Wednesday, August 22, 2007


A Door

William Carlos Williams: “I thrive in a matrix of confusion (balance).” And: “Good writing is a matter of integrity to the materials . . .” The self (in its mesh and mess) disintegrating into its materials, “words and words only.” Is style form? (Along the unstinting technologically-derived superficies of the early twenty-first century?) I divagate, I dwell. (I divvy-up, I hunker down.) Thomas Traherne: “In Order to Interior or Contemplativ Happiness, it is a Good Principle: that Apprehensions within are better then their Objects. Morneys Simile of the Saw is admirable. If a man would cut with a saw, he must not apprehend it to be a Knife, but a Thing with Teeth; otherwise he cannot use it. He that mistakes his knife to be an Auger, or his Hand to be his Meat, confounds him self by misapplications. These Mistakes are Ocular • but far more Absurd ones are unseen. To mistake the World, or the Nature of ones soul, is a more Dangerous Error.” In a soul-less period, is style become form? Horkheimer and Adorno suggest that style is a mere “surrogate identity,” concomitant with “obedience to the social hierarchy.” “. . . the great artists have retained a mistrust of style, and at crucial points have subordinated it to the logic of the matter.” (Integrity to the materials.) Though: in a fluid (irresolute, planar, depthless) “era” of masqueraderie and brim inessentiality, is style form?

Am I beginning to resemble Eliot Weinberger’s report’d Mandaean “Dinanukht, a half man, half book, who sits by the waters between the worlds, reading himself”? (I am beginning to Eliot Weinberger’s report’d Mandaean “Dinanukht, a half man, half book, who sits by the waters between the worlds, reading himself.”) And pause I do, to recall N., who report’d seeing a band in London call’d Half-Man, Half-Biscuit. Why do I confuse that with R., who report’d betting on a horse named Half-Man, Half-Biscuit at the racetrack in New Orleans, and how the horse stopped, mid-straightaway, dead?

Morning’s lower’d cloud bank, solid and contemptuous. Part of what caused my intemperate outburst “Is style form?”—Robert Pinget. A note in a recent Context, heft’d into my shoulder-bag yesterday in Shaman Drum, whilst maundering my way home. (Rare late afternoon aimlessness.) Perused with my soup. Now I locate my copy of The Libera Me Domine (Red Dust, 1978), translated by Barbara Wright. Against Traherne’s ocularity (against “description as such”), Pinget admits, “it would be a mistake to consider me a partisan of any ‘school of observation.’ If we are thinking in terms of objectivity, the ear has equally tyrannical exigencies.” And:
It is not what can be said or meant that interests me, but the way in which it is said. And once I have chosen this way—which is a major and painful part of the work, and which must therefore come first—it imposes both composition and subject-matter on me. And once again, I am indifferent to this subject-matter. The whole of the work consists in pouring it into a certain mold, and I have learnt from experience that it is the mold which, line by line, makes the pudding. I am always being surprised, on re-reading my work, at having written about various things which I should have thought did not come within my province.
Is style form? Not the array, not the “shape,” not the “interlock of parts,” not the narrative trajectory, not the untroubled free-running artesian well of the spirit, not the alphabetic stricture—scripture, meaning the “words and words only” scratched out in incumbent orders aurological. (Somewhere a Pinget narrator asks whether there’s “anything else to note besides this accumulation of drifting trivialities,” and, yes, there no longer is . . .)

Robert Pinget, 1919-1997