“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, March 12, 2005

LI received a letter from a friend yesterday. We’d asked what he thought about the Badiou posts, and he said he’d comment after he knew where we were going.

Where are we going?

As we said before, the thing that concerns us here is what Badiou could mean, as a philosopher, by claiming that there are four independent domains that generate different truth procedures. These domains are: science, politics, art, and love.

Now, whether or not one thinks that science is defined by its truth procedures, it is easy to figure out what that claim would mean. Whether you take truth to be correspondence to an object – hence, the fight over whether realism, which claims the objects of science are real, or anti-realism, which claims that they are somehow artifices – or whether you take truth to be correspondence – thus, the debate over whether science consolidates its ‘discoveries” in such a way that coherence with previous discoveries and theories is preserved, or whether it proceeds by discontinuous paradigms, each themselves coherent, you can still easily understand what Badiou is talking about.

There is, however, a third school which has a different idea about the truth. This truth is the Capital T truth. In this school, represented by Heidegger in the last century, truth depends on disclosure. A positivist reading of such a claim would say, sure, the chain of evidence has to be clear, and clearly the clues for understanding the truth of an event refer to something that can’t, strictly, be present, so disclosure, as a secondary factor, is important in discovering the truth. But Heidegger was making a stronger point. It is disclosure itself, unveiling, apokalupsis, that never to be preserved moment, which is what makes the truth the truth. In other words, the truth isn’t affirmed by referring its claim to those canons of logic that would make revelation legitimate – no, the moment itself, the presenting of the present, is the truth. Derrida, with that exemplary malice of his, wrote an essay on this moment as the apocalyptic moment, with apocalypse, by various forced etymologies, leading us back to the moment that the bride is stripped bare by the exemplary bachelor, the groom. A bareness that is both instantiated and ceremonially represented by the removal of the veil. It is, in Derrida’s account, a sexual event – or constitutive of the truth of sex, and the irreducible sexual supplement of the truth.

However, let’s suspend our Derrida talk. The important thing is to see that the disclosure notion of truth is the point of convergence for, on the one side, logic, and on the other side, events. This is important for Badiou. The eventimential (which we will call it, dragging a term with a slight change of letters from the French into the English) – the eventimential turn – is how we know that Badiou is not a sixties philosopher, and why a philosopher like Deleuze fascinates and repels him. We seem, here, to have finally jimmied truth out of that depressing job it has been doing since the logical positivists decided to try to make it a mere function in a formal language (which, famously, never succeeded). The truth, since then, has been working like a princess in a hamburger joint. It is exciting to think that the Truth can be rescued from the infinite abjection, not to mention the French fry smell, of such circumstances.

There is also an analytic tradition of interpreting events. We will cover a bit of that in the next post, then go on and finish up this Badiou stuff.

Friday, March 11, 2005

At the end of Un, Multiple, an examination of Deleuze’s work in response to critics of his book on Deleuze, the Clamor of Being, Badiou gives his sotie/enemy (G-D) a backhanded compliment:

“Let’s recall that in our eyes, one of Deleuze’s cardinal virtues is to have hardly ever utilized, in his own name, all the ‘modern’ deconstructionist train [tout l’attirail déconstructiviste"moderne"] and to have been, without the least complex, a metaphysician (or, more than this, a physicist, in the presocratic sense of the term).”

There’s a cautionary note for the writers of a blog named after one of Derrida’s essays. In fact, we are going to put in place some of that deconstructive machinery in spite of Badiou’s evident horror of it. Reader, beware.

As we said in our last post, Badiou’s theses on art interest us as much for what they tell us about Badiou’s peculiar sense of truth as for his aesthetics. Formally, what Badiou might object to here is that, once again, deconstruction obstinately refuses to allow the author the freedom to decide the topic and its order – in other words, it grounds its critique of mastery in a pointless preliminary struggle with the master before he has even made a claim to that status, confusing vandalism and guerilla warfare, mugging and wrestling with Jacob's angel. But let’s put that objection aside for a moment, even as we reluctantly note its pertinence. Here, in LI’s translation, are the first six theses.

Theses on contemporary art

1. Art is not the sublime descent of the infinite into the finite abjection of the body and the genitals. On the contrary, it is the production, by the finite mean of a material subtraction, of an infinite subjective series.
2. Art can’t be the expression of the particular, be it ethnic or egoist [moïque]. It is the impersonal production of a truth which addresses itself to all [qui s’address a tous].
3. The truth of which art is the process is always the truth of the sensible qua sensible. Which means: transformation of the sensible into the event of the Idea.
4. There is necessarily a plurality of arts, and whatever may be the imaginable intersections among them, no totalisation of this plurality is, itself, imaginable.
5. All art came from an impure form, and the purification fo that impurity composes the history both of the artistic truth and its extenuation.
6. The subjects of an artistic truth are the works that compose it.

Notice, first, that these are not axioms or aphorisms. As theses, they have a semi-logical coherence – they hang together, even if their order is not logically deductive. Yet, as much as a thesis is so carved out of human conversation as to be more like a ritual utterance in a courtroom than a dialogue, Badiou has chosen to start off with a negation that is clearly dialogical. One wants to ask: who said art is the sublime descent into bodies and genitals (the genital portion might be a better translation of sexe, here)?

We could name the names. Badiou even supposes that we could. He himself doesn’t, though, isolating the enonce from the agent, the reference, the proper name, all the irritating paraphernalia that would load us down – the attirail -- which actually produced it. Isn't this, according to Marx, the mark of the birth of ideology -- when men bow down to the idols of their brains? But let's try to be more sympathetic, here. If, indeed, the "not" is an obvious not -- if Badiou is beginning with a topic that is known to the extent that anyone reading him can be presumed to know all about it, than the name would merely add an undeserved authority to the propostion. The name could, of course, be Bataille. But as it is, it is an x, no name.

So what, one wants to know, is the truth about the “sublime descent of the infinite into the finite abjection of the body and the genitals, ‘ and what would be the procedure for determining it? And would this procedure be artistic – or would it be about art, deriving from somewhere else -- say, philosophy?

LI’s idea is that a lot depends on the infinite, here. We are given a hint by the yoking together of sublime and descent – an inversion of the Kantian sublime, which is an ascent, indeed, an incommensurability, rather than a vertigo. Perhaps it is out of the proportions, or disproportions, forged in that Kantian sublime that the disproportion between the infinite – which may be an object of Reason, here – and the finite – that downward direction – takes place, or rather – is denied its place. Whatever it is, it isn’t art. The glance downward – a deconstructionist such as LI can’t help but think of the moment in Restitutions in which Derrida quotes Freud’s essay on fetishism, which postulates the (male) infant's upward gaze meeting the impossible object, Mother without a penis, and so looks, immediately, downward, to Mother’s foot – and the series that follows that archetypal moment of looking away. It is, of course, a boobytrapped series: it is boobytrapped by its finiteness, by the object that satisfies it only by provoking the hollowest orgasm, the one that builds around dissatisfaction, the boob that is, indeed, a trap, an exploding cigar, a shoe, panties, hose.

So: this odd thesis that reads like a reply to a fragment of conversation, and the sign that delimits art: no fetishists allowed. The material subtraction (of what?) will have to be faced. There is a reward for that, too: an infinite subjective series. This is where the infinite is supposed to go, then. Leaving, for the moment, the question unanswered: where are these truths uncovered?

If the first thesis separates the (little) boys from the fetishists, the second thesis pushes us, the receivers of the thesis, into the universal by another subtraction, this one of the expression of the particular. This, it turns out, is something art can’t be (ne saurait être). The “can not” in English doesn’t exactly correspond to the phrase in French. But it seems clear enough that, by forebidding another slot in the possible slots of things that art can be, we are getting somewhere. However, what is this movement? On the one hand, perhaps this is a fancy way of saying, identity politics is boring and makes art boring. But this statement is stronger than that. It isn’t just that art that mixes identity politics into the mix is bad – it isn’t art at all. So art, here, is detached from its sociological status, which would say, this is art merely because it is so indicated by the institutions that make art. Badiou is using truth, then, to pull us into a game that we have seen played before. Played, in fact, in the nineteenth century. In this game, the definition contains, in itself, the norms that give us an ideal of the object. The badness in art, then, is that thing in the art that pulls it away from being art. So that the truth of art, the truth made by art, the truth through which art is, will separate itself by its being itself from the untruth that art is not, the personal, the ethnic, the egotistical – the confession that does not rise above the quality of a note passed between students in a high school class, for instance.
Since this is a thesis about contemporary art, we could, to see if this statement is true, compare it to contemporary art practices – this would, in fact, be the critical thing to do. If we look at art from, say, 1900 on, it seems, on the surface, to be doing something different from Badiou’s claim for contemporary art – it seems to be continually searching for ways to be in relation to what isn’t art, and those ways have consisted, in part, of the ethnic, the sexual, the personal. Robert Lowell’s poems, Kiki Smith’s sculptures, or even Robert Walser’s Bleistiftschriften come to mind. Plus, of course, the curious inversion created by excluding bad art from good art in the definition of an art seeking the outside of art – for doesn’t this mean that art will seek bad art as its forbidden other? And isn’t this a return to the perversion from which, in our first thesis, we were seeking liberation?

But basta! LI doesn’t do this very often, but, what the hell. We will move from these theses to the theses on the Universal tomorrow, if we can, to explain -- or complain -- about Badiou's concept of the event.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Frege ridiculed the formalist conception of mathematics by saying that the formalists confused the unimportant thing, the sign, with the important, the meaning. Surely, one wishes to say, mathematics does not treat of dashes on a bit of paper. Frege's idea could be expressed thus: the propositions of mathematics, if they were just complexes of dashes, would be dead and utterly uninteresting, whereas they obviously have a kind of life. And the same, of course, could be said of any propositions: Without a sense, or without the thought, a proposition would be an utterly dead and trivial thing. And further it seems clear that no adding of inorganic signs can make the proposition live. And the conclusion which one draws from this is that what must be added to the dead signs in order to make a live proposition is something immaterial, with properties different from all mere signs.

But if we had to name anything which is the life of the sign, we have to say that it is its use. – Wittgenstein

To read Badiou for the first time is a confusing experience. The vocabulary, for one – it seems to mix terms of art from radically different spheres. There is something especially daunting about the use of mathematical terms and concepts. Partly, this is due to LI’s shaky knowledge of mathematics – the last time we did a geometric proof was about the same time we were drooling over the girls on the Drill Team. We’ve never been highly math literate. However, as the years go by, we have acquired some knowledge about the philosophy of mathematics. If we have no talent for equations, we like to think we are ace in the pattern recognition department.

But partly this is also due to our sense that the intrusion of terms of art, here, is unwarranted. We are reminded of Johnson’s strictures on the metaphysical poets:

“Their thoughts are often new, but seldom natural; they are not obvious, but neither are they just; and the reader, far from wondering that he missed them, wonders more frequently by what perverseness of industry they were ever found.”

Or, to quote that scene in Apocalypse now:

" They told me that you had gone totally insane and that your
methods were unsound."

" Are my methods unsound?"

" I don't see any method at all, sir."

Badiou has written about this reaction to his work:

“My father was an old student of the Ecole Normale Superieure specializing in mathematics; my mother was an old student of the Ecole Normale Superieure specializing in French. I am an old studend of the Ecole Normale Superior specializing in.. well, what? Philosophy, meaning, without a doubt, the only possibility of assuming that double filiation, of circulating freely between literary maternity and paternal mathematics. It is a lesson for philosophy itself, as I conceive it, and that I have summed up in the following declaration: the language of philosophy always occupies, or always constructs, its own space between the matheme and the poem, between the mother and the father, that’s all.

"There is someone who has seen this very well: my colleague Jacques Bouveress of the College du France. In a recent book where he did me the honor of speaking of me, he compared me to a hare with eight paws and said, in substance: this eight legged hare, Alain Badiou, hurries as quickly as he can in the direction of mathematical formalism, and then suddenly, under the impulse of some incomprehensible aim, he turns around exactly and with the same speed hurries to throw himself into literature.” Well, yes, this is how, with a mother and father like mine, one becomes a hare.”

For LI, this is an important passage – not philosophically important, but important insofar as it allows us to have a retain a certain patience with Badiou. And it especially explains the way in which, in his mathematical mode, Badiou can sometimes appear to be a martinet -- one imagines the math teacher in the provinces bearing down on his charges.

It is easy to be impatient with philosophers – first, they write in atrocious jargon, and second, they often say things that seem so obviously wrong that the first impression becomes impenetrable. The French, obviously, haven’t adopted the tales of Uncle Remus to their heart – as they have Edgar Allan Poe – or the natural reference, here, would have been to Bre’r Rabbit and the Tarbaby, one of LI’s favorite of all tales. In my dictionary, lievre is defined as a “mammifère qui vit en liberté.” Well, like Elmer Fudd, we are going to catch that wabbit, but we are also going to pursue it with the full knowledge that there is something cartoon like about the whole hunting metaphor.

Next post (perhaps) is going to be about Badiou’s idea about ‘truth” and art. We’ll look at what he has to say in this interview, as well as in his fifteen theses. We are more concerned by the place held by truth in his philosophy than his aesthetics Badiou’s peculiar conceptualization of truth is the core of what makes us think that Badiou is not, philosophically, on our side, much as we'd like him to be.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Who was it who described wrote about the “melancholic tradition of mimeticism” which gave us all those Greek anecdotes about pigeons pecking at Apelles paintings of fruit and the like? One of those anecdotes is Leonardo da Vinci’s claim – which LI culled from Schiller’s article in the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences – about an artist who painted a picture that was so vivid that anyone who stood in front of it was bound to yawn – since it was a picture of a yawning man.

Yawning is, of course, one of those mysterious mimetic behaviors – Aristotle compared its apparent contagiousness in men to the donkey’s irresistible inclination to urinate if it spots another donkey urinating. Which, given LI’s limited contact with donkeys lately, we haven’t been able to scientifically validate. However, there is something entrancingly meta about a painting of a behavior that is popularly considered mimetic framed by a discourse that considers painting to be modeled on certain canons of imitation.

Schiller’s essay cites another, more ambiguous response to the mimetic situation in animal studies:

“This brings us back to the oral aggressiveness of yawning. It finds a surprizing parallel in the experimental field, including the sexual aspect. Thus two Nigerian Patas monkeys, a male and female, produced what looked like yawning when they were exposed to mirrors, either fixed or hand held. They would also lick and chew them. The male displayed penile erection or masturbation at the same time. Yawning was repeated up to 23 times in rapid succession and would gradually diminish to a total of 67 yawns in 10 minutes as the mirror was losing its sense of novelty (Hall, 1962).”

That yawning or masturbation is the primal response to self examination is, from a philosophical perspective, a rather unpleasant thought. However, skipping bravely ahead, LI is bringing up the yawning topic to warn our readers that we are planning a post about the French philosopher Badiou. The mention of philosophy usually clears the room around here – so be warned.

When we vanished from graduate school (grad students, much more than old soldiers, don’t die, they just fade and fade and fade away), we had finished a master’s thesis that dealt with such French philosophes as Derrida and Deleuze. Lately, in taking a gingerly stroll around the web, we’ve discovered that today’s continentals are all about Badiou. Or at least there are a lot of excellent sites about him: Undercurrent (which, malheureusement, has gone under), is a good place to start. There is also a really smart philosophical site, Charlotte Street, which we’ve been planning on adding to our blogdex or whatever the hell you call the links section. We’ve already added Infinite Thought to our blogdex. The deleuzian journal, The Pli, introduction.html often has articles on Badiou-ian topics.

As for the man himself, he is widely distributed over the Net. We’ve included his site on contemporary French philo on our blogfuckingdex already. We particularly recommend reading his autobiographical sketch, The Philosopher’s Pledge (l’aveu du philosophe) and his 8 Theses on the Universal (like Luther, Badiou has a weakness for nailing up theses. It is an interesting early modern genre – mixing the axiomatic with the polemical, and allowing a certain hurried simultaneity of propositions – rather like a confused but inspiriting charge across a battlefield – in which all are held in semi-isolation, the logic of their dependence one on the other being, it seems, partly up to the reader to decide). Here, to continue the theses theme, are 15 theses on art – which is what LI will probably be discussing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

In the last two or three months, you could squeeze the NYT as hard as you like but you wouldn’t produce a tenth of the news about Iraq that you get from, say, one visit to the daily war news blog. The new propaganda phase re America’s loveable situation comedy version of the Chechnya war, set in a Mesopotamia far, far away, where darling women show their little purple smudged fingers and are surely preparing to embrace Jesus if we only let them, is not to report it at all. So, for instance, where is the report that the British transport plane that was shot out of the sky in December might have been brought down from a height of 15,000 feet? –the first example of the use of the shoulder mounted anti-aircraft missiles that we all know are out there, distributed like popcorn to various jihadists by the CIA in the Afghan liberation thing (remember how we were all for Islam back in the day? ah, our sweet semi alliance with Osama, before islamo-anticommunism – so good, and good for you, unless you happen to be a woman without a burkha -- became islamofascism – so bad, and unliberty lovin’), and surely available for the taking from weapons dumps that the American soldiery was too understaffed to guard – getting more understaffed as the weapons so looted were turned upon that soldiery.

Well, who cares? Three soldiers one day, four the next – the best way to support the troops is to forget about em, let em die anonymously, fuck em, remember not to clutter up good newsprint with their names when you have to devote as much time as possible to faux news such as Martha Stewart’s transition into a parole officer’s problem, take every lie and misstatement doled out by the Central Command and treat it like holy writ if you write anything until the time limit is up on journalistic brown-nosing – oh, some hardhitting report on what really happened might be in order in a decade or two, or in somebody’s book – tie that yellow ribbon round the family credit card that the widows will have to pay off, maybe a little on your back work, with the hearty support of the Republican congress, now brought to you by Visa, as the country goes back to the ownership society ideals exemplified by Jim Crow and our founding father’s willingness to treat that labor problem with the overseer’s whip. Which is, apparently, the new meaning of the conservative fondness for original intent.

Monday, March 07, 2005

LI’s NYC correspondent, T., went to a Fortean meeting – or rather, a meeting of a dissident Fortean group. The meeting was, he thought, scheduled to be held in a Times Square bar he fondly remembered. Here is the report:

Oh my, was I wrong. First of all, I had this image in my mind of the joint - that I had been there, drank there.... - nope. Generally non-descript Greek diner and non-descript "bar" that looked just like the mauve/floral print/fake redwood diner. The "meeting" was not; it was, rather, a couple of people getting together for dinner. I mean: I prepared some material! So, after three of four minutes of disappointment, I began to enjoy the company.

I met and had some very nice conversations with, in particular, Joe and Sam [not their real names- ed.]. Joe is a big fine kind gentlemen who has a particular interest in the vagaries of the human condition. Specifically, he told me about his meetings with Otherkins - those who believe themselves to be descended from, variously, angels, dragons, vampires, elves etc....those who have overdosed on Tolkien. Sam shared his stereoscopic photos from the annual Guy Fawkes celebration: lots of anti-Papist feeling and lots of bonfires and explosions - looks like a hell of a lot of fun. He then shared some more photos, the subject of which looked very familiar to me, but not exactly. Yes, its him, rather older than the last time I saw him, but he, one of my most favorite writers: Samuel R. Delaney. I quickly learned that Sam is working on a documentary film on SRD. So we "talked shop" about his books for a time.

Which brings me to a point to be made: these Forteans (insiders, outcasts, pseudo-, whatever), these factions - they, in a sense, know their "stuff" too well; they very rarely have anything that you might term a 'context' for the stuff that interests them; and, for this I am generally a bit sad, they are too often surprised that a non-Fortean might share an interest in and a knowledge of their "stuff".

As for the factional feelings of these outcasts toward The International Fortean Society: it seems that its got everything to do with a well-known phenomena: the legacy of the founder and access to that source. Additionally, it seems that the guardian of the Fortean flame is a real pill; if these few have characterized her even remotely accurately, she is unpleasant on a good day.

Most uncharacteristically, I suggested as I was leaving that we do this again. I suggested further (oh no!) that some materials should be prepared by someone and presented at the next gathering. If this role falls on me (as it should since I was the dumbass that suggested it), I think that I'll do a few minutes on Hacking's stuff on multiple personality: I think that his method of analysis would be very helpful to this crowd.”

T. is lucky he didn’t fall into a “window area” – a term of art coined by Fortean John Keel to explain the strange doings in Point Pleasant, West Virginia that he made semi famous in his book, Prophecies of the Mothman:

Certain areas appear to be routinely visited by Fortean events. Depending upon your interests, these locales may be called “haunted places,” “monster countries,” “spook light sites,” “triangles,” or “windows.” John Keel created the concept and indeed coined the word, as well as certainly popularizing the notion of “windows” when he first talked about them menacingly and humorously in his articles and books of the 1970s. Although he introduced the idea in UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse in 1970, most people relate the term “window” to the area around Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Keel’s book about it, The Mothman Prophecies (1975).

“The phenomena he records,” wrote Jerome Clark in High Strangeness (1996), “exemplify the window at its bizarre best: Over a period of many months UFO activity is frequent, sometimes so frequent that people go UFO-hunting on a nightly basis with reasonable expectations of sighting something. The sightings include events ranging from distant observations to close encounters. Paranormal activity of other sorts often amplifies as well; the Point Pleasant area was also a hotbed for encounters with men in black and a monstrous creature known as Mothman. This full panoply of phenomena accompanies some long-term, narrow-distribution waves; in others the window opens wide enough to admit only UFOs.”

On the other hand, the experience of deja non-vu – T.’s thinking it was one bar, when it turned out to be another – might be a variant of the window area – call it the “tinted window” effect. We’ll be following this story closely, and bringing our readers late breaking bulletins if anything happens – or, more critically, if anything doesn’t.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

“The raccoon penis is a reminder of his hustler times at truck stops across southern America - the pendant is a sexual talisman in the southern states…” – The Observer.

Umm. The British still don’t quite, shall we say, understand primitive peoples outside their island. But LI does like the idea that the good bourgeois in the Red States, after fixing up the raccoon stew, have just that special use for the thang bone.

While the Observer goes on to celebrate the cult genius of a writer, JT Leroy, who seems to be spooning out the usual mixture of prostitution and transvestitism – closing that infinitesimal gap between Jerry Springer and William Burroughs – LI has been reading another Stephen Wright novel, Going Native.

Stephen Wright has not had a large output: Meditations in Green, M31: A Family Romance, and Going Native across a stretch of thirty years. The first novel won the Maxwell Perkins award, the very name of which has an antique air of virtue – one imagines a mix of John O’Hara and John Cheever going off to teach creative writing, for all eternity, in Iowa. Surely one of the hells designed for writers in some religion or other.

Wright was interviewed by Contemporary Literature in 96, after Going Native came out. Here is what he says about coming back here, after serving in Vietnam:

“Q. I was struck by your comment, "It was the big event." That remark reminds me of Hemingway and Mailer.
A. I think it is still the big event. I think it explains everything going on politically, culturally, and economically. I think it's pretty pathetic, actually. I can't even think about it for too long without getting infuriated. Why did we have all these years of this Republican crap, and this whole turn to conservative nonsense, and the kind of gloom and mean-spiritedness that is pervading the country? I don't even know when it's been like this before. It comes from being pissed off. I think it starts with "We lost a war." I just feel like saying, "Let's grow up." I mean, really! I've reached a point where I think that this is in many ways a pretty gutless country. You know, Americans like to think of themselves as one of the finer examples of the human species on the planet--that we represent everything that's good and fine and true in the human character. But what I see around me is a lot of gutlessness on every level. I think what we're going through is a very bad, long, and troubled adolescence, and I think Vietnam was puberty. I just hoped it would end sooner. It doesn't even seem as though it's going to end. “

And this is what he says about writing:
Q. Tell us what you aim for in your writing.
A. I forget where Virginia Woolf says this, but it's the best explanation, something that I agree with 100 percent. She says something to the effect that the good reader reads for vision and power. And that's it. Period. It's not for politics, it's not for social mores, it's not to fulfill some thesis you're working on in your head or to justify your way of life--that's a bad reader. A good reader reads for vision and power. And vision and power is in Charles Dickens as much as it's in Samuel Beckett. The technique is irrelevant. All this stuff about considering that writing is advancing or going somewhere, and then you have to discard this and attach that--it's all nonsense.”

Is there any question as to why LI loves this writer? Later in the interview Wright makes the interesting point that he is influenced by TV and David Hume – and that seems to work. Imagine a Humean horror show, in which the horror is the disconnect between cause and effect separating characters into victims – trying desperately to knit those categories back together, or ignoring the rip altogether – and travelers – who exploit that disconnection – and you get a fair sense of Going Native and M31. Then read the final chapter in M31, when the sky lights up with ectoplasmic space ships over DC. Or read, as a piece of sheer movement, the crack chapter in Going Native. This is CD, who, with Lateisha, is the centerpiece of the chapter:

‘He had come into the room to either retrieve an object or relate something important to Lateisha, neither of which was apparent to him now; he returned to the bathroom to see if what he had lost could be found there. Then he was back, staring at the clothes at his feet and a strange pair of black briefs. Men’s. Holding the article daintily aloft between two curled fingers, he searched through the house. Latisha was nowhere to be found. In the kitchen he checked and rechecked the locks on the windows, then became absorbed in cleaning the panes with a homemade mixture of ethanol and the juice of four lemons purchased weeks ago as a preventative against scurvy. He stood at the back door for the longest time. He swept the floor. Passing through the living room, he was diverted by the black oak out there on the lawn. There was a man hiding behind the trunk. While he waited for the man to show himself again, he took his pulse. The beat seemed rapid, rapid but not excessively so, already perhaps steady and strong, certainly lacking the telltale squishy note of a perforated chamber or malfunctioning valve or clogged artery. He had to stop the smoking tomorrow. He couldn’t go on like this.”

To LI’s mind, the crack cocaine here, is almost peripheral – or, rather, operates to amplify the zoo trance in which humanoids can spend their days, in whatever cages they find themselves in, the electric work of habit laying down lines of automatism that track through every environment, under the clothes and down the arteries, the brain’s spatter of constant channel changing as one day is piled up on top of the next in aimless, wobbly piles until we dump the whole thing in a hole in the ground or burn it and put the bone splinter ashes in an urn.

Which sounds like a gloomy magic trick, and is certainly not all there is to Wright or the human condition. The vision and power are the rings of light around even such as CD. So pick up one of the guys novels and read it, will you?