Archive for the ‘reader’ Category

Our Lady of the Tombs

May 18, 2008

Nothomb‘s novel Acide Sulfurique is trying hard to be as close as possible to abstraction, leaving almost any concrete description of events behind the curtain. The reader’s imagination is not supposed to complete the missing parts, for the abstraction is the essence here, a skeleton to be perceived and experienced in its bear form.

The story is, therefore, deliberately simple: a reality show named “Concentration”, representing a Nazi concentration camp. The Kapos are elected in an American Idol style of filtering, while the prisoners are randomly abducted from the streets. From this point on it’s a chain of almost pure concepts: animals’ wagons stuffed with people of all ages; numbers tattooed on the prisoners’ hands; dehumanization; starvation; rape; death. Added to these concepts are omni-present cameras that capture every possible audio-visual signals. Materials are edited, and then there’s the daily night show. In the society of the spectacle the rating is great, but when it starts to stagnate “interactivity” is introduced into the show, the audience being asked to participate in the daily “death selections” (performed so far by the Kapos) by means of sending SMSes with the prisoners’ alpha-numeric IDs whose life are to be taken. Remind you – anything in this camp, on this show, is real.

And although intuition warns that this kind of book is about to fall into the banality trap, the opposite happens. Because no description – but the evocation of the above concepts – is provided, banality is avoided. Moreover, the fact that the book is mainly structure, allows Nothomb to introduce a surprisingly powerful technique – an effectively shocking one – which turns you, the reader, into as hideous collaborator as those disgusting-yet-all-human audience of the concentration show.

Our lady of the tombs gives you, reader, a choice: you can restore your human simulacra by closing the book and not reading it further, the equivalent of shutting down the TV set. Or you could keep on reading and see yourself turning, in real-time, into a disgusting voyeur of a hideous reality. And as she’s aware of the weakness of the human nature, she gives not one but two chances for redemption.

Personally, I obeyed the 2nd call, closed the book and intended to not reading it further. Personally, I failed, the cheap curiosity taking over my previous act of honor. Just like anyone else in Nothomb’s book, I couldn’t resist watching.

Rest some of the questions raised by the form:

Can this really happen? (Of course it can – it already did!)

Yes, but can it really happen today? Well, ask yourself the following questions:

1. If such a show exist, how many people will watch it? [“unfortunately many will“]
2. In our “participation age”, with all its technological mediums of mass collaboration and of induced transparency – how many will actively participate in the executions by sending SMSes, or by Twittering their candidates for the daily death selections? [Many will. Some others will think about it, but will refrain from actively pushing the voting buttons]

But wait! There’s no need to actively push the buttons any longer! They no longer need your vote; they can do with your twittered thought! All you need is to think the alpha-numeric IDs of your candidates and your thought will be automatically encoded then transmitted into the show’s Twitter channel.

That’s a great solution, for after all even God blames no one for just thinking!

Acide sulfurique (Sulphuric Acid) by Amélie Nothomb

Erasure Heads, part#1

April 13, 2007


Writing under erasure, Painting under erasure, Being under erasure – this is not a humble take on life. Rather, this is what some consider to be the only way to fight back, from within, from under the skin. Fooling the system; but also, fooling around with the system. “Tricher la langue; tricher avec la langue”, Barthes.

The Magician

April 4, 2007

Reading Something Wicked This Way Comes is like participating in a magical mystery tour, where the omnipresent Bradbury plays the role of the ultimate magician. And it’s a special kind of magic that works both on the inside and on the outside, with Bradbury operating in an almost explicit two-tracks style: a meta-track, where he converses with the Reader, showing the tricks, the syntax, by which each consequent scene is about to be created; and an internal track, where the Reader is a passive observer, watching Bradbury working inside his magical world, manipulating his characters.


But that’s exactly the illusion – that which is part of any magical show. Suddenly, there’s this strange sensation that Bradbury actually tells a story about… you, Reader. Doubts creep in: could the unexpected friendship with the narrator be nothing but a honey trap? Could it be that Bradbury showed you some tricks, made you an associate in a complot against his characters, only to blind you from the biggest trick of them all, that which turns you, the Reader, into his one and only protagonist?

“Since Bradbury was eight years old, he wanted to become a magician. And that’s what he is”.

The Metaphor of the Hidden Interlocutor

March 30, 2007

I’m always very happy with ecko4inc’s comments, as they form a very special continuation of a dialogue. By “very special” I mean that they cannot be seen as a common feedback in which the interlocutor feeds back her reactions or her anti-thesis or her bifurcated, parallel thesis (as it is too often the case) into the fireplace of the dialogue; rather ecko’s comments should be seen as a genre, having probably the margins of philosophy as its lieu of happening.

[ The margins of philosophy

Following my thoughts on the word “minor” – that word used by Kant to signify an immature human being not using his reason; that word used by Poe and {jump through hyperspace} Foucault to signify the only possible, or valuable, spatio-temporal frame of reference; that word practiced by Deleuze in his way of teaching the different philosophies, the different philosophers – I got an official feedback to the above minor associations by a Philosophy professor [Philosophy with a capital P], who laconically said that Derrida made a career out of analyzing footnotes (This Professor doesn’t like Derrida in particular and post-modernism in general, because, he says, they don’t offer any hope. Indeed, Deleuze and many others maintained that “there’s nothing behind the curtain”, if hope is to be associated with the discovery of a hidden reality. Surprisingly, this Professor, who dismisses Derrida for he brings no hope, happened to devote his entire life to Leibniz, being the first official “Leibniz Professor”. What puzzles me here is my intuitive association between “there’s nothing behind the curtain” and the Monadology – I don’t remember anything substantial behind the Monad’s curtain…)


So ecko4inc is not feeding back; ecko feeds on, feeds further. He joins the flow of thoughts, expressed in the post’s words and images, and uses them as ad-hoc rafts, on top of which he jumps and flows-on in that great {collective [but private (but collective)]} stream of consciousness, showing where else those ideas could have streamed, are streaming. I become a hidden interlocutor for ecko, my stream of consciousness finds itself included in his stream of consciousness in a most natural way, an echo for ecko, an echo for inclusion.

The only real thing is the interaction among people; all the rest is an illusion. Any monad includes and relates to all other monads – and this inclusion and that interaction is the only real thing in a monad’s life.


Click the image to make a jump

Textual Landing Fields – Edgar Allen’s PoeTic

February 14, 2007

I was happy and surprised to reread Poe’s The Poetic Principle, for I unexpectedly met there, right on the first page, some recently acquired friends, namely the 2nd and the 3rd, paragraphs.

Two paragraphs, 20 lines, that few words, and still – the impact is that of a tactical nuke.

Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida – to name just the recent French figures – were, I feel, regulars over this textual place. I’m talking about the revulsion of the epic, “the best epic under the sun, is a nullity: – and this is precisely the fact”, says Poe. But this concluding sentence does not, in any manner, preclude epic oeuvres. Rather, it’s the reader who should slice and dice the oeuvre: “Follow the Poetic Principle”.

The reader may rely on the author’s suggested division – like chapters, numbering, or any other structural indices (starting, as Poe suggests, from Paradise Lost Book II); or the author’s thematic division – here I am reading Foucault, who is always suggesting several possible starting points to his essays (at least those I’ve read) by constructing as many in-world landing fields (“Wait… wait! Time, a landing field”, but that’s another borrowed poem already).

“Minor Poems”: If there’s something I’ve noticed, although Tabula Rasa, while reading Foucault, is his lovely insistence on adding the minor tag to almost everything. A precaution, I thought; a necessity, I reckon now. So when Foucault starts his formidable lecture of Kant’s Was ist Aufklärung by stating “a minor text, perhaps” [3rd paragraph…] – well, that’s a great sign of admiration and respect.

I’ll make it short, than:

Lyotard: my previous post on Lyotard’s modern/post-modern should be placed in a dialogue with PoeTic.

Foucault: finding the PoeTic principle in the epic which is our life is what makes a human a human. (and see Foucault’s “What is Enlightenment?”)

And finally – blogging – the author deconstructs his own epic.