THE ZERO-DEGREE NOISELESSNESS OF DEATH: LECTIO I-IV

Speech may be a function of Logos, where rational compositions serve as cultural appropriation, or speech may serve a revolutionary, contestatory role by internally rupturing the structures of Logos at the very points of its own contradictions; screams and laughter may be reactive phenomena, resulting from the neurotic exigencies of life, or they may serve serve as rebellious eruptions of corporeal energy, heterogeneous outbursts of expropriation, where Logos is disrupted by the libido; silence may be the zero-degree noiselessness of death, where life itself is betrayed, or silence may be that moment where sovereignty is elliptically expressed as incommunicable inner experience.

-“Impossible Sovereignty,” Allen S. Weiss

In Medieval philosophy and theology, a lectio (literally, a “reading”) is a meditation on a particular text that can serve as a jumping-off point for further ideas. Traditionally the texts were scriptural, and the lectio would be delivered orally akin to a modern-day lecture; the lectio could also vary in form from shorter more informal meditations (lectio brevior) to more elaborate textual exegeses (lectio difficilior).

In the Dust of This Plane: Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1, Eugene Thacker

LECTIO I: Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl

LECTIO II: Horror vs. The Patriarchy

LECTIO III: Joe Wenderoth pushes the surface

LECTIO IV: The Dionysian Excess of Living

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LECTIO I: KATE ZAMBRENO’S GREEN GIRL


Recently, I have become an alien. I have left the zone of complacency I’ve existed in for the last 7 years. I threw away or sold 75% of my belongings, put all of my books but ~30 into storage, and moved from a small town in northern Illinois to California. Upon moving I had neither job nor living situation lined up. As of being here a month I am still crashing on floors and unemployed (a footnote here could soften the blow of these words by indicating that I move into a sublet next month & have work coming soon, but that undermines the punch, no?).

I hop on trains and buses and ride to a location chosen for an arbitrary reason. I walk up and down hills and try to figure out how streets connect. I look at the ground, watch my own feet. I often avoid eye-contact. I drink regularly. I spent the seven years I spent in the last town I lived in becoming a loner, developing the necessary facilities to spend as much time as possible alone, and this would generally allow me the time I needed to read, write, work on shit, whatever. I was social when I needed to be, and whenever I wanted to be. I had the balance down.

But then I ran away from mediocrity.

In Green Girl, it is not mediocrity that our protagonist, Ruth, is running away from, but rather the past. There are parallels. I read most of Green Girl either alone on public transportation or alone in restaurants. This seemed important. It seemed like this was the best way to experience this. Blurbs are praising the novel as something that [the blurbers] wished they had when they were teen girls, but I’m glad I had it now, years far from being a teenager and an entirely different gender.

She fingers the silk scarves, ethereal butterflies, and picks up a pink felt scarf whimsically looping it around her neck. Pink so pink it isn’t pink almost purple. Ruth loved color so much she rarely wore any. Except on her face.

Living in a major city for the first time introduces a new set of neuroses. At least, it has to me. I’ve become acutely aware that, despite my intense aesthetic bent, I am incapable of dressing myself to any suitable means. I hate my limited wardrobe. I have no money to spend on any new clothes. As Ruth pines for new dresses, as Ruth admires the beauty of others, I can’t help, despite my general insistence to read as far away from empathy as possible, but feel what it is she’s feeling. The text is echoing life and I am echoing the text. All of this is part of what it means to move forward. Living in a city I want to be invisible. Living in a city I want the beautiful people to see me, to think I am beautiful too. But I am outside of the text, and as the text itself reminds us regularly, the outside of the text is what is in control of the text itself. Kate Zambreno as author as director as God knows that there is cruelty and that we, we who exist outside of the text, we are watching, we can see the cruelty.

And in this cruelty we are silent. And in this cruelty we are silent.

When I think about relating to Ruth .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. and that’s how I know the text is working.

She closes her eyes and tries to die inside.

But not outside. Outside is the world, and we green girls & boys know that the world is exciting if we can figure out a way to tap into it. We understand that there is always something Other, we wait for our permanence to break through the curvature, we wait for the sun to shine and for life to go at a pace that isn’t punctuated with nights spent drinking alone in a tiny, cluttered bedroom, watching men and women perform on a screen.

Green girls and boys believe in love even though they know it is impossible.

Aren’t I attractive? Aren’t you attracted to me?

[…]

Why won’t you just fuck me?

As a homosexual recently transplanted from a world of pure heterosexuality into what could arguably be read as a queer utopia, social dynamics have been reconfigured into some sort of system that roots itself squarely outside of any sort of understanding I might have. I am simultaneously naive & jaded. I have no idea how to get laid.

Ruth comments upon her life as a permanent exile. Part of this is a desired refusal: she insists that she is neither tourist nor ex-pat, she floats through the world like a ghost. Baudelaire wrote poems praising the excess of the new, but for Ruth not even the new makes sense. Stuck in some haunted & idealized memory she cannot escape her own headland. Everything is simultaneously outside & inside. This is the text. This is the world as it reveals itself to us. There is no magic here.

* * * *

LECTIO II: HORROR VS. THE PATRIARCHY

I have spent most of my life watching horror films despite the fact that the horror of existence becomes exhausting. Rewatching Insidious with some friends the other night, I reached a conclusion that struck me as both entirely obvious yet often ignored. There is a dominant horror film “culture,” this being readers of Fangoria, people who worship Eli Roth, bros with VHS copies of Faces of Death, etc., that colors horror film culture as a very masculine venture. However, if you reconsider what would probably be the second largest ‘culture’ of horror-film fans, you’ll find, most often, queers of all genders & non-heteronormative women. The largest aversion to horror films seem to be found within the realm of what could quaintly (& arguably condescendingly) be considered the “midwestern house-wife” demographic, conservative Christian mothers, etc. My brilliant (& retarded, in the literal definition of the word) conclusion arrived when I realized the number of horror movies I could think of that directly challenge the power of the male figure-head in a familial relationship.

This is almost an archetype– in Insidious, the father figure is resistant, powerless, and absent (until the end when he arguably “saves the day” but, and perhaps this was developmental to my thought process re: endings in general, in horror movies endings are almost always less important than what fills the remainder of the motion picture’s run-time, they are the vapid happy endings that nobody believes for even a second). The male figure head is challenged, repeatedly; he is revealed as weak, he is revealed as broken, useless. This is, of course, directly challenging a patriarchal world where father knows best and father saves the day.

Every horror movie finale is ironic, in one way or another.

Often, it is only an outsider or a higher power (“God,” consider The Exorcist) that can solve the problem that the patriarch has carried (there are variants of course, but there is some regularity here–also I am, for the sake of not wanting this to go on for too long right now excepting the idea of God as ultimate patriarch). In the last two weeks I’ve watched the following contemporary horror films: The Last Exorcism, The Roommate, When a Stranger Calls (the 2006 remake), Insidious, and The Uninvited (a remake of the Korean horror film A Tale of Two Sisters). In none of these films is there a comforting, stable patriarch. There are, generally, only people alone. Horror is true realism. Watching horror is taking notes. Consider these brief & half-baked ideas as notes on notes for further notes.

We are all fucked.

* * * *

LECTIO III: JOE WENDEROTH FLOATS ON THE SURFACE

I am crashing on Reynard Seifert’s floor right now, and upon hearing his unending praise, I picked up and read Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s yesterday. Again, mostly on public transportation, but I also read a large chunk of it plastered to an orange-upholstered arm chair. I have been told that, basically, this book was a “big deal” upon its publication, but since I didn’t even know what a small press was until 2006 it’s not really a surprise that I hadn’t read this, right?

I’m sure that as a book it was discussed often upon publication, but we’re 11 years out from that so who cares. We’re much further into the 21st century now, and as trends in literature have developed, I almost feel like I can call Letters To Wendy’s wholly indicative of the decade (if not the first quarter of the century) that its publication launched.

On the surface there are somewhere around 360 “letters” written on comment cards directed to the Wendy’s fast-food chain that our “I” frequents. And by “frequents” I mean “eats at pretty much daily.” But the prescience lies, I think, in the idea that the “I” is isolated, alone, living primarily in an ennui-tinged headland. This is a common thread found in literature, especially HTMLGiant & Vice Magazine favorites such as Tao Lin & the other Muumuu House roster, in addition to much of the Pop Serial scene that Tao and his ilk have inspired.

But I think there’s something present in Wenderoth’s text that the other mentioned texts lack; there’s something that drives it harder, that finds it more affecting: there’s a level of desperation, obsession, insistence. The “I” of our story is revealed without any sort of psychologizing, there is nothing but surface, the surface of the letters that he (and it is indeed a he as “he” dips his erect cock into a Frosty, pulling up and down, displacing the contents of the cup onto the bathroom floor) writes. But he, this “I,” is sad and alone. While he is sad and alone he thinks about things. This is where there is a difference. Hyper-contemporary ennui places itself at a level that refuses thought, any reflection fails to travel beyond the realm of absence:

Robert walks into his building. He walks up stairs. he walks into his apartment. Robert takes a shower. He is lying on his bed. Robert thinks “Okay.”

Eat When You Feel Sad, Zachary German

Wenderoth’s “I” is manic, not afraid of the id that controls his desires. There is a level of intellectual discourse present within the ‘headland’ of the “I” that serves only to progress ideas, often semantically. While the character goes nowhere, the language & ideas of the text do:

To take someone’s buttocks in your hands, one cheek in each hand–is there any greater earthly event? And yet, I’ve never heard someone say so. To say so seems to threaten the very core of so-called humanity. That is, to say so undermines the abstraction–the bodiless image–with which “human” identity proposes it is moving forward toward… toward… toward what?

If we read literature to make ourselves feel less alone in the world, why do we find further solace in empty signifiers that show, blatantly, what it is that we are? Misery loves company but the company is terrible at conversation. There’s nothing praiseworthy about standing still forever, even if you’re David Blaine and you’re doing it on top of a 100 foot pole.

* * * *

LECTIO IV: THE DIONYSIAN EXCESS OF LIVING

Have you ever been to an orgy? I haven’t, really, but I guess I sort of have, if you consider a room full of people fucking (although not necessarily fucking together) at a sex party an orgy, which I guess you could. The weird thing about public sex is that it turns out if you’re as inundated with pornography as I am, there’s little difference between watching sex happen in a room in front of you (or on the street, etc) and watching sex on a screen. I mean, as long as you’re just watching. I imagine the participatory aspects are worlds apart, duh.

The point is that this imagery becomes oddly banalized in certain situations: i.e. I’m not going to start jerking off at the Dore Alley street-fair (although I guess I basically could if I wanted to, considering the dude standing next to me at one point was) so the imagery gets filed away for later, or really just becomes a kind of visual noise– if it’s yr steaz then you can appreciate it, but if not it’s like google ads; you forget they’re there.

And the orgy of a sex party is generally placated to a different room, so if you’re not fucking you don’t spend too much time in the room (as one of the rules is to not “linger” in the sex rooms too long if you’re not fucking, I guess the idea being that you might make someone uncomfortable; although if you’re having public sex I thought part of the appeal was that people were watching, who knows).

But anyway; Dionysian excess plays a major role in the development of both Nietzsche’s & Bataille’s anti-philosophies. I’ve always found this interesting– I should note that I have read far more Bataille than Nietzsche, but it seems that Bataille’s excess far surpasses (and is far more dynamic, heterogeneous & interesting) than a simple orgy which, it would seem, epitomizes Dionysian excess. Consider the scenes in the infamous Caligula, Malcom McDowell eating pussy while tits flap in the background and boys make out with boys– the soundtrack tells us this is decadence, but if a light flute replaced the warring minor chords we could find ourselves traipsing through the pleasure dome of purity.

Syliva Bourdon‘s orgies seem more fun, she makes sure to appeal to all of the senses, treating the event more as a plotted performance than simple middle-class libido overload. You must start with the feast, because according to Bourdon, love is a feast. Orgy as gesamptkunstwerk seems more up my alley than the reality of the orgy. Everything is relative but really I just want everything to be art.