A Nice Derangement of Epigraphs

A Nice Derangement of Epigraphs

2001-12-10
Riposte to: 

William S. Wilson, author of the story collection, Why I Don’t Write Like Franz Kafka, audited the discussions on the new ebr Interface and posted a series of letters (backchannel), under the header, Why I Don’t End Construction. His reasons have to do with audience building.

Joe: I’m going to move right through a lovely sentence by Horatio Greenough - “Not to promise forever, or to boast at the outset, not to shine and to seem, but to be and to act, is the glory of any coordination of parts for an object” - in order to quote probably not for the first time a sentence written by Joseph Needham in his study of ancient Chinese thought - study that takes him through Leibniz and, with some misunderstandings (which I leave to experts on Leibniz), into the development of binary arithematic that has a future in “those zeroes and ones twinned above” and within this computer on which I write:

In such a system causality is reticular and hierarchically fluctuating, not particulate and singly catenarian (Vol.II.13.p.289).

That wavering field of thought, with the links and knots of a reticule, and with the movements of fluctuations even unto turbulence, seems like the fields of thoughts you hope to offer visual and methodological correlatives of in your presentation of EBR. I’m trying to think about the thinking of the audience, looking at the audiences sketched in three films: the implied audience for the pornography of Boogie Nights; the audience that enlists as participants taking instructions in the activities in Fight Club; and the audience appraising the cult of “Seduce and Destroy” in Magnolia. I take it that this audience, at least the young white males in those specific hypothetical audiences, are inured to not being listened to, even as they do not listen to others, but mumble above a substratum of rage camouflaged as slack passivity. Altman made a great film about audiences - Nashville - yet long enough ago that his conceptions of audiences seem old fashioned, especially since the audience that rages against the singer who is suffering an intellectual collapse while performing is subsumed in the audience from which emerges an assassin, yet which closes over the tragedy with a communal collective song, as though harmony has absorbed the allegorical moment in which a member of an audience has murdered a singer. Most everyone in Nashville wants to sing, but no one seems to know how to sing with real acknowledgement of evil (loss, perishing). Of course Robert Frost caught the moment, describing the bird “…that knows in singing not to sing,” i.e. not to close its eyes and stick out its neck in an optimism that is not adequate to the facts of losses and diminishments.

The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Chaucer covered the themes with his rooster, Chauntecleer, who sings oblivious of foxes, eyes closed & neck stuck out. If I were designing an on-line magazine, I would wonder how to make words and thoughts available to the 20-Nothing generation, taking into account the diminished capacities, and especially the unarticulated rage. How does one reach the young who are in bad faith about their raging angers? How does one get them to look up an object of thought? I’m studying a few young painters closely, with nothing to report so far but symptoms of a terminal narcissism that may be something else - an emergent novelty I will try to delineate and describe if I can see it clearly, which I can’t yet. You teach them, Joe: what works? B.