Christmastown (click to view PDF file; best viewed in two-page continuous or scrolling mode, with cover page shown in two page view)
Christmastown is a seven text collection exploring the constitution and make-up, the very possibility of the speaking, that is, the split human subject. At a total of 365¼ pages, Christmastown is constructed as a (faux) day-book or lectionary reflecting the fact that the calendar is a fundamental aspect of social organization. In the context of contemporary life and within a variety and multiplicity of styles I situate this project—inscribing the symbolic foundation and dissolution of the human subject—within an attempt to explore the very possibilities of literature.
As the title itself suggests, Christmastown places its subject firmly in the Judeo-Christian tradition. From mysticism to meditation on the Catholic Trinity, from gnosticism to rabbinical fantasy, from classical rhetoric to contemporary cultural artifacts, Christmastown is a means of discovering, through language, glimpses of what we are – whether as enunciation, as performative, as trace, as gap, or as relation to the Other, that is, to non-being. I try to inscribe a specific deformation, a shift in literature – I try to introduce a different relationship to language, as well as to narrative, raising them both from transparency. This shift can perhaps be illustrated by the fact that although my three major concerns throughout Christmastown are the same as Flaubert’s self-stated three major concerns– the musicality of phrases, the transition from phrase to phrase, and repetition– I entertain a different relation to them, and that difference, that displacement is the record of the shift I seek to inscribe.
In the wake of Joyce, informed by a post-Céline phraseology, I define myself as both a realist (who speaks of visions) and a materialist (who insists on the materiality of language), believing that literature offers us the possibility of a unique insight into our very make-up and constitution.
Three voiced periods
“…we arrive at what I call the triple identity, notably the definitional identity of reality, appearance, and awareness. It is remarkable how all the “building blocks” of existence appear as triunions. (Compare the so-called “divine trinity”of Christianity, which is merely a summary of our perception of how to construct the formation of any thing whatever.) It is the triunion that apparently provides the magic inflatory principle that makes it all seem like it’s really there.”
Three voiced periods (99 pp) – Paratactic in structure, aleatory in appearance, with every individual line functioning as an equation, Three voiced periods uses line breaks and the cut of the page as important signifying characteristics. Ostensibly a meditation on the Catholic Trinity, which, considered as an image of the mind, anchors an investigation of the trinary or triadic structure of the mind. It’s a drama exploring the minimal aspects and foundations of human subjectivity. Three Dantesque sections composed of thirty-three pages of twenty-seven lines each, with each section representing a different fundamental psychical experience or vision – the experience of Otherness, of an enlivening gestalt, and of our divided experience of being and language – are depicted dramatically using repetition as the major form of assemblage.
The Apocryphon of Betty
“From the Freudian point of view man is the subject captured and tortured by language.”
The Apocryphon of Betty (50 pp) – The Apocryphon of Betty is based on the strange tale of Betty and Barney Hill, an interracial couple whose story was detailed in John G. Fuller’s The Interrupted Journey, and whose claim of being abducted by Aliens, taken aboard an Alien spacecraft and given physical examinations has come to inhabit popular culture. Using pastiches of popular and historical forms, The Apocryphon of Betty is a face-to-face counterpoint made up of forgeries of numerous and various forms of popular media and literature, and affective dialogue pages (are they dialogues with an Alien? a hypnotist? an agency of the self?) which purport to be genuine. As such the text is situated on the knot of memory, narrative, and body as cultural artifacts. The typographic effects, besides reflecting the usages around us, are used in order to represent language as a performative presence. These affective pages revolve around the reappearance of certain images/objects (eyes, slit of mouth, voice in your head, etc.), the transformation of what was pleasurable into what is unpleasurable and vice versa, and the confusion of past and present. In all The Apocryphon of Betty is an attempt to explore and explode a popular, modern manifestation of an ancient human experience, the experience of Otherness, through the auspices of trying to find an answer to the modern human phenomenon of the Alien abduction experience in a Poe-esque tale of ratiocination, putting forth the thesis that ultimately language is the Alien presence.
The Ark of The Covenant
“The starting-point of the development that gave rise to the wage-laborer and to the capitalist was the enslavement of the worker. The advance made consisted in a change in the form of servitude, in the transformation of feudal exploitation into capitalist exploitation.”
The Ark of the Covenant (29¼ pp) – Phrased as a critique of capitalism and its concomitant commodification, The Ark of the Covenant attempts this through a history of slavery, inscribing the infamy of the slaveship as the vessel of capitalist law. Tracing slavery from the Middle Passage to contemporary life, The Ark of the Covenant purports that the rise of capitalism occurred hand-in-hand with the practice of slavery.
“This is why the poem, in its very words, requires an operation of silence….The music of silence: a reserved and refolded word, the poem is what Mallarmé called ‘restrained action’. He already opposed it to this other use of language, which governs us today: the language of communication and reality, the confused language of images; a mediated language which is the province of the media; the language Mallarmé described as that of universal reportage.
Matko (20 pp) – A poetic ode of personal resurrection, the claiming of one’s desire as one’s own through the experience of the symbolic agency of the father, I like to refer to Matko as a Lenten hymn, as a poetic record of the loss necessary to any re-birth in the name, in the symbolic (which is language) represented specifically by a name that signifies a symbolic chain and not merely a name which is a simple sign, with a single referent. Matko can perhaps be understood in reference to the following quotation from Boris Pasternak’s Safe Conduct— “The creation was called a tragedy. And that is what it ought to be called. The tragedy was called “Vladimir Mayakovsky” [by Vladimir Mayakovsky]. The title contained the simple discovery…that a poet is not an author but the subject of a lyric…”
A False Father
Perversion, according to Lacan, is really a “père-version”, a twisting of the father, which implies a structurally imaginary turn toward the father…this…understanding of perversion enables us to identify a body of jouissance or enjoyment that is always in excess of the body of procedural law, yet underpins a potential ethics of justice in law’s rulings over what bodies can and cannot do…
« Je sais bien mais quand même. »
A False Father (30 pp) – Exploring relations to authority and its relation to knowledge, A False Father details some of the delirious perversions (pére-versions) of authority in three different representations, each one establishing their own particular version of the father as something other than a mere signifying function.
“…every culture is first and foremost a particular experience of time, and no new culture is possible without an alteration in this experience. The original task of a genuine revolution, therefore, is never merely to ‘change the world’. but also – and above all – to ‘change time’. Modern political thought has concentrated its attention on history, and has not elaborated a corresponding conception of time.”
The House (49 pp) – An exploration and examination of how we dwell in and think time and space. Using historical and contemporary examples it illustrates how we are situated in comprehensible dwelling and temporal organizations. The House is a text composed of seven, seven page sections each named for a day of the week. It is, simply stated, a series of meditations on the ways and modes in which we dwell. These include the everyday liminal or surface qualities which render our abodes individual, as well as the structures which shelter us and organize our world— time (the invisible history of the days of the week, etc.), space (Dwelling House Construction), language (“Language is the house of Being,” – Martin Heidegger), and belief (our ‘houses’ of worship). Metaphorically it extends this meditation to include our conceptions of self; for instance, the way we ‘line our selves’ (a problematic statement since such images are more correctly thought of as signs of our exteriority) with those images with which we identify.
Lessons in Letters
“Realism begins with an awareness of language.”
Lessons in Letters (88 pp)– is founded on the “Alef-Bait of Ben Sira”, a medieval secular Jewish text arranged as an alphabetic acrostic. The work has been characterized as satire, and it contains references to masturbation, incest and flatulence among other things. Lessons in Letters continues this tradition in a quartet of subjective voices, detailing the ‘music’ of subjectivity within the organizing strictures of language (and how it defines our subjective lives, how we are spoken shaped, and determined by it) and is an attempt to inscribe subjective states in language. Each of its twenty-two four page sections is based on the meaning of a Hebrew letter, and each represents different states and aspects of subjective flux. As a quaternary, an interweaving of four ‘voices,’ each announced by a material cue and regulated by rules of usage, Lessons in Letters is an attempt to write subjective experience and its attendant grammar (and subsequent disruption) literally taking place in, and as, language. Each type style or case [A, a, A, a] represents a different ‘voice’ in the dramatic choral weave of the text, and all four of these manifestations on the surface of the text weave themselves elliptically around an absence [ · or …]. From dream state to preconsciousness to consciousness, all cradled in language in a variety of modes, the text thus makes use of such things as ‘stream of consciousness,’ fantasy, dialogue, fairy tales, pulp forms, newscasts, etc., in its dramatic mix. Think of it as a note written on your scalp…
“The material organization of language reproduces conceptions of the mind.”