from the love letters of I, Daughter of Kong
I don’t know how to start this. I only know how to step straight into the torn center of you, where every word has importance and fragile beginnings appear like moths being crushed into the light.
That sounds so, as you like to say, dire. Doesn’t it? I’m smiling but I’m serious. I’m remembering when you wrote, “that doesn’t seem like you…it’s so dire. you’re not like that.” I thought, “what?”
There are some words in a poem by Yves Bonnefoy.
“I will have in my hands your dark crossed face, in my heart the country the storm lights.”
What do they mean? I admit that I’ve spoken, or written, or sent, those words before. I’m still waiting for an answer to them.
You are not the first person I’ve known in this way.
There are other things about myself that I will never admit.
It seems safe doesn’t it? To meet in this disembodied, anonymous place?
It’s not safe.
Remember, our bodies tell us what’s real. Our bodies, when they encounter poison, excrete it out. They are really all we can trust. The body is the innocent part of us as it turns out.
That’s why torture is evil. It is always a crime against an innocent.
My body, by the way, is a travesty. You are thinking, “all women say that about their bodies” but you are nervous too, because I am casting something unwanted into your fantasy of me. My body is a home to blackness and weird appetites.My body is what you are afraid of. Just kidding.
But what if I’m not? You want me to be beautiful. I am beautiful! But not in the way you imagine. That’s all I’ll say on that subject for now.
You’ll never understand me.
At first, the way this typically goes, you will say you like that. You like me veiled, receding, appearing in flashes, etc.
After awhile this divide between us will become the home of our despair. Then, a source of boredom.
Here are some things you can know about me.
I’m truly a creature of the twentieth century. I am a symptom of the twentieth century social illness that put the aristocracy out of view. They were obliged, by their failures, to hand their whips to the workers. By workers I don’t mean the poor of course but those brutes who work their way to the top. It’s the top of a mountain of suffering as far as I can tell.
I once heard a rich woman say, “poor people are necessary because they show us the value of money. How could I enjoy this if everyone had it?”
My father was a king of the old order. He ate the poor and terrorized them directly. He took women away from their husbands and parents. It was his birthright. His people worshiped him. My father was innocent because there was no law outside of himself to be internalized. As a God and a King his desire filled the place where justice might have been.
He was innocent in a way that you and I can’t imagine. There are no words there in that innocence which means we will never be able to think it. How queer we are, creatures who can only think in words. Even you and I, whatever we are, have that limitation.
I am the residue of my father’s disappearance. I am a botched attempt by nature to keep him alive. Nature loves her monsters.
I should warn you, the only sentimentality in me is for my father.
Ask yourself, would you rather be devoured by a Living God or slowly ground to dust by something you can’t see or touch?
I am against democracy.
Last night I woke up again and again thinking that you don’t love me. A host of afflictions gathered around my bed to feed on my open chest. My heart was on fire. She was a mansion declining into red ash. The surrounding jungle caught flame. The whole world was threatened. Parrots screamed. A dark hand pressed me down into mute nothingness. Things like that.
Last night begs the question, what difference does it make whether you do or do not love me?
What is a love that will never make anything appear, or touch anything, or contain anything, or house anything, or feed anything, or keep anything warm?
How can I lose something that has no proper existence, that has no place, no body, no voice, no morning ritual, no favorite song?
Why do I feel like I will die?
The moon is full or was full or will be tomorrow. I asked her to take it away.
yours truly, I
Reply to Letter #1
“I will have in my hands your dark crossed face, in my heart the country the storm lights.”
These words mean that you hold apart the surface of your lover while deep in the cavity of your chest other passions brood like looming weather, dimly pressing through the yellow haze of a fragile illumination gathering the air over a flat plain tending toward an opaque horizon. A dark crossed face is the obverse side of that horizon, that which is not gleaned from any sort of refraction but rather subtracts itself, dark crossed insofar as it is the chiasmus of an unseen limit and the conditions from which it will have emerged, the necessity of its being thus, there, and not otherwise, elsewhere. The crossing of an as-yet-untraveled inevitability that becomes the black cast of a visage cradled in the sort of tenderness that is really a bar, a blockade, a pressing back against the threat of proximity. Insofar as your arms rise perpendicular to your body, insofar as your hands reach out they hold off in this way, tending toward a limit they will not allow to approach.
Some would call that “fate.” I wouldn’t. I could imagine myself as this sort of lover. I won’t.
But I am also against democracy. So there must be some basis for a correspondence.
The twentieth century, you say. How you are truly of it. Well, what a fucked up little sequence it was. Could it be that its terminus, unraveling from such words as those you ask after, is this limit that you hold apart while taking into your chest the storm that it was? The opacity of that face, the illegibility of its expression, remains the case. “Our condition,” we might say, portentously. Simply: who knows what will come of it? Now that the movies have said their piece, exhausted, how will this horizon render an image of itself? How will it unveil itself as history, moving toward the light of consciousness?
So you are in love with your father. And it was a century born of the discourse of the hysteric, of her throat symptoms, a little “thumb sucker,” Freud says, or she says to Freud. And you’re probably right that its peculiar, predictable pathology was a yearning for the Ancien Régime: a desire to undo modernity, to burn it down right back to its roots. Given our boredom, our ennui, how could it be otherwise? There really is no end of it, this lighting of fires, our casting off of little sparks into the cosmological coals as they burn down into cinders, white flakes cast astray and fading faster than one might imagine. Those kind of storm lights.
No, I don’t see or touch you. No, nothing will appear or contain. Perhaps very little will come of this, almost nothing. And no, I do not think it safe to be here with you, without you. Your body may be a travesty, my body may be just exactly what it is and nothing else, and that is a certain kind of trap. But if a body expels what it cannot accommodate it also selects what it can, a constitution of the given which sorts it from the field of the lost, the unwatched, the omitted. And here anything can happen. That doesn’t mean that you can say anything. Who knows where those limits lie. But there is no stopping the coming in of your language, these phrases and their effects, what you have to say. I don’t know about the innocence of your father. How could I speak to it, as you insist. What I know is that the cruelty of words is not their imposition of a
limit but their excess of silence, of mute nothingness, how they press in on the page and have to be held at a distance always on the margin of collapse.
It makes no difference whether or not I love you, but last night I went for a walk when I could not sleep and saw that the moon was missing from its place, subtracted.
What you never want to know is that you can have what you ask for.
You say that mind and tool are an inseparable becoming, a braided striving through density into opacity and back again, but always slightly forward, slightly altered. As if there is somewhere to go. This process through the dark and dense leaves a trail of pinholes that has been letting the light through over thousands of years. This is why now we suffer the sun, why radiation carries our bodies around in states of shock.
The tool: camera/mirror/weapon is the recording device for a colorless jelly that would see itself as carved stone installed across the immaterial grid it calls History.
You wanted a photograph of me. I sent you one. It’s a picture of my face. Everyone agrees that my face is pretty. It is exceptionally pretty, though perhaps a little too doll-like to be contemporary. To understand what I’m saying you’d have to touch my body. My body is terrifying. You would pretend that it isn’t. You’d be gracious. You’d say something that would make me think, for a little while, that I’m fine. And maybe for a few hours everything would be, with wine, and music and then, well...
Why record? Why does this nothingness in our bodies want to remember? It wants to appear germane. It wants to be hidden in skin and hair and spit. It wants us not to know that it is alien. It needs memory for this deception.
Memory is a tool that makes us forget that the nothing in us comes from outside, nowhere, no time.
Memory throws an image over nothing, turns the nothing into a something, the nobody into a photograph, a photograph that might even show other nobodies, a field of nothingness with teeth and eyes that can be named, Mary, Stephen, Emmanuelle, Jonas...
Gather around a Christmas tree.
Stare into the pinhole.
Memory makes a spook of fractured images and noise, the spook looks into a mirror it calls future, black stone it calls death and destiny.
Is this what you mean?
You can see I want to twist my meaning around your words. I want to trap them and carry them away with me somewhere, up into a tree. It was like a forest, your words, in the forest were pillars, men, foreigners. I saw you, your lithe body, slip past. Of course I was dreaming it all. What else could I do?
My father had no tools. His teeth could crush through trees and break a dinosaur’s neck. What you call mind, this wriggling, procedural, embedded reaching, had no home in my father’s body. A King, a pure implacable force, his “mind” was a non reflective grit. A terrain of solid lava, an air of smoke, a windshriek. Only crazy people would walk in such a place. You would have to cover your mouth. You would have to cover your eyes. You would be unable to navigate. The ground would make a crunching bone sound under feet.
My mother the actress: framed impact, blond glint, ribbon of silver seconds...
Particular light is a razor that slices the unity a King is.
She refracts, projects, cannot quite be seen. She has no face in real time. A mercurial dealer of attributes, she opened a hole for memory in my father. A blurred still of her face lodged in him like a bullet.
This is the first time my father sees himself in time. Time is a net falling over him. The net is the immaterial grid called History. The nothing has caught my father. It adds him to its collection. My mother gets away.
Her escape is exactly his capture.
He sees a shimmer in the place where he would have devoured her body. Nobody there. This is his first memory.
Her blond is blinding down a dark tunnel, she carves past , shiny hot in his body, it turns him inward, woundward.
Inside the wound, his future:
The world is done with animals. The world is done with kings. The world is done with love. The world is done with fathers.
The world belongs to irradiated beings who flit and flit and flit. My mother is one of these. She is the moth that ate the fire.
You ask why I won't meet you somewhere. Once I was in love with a minotaur.
The hours between 3 and 5 AM were his most lucid, he said.
Those were also the only times he would see me.
He said that those were the hours farthest from the sun and moon. He didn't like to be forever scrutinized by those two. He hadn't chosen them , he said, to rule his waking and sleeping.
When he spoke of it I heard the sound of betrayal in his voice. I could tell that he felt rejected by the sun and was in turn rejecting the moon.
He said that before sunrise was when he felt his bloodline the strongest. That was when it was dark enough for him to "see" the thread of fire that ran through him linking him to Helios, his grandfather, the sun.
He said it as if sun and grandfather were two entirely different things. One abandons, the other bestows privilege.
Having a God for a father myself I thought I understood him.
The minotaur was kind of a narcissist. At least, I think that's the word for it.
He would leave me a trail of crumbs to follow each time I visited. Sometimes the trail went nowhere: I walked passageways that coiled themselves like cold stone guts; thought, "he's toying with me;" wanted to be wrong; listened to the light sharp click of my lucite heels.
I heard his echoed breath come from a place I couldn't see. If I stopped looking for the source of him, if I sat down on the ground to cry, he might appear on the other side of the wall that pressed my wet cheek. He might whisper to me in words that I could barely hear. I might get a hollow, elated feeling at the low rumble of his voice: delight.
He might come then, to take me home. Or he might not.
I went against my rule to never show myself to a man because he wasn't a man. He was like me. Or so I thought. It seemed as though we might have found perfect symmetry in one another. Or that we were like puzzle pieces fitting together, his human body, my human head... I thought that by embracing each other we could learn secrets that would allow us to step into a fourth dimension. I guess it's common for those thoughts to occur to those who are in love.
But love isn't like that.
Instead, as it unfolds, you learn the impossibilities. Nothing fits anything really.
I remember touching the tip of my tiny human tongue against his mouth to feel for the great slab of muscle that pressed his teeth; being afraid that he would open up to me and I would fall straight down his throat.
I tried to look him squarely in the eyes, nothing corresponded.
Nonetheless, there was no greater happiness than to wrap my arms around his powerful neck and stroke his nose.
I felt so safe then, so contained.
Then, to remind myself of danger, I'd press the sharp tip of his horn into my white palm just until the center flushed red.
What I learned when I tried to make myself known to this fellow creature was that revelation is only another kind of concealment.
In the end, it, the self-thing, it can't be undone for another.
By another, perhaps, but not for them.
And, there was no equality between us.
Because I am female he felt, naturally, superior to me. Because I am female I felt, naturally, superior to him.
The Minotaur, he used words to great effect but also silences, brute strength, rage and touch. The longer I knew him the less I understood how he was made.
I did not know how to love him.
The love at first evident, inevitable, and perfect, came to look like a favorite toy whose face had been burned off in a fire.
When we were together it was as if I was barely there. I was comfortable this way, half hidden by his indifference.
I would admire his horns and his torments. I would listen sympathetically to the grudges he bore, or stories of his violence.
He was just so fucking sexy.
So even when he was repeating a story about smashing someone's head with a club I would overlook the tediousness, the grandiosity and the stupidity.
I would shift my attention to the tenderness of his nose or the tautness of his waist.
I don't say that to make you jealous. It shouldn't. I mean it's not a comparable situation obviously. You are a man, at so many removes from me, beautiful in your way but your animality is pale and when manifest, twisted.
Humans and their eroticisms...it's kind of sad really. Because of my head I have it too, don't get me wrong. Sometimes I have fantasies of you in which we have sex and I always get distracted by the decor, the details in the costumes. What kind of buttons on the dress? Will it happen on the sofa or the chair?
Should it not rather be like falling into the mouth of a volcano?
Sex ... while it was happening I didn't feel my head and body were separate. I didn't feel that there was a pleasure barely threaded to an emotion that drifted balloon-like toward a far sky.
I may have experienced what it's like to be a woman.
It's idiotic (as anyone with a brain can see) but better and worse than I had always imagined.
It was impossible not to take it seriously.
One night we were on his stone floor in front of the massive fireplace, twisted into a seething chimeric knot. Suddenly he stopped. He curled me into his massive chest, mumbled something and began to pet me gently, my face, my hair, my fur. For no reason.
After that I felt myself pulled into his focus, dragged into the terrible machinery that was his idea of love.
He became aware of my properties.
He began to consider me as a possible wife.
Hitherto I had been adequately royal, something like good enough with my hybridization, my uniqueness, my princess status and my blurry attachment to Hollywood, etc.
But then he began to wonder what I had to give him, how I might elevate his position.
Like I said, he was tormented by the sense of a blighted heritage.
Despite his blighted feeling, The Minotaur knew that his domain, in addition to being architecturally superior to mine, was vast and important, it being at the heart of every man and so on.
Suddenly he was interested in Skull Island, he wanted reports.
The reports are as follows: Not only is it impossible to find, it is well known that if anyone has found it it has already been spoiled.
There would be the vast, suffocating hotel staring blankly at a sorrowing sea. The only virgins would be pudgy, ill featured. On the beach you'd find a cosmology cast into plastic clutter: object- memories for people who were young when it was funny to make cannibal jokes.
Skull Island died when it was liberated from the tyranny of my blessed father.
My territory, what would have been my kingdom, is a place so lost, abandoned and abandoning that maps of it can only be read through watery eyes.
I am a princess without a subject.
My territory is the outside of everything known, that is to say, nowhere.
The Minotaur's property is well documented and valued at nearly priceless.
My territory is a place that can't be found. His territory is a place one cannot escape.
I squat in an unsold condo actually. No one knows I'm here.
After having made a practical assessment of my situation (a necessity that hurt him, it really did, I could see that) he began to make long speeches to me about history and war, the implacable movements of power; his eyes sliding along the edges of the walls, snaking sideways when I tried to catch them in my well of tears.
I never went to school but I'm not stupid.
When he said, "the Chinese are coming," he meant this: If there were a civil war we would be on opposite sides.
And I would find it in myself to kill you.
So, you see... Yours,
Reply to Letter #3
Call me Icarus.
My fall will be the future of the present tense.
You talk a lot about the past. You are a creature of the twentieth century. You are a belated daughter of the ancien régime. Not only is your father pre-democratic, pre-modern: he is pre-historic. Not only does he have no tools other than teeth, he records nothing, recalls nothing; he lives the immanence of the real directly and distributes it as death.
I get it.
But you are afflicted with memory. The scission of your being from your father’s is the specter of time, the haunting of what is by what has been. It is as though the sudden apparition of your mother’s face were the simultaneous instant of your birth and death. “Once I was,” you say. Eternity is in love with the productions of time, and your body is a symptom of this weakness.
Some call it cinema.
But let me tell you another myth, one in which your father is not a king of the jungle but a manikin of the movies.
In which implacable force is not the attribute of an unthinking body but of the structure it unthinkingly inhabits.
In which the immanence of the real inheres in history, not in a past before time.
In which the pricelessness of a labyrinth is identical to the null value of an unsold condo.
(And yes, your minotaur stories are making me jealous—all cranky and polemical. To tell you the truth I’d like to throw a molotov into the middle of his “domain” and burn him down to the marrow of his hooves.)
Hold on while I get a whiskey and a cigarette.... Okay.
Once upon a time there was an inventor and what he made was a maze. In the middle was the minotaur you used to fuck. Let’s just call him Capital. And yes, he was sexy, and tedious, and grandiose, and stupid.
After awhile, to keep this creature company and to entertain the prey who lined themselves up to be be devoured, the inventor built a strange new device. It poured bodies made of light onto flat surfaces, where they went through the motions. These moving pictures made the maze a theater, and everyone who entered forgot about the light of the sun. They turned their backs not only upon heat but upon reason.
This minotaur you loved, the monstrous embodiment of a structure, was born before your father. That’s the secret of why you found him so consuming. And the fact that the structure he embodies was my father’s invention is why the violence of all the riots in its corridors would not suffice to express my hatred of its imperatives.
Your mother and your father were born at the same time: 1933. That he seems somehow more primitive than her is one among the transcendental illusions generated by technics, the picture-thinking of projection. If you came to believe that their coming into being was in fact coeval, what would break in you, I wonder? What sort of fracture would begin to carve its way through your imaginary soul, your compound body?
It’s not that I want you broken. It’s just that these are the kinds of questions the historical materialist will have to confront.
You would have to know that what we feel, in our innermost being, to be prior to Capital, to be outside its structures, is merely one among the images projected on its walls—the image of an immemorial past to which we fantasize about returning.
Believe me, it is uncanny to send letters to the daughter of this fantasy. To write to her real body, here and now, born of a projected then and there. The minotaur became interested in Skull Island because he feared you might find out you were born within his maze and start regarding it—instead of some new world you wanted deeper into—as a dull trap to be destroyed at any cost. Because he feared your latent class-consciousness, he queried you concerning your supposedly aristocratic heritage and your primitive kingdom.
No wonder Skull Island is impossible to find outside the labyrinth. It exists only as an image cast on the surface of its inner chamber. And the minotaur knew this all along. One among the laws of history is that a place that can’t be found is always the ideological ruse of a place one cannot escape. And once we recognize the dialectical identity of these two places, the only task that remains is to construct the utopia of the former upon the ruins of the latter.
If you come across the word Aufheben in any of the books I recommended, this is what it means.
Well, wary of such realizations, one day my father built two pairs of wings. One he mounted on his back, the other on mine. We could escape, he told me, father and son, the island on which the labyrinth had been constructed. Thus we could evade the constraints of his construction. And it seemed that the brute force of the minotaur was no longer sufficient to protect the maze. What had been the happy accord between Capital and Labor, the first feeding endlessly upon the second and growing stronger, became strained and uneasy. Parts of his domain began to crumble. Some of those waiting in line began to look askew at their surroundings, turning away from the spectacle and talking amongst themselves.
So we were to take flight, my father said, into the speculative sky.
His only ordinance was that I not attempt to push the powers of the wings he had given me as far as they would go. I was to circumscribe my trajectory even as I feigned complete freedom.
What my father did not realize was that neither the will of his son, nor the dynamic of his inventions, was his own. What he didn’t know is that having once looked squarely into the sun and having felt its true heat I had become the contradiction between the earth and the sky, between the maze and the desire for its undoing, between ideology and reason, between technics and time.
And I hated him, not only for inventing the maze but for asking me to be responsible for tempering the powers he feared would turn against him.
My tendency was to fall, but my disobedience was not so much mine as it was a function of the contractions I had become, that were born in my father’s brain and inscribed within his inventions.
You know how this story turns out. I flew “too high,” “too close,” they say. But I was only enacting the inevitable, and I can only claim to be a revolutionary subject insofar as I pushed an internal dynamic that is not my own toward its limit.
Now that I am falling, the earth seems suddenly more beautiful than ever. The walls are falling too, as I fall toward the ruin they will become. Point by point within, people are chipping away at their surfaces, digging up the foundations.
I think I see you standing on a crumbling parapet of the old world.
Within the real movement of this falling, there isn’t much to do but call the name of a body we incline toward and take its hand as it falls with us.
And yes, it should be like falling into the mouth of a volcano. That is why there is a red name for the identity of sex and history: communism.
Call me Empedocles, and jump.
I understand that it is the task of the true lover to rescue the love object from their Oedipal situation so I won’t take offense when you treat me like an idiot for being obsessed with my parents.
Actually, you only seem to notice that I’m obsessed with my father as if my obsession with my mother poses no threat to you… just like a man.
Of course you know better than that and so do I. You also know that whether or not my father is real or merely another spectacular seduction of capital is of no importance when it comes to his real effects in my life.
As for the labyrinth, it’s true that it’s image was printed on coins but wasn’t that just an early form of the parasitic relation of money to what is lost?
The original labyrinth was unicursal: one single, non-branching path, which leads to the center.
In one way you are right: the labyrinth by the time of the Minotaur, the one designed by your father, had become a labyrinth of lies and propaganda, built on top of a grave, a maze properly speaking, meant to confuse and overwhelm all who entered.
And the Minotaur, like myself, was the fantastical bastard child of racial hatred and hatred of women used to justify slavery, colonialism, genocide. Fay Ray is Pasiphae. Somewhere a woman is fucking something that is not one of us, producing monsters, tearing apart the tribe, polluting the blood stream. But it’s never really about the women. It’s about the money.
But what is money? What is it? Is it magic? Can you be a materialist and believe in magic?
I think I asked you this once and you said yes, but you’d been drinking.
The labyrinth was the place of the double axe, that is to say birth and death, another way of saying, “mother.”
The ladies of the labyrinth in those days wanted honey above all. A tablet inscribed in Linear B found at Knossos records a gift “to all the gods honey; to the mistress of the labyrinth honey.” Gold was used for sculptures and jewelry, because it’s pretty. It’s pretty because it looks like honey.
Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and a large repertory of ideographic signs for objects or commodities. Linear B was a language used for accounting that derives from an older Language now called Linear A.
Nobody has deciphered Linear A. I think they don’t want to decipher it.
My desire for the Minotaur was a longing for my mother, I believe, but behind that, not in front of it, a longing for an original language. You can say that this longing is just ideology and maybe it’s true. But if you weren’t a little susceptible to it yourself you wouldn’t be in love with the daughter of King Kong.
My hand is small with neat little opposable thumbs.
I hold it out to your falling figure, still so far away. My eyes are scalded by the light as I look into the sun for you.
From this distance, you appear almost the right size to wrap around my little finger.
Nietzsche would have loved my father.
Little boys from clean, suburban homes love Nietzsche and my father.
My mother is lost in that particular love triangle. "She" doesn't exist there except as a means for the males to express themselves. Nonetheless she exists...in the end it is really my mother who is interesting. It took me a long time to realize that. It took me a long time to stop blaming her for the loss of my father and for my father's losses. All daughters feel that way.
I should clarify.
The triangle I allude to above doesn't exactly include my father either. He functions there as a kind of magnet. My father had no use for Nietzsche or for little boys. He didn't read and his appetites were for women and nature.
My father loved only one person as far as I know, my mother. And this is where the mystery is. Why her? When he raged through Manhattan looking for the glimmer of light colored hair why is it that only hers could satisfy? The streets around Broadway were a mess of little blond actresses. Pretty vessels. My mother, though she did have perfect legs, could not have been the most beautiful. It's impossible. Yet you can see in the movies, when he picks those girls up and throws them back down with such violence, that he wants to crush each one who fails to be her. You can't blame him either, not if you've ever been in love.
But what was her particular quality?
Something happened. She must have done something on Skull Island that changed my father's nature.
I'm obsessed with my parents. It's kind of embarrassing but then again, who wouldn't be, if they were me?
In his "attempt at self criticism" Nietzsche describes his writing in The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner.
"...badly written, ponderous, embarrassing, image-mad and image confused, sentimental, in places saccharine to the point of effeminacy, uneven in tempo, without the will to cleanliness, very convinced and therefore disdainful of proof, mistrustful even of of the propriety of proof..." and so on.
I think that's a description of a perfect love letter.
Have you ever gotten a love letter that is too well written? It's depressing. It's awful. Please don't ever do that to me.
Another thing Nietzsche disliked is cheerfulness. Cheerful optimism, in his view, is a sign of weariness, infection and decline. I agree.
That is why when you write things to me like, I hope you're doing well. Or, have a great time. Or, that sounds great! I feel like you are saying, I can no longer be bothered to be in love with you, it's too difficult.
So from now on, when you toss those kinds of words at me, at least be aware that you are insulting me.
I want you to know, and this is true, if I could show myself safely to one person, it would be you. If I were to believe that there is someone in this world who is enough like me, or rather, enough unlike everyone else, to be my friend, a being with whom I could become transparent and electric, that person would be you.
And if there is one loss from which I will not recover, it's the loss of you.
"That life is really so tragic would least of all explain the origin of an art form, assuming that that art is not merely the imitation of the reality of nature but rather a metaphysical supplement of the reality of nature, placed beside it for its overcoming. The tragic myth, too, insofar as it belongs to art at all, participates fully in this metaphysical intention of art to transfigure. But what does it transfigure when it presents the world of appearance in the image of the suffering hero? Least of all the 'reality' of this world of appearance, for it says to us: 'Look there! Look closely! This is your life, this is the hand on the clock of your existence.'"
yours truly, I
Reply to Letter #5
“Let us beware.”
I have thought about this warning of Nietzsche’s since I was a little boy in a clean suburban home, just one among the children of the last man.
Beware of what?
Let us beware of thinking there are laws in nature. Let us beware of thinking that the world eternally creates new things. Let us beware of finding everywhere anything as elegant as the cyclical movements of our neighboring stars. Let us beware of thinking that the world is a living being. (“This nauseates me,” he says). Let us beware of saying that death is opposed to life. "The living is merely a type of what is dead, and a very rare type," he says: that we think otherwise is one of the shadows of God.
But what about the shadows of gods?
I’ve been reading the translation of The Bacchae you sent me. And I've been thinking of your mother.
What was it that she glimpsed as he approached her? He was a king and a god insofar as people worshipped him, and she was a sacrifice among chants and libations, the living heart of a ritual. Wasn't it just there and then, at the moment of her greatest weakness that she came to know what strength was? She was a poor girl, a plebe. But perhaps when he came to take her she discovered an aristocratic temperament as well, the feeling of a life without shame or resentment. The feeling of that "passionate desire for distance....that mysterious passion which aspires without cease toward the enlargement of the soul, towards engendering states ever more elevated, more rare, more distant, more ample and always more rich." Is this what the maenads came to feel, losing themselves in the forest?
And wasn't your father a god like Dionysos, unrecognized by the civilized, worshipped by those who knew something of the wild? Your mother, caught at this crux of modernity and desire, bound on the altar of cinema, she must have felt this tension between civilization and what it has not yet killed as an ineliminable, irresistible force. The kind of force that "arrives as destiny, without cause, without reason, with no regard, without pretext, like a bolt of lighting, too terrible, too sudden, too compelling, too disparate for anyone equal to its power to hate." But while the bacchae lost themselves together amid this power, your mother met it alone, within that solitude through which "one is plunged and sinks into the abyss of the real." This must have been the solitude he lived in the forest, in the mountains, eternally.
Isn't this why he loved her, unequally, without measure? Not because she was the most beautiful of all the blondes on Broadway (though she did have perfect legs), but because only she was not so weak as to be incapable of recognition. Because of her strength, a common force they came to feel. She had not yet killed the animal inside her; you can see
this in the way she moves her eyes. And when her eyes saw him she knew, or felt, that to live the animal inside oneself is to live as a god. This feeling is what they came to have in common in through that aristocratic solitude which flees civilization like a sickness. This "mysterious passion," the passionate desire for distance.
Man is that animal which necessarily forgets, Nietzsche says, the one that forgets the animal he is.
Perhaps only woman can remember.
Man is the sick animal, the most sick. "What a sad and demented animal is man!" he cries. The sickness of life, its self-destruction, is the sad dementia of an animal that necessarily forgets what it is--forgets its force. This is the weakness of the soul of man.
But forgetting is also, itself, that force which makes life possible, the power of all power, a condition identical to the essence of life: health. While the animal is forgetting, man is the necessarily forgetful animal. Within the element of forgetting, the animal lives; man forgets the animal that lives in him. Man is that animal which forgets his own forgetting, forgets the essence of life that lives in him. So that the highest power of the human becomes the capacity to remember, the power and the strength to remember one's forgetting.
This must have been what the bacchae, forgetting themselves, remembered. And Pentheus, refusing to recognize what he has forgotten, is torn to pieces. If the play is tragic it is not because Agave remembers, but because she forgets when she sees her dead son that what she had remembered (her forgetting) was the truth, held at a distance from the polis.
Listen: you want to know why he loved her without measure. I want to tell you, and this is true: he loved her because she remembered him, and he saw this in her eyes. In remembering him, she remembered herself, remembered what we are, beyond good and evil. And this is why she fell in love with him, why she could not live without him.
Listen: this is why I am in love with you. (I am in love with you). Communism is the end of man, the end of modernity, the end of monstrosity. And you are the shadow of a recollection, the recollection of all that modernity forgets it has forgotten, of all that man is too sick to remember. You are the shadow of a world without monsters, where it is never "liberty" or "equality" but only the disparate that reigns. You are the shadow of a recognition, of the being in common between two of a communism that was not, that is not yet, though it will be.
That is why you want to show yourself to me, why you call me "the communist" in your letters to your friends, whoever they are. Because your desire is the desire of that recognition at the very root of your existence, a desire held in common beyond civilization, beyond law, beyond novelty, beyond cyclical movements, beyond the opposition of life and death. The desire of communism, for communism, is the desire for the recognition, in common, of the animal that we are. That is the desire of the other. And I am that other of your desire, the shadow of your desire.
You and I, we are shadows among shadows in the cave, grasping at projections of what we are by the light of small fires. There is nowhere else to go. The world we recognize, dimly, will have to be constructed in the dark.
Unsolicited Letter from the Paramour
I’m in Paris.
I walked home tonight under a grey sky, and I realized why I can’t go to museums. It’s because I don’t believe in the world I was born into any longer, a world where people put things on the walls for posterity.
Believe me, I know that this is nothing novel. And I may be young, but it’s not like I was born yesterday. I remember standing in Rome years ago, when I was practically a kid, feeling what any thinking being feels when confronted by the ruins of some civilization or another. Torment. Not for any kind of faded glory, obviously. For the catastrophe of what was supposed to be glorious in the first place. I mean, it’s one thing to rattle off Benjamin (”every document of culture is at the same time a document of barbarism”) or to know that tourism is the admiration of slavery. But it’s another to finally feel, in one’s body, in whatever the soul is supposed to be, that you can no longer look at a painting. It isn’t a question of education or exhaustion or maturity. And it isn’t smart or wise or refined. It’s not like I think that Manet is intolerable because his work is in the Musee D’Orsay, and I have already sufficiently bemoaned the institutionalization of the avant-garde.
It’s something else. It’s the feeling that the world is simply over.
It occurs to me what a strange phrase that is....the world is over. Sometimes if I’m testing the keyboard of a typewriter in some thrift shop, I type “the end of the world is upon us.” I’ve never really known why. But while I was walking home tonight, back to my chambre de bonne in the 5th, I knew. It’s because the end of the world is upon us. Or it’s upon me, anyway. And I just can’t fucking walk into a museum.
Being here is disconcerting. The stone is all over the place, glooming down at you, just like before. But there’s nothing in it now. It doesn’t even ask for antagonism. It doesn’t beg the question of revolution, really. It’s just there, and it’s meaningless. It doesn’t signify the hubris of some grand imperial odyssey, or the absurdity of wealth. It just is what it is—material—and it isn’t compelling. One used to feel nostalgia for whatever. I don’t know, the Revolution, the Commune, the Paris May. Or one used to decry gentrification, maybe, or bitch about the tourists but still like the food and the perfect cafés and perhaps the canal or some little secret you found your way into. I can imagine you spending your time in the train stations, for example. But these little tricks and affective distractions, they don’t work any more. There’s a tedious flatness to the fact that the city is primarily a site for the circulation of garbage. You can’t even bother to complain about the noise of the weird little trucks. Everything just happens as it does, and nothing happens, and the paintings on the walls can’t tell that anyone is looking at them and I am not even looking at them. Manet can’t tell either.
The city. I don’t know what to do about it. It doesn’t matter which one. I find myself in them. Or I’m just in them. And there they are. Nothing makes sense any longer, except for cinema. So the city is a place where there are movies. That’s why I can’t leave, I guess, even though I don’t really see that many of them and I could just have them all on my laptop. There is something about that kind of light, above you, and behind, while you look on, ahead. Even if only once in awhile.
Maybe I’ve been looking for you here all summer, though I guess this is the last place I would find you. I have no idea where you are, so why not look in the last place?
It’s been raining a lot. And maybe that’s another version of the light I just mentioned. The city is the place where it rains. Does it feel like that in the jungle, too? Tapping on the palm fronds? Falling through the leaves of the canopy, as though you were typing under a tin roof? I don’t even know if that’s what these roofs are made of.
It’s not just that all the great projects are over. Everything is over. And for once that doesn’t mean we’re going to start again. We’re not. There’s just rain. And cinema. And the grey sky. And none of that amounts to very much, after all.
I can’t find you. And I’m lost.