Monday, October 31, 2016


excerpts from justine by lawrence durrell

notes for landscape-tones. . . . long sequences of tempera. light filtered through the essence of lemons. an air full of brick-dust -- sweet-smelling brick-dust and the odour of hot pavements slaked with water. light damp clouds, earth-bound, yet seldom bringing rain. upon this squirt dust-red, dust-green, chalk-mauve and watered crismon-lake. in summer the sea-damp lightly varnished the air. everything lay under a coat of gum.

and then in autumn the dry, palpitant air, harsh with static electricity, inflaming the body through its light clothing. the flesh coming alive, trying the bars of its prison. a drunken whore walks in a dark street at night, shedding snatches of song-like petals.

* * * * *

i will say only that in many things she thought as a man, while in her actions she enjoyed some of the free vertical independence of the masculine outlook. our intimacy was of a strange mental order. quite early on i discovered that she could mind-read in an unerring fashion. ideas came to us simultaneously. i remember once being made aware that she was sharing in her mind a thought which had just presented itself to mine, namely: "this intimacy should go no further, for we have already exhausted all its possibilities in our respective imaginations: and what we shall end by discovering, behind the darkly woven colours of sensuality, will be a friendship so profound that we shall become bondsmen forever". it was, if you like, the flirtation of minds prematurely exhausted by experience which seemed so much more dangerous than a love founded in sexual attraction.

knowing how much she loved nessim and loving him so much myself, i could not contemplate this thought without terror. she lay beside me, breathing lightly, and staring at the cherub-haunted ceiling with her great eyes. i said: "it can come to nothing, this love-affair between a poor schoolteacher and an alexandrian society woman. how bitter it would be to have it all end in a conventional scandal which would leave us alone together and give you the task of deciding how to dispose of me." justine hated to hear the truth spoken. she turned upon one elbow and lowering those magnificent troubled eyes to mine she stared at me for a long moment. "there is no choice in this matter," she said in that hoarse voice i had come to love so much. "you talk as if there was a choice. we are not strong or evil enough to exercise choice. all this is part of an experiment arranged by something else, the city perhaps, or another part of ourselves. how do i know?"

i remember her sitting before the multiple mirrors at the dressmaker's, being fitted for a shark-skin costume, and saying: "look! five different pictures of the same subject. now if i wrote i would try for a multi-dimensional effect in character, a sort of prism-sightedness. why should not people show more than one profile at a time?"

* * * * *

"what do you believe? you never say anything. at the most your sometimes laugh." i did not know how to reply for all ideas seem equally good to me; the fact of their existence proves that someone is creating. does it matter whether they are objectively right or wrong? they could never remain so for long. "but it matters," she cried with a touching emphasis. "it matters deeply my darling, deeply."

we are the children of our landscape; it dictates behaviour and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it. i can think of no better identification. "your doubt, for example, which contains so much anxiety and such a thirst for an absolute truth, is so different from the scepticism of the greek, from the mental play of the mediterranean mind with its deliberate resort to sophistry as part of the game of thought; but your thought is a weapon, a theology."

"but how else can action be judged?" "it cannot be judged comprehensively until thought itself can be judged, for our thoughts themselves are acts. it is an attempt to make partial judgements upon either that leads to misgivings."

i liked so much the way she would suddenly sit down on a wall, or a broken pillar in that shattered backyard to pompey's pillar, and be plunged in an inexorable sorrow at some idea whose impact had only just made itself felt in her mind. "you really believe so?" she would say with such sorrow that one was touched and amused at the same time. "and why do you smile? you always smile at the most serious things. ah! surely you should be sad?" if she ever knew me at all she must later have discovered that for those of us who feel deeply and who are at all conscious of the inextricable tangle of human thought there is only response to be made -- ironic tenderness and silence.

* * * * *

she was in a towering rage. "you thought i simply wanted to make love? god! haven't we had enough of that? how is it that you do not know what i feel for once? how is it?" she stamped her foot in the wet sand. it was not merely that a geological fault had opened in the ground upon which we had been treading with such self-confidence. it was as if some long disused mineshaft in my own character had suddenly fallen in. i recognized that this barren traffic in ideas and feelings had driven a path through towards the denser jungles of the heart; and that here we became bondsmen in the body, possessors of an enigmatic knowledge which could only be passed on - received, deciphered, understood - by those rare complementaries of ours in the world. (how few they were, how seldom one found them!) "after all", i remember her saying, "this has nothing to do with sex," which tempted me to laugh though i recognized in the phrase her desperate attempt to dissociate the flesh from the message it carried. i suppose this sort of thing always happens to bankrupts when they fall in love. i saw then what i should have seen long before: namely that our friendship had ripened to a point when we had already become in a way part-owners of each other.

i think we were both horrified by the thought; for exhausted as we were we could not help but quail before such a relationship. we did not say any more but walked back along the beach to where we had left our clothes, speechless and hand in hand. justine looked utterly exhausted. we were both dying to get away from each other, in order to examine our own feelings. we did not speak to each other again. we drove into the city and she dropped me at the usual corner near my flat. i snapped the door of the car closed and she drove off without a word or a glance in my direction.

as i opened the door of my room i could still see the imprint of justine's foot in the wet sand. melissa was reading, and looking up at me she said with characteristic calm foreknowledge: "something has happened -- what is it?" i could not tell her since i did not know myself. i took her face in my hands and examined it silently, with a care and attention, with a sadness and hunger i don't ever remember feeling before. she said: "it is not me you are seeing, it is someone else". but in truth i was seeing melissa for the first time. in some paradoxical way it was justine who was now permitting me to see melissa as she really was - and to recognize my love for her. melissa smilingly reached for a cigarette and said: "you are falling in love with justine;" and i answered as sincerely, as honestly, as painfully as i could: "no, melissa, it is worse than that" -- though i could not for the life of me have explained how or why.

when i thought of justine i thought of some great freehand composition, a cartoon of a woman representing someone released from bondage in the male. "where the carrion is", she once quoted proudly from boehme, speaking of her native city, "there the eagles will gather." truly she looked and seemed an eagle at this moment. but melissa was a sad painting from a winter landscape contained by dark sky; a window-box with a few flowering geraniums lying forgotten on the windowsill of a cement-factory.

there is a passage in one of justine's diaries which comes to mind here. i translate it here because though it must have referred to incidents long preceding those which i have recounted yet nevertheless it almost exactly expresses the curiously ingrown quality of a love which i have come to recognize as peculiar to the city rather than to ourselves. "idle", she writes, "to imagine falling in love as a correspondence of minds, of thoughts; it is a simultaneous firing of two spirits engaged in the autonomous act of growing up. and the sensation is of something having noiselessly exploded inside each of them. around this event, dazed and preoccupied, the lover moves examining his or her own experience; her gratitude alone, stretching away towards a mistaken donor, creates the illusion that she communicates with her fellow, but this is false. the loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment of time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. all this may precede the first look, kiss, or touch; precede ambition, pride or envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point - for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness." how characteristic and how humourless a delineation of the magical gift: and yet how true. . . of justine!

"every man," she writes elsewhere, and here i can hear the hoarse and sorrowful accents of her voice repeating the words as she writes them: "every man is made of clay and daimon, and no woman can nourish both."

that afternoon she went how to find that nessim had arrived by the afternoon plane. she complained of feeling feverish and went early to bed. when he came to sit by her side and take her temperature she said something which struck him as interesting enough to remember - for long afterwards he repeated it to me: "this is nothing of medical interest - a small chill. diseases are not interested in those who want to die". and then with one of those characteristic swerves of association, like a swallow turning in mid-air she added, "oh! nessim, i have always been so strong. has it prevented me from being truly loved?"

Sunday, October 30, 2016

maria nikolayevna

quotes from the torrents of spring by ivan turgenev, translated by david magarshack

"'do you want to know what i like best of all?'
'freedom,' prompted sanin.
maria nikolayevna laid her hand on his hand.
'yes, my dear sir,' she said, and there was a peculiar note in her voice, a note of some unmistakable sincerity and gravity, 'freedom more than anything else and before everything else. and don't think i'm boasting of this - there's nothing praiseworthy about it - only it is so and always will be so with me to the end of my days.'"

"the play went on for over an hour, but maria nikolayevna and sanin soon stopped looking at the stage. they had started a conversation again and it, the conversation, that is, went on on the same lines as before; only this time sanin was less silent. inwardly he was angry with himself and with maria nikolayevna; he tried to prove to her the utter superficiality of her 'theory', as though she were interested in theories! he began arguing with her, which she was secretly very glad of: if he argued, then he was giving in or would be giving in. he had taken the bait, he was yielding, he was no longer shy of her! she raised objections, laughed, agreed with him, pondered, attacked. . . and meanwhile his face and her face came closer together and his eyes no longer turned away from hers. those eyes of her seemed to wander, to rove over his features, and he smiled at her in reply - politely, but smiled. it suited her that he should be indulging in abstractions, arguing about the honesty of intimate relationships, about duty, the sanctity of love and marriage. it is, indeed, a well-known fact that these abstractions come in very useful indeed as a beginning, as a starting-point."

Saturday, October 29, 2016


from the dying animal by philip roth

"because only when you fuck is everything that you dislike in life and everything by which you are defeated in life purely, if momentarily, revenged. only then are you most cleanly alive and most cleanly yourself. it's not the sex that's the corruption - it's the rest. sex isn't just friction and shallow fun. sex is also the revenge on death. don't forget death. don't ever forget it. yes, sex too is limited in its power. i know very well how limited. but tell me, what power is greater?"

"see it from a professional point of view. you violated the law of aesthetic distance. you sentimentalized the aesthetic experience with this girl - you personalized it, you sentimentalized it, and you lost the sense of separation essential to your enjoyment. . . i'm not against it because it's disgusting. i'm against it because it's falling in love. the only obsession everyone wants: 'love.' people think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? the platonic union of souls? i think otherwise. i think you're whole before you begin. and that love fractures you. you're whole, and then you're cracked open. she was a foreign body introduced into your wholeness. and for a year and a half you struggled to incorporate it. but you'll never be whole until you expel it. you either get rid of it or incorporate it through self-distortion."

Friday, October 28, 2016

the scorpion

excerpt from billy budd, sailor by herman melville

is envy then such a monster? well, though many an arraigned mortal has in hopes of mitigated penalty pleaded guilty to horrible actions, did ever anybody seriously confess to envy? something there is in it universally felt to be more shameful than even felonious crime. and not only does everybody disown it, but the better sort are inclined to incredulity when it is in earnest imputed to an intelligent man. but since its lodgment is in the heart not the brain, no degree of intellect supplies a guarantee against it. but claggart's was no vulgar form of the passion. nor, as directed toward billy budd, did it partake of that streak of apprehensive jealousy that marred saul's visage perturbedly brooding on the comely young david. claggart's envy struck deeper. if askance he eyed the good looks, cheery health, and frank enjoyment of young life in billy budd, it was because these went along with a nature that, as claggart magnetically felt, had in its simplicity never willed malice or experienced the reactionary bit of that serpent. to him, the spirit lodged within billy, and looking out from his welkin eyes as from windows, that ineffability it was which made the dimple in his dyed cheek, suppled his joints, and dancing in his yellow curls made him pre-eminently the Handsome Sailor. one person excepted, the master-at-arms was perhaps the only man in the ship intellectually capable of adequately appreciating the moral phenomenon presented in billy budd. and the insight but intensified his passion, which assuming various secret forms within him, at times assumed that of cynic disdain, disdain of innocence - to be nothing more than innocent! yet in an aesthetic way he saw the charm of it, the courageous free-and-easy temper of it, and fain would have shared it, but he despaired of it.

with no power to annul the elemental evil in him, though readily enough he could hide it; apprehending the good, but powerless to be it; a nature like claggart's, surcharged with energy as such natures almost invariably are, what recourse is left to it but to recoil upon itself and, like the scorpion for which the creator alone is responsible, act out the end the part allotted it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


excerpt from sexing the cherry by jeanette winterson

escape from what? the present? yes, from this foreground that blinds me to whatever may be happening in the distance. if i have a spirit, a soul, any name will do, then it won't be single, it will be multiple. its dimension will not be one of confinement but one of space. it may inhabit numerous changing decaying bodies in the future and in the past.
i can't know this. i am only looking for a theory to fit the facts. that's what scientists do, though you may feel i am too far-fetched.
perhaps i am.
poisoned or not, the mercury has made me think like this. drop it and it shivers in clones of itself all over the floor, but you can scoop it up again and there won't be any seams or shatter marks. it's one life or countless lives depending on what you want.
what do i want?
when i'm dreaming i want a home and a lover and some children, but it won't work. who'd want to live with a monster? i may not look like a monster any more but i couldn't hide it for long. i'd break out, splitting my dress, throwing the dishes at the milkman if he leered at me and said, 'hello, darling.' the truth is i've lost patience with this hypocritical stinking world. i can't take it any more. i can't flatter, lie, cajole or even smile very much. what is there to smile about?
'you don't try,' my mother said. 'it's not so bad.'
it is so bad.
'you're pretty,' said my father, 'any man would want to marry you.'
not if he pulled back my eyelids, not if he peeped into my ears, not if he looked down my throat with a torch, not if he listened to my heartbeat with a stethoscope. he'd run out of the room holding his head. he'd see her, the other one, lurking inside. she fits, even though she's so big.
i had sex with a man once: in out in out. a soundtrack of grunts and a big sigh at the end.
he said, 'did you come?'
of course i didn't come, haven't you read master's and johnson?
and then he fell asleep and his breathing was in out in out.
later i said, 'i'd like to swallow you.'
'adventurous, eh?' he said.
whole, i meant, every single bit, straight down the throat like an oyster, your feet last, your feet waving in my mouth like a diver's flippers. jonah and the whale.
i don't hate men, i just wish they'd try harder. they all want to be heroes and all we want is for them to stay at home and help with the housework and the kids. that's not the kind of heroism they enjoy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


excerpts from alice's adventures in wonderland by lewis carroll [charles lutwidge dodgson]

* * * 
"tut, tut, child!" said the duchess. "everything's got a moral, if only you can find it." and she squeezed herself up closer to alice's side as she spoke.
alice did not much like her keeping so close to her: first, because the duchess was very ugly, and secondly, because she was exactly the right height to rest her chin on alice's shoulder, and it was an uncomfortably sharp chin. however, she did not like to be rude: so she bore it as well as she could.
"the game's going on rather better now," she said, by way of keeping up the conversation a little. 
"'tis so," said the duchess: "and the moral of that is - 'oh, 'tis love, 'tis love, that makes the world go round!'"
"somebody said," alice whispered, "that it's done by everybody minding their own business!"
"ah well! it means much the same thing," said the duchess, digging her sharp little chin into alice's shoulder as she added, "and the moral of that is - 'take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.'"
"how fond she is of finding morals in things!" alice thought to herself.
"i dare say you're wondering why i don't put my arm round your waist," the duchess said, after a pause: the reason is, that i'm doubtful about the temper of your flamingo. shall i try the experiment?"
"he might bite," alice cautiously replied, not feeling at all anxious to have the experiment tried.
"very true," said the duchess: "flamingoes and mustard both bite. and the moral of that is - 'birds of a feather flock together.'"
"only mustard isn't a bird," alice remarked.
"right, as usual," said the duchess: "what a clear way you have of putting things!"
"it's a mineral, i think," said alice.
"of course it is," said the duchess, who seemed ready to agree to everything that alice said: "there's a large mustard-mine near here. and the moral of that is - 'the more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.'"
"oh, i know," exclaimed alice, who had not attended to this last remark. "it's a vegetable. it doesn't look like one, but it is."
"i quite agree with you," said the duchess; "and the moral of that is - 'be what you would seem to be' - or, if you'd like it put more simply - 'never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"
"i think i should understand that better," alice said very politely, "if i had it written down: but i can't quite follow it as you say it."
"that's nothing to what i could say if i chose," the duchess replied, in a pleased tone.
"pray don't trouble yourself to say it any longer than that," said alice.
"oh, don't talk about trouble!" said the duchess. "i made you a present of everything i've said as yet."
"a cheap sort of present!" thought alice. "i'm glad they don't give birthday-presents like that!" but she did not venture to say it out loud.
"thinking again?" the duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin.
"i've a right to think," said alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried.

* * *

"i've been to a day-school too," said alice. "you needn't be so proud as all that."
"with extras?" asked the mock turtle, a little anxiously.
"yes," said alice: "we learned french and music."
"and washing?" said the mock turtle.
"certainly not!" said alice indignantly.
"ah! then yours wasn't a really good school," said the mock turtle, in a tone of great relief. "now, at ours, they had, at the end of the bill, 'french, music, and washing - extra.'"
"you couldn't have wanted it much," said alice; "living at the bottom of the sea."
"i couldn't afford to learn it," said the mock turtle with a sigh. "i only took the regular course."
"what was that?" enquired alice.
"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the mock turtle replied; "and then the different branches of Arithmetic - Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."
"i never heard of 'Uglification,'" alice ventured to say. "what is it?"
the gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. "never heard of uglifying!" it exclaimed. "you know what to beautify is, i suppose?"
"yes," said alice doubtfully: "it means - to - make - anything - prettier."
"well, then," the gryphon went on, "if you don't know what to uglify is, you are a simpleton."
alice did not feel encouraged to ask any more questions about it: so she turned to the mock turtle, and said "what else had you to learn?"
"well, there was Mystery," the mock turtle replied, counting off the subjects on his flappers, - "Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography : then Drawling - the Drawling-master was an old conger-eel, that used to come in once a week : he taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils."
"what was that like?" said alice.
"well, i can't show it you, myself," the mock turtle said: "i'm too stiff. and the gryphon never learnt it."
"hadn't time," said the gryphon: "i went to the classical master, though. he was an old crab, he was."
"i never went to him," the mock turtle said with a sigh. "he taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say."
"so he did, so he did," said the gryphon, sighing in his turn; and both creatures hid their faces in their paws.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


quotes from mary, a fiction by mary wollstonecraft

"as she grew more intimate with ann, her manners were softened, and she acquired a degree of equality in her behavior: yet still her spirits were fluctuating, and her movements rapid. she felt less pain on account of her mother's partiality to her brother, as she hoped now to experience the pleasure of being beloved; but this hope led her into new sorrows, and, as usual, paved the way for disappointment. ann only felt gratitude; her heart was entirely engrossed by one object, and friendship could not serve as a substitute; memory officiously retraced past scenes, and unavailing wishes made time loiter.

mary was often hurt by the involuntary indifference which these consequences produced. when her friend was all the world to her, she found she was not as necessary to her happiness; and her delicate mind could not bear to obtrude her affection, or receive love as an alms, the offspring of pity. very frequently has she ran to her with delight, and not perceiving any thing of the same kind in ann's countenance, she has shrunk back; and, falling from one extreme into the other, instead of a warm greeting that was just slipping from her tongue, her expressions seemed to be dictated by the most chilling insensibility.

she would then imagine that she looked sickly or unhappy, and then all her tenderness would return like a torrent, and bear away all reflection. in this manner was her sensibility called forth, and exercised, by her mother's illness, her friend's misfortunes, and her own unsettled mind."

"her benevolence, indeed, knew no bounds; the distress of others carried her out of herself; and she rested not till she had relieved or comforted them. the warmth of her compassion often made her so diligent, that many things occurred to her, which might have escaped a less interested observer.

in like manner, she entered with such spirit into whatever she read, and the emotions thereby raised were so strong, that it soon became a part of her mind. . .

these propensities gave the colour to her mind, before the passions began to exercise their tyrannic sway, and particularly pointed out those which the soil would have a tendency to nurse.

years after, when wandering through the same scenes, her imagination has strayed back, to trace the first placid sentiments they inspired, and she would earnestly desire to regain the same peaceful tranquility.

many nights she sat up, if i may be allowed the expression, conversing with the Author of Nature, making verses, and singing hymns of her own composing. she considering also, and tried to discern what end her various faculties were destined to pursue; and had a glimpse of a truth, which afterwards more fully unfolded itself.

she thought that only an infinite being could fill the human soul, and that when other objects were followed as a means of happiness, the delusion led to misery, the consequence of disappointment. under the influence of ardent affections, how often has she forgot this conviction, and as often returned to it again, when it struck her with redoubled force. often did she taste unmixed delight; her joys, her ecstacies arose from genius."

"these flights of the imagination point to futurity; i cannot banish them. every cause in nature produces an effect; and am i an exception to the general rule? have i desires implanted in me only to make me miserable? will they never be gratified? shall i never be happy? . . riches and honours await me, and the cold moralist might desire me to sit down and enjoy them - i cannot conquer my feelings, and till i do, what are these baubles to me? you may tell me i follow a fleeting good, an ignis fatuus; but this chase, these struggles prepare me for eternity - when i no longer see through a glass darkly i shall not reason about, but feel in what happiness consists."

Monday, October 24, 2016


by grace paley from fidelity

a person’s anger should be respected
even when it isn’t shared

a person’s happiness should be shared
even if it isn’t understood

a person should be understood    though
he has brought both his brows together
in anger and also suddenly begun to laugh

a person should be in love most of
the time    this is the last proverb
and may be learned by all the organs
capable of bodily response

Friday, October 21, 2016

your brutal force accumulates

by jean cocteau from tempest of stars

your brutal force accumulates
poetry, inhuman thunderstorm.
i offer you a vehicle
if you want to flower through my hand.
i tame ancient thunder.
i would like to increase that hold
in the same way as the electric bulb
makes man obey the gods.
i stare at the old earth
which pants. it’s summer.
look at the panther’s skin,
part shadow, part sun-speckled.
only on earth does one find
the means to make a magnet
to attract the harsh waters
which burn me deeply.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

collective guilt

excerpt from the art of cruelty by maggie nelson:

when someone first told me, for example, about a 1992 piece by performance artist nao bustamente called indig/urrito, in which bustamante invites white men from the audience to join her on stage, get down on their knees in penance for 500 years of white-male oppression of indigenous peoples, and take an absolving bite of the burrito she is wielding as a strap-on, i think i spouted off some lazy dismissal of the venture, citing a disinterest in collective guilt, identity politics, audience humiliation, and dominatrix chic.

after watching a fifteen-minute performance of the piece (filmed at theater artaud in san francisco, and available for viewing on the artist's web site), i realized i couldn't have been more wrong. largely due to bustamante's quick-witted humor and benevolently sarcastic persona, the piece transforms political cliche into absurdist theater, opening up space for comedy, unpredictability, titillation, and an unlikely camaraderie. the indict made by the piece, if there is any, is multivalent: bustamante begins by poking fun at a (nameless) arts organization that has offered to fund artists of color whose work "addresses the past 500 years of oppression of indigenous peoples," and introduces this piece as her response. she then invites "any white man who would like to take the burden of the past 500 years of guilt" to report to the stage. after no one ascends, she moves on to invite "anyone with any inner white men," then "anyone who is hungry," then "anyone who knows a white man who is hungry," and so on. the concept of collective guilt - along with that of unswerving identity - receives all the complication it deserves, swiftly and hilariously.

eventually a hodgepodge of white men amble up to the stage and get down on their knees behind her, and bustamante revels in their pitifulness. (about one particularly scrawny, bald, and hunch-shouldered volunteer, she coos, "aw, i think he's going to take it for a lot of people, don't you?") at the same time, she lauds them as heroes and martyrs, as those willing to bear the guilt and shame that the more cowardly white men out there are unwilling to face. the unpredictability of the performance arrives when she asks each man to state his name into a microphone (fixed at knee height), and make a statement before taking an absolving bite of her burrito.

as everyone from ono to abramovic to lynn breedlove (lead singer of the queercore band tribe 8, who often invited male audience members to come onstage and suck her dick) knows, even men who have volunteered to take part in such ventures can behave volatilely. the feeling of suddenly being in the spotlight with a woman indisputably running the show is, for many, an intolerable reversal (albeit one that many men have a taste for, behind closed doors). for this reason, part of the deep pleasure of indig/urrito lies in watching bustamante's commanding grace, power, and wit as she banters with each man's self-introduction and apologia, as well as with the occasionally over-theatrical fellating of her burrito by the hammier of them. there's also plenty of edgy flirtation: after a handsome "justin" says, "i'm male, i'm white, and i'm sorry," with more coquettishness than penitence, bustamante responds, "i'm not sorry, justin, i'm not sorry at all," and rolls her eyes in ecstasy at his bite. as the bald gentleman - who introduces himself as "allan" - takes his bite, bustamante squeals, "he's so pitiful!" and holds his head against her rocking pelvis. by the time the last biter, a slim, short-haired figure in a suit, announces into the mic, "i'm a girl, i'm hispanic, and i'm prepared," and attempts to unroll a condom against the mess hanging from bustamante's harness, all facile premises have disintegrated (as has the burrito).

before the biting of indig/urrito begins, bustamante asks the members of the audience to yell a congratulatory "amen" at the moment that each man's teeth enter her burrito, and to think, at that moment, of any white man they know who needs absolving, so that "we can all just move on." the audience at theater artaud responds to this call with a loud cheer. obviously, bustamante and her audience know that "moving on" from 500 years of exploitation and racism isn't that easy. but neither her call nor the audience's spontaneous response comes off as a total joke. indig/urrito provides fifteen minutes of what a different kind of "moving on" might feel like - one not based in denial, abdication, derision, or preemptive dismissal, but in discomfiting role reversals, fraught but consensual confrontations, humor that rides the edge of contempt and anger without collapsing into their force, and a dedication to seeing what happens next, to seeing how individual humans might comport themselves in a politically and sexually charged situation they have been invited to address rather than repress. "anyone who is offended by this," bustamante warns before the ritual begins, "i really encourage you to leave your body."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

when ecstasy is inconvenient

by lorine niedecker

Feign a great calm;
all gay transport soon ends.
Chant: who knows—
flight’s end or flight’s beginning
for the resting gull?

Heart, be still.
Say there is money but it rusted;
say the time of moon is not right for escape.
It’s the color in the lower sky 
too broadly suffused,
or the wind in my tie.

Know amazedly how
often one takes his madness
into his own hands
and keeps it.

Monday, October 17, 2016


quotes by paul virilio from the aesthetics of disappearance

"child-society frequently utilizes turnings, spinning around, disequilibrium. it looks for sensations of vertigo and disorder as sources of pleasure. . . the child lartigue has thereby stayed in the same place, and is, nevertheless, absent. owing to an acceleration of speed, he's succeeded in modifying his actual duration; he's taken it off from his lived time. to stop 'registering' it was enough for him to provoke a body-acceleration, a dizziness that reduced his environment to a sort of luminous chaos. but with each return, when he tried to resolve the image, he obtained only a clearer perception of its variations."

"what happens is so far ahead of what we think, of our intentions, that we can never catch up with it and never really know its true appearance." -rainer marie rilke

"i don't think of a bilboquet as being bizarre. it's rather something very banal, as banal as a penholder, a key or the foot of a table. i never show bizarre or strange objects in my pictures. . . they are always familiar things, not bizarre but ordinary things are gathered and transformed in such a way that we're made to think that there's something else of an unfamiliar nature that appears at the same time as familiar things." -rene magritte

"to look at what you wouldn't look at, to hear what you wouldn't listen to, to be attentive to the banal, to the ordinary, to the infra-ordinary. to deny the ideal hierarchy of the crucial and the incidental, because there is no incidental, only dominant cultures that exile us from ourselves and others, a loss of meaning which is for us not only a siesta of consciousness but also a decline in existence."

"etienne jules marey understands that the acceleration of bodies, the fugacity of movement, as perceived by the vulgar eye, demand a guidance of vision disengaged from mnemonic traces. the whiteness of birds or that of horses, the brilliant strips pasted on the clothes of experimental subjects, make the body disappear in favor of an instantaneous blend of givens under the indirect light of motors and other propagators of the real. the heterogeneous succeeds the homogeneous, the aesthetics of the search supplants the search for an aesthetics, the aesthetics of disappearance renews the enterprise of appearance."

"reversible chronophotography, that is, cinema, illusion imposed on the physiology of our organs of visual perception (alfred fessard), oscillates, from the beginning, between the production of luminous, persisting impressions and the pure fascination that destroys the conscious perception of the spectator and conflicts with the natural functioning of the eye: 'fixity of the look directed at what we seriously think of as a single thing, for example, a colored spot, fixity that can last not much longer than a second without serious risk of seeing the subject fall into hypnotic ecstasy or into some other analogous pathological condition,' writes doctor abraham wolf. . .  the aim of cinema will be to provoke an effect of vertigo in the voyeur-traveler, the end being sought now is to give him the impression of being projected into the image."

"'the impact of disneyland and disney world,' says another collaborator, comes from walt's cinematic know-how: 'ideas, instead of entering in competition, complete and prolong each other. if the pedestrian is so comfortable in our kingdoms, it's because the size of the buildings and means of transportation is reduced a fifth of their normal dimension. nothing, neither trains, nor the identically duplicated cars, is on a normal scale, which creates. . . the dream.'"

"to the extent that its principle theme comes down to: science technology of other worlds, the revival of science fiction in the united states and in the industrialized nations seems linked to that of religions and sects. if on the one hand people like professor lawrence leshan are pointing out the similarity in vision of the universe and its laws in atomic physicists and in the great mystics, the science fiction narrative, on the other hand, demonstrates the incompatibilities existing between our presence in the world and the various levels of a certain anesthesia in our consciousness that, at every moment, inclines us to see-saw into more or less extensive absences, more or less serious, even to provoke by various means instantaneous immersions in other worlds, parallel worlds, interstitial, bifurcating, right up to that black hole, which would be only an excess of speed in these kinds of crossings, a pure phenomenon of speed, abrogating the inital separation between day and night."

"if terror is the accomplishment of the law of movement, attraction itself can convey anguish. attracting the gaze is to capture it and thereby to subvert attention, the optical illusion in a world entirely perceived as illusion."

"in the 17th century there appeared in france some very strict rules about clothes, mandating that the male abandon the 'right to beauty.' but at the same time the wearing of the uniform became obligatory, in spite of the opposition of the nobility. . . from uniformity we pass to invisibility as during the war of 1914 the authorities agree on the evident advantage in renouncing bright colors in the manufacture of uniforms and in adopting a habit of neutral shade to diminish the visibility of troops in the field. . . the major concern being less with identification than disintegration, since the word comes from the hindustani khaki, meaning color of dust."

"the immediacy of terrestrial transport, modifying the relation to space, annihilates the relation to lived time and it's in this urgency that its dynamic exaltation consists. paradoxically, it's the extreme mobility which creates the inertia of the moment, instantaneity which would create the instant! finally the instant becomes like the illusory perception of a stability, clearly revealed by technical prostheses, such as is demonstrated for us by einstein's example of passing trains: the feeling of the instant can only be given by coincidence (epiteikos), the moment when two trains seem immobile to travelers while they are really launched at top speed one beside the other. the notion of a time, which, according to bachelard, would accommodate only the reality of the instant, could only be established on the basis of our remaining unconscious of our own speeds in a world entirely given over to the law of movement and thereby the creator of the illusion of inertia."

Sunday, October 16, 2016


by rae armatrout from just saying

what do we like best
about ourselves?

our inability
to be content.

we might see this

as a chip
not yet cashed in.

you appear
because you’re lonely

you would not say that.

you come to tell me
you’re saving money
by cooking for yourself.

you’ve figured out
what units you’ll need

to exchange for units
if you intend

i know i mustn’t

hectic and flexible,


are ideal

new bodies for us!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

not touching

by billy collins from sailing alone around the room

the valentine of desire is pasted over my heart
and still we are not touching, like things

in a poorly done still life
where the knife appears to be floating over the plate
which is itself hovering above the table somehow,

the entire arrangement of apple, pear, and wineglass
having forgotten the law of gravity,
refusing to be still,

as if the painter had caught them all
in a rare moment of slow flight
just before they drifted out of the room
through a window of perfectly realistic sunlight.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

mortal kombat

by mira gonzalez from i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together

i am thinking about those tiny clams that bury themselves under wet
sand at the beach
i identify with the tiny clams
i want to bury myself under wet sand
my cat is giving me a disapproving look
i pick up my cat and forcibly hug her
my cat meows loudly and jump-kicks me as she runs away
i think i would like to be a cat
i want someone to forcibly hug me
i want to jump-kick them and run away
i begin to count how many people i have had sex with in my life
i say out loud:
‘i don’t care about the people i’ve had sex with. i like being alone.
being with other people is tiring’
i am talking to myself
‘mira is talking to herself’
i want to take a bath with all the lights off
the couple that lives next door are yelling at each other again
i feel happy that my neighbors have a relationship that is important
enough to yell about

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

one heart

by li-young lee

look at the birds. even flying
is born

out of nothing. the first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of the day.
the work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016


all quotes by giorgio agamben from homo sacer

". . . the technico-scientific problem of resuscitation: at stake was nothing less than a redefinition of death. until then, the task of determining death was given over to the physician, who made use of the traditional criteria that had remained substantially the same throughout the centuries: the stopping of the heartbeat and the cessation of breathing. overcoma rendered obsolete precisely these two ancient categories for the assessment of death and, opening a no-man's-land between coma and death, made it necessary to identity new criteria and establish new definitions as [mollaret and goulon] wrote, the problem expands 'to the point of putting the final borders of life in question, and even further, to the determination of a right to establish the hour of legal death.'"

"the hospital room in which the neomort, the overcomatose person, and the faux vivant waver between life and death delimits a space of exception in which a purely bare life, entirely controlled by man and his technology, appears for the first time. and since it is precisely a question not of a natural life but of an extreme embodiment of homo sacer (the comatose person has been defined as an intermediary being between man and an animal), what is at stake is, once again, the definition of a life that may be killed without the commission of homicide."

"the camp is the space that is opened when the state of exception begins to become the rule. in the camp, the state of exception, which was essentially a temporary suspension of the rule of law on the basis of a factual state of danger, is now given a permanent spatial arrangement, which as such nevertheless remains outside the normal order."

"if this is true, if the essence of the camp consists in the materialization of the state of exception and in the subsequent creation of a space in which bare life and the juridical rule enter into a threshold of indistinction, then we must admit that we find ourselves virtually in the presence of a camp every time such a structure is created, independent of the kinds of crime that are committed there and whatever its denomination and specific topography. . . an apparently innocuous space (for example, the hotel arcades in roissy) actually delimits a space in which the normal order is de facto suspended and in which whether or not atrocities are committed depends not on law but on the civility and ethical sense of the police who temporarily act as sovereign (for example, in the four days during which foreigners can be held in the zone d'attente before the intervention of the judicial authority).

in this light, the birth of the camp in our time appears as an event that decisively signals the political space of modernity itself. it is produced at the point at which the political system of the modern nation-state, which was founded on the functional nexus between a determinate localization (land) and a determinate order (the state) and mediated by automatic rules for the inscription of life (birth or the nation), enters into a lasting crisis, and the state decides to assume directly the care of the nation's biological life as one of its proper tasks. if the structure of the nation-state is, in other words, defined by the three elements land, order, birth, the rupture of the old nomos is produced not in the two aspects that constituted it according to schmitt. . . but rather at the point marking the inscription of bare life (the birth that thus become nation) within the two of them. something can no longer function within the traditional mechanisms that regulated this inscription, and the camp is the new hidden regulator of the inscription of life in the order - or, rather, the sign of the system's inability to function without being transformed into a lethal machine. it is significant that the camps appear together with new laws on citizenship and the denationalization of citizens - not only the nuremberg laws on citizenship in the reich but also the laws on denationalization promulgated by almost all european states, including france, between 1915 and 1933. the state of exception, which was essentially a temporary suspension of the juridico-political order, now becomes a new and stable spatial arrangement inhabited by the bare life that more and more can no longer be inscribed in that order. the growing dissociation of birth (bare life) and the nation-state is the new fact of politics in our day, and what we call camp is this disjunction. . . the camp as dislocating localization is the hidden matrix of the politics in which we are still living, and it is this structure of the camp that we must learn to recognize in all its metamorphoses into the zones d'attentes of our airports and certain outskirts of our cities."

"every interpretation of the political meaning of the term 'people' must begin with the singular fact that in modern european languages, 'people' also always indicates the poor, the disinherited, and the excluded. one term thus names both the constitutive political subject and the class that is, de facto if not de jure, excluded from politics.

in common speech as in political parlance, the italian popolo, the french peuple, the spanish pueblo (like the corresponding adjectives popolare, populaire, popolar and late populus and popularis, from which they derive) designate both the complex of citizens as a unitary political body (as in 'the italian people' or 'the people's judge') and the members of the lower classes (as in homme du peuple, rione popolare, front populaire). even the english word 'people,' which has a less differentiated meaning, still conserves the sense of 'ordinary people' in contrast to the rich and the nobility. . .

such a diffuse and constant semantic ambiguity cannot be accidental: it must reflect an amphiboly inherent in the nature and function of the concept 'people' in western politics. it is as if what we call 'people' were in reality not a unitary subject but a dialectical oscillation between two opposite poles: on the one hand, the set of the People as a whole political body, and on the other, the subset of the people as a fragmentary multiplicity of needy and excluded bodies; or again, on the one hand, an inclusion that claims to be total, and on the other, and exclusion that is clearly hopeless; at one extreme, the total state of integrated and sovereign citizens, and at the other, the preserve - court of miracles or camp - of the wretched, the oppressed, and the defeated. in this sense, a single and compact referent for the term 'people' simply does not exist anywhere: like many fundamental political concepts. . . 'people' is a polar concept that indicates a double movement and a complex relation between two extremes."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

the story, around the corner

by naomi shihab nye from you & yours

is not turning the way you thought
it would turn, gently, in a little spiral loop,
the way a child draws the tail of a pig.
what came out of your mouth,
a riff of common talk.
as a sudden weather shift on a beach,
sky looming mountains of cloud
in a way you cannot predict
or guide, the story shuffles elements, darkens,
takes its own side. and it is strange.
far more complicated than a few phrases
pierced together around a kitchen table
on a july morning in dallas, say,
a city you don’t live in, where people
might shop forever or throw a thousand stories
away. you who carried or told a tiny bit of it
aren’t sure. is this what we wanted?
stories wandering out,
having their own free lives?
maybe they are planning something bad.
a scrap or cell of talk you barely remember
is growing into a weird body with many demands.
one day soon it will stumble up the walk and knock,
knock hard, and you will have to answer the door.