The Tunnel: Herschel Honey

“Yet when I talk to him sometimes, I hear my voice returning to me larger than it left: I find my thinking clarified, my mistakes disclosed, just by being spoken into him, because he naturally knows how to echo: first from this surface of consideration, then from that; each time differently, bending, shaping the conception, allowing all its holes to fill with further holes until it comes back hollow as a shell, and you are left with only your memory of how it once reverberated; how before, when it departed your sunny solicitous shore, your thought was vital, energetic, sea deep, insistent as surf, and how now it is tiny, tinny, thin, an alien husk, a brittle bit of calcified skin some worm’s worn.”
W. Gass, The Tunnel, Dalkey Archive Press, 1999, p. 415.

The Tunnel is: William H. Gass showing his ID, showing it, et al. (this is a plural), with super-egotistic condescension to his Herschel Honey readers – to nobodies like me. With 250 pages to go Herschel is, as I always am, the latecomer who – as the voice of reason popping up in your head just after sending the annoying  mail that will haunt you until the unreasonableness of its reply has been registered – is dumb enough not to feel disappointed at being too late to make the difference.

The article makes a difference (two can play at that).

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The Tunnel

“Poets are the bees of the invisible, Rilke said.”
William H. Gass, The Tunnel, Dalkey Archive Press, 1999, p. 110.

It should have been: ‘Poets are the bees of the not yet visible.”  Flowers that are not yet visible are invisible. And so are you. Am I. Some things remain invisible though & as such are not not yet visible. Maybe that accounts for Maeterlinck’s fascination with bees.

Was Rilke inaccurate (did he say that?) or does the invisible only apply to what’s ultimately going to flower? Truth as yet undiscovered still truth is. No matter if the words are well ordered. Rilke said; Rilke sad. It’s to a large extent how extent tends to some extent being turned into ‘extend’. A tunnel from the dark side to a more truthful state, of affairs.


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The Dead

“- Well, we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany, said Gabriel awkwardly
– And why do you go to France and Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?
– Well, said Gabriel, it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.

– And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with – Irish? asked Miss Ivors.
– Well
, said Gabriel, if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.”
(James Joyce, Dubliners, The Dead, The Portable James Joyce, Viking, 1947, p. 205)

And well, we’re all stuck between where we come from and where we to go. Well, some of us want to go where we come from. And others come from where they want to go. The difference is not material but it is the difference between artists, broadly speaking, and bastards, narrowly defined.

The nostalgic focus on the material, on solutions that are both clear-cut and that cut clearly into same and different. It is not so with the optimistic for whom push never comes to shove; there always remaining a difference, in principle. Never mind the issues we face in interpreting what is around us. What counts is that we will never and cannot ever have a final interpretation even if we always will have issues to face.

I know this is not clear. But it is what it is, and, well, Continue reading

Adaptive Thinking

“(..) insight can come from outside the mind.”
G. Gigerenzer, Adaptive Thinking, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. vii (a.o.).

There’s something deeply unnerving about scientists, especially neuroscientists: it is the idea that whatever there is can be located somewhere. Localized so as to make it a candidate for treatment of some sort. In this sense, neuroscience took over the world because the world is filled with people who believe things can be pinpointed and then addressed. Forget about the butterfly effect, the butterfly is in our current world view pinned down where it can be examined.

Nothing can be farther removed from the ecological point of view (this includes most people who see themselves as the ‘advocates of ecological preservation’). It may well be that this world view of pinning down, setting apart and solving is the root cause of us not applying evident solutions to the issues we have, in a broad sense, with our environment.

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Cannery Row (II)

“I was glad when you hit me,” Mack went on. “I thought to myself – ‘Maybe this will teach me. Maybe I’ll remember this.’ But, hell, I won’t remember nothin’. I won’t learn nothin’. Doc,” (..)
J. Steinbeck, The Short Novels of John Steinbeck, Penguin Books 2009, Cannery Row, p. 496.

But he did learn. He was made to learn. Somehow learning is a sad thing because learning is leaving something behind and speeding away from it and that is why it is so common not to want to learn. Learning is picking up speed without knowing where you are getting to faster. There is a deep universal melancholy for a state of innocence which is a state of non-learning: the status quo.

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Cannery Row (1)

“It was deeply a part of Lee’s kindness and understanding that man’s right to kill himself is inviolable, but sometimes a friend can make it unnecessary.”
John Steinbeck, The Short Novels of John Steinbeck, Penguin Books, 2009, p. 410.

Why quote a crooked sentence out of a book full of exquisitely rounded ones? Because it is the idea that counts. The formulation of the idea helps but is not the essential part of why something resonates. Formulation fetishism is probably the predominant attitude in assessing the value of writing but in the end it is a lot like preferring The Harlem Globetrotters to the Dream Team.

What is the ‘it’ in the quote? What can a friend make unnecessary? Surely not a man’s right to kill himself. It must be the desire to exercise the right. That’s what it is to be a friend: to acknowledge your friend’s autonomy without leaving him or her alone in expressing it. Everything comes back to the Principle of Charity, including applying charity to a sentence with a, let’s assume, unintended twist. It is with language as it is with the main characters of Cannery Row:

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Llamadas telefónicas

“Me gusta variar, le dije. Si follo en la misma postura dos noches seguidas me quedo impotente. Por mí no lo hagas, dijo ella.”
Llamadas telefónicas, Roberto Bolaño, Editorial Anagrama, 1997, p. 137.

Is variety the spice of life? Is change what we need? My translation is as follows: “I told her I like to mix things up. When I fuck the same way two nights in a row, I become impotent. Don’t do it for me, she said.” The thing is: we force the issue, and that is the issue:

  “En su corazón, Leprince ha aceptado por fin si condición de mal escritor pero también ha comprendido y aceptado que los buenos escritores necesitan a los malos escritores aunque sólo sea como lectores o como escuderos.”
ibid., p. 35

The truth is that impotence isn’t caused by repetition. Lack of acceptance of how things are causes the frustration that causes it. Since I understood and accepted with Leprince that  I am a bad writer, I know good writers need me, if only as a reader or a Sancho Panza. Since then I also stopped reading, in particular writers that are still alive. One of the main reasons for me liking Bolaño is that he allows me to read contemporary literature whilst avoiding that I thereby help anyone’s actual career.

But I don’t give up on writing. Neither did I give up on fucking. I just give up on expecting something historical to come from it. Instant and delayed gratification combined is what it is because when I do it, it is done knowing that that’s that and that there is no reason for any complications like these.

“Mi padre, por entonces, tenía un alto puesto en el gobierno de Allende y su preoccupación mayor, pobre viejo, era que la prensa momia desvelase los afanes en que andaba metído su primogénito.”
ibid., p. 85

In my case there would no hostile right wing press that would want to reveal what my eldest son was involved in because there would be no left wing power to be broken with it. Being a nobody not only creates opportunities in the area of privacy but also in the area of remaining uninfected by the illness of opinionitis, the condition by which an opinion swells and breaks open in the public whatever the subject is.

Take me to be B and A to be one of the many people who, once famous, if called always express some opinion, then the following is true:

“Para B, en resumen, A se ha convertido en un meapilas.”
ibid., p. 52.

Which has brought me to where I wanted to be: famous people want to fuck us in a constant variety of ways because they need it to continue to feel their power. It is to them I say: you don’t need to do it for me. Not that I’m going to try to stop you or something, no. Go ahead, I’ve been fucked in so many ways I don’t really mind it.