Summer Reading 2016

Thought it was time to reinvigorate this as aide-memoire

Hacking,  The Taming of Chance. I’m like 30 pages into this (5/15) and it’s already great–I leap ahead of myself, imagine having finished it already so that I can read the companion volume, The Emergence of Probability

R. Walser, Jakob von Gunten. A very, very strange book — stranger even than I anticipated, because it is in a certain way precisely not avant-garde, not obviously fracturing certain standards. As Moritz Baßler might say, its form of narration is at least metonymic, although I suppose in some way fragmented. Perhaps this is not quite right — there are a few strange dream sequences (the initiation with Fräulein Benjamenta, the Don Quixote dream that concludes it), and the characters are to some extent entirely superfluous, sort of pivots or supports for a strange prose. Benjamin has this remark that Walser’s characters seem like fairy-tale figures who have left fairy-tales and come to live in the real world; I’m not sure this is true of the characters, but perhaps it does capture something that is not quite mundane about the language. Perhaps incipient madness.

Blanchot, The Space of Literature. I remain somewhat on the fence — there’s a question of what to do with Blanchot insofar as genre, which I think is a more significant question / concern than it first appears. On the one hand, some of it is excellent and really engaging as a kind of austere mysticism’s theory of art and artistic experience; on the other (and perhaps for the same reason), it becomes somewhat redundant insofar as every artist is ultimately reducible to an instantiation/illustration of various states of undecidability, neutrality, etc. There’s also a separate problem of what to do with the (at least at first glance) somewhat shallow paradoxes that would/could be dissolved by further differentiation–inspiration/lack of inspiration is only an apparent paradox from outside the artist, not after reading the essay.

Ozu, Tokyo Story. I honestly couldn’t tell in the period leading up to this movie and for approximately the first 20 minutes if I had seen this film before — I think this has two causes, one being that Ozu uses the same actors, the same camera angles, and roughly the same plot structures (melodrama with a mute) in every film, the other being that I realized I have watched, on my own and on a laptop, the first 15 minutes of this film and decided to save it for a big screen some other time. Readers, I liked it, but I did not love it–Late Spring remains preferable to me, although I could not say why.

Michael Snow, Wavelength. Holy shit is this ever an amazing film.

Live-blogging the GSA

Because it’s only 3:30 Denver time and it’s already apparent this is one for the record books.

6:00 AM. All 17 alarms go off at once. Fortunately, my senses are still whiskey-dulled from the night before. I am surprised to learn that it’s still dark at this hour.

9:07 AM. Clear security at O’Hare. We are through security and 100 feet from our gate 1 hour and 57 minutes before the flight leaves. I am never letting the Germans make the travel arrangements again.

9:13 AM. Woman in line behind us at Starbucks asks if she can cut the line, because her flight starts boarding in 15 minutes. Joela agrees before I can say something rude. She orders a venti skinny French Vanilla latte with no foam, clearly the drink of choice for someone in a rush. (She is not in a rush).

9:15 AM. Waiting for coffee. Same woman asks, apropos nothing,  “if I’m the tall and dark”. I smile serenely and reply “No, just handsome.” She gestures towards my coffee on the bar (tall, dark roast). I smile. Remarks are made to the effect that the Indian man standing next to me is both taller and darker. He nods his consent, no doubt numbed to the casual racism of the American Midwest.

10:45 AM. Everyone else has brought manila folders with printed and stapled documents. Alex reveals that he went to CVS last night to buy travel-sized toiletries. I realize I have forgotten to bring deodorant. I am a failure as a graduate student.

11:17 AM. Seated on plane. The man across from me attempts to engage me in a discussion on the relative merits of Nickelback and Lincoln Park. I demur.

1:09 PM (Denver time). Arrive at Denver airport, see the following mural. This is the first major indication that this is going to be a bizarre trip. An adjacent plaque informs us that it was painted in 1994. Dumbstruck. The first image contains a stylized English translation of a letter written by a child who died in Auschwitz.

Image

I’m not even sure how to describe this. Death, stylized in an SS Uniform but brandishing a scimitar and an AK-47 (??) is carving up the Dove of Peace. A number of women and children are cowering, which seems appropriate given the situation. The sole white child in the picture appears to be the source of an expiring rainbow.

Image

This is the counterpart, in which a young Hans Castorp appears to be reforging Death’s scimitar into a scythe. Not sure if this is terribly clever or artist is oblivious to fact that that’s what Death usually carries. The left side of this mural (unshown here) contains an enormous Israeli flag. A quick spin around the airport reveals a number of Free Mason symbols and the ominous declaration that this airport was funded by the New World Airport Commission. I have no idea what that might mean.

1:50 PM. We board the shuttle to hotel. Joela begins to detail the horrors of the job market, and the woman on my left offers an occasional knowing smile. Joela suggests we play buzzword bingo; I suggest interdisciplinary. Woman on left reveals she is on an interdisciplinary committee for the GSA.

2:26 PM. Woman on left engages us in conversation. She is evidently an aging psychoanalyst — crushed velvet pants, leather boots, cigarette wrinkles and overbroad lips. I attempt to discreetly count her shawls. At least 3. She might be wearing a fur scarf.

2:28 PM. I ask if she’s presenting. Chair of organizing something on kinship, she says. I do my best impressed whistle. “I heard you have to be related to someone important to get that job.” She ignores my joke and asks what panel I’m taking part in. “The narratology seminar.” She whistles back. “I didn’t know people still did narratology.” Feisty. I feel as if someone has just blown smoke in my face. I ask her what she does then. “Oh, nothing much for long. I’m fickle.” She smiles. Her English is better than I initially thought. She asks where we are from. Chicago.  She is from Michigan, Comp Lit. Have we brought our faculty with us? Unclear if this is a slight or a test so I pretend not to understand. She repeats the question. “Have you brought your faculty?” “You mean in my carry-on? No,  not this time. We usually trust them find their way to conferences on their own.” She is intrigued. Smoker smile. I explain that DEW has been a cyborg since 1997, and that it’s the task of the graduate students to assemble and oil him before every major conference. She is more intrigued. “Tell me your favorite philosophical sentence. Do you have one?” I begin with Nietzsche. “Voraugesetzt, dass die — “. “No, no, it has to be in English” (She is obviously German). She shows me a text message on her phone, where someone named Stefan has written her something about betting and knowing the odds and being out in front. I explain that that is a fortune cookie, not a philosophy. She agrees. Stefan is not as clever as we are. I tell her she should never trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders — man can’t even trust his own pants. This is clearly a superior sentence. We are now definitely flirting (she is performing — for me? No, for herself. It must be stressful to be an older female psychoanalyst). The shuttle arrives at the hotel, and she removes her bag. It’s zebra print. She immediately lights a cigarette. We drive off.

3:13 PM. We are dropped at our hotel. Or at least, we think we are. Upon attempting to check in, the man at the counter informs us that we are at the wrong hotel. There are 2 with the same name in this area, some sort of chain. Extended Stay North and Extended Stay Central. He asks if we have a car. No. He looks pained, like this is a great difficulty. Joela asks how long it takes to walk. 10-15 minutes, he says. He seems surprised by our relief.

3:25 PM. Arrived at next hotel. Learn that we are once again at the wrong hotel — or at least some of us. We learn that there are 6 (!) Extended Stay hotels in a 1 mile radius. I ask what happened after they ran out of cardinal directions and central. Is there Extended Stay Distant? The woman at the desk seems confused by this question. She explains to Alex that we have one less bed than we thought. Alex explains that  he reserved two twins and a sofa sleeper. She counters that there are no twins available. I joke that this is not what I had in mind when he told me he reserved two twins for three nights. In the background, Joela says “We can’t take you anywhere!”. Wrong, they can take me everywhere. The woman at the front desk looks puzzled, so I repeat the joke in various permutations until she leaves to get our room keys. Upon her return, she offers us a basket of free amenities.

5:00 PM. Peter arrives. He notes the lack of sufficient beds. Alex and I shrug.

5:17 PM. On the way to dinner, we note that our hotel is located next to a three story Lexus dealership. Architecturally, it is a cross between a Buddhist temple and a Santa Monica fitness studio. There is a 3-story tall waterfall inside the building. We walk to the light rail to save money on cab fare.

6:38 PM. We take the light rail downtown. The conference is being held 20 miles south of the city center (“cost-effective”), so it takes hours. I lead the troupe towards a Japanese restaurant, Domo. At first, Mirjam thinks she has seen an advertisement for it painted on an abandoned building. Naturally, that’s the building. Fortunately, it is very pleasant. A young man named Jupiter invites us to try the spicy maguro. He is wearing a kimono and, in repeating our order to us, subtly corrects our pronunciation of Sapporo.  Joela drinks too much sake and tells a confusing pick-up line which involves “your eyes” and “Uranus”. Or at least, that’s what I understand. I have also drank too much sake.

9:18 PM. I insist that we go downtown. We cut through a number of public parks and maybe a backyard. We have all drank too much sake. On the walk back, Alex whispers to me that Joela is being funnier than usual. Joela turns around. Alex has not whispered.

Friday, 10/4.

7:15 AM. Determine that “Continental Breakfast” means Quaker oatmeal bars and individually packaged muffins. If this were really a continent, I would never live on it. At least there’s coffee. (It immediately runs out).

7:47 AM. Sleet and snow. I suggest taking a taxi. Everyone else thinks this is decadent. I agree, but in a secret internal dialogue I mount a coherent defense of decadence.

8:02 AM. Arrive in seminar. A quick survey of the room confirms my suspicion that academics have made some sort of sartorial politics out of dressing poorly. I count 4 separate pairs of brown shoes with black pants or socks.

9:00 AM. Our discussion is interrupted by a glib administrator who apologizes for interrupting, then proceeds to spout inanities (with great gusto) for 15 minutes. I keep a mental list of actionable items in what she has said: 0. I look on the internet and see she is a chair at an Ivy School and has published one book,  a “paramemoir”. Despair overtakes me.

10;15 AM. Wander into my first talk — Epistemological Environments (1). The first two talks are good, the third mumbly. A quick survey of the crowd suggests that unbeknownst to me, this is the trendy session. Afterwards, I hear people referring to the series as “sexy”.

12:37 PM. Lunch. A flash of zebra and I spot the woman from the shuttle ride.  She smiles.

12:48 PM. In line to order at the deli. An elderly woman offers to let me cut her in line. I demur politely and we make pleasant small talk. She has 4 grandchildren but expects more soon. Later, I see her pocketing four sets of steel silverware and a salt shaker, then leave.

1:18 PM. Alle reden vom Wetter. Ich nicht.

4:00 PM. Session 2 of Environmental Epistemologies, one historical and two intriguing talks. I will never understand this academic fascination with dredging up minor figures: it’s opposed to the laws of intellectual gravity (gravitas?) and the system reasserts equilibrium almost immediately. By the time of the Q&A I can no longer remember the name of this person. Sisyphus’s is a fruitless task.

5:46 PM. I attempt to ask a question in the Q&A. The general look of confusion and soaring temperature in my cheeks makes me think that spontaneous combustion might, in fact, be possible — although perhaps not so spontaneous. I briefly recall the scene from Kleist where Penthesilea fashions a psychic dagger out of shame, in order to off herself. I attempt it, but achieve only indigestion and a brief coughing fit.

6:38 PM. Cash bar. I am introduced to someone from a SLAC and asked if I am “one of [DEW]’s boys.” Chest slightly inflated, I respond that I am nobody’s man.

8:17 PM. Dinner at strip-mall Thai restaurant.  Jokingly, I tell Joela that I expense my haircuts and consumer electronics. I immediately recognize that this is a mistake.

12:16 AM. Alex is hogging the blankets. I point this out and he becomes defensive, accusing me of being childish. If I’m so childish, how come he’s  the one hogging the covers? I roll myself into a blanket burrito to prove the point.

Saturday, 10/5.

7:49 AM. In line to get coffee, a man accuses me of “existentialist post-fashion fashion.” He is wearing cargo pants and a cowboy hat.

La génération sacrifiée

Du point de vue amoureux Véronique appartenait, comme nous tous, à une génération sacrifiée. Elle avait certainement été capable d’amour; elle aurait souhaité en être encore capable, je lui rends ce témoignage; mais cela n’était plus possible. Phénomène rare, artificiel et tardif, l’amour ne peut s’épanouir que dans les conditions mentales spéciales, rarement réunies, en tous points opposées à la liberté de moeurs qui caractérise l’époque moderne. Véronique avait connu trop de discothèques et d’amants; un tel mode de vie appauvrit l’être humain, lui infligeant des dommages parfois graves et toujours irréversibles. L’amour comme innocence et comme capacité d’illusion, comme aptitude à résumer l’ensemble de l’autre sexe à un seul être aimé, résiste rarement à une année de vagabondage sexuel, jamais à deux. En réalité, les expériences sexuelles successives accumulées au cours de l’adolescence minent et détruisent rapidement toute possibilité de projection d’ordre sentimental et romanesque; progressivement, et en fait assez vite, on devient aussi capable d’amour qu’un vieux torchon. Et on mène ensuite, évidemment, une vie de torchon; en vieillissant on devient moins séduisant, et de ce fait amer.

Houellebecq, Extension du domaine de la lutte

Michel is a prickly pear alright, although I’m a bit puzzled by his use of ‘torchon’ at the end — the German translation (the only one I have handy) gives the literal rendering of “Wischtuch” (washcloth/dishtowel), which is plausible, if not somewhat under-motivated. More interesting is the possible metaphoric extension; ‘torchon’, like ‘[dish]rag’ in English, may also be used to refer to a poorly-written publication — something like the opposite of the  sentimental and “romanesque” order that’s available to the innocent / inexperienced. Loosening up the boundaries of “rag” just a little bit, from a serialized publication to something like Houellebecq’s own broken record on sexual relations, I can’t help but wonder if Houellebecq(‘s novel) isn’t engaging in a bit of auto-critique here. 

Summer Reading, 2013.

At it again. Last year’s was quite successful and makes for amusing re-reading.

Texts:

Kleist, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg. A Schmittian wet dream (and stunning, as always). The letter of the law runs up against Leidenschaft, with a weird Dostoeyvsky Scheinhinrichtung at the end. I was tempted to write “a thinly-veiled play for an anti-French uprising” and then realized that Kleist is never a thinly-veiled anything. Does make me want to read Wolf Kittler’s book on Kleist and partisans though.

Goethe, Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten. Not convinced this is one of Goethe’s strongest works. Kind of intriguing as a self-aware generic experiment, however–the frame narrative of Unterhaltungen is a wealthy German family with an estate near the Rhein fleeing the French revolution, and after an inter-generational argument (where the young son argues violently in favor of the Revolution against an older man, a supporter of the ancien régime), it’s proposed that the various members of the family take turns telling stories to avoid any further arguments.
Thus, the impetus for narration in the text (and the insertion of a frame) is an attempt to conceal a heterochronicity in the present, the co-presence of an older aristocratic order and a newer Republican one. This is then doubled when the stylistic register of narration often seems to fall, inexplicably, out of the narrated past back into the narrating present — apparently there’s a big debate in the critical editions about where (or if) to insert quotation marks, because it’s so often unclear who is speaking and from which narrative temporality.

Goethe, “Römische Elegien”: Partially a nod to Weimar, partially a nod to my own love-sickness when I arrived there. Funny that in German, “love” is so close to “fever” (shades of [Sydney’s] Sappho: “Mine eys be dym, my lymbs shake,/ My voice is hoarse, my throte scorcht,/ My tong to this roofe cleaves”).

Aber die Nächte hindurch hält Amor mich anders beschäftigt;
Werd ich auch halb nur gelehrt, bin ich doch doppelt beglückt.
Und belehr ich mich nicht, indem ich des lieblichen Busens
Formen spähe, die Hand leite die Hüften hinab?
Dann versteh ich den Marmor erst recht: ich denk und vergleiche,
Sehe mit fühlendem Aug, fühle mit sehender Hand.
Raubt die Liebste denn gleich mir einige Stunden des Tages,
Gibt sie Stunden der Nacht mir zur Entschädigung hin.

Moretti, “Moment of Truth”. Delivers at the end an M. Night Shamalayan twist and a critique of leftist revolutionary politics. Made me wish I had read more Ibsen.

Siegert, “Doors”. Very clever. However, it’s unclear to me if clever is (can be) the basis for a Wissenschaft.

P. Väliaho, “Cinema’s Future Anterior”: Garbage.

Musil, “Rede zu Rilkes Todesfeier”. Bleh. A cruel irony that someone who writes such great essayistic fiction would be so bad at writing actual essays. Continue reading

Given that

[I]t begins “Je t’apporte l’enfant d’une nuit d’Idumée!” Idumea, the land of the Edom, would be the pre-Adamic kingdom: before Esau was replaced by Jacob, who received his blind father’s blessing, the kings of Idumea were supposed to reproduce themselves without sex and without woman. They were not hermaphrodites but men without sex and without woman. The poem is compared to a work that would have been born from the poet alone, without couple or without woman.

Derrida, Given Time: 1. Counterfeit Money 

I’ve made a return to Derrida in the last couple days, reading with equal degrees of contemplation and exasperation through Time Given, his piece on the (temporal) logic of the gift. It’s one of those texts that I grabbed from the library in a burst of  academic enthusiasm a few months ago and promptly tossed into the back of a bookshelf somewhere–no doubt it would still be lying there if a sudden attack of scholarly conscience/OCD hadn’t compelled me to read (in order to return) a number of books I’ve had lying around since fall quarter. I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised–the basic insight of the essay is that most anthropological attempts to give an account of the gift (Derrida is reading Mauss and Lévi-Strauss here) essentially reduce it to a logic of exchange with a temporal component: the gift is separated from the transaction only by a kind of  deferring false consciousness, wherein the gift differs from the exchange in that one can’t pay off the debt immediately. Derrida (rightly) points out that this is not, in fact, a “gift” in the sense in which we usually think of it, i.e. something “freely” given, and indeed that the recognition of the gift as gift by either giver or givee serves to annul its gift-like quality. Programmatically:

At the limit, the gift as gift ought not appear as gift: either to the donee or to the donor. It cannot be gift as gift except by not being present as gift. Neither to the “one” nor to the “other.”If the other perceives or receives it, if he or she keeps it as gift, the gift is annulled. But the one who gives it must not see it or know it either; otherwise he begins, at the threshold, as soon as he intends to give, to pay himself with symbolic recognition, to praise himself, to approve of himself…to give back to himself symbolically the value of what he thinks he has given or what he is preparing to give. (14)

This will get swept up into a discussion of the event like status of the gift: that the condition of the gift is that it not be recognized as gift, etc. etc. Now, no doubt this is all interesting enough as a kind of intervention into anthropological theory, as an insight into the way that the temporal components of action solidify understandings of a unified, volitional and self-present subject (I will be proud of myself for the good character which my generosity reveals to me when I give you a gift), but what’s fascinating–a word which, recently made aware of its origins, I use advisedly–(and, to my mind, symptomatic) about this essay is that Derrida’s ability to assign the gift (in the “true” sense of the word) this obliviating, event-like quality is predicated on a certain paranoiac petitio principii, a begging of the question of the gift  in which interaction with an Other always entails an obligation to this Other. This is the logic of a certain “che vuoi” which enables Derrida to argue that receiving a gift as gift annuls its quality as gift on two planes: first, an intentional one, in which I see the gift given to me as an intentional act of gift-giving (this gift is not given “freely”, but rather already provides a sort of psychic compensation to the giver) and, second, at an economic level, where accepting a gift means accepting an obligation to make restitution, to “return the favor”.

Now, this is one way of viewing the gift, and certainly a compelling one, but it hypostasizes precisely the term or concept which is under question: for is to receive a gift always and necessarily to feel oneself put under an obligation, to engage in the sort of second-order observation that speculates on the possible motivations of the gift-giver? Can one not, in fact, conceive of a gift that would place no obligations on its recipient (psychological or economical), which would be able to persist or endure as gift without annulling itself? This would in essence be a gift without demand, either for recognition or repayment, a gift without even the sort of belle indifférence that comes from a form of unconscious compensation (a topic which Derrida explicitly addresses early on in the text). Not, then, to pick up on the title of this post (and to pick up on an ongoing argument with a certain belle indifférente), a “Given that (étant donné que…) I have given you such and such, you owe me in return such and such…) but rather a mere statement of facticity, a “given that.”(étant donné ça) which seeks neither explanation nor compensation, does not look behind the curtain of the gift nor feel obligated to repay it.

I’m interested in thinking this “Given that” in the context of intimacy, not only because Derrida (suggestively) opens the text with an epigram taken from Louis XIV’s mistress Madame de Maintenon (shocking, really, that JD does not pun on this–but then there are still 70 pages to go) talking about the time she gives her lover, but also because of a pet interest that I’ve been nourishing in what one might glibly term the psychology of romantic reciprocity, i.e. the obligations imposed on us by the gift (of a caress, of a kiss, of a compliment).  Call it–I can’t resist–the logic of tit-for-tat.  I was thinking about this a fair bit last month in connection with my reading of Michel Houellebecq’s Les Particles Elémentaires, which is a text more or less devoted to a critique of sexual liberation (New Age and otherwise) as being in fact the installment of a market logic within the sphere of even the most intimate human interactions.

I found out recently that a grad student here wrote an entire book on Houellebecq’s take on sex and desire, although in glossing it as ultimately nihilist, he makes the rather predictable and rather boring error of reading a novel as a vehicle for a worldview and not a narrated text, thereby missing not only the (to my mind substantial) importance of irony in Houellebecq but also the fact that the novel itself offers an alternate, non-nihilist solution to the atomization of society: namely, the gift. Bruno, a sexually dysfunctional protagonist frustrated by the continual rejection of his sexual advances, is at one point approached by a woman who, without request or introduction, makes of her body a gift (at least for a time), an event which Bruno describes in the following way: 

“It was really good–in the Jacuzzi just now,” Bruno said. “We didn’t say a word, and when I felt your lips on my cock I still hadn’t really seen your face. There was something pure about it–no seduction.”

The emphasis on purity–the lack of seduction– underscores the gift-like quality of a particular sexuality: in opposition to seduction, which is both thoroughly psychologized and expects a return, the “that” which the woman gives is neither an act of narcissistic self-relation nor something which insists upon repayment. This is made overtly clear later in the text, when the same woman (Christiane) listens to Bruno tell a story of a traumatic sexual rejection by an Arab girl in his past:

“We need…” she said haltingly, “we need a little generosity. Some one has to start. If I’d been in that Arab girl’s place, I don’t know how I would have reacted. But I believe there was something genuine about you even then. I think… well, I hope I would’ve consented to give you pleasure.” She lay down again, put her head on his thigh and licked the tip of his penis once or twice.”

I quote, in part, because I find the studied flatness of Houellebecq’s prose amusing (it’s a favorite target of Houllebecq’s critics, who for the most part don’t manage to perceive it as a kind of deliberate mediocrity), but also because the suggestion doesn’t appear to be that the giver is compensated, psychically or otherwise, in the act–Christiane does not derive pleasure from giving pleasure, sees no “return” on her investment  in the way that Derrida suggests. The idea is interesting: while the obvious move would be to relate this to a particular conception of love (one gives without demand–selflessly, tirelessly, timelessly, etc.), the idea of a sexuality of generosity without expectation is perhaps even more compelling, as the corporeal element resists the sort of easy ennobling that love would give it, and the transience and iterability of the sexual act both invites and thus all the more decidedly negates anything like a logic of exchange of “favours”.

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

Like Philip, I work all day and, like Philip, I am now getting half-drunk at night. To carry the comparison even further: like Philip, I too am reflecting on death. Not my own (I am a bad Heideggerian), but rather death in general, as a practice and a social fact (which I suppose would more accurately be termed “dying”);  I’m churning through an exhaustive course of background readings for this course on Romanticism and death. They’re of mixed quality: mostly historians, mostly lucid, mostly (as Barthes might say) moving strictly in the realm of the referent. It became apparent after about the third page that nothing of substance was going to be gained from Philippe Ariès, and so my decision to read on can probably be fairly judged as an act of self-indulgence (one which extends from reading into blogging.) Essentially, I’m putting off starting Hegel for another day, which more or less what I have been doing since last summer–in some sense, even my furtive attempts to crack the Phenomenology  then were a continuance of my years-long attempt to put off actually engaging with Hegel. Sometimes the best way to avoid engaging intellectually is to keep reading.

I screened the blog briefly before starting this post: a conversation with C. (who, unbeknownst to me, read(s) my blog) and H. (who has announced a desire to read the blog) prompted me to look over what has been written lately. Like any good amateur scrivener, my response to my own writings oscillates between revulsion and a kind of strange fascination, no doubt the product more of an underlying egotism than any actual interest in seeing material traces of my own subjectivity. The Adorno post is premature and would be taken down, were it not for the fact that it’s one of the few things I’ve actually written in the last several months, and the promised Part 2 of the Adrienne Rich post remains outstanding. I’m torn between abandoning prior plans and grinding them out–what sorts of responsibilities does one have to a blog’s readership, particularly when that readership consists mostly of oneself– but in the interests of actually moving forward, I’ll bin (or at least table) these considerations for a while in order not to, as the Poet has it,  “with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.”

Romantic life remains topsy-turvy. Those in positions of semi-authority suspect that I have deep-seated commitment issues with respect to sexual and emotional intimacy, about which they may or may not be right (I tend towards not, but if I was really all that certain, I presumably wouldn’t have to seek counsel from others in these matters). To recap briefly: D. came to visit and profess undying love (or at least a weekend’s worth of affection), but it somehow failed to resonate with me: I always enjoy seeing her, we have a number of tender memories together, and I melt when we kiss (which, if I may be allowed a moment of earnesty, is important!), but I suspect her motives and often think that the theatrically-romantic tendency is more for her own benefit than mine. Perhaps a long schooling in Flaubert has rendered me incapable of giving or accepting authentic professions of love–or at least those which come too readily and ring too familiar (the fact that she picked back up with her on-again/off-again boyfriend immediately after returning home did not exactly weaken my convictions). Edit: after a brief review of the following (choice quotes include “unmitigated disaster” and “ideological differences”), I’ve decided it’s probably best to just leave things there and call it a night, if only to delete all of this in the morning.

 

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.