Archive for the ‘Letters From An Alien’ Category

deconstruct

What would Derrida say about us? If I told him that I shall be spending today immersed in ‘texts’ I wrote a year ago? Some of them ‘letters’ to you. Some of them cries out into the ether. That I will be going over my words with a fine-toothed comb, looking for clues, looking for an escape route. That copies of my throwaway texts, some of them casual tweets, are also sat in a file in a drawer in a filing cabinet in a grey office. Waiting to be deconstructed by the little man in his grey suit whose hopes and dreams have amounted to this bureaucratic role as a servant. To the crown. Would Derrida frown and smile that wry smile of his? Would he shake his head and sadly say that you take a text out of its context at your peril? That if you try to consider words and words alone, separate from the sad desperation of the person who wrote them, separate from the blank incomprehension of the person who read them, separate from the cold officious room where the little man in his grey suit will one day be reading them out in a dead pan monotone, you lose all meaning? That deconstruction, inspite of what thousands of English  Literature Undergraduate students may believe, is not an academic exercise? It’s blood and guts.  It’s the opposite of abstract. It’s finding the life that is hidden in every text. The fear. The love.

What would Barthes say about us? He knows a thing or two about this. In his book, A Lovers Discourse, he ripped out his heart, laid it on a table, and ‘deconstructed’ it with a scalpel right infront of us. He reminded us that all those cliches we have come to associate with a trite, sentimental expression of ‘love’, are much much more. Goodbyes at train stations, scented notepaper, whispered ‘I love yous’ are merely cyphers, outward acceptable codes for a torrent of feeling, of loss, of pain, of the fear of death enacted in the scene where our Lover slams the door in our face.  I think Barthes would have some compassion for us.  If he were to join us in the cold, officious room, he’d probably be solemn as he transcribed the words coming out of the mouth of the little man in his grey suit. He’d probably find beauty in the translations of translations of words once written in great anguish. And he would save his wry smile for the moment when we started to argue about who ‘owned’ which ideas, whose texts were whose, he’d cough and mutter something about The Death of The Author. And the fact that, if we’re going to be picky about it, he has some claim to ownership of our ideas and our texts anyway.

What would Foucault say about us? I don’t know. I am not so sure he would be that concerned, no matter how much we wish he would be, about our individual feelings. Our petty struggle. He is more of a bigger picture guy. I suspect that if he too found himself with us in the cold, officious room, it could get quite crowded in there, he’d notice the lay out. Not from an interior design perspective, the State has no eye for style, but in terms of Power. Who goes where, who stands, who sits, who is left behind a glass screen. He might smile wryly too, and he might pull out an old battered copy of Discipline and Punish as he noted that whilst the days of flogging in the public square are long gone, there is still something theatrical about this scene. That the desire for rituals of public humiliation haven’t left us, we’ve just made them less gory. I hope at least, he might also spare a thought for Foucault’s Daughter, and how I said she’d get into trouble one day. How, in my fumbling attempt at fiction, I ended up doing what he does, and dissected, analysed, prophesised reality.

What would Freud say about us? For the Daddy of Psychoanalysis is also the Daddy of Deconstruction. It was he who, before anyone was ready, began to pull apart our words, and showed how words are rooted in thoughts, and thoughts are rooted in base impulses. I expect Freud would say very little. He might puff on his pipe and knot his brow. But it wouldn’t escape his attention, that it is me, not you, and not the little man in his grey suit, who has accepted that this is a psychological drama. That we have been interacting on a subconscious level, and that if I want to make sense of what has happened, I won’t find the answers in the cold, officious room, I’ll find them on the analyst’s couch, in my own mind, through my writing.

And, as much as I may have made out you to be the centre of this story, as Derrida, Barthes, Foucault and Freud know full well, it’s me I am writing to and talking to, it’s my thoughts and feelings and, yes, ideas, I have been ‘deconstructing’ all this time. The girl who wasn’t there is here. And she hasn’t finished yet.

 

‘If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.’  –  Oscar Wilde

Some notes on seeing A Dangerous Method:

I hate Keira Knight­ley usu­ally but I thought she acted quite well in this.

I liked how her con­tor­tions of emo­tional pain were exactly the same expres­sions in tone, as when she was approach­ing orgasm due to the beat­ings from Jung.

The por­trayal of female masochism as a result of child­hood ‘abuse’ was pre­dictably lame, though I thought. Isn’t sado-masochism really a NORMAL part of sexuality?

Also Fassbender/Jung just was not believ­able as a ‘dom­i­nant’ man but is any man?

I also thought that she ‘recov­ered’ rather too straight­for­wardly with her recov­ery being sig­ni­fied by mar­riage and pregnancy.

The actor who played Freud made it for me he was very con­vinc­ing. He had a pres­ence I imag­ine Freud would have had. He also showed that Freud may have been a dif­fi­cult man.

As I said to you before, my favourite scene was on the boat where Freud refused to tell Jung his dream because it would under­mine his ‘author­ity’. How apt.

 

http://www.towleroad.com/2012/02/a-marine-comes-home.html

This photo has gone viral recently. It was first posted on a ‘Gay Marines’ FB page and has since been sent round the internet, with the tagline ‘Gay Marine Comes Home’.

You know me. I am an out and proud ‘homophile’. I am bordering on being a homo myself.  My blog archives are full of pictures of men in clinches, from the sacred to the profane. But when I saw this image I was caught short. I will admit it to you, Roland. I felt a bit queasy. And I think you will understand why.

The photograph is a graphic illustration of the end of DADT, the edict that kept gay, lesbian AND BISEXUAL army personnel from being open about their sexuality. In some ways, the military was, until very recently, the last bastion of ‘pre-gay’ times. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been the unspoken motto of men who have sex with men for eons. And now it is over.

But it is not just the repression of homosexuality that is over here. I fear some other things may be on their way out too. What about all those soldiers ‘acting gay’ on video? Will they be doing that so much, when their gay colleagues are on site? Or, a story you know intimately, those plucky GIS who went gay for pay a few years back. Would that happen when being gay in the army is normalised?

I know that you and your ‘accomplice’ in homo-anthropology Steven Zeeland, have had a range of feelings about the ‘coming home’ of gayness in the military. In Male Impersonators and Barrack Buddies, you both seemed to be opposed to DADT, even though you were nostalgic for a time when homosexuality was even more hidden than it was in the army in the 1990s. You of all people are aware of the complexities and contradictions here. And you, of all people, would be unlikely to begrudge a passionate embrace between a marine and his lover, especially if it is caught on camera.

But something is well and truly lost isn’t it?

Perhaps our only consolation is that in coming home, the gay identity is also quickening its own demise. You have predicted we are nearing the end of gay. Judging by the defensive reactions mainly gay men give to me when I even dare to critique their precious identity position, I am inclined to think you are right.

A Gay Marine Comes Home. We know it’s over, Roland.

It’s over.

P.s. I am going to be honest with you, one of the things that made me feel a bit ‘queasy’ was the gender dynamics of the photo. The marine, supposedly one of those macho masculine types, has a garland round his neck and is being lifted off the floor by his big strong civilian boyfriend (who he termes ‘the giant’ on his facebook page). But I am an old-fashioned girl.

 

In a previous post of mine about ‘subjectivity’ ‘objectification’ and narcissism, a frighteningly astute commenter likened me to Morrissey. He quoted me:

“He [Roland Barthes] positioned himself as the ‘amorous subject’ and that seemed to me like the font of his creativity and knowledge and writing and work. If you are always the ‘object’ of someone else’s affections, it is a very passive role. What do you actually do?”

And then said, damningly:

‘This is Morrissey in a nutshell. A continually fascinating aspect of his work is how melancholic longing is always a form of activity, even attack. Always pursuing, its unimaginable that the “amorous subject” of a Morrissey lyric could ever be the pursued. You are the quarry.

His work is constantly recriminating the loved object for its passivity. And here there is a secret collusion between lovers and enemies: “And what do you do? You just sit there”.’

 

 

Your silence is deafening…

Fade-out

fading / fade-out

Painful ordeal in which the loved being appears to withdraw from all contact, without such enigmatic indifference even being directed against the amorous subject or pronounced to the advantage of anyone else, world or rival.

- Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

 

h/t @fennerpearson

 

 

Mark Simpson’s 1996 book, Its A Queer World, begins with an enigmatic dedication:

‘For M – (whether he wants it or not)’.

The line, ‘whether he wants it or not’, reminds me of the 1994 Morrissey track – The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get. The particularly resonant part of the song is: I am now /A central part /Of your mind’s landscape /Whether you care /Or do not . Could the ‘M’ in Simpson’s dedication stand for Morrissey himself? Or is it the initial of an unnamed lover maybe? I expect I will never know.

But the fact I am asking the question, gives me away. As what? A fan? A person who has taken a scalpel to Simpson’s words in a way nobody else has to date? An unwanted visitor? A pain in the arse?
Biographers (and critics) are all these things and more. The dedication in It’s A Queer World, and my interaction with Simpson and his work overall, have also reminded me of Janet Malcolm’s extraordinary work: The Silent Woman. The book tells the story of the ‘afterlife’ of Sylvia Plath, and in particular her biographies. Malcolm considers whether or not the biographies were accurate or compassionate  portrayals of the poet’s life. In a review at the time of publication in 1994 a journalist wrote:

‘Malcolm is right, though, when she says that there is a difference between an interview and a biography. The interviewee has at least agreed to the interview, whereas biographical subjects – and, in the case of Ted Hughes, their estranged husbands – are written about whether they want it or not. In the battle between Ted and Olwyn and the biographers, Malcolm has decided to take the Hugheses side. She tries to imagine how it must feel for Hughes to be ‘buried alive’ each time Plath’s remains are disinterred in a new book, and she shrewdly suggests that what he finds most unbearable is being treated as though he too were dead and on the anatomist’s table. Yet even here, there is a nagging paradox. For she is doing exactly what Hughes can’t stand: ‘reading’ his mind on a speculative basis.

Significantly, Malcolm never gets to meet Hughes. In a book full of interviews he is conspicuously the Silent Man, though he looms large in her imagination and haunts the narrative like a hulking ghost. People keep telling her about his enormous sex appeal, and Malcolm reports how this affects her response to his letters, which become hugely attractive in her eyes. Drawn by his magnetism, she hangs around sheepishly in the road outside his house like an unrequited lover. If this attitude seems less than dispassionate, Malcolm would argue that it just goes to illustrate her belief in the ‘psychological impossibility of not taking sides’. She not only tells us, but shows us, how our sympathies and antipathies – even, or perhaps especially, those of biographers and journalists – boil down in the end not to logic but to prejudice and emotion.’

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/book-review–in-the-biographers-laboratory-the-silent-woman–janet-malcolm-picador-1499-pounds-1444339.html

‘biographical subjects – and, in the case of Ted Hughes, their estranged husbands – are written about whether they want it or not.’

If you care or do not. Whether he wants it or not.

I am not writing a biography of Mark Simpson, but I am writing criticism, which, when concerned with the work of a living author, mirrors or collides with biography at times.  I don’t have the subject’s consent for my project. But Simpson is no stranger to the quagmire or the wonder of biography – for his most well known book Saint Morrissey is a ‘psycho bio’ of the singer. So he of all people, will understand, if not quite endorse my plight.

And the more he ignores me, the closer I get.