25 Points: The Glimmering Room

cruz450The Glimmering Room
by Cynthia Cruz
Four Way Books, 2012
98 pages / $15.95 buy from Four Way Books or Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. “If you bring forth what is within you, what is
within you will save you. If you do not bring
forth what is within you, what is within you
will destroy you.”

—The Gospel of Thomas

2. When I picked up The Glimmering Room I was on a recent, incurably permanent Nine Inch Nails kick. I was listening to The Downward Spiral the minute the book came in, and kept it on for the entirety of the reading.

3. First poem “Kingdom of Dirt” places the material in the world of it’s prelude. The pages are almost hymnal in their design, with white space like musical score margins and titles in austere fonts, like stone engravings. The design works when you get partway through and see it set in deceptively clean and sterile rooms in a psychiatric hospital. It’s surprisingly quiet and deadly against the album playing in the foreground.

4. Like The Downward Spiral, there’s a concept in The Glimmering Room’s organization. I broke up the tracklist on YouTube so I’d force myself to stop and consider the poems, and to consider the album in individual pieces.

5. The thing is, this approach isn’t the primary consumer instruction of either work. There’s a narrative that runs through both, and The Glimmering Room is a concept book on contemporary hysteria much like The Downward Spiral is a concept album describing the descent of a person’s depression into their eventual suicide. Reznor described the album in interviews during the promotion of With Teeth as “friends that sound good next to each other.“

6. In the complete accident of getting the copy as I had this album on, I couldn’t bring myself turn the music. For one, the similarities of self-hatred in the book and the mental boil listening to those textures will make the room too thick to move.

7. And two, the contrast between noise volume of the two works is eerie. Cruz’s first few poems produced a psychological and somatic anxiety that I didn’t want to be left alone with the work, or else I might find myself on a dangerous line. Like I know I can’t drink and sit with The Downward Spiral’s last track in a melancholic mood without it disturbing me into holding a mirror up to myself in a sterile room.

8. The leotards, stuffed animals and tangible suitcases of baggage in The Glimmering Room’s anti-sterility play with the quietness of isolation, which is so intense against the heavy textures of The Downward Spiral that it mimics the lack of movement and external aggression of gendered isolation. While we can journal until oblivion, for a young adult woman, it’s not acceptable to get entropically and endogenously angry, while a young male enjoys the permission and romance of self-destruction anger.
Against the beautiful cover, their outward concerns with looks, the poems contain (apologies introducing the inevitable mad-lady malady cliché) Plathian stillness and resoluteness brightening fuss of blood-smeared text on a white wall.

9. “The traveling minstrel show
Called girlhood—

I burned it
Down to the ground:”

(“Eleven”)

The Downward Spiral was famously recorded at the site of the Tate-La Bianca murders, where “Death to Pigs” was smeared by Mason’s followers, in Tate’s blood, as a “witchy message.”  Reznor’s told the story of Sharon Tate’s sister confronting him on a chance encounter during the rental, asking if he was exploiting the mythology of the site he chose. Afterwords, sick with himself, Reznor went back and cried that night, and the house was razed after the completion of the record. After touring, he returned to New Orleans and installed blackout glass in the windows of a funeral parlor in the French Quarter and stayed behind the gates.

10. Like Reznor’s penchant for American history in his material and mental rooms, Cruz doesn’t shirk the critical magnifying glass that details traditional hysteria-as-subject– it refrains from slipping into the bedlam tropes of post-Sexton confessionalism:

“Daddy, I am spit
Pasting junk and shit into glittering
Black pink pearls and beads of apathy.

Track down the pony
Trapped on the carnival-like barge
Lit in key lime green like a California

Ferris wheel to the Rhine,
Back to my Germany
Where this awful song began.

Give me back my Ritalin.
Give me my shock
Of medicine. Make sure my spine

Is still living. Mommy,
Slip the black eel
Back in the sealed aquarium.”

(“Strange Gospels”)

With the blunt diction and tonal speech, the work comes to us traceless of affect as an unmarked envelope, and her language is unrecycled, passing like a cult cinema scene on silent.

11. Where The Glimmering Room might raze itself as a madness volume like the fate of 10050 Cielo Drive, the blissful ignorance to societal format and hazy medication of the work’s protagonists let it sit Wunderkammer-immobile. The crush and angst of Nine Inch Nails in given antidepressants and benzos. The book is drugged. But it seethes under eyelids where the film happens in flashes of cursing and acknowledgment of ephemeral dead self.

12. It’s easier drugging behavior than dealing with the framework that’s created it. We create our realities based on fantasy, and not the other way around.

13. And so countless couches and TVs immobilize talk of oxycontin in The Glimmering Room. Thoughts come and drop dead in the hot air without the chance to form and round. The passivity of the verse would risk imploding the poems if Cruz didn’t ground it with images and objects of the sedated postmodern and banal of a therapist’s office.

This doesn’t diminish the poems’ disaster.

14. “The shame of being
Seen consumes me . . .

Calories of everything put
Into my mouth—desperate to ward the onslaught

Off. Until I am nothing
But a body.

Burn the body down
And with it, out goes the pilot

Blue light of the mind.
Everyone said

I was pretty back then.
Maybe, way back then,

Before I began.”

(Diagnosis)

15. It’s difficult to determine if the shortness of the lines translates as ennui with their goings on, or if I’m not reading with the intended pacing urgency. Ambiently, it’s my feeling that there’s too much suburbia to ask me to be urgent. The dosages are implied in the living room and waiting room images; I’m not getting proper drum machines and palpitations. I’m getting the sense that Cruz’s chosen drawn-figures are in a world where it’s always been like this, since pubescence; a chronic pathology of stop-gap bandaging.

16. That tone and assessment makes the casual aspect of the lines frightening, but the characters are either unaware of their doom or desensitized to it.

17. In my own stunted reading repertoire, explicit drugs use and eventually-dated prescription names would get pushed aside (for a lot of other readers, too, I’m almost certainly positive) as “alt” or drug-lit or uncreative choices. But the suburban institutionalization of domestic culture pathologizing illness to make nice isn’t what The Downward Spiral is dissenting against. The Glimmering Room is a chrysalisization and portraiture of passive resignation to self-destruction, passive in the cultural expectation of suppressed women to think and behave.

18. Even in interviews with Reznor before his sobriety, there’s the balance of talking about it and never talking about it in the work, eluding specificity about use and discussing interpretation of the lyrics. Cruz’s territory instead has its girls weighing themselves, and sense of privacy is unsettling and casual.

19. “Burn the body down
And with it, out goes the pilot

Blue light of the mind.
Everyone said

I was pretty back then.
Maybe, way back then,

Before I began.”

(“Diagnosis”)

20. The Glimmering Room criticized its bodies, how bodies are massed in patienthood, schooling. Everyone is ignorant to their culpability in the poems’ problems, and the thematic issue of illness is so distorted from repetition that the solutions are smudged. I’m repeating myself and the premise at this point.

21. The medicine we give the incurables is a screen to look at and a couch to sit on.

22. For a second I think “wouldn’t it have been wiser to listen to Year Zero, with the structure so bound in contemporary paradigm of pharmaceutical industry, or With Teeth’s drumming, anti-neocon ‘The Hand That Feeds’?” but the helplessness in these poems isn’t insinuating anyone to rise up. It’s satire and critique. In its world there’s nothing to do about the maladaptives.

23. And anyway, I opened The Glimmering Room on impulse when NIN was spinning.

24. By the end, I was aware of my acquisition of the breakthroughs that eludes Cruz’s personas. The Downward Spiral is an artistic representation of self-hatred, rebelling against, and, as Reznor put it, “getting to the point where you either have to write a song or kill yourself.” After rehab, he wondering if he had it in him to love music, to say anything relevant now that he was done with destruction. Taking two years off to try and figure out who he was as a sober addict, he wrote With Teeth, an album (which I loved along, with critics and prior fans) addressing a “you” that equated a romantic relationship with addiction; the dance track “Only” is a kiss-off to the personified vile addiction and self-as-addict.

25. Cruz’s figures stay trapped in limbo, anhedonic, sedated under prescriptions, never learning to love themselves, and they medicate. They’re more like most of us, with our perfection, our crutches and self-disgust. That diarism is deadly-sharp.