Pure Wartime

God knows what you all see in America. I see war and devastation. The fucking pilgrims leaving England ’cause there wasn’t enough law and rigidity there, coming here hating all ideas, thought, questioning; the Quakers and the Pilgrims fighting it out with the money people in NYC and Washington and we’re the result. Great. Don’t think just kill ’em all. This country has already been through its empire and hasn’t even started to think. What I see here is a big black hole; no wonder everyone’s thirsting for religion: thirst is thirst; they hate the Arabs ’cause the Arabs are cultured.

Kathy Acker in gorgeous full-rant-mode from I’m very into you. It’s a collection of correspondence between Acker and McKenzie Wark between 1995-1996. It makes me want to immerse myself more deeply into both writers’ work. I read a lot of Acker in my late twenties, but haven’t done more than dipped into Wark’s writing.

2:00am Thoughts: Lacan, Beckett and Acker

There are rules to Insomnia. The second rule of Insomnia is: You don’t talk about Insomnia. I made that up, but there are psychological games insomniacs play, superstitions that go with the disorder. Talking about insomnia when you are going through a period of undisturbed sleep is perilous, it might trigger that very disorder you dread. At the edges of chronic insomnia are bouts of subjective insomnia, when you are so accustomed to not sleeping that you experience sleep state misperception. In that case you sleep for normal durations but perceive that you have slept poorly. Our psychic integrity is fragile.

This morning at 2:30am I sought literary intervention for a bout of insomnia. It’s been a while since I’ve struggled with night awakening but I’m going through some changes rating way up in the thirties or forties on that Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Early this morning I settled down with Jacques Lacan’s framework of the imaginary and symbolic in psychic life. Lacan argues that in the territory of the symbolic, we recall our “imaginary” existence as what he terms “body-in-pieces” or a fragmented assemblage of body parts.Furthermore the “I” that a child recognises in a mirror is experienced as a fiction. Rather than having the normal soporific effect that Lacan induces, this sent me back to the shelves to Beckett and Kathy Acker, the latter on my mind after a Twitter conversation with Kate Zambreno.

These are very 2am thoughts so bear with me, but I’m thinking about the way we alternate between the “I” we perceive, the fictional “I” we create, and our fragmentary pasts that are primarily fiction. It seems that this is precisely what Acker and Beckett explore repeatedly through fictional characters and their analogous stories. Their characters, a series of autobiographical personas, are caught between a wish to confess and a need for privacy. Much of the potency of their writing lies in the tension of trying to write their way out of the work.

Thoughts on Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick

Chris Kraus reading from "I Love Dick"

Chris Kraus reading from “I Love Dick”

My copy of Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick is full of scribbles and underlining, flecked with coloured markers, sections I will now transfer to my notebook. These are mostly in the second part. I enjoyed the first part of the novel but it didn’t feel as remarkable as the second. Soon into the second part my pulse quickened and I read to the end in a frenzy.

Apart from a couple of brief conversations on Twitter I have avoided the pre-text to I Love Dick so read it as fictionalised memoir and essay. Kathy Acker’s influence is palpable, and in turn the influence on Zambreno’s brilliant Heroines. I Love Dick is fifteen years old but “men still ruin women’s lives” and the book will stay relevant until that no longer remains the norm.

The second half of this book blew the top of my head off. Its extended pieces of art criticism are simply brilliant. Although informed by theory, it is not a deeply allusive novel, and stands alone as a serious piece of literature, one using the epistolary form, which I normally avoid but in this case is the only form possible for this particular narrative.

I’ll be thinking a lot more about this book, sitting as it does neatly with Heroines but also with my reading of Cixous. Let me leave behind a small number of the shorter pieces I underlined.

  1. I think our story is performative philosophy.
  2. Who gets to speak and why is the only question.
  3. Men still ruin women’s lives.
  4. To be female still means being trapped within the purely psychological. No matter how dispassionate or large a vision of the world a woman formulates, whenever it includes her own experience and emotion, the telescope’s turned back on her. Because emotion’s just so terrifying the world refuses to believe that it can be pursued as discipline, as form.
  5. There’s not enough female irrepressibility written down.
  6. I think the sheer fact of women talking, being, paradoxical, inexplicable, flip, self-destructive but above all else public is the most revolutionary thing in the world. I could be twenty years too late but epiphanies don’t always synchronise with style.
  7. What happens between women now is the most interesting thing in the world because it’s least described.

I have the sequel Torpor on order.