a failure

… il avait tué la marionette. – Paul Valery

Sometimes LI bears a striking image to a fly dying at the base of a window. The fly keeps bumping against that congealed air that 350 million years of evolution had never warned him against. The fly’s experience of the world, which is, as is well known, a place divided into 360 spaces, each space radiating a certain glow, and the edge of each space grading into the edge of the next space save when the edges parted to make a passage just exactly equal in width to the width of a fly’s body, seems, for magical reasons, no longer to work. In addition, something seems to be happening in the back behind the eyes, the load, as the fly would name it, that it always carries about and that sometimes gets sexually excited. Something seems to be squeezing the load. Normally, a pressure like this would prompt the fly to escape, but lately the 360 spaces seem to be liquefying to such a degree that they no longer scatter to the fly’s wingbeats. This is not good news. And, as the fly falls over, there flashes through its mind, absurdly, the first line of an old joke: “waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”

So – this is the sitch with LI vis a vis our attempt to get together a nice post on De Quincey and the disconnected giant. This is the new modernist giant, the giganticism that consists of unexpected and unlimited multiplication.

But before I get to De Quincey and Baudelaire – maybe next post – I will tell you a dream.

Actually, although this dream happened to me, I don’t really remember it happening to me. It happened to me when I was a child. I was lying in bed, and – as I often did when I was a child – I was rocking from side to side. Rocking from side to side was how I got to sleep. But on this occasion, I was in bed abnormally early, because I was sick. I was feverish. And – according to my parents – I started screaming. So my parents came into my room to see what was wrong, and I said that my hands had grown so big and so heavy that I could no longer hold them up. This dream is something I heard later from my parents, who thought it was funny. Not that they were cruel about it, but later, after I was over my fever, we all laughed at my panicked idea that my hands were these enormous, separate entities. And, if I make an effort, I can still communicate a bit with that faint speck of myself so long ago. I can see – or at least sense – the enormity of those white, moist, wildly growing hands.


Qlipoth said…
At the age of six or seven I was sent home from school after telling the teacher quite calmly that I had the whole world in my mouth. I remember the feeling quite well. For the next few days I was bedbound, and the bed kept swooping.

- Rilke:


...I am lying in my bed five flights up, and my day, which nothing interrupts, is like a clock-face without hands. As something that has been lost for a long time reappears one morning in its old place, safe and sound, almost newer than when it vanished, just as if someone had been taking care of it--: so, here an there on my blanket, lost feelings out of my childhood lie and are like new. All the lost fears are here again.

...The fear that a small woolen thread sticking out of the hem of my blanket may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my night-shirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumb which just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, for ever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one ought to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; the fear that I may be lying on granite, on gray granite; the fear that I may start screaming, and people will come running to my door and finally force it open, the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I dread, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything, because everything is unsayable,--and the other fears... the fears.

...I prayed to rediscover my childhood, and it has come back, and I feel that it is just as difficult as it used to be, and that growing older has served no purpose at all.
roger said…
Wow. That quote knocks me for a loop! Goddamn it, I hate it that Rilke, about whom I feel, to say the least, ambiguous, knows these things so well, has gone down in that microworld so expertly.
Amie said…
LI, sorry to harangue you with another quote - and one from Rilke into the bargain. hey now, I'm more with De Quincey and Baudelaire than the Rilke man, but your post and the incredible quote from Qlipoth jolted something into memory from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.
As you know, the notebooks are based on Rilke's trip to Paris in order to meet and write about Rodin, though the latter is not even mentioned in the notebooks which are however replete with Rilke's fear of failure, and of his attempt to learn to 'look'. ( which starts me thinking of 'looking' at Berlin in HUB, and your comment that, 'the reader has to see something that is impossible to see, which is: how he sees.')
Rilke writes, "I am afraid. One must take some action against fear, once one has come down with it." Here's the preceding section. ( The text in German is on Project Gutenberg. )

Have I said it before? I am learning to see. Yes, I am beginning. It's still going badly. But I intend to make the most of my time.
For example, it never occurred to me how many faces there are. There are multitudes of people, but there are many more faces, because each person has several of them. There are people who wear the same face for years; naturally, it wears out, gets dirty, splits at the seams, stretches like gloves worn during a long journey. They are thrifty, uncomplicated people; they never change it, never even have it cleaned. Of course, since they have several faces, you might wonder what they do with the other ones. They keep them in storage. Their children will wear them. But sometimes it happens that their dogs go out wearing them. And why not? A face is a face.
Other people change faces incredibly fast, put on one after another and wear them out(...)their last one is worn through in a week, has holes in it, is in many places as thin as paper, and then, little by little, the lining shows through, the non-face and they walk around with that.
But the woman, the woman: she had completely fallen into herself, forward into her hands. It was on the corner of rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. I began to walk quietly as soon as I saw her. When poor people are thinking they shouldn't be disturbed. Perhaps their idea will soon occur to them.
The street was too empty; its emptiness had gotten bored and pulled my steps out from under my feet and clattered around in them, all over the street, as if they were wooden clogs. The woman sat up, frightened, she pulled out of herself, too quickly, too violently, so that her face was left in her two hands. I could see it lying there: its hollow form. It cost me an indescribable effort to stay with those two hands, not to look at what had been torn out of them. I shuddered to see a face from the inside, but I was much more afraid of that bare flayed head waiting there, faceless.
Qlipoth said…
From 'Company', by Beckett:

A small boy you come out of Connolly's Stores holding your mother by the hand. You turn right and advance in silence southward along the highway. After some hundred paces you head inland and broach the long steep homeward. You make ground in silence hand in hand through the warm still summer air. It is late afternoon and after some hundred paces the sun appears above the crest of the rise. Looking up at the blue sky and then at your mother's face you break the silence asking her if it is not in reality much more distant than it appears. The sky that is. The blue sky. Receiving no answer you mentally reframe your question and some hundred paces later look up at her face again and ask her if it does not appear much less distant than in reality it is. For some reason you could never fathom this question must have angered her exceedingly. For she shook off your little hand and made you a cutting retort you have never forgotten.