme signify? The phrase “touched by the past” brings us into a region of memory and temporality that elicits the moment personal identity is marked in either an affirmative or disruptive manner by the experience of memory itself. Coupled with this exposure to the formation of identity, the inclusion of “touch” reinforces the bind between temporality and materiality. Being “touched by the past,” sets in place the centrality of place itself, implying a kinaesthetic and sensual recollection of the past. The result of this bind between identity and materiality is a challenge to the idea that memory and identity are solely temporal phenomena.
Burning, he walks in the stream of flickering letters, clarinets,
machines throbbing quicker than the heart, lopped-off heads, silk
canvases, and he stops under the sky
and raises toward it his joined clenched fists.
Believers fall on their bellies, they suppose it is a monstrance that
but those are knuckles, sharp knuckles shine that way, my friends.
He cuts the glowing, yellow buildings in two, breaks the walls into
pensive, he looks at the honey seeping from those huge honeycombs:
throbs of pianos, children’s cries, the thud of a head banging against
This is the only landscape able to make him feel.
He wonders at his brother’s skull shaped like an egg,
every day he shoves back his black hair from his brow,
then one day he plants a big load of dynamite
and is surprised that afterward everything spouts up in the explosion.
Agape, he observes the clouds and what is hanging in them:
globes, penal codes, dead cats floating on their backs, locomotives.
They turn in the skeins of white clouds like trash in a puddle.
While below on the earth a banner, the color of a romantic rose,
and a long row of military trains crawls on the weed-covered tracks.
I spend all day in my office, reading a poem
by Stevens, pretending I wrote it myself,
which is what happens when someone is lonely
and decides to go shopping and meets another customer
and they buy the same thing. But I come to my senses,
and decide when Stevens wrote the poem he was thinking
of me, the way all my old lovers think of me
whenever they lift their kids or carry the trash,
and standing outside the store I think of them:
I throw my arms around a tree, I kiss the pink
and peeling bark, its dead skin, and the papery
feel of its fucked-up beauty arouses me, lends my life
a certain gait, like the stout man walking to work
who sees a peony in his neighbor’s yard and thinks ah,
there is a subject of white interpolation, and then
the petals fall apart for a long time, as long as it takes
summer to turn to snow, and I go home at the end and watch
the news about the homeless couple who met in the park,
and then the weather, to see how they will feel tomorrow.