Saturday, April 08, 2017

Aciman's Irrealis--notes

great passage from Spurious by Josipivici---makes me like him much more, have to give him a read, and continue on with Proust

[Reading In Search of Lost Time] gave me the powerful sense that it didn't matter if one could not see one's way forward, it didn't matter if one was silly and slow and confused, it didn't matter if one had got hold of the wrong end of the stick - what mattered was to keep going. I began to see that the doubts I had were in a sense the temptations of the Devil, the attempt to make me give up at the very start by presenting things in absolute terms (I can do it/ no, I can't do it); and that what Proust (like Dante before him, I later discovered) was offering was a way of fighting that by saying: All right, I am confused, then let me start with my confusion, let me incorporate my confusion into the book or story I am writing, and see if that helps. If I can't start, then let me write about not being able to start. Perhaps, after all, confusion and failure are not things one has to overcome before one can start, but deep human experiences which deserve themselves to be explored in art. Perhaps, indeed, the stick has no right end and therefore no wrong end.
Gabriel Josipovici, The Teller and the Tale

Letter from Dave today to Dear Angel Investor requesting funds to carry family of four across the atlantic this summer. 

Aciman in form again too---on the wishfilms we throw over everything, every place, in our craving for romance.  Longing for intimacy and love, the remanence of our presence.  154-155 in Alibis, the essay on luminous New York.  The next essay, on “Self Storage,” also right on the money.  Those few moments, seconds, hours, when he/I find some solitude and recoup, recharge, find who I am again, for a while, find some core, imagined or real or illusory, some longed-for center, and from there “for a few imagined seconds . . . was finally able to run away from those I couldn’t be more grateful to love.” 

Why am I feeling so fragile today?  What has spooked me?  Upset?  10 days of Caribbean sun and warmth destabilized?  Re-entry? new carpet, day at pheasant lane in mid-week?  Trying to hear French?  Turn of seasons into spring, out of the burrows of winter?  April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead earth.  Flooding the basements built on granite ledge. Now we wait two or three days, turn our faces to the wall and ignore the waters.  Wait for the earth to dry and open and carry away the excess efluvia. 

For a little over fifteen years I tried to get away from books.  I took up painting to use up lots of time I otherwise would have spent reading books.  I had read enough.  Too many.  They had piled up.  Shelves crammed.  Too many trips to used bookstores to sell some, even more trips to other bookstores to buy more.  I rented a studio space in a small office building on Main Street.  Lawyers at one end of the hall.  A masseur in the corner at the other end.  A mail-order business in worms for pets in one office and about the two others I was never quite sure.  Maybe the woman I would see off and on, rarely, entering and leaving the unmarked door to the left of my space was a therapist.  Maybe not.  And in the office to my right, I never saw anyone leave or enter.  Was it even an office?  From outside, the windows added up properly and said, yes, that room must have been a duplicate of the one I used three or four afternoons a week.  I would teach my classes in the mornings, as I had been doing for more than twenty-five years.  After scrupulously being available for students to seek help in my office I would walk down the hill to my painting studio as I began to call it and I would paint.  Or sit.  I allowed myself one chair on which to look back a the works I was painting.  No books.  It was hard at first not to carry a book with me, but pretty soon I got the hang of it.  I didn’t think of it at the time as a flight from books.  In fact it was probably not really that at all.  That is just a way of looking back at it now.  It was more like a way of filling out the act of reading by expanding it to the whole of seeing.  The page became the canvas, words merged into paint, consciousness wanted to embrace thought and image, all attempts to express and contain, pour forth and hold onto, colors, forms, lines, shaped letters, words, in voice, cadence in movement held in paint and ink. 

Aciman “You don’t know whether what you feel is what you you feel or what you say you feel, just as you don’t know whether saying you feel something is actually a way of saying anything at all aboout it.”  Alibis 199  You wing it.  You hope others believe you.  If they believe you, then you might as well copy them and believe the person they believe.”

Perfect license for practicing Pierre Menardism. 

“I’ve built my home not even with words and what they mean but with cadence, just cadence, because cadence is like feeling, and cadence is like breathing, and cadence is heartbeat and desire, and if cadence doesn’t reinvent everything we would like our life to have been or to become, then just the act of searching and probing in that particularly cadenced way becomes a way of feeling and of being in the world.”

Aciman uses irrealis at the end of the final essay on Parallax--page 189
“Parallax is not just a disturbance in vision. It’s a derealizing and paralyzing disturbance in the soul—cognitive, metaphysical, intellectual, and ultimately aesthetic. It is not just about displacement, or of feeling adrift both in time and space, it is a fundamental misalignment between who we are, might have been, could still be, can’t accept we’ve become, or may never be. You assume you are not quite like others and that to understand others, to be with others, to love others, and to be loved by them, you need to think other thoughts than the ones that come naturally. To be with others you must be the opposite of who you are; to read others, you must read the opposite of what you see; to be somewhere, you must suspect you are or could be elsewhere. This is the irrealis-mood. You feel, you imagine, you think, and ultimately write counterfactually, because writing speaks this disturbance, investigates it, because writing also perpetuates and consolidates it and hopes to make sense of it by giving it a form.”

Most recently in the essay on Sebald in American Scholar this past December.  Part of the forthcoming collection of essays on the idea, which will be entitled Homo Irrealis. 

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