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November 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Notebook (archive 3)

November 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

“The heir to Balzacian obsession, Proust, for whom every social invitation is an ‘open Sesame’ to restored life, escorts us into labyrinths where primeval gossip conveys to him the dark secrets of all splendour, until this becomes, under his too close and yearning gaze, dull and cracked. Yet the placet futile, the preoccupation with a historically-condemned luxury class whose superfluity any bourgeois could show by calculations, the absurd energy squandered on the squanderers, is more thoroughly rewarded than the unclouded eye for the relevant. The framework of decline within which Proust quotes the portrait of his society, turns out to be that of a major social tendency. What meets its downfall in Charlus, Saint-Loup and Swann is the same thing that is lacking in the whole succeeding generation, who do not even know the name of the last poet. The eccentric psychology of decadence traces the negative anthropology of mass society: Proust gave an allergic account of what was about to befall all love.”

Notebook (archive 2)

November 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

“The pronouncement, probably by Jean-Paul, that memories are the only possessions which no-one can take from us, belongs in the storehouse of impotently sentimental consolations that the subject, resignedly withdrawing into inwardness, would like to believe the very fulfilment that he has given up. In setting up his own archives, the subject seizes his own stock of experience as property, so making it something wholly external to himself. Past inner life is turned into furniture just as, conversely, every Biedermeier piece was memory made wood. The interior where the soul accommodates its collection of meoirs and curios is derelict. Memories cannot be conserved in drawers and pigeon-holes; in them the past is indissolubly woven into the present. No-one has them at his disposal in the free and voluntary way that s praised in Jean Paul’s fulsome sentences. Precisely where they become controllable and objectified, where the subject believes himself entirely sure of them, memories fade like delicate wallpapers in bright sunlight. But where, protected by oblivion, they keep their strength, they are endangered like all that is alive. This is why Bergson’s and Proust’s conception, intended to combat reification, that the present, immediacy, is constituted only through the mediation of memory, has not only a redeeming but an infernal aspect. Just as no earlier experience is real that has not been loosed by involuntary remembrance from the deathly fixity of its isolated existence, so conversely, no memory is guaranteed, existent in itself, indifferent to the future of him who harbours it; nothing past is proof, through its translation into mere imagination, against the curse of the empirical present… Despair has the accent of irrevocability not because things cannot improve, but because it draws the past too into its vortex. Therefore it is foolish and sentimental to try to keep the past untainted by the present’s turbid flood. No other hope is left to the past than that, exposed defencelessly to disaster, it shall emerge from it as something different. But he who dies in despair has lived his whole life in vain.”

Notebook (work)

November 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Fighting for recognition is also a kind of self-care-work, another aspect of the endless to-do list — unacknowledged affective labor that becomes more burdensome rather than less with the proliferation of forums ostensibly intended to help with it. In the name of efficiency, Social media tend to individuate the collective work necessary for reproducing the social — for maintaining the connections and relations of care that make life livable. But this supposed efficiency makes the workload even more unmanageable and distributes it more unfairly even as it multiplies the work that seems to be necessary. In place of solidarity, social media prompt users to compete over attention, divvy it up rather than share the responsibility for replenishing its store or easing the demands that deplete it. Social media can serve as an individualized accounting system for socially reproductive labor that encourages economizing efforts to shirk it. Social media turn sociality, a potentially replenishing respite, into a series of depleting decisions about how to manage the interaction.”

Notebook (imitation of life)

November 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Afterthought on Lou: in his tribute for the LRB blog, Alex Abramovich quotes a paragraph from Jenny Offill. “I got in my car and drove around and around my stupid town, listening to it. By the time I got home, I knew that one day I would move to New York and everything would be OK. And that is more or less what happened.”

Except, of course, that it didn’t. Certainly not for me: after a career as the school weirdo, finding consolation & distantly redemptive difference in the Velvets (among other things), being battered & psychologically abused, following a winding trip through the validating halls of ‘culture’, I (one day) did the equivalent of moving to New York, & things aren’t OK. Never say never, of course, but they probably won’t ever be. Many stories from the Factory follow a particular arc: arrival from the difficulties of provincial life, among other weirdos who share similarities with you, into a fly-by-night intimacy into wh/ tenderness can never enter, except through the ironising mimetic form of the masked performance (“I’ll be your mirror/reflect what you are”); the momentary softnesses of horse or pills, the social aids of speed & coke, then burn-out. Glamour, the currency of an alternative society that had to be ruthless enough to survive in the face of conformity, was incompatible with the interior comforts of ordinary association. Even the older generation of Village types whom the Factory crowd rolled with & preyed on – Mekas & Jack Smith & Fred Neil – had their dangers, as the shattered livers & the heroin-wan face of Midge in Mad Men suggests. In some cases, the basic dregs of ordinariness can’t be sublimated or shrugged off – this is precisely the freight of the Superstar concept, in which failure, the flecks of the ordinary that dot the soul, is always implicit; you may be a star, but you still live in a filthy squat or cold-water walk-up, just like you did back in whatever midwestern town you escaped. (This, in a sense, was what distinguished Edie Sedgwick, Nico during her Factory period, & Warhol himself, from the transgender & transvestite individuals in the Superstar stable: in Candy Darling’s film performances there’s always a sense of stubborn, undissolvable corporeality.)

For Reed in the Velvets, New York is where the real trouble begins, not where it ends: where the unresolvable wager of sensation, negation, suffering, acceptance, love, redemption starts (“& I just don’t know”). In my own case, I too just don’t know. The promise of alternative life has of course become a dead letter; glamour itself, & the other sociality it promised, is professionalised, & tributes to ‘Edie’ appear annually in the mainstream style rags, alongside ensembles inaccessible to anything getting less than 30k. The only thing left is the trance of the recordings.

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