My morning has already been torn to shreds, my sanity thin, I am fearful I will not be able to collect the fragments of the afternoon, to quote Eliot. Noise has always had the ability to destroy my day, the possibility of my writing, of my creating. I share this with hysterics and paranoid schizophrenics.
I live in a squat Victorian apartment building near the university in Akron. There is no insulation between the walls. There are wooden floors. Downstairs, destruction workers are drilling, laughing cavalierly. My next-door neighbors have decided to get a monster puppy, a mammoth puppy, who bounds up and down the wooden floors and emits constant sharp squeaks that turn into demanding barks.
I wear blue earplugs. I play Arvo Part. I am inheriting the puppy's hysteria. I wear the noise on my shattered body.
And all I can think of is my favorite opening passage, Anna Kavan's Who Are You?, a paen to madness brought on by noise, the ability of sound to destroy the self:
All day long, in the tamarinds behind the noise, a tropical bird keeps repeating its monotonous cry, which consists of the same three inquiring notes. Who-are-you? Who-are-you? Who-are-you? Loud, flat, harsh and piercing, the repetitive cry bores its way through the ear-drums with the exasperating persistence of a machine that can't be switched off.
An identical cry echoes it from further away, calling out the same unanswered question, which is transmitted to other birds of the same species, until hundred or thousands of them are shouting it all together. The ceaseless cries comes from all distances and directions, from everywhere at once. Some are louder than others, or more prolonged; but all have the same infuriating mechanical sound, and seem devoid of feeling - they don't express fear, love, agression, or anything else - as if uttered simply to madden the hearer. The intolerable thing about them is the suggestion that they are produced by machines nobody can stop, which will eternally repeat the question no one ever answers.
As probably they do in another dimension, to which the listener may be conveyed in delirium...until the ultimate nightmare climax...when suddenly everything stops...
Birds often occupy Kavan's nightmare landscapes of hallucinations and delirium - nature in general has a way of turning sinister in her narratives, like her apocalyptic grass in Bright Green Field or ice in her dystopic masterpiece Ice. She is the writerly Hitchcock blonde - her wonderful blonde victim-characters, blood showing up on the snow. Actually when she emerged from the sanitorium and changed her name to Anna Kavan, one of her previous characters (Who Are You actually rewrites Let Me Alone, the first novel featuring Anna Kavan, with a nameless heroine) - she began to look like a Tippi Hedren, spectral thin, hair died ice blonde, a lady lazarus who began to write the fractured psyche in her glorious fragmented style.
Will write more about Kavan + madness soon soon, if I can manage to resurrect myself.