September 2009


From the Threepenney Review article on him

When Cercas asks him what it was like to live through Pinochet’s coup (a self-evidently stupid question, since most of Bolaño’s fiction deals with the subject), Bolaño pauses a moment and then answers, “Like a Marx Brothers movie, but with corpses.”

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His descriptions of people done here with the Bolanoesque reversal:

“Coffeen was tall, taller than his mother, and you could tell that in his youth he must have been slim and well built, although now he was fat, or, rather, bloated. His forehead was broad, but it didn’t have the sort of breadth that suggests intelligence or sound judgement; it had the breadth of a … Read morebattlefield, and the battle had been lost, to judge from the rest of his face; thin, lank hair falling over his ears, a skull more like a dented bowl then a noble dome, light eyes staring at me with a mixture of suspicion and boredom. In spite of everything, I found him attractive. (I’m a born optimist) Amulet 132-33

This must have been done. Animism in Totem and Taboo as fetishism. Not Freudian fetishism, but Marxian, or Freudo-Marxian fetishism. ( Suddenly aware of how indicative this thought is of my standing as an academic in training where thoughts are not only valued by their merit but are given extra value if they haven’t been thought before. If such a thing is possible is it desirable? fodder for another post).

First. one of Freud’s several definitions of animism is the ‘living character of what appear to be inanimate objects’ (this essentially is one of traditional meaning of the fetish according my computer dictionary which says a fetish can either be an object with magical powers or alive ) Of course Freud being Freud, doesn’t address this or make a distinction between animism as traditional fetishism and sexual fetish as abnormal perversion etc.

2 Freud describes animism as the most complete weltanschung. Obvious parallels here with capitalist totality.

3 the Practical aspect of animism is described as ‘including body of instructions how to obtain mastery over men, beasts and things or over their spirits.78 Capital, of course is described as this seemingly magical fetishzed world that has mastery over men. we are our own gravediggers day after day But the appearance is otherwise  an enchanted, perverted, topsy-turvy world, in which Monsieur le Capital and Madame la Terre do their ghost-walking as social characters and at the same time directly as things.

4 According to Freud, animism is ‘ the first weltangschung. But It would go beyond our present purpose to show how much of it still persists in modern life, either as the debased form of superstition or as the living basis of our speech our beliefs our philosophy.

Its tempting to say here, in the confluence of Marxian fetishism and Freudian animism, is where the Dialectic of Enlightenment steps in.

Rather sketchy, I know, but more to come.

(1) what do i have to do to be designated ‘too big to fail?’ can i put it on my cv?

(2) are there any conspiracy theories that yo-yo ma is the leader of the new world order? he seems to be at every political event (kennedy’s funeral, the g20) for no discernable reason. Is he the elder of Zion and the illuminati wrapped around a priceless cello

At work. Right now. Its been dead all day. It usually is. Thats why I like it. Its the perfect job for me.

I work at a copy shop in historical Lewes. What was once a refuge for free thinkers, pagans etc. is now a haven for bonafide eccentrics.  The freaks that are my customers. The customers that liven my day.

Such a job functions as a break. A reliable routine rupture in my everyday life. It gets me away from my thesis. The mundane duties and human interactions, from others points of view– ground me and keep me in touch with the real world. I find notions of this real world absurd, but find something true in both of these descriptions. Cuz the job gives me space to be mundane. to engage in small talk, to not think, or at least think in that way.

The job can be boring. It can be stressfull. It can be  enteraining. But it is never the hell, the absolute mind numbing drudgery that is full time work. That is the  everyday life of so many who count themselves lucky.

Time, is still broken into hours here, rationalized. But it flows differently within the schema. I have several hours of free time at this work. I listen to music. I write. I read.  I drink coffee and eat cake. I watch the people go by. The schoolchildren make me think of Larkin. I consider myself lucky.

Posted by CO

Before David Simon and Ed Burns made The Wirethey wrote The Corner. Its brilliant, of course. And it shares many themes with The Wire. But its also more focused then The Wire. The 600 pages of The Corner focus on a year in the life of a handful of real people who lived near the corners of Fayette and Monroe in East Baltimore in the early 1990s.

A consequence of this focus is that the physical, cultural and allegorical world of the corner that Simon and Burns depict- in their words “an existential crisis rooted not only in race– which the corner has slowly transcended– but in the unresolved disaster of the American Rust-belt” where “an increasingly draconian legal system’s inability to mitigate against human frailty and despair, against economic neglect and institutional racism, against a failed educational system and the marginalization of America’s urban populations “- is personalized.

The people caught in this world are humanized. You identify with them. You hope for them. You cry for them. You live in awe of them. Coupled with Simon and Burns extended and brilliant discussions of how the corner has developed, how its economy functions, its culture, the failure of the war on drugs, wellfare and the institutional abandonment of the underclass, you are given an intimate connection to people forced to live under conditions where

“To see it in retrospect, to look backward across thirty years on the Fayette streets of this country is to contemplate disaster as a seamless chronology….cursed as we are with a permanent urban underclass, an unremitting and increasingly futile drug war, and Third World conditions in the hearts of our cities, the American experiment seems, as the millennium to have found a limit.”

Yet, in the people who make it out, who make something where all others fall tragically to the corner- in the unbelievable example of Ella Thompson- who following the murder of her 12 year daughter against all realism holds runs the local community centre- or Fran Boyd or Tyreeka Freamon, you gain some hope. For, on The Corner “no ending is certain and hope itself endures.’ Even as “The Corner is, itself, immutable.” That is until we “acknowledge[ing] honestly the depth and complexity of the problem.” In other words, we face what has created the corner in its own image- capitalism- and transcending it before it is too late.

Experimental etc. is fantastic. They have the Beefheart discography, loads of Magic Markers, Acid Eater, the new Lightning Bolt and lots of others I’m dying to check out. Shit is tight.

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