Monthly Archives: May 2009

This kind of writing…

“This kind of writing…”
“What about it?”
“It’s ridiculous. Look at it. What’s it about? Nothing! Abstracted from everything.”
“But maybe it’s better that way. Look at all the stuff that’s supposed to be about something that would be better off if it was about nothing. Or not even about nothing. Was nothing!”

In Abstentia Out

The dark interior of love

I experience alternately two nights, one good, the other bad. To express this, I borrow a mystical distinction [from John of the Cross]: estar a oscuras (to be in the dark) can occur without there being any blame to attach, since I am deprived of the light of causes and effects; estar en tinieblas (to be in the shadows: tenebrae) happens to me when I am blinded by attachment to things and the disorder that emanates from that condition.

Most often I am in the very darkness of my desire; I know not what it takes, good itself is an evil to me, everything resounds, I live between blows, my head ringing: estoy en tinieblas. But sometimes, too, it is another Night: alone, in a posture of meditation (perhaps a role I assign myself?), I think quite calmly about the other, as the other is; I suspend any interpretation; I enter into the night of non-meaning; desire continues to vibrate (the darkness is transluminous), but there is nothing I want to grasp; this is the Night of non-profit, of subtle, invisible expenditure: estoy a oscuras: I am here, sitting simply and calmly in the dark interior of love.

— Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (trans. R. Howard)


Tomorrow he’ll be better, X promises me, tomorrow he’ll be sober and less stupid. He’ll renounce his unseemly emotions in the English way. In fact he’s renouncing them as we speak, he says. He’ll be cooler. It’s obscene isn’t it, he says, this kitsch of his, when there are struggling starving people in the world, when Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest, etc. I’ve discredited myself, he says, or something inside me has discredited itself, that much is clear, tomorrow I’ll be better.


Humboldt calls the sign’s freedom volubility. I am (inwardly) voluble, because I cannot anchor my discourse: the signs turn ‘in free wheeling’. If I could constrain the sign, submit it to some sanction, I could find rest at last. If only we could put our minds in plaster casts, like our legs! But I cannot keep from thinking, from speaking; no director is there to interrupt the interior movie I keep making of myself, someone to shout, Cut! Volubility is a kind of specific human misery: I am language-mad: no one listens to me, no one looks at me, but (like Schubert’s organ-grinder) I go on talking, turning my hurdy-gurdy.

— Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (trans. R. Howard)

Shown up

X feels shown up, he tells me, as if his whole life has been declared invalid. As if he’s being shown everything he’s done is wrong. They’ve seen through me, he says, they’ve seen through my façade and they know I’m a fraud. I’m not even close to the real thing, he says, whatever that is. And everybody knows, he says, even myself. Boohoo, he says. He needs a do-over, he says, a mulligan. What makes him feel this way? he asks me. Is it himself? Is it me? Maybe, he says, or maybe it’s God, or the Devil, or the Unknowable. Maybe someone’s cursed him, he says, cursed him with fraudulence. What’s he not living up to? Can I find a girl for him? he asks. They’re probably right, he says, he probably just needs to get laid. But I’m the worst one to ask, he says.


He’s ruined it, X tells me, he’s ruined everything. He’s ruined his life. But he can’t even ruin his life right, the way he imagines a ruined life, with grace and poise. It’s his feelings, he says, they’re all over the place. How can he repress his feelings? he asks. How can he learn from the English? he asks.

Why are you so silent?

He’s disappointed me somehow, hasn’t he? X asks me. Then why am I so silent? he asks. It’s time to blow the lid off this silence of mine, he tells me. I’m full of shit, he says. Come off it, he says, you’re no better than me. At least I’m honest. Why are you so silent, was it something I said? He thinks he understands, he says, he’d do the same, it’s no wonder, but he wants to hear me say it. Say it, he says.