I am sitting outside the waiting desk at a salon in a town called Hudson in Ohio. John and I have started to drive here for yoga, as our other yoga center, also a drive away, had changed their class schedule. The town is very pleasant. There is a pedestrian walkway around some stores. There is a Chico's. There is a GAP. There is an accessories store. A store with a chili pepper for signage that promises spices. A steakhouse. A bookstore with a crappy selection of books. There is a "women's issues" section in the bookstore, it is a bookshelf with books about dieting, what not to wear, how to deal with your masectomy. It is a town centered around an expensive boarding school. It is spring break. The town is empty.
I am at the salon going to get my eyebrows waxed. I have had difficulties finding anyone to cut my hair since we moved to Ohio. At one salon they tried to go hip and the young stylist with a bleached blonde pseudo mullet (she's went to the Aveda school in Columbus, a sign of culture around here) tried to cut my fine, curly hair with a razorblade, which I'm still growing out, traumatized like a fuzzy little chick. I have not had my eyebrows waxed for a while. But since joining the yoga studio I have felt very ungroomed. Amidst the blonde women with their disciplined muscular and marital bodies (everyone in northeastern Ohio is Aryan, seemingly, next to them I am swarthy, collapsed in pools of sweat.)
There are magazines set out on the little table while I wait but I have brought Dodie Bellamy's The Letters of Mina Harker. I steal a line before I am called.
The monstrous and the formless have as much right as anybody else.
The woman who is waxing my eyebrows is not from here she is from Canton. This is a very rich town. It has a Swiss bank which John tells me means something. Although I argue with him that if it was rich they'd have better stores. The woman has a scar on her eyebrow where a piercing once was (or does she need to take it out for the conservative salon? Everything here screams Republican.) She has green eyeshadow and she has matched her top to her eyeshadow, it is a tight-fitting top with green shamrocks or hearts, I don't remember. Her hands are freezing cold as she touches me. I remember how intimate it is to be waxed, how a mirror it is for some types of love, I allow myself to let you hurt me, I ask you to hurt me and you you promise to be gentle.
She apologizes chirpily for her hands being cold. As she waxes my lip I smell her, the faint smoke attempted to be washed from her fingertips. Sense memory. My mother. She is the type who wants to make conversation. She asks what my partner and I do for a living. I say husband. Around here one must say husband or you are met with utter blankness. If we were the same sex there might not be that blankness (what would there be?) but to be opposite sex and partners around here reaks of posturing. I try to explain rare books to her, I stumble out that I write, "but it's not like it's at a Barnes and Noble" I say. "I don't make any money at it." She gives me a small, pitying smile.
As with everyone she is curious how I've come to this town. John and I are obviously strangers, in northeastern Ohio yes, but in this town, certainly, this town that resembles the film Pleasantville, white, groomed, blonde, nice. John especially strange clomping around after yoga in his German designer boots. We wear all black. John enjoys being an outsider. When I mention how expensive everyone's yoga wear is, how rumpled I feel, he says, Fuck them. Although even though his hair is long he refuses to wear a headband. Too queer? I tease him. What about fucking them?
Everyone is just so friendly around here. She is saying. It's true they are friendly I agree. Although the faces are not all open of course not mostly closed faces a way to be friendly with a closed face.
It's just so pleasant she says as she lines a strip under my eyebrows (she fucks up my eyebrows, by the way, she makes two upside down smiles, I say nothing, it is my fault, for going to a salon here, and then she charges me an unbelievable amount).
Yes it is. I say. It is very pleasant.
I think back to Dodie's line. The monstrous and the formless. Am I drawing too harsh a metaphor? I am giving form to my eyebrows, form to my body. Something about this town is making me become a good citizen again. A good girl citizen. That's wrong. I must rebel. I must be okay with the monstrous, the messiness of my body. I must rally against the hygienic.
I have been thinking of Artaud as well. I am reading a collection of critical essays on Artaud. Leo Bersani's psychoanalytic essay deciphering Artaud's fear of both the anus and birth. Caca is of the soul.
Artaud and the impure. Artaud the border between poetry and madness.
When you get your face waxed one talks about being "cleaned up." I sometimes long for this, this brightening strip of pain. To be clean, to be pure.
It is very un-yoga to think about fashion or groomed bodies. This studio is in many ways un-yoga. The tanned blonde perky bodies with their headpiece microphones talking about tightening up for bathing suit season. I measure my white hairy legs against the women on either side of me, wondering whether it's possible we are the same gender.
In my gender studies class at the University of Akron, I try to explain the difference between sex and gender. I give the trademark example. In the U.S. it is female to grow hair on one's legs. It is feminine to shave the hair off. Always met with a collective ugh by my students both male and female. One of my male students said "ruf" when I gave this example, like a dog sound. My female students so disgusted by their bodies. They are so disgusted by their bodies they pretend their hair never grows outside of bounds. I remember showing a Woman and Art class an image of Courbet's Origins of the World. They were horrified, disgusted by it.
She needs to get waxed, one of them said.
Artaud who wanted to erase the fact of his birth. He wanted to give birth to himself through a motherless cunt.
I too have spent the past years trying to erase the fact of my birth. Trying to rebel against the fascism of the family. Lately too I have been taken up, as a close family member is ill, is terminal, has been given a time period in which he will die. All this takes me back up. The dutiful daughter, the good citizen.
Artaud rebelling against his family who institutionalized him at the asylum at Rodez. Artaud's father who fashioned his own electroshock machinery for him. Foucault: To attack the family is to flirt with the world of unreason. Perhaps this is why I think of Artaud as a woman, he was taken up, like Schreber, he was brutalized and dismissed like the women that I love as well. He is my Frances Farmer, kicking and screaming.
A.S. Weiss writes that Artaud was rhetorically creating a body of a text in his radio play To Have Done with the Judgement of God, its diseases and torments. The radio play a searing scream of a revenge against those who imprisoned him. A messy diseased flawed body. Riddled with shit, excess refused to be cleaned away.
I wonder what the people in this pleasant town would think of Artaud, would think of me, beyond the mask. They would say he's insane. Towns like this are like Disneyworld, they clean out the vermin, the shit, it's never even there. They close off themselves to the outside, the outsiders.
It is Palm Sunday. The crowds gather around the longhaired prophet. Crucify him. Crucify him.
He performed his own crucifixion Anais Nin wrote of Artaud's lecture at the Sorbonne on Theater and the Plague.
Most striking in the collection is Sylvere Lotringer's interview with one of Artaud's doctors in Rodez. The doctor who dismisses Artaud as mentally ill, his writings as the rantings of a madman. Lotringer heroically fighting for the worth the value of Artaud's texts in the world.
Herr Doktor: I consider his written work as a kind of scream, a scream of horror from a man who had no sense.
And Lotringer says: When a mad person writes and that writing is read, it becomes literature.
I find myself so taken up in their brief conversation, traumatized by it. It feels so personal to me. If Artaud is nothing the rantings of a madman to be forgotten to be dismissed as ill as incomptent then what am I? Always the worry, whether what I write are instead the rantings of a madwoman who should be medicated.
Thinking back to a former psychiatrist.
You will always be spinning your wheels
You will always be spinning your wheels
Deleuze in Logic of Sense pathologizes Artaud more than he does later on in Anti-Oedipus, when he romanticizes Artaud's schizophrenia as the possibility of a transcendental escape from normal society. He tries to theorize the difference between a child, a poet, and a madman, in an analysis of the glossolalia (babblings) of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky and Artaud's translation of it (which wasn't really a translation as an adaptation.)
Has anyone seen Alice? The perky teacher asks after class. No one answers.
A woman to the left of John who I hadn't seen answers. She is not like the rest of them. She is surprisngly zaftig, mousy hair, glasses. She must be one of the teachers at the school, I think.
Have you seen any Tim Burton movies? She asks.
The perky teacher looks blank, shakes her head. I just loved Avatar she says. I loved the 3D that was so cool.
The woman starts to talk to her about how Tim Burton took liberties to the Jabberwocky poem, and I chuckle to myself leaving, I don't want to get involved.
Lotringer: Why is it necessary to judge people?
Herr Doktor: You judge people in order to be able to return them to normal.
So this is normal. This is normal. Something I have noticed since moving to northeastern Ohio is that every woman here has black nail polish. Definitely on their toes, sometimes on their fingernails as well. The woman who waxes my face has black nail polish on her fingernails. In yoga class I look to the right and left of me. The perfectly manicured nails with shiny perfect black polish (or is it a deep purple or deep red?) On the fingernails every woman of a certain age Alices fervently trying to hold onto youth has the two diamonded ring, the diamond engagement ring and the diamond encircled wedding band, always white gold.
I am struck by this black nail polish, how it's become a new sort of uniform. Part of me knows that Chanel introduced a vamp nail polish several years ago, and this has now probably trickled down to small town manicurists. But when I was young I wore black nail polish as a sign of rebellion from the mainstream (of course there was a conformity in that rebellion.) Black nail polish was goth, was fucking the status quo, was sullen, was trenchcoat mafia, NIN scrawled in black marker on lower part of fingers to make a fist, was worried parents. Now it's become an emblem of soccer-mom conformity.
I think of what Kristeva calls Artaud's "language of expulsion." His desire to write poems that were actual bombs thrown in the audience's face. "And violence is the only language I feel capable of speaking."