Monthly Archives: October 2011

The everyday is not exact, it is a cliché; realism requires vertiginous originality. But how can one be exact about what is truly unspeakable? One can only write knowing that one approaches and approximates, and that language fails you the while; you run after exactness, but the world gets away and your words fail. Beckett taught us about this failure because he knew failure and writing were synonymous.

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Black: How long you felt like this?

White: All my life.

Black: And that’s the truth.

White: It’s worse than that.

Black: I dont see what could be worse than that.

White: Rage is really only for the good days. The truth is there’s little of that left. The truth is that the forms I see have been slowly emptied out. They no longer have any content. They are shapes only. A train, a wall, a world. Or a man. A thing dangling in senseless articulation in a howling void. No meaning to its life. Its words. Why would I seek the company of such a thing? Why?

Black: Damn.

White: You see what it is you’ve saved.

Black: Tried to save. Am tryin. Tryin hard.

— Cormac McCarthy, The Sunset Limited

Black: What is it you believe in?

White: A lot of things.

Black: All right.

White: All right what?

Black: All right what things.

White: I believe in things.

Black: You said that.

White: Probably I dont believe in a lot of things that I used to believe in but that doesnt mean I dont believe in anything.

Black: Well give me a for instance.

White: Mostly the value of things.

Black: Value of things.

White: Yes.

Black: Okay. What things.

White: Lots of things. Cultural things, for instance. Books and music and art. Things like that.

Black: All right.

White: Those are the kinds of things that have value to me. They’re the foundations of civilization. Or they used to have value. I suppose they dont have so much any more.

Black: What happened to em?

White: People stopped valuing them. I stopped valuing them. To a certain extent. I’m not sure I could tell you why. That world is largely gone. Soon it will be wholly gone.

Black: I aint sure I’m followin you, Professor.

White: There’s nothing to follow. It’s all right. The things that I loved were very frail. Very fragile. I didnt know that. I thought they were indestructible. They werent.

Black: And that’s what sent you off the edge of the platform. It wasnt nothing personal.

White: It is personal. That’s what an education does. It makes the world personal.

Black: Hm.

White: Hm what.

Black: Well. I was just thinkin that them is some pretty powerful words. I dont know that I got a answer about any of that and it might be that they aint no answer. But still I got to ask what is the use of notions such as them if it wont keep you glued down to the platform when the Sunset Limited comes through at eighty mile a hour.

White: Good question.

Black: I thought so.

White: I dont have an answer to any of that either. Maybe it’s not logical. I dont know. I dont care. I’ve been asked didnt I think it odd that I should be present to witness the death of everything and I do think it’s odd but that doesnt mean it’s not so. Someone has to be here.

— Cormac McCarthy, The Sunset Limited

Look how it’s getting dark!

If our life were an eternal standing by the window, if we could remain there for ever, like hovering smoke, with the same moment of twilight forever paining the curve of the hills…. If we could remain that way for beyond forever! If at least on this side of the impossible we could thus continue, without committing and action, without our pallid lips sinning another word!

Look how it’s getting dark! …The positive quietude of everthing fills me with rage, with something that’s a bitterness in the air I breathe. My soul aches … A slow wisp of smoke rises and dissipates in the distance… A restless tedium makes me think no more of you…

All so superfluous! We and the world and the mystery of both.

Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. Zenith), via here

Anonymity

Wasn’t that your first lesson in anonymity, there in that room with nothing to do, with the endless hours stretching ahead of you? Wasn’t that when the other ‘you’ was first born, the you I’ve written so often about in the past? The you with the capital Y, I could call it, the You beyond us both. The Anonymous itself.

Dorm

What happened when you got to your room? Wasn’t I being born then, like some deformed twin? Or were you being born as my deformed twin? A corridor flanked by rectangular dormitories, yours the last, the one facing the artificial lake. That uncanny Scandinavian silence you could never get used to, broken by sudden sounds and voices. The odd quick body stomping by, the women with their heels were the worst. Avoid the eyes. Get into the room, lock the door, make it safe. There are voices in the hall. I think I heard footsteps after mine. Did they see me? Are they talking about me? I can hear them. They’re laughing at me. You can still see each detail of that room, can’t you? The cupboard, the cot, the desk, the window. Hear the echoing voices in the hall, the noises echoing off the tiles in the shared bathrooms.

I was waiting

My room was bright. Filled with sunshine. I made it a strict rule with myself to take a trip to the bathroom, wash up, and shave every day. On cloudy days, however, I still washed but I didn’t shave. After I had finished, I made my way along the tiny path that I had created between the piles of food and stacks of bottles, and lay down again. I made my bed, swept up a bit. I opened the door to my room to put out the dirty linen and pick up the clean. All that took a great deal of time and effort, and made me feel tired enough to feel fully justified in once again taking to my bed, from which I could see the sky or the ceiling. I was waiting. For what I didn’t know. But an active, pulsing wait. I tried to read signs from heaven, and when cottony clouds would pass by, mixing with the blue, I tried to fathom what it might mean. I wasn’t unhappy, the way I once had been. Was it age that had made me wiser, or had age merely blunted the forces that had stirred and struggled within me? I don’t want to give the mistaken impression that I was happy, either.

– Ionesco, The Hermit (tr. Seaver)