Reynard sits in Oakland, where he is busy not writing a couple few books.
Reynard sits in Oakland, where he is busy not writing a couple few books.
Forty years ago Harold Rosenberg said “art in our time cannot escape having a political content and moral implications. Criticism that is unaware of this is fatally poverty-stricken.” Today you can look for critical theory behind cans of soup at the supermarket. You can find it in your apartment, or in your home. Maybe your pool, if you have a pool. Your cat can teach you critical theory. Your dog is chasing a squirrel. There’s a lesson here somewhere, everywhere. Even at the corner store. Not in the trees. The trees can’t tell you about critical theory, but the wind can. You don’t need a sense of humor to know it’s raining a lot. Look around. Better yet, look at yourself. Harder. Look harder and deeper at yourself. And see that you are just an it. Critical theory is the space between things. There are books entirely on this lack of space. More books all the time more books on theory. Eat. But you don’t need to read the books. You just need to pay attention to them. Let them envelop the you that you thought you were in rust. Give yourself to them, and you will find that you weren’t really. But they are and they aren’t. And it’s never enough to think that you know, because you don’t. All there is is an idea of something between the things, spreading them out, making them whole. A ghost. Find it in the penny fountain at the mall below the sun light crashing gently thru the atrium, so high above. It’s in the dust on the plants next to the food court, where the last sandwich artist makes too-hot coffee for the grandmas and the grandpas, stretching out their limbs like wet shirts hung over a dry line strung between two buildings within several larger buildings, waiting to learn what it’s like to be an idea in the mind of someone living without knowing they’re going to die.
Do you see the tree for the water? Sometimes I don’t, and then the dark melts up like a fat pit stretched out over the first note, the first noise. Silence. But it’s not the not that bruises. It’s the rim. It’s the interception that slays the calm that could have been. Whether it was or wasn’t both a lake and a fountain, it’s definitely that the feedback is too high. But is it water or sky you see? That’s when I sink into the couch and try to hide behind an open window, or a broken conk shell. The world is too bright sometimes, others not enough. You could say it’s exactly what it is, but it’s also a piece of wax. And we’re not killing it, because it is everything and everything else. We can, however, bruise it. We can pinch a nerve. We can not have home. I hope you’re still with me, because now I’d like to suggest some natural magic. Last night at my apartment a trill ripped the drone of my open window, forever unrolling one long quake like an ancient sometimes sea, the road. I went out to investigate, barefoot. I went down a hundred-year-old set of stairs dotted with dead leaves and trash. At first I saw nothing, just the road, which is not nothing so much as not what I hoped to find, which was a kind of softer terror. I heard no trill either, just the stream of cars, occasional garbage, probably leaves. I started back inside, up the stairs. I looked back once more to see a coon correctly use the crosswalk, trotting over from my side to the vacant lot across the road, a too-steep hill full to the brim with trees and shrubbery. The coon trilled and threw its head around. Rabies, I thought. Then I saw the tree, a pine I think, bend into the streetlamp. A swarm of raccoons, fifteen, maybe twenty, haunted the tree like a dark wind, almost motionless. Raccoons on top of raccoons. Raccoons where raccoons might not have been. I couldn’t see a bear, but I pictured a black-bear ghost chewing a mess of coons up there in a swirl of sparkling purple. A flurry of lower trills slackened as the raccoon cloud descended the staircase of leaves to the sidewalk. “Holy shit,” said a voice in the night. It was mine, but I didn’t know who it was for. No one was around. It was after midnight and Oakland is a heavy sleeper. Three of the coons crossed the street in different directions, looking back, avoiding all cars. One of them came my way and didn’t see me till it was close. I forgot that I was a little afraid. But I was bigger and I knew it. So did the coon. It crept in on a corner, behind some bushes, under some cars. It crossed the street in front of a honk, and shrank into the sewer like a huge rat. Then the tree was silent. Then the street was silent, for a while there were no cars. And that was the worst part, the silence. It starts at the rim. It’s what’s on when the internet is not. It’s not dinner conversation. It’s not a book. It’s not even a good way to say exactly what it is, which is why it’s better to say
… To be your breath as it is taken in and shoved out. Then, quietly, it would be as objects placed along the top of a wall: remembering just how the light stood on the water that time. Inside each other, moving upward
like the face on a deflated balloon, shifted into wrinkles, permanent and
Because life is short
We must remember to keep asking it the same question
Until the repeated question and the same silence become answer
In words broken open and pressed to the mouth
And the last silence reveal the lining,
the people who timidly inhabit it, the fuzzy first thought that gets started in you and then there’s no stopping it.
But it is your landscape, the proof that you are there.
– H.P. Lovecraft
Essentially every culture has a mythological history which includes primal, undifferentiated formlessness: the abyss, as much topless as it is bottomless. Figuratively speaking, this abyss is neither aquatic nor interplanetary. Rather, it’s a little of both. The howling Tao, the primal ocean upon which Vishnu slumbered, amorphous being, chaos preceding time, primordial stew.
Today, in cockpits and bathyspheres, astronauts and their aquatic counterparts contort into metal cabins, surrounded by death, to peer from thick windows into empty, hostile landscapes. Cloaked in metal, they transport light where there has never been any — to what James Cameron, after his much-ballyhooed 2012 submersible dive to the Challenger Deep, called a “barren, desolate lunar plain,” or (more viscerally) which William Beebe, passenger in the world’s first bathysphere, described as “the black pit-mouth of hell itself.” From this hell-mouth emerge our literature’s greatest monsters, those embodying primeval dread itself: the Kraken of maritime myth, Godzilla, Cthulu, and now, the Kaiju aliens, which shimmy through an interdimensional breach at the bottom of the ocean and sow chaos on the coasts of the world in Guillermo Del Toro’s magnificent new film, Pacific Rim. READ MORE >
It starts with a crash. You do not see the crash. You hear it. You see the aftermath. Typical. A dead swan splayed over the hood of a white Ford Mercury. The first time I typed that, I typed Mercy. Different cars are very much different sorts of animals. Domesticated animals, of course. Crossbreeds. It is said that the different sorts of hominids did not, could not, cross. Put that in my zonkey’s ass. The woman driving the car, who will be accused of taking mercury to procure an abortion, is named Bewick. The Mercury is no longer produced. You could say it is extinct. It was Ford’s answer to the Buick, you could say it was a fake Buick, a car that would no longer be were it not for waning appeal among wealthy Chinese (the last Emperor drove one, so did my grandma). Rauschenberg was born in the same town as my mom. This scene, the first of A Zed & Two Noughts, looks like something he might have filmed in the sixties, if only he had combined his interests (visual & performance art) into film, the way he did with found objects, like his notorious American bald eagle (an animal that will be mentioned later in this film when a prostitute named Venus de Milo asks the zookeeper for the tail feathers of that bird in order to write a dirty story, the same zookeeper who will later threaten to tell the director of the zoo, who is in fact the director of the film, about the brothers bringing the dead dalmatian into the zoo because it is “an abomination”). But then Rauschenberg dealt with death in ways more conceptual, less actual. I remember riding in the back of my grandma’s Buick because it had a passenger-side airbag. I remember carefully visualizing my death. I remember oak trees. The accident happens on Swan’s Way. Way is one of the ten most common words in our language. Weeks ago, this surprised me. But it should not be surprising that the journey is more popular than the destination. We’re a restless race. We want tiggers in our tanks & Michael Nyman to speed up & O will he!