I am in a strange head-state lately. Too much intensity, too much new, I shut forth into a shell. Too much empathy lately makes me dizzy. I realize that I have this strange ability to be both terribly callous and intensely empathetic (is this like all of us, perhaps?) and lately I am crawling forth upon the too-close shores. Experiences felt in the body. A very close family member is ill, is suffering, we learned the dread-news this week, although as always they leave us in the dark, we are lost, unsure, we find comfort in numbers.
And I find myself consumed, yes, it is our modern-day consumption. I think of Sontag in Illness as Metaphor, a book that strangely comforted me after my mother was diagnosed, how we euphemize illness, how we see cancer as a dis-ease from living, easier to distance ourselves from the bed, the pain, the cry. And now this the week, the week she will die again, and I will go through the stations of my mother, I will wipe my face with paper and her image will appear. Seven years. And whenever someone I love is ill I experience it on my body, when my mother was diagnosed when she called me on the phone and her voice was hysterical and I had been eating pizza and I held close the cold porcelain bowl and vomited everything I had ever put inside my body. All the horror. And yes I am reading Kristeva's Power of Horror and I find comfort in the abject, that which is borderless, "the spasms and vomiting that protect me."
And also my partner had wisdom teeth surgery yesterday and I had to play his nurse, I craved to play his nurse, something so vampiric and maternal about nursing, some way to revisit trauma, and I nurse him like I nursed my mother, and I mother him as I was not mothered, and I mothered her as she was not mothered. I witness his pain, his discomfort. I welcome it. Something so intensely gross and intimate about seeing one's lover in such a state. The mask and armor of masculinity falls away, and he is open, weak, disoriented. Like someone is letting you inside their body cavity, almost, that intimate. Kristeva's notion of the abject that is borderless.
And it is perfect then I think that I was reading Dodie Bellamy's Academonia in the doctor's office, on the bed while watching him so carefully, his every breath and movement. Dodie Bellamy whose Barf Manifesto and her call for messy, chaotic writing, moved me so much that I abandoned book reviewing and started this blog. And now this book, another revolt (something in my mind lately WE MUST REVOLT. WE MUST WRITE THE REVOLTING), against institutionalization of any form, especially when dealing with creative writing and academia.
Sometimes what Dodie Bellamy writes and the intellectual path I feel I am now going down are so close that I feel like a cliche, a photocopy of a REAL radical artist (she refers to Laure's collected writings which I am reading at that exact same time, for one uncanny instance). As cliche as a teenage girl reading Plath for the first time, or someone discovering Acker (OR: am I experiencing a Bloomian (oh fuck me) a Bloomian anxiety of influence as opposed to a Gilbert/Gubar anxiety of authorship? Is this a good thing?) In the book Bellamy is obsessed with Kristeva's Powers of Horror, it becomes her bible, her anti-Leviticus, for thinking through her ideas about writing, the notions of the pure and the impure (which makes me think of Colette's book of the same name, that grossly intimate underground), also bringing in Mary Douglas' anthropological text Kristeva is dialoging with. She looks through her heavily marked copy of the book, I love how Bellamy makes reading and the book so intimate, and I look at my library copy unmarked, and I wish I were more passionate and unruly and messy, like Bellamy calls for in writing. And I read my Academonia it too is a sterile library copy but I have gotten orange-red marks on it from the red hot sauce from the bibimbop I bought in a plastic container at Akron's lone Asian Market. "During the course in which 'I' become, I give birth to myself and the violence of sobs, of vomit."
Bellamy uses Kristeva's notion (celebration?) of the borderless (and like her I repeat lines from the essay, "what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules.") to describe her position as an experimental writer in America, her illegitimate, outsider status in academia, and writing between genres, a status she both radicalizes (creatively) and suffers from (professionally). This too I align myself with. I received the final notice from Ph.D programs this fucking week as well- I definitely was rejected from all of them (abjected?) And I realize, I know, that if Bellamy (why do I call her Bellamy and not Dodie?) has had trouble finding full-time jobs, with Letters of Mina Harker being such a transformative, important text, and I a writer of minor (both minor texts and trying to write the minority), then I AM FUCKED. I AM GOOD AND FUCKED. When I told a colleague at Akron about the Semiotext(e) book (because I am trying to weasel out of teaching intro to women's studies in the fall, to write the book, even if I cannot afford it) she said that that would help me get a good job. I know better. I know that I have signed up for a sort of third-class citizen status in terms of creative writing, and the more I write the texts that I feel are authentic to me, the more I write my strange untutored intuitive texts that deal with incest and violence and fucking, the less I will be qualified for anything except teaching the adjunct classes thrown my way. And at Akron I have been told I'm not qualified to teach literature or creative writing as I have no form of a terminal degree (again, a degree that makes me feel like if I got it I would be DYING, a creative death? is that what I fear?). And I wonder though, am I qualified to teach creative writing? Bellamy brings up a point that her writing is more aligned with poetry, as opposed to FICTION, and I think that's true for me as well. I would have no fucking clue how to edit or workshop a conventional short story. I think they're really tricky things, short stories, and novels with characters and, you know, plots and things, and I've enjoyed reading them at times, like in a New Yorker on the airplane, but I am in no way a master of them. Nor do I really understand the craft of poetry. And my writing doesn't fit into the lyrical mode of creative nonfiction. So yeah. Good and fucked.
I love how Bellamy celebrates the "impure" of writing, this abject literature that Kristeva also writes to. But how she has been ostracized for this in writing circles. About being in a women's writing group: "Once when I read a particularly abject poem, lots of body, lots of over-the-top emotion, she suggested that I should go into therapy. Others were less brutal than S1, but the general impression was that writing the way I did, tehre was something terribly wrong with me." She then goes on to align herself with the New Narrative movement, like Bob Gluck or Bruce Boone (whose Century of Clouds we just published at Nightboat, it's fucking fantastic, and so much about merging the world of theory with that of the autobiographical and emotions in an uncomfortable way and I just got his translation of Bataille's Guilty from the library! very excited!):
I'm particularly intrigued by writing that address the body - illness, ingestion, desire, display, sexual passion, subtle eroticism. The writers I most admire celebrate vulgarity and emotion, and yes, even sarcasm.
She then goes on to list all of the writers who get her off, including "the sublime impenetrability of Lawrence Braithwaite" (whose last book we will be publishing posthumously at Nightboat, it's so weird and extraordinary and you have no idea what it's about but it's such the language of the id and the libido). And to me to, I'm realizing I'm most attracted and repelled by writing that is about vulgarity, the body, the grotesque, the feral, yes, the feral. And I'm realizing I too align myself more with queer theory and the New Narrative rather than a lot of feminist theory. Queer theorists like Leo Bersani, whose Freudian Body I'm reading now, or Lauren Berlant. And I'm reminded of Lauren Berlant/Michael Warner's essay "Sex in Public," where they write about witnessing a boy vomit in a sex club, erotic vomiting as S/M spectacle (is that what it was? don't remember) and feeling like they were somehow as witnesses involved in the intimacy, like a grotesque intimacy, I'm linking this back to my partner and his wisdom teeth surgery. And I'm interested in writing and reading about the impure, the abject, the "pangs and delights of masochism," the disruptive, the disordered, the bulimic, sex that can be traumatic yes, but maybe we're all these traumatized disorganized bodies, and the grossness, the intimacy of that.
WE MUST WRITE THE REVOLT
WE MUST WRITE THE REVOLTING