“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

Thursday, December 23, 2010


This is the worst thing I'll have to write on this blog...

I’ve been debating with myself this week about this post. In the end, I need to say something.

Amie, who contributed to LI and whose friendship over the last four years has been one of the important things in my life – Amie died in September.

I learned this at the beginning of the week, and I am still in shock. Supposedly you can tell the weather of centuries ago by sawing down a tree and examining the tree rings – they register all the disasters. I feel like some similar organic disturbance has happened in me since I received word of her death. If you saw me in half fifty years from now and examined the innards, surely some mark, some trace – Amie would love the word trace – will make it obvious that something happened Christmas week, 2010.

I can’t accept her death. Not when, after all the storms she had passed through, she was finally entering into the sweetness of life. I can’t accept this flaw in the structure of the universe. There’s a moment in The Man Who Was Thursday when the hero, Syme, describes the strange sensation of being in a world where everything is not quite right – where the tree seems, somehow, like the back of a tree, and the sky like the back of the sky – when we see that the world really is seen through a glass, darkly. Some people never experience these moments, I think – and some forget them quickly. Amie’s death has opened up that world to me this week, because I think that it is impossible that this could be the world in which Amie died. I do recognize this world. But I don’t accept it – I want to chew it up and spit it out of my mouth.

My friendship with her was impossible. I think we started writing to each other in 2006. I have perhaps 200 emails from her of varying lengths, all written with her mixture of elegance and utter intensity – Amie always pressed as hard as she could against life, like she was trying to force a jammed door. For me, she was an almost perfect email partner – I felt that we were collaborators on a vast intellectual enterprise, for which I really do not have a name. Perhaps it is merely the enterprise to tear down all the blinders between the simple act of putting on a sock and poetry. And we both felt strongly that we were struggling in an evident wreck of a culture that has tried to purge poetry from every pore of its being in preference not to the sock, for that would be simply one of the masks of poetry – but to making it on the cheap and selling it at a profit and skipping the whole experience of putting on a sock. In the infinite web of badly made socks and the human drain of 10 hour days, the world is clearly damned unless of course there are crazy corner souls to save it.

I came to Paris to live with A., in September of this year. I came for A. alone - whether Paris or Nome, I didn't care. However, I fully expected to meet Amie at last. I was so close to her, and yet I don’t even know what Amie looked like – I never asked her for a photograph. I liked our ‘blind’ friendship, I liked being compagnon de route in the night, so to speak. She did too, I think. And when she ceased emailing me, I didn’t know what to think. Amie was never afraid of the large things – but could she have been afraid of meeting me at last in the flesh? That is what I thought.

It never occurred to me to think that she was dead. How could I ever think that?

Two quotes for Amie. One is from a letter she wrote to me. In it, she quoted a favorite passage in Cixous and added a comment:

”’L'orange est un instant. Ne pas oublier l'orange est une chose. Rappeler l'orange est une autre chose. La rejoindre en est une autre. Il faut au moins trois temps pour commencer à comprendre l'immensité infinie de l'instant.”

I remember leaving a hospital in Paris, sitting in a park and eating an orange, the joy.”

The second is from The Man who was Thursday:

“Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? … So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter.”


duncan said...

oh how terrible :-( this is a very small thing, but i always felt amie was the only commenter here who wrote in the spirit of the blog, attuned to the deeper sources of the enterprise, not just to content or affect. very sad news. condolences, to you and anyone reading who knew amie . :-(

roger said...

Duncan, thanks! I feel like Amie was one of the people - like Nicole - who are sharp right out of the box, but were never simply sharp - always having a very strong sense of the proportion of their sharpness to the vastness of the universe, so to speak. Genuine kindness.
I can't really believe it. But I am beginning to.

Anonymous said...

I first met Amie in 1998. I was sitting at a bar in NYC and heard someone ask me if the seat next to me was taken, I sad it wasn't and she sat down next to me. She glanced at the book I was reading - it was Dostoevsky's Idiot - and gave a little smile. I would get to know and love that little smile. After a while she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered me one. I didn't even smoke but for some reason I took one and promptly started coughing from the filterless french cigarettes she preferred. Strong huh, she said. Not as strong as you Amie, not anywhere as sweet. I tried to get back to the book but was interrupted again by her, waving her cigarette at the TV and asking me to explain what was going on. It's a baseball game I told her and then had to explain baseball to her. We spent hours talking that evening, total strangers though we were, and we did eventually get around to The Idiot. Years later, she would laugh and say you must have thought another idiot was sitting next to you. No dear Amie, you were never an idiot, whatever your fondness for "holy fools". I told her once that the chance meeting with her was a gift from the gods. She replied, I hope you know gods are trecharous bastards. I was to meet her in Paris this September, stay with her. You were right about the gods, Amie. I hope no one will mind - I know you won't - if I don't speak of you but continue to speak to you, listen to you. I've been thinking of those lines by Derrida you took to heart, would recite by heart, of always preferring life and affirming survival, of smiling from beyond the grave, of love. I remember your fierce unshakeable faith - body and soul - in love, your faith and wager in life and love over death. This is really really painful, Amie. I don't know if I can take it, but I'll find a way, with your help, the memory of your love, your joy, your smile.

I'd like to leave a quote for Amie, a film clip and a song. The poem and film are something Amie wrote about as part of a text she wanted to write. Perhaps it will be possible to publish some of her writing on the web someday.

The excerpt is from Poemes de Samuel Wood. I'd like to quote the entire thing beginning with the stanza C'est elle encore souriant debout. Parmi les asters at les roses...., but will quote just this


« Si faire entendre une voix venue d'ailleurs
Inaccessible au temps et à l'usure
Se révèle non moins illusoire qu'un rêve
Il y a pourtant en elle quelque chose qui dure
Même après que s'en est perdu le sens
Son timbre vibre encore au loin comme un orage
Dont on ne sait s'il se rapproche ou s'en va »

Louis-René des Forêts, Poèmes de Samuel Wood




Anonymous said...

Roger, I should have said this in the previous comment. Thank you for this memorial for Amie and your friendship. I hope some of her other friends read it as well. An impossible friendship you said. I told her more than once that she was impossible, and she really was in more than one way. I wouldn't be surprised if others said or thought the same. She'd laugh and say I'll take that as a compliment, if you don't mind. And this from someone who was generally quite impatient and bugged by compliments. Impossible yet nevertheless she touched people, I've seen genuine shock and sorrow on the faces of people I told of her death who barely knew her. It can't just be that she was smart and beautiful. Maybe it's the kindness you refer to, a genuine tenderness. Which might come from the fact that she knew extremes, limits and the limitless, pain and joy. I should stop as I fear she might just come back in a dream and beat me over the head with a baseball bat. I wouldn't mind.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

amie, it's christmas eve and i can't believe you're gone, till we meet again a song


and thanks roger


Anonymous said...

I am so sad to read this... Thank you for this memorial... My deepest condolences to those who were close to Amie...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Roger. O, Amie!



Anonymous said...

It is Christmas and like many others I am missing Amie terribly, so I would like to tell a Christmas story about her. Several years ago she was in NYC and volunteered for a Christmas party at a hospice for terminally-ill children. She wasn't doing too well at the time so I tried to dissuade her but she insisted. I remember she told me, I love children and I'm intimate with shadows, I know how to chase them away. I went with her as I was worried about her. She was simply amazing, she had the kids laughing and eating out of her hand, even had the parents and other volunteers smiling.
We left together and we were walking down the street and I turned to tell her I thought she was amazing and she had tears pouring down her face. It's so fucking unjust, she kept saying.

I think this is fucking unjust. And how will we chase away the shadows without you Amie. And yes, to me she will always be simply amazing.

Thank you Roger and my deepest regards to her family and all her friends.

Since we are remembering Amie a song is necessary.



Anonymous said...

Christmas dinner with friends, remembering Amie. So hard to put her or the sense of loss into words. One thing I know, dead and Amie don't belong in the same sentence, in the same language. They render the sentence and the language meaningless, utterly useless.

To all those with friends and family for Christmas, remember to cherish the moment, find phrases that make sense, have a sense of the moment, the Cixous lines that she wrote Roger of. Amie did, as you can tell from her very simple accompanying line.

Listening to music and songs. I don't know if she knew this one.



Sarah said...

Your post has sent me back through your old pieces, looking for Amie's comments (and finding, incidentally, some wonderful previous posts).

I have no experience to match yours, but one of the wisest men I've ever known- someone I knew for only a few years and met in person only a couple of times- died suddenly with no previous illness at the age of 50. Talking about him later in the circle of friends who knew him we discovered that each of us had a story of something he had seen- and enabled us to see- that made some fundamental difference to us.

I still miss him deeply. And I still have a profound and remarkably personal sense of loss when I think of Tanta's wry, acute and funny voice on Calculated Risk.

It is remarkable how deep an impact some people can have- so much that it feels like a body blow to the soul (and that mixed metaphor seems strangely apt) to lose them- while others can go out of our lives without so much as a ripple.

roger said...

I am very happy that so many people have responded to this post.
For me, egotistically, Amie's death is a catastrophe - I felt over the last two, three years that we thought in tandem. I have had the luck in my life to find people, every once in a while, to do that difficult thing - think. Which is not a solo art. Amie was such a beautiful, such a daring and insolent thinker! I told her once that she reminded me, in the way she thought and lived, of a tightrope walker.
....And such is my little selfish pain - my larger pain is for Amie's family and friends. And for the damned, fucked up absense her death makes in the world.

northanger said...


Anonymous said...

Perhaps some of you will remember that there was an earthquake in Haiti. I am a Haitian woman and during those horrible days I was in Paris where I still live. I was pregnant with my first child. It was during those days that I got to know Amie and when I found out that my family had died in the earthquake. She was also pregnant and we had our babies very close, and she made me feel that we had a family. Now she is gone and I feel I have lost my family again. I'm saying this all to a friend who is writing it into English, I felt like I have to say something for Amie and I don't know how to end. Amie, we're still family and I will watch over your daughter don't worry.

Anonymous said...

I was unable to say anything for Amie, it is just too painful. Then I read the remarks by C. and realize that one must remember and try to speak despite the pain. And Roger's comment about her thinking and insolence brings her back so vividly to me. Thank you.
Amie and I started studying philosophy in college the same year. The first day of classes, in the noise and people filling the hallway, my eye was caught by a young girl sitting on the floor by herself outside the classroom door, smoking and reading. My first thought was, she cannot be in the same class she is much too young. The second was I hope she is as she is very beautiful. I have mercifully forgotten what it was I said to her as she sat there reading, it was undoubtedly something meant to impress. I do remember her response. She raised her head and just looked at me for a moment, then went back to her reading. I was quite full of myself at the time, it took just one look by her to puncture that balloon. Ah, Amie's insolence! I don't want to present an idealized image of her, she would strongly object to that. There was an element of provocation and of insolence in her very youth and beauty, which had no element of affectation, but there was more to it than that. It was her way of thinking. She simply couldn't abide intimidation in any form, even for reasons she respected or sympathized with. Sadly, what passes for thinking is all too often about intimidating and being intimidated. This was insufferable for her, she suffered because of it. But that did not change her sense that thinking was an adventure, a precarious path that required a daring that is the natural disposition of thought. That was her insolence. Among the reasons why she was such a wonderful interlocutor and companion, to which I can attest as did Roger and as would others.

I would like to say. remains so. Not to deny the pain and loss. Not to say things that are too grand and too fine such as I will always remember her or such people do not just die. Something remains. Something of song. That was her insolence too.

Two songs for Amie.




roger said...

David, C., North, Emily - I love it that our natural impulse is to link to music for Amie.
My music list for her over this chrismas has been heavily tilted towards Talking Heads - she wrote me once that whenever she came back to NYC, she would think of a TH song - although I can't remember which one it was.

I'm thinking of two songs in particular - Born under the Punches and This must be the place, with the latter - here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cqg_ZGcuybs) featuring David Byrne's lovely dance with the lamp.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is so strange, and yet not so. She loved those Talking Heads songs that you mention Roger.
The TH song you were wondering about that accompanied her trips to NYC is The Lady Don't Mind.


A couple of summers ago, we threw party at a bar in NYC for Amie and Michel when they were visiting. Amie, as usual, came with a few songs for the occasion, which included two TH songs. One of them was Lady Don't Mind. I listened to it on youtube today and a few other TH songs. Each time when the song finished it would say UP NEXT, and each time it would be the second song Amie played that day. The name of the song- Heaven.

Coincidence or what? I'm shaking.



Anonymous said...

Roger, I want to thank you and everyone else for their thoughts and memories of and for Amie. I've been rereading some of the letters she wrote to me over the years, quite simply because I wanted to hear her voice again, hold on to it. I can say, as others have, that she was a wonderful letter writer, they often made my day. I also often wondered why she wasn't "publishing" and would exhort her to do so, whether in journals in or even - why not - start a blog. I know I'm not the only one of her friends to do so. I came across a letter in which she wrote something about this, in which she quoted and translated.

"Journals are already books written with others. The art of writing with others is a strange symptom which foreshadows a great progress in literature. One day we will perhaps write, think, act collectively."

She continued: "This is from Novalis, as you might know. Who is a romantic and this is romanticism as everyone knows, which we are way beyond. Good for us, yay! We also all know that capitalism - do I need to put that in caps, I'm so lazy - is global, international. It's all the same everywhere then, or is it? One day we will perhaps write, think, act collectively. Have we perhaps thought enough about translation, that impossible necessary thing, which would include translating "we"? You did notice the perhaps in the quote I hope?"

Those are quite some questions, are they not. But it's just a mere letter.


Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

I linked to the Patti Smith/Rimbaud and was going to share a related memory but I started crying and couldn't. She might not want me to and there is the terrible and perhaps inevitable thing that any story of her now becomes a funerary stele or mask, neither of which she would like. But isn't it necessary to share stories and memories at such a time? Even if songs do it better. Thank you Roger for a place to do so. It has made me and some of her friends think of creating other places to do so. If possible, we would like to be able to have some of her writing there.

To go back to the memory I mention, it relates to what others have already been saying, her sense of insolence and of poetry. I also went to college with her and I remember this student meeting as we were planning to strike and protest and occupy the buildings. There was a lot of talk in the meeting about planning and demands, strategies and politics. Near the end of the meeting the student union leaders asked if anyone wanted to say something. Amie raised her hand and stood up and said - tenir le pas gagné. That is all she said. One of the student union leaders said something to the effect that we were all having a serious discussion about serious matters and pretty phrases of poetry were irrelevant to the discussion. I remember her standing there in the auditorium amid whistles and derisive laughter. Do I need to say where that was coming from? All she said in response was, OK, Lao Tzu, I hope you have a better sense of demonstrations than you do of poetry,
At the demonstration, to no surprise we ran into the CRS. But, they were in full riot gear, and came marching to meet us with visors down while banging their batons on their shields which means trouble; basically, get the hell out of here or get beaten. Many of us did run and for good reason as amidst the ensuing chaos the CRS was grabbing people, throwing them to the ground, beating them. I was about to run when I heard a voice shouting that same phrase from Rimbaud, and I recognized her voice before I turned to see her. The student leader who had admonished her was long gone but she was there, standing there and as I ran towards her I saw her fight with two CRS guys who had another student on the ground, saw them hit her more than once. She was crumpled on the ground when I got to her and she said, help me up Sarah, I'm going to get that fuck, I think the fuck broke my arm, you don't have anything I could hit him with do you, she added hopefully. You're crazy I told her, we're getting out of here. I remember her protesting, what I'm crazy, what about these fucks, pointing to the police, so that is reason. Adding, this is not the time to be discussing Hegel's Philosophy of Right, OK, some other time. Then she passed out. I got her to a hospital.

So is tenir le pas gagné just a pretty poetic phrase?


Anonymous said...

Sarah, I do remember her fondness for that phrase! I also like your idea of creating other places to remember her. It is necessary as you say to share stories and memories. It is also painful. It is not right to place such a burden on Roger alone. Thank you so much Roger for doing so.
Since we have been sharing songs here for Amie, I would like to as well. Rimbaud's Adieu made me think of another poem, another Adieu put into song by Ferré.



Anonymous said...

I agree with Norbert about not burdening Roger and the idea of creating a memorial site for Amie. I do think, before attempting the latter, someone should speak with her family and what they might think of the idea.

I shouldn't really be commenting here again then, having already done so. But that poem and performance that Norbert linked to is so very sad, if also very beautiful. So I'd like to leave another link. It's a film and film maker she loved. I've been thinking of it a lot for several reasons, which I'm sure I don't have to explain to any of her friends. The film might also be very sad and beautiful, but I remember her telling me once that it has an affirmative note, holds to life and love in the sense that one holds a note of music. In the face of death.



roger said...

Thanks, all - although I would have been burdened only if I had done nothing. The weight and weightlessness of memory - this would be a topic about which I can just imagine Amie making some amazing comment, and pulling a quotation out of somewhere that would, as always, astonish me.

I too would like to build a blog or something for Amie, but of course Emily is right, this would have to be done in conjunction with her family. I'm really regretting not having pressed Amie harder to do this when she was alive - I kept urging her to, but alive seems so infinite...

Anonymous said...

Roger, your post on personal myth and character is fascinating. I've also been reading some of your pack pages, I can see why Amie appreciated them, so many amazing posts! I was also looking there for some of her comments. I found links to songs she put up and also that you would have a song list for New Years. You didn't this year. It is past midnight in Paris as I am writing this, and so it might be too late, but my sense of too late has been severely shaken and changed since her passing. I think she would not have liked you to forego your New Year song list. So, as inspiration or something, a couple of songs she linked to on your site. I'm going to link to more than one version of one them - le vent nous portera - as it recalls a particular memory. Of sitting in a college courtyard with Amie, next to a pond with goldfish. The wind picked up and blew the papers I had written for a presentation and had lying on my lap all over the courtyard and into the pond. I remember running around the courtyard with her trying to gather them and then her wading into the pond to salvage the soaked pages, despite my protests that I could hardly use them in such a state. She was laughing but also quite serious when she said to me, one doesn't write about the wind, it's the wind that writes. Which might be a quote from Bataille, I don't remember. Those useless soaked pages she picked out of the pond, I still have them. So I'm going to link to versions of that song and one other that she posted on your site. For all her friends and family as we face the New Year, whatever that is. And also a poem that she quoted on your site.
À une raison

Un coup de ton doigt sur le tambour décharge tous les sons et commence la nouvelle harmonie.

Un pas de toi, c'est la levée des nouveaux hommes et leur en marche.

Ta tête se détourne : le nouvel amour ! Ta tête se retourne : - le nouvel amour !

"Change nos lots, crible les fléaux, à commencer par le temps" te chantent ces enfants. "Elève n'importe où la subtance de nos fortunes et de nos voeux" , on t'en prie.

Arrivée de toujours, qui t'en iras partout. 

-A.R., 1871


northanger said...

Looking for Amie's 2008 post here, also came across Marxalot:

The phantoms of ideology
And now our frequent commentor, Amie, has written an incredible piece on Marx and is allowing us to post it. Hooray!

What I found stunning about it was that Amie took Marx’s notion apart, and showed how it worked and didn’t work. This is in the best tradition of what Victor Skhlovsky, the Russian critique, called “estrangement” – by examining a thing as a composite rather than as a immediate whole, one gains a certain intellectual and moral mastery over a seemingly opaque totality.

roger said...

David, thanks for the list! And that story about Amie. I'll be back in Paris soon myself, and then maybe I'll think about ten songs for the new year.
To all, bonne année!

yoni said...

i came really late to this thread because i keep checking news from the zona and don't realize you update here. i never met amie but loved her comments, and since i consider myself completely illiterate w/r/t french literature and actual poetry, yet as well suffocated by the purge of poetry from every pore of "culture," i am very saddened and sad for your loss, because i think you are such a valuable component of the interwebs i love so much, and to read your sad posts makes the world just that much sadder.