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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Reading of Derrick Jensen's ENDGAME Through Dostoevsky, Conrad and Cormac McCarthy

Derrick Jensen takes on civilization in this Volume 2. Almost 160 years after Dostoevsky first saw it coming. It is very late in the game now.

This edition contains many of his best short novels
This edition is translated with an introduction by David Magarshack and it is wonderful. From NOTES I am quoting:

...that to be too acutely conscious is a disease (p. 111)

...whatever happened, happened in accordance with the normal and fundamental laws of intensified consciousness and by a sort of inertia which is a direct consequence of those laws.....(p. 113)

He is stupid__I am not disputing that. But perhaps the normal man should be stupid. How are you to know? (p. 115)

...And what, pray, does civilization soften in us? All civilization does is to develop in man the many-sidedness of his sensations, and nothing, absolutely nothing more. And through the development of his many-sidedness man, for all we know, may reach the stage when he will find pleasure in bloodshed. This has already happened to him. Have you noticed that the most subtle shedders of blood have almost invariably been most civilized men, compared with whom all the Attilas and Stenka Razins were just innocent babes, and if they are not so outstanding as Attila or Stenka Razin it is because we meet them so often, because they are too ordinary, and because we have got used to them. At any rate, civilization has made man, if not more bloodthirsty, then certainly more hideously and more contemptibly bloodthirsty. In the past he looked on bloodshed as an act of justice and exterminated those he thought necessary to exterminate with a clear conscience; but now we consider bloodshed an abomination and we engage in this abomination more than ever. Which is worse? You'd better decide for yourselves. (p. 128)

He continues to deconstruct science as the cure and details how science will measure desires and limit risk for ready-made solutions. We are experiencing the assembly line manufacturing of desire for us.  All Dostoevsky said has come to pass. 

It is industrial society  that Dostoevsky condemns. And in 1862 abroad for the first time he goes to London and comes face to face for the first time with the industrial society which he regarded as the triumph of Baal. The thing that struck him most was the contrast between the colossal facade of riches, luxury,  and general prosperity of the few and the abject poverty of the many and their coolie-like acquiescence in their fate. In the face of such enormous riches, such immense pride of the spirit of domination, and such triumphant perfection of the creations of the spirit, Dostoevsky wrote in the April, 1863 issue of Vremya, in which he described his impressions of his first visit abroad, the starving soul is humbled and driven to submission, seeking salvation in gin and dissipation and beginning to believe that this is the way things ought to be. Facts oppress the spirit, and if scepticism is born, it is a gloomy, accursed sort of scepticism which seeks salvation in religious fanaticism. (xix)

There follows a description of London to break your heart.

In 1890 Conrad sets sail for The Congo which results in his masterpiece The Heart of Darkness.

1989 St. Martin's Press edition

 And again we have his horrifying novel of Marlowe telling of Kurtz who is a human accumulation of  European civilization. In this edition are five literary reviews of this classic work. Karl - also Conrad's biographer and a psychoanalyst - has written a devastating account of the coming apocalypse which is deconstructed by J. Hillis Miller in a different essay. The accumulation of IVORY to be shipped back to Britain and exported globally for artistic artifacts is chilling to anyone who reads through Foucault on default. We see graphically the intersection of the CUT into capitalism, mercantilism, of DETERRITORIALIZED CAPITALISM that is our state of world economic power today. It is not likely Conrad knew where in the jungle Kurtz was exploring to acquire such massive piles of ivory, more than all the other colonial traders together, operating under the MASK of being there for the purpose of bringing the savages to a civilized social existence. We know though. As Kurtz goes alone in his solitary journeys into the deep darkness of unexplored wild jungle to make contact with other tribes of natives, he is certainly shown the cemeteries of the elephants who make a pilgrimage to their burial grounds as a regular memorial to fondle the bones of their ancestors. How easy to gather up incredible amounts of what Kurtz labels reclaimed ivory in such volume as to amaze those back home in Britain. This is why the journey to him must be made, to import all this loot back home. And it comes at a terrible cost to the natives who have been conquered by the technological demonstration of such weapons as they have never imagined the existence of. Kurtz's dying words are the horror, the horror!  as he at last sees this horror brought into the world. This greed is far beyond the desire for the forbidden fruit in Eden. The destruction of a continent, the enslavement of its people, all for artifacts to be carved from the ivory over the dead bodies of elephants. And now these elephants plundered for the last 160 years are going extinct. 

This is Dostoevsky's vision of the future he sees. We are living it now, the Congo worse than it ever was, the world exploited and depleted.

Dostoevsky saw the unimaginable riches of the earth that could and would be exploited for world industrialization. 

Dostoevsky was a liberal before he stood waiting in front of the firing squad only to be part of a "joke." He was deported to Siberia to labor in a prison. The initial beginning of The Gulags.

When he served his time and returned to Russia he was no longer a liberal thinker. 

As ZIZEK has told us:
Liberal thinking contains the poison pill of its own destruction.

Liberalism teaches us to tolerate the intolerable.

Obama and Clinton were intolerable and INVISIBLE.

This is what made Trump more acceptable to ZIZEK and to me.
I do like the MESSAGE of the MEDIUM of the Trump administration. Eyes have been opened and are being opened every day as he is so outrageous that ultimately he offends and enrages everyone last one of us. 

It is a pleasure. 

The Holocaust of North American Natives Beginning in 1849
BLOOD MERIDIAN is Cormac McCarthy's homage to Heart of Darkness. Its theme, its hidden apocalypse, and its characters. Conrad felt maybe he had symbolized Kurtz too much. McCarthy says no no a thousand times no and makes Judge Holden so excessive, so symbolic, so incredible, that Kurtz begins to seem rather normal.
The American has overreached the British monster.
Blood Meridian begins in 1849 when the American Government seeking to extend its reach to California now that gold has been discovered. The Gold Rush is to begin but it must have a clear  journey from east to west without Native Americans to impede it. The US government is paying $100 per single scalp to clean them out. It will be a 30,000,000 Holocaust, far beyond anything Hitler imagined or did to the Jews. It has been enfolded into amnesia in American history. At the end of it there remained 300,000 Native Americans herded onto reservations. Let's think of them as sanctuaries which is where many wild animals are now being transported to before all can go extinct. The ARK has been broken up into fragments scattered all over the world. Gone is the web of elephant ancestor memories, a Native American culture rich and different from the industrialized white man, and is just the stepping stone for a life of circumscribed imprisonment until the land is wanted for the exploitation of its riches. People will be dispossessed as will the wild animals.McCarthy ends his novel in 1862 and we see a depraved barbarian society of the west rivaling that of Dostoevsky's London in the same year. 
More horror. 

Anyone who disputes Jensen's call for the end of civilization needs to rethink their premises about any goodness to be preserved in this ongoing atrocity and horror of apocalypse. 

One is reminded of Isaiah and Jeremiah warning the Israelites to not defy the Assyrians at this time.

And while Rome burns we fiddle around.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


David Yaffe has written an exceptional biography of Joni Mitchell. His genius in telling her life and music lies in 

what he doesn't say!

Yaffe resists interpretation. He obviously interviewed with her and recorded what she said. And he did the same with other celebrities who knew her. Yaffe is also right on top of her music, the music of the scene around her and her position in it. He easily acknowledges her genius, her open tuning which she invented accompanied by her memorable voice. And this is where he excels in praise of her.

I spent an afternoon with her and Joy Schrieber - Joy Fibben - the manager of The Second Fret that showcased Joni before she was famous. A little dive on Sansom Street in Philadelphia, kind of dark and funky. This is where I saw her as I knew Joy and her husband. It was October of 1967 when Joni performed there when I first saw and heard her.

That afternoon she came into the area in Joy's apartment where we were talking, sat down and began to continue to write a song. Quietly, not greeting me at all, just Joy. She showed Joy some little beaded purses she had bought and Joy said, "Joni likes little purses."

I left soon after and saw her perform that evening. In performance she was mesmerizing, seductive and wonderful, promising everything. I knew she would be great immediately. A few nights later I took a lawyer friend to hear her. He was critical of her and said he thought she'll never make it. I said, "Oh yes she will." And I couldn't understand why he thought that. Perhaps it was her waif like appearance. Now I know she cultivated that until the trends changed.

Her bout with polio and her long stay in the hospital is described. This I never knew. Her parents visited her only ONCE! She was expected to be paralyzed, in an iron lung for the rest of her life. But she decided she wasn't going to be and struggled to move and then walk again.

Yaffe says only this about that time. He does not interpret it. I will though. I was utterly chilled by the fact her parents simply gave her up at a terrible time in which to withdraw all emotional support. It is no wonder her relation to her parents became indifferent after that. She must have come to terms with this then, the fact that she could never expect anything from them again. Invert this: nor did she owe them anything after this. She was free. Alone but free. With only herself to depend on. 

I am thinking at this time a great deal of Walter Richard Sickert whom I am convinced was Jack the Ripper. But another time for that. 

Joni made a deal with God. If I can walk again I will pay this back to you. She recognizes the gift and the indebtedness the gift imposes. The counter-gift. And she delivers. 

Sickert made no deal. And he was not yet 5 years old. And in agonizing pain and terror.

Yaffe is aware that she was the singer songwriter of loss. She spoke to those in pain. She knew about that. But her music was the only place, it seems, that she owned it, preferring to deny all this in her life and relationships.

… Don't it always seem to go 

That you don't know what you've got 
'Till it's gone 
They paved paradise… More

The Unsung Poet of Loss

Yaffe quotes Elizabeth Bishop on loss

The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster

This is a poem in response to the great Catherine Breese Davis's great poem: A villanelle and her best known poem. A reply to Dylan Thomas's Do Not go Gentle and certainly resonates with Bob Dylan's 
"Nothin left to lose"

After a time, all losses are the same,
One more thing lost is one thing less to lose;
And we go stripped at last the way we came.

So we, who would go raging, will go tame
When what we have we can no longer use;
After a time, all losses are the same
And we go stripped at last the way we came.

Davis's life was composed of losses too terrible to list. Her life was simply horrifying and she was still able to leave us some of the greatest poetry of her time. 

Perry Meisel reviews Hejira thus:

 Hejira presents the Queen of El Lay (referring to a Rolling Stone diss) more explicitly in the guise of a poet than ever before, festooned with cape, beret, slanted pinky, and the backdrop of a resolutely abstract landscape. Well, that's the way poets are supposed to look, I guess, and Mitchell's (self-) portrait here seems to be a little too aware of that.  

He continues but let's not here. This is nasty and yet very true when one stands her lyrics beside a master. Meisel does not understand the oncoming of Simulated Reality when stating one is a poet in IMAGE amounts to CREDIBILITY. The image obscures the real.

Here is an image by Mark Tansey that says it 
Mark Tansey the Picasso of the 21st Century
Mitchell just posits herself as an image of poet and voila she is a poet to her masses of fans. As Bolano saying that mediocre is necessary to see the diamond in the pile. (Something like that.)

Meisel hasn't become aware of this yet but Mitchell has.

Yaffe details with interview quotes from the wonderful and generous Judy Collins who used her clout at Newport to feature Mitchell and Dylan and shine the light of excellence on them. For this wonderful act of generosity and good will Collins received only sniping from Mitchell as she didn't like Collins interpretation of Both Sides Now which Collins had made famous by singing it on her recent album. 

Obviously Mitchell never understood that one's reading (interpretation) of a song "is that person's reading," that there is NO ABSOLUTE READING. Of course Collins would read the song differently from Mitchell or anyone else. And Collins was hurt by her lack of appreciation for the great gift she gave Mitchell in headlining her at Newport.

And this brings us to "The Gift." As Ainslee Meares says it:

Meares travels in the far east searching for new ways to cure old illnesses.
We have all read countless accounts of these travels. Meares gives us such a clear perception we can only be grateful to have all the ideology and PR wiped away.

Giving and receiving. What problems arise from this simple process! It may be hard to give, and I am sure it often is. But it is harder to receive, of this I have no doubt at all. I have seen too many patients tense and disturbed because they could not receive without anger. Once might expect people to be pleased and thankful at being given something. But look around, and you will see how often it has the reverse effect.And it is not difficult to see why this should be so. Giving places the receiver in your debt. No wonder he is resentful. But there is more to it than that. As babies our mothers gave us their milk freely, and we were happy to receive it. When we were children, our parents gave and we received. This is a law of nature. It is set in our mind that grown-ups give and children receive. Then as adults we are given something. Unconsciously it makes us feel as children again....

Nietzsche deconstructs the GIFT in his Genealogy of Morals which parallels the far east thinking detailed by Meares.
If you haven't read Nietzsche it is past time.
Mitchell will finally acknowledge her daughter publicly. She has finally received the long awaited call from her daughter. The one she gave up right after birth to a foster mother, then permanently and legally surrendered 6 months later. Here is what Yaffe says:

Joni held the baby... And then Joni signed the surrender papers. There was a form in the baby's adoption files called "Non-Identifying Background Information." Without revealing either parent's name, there were details left for the baby: that her father had been above average height, that her mother had once had polio and grew up in Saskatchewan, and this telling line:"Mother left Canada for U. S. to pursue career as folksinger."

So cold that last line.

After the honeymoon reunion her daughter vented her anger at being given up. This is natural but Mitchell became estranged. That terrible last line. Gave me up to become a folksinger. How wounding.

Fans and others will read this biography and a portrait will emerge of Mitchell with her adoration of fans muted by age and experience. We cannot know how desperately she had to defend herself and her vulnerability in her life that is bare in her music and lyrics. It is not for any of us to judge. But I do cringe at some of this, but that is just my own personal baggage. Not hers.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Doing Drug Testing at Lilly

A Great Edition

Marcia Angell has a devastating essay on a number of psychiatric pharmaceutical interventions but the one in particular I zeroed in on was ZYPREXA. 

I happen to know more than the average person on drugs as I tested Cymbalta at Lilly's research facility in 2004. I used to do pharma testing starting in Philadelphia with Neutrogena versus Ivory. The mild soap for babies remember? This was its downfall as it raised blisters and sore spots. Neutrogena none.

In the 1990's and into the 2000's there were many of us older women testing HRT and the pay was so good we got sucked in. It was just a whisper away from traveling and doing many different studies. The Lilly one for the drug duloxetine (before it was namedCymbalta during its trial) was conducted in 2004 in their Indianapolis very swish facility. Lilly had the top floor of the hospital and the clinical trial participants had private rooms with one roommate, personal TV sets, access to computers, vouchers for the Riley annex for the library, computers, cafeteria which one could travel to via Monorail. 

Of all the people I knew who had participated in this drug trial - another group was at an Indiana facility - were 100% in agreement that it was the worst drug they had ever tested EVER. I was no exception. I felt I had aged 20 years on it, looked terrible, and felt worse.

We were being tested with 3 X the recommended dose. IMO that was so overdosing would not be something patients would be interested in experimenting with. The higher the dose got the worse we all felt. My roommate was a poet who barely made it through and I gave her all the emotional support she needed to make it. She needed the money.

A Chinese graduate student at IUPUI was doing the work for her PhD dissertation and after 3 days on it had to quit the study as she couldn't think anymore. It was easy to see who got dosed and who got the placebo. You just took one look at their face after a few days.

There is a moment on Cymbalta when it seems to hit a boundary in your mind that frees you. I had just lost a beloved dog before I came for the study and was already in a state of grief. I remember that moment. But the next day the dose increased and it was all gone and nothing but downhill after that.

There was a lovely young girl from  Indiana Bible College named Traci Johnson in my study. She had wide apart dark eyes and was very innocent, participating in the study to help with her tuition payments. 

She hung herself in her bathroom while her roommate was not there.

Immediately the other Bible students dropped from the study. The newspapers were all over it and the outside of the hospital was filled with their wanting to interview us. We often went to use the library at IUPUI and the computers there. So we passed through this throng, but they had no way of knowing we were in the study from all the patients going in and out for their appointments. None of us wanted to talk with them as that would have meant being banned from all future Lilly studies. And this was a $4000 study we were in for 6 weeks. So cowards that we were we shut up. The Johnson family was represented by a small law firm in Pennsylvania - not a big time Philadelphia attorney - so they were screwed from the beginning. Lilly put on a great PR campaign, gave her a fabulous funeral, etc and the Johnsons lost their daughter. 

In 2001 Lilly had had another law suit with Zyprexa and they paid $800 million to make that one go away as it had been used for schizophrenia, and it had not been tested for that, only for depression. 

Lauren Slater wrote the other essay in this book on Zyprexa with the title Killing My Body to Save My Mind. It was bone chilling for me to read this one and she ate her way into obesity as Zyprexa fuels an enormous appetite. I remember how much I ate at that cafeteria with my vouchers. 

Please please just consider being melancholy. This is what depression used to be called. Many wonderful scientists, writers, artists have been afflicted with it. And it is a piece of cake instead of doing Zyprexa. If all FDA drug testing were done on the doctors who are going to prescribe it, that might help the situation.

I have had a great deal of comment flaming at me whenever I have mentioned the ill effects of Cymbalta to someone on it. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


This is a comment reply to Psybertron Asks

Alterity is a philosophical conceptual construct by Jean Baudrillard. When one experiences a near death experience and survives, the two "selves" continue on a parallel path that gradually continues parting/continuing to diverge through life. The film Another Earth with Britt Marling is a perfect illustration of what Baudrillard means http://moviesandfilm.blogspot.com/2011/09/review-another-earth-at-moxie-in.html  This corresponds to Pirsig's Phaedrus who is electro shocked into alterity as another person as if just being born with no memory before this new moment. 

Irreversibility is Baudrillard's great contribution to philosophy. To fully understand his work one must understand he is Nietzschean in blood and bone. Pirsig never mentions Nietzsche once, yet he breathes through this novel. As of course do Foucault and Baudrillard. It is rare than a Foucauldian thinker moves into Baudrillard (Ayn Rand does but is misread by her disciples). Pirsig is so clear with his continuing binary that he cannot come to terms with easily at all. He is not aware of how Baudrillard has separated the Symbolic Order from the Order of Production (Pirsig's classic and romantic methods of thinking/ reasoning). But there it is, clear as day, the two orders that are separate, the territory and the map as Borges calls it. Or as Jesus does when he overturns the tables of the money changers in the temple, separating the sacred from the worldly. (I am not using profane as that concept has different resonances I don't want to get into.)Two parallel orders that comprise the world. This conceptual construct can be read through Plato of course also, the REAL and the shadows in the cave. The Order of Production is IRREVERSIBLE. From this capitalism metastasizes like cancer cells (Marx). The Symbolic Order is REVERSIBLE and these terms are Baudrillard's great contribution according to Simon Critchley. If you want examples I have blogged many of them so ask if you want more on this and I will link you. DeLillo is especially perceptive on this in Cosmopolis. 

But these two terms are philosophical constructs. In Fountainhead we see Gail Wynand is unable to reverse The Banner as it has become firmly planted in the Order of Production. He cannot use it to turn Roark into a hero, a true artist, because Toohey has taken control in homeopathic doses, substituting the territory of journalism into the map of propagandizing. What is left for him finally is to destroy The Banner completely. And that is Nietzsche, excess is required to end what must be stopped so that it implodes. 

Pirsig's excess on his road journey is also in the Symbolic Order and the Order of Production. The physical trip on the motorcycle and the "trip" in his mind as he pieces his lost fragments of his lost self knitting them together with his present self, his present Alterity. Of course it can be read through the interpretation of Freud's thinking, or even Jung's, but I prefer to stay with Foucault and Baudrillard and not take the swampy, sinking path into interpretation from which it will be impossible to get out of and will force Pirsig back into the Dialectic which he has so brilliantly led us to escape from.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The Sutherlands accompany Pirsig in the beginning part of this road trip from Minnesota to California. Their differences lead to explanations of Pirsig's dichotomy of understanding in people. He divides human understanding into two kinds - classical understanding and romantic understanding. 

At this point in his story Pirsig is still thinking inside the Dominating Discourse of the classical Hegelian dialectic. He has not yet met the unknown Foucault head on in his thinking. He is still linear, continuous, progressive, historical.

A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic understanding sees it primarily in terms of immediate experience.

He will continue to expand on these definitions. The romantic is emotional, the NOW so prevalent in the 60's, the moment, the intuitive, the gut instinct. It is based on FEELINGS!

The classic is formal, logical, it accumulates past knowledge and information, it is reasonable.

Now we move to 1993 and the work of Jean Baudrillard in France with his Symbolic Exchange and Death.
A Monumental work in continental Philosophy
There is no doubt Baudrillard was pondering all this at the time Pirsig was, but he will not publish it fully until 1991-3. Baudrillard has been influenced by Foucault and now thinks genealogically saying it is really the only way to think. It is certainly the most powerful, decisive, analytical way to think and has become the DISCOURSE now by those who are the original thinkers in Continental Philosophy at this time. Pirsig is not yet there though he is following his solitary journey without anyone with whom he can discuss all that he is thinking. 

Baudrillard's great contribution to our understanding is his eliciting of the TWO ORDERS in our world. The Symbolic Order and the Order of Production. These are parallel orders co-existing. The Map and the Territory, encroaching more and more into the Symbolic Order.

Pirsig will introduce his former self named Phaedrus and bring us to another Baudrillardian conceptual frame, that of Alterity. A personal life continues until and if Destiny intervenes with DEATH. An EVENT in which the individual experiences their "almost death" leads to a splitting, the concept of alterity and the individual continues living as the same and also as other now. The two selves increasingly deviate apart from their former self and the present self. Pirsig introduces us to his former self named Phaedrus who was given shock therapy until all his philosophical thinking was wiped out, burned away. But their are shreds, fragments that tweak Pirsig's memory as he continues on his road journey and we will find out this journey has old places to be revisited in its agenda. Neither Foucault nor Baudrillard escaped unscathed from this thinking either BTW. It was their great good fortune that others were on this path with them while the entrenched academic powers fought them and continue to do so now in a much weakened position. One wonders that without the internet if all this European thought might not have fallen into the folds of archival history in our time in the US which despises it so.

Returning to the two modes of understanding - the Classical mode is in the Order of Production. It is cumulative, logical, reasonable and is part of the Dominating Discourse. It's primary attribute is its irreversibility. Capitalism resides in this order. The Romantic mode is in the Symbolic Order - emotional, intuitive, creative, changeable, and its primary attribute is its reversibility. These are the two great concepts Baudrillard has given us to understand the world we now live in. 

It is clear that Pirsig sees all this in his original way. He comes to it on his road trip. While Foucault labors in the archives with yellowed, torn, hardly legible old papers, Pirsig is coming to it at a slightly later time from Foucault who begins publishing in 1960 with Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, The Order of Things and most importantly The Archaeology of Knowledge. 

This is what Pirsig is doing as he flies on his cycle through mountains, down into valleys of green and then desert, along rivers, through small towns staying the same through changing times. A wild ride paralleled by quiet, intense, arduous digging in libraries.

And Pirsig digs deeper than Foucault through his madness, risking it all once more.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Rereading this 1974 blockbuster novel of its time is an astonishing experience. Pirsig has gone his solitary way through all of Continental Philosophy of his time and beyond without referring to Foucault, Baudrillard, Zizek, Lacan, walking along in their footsteps without knowing of their existence. He arrives at the same conclusions and consequences by a parallel path not an identical one. And he digs even deeper than Foucault, something I had never expected from anyone.

Pirsig is grounding his thought concretely by alternating between motorcycle maintenance, a journey on his motorcycle with his young adolescent son across the midwest and north of the US to California. While Foucault is digging in dusty old archives, tattered and yellowed papers, Pirsig is whizzing through mountainous landscapes, desert valleys, campgrounds and highways as he pieces fragments of his alterity and continued musings of his past and present thinking.

He begins with the perception of landscape through an automobile's windows and the difference as it surrounds one on a motorcycle. The car frames the scene - turning it into the screen - as it changes, displaying what the frame frames. The motorcycle puts you in the landscape making you a part of it, not an observer of it. The scene through the auto window is a simulacrum, the surround on the motorcycle is the REAL. And this is the thought of Jean Baudrillard. 

Is Baudrillard a Simulacrum here?

The great danger of our time felt by Pirsig and articulated by Baudrillard. The loss of the REAL and the worship of the Simulacrum. The Hunger Games. Panem and the Districts. The REAL and the SCREEN.

Reading through McLuhan the motorcycle is the MEDIUM and the MESSAGE is invisible. Or the GROUND is invisible. The auto is the MEDIUM and the MESSAGE is different. The GROUND is now the inside of the car which is invisible as one looks out the window at the passing screen. Pirsig has lifted the curtain of invisibility so we now see the once invisible MESSAGE of the cycle and the auto. He has waved the magic wand, Dorothy has clicked her red heels three times and she is in Oz then back to the canvas of Kansas again. Has Baudrillard or McLuhan ever been so clearly understood before?

This is what is troubling him all through his journey. Small patches of lawn a plastic faking of open green spaces, plastic toys of artificial style to deceive. None of this is escaping his eyes as he sees through the cultural faking that passes for authenticity by those who cannot see or recognize QUALITY.

Read it again and go with him again on the wild trip you once breathlessly accompanied him on. There is much more I have to say about this wondrous journey of his.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Reading Dashiell Hammett Through Foucault/Foucault Through Hammet

With a wonderful introduction by Lillian Hellman
Hellman's introduction may add some facts Hammett's fans may not have known. He did not want these stories published in his lifetime and I sort of see why. But I am so grateful they have been collected and edited for us to read. I didn't read all of them. But each one I did read has an original charm and integrity of its own.

The Scorched Face is drastically dated for us. Women from well to do families in San Francisco have gone missing, been murdered, blackmailed and have committed suicide for threatened exposure of photographs taken during an hallucinatory orgy. Now almost laughable as they might have been deliberately posed and posted online for instant celebrity for something they would have died for not so very long ago. All we can do is shake our heads in wonder at this world we live in.

Corkscrew introduces us to Hammett's detective voice.What is startling is that the villains are really villains and the good ones display an integrity that seems to have disappeared completely from our present life on any plane of action.That quality of character portrayed in fiction had some semblance in life in the Real World. Certainly Hammett himself conducted his life in this fashion and paid the price for it. For me who invariably reads everything with a Foucauldian default setting my reading zeroed in on three genealogies:

  1. Illegal Immigrants - Not yet a major problem but simply their smuggling in as a way to make the big bucks. This is an interesting beginning as it is just beginning to make its Foucauldian CUT with capitalism in the GRID of power/knowledge already meshed with capitalism and normality. Not yet has illegal immigration become the huge source of cheap labor that it will be very soon - in this story we are still a ways from WWII. So for an alert Foucauldian perception we perceive an early CUT into the genealogy of smuggled humans for profit that will be so fraught with political outrage in our time. One can see how fast immigration has moved into problematization for us.
  2. The second CUT that jumped out at me was the sale of military weaponry. I already knew about its sale to American Indians, colonists, French and English during the settling of this country. But in thinking, contemplating it I began wondering at what point in history did the selling of military weaponry to both sides become natural and then institutionalized. Surely knights in armor has their beautiful suits of armor made by artisans, craftsmen, with great pride. Not mass produced for that was still to come.So I am not sure where that CUT of Foucault's entered our world but still it was around the time of this story, just before militarized weaponry would become a huge assembly line factory produced commodity of killing and money.
  3. The third CUT is "the banning" of these weapons. The new deputy sheriff in town rules that all guns get parked while in the bar. The sheriff has to enforce this ban. Open carry or concealed guns are the custom but the sheriff decides to change the custom. As always when customs get challenged people get angry. And this initial CUT in the genealogy of open/concealed carry appears innocently simple. It will become open warfare before 80 years. Yes time moves fast these days.
The EFFECTS that seem so charming and rather innocent in this story 
have resonances far beyond villains who brandish 
guns and bullets in a murderous way contrasted with
using these weapons carefully and intelligently.
So once upon a time they were so used
and now it doesn't seem so possible anymore confronted with
huge numbers of people who don't.

But their use has become so natural so institutionalized
that taking them away amounts to a loss of freedom.
Guns have become an ideology of freedom
an icon of freedom.

Are we just swamping around in ideology here as we fight about guns?

TULIP is a beginning of a novel/an unfinished novel. But is it really unfinished? We are treated to a mature Dashiell Hammett we haven't seen before in his stories. It is fiction that is true, without lies, in the way that non-fiction rarely is. Without lies I mean. A man trying to be as clear as possible. It feels very much like Faulkner. And Hemingway. And if only Hammett had not been so assaulted by the machine of capital, which he hated, we would have had him longer, and America would have had another truly great writer. For in TULIP you read the beginning of his greatness that was curtailed by illness and McCarthy's persecution.  And that's a good thing to know.

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