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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I recommend this lovely and articulate rumination/plea/manifesto on innovative writing:

1. “Breathtaking” –I’d like to claim that word inside of my own experience of language both literally, as in to stop one’s breath, to steal it, and figuratively, to astound. I’d like to say that the language of literature which most compels me is performed language, the drama of language, language let loose enough to occupy the stage of page in and of itself, especially when it abandons the dictates of narration. What takes my breath, what arrests my being is the drama of language. When the real drama of language is staged and played out, it carries something underneath plot, narrative cohesion and the so-called psychological development of a character. When the real drama of language is staged it carries something underneath what passes for story—gesture, implication, shapes, silences, intervals, momentary relations, memories, fleeting states of being. These breathtaking moments I would term as the event of language.

To say that language is an event is to remember that language bears language. Artistically, it is as if language could be an organic and chaotic motion reflected only by the motions of corporeal desire and being.

Form—language’s lover—either revels in that chaos, or tames it.

2. A return, then, to our ongoing conversation about language. Since the sixties, the death of the novel has been announced bi-weekly, but whatever happens, however else the geography of the imagination might modify in the future, written fiction—especially the innovative variety, as I shall explain in a minute—will always be able to investigate and cherish two things that music, painting, dance, drama, and most other arts can’t: the luscious, extended changeableness of human consciousness and the effulgence on the page called words.

That’s why, I want to say, no director can ever make a fully satisfying rendition of a novel like Lolita. Stanley Kubrick and Adrian Lyne seem to believe the heart of that book has something to do with a naughty narrative about pedophilia, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The heart of the book has to do with how a brilliant, funny, amoral, and excruciatingly besieged mind subtly crumples, and it has to do with a love affair, as Nabokov reminds us in his afterword, not with “topical trash” and “the copulation of clichés,” but with the “English language” and “aesthetic bliss.”

3. If you will bear language with me I will let her loose:

Gertrude Stein: Language as a real thing is not imitation either of sounds or colors or emotions. It is an intellectual recreation and there is no possible doubt about it and it is going to go on being that.

Marguerite Duras: Around us, everything is writing; that’s what we must perceive. Everything is writing. It’s the unknown in oneself, one’s head, one’s body. Writing is not even a reflection, but a kind of faculty one has, that exists to one side of oneself, parallel to oneself: another person who appears and comes forward, invisible, gifted with thought and anger, and who sometimes, through her own actions, risks losing her life. Into the night.

Kathy Acker: Art is a cry.

4. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins—what astonishes about those nine words, makes them immovable in my memory, is how they announce, not only a murderous narrative about hobbled love, an acidic satire about the bubblegum-chewing brashness named America, but also the Event of Language.

Closer to the phrasings of resonant lyric than the vapid transparencies of fictions that aspire to be screenplays, this luminous opening houses Nabokov’s novel in miniature: a misshapen consciousness in motion, yes, but, equally, if not more so, the drama of alliteration, assonance, rhythm, self-reflexive verbal surprise, the pleasure of lovingly sculpted prose, the delight in density and detail, each phrase of it written on the back of an index card until it was right beyond belief by that distinguished, trilingual, virtually apolitical Anglophile, so that the reader can hear in this initial linguistic fervor, if he or she listens attentively, the foreshadowing of Humbert Humbert’s burning dyspepsia during the famous seduction scene at the Enchanted Hunters half a book later; in the clash between the spiritual housed within the first bright metaphor and within the fiery sinfulness of the second the ghost of St. Augustine’s brutally conflicted Confessions; in the “lee” comprising the second syllable of the nymphet’s pseudonym (Humbert has stolen poor Dolores Haze’s name from her just as he will come to steal everything else) Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” and hence the Annabel Leigh who unreliable Humbert blames (by way of that Viennese quack, Freud) for his, Humbert’s, fixation.

No wonder, then, that, in addition to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Bely’s Petersburg, and Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Nabokov included Joyce’s Ulysses on his shortlist of greatest twentieth-century novels.

5. Let’s momentarily and in a single breath go underneath the chatter of the contemporary so-called novel. I think the majority of acclaimed novelists, with a very few exceptions, are involved in the process of creating products for consumers. In these novels there is a certain storyline that ignores corporeal experience in favor of some brutally absurd cockamamie fako-script life. The cockamamie fako-script life makes people worry less about the disruptive nature of living a life and also it makes them feel better about themselves like television and cookies do. Mostly I’m talking about plot, and writers who suck the dick of plot in order to maintain a secondary, whorey, without artistic integrity, harem of consumers.

Corporeal experience, on the other hand, works more like language does, if you let language happen. In this way both corporeal experience and language are events. Untamed, beautiful, terrifying events.

What I mean when I say let language happen, as an event, is let form open language rather than close it. Let form be in relationship to language. Like a lover. Inside their passionate embrace emerge: fragmentation, spatiality, intervals, states of being, dream, intuitive landscapes, relational free-for-all, memory glimpses, retinal flashes, orgasmic pulsings, action broken back down into its parts, silence and sound and rhythm and image. These constitute the event of language. These reconnect writing to painting, music, performance, sculpture, philosophy, bodies.So.Those opening citations, and this word “breathtaking,” I mean for them to bring us to the event of language as I understand it.


Now What: event of language, a duet :
lidia yuknavitch & lance olsen

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