Everything is gone but the echo of the burst of a shell
And I’m stuck here waiting for a passing feeling
In the city I built up and blew to hell
I’m stuck here waiting for a passing feeling
Still I send all the time
My request for relief
Down the dead power line
Though I’m beyond belief
In the help I require
Just to exist at all
Took a long time to stand
Took an hour to fall
— Elliott Smith, ‘A Passing Feeling‘
But after a while I begin to take brief glimpses and at length I watch again with thirsty interest, like a child who tries to maintain his sulk when he is offered the bribe of candy. My parents are now having their picture taken in a photographer’s booth along the boardwalk. The place is shadowed in the mauve light which is apparently necessary. The camera is set to the side on its tripod and looks like a Martian man. The photographer is instructing my parents in how to pose. My father has his arm over my mother’s shoulder and both of them smile emphatically. The photographer brings my mother a bouquet of flowers to hold in her hand, but she holds it at the wrong angle. Then the photographer covers himself with the black cloth which drapes the camera and all that one sees of him is one protruding arm and his hand with which he holds tightly to the rubber ball which he squeezes when the picture is taken. But he is not satisfied with their appearance. He feels that somehow there is something wrong in their pose. Again and again he comes out from his hiding place with new directions. Each suggestion merely makes matters worse. My father is becoming impatient. They try a seated pose. The photographer explains that he has his pride, he wants to make beautiful pictures, he is not merely interested in all of this for the money. My father says: “Hurry up, will you? We haven’t got all night.” But the photographer only scurries about apologetically, issuing new directions. The photographer charms me, and I approve of him with all my heart, for I know exactly how he feels, and as he criticizes each revised pose according to some obscure idea of rightness, I become quite hopeful. But then my father says angrily: “Come on, you’ve had enough time, we’re not going to wait any longer.” And the photographer, sighing unhappily, goes back into the black covering, and holds out his hand, saying: “One, two, three, Now!,” and the picture is taken, with my father’s smile turned to a grimace and my mother’s bright and false. It takes a few minutes for the picture to be developed and as my parents sit in the curious light they become depressed.
— Delmore Schwartz, ‘In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’
‘Come here, Marie. Come. Look at yourself in the mirror. You’re beautiful. You’re probably more beautiful now than before. But you’ve changed a lot too. I want you to see how you’ve changed. Now your eyes cast quick, calculating side glances. You used to look ahead, straightforwardly, openly, unmasked. Your mouth has taken on an expression of discontent and hunger. It used to be so soft. Your complexion is pale now. You use makeup. Your fine, broad forehead now has four wrinkles above each brow. No, you can’t see it in this light, but you can in broad daylight. Do you know what caused those wrinkles?’
‘Indifference, Marie. And this fine line that runs from ear to chin isn’t as obvious any more. But it’s etched there by your easygoing, indolent ways. And there, by the bridge of your nose. Why do you sneer so often, Marie? You see it? You sneer too often. See, Marie? And look under your eyes. The sharp, scarcely noticeable lines of your impatience and your ennui.’
‘Can you really see all of that in my face?’
‘No, but I feel it when you kiss me.’
‘I think you’re joking with me. I know where you see it.’
‘You see it in yourself. Because we’re so alike, you and I.’
— Bergman, Cries and Whispers
In a chaos that would kill cows. My solid peasant head resists. The bludgeon blows from the alcohol suggest only ‘satisfied desire’. It is difficult to perceive, in the disorder of these pages, the mediocre incoherence of a life. If a virtue subsists in me, I exhaust it by going to the ends of the vulgarity of the circumstances, by becoming ungraspable, by disengaging myself without a word from what seems to enclose me.
– Bataille, Guilty (tr. Kendall)
I’ve already tamed you, haven’t I? You almost admire the rioters, don’t you? What would you do then, tell me. Thought not. You can’t even get rid of me, let alone any of those rightwing fucks you hate so much. We were forced back into our own hole as soon as we tried to stick our head up, weren’t we? We tried again from time to time, but it was like a hit-the-mole game, wasn’t it? And now we’re stuck with our own little hit-the-mole game.
I have hoped for the laceration of the heavens (the moment when the intelligible order of known – yet strange – objects gives way to a presence that is only intelligible to the heart). I have hoped for it, but the sky has not opened. There is something insoluble in this waiting like a nestled beast of prey, gnawed at by hunger. The absurdity: ‘Is it God that I would like to tear apart?’ As if I were a true beast of prey, but I am even more sick. Because I laugh at my own hunger, I don’t want to eat anything, I would rather be eaten. Love gnaws at me: there is no other escape than a quick death. I am waiting for a response in the darkness in which I live. Perhaps, because of being crushed, I would remain a forgotten waste! No response to this exhausting agitation: everything stays empty. Whereas if … but I have no God to implore.
— Bataille, Guilty (tr. Kendall)
‘Why is everything so hard for me? Why can’t I play the piano like I can breathe?’
‘Listen to me Kaspar. In the two short years you’ve been here with me, you’ve learned so much! The people here want to help you make up for lost time.’
‘The people are like wolves to me!’
— Herzog, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser