Dirty Gerty's Hurdy Gurdy


Only the poem knows what's true

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kis's grand cenotaph

I'm about to indulge in "Dogs and Books," a short story of Danilo Kis, included in A Tomb For Boris Davidovich. The eponymous Boris (Davidovich)-his story is included within the anthology-incites me to the ramifications of historical precedent, even when such precedent is built upon feathers... that is... lies. Boris reawakens me to something a professor once mentioned, that is, that Soren Kierkegaard said, purity of heart is to will one thing. When you think about Boris's struggle with Fedukin, his deceptively perspicacious interrogator, you realize how this one thing is a haven for the redeemer and the damned. What I enjoy, thus far, of Kis's work, is its ability to put you in historical frameworks, via fictional accounts of humans who, obviously, have never existed,materially. But whom, once you become inter-meshed in their stories, materially manifest, to justify the immateriality of history.

A writer can do so much within a fictional work. In Kis's case, he seems to take that damned, beserk Trojan horse Comintern (as Brodsky deemed it), and involve its riders in a race to futility. He takes the history of time, and makes it irrelevant, to the history of fiction. There's an idea presented in A Tomb For Boris Davidovich, which startled me. That is, the cenotaph. *Bear in mind I'm referring wholly to the individual story, not the anthology.*

In the story Kis brings up an ancient Greek tradition. Anyone who perished by fire, swallowed by a volcano, by lava, torn to pieces by beasts, sharks, or whose corpse was prey to vultures in the desert, any one of these individuals would have an empty tomb created on their behalf. Called a Cenotaph. For the body is only fire, water, or earth, whereas the soul is the Alpha and the Omega, "to which a shrine should be erected."

It seems to me, by having Boris's death be self-inflicted, via a furnace of fire, Kis was saying much of the revolutions and counterrevolutions we maximize historically, only to minimize rhetorically. We cannot say everything of history; all we have are annals of ancestry and anecdotal accounts. So it seems some of our greatest historians are raconteurs; Kis was seeming to hint, through his stories, that by being close to historical atrocities, they can almost be made irrelevant and even absurd, and the tellers of their "happenings," are like jesters in a court. Deciding which purview to take, to amuse, to arouse, to incite. More so, he dignifies the dangers of historicism, inventing histories with no real allusion (to the past).

What I've noted thus far from this anthology, is that all of the "historical" accounts Kis sets up for his characters are a mainstay of anecdotal reference. Anecdote and real historical events collide, to create a Colossus, upon which no one can slay and thrive, or, like the doomed Comintern, ride. Brodsky was right to call the Comintern a Trojan horse. Kis was right to make this horse susceptible to the irrelevancies of facts, and the Cenotaphs of fiction. It seems much of what we take for granted, those of us who live in countries that aren't marred by dictatorships... by Stalins... etc., is our ability to properly place those countries that are, into empty tombs. The cenotaph isn't an homage, then, but a sabotage. It takes what has faded, and deceives this fading, into an empty monument. Which is really full of legacy.

A Tomb For Boris Davidovich has me questioning much of Yugoslavian history, even as none of the characters are of Yugoslavian descent. The book has nothing to do with Yugoslavia or its internal situation. All it bears in common to Yugoslavian history is an allusion to the beserk, futile, Comintern. The riders of which, all Kis's characters, create an ideology professed "today," in the name of which they were murdered "yesterday." In the name of which the still faithful are infuriated to read.
So where do fiction and history collide?

I'd say, not in life, not in dying, but in the cenotaphs we erect to make something of our lives, our despairing, and the often unforeseen ramifications of our greatest expectations.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Keats, evil, and Imogen...

I've been thinking about, not the "meaning" of art, as I believe that's an endemic, primordial encompassing, but how an artist should be in relation to their subject matter. Keats purportedly could conceive evil just as easily as he could (conceive) good. Counter Shakespeare's Iago to his Imogen, and you'll see, an artist isn't meant to dabble in ethical matters. In a previous blog I mentioned Truman's (Capote) apple theory, and Wilde held this too. That an artist must be distanced from their subject matter, and not simply to employ the lyrical beauty of a piece, but to master its integrity. Dorian Gray wasn't meant for criminals and illiterates (allusion to The Scots Observer). The atmosphere of perceived corruption in Dorian Gray was meant to be vague, to push the plot and its (piece's) vocation. People who complained of it being an immoral book, failed to see, any sins that were conceived in reading it were of their own kind, their own proclivities, and making.

I have an idea about art outlined in my second novel. I'd include an excerpt from it, here, but have been advised to keep the work to myself. It is this: its birthing is idea, and becomes concept when the idea achieves a finality, going from thought to perception. It's when the artist can perceive the color, taste, and tact of the idea that it becomes a concept to be had. Once this is put to paper, the concept dies, and evolves into something that requires lyricism and integrity, which is in the artist's purview, always, instinct*ually*, what I would deem a memory. It is only in this "memory" that a re-creation occurs; so concept, idea are refashioned into a climax, whose denouement occurs when the audience looks on, upon, the piece.

When the climax dies, so too does the secret. An artist always has a view no one will fully comprehend. People can conceive of things, kill the author/artist, and create their own concepts, which are sustained in climax. The climax doesn't die for them, because they are on the receiving end.

In my second novel I do project a juxtaposition between ancestry and historicism. It seems, to me, with a work of art, the ancestry is always in the author's scope; it's the audience who give it a new identity, fashioned not from the past, but the future. Any link to the past is thus, obliterated. Art is made historical by being historicized, but historicism can only go so far. I think when a reader realizes the artist was committing suicide in giving the piece away, a small act of suicide, mind you, because the very distance between the artist and their climax includes, ineluctably, an individual, unique, bent. It is only the artist who can create a piece endemic to themselves. When a reader realizes this, they see how magical art is. Because it sustains them (audience) in climax.

Of course, none of this can occur if an artist is in the immense immediacy of their emotions. They must be distanced. The subject is meant to be distanced. They must be able to eschew ethics, and make a climax out of the integrity of the memory at hand. It is only in the integrity of this memory, that a climax of truth and integration exists. Without which, there would be nothing of creation but pop and insurmountable fluff, good to escape, but not good, for Art.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

16 Tite Street (Chelsea)

I'm looking at a copy, from Merlin Holland's brilliant account of his grandfather's (Oscar Wilde) libel trial, of an auction notice. On Wednesday, April 24th, 1895, Wilde's home on Tite Street, his Arundel Society Prints, his Chippendale and Italian Chairs, Old Persian Carpets, Rugs, Brass Fenders, Moorish and Oriental embroideries, old blue and white china, etc., were auctioned off. By order of the Sheriff. I suppose I'm focusing on this today, because it seems Oscar's "offense," which resulted in two years hard labor at Reading Gaol, was simply him abiding by his nature. Posing as a Sodomite may have been the source for his libel trial, but Wilde's homosexuality was/is something that shouldn't have resulted in jail time.

Oscar lived, in what I imagine, was a very complicated internal... frenzy. His integrity to his art wasn't just brave. It was endemic. His integrity to life, the same.

I am thinking of Oscar now, what it must have been like, at Reading Gaol. Knowing I must read De Profundis again. And, perhaps because I'm dumb or utterly off-kilter, I find an affinity with him, now, pertaining to something exceeding life, law, and liberty: death.

When someone dies, that you adore, or when an aspect of you seems to die because of illness, you're left auctioning pieces of yourself away. To what, one wonders? To the serious, unrelenting natural crest. A friend sent me The Denial of Death, which I have yet to read. But in the beginning, there's this need for us to recognize nature as Tennyson would have it, red in tooth and claw. Rather than focus on its deceptive surface, we should recoil unto the core, of everything, and that is, violence, destruction, and death.

By my estimation, these past weeks have been horrid. I've succumbed to voices no one should succumb to, I've dignified an oppressive evil with my vulnerability. I've mourned. I've screamed. I've sobbed, endlessly. And, I don't know why, but thinking about my father's final breath, coincides now with my own internal illness. Not the mental one, but, the Systemic Lupus, more specifically, Lupus Nephritis.

People say we shouldn't be defined by our diseases. Or anything that oppresses us. I have realized, however, that we are shadows to these violent sources. It is all so ineluctable, how can we not, at times, give in, and feel wretched, vile, and powerless? After my dad died, I felt a contrast between the self I had auctioned away, because of my disease, to the self I had secreted away, because of his death. And as the days progressed, since his passing, I began to give my secrets away. To nature red in tooth and claw. To what I cannot see. To what Joyce would see as the ineluctable modality of form. Simply, change.

I auctioned away bits of me that will never come back. So, as I think of 16 Tite Street on this June evening, I must remember, the shame wasn't the auctioning of his belongings. It was the auctioning of his (Wilde's) soul. In a poem I'm working on, Demeter thinks about aspects being secreted away each time Persephone goes to Hades. Secreted to the clouds, and their rainy seed, to the procreative cycle, of death and life. So, I'll master the obvious, and say, without an ounce of daftness, that it isn't really death we fear. But life, going on against death's ineluctable will. Because death is ineluctable, it's instinct and intuition. And I do believe we all know one thing: life may be easier because of death, if we choose to live how we desire to live, but more often than not, death is made easier because of life, and while we pass each day, not even aware a breath is taken away, we sometimes forget to heed death's ineluctable, frightening, but... pro-creative will.