Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who Is Dita Fröller?

“The Palm’s Green Adducer”

If one is ever alert for flaws in the fabric, intentional coyote nudges, joke apparati, if that determines one’s zeitgeist, one’s big picture—one finds what one looks for nigh-constantly in the daily spectral soup. So that: reading Joan Retallack’s excellent introduction to Gertrude Stein: Selections (University of California Press, 2008)—part of the increasingly important and juste Poets for the Millennium series—one flags the initial epigraph as suspect. In itself, innocuous enough:
Gertrude Stein. She came and there she was and here she is still. But what was she and what is this vast and contradictory, wonderful and maddening body of work? It means so much to us, has made so much possible, is so full of pleasure and still constant surprise. Yet there are long stretches that tax one’s attention, putting the reader in a difficult position. The work asks us to invent new ways of reading.
And it is sign’d, plausibly enough: Dita Fröller, New Old World Marvels. And one goes to the notes, liking the title, an indefatigable bibliographic hound, and finds: “The epigraphs are from Dita Fröller, “Stein Stein Stein Stein Stein,” in New Old World Marvels.” (Phantom echo of the Daniel Hoffman book Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe (1971), though finally, like the blackjack dealer likes to say, “No help.”) One goes to the bibliography proper and finds (under “Other Sources Cited”—a tiny mix’d bag of Barthes, Adorno, Peter Gay, André Breton):
Fröller, Dita. “Stein Stein Stein Stein Stein.” In New Old World Marvels. Washington, DC and Paris: Pre-Post-Eros Editions, frothcoming.
Sic. Is it the “frothcoming”—typo in guise of a wink—or the name of the press that throws the giddy currents of suspicion into play? Or is it the odd echo in “Dita Fröller” of legendary Stein reader Ulla E. Dydo? I don’t know. Retallack talks (with relish?) about Stein’s late fondness for reading detective novels (Dashiell Hammett one fave, another Edgar Wallace, author of Terrible People, Big Foot, The Twister, and The Avenger amongst others, writer—though he died without completing it—for the movie King Kong) and how after the success of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas she’d attempt’d one in Blood on the Dining Room Floor. There is, too, another “Dita Fröller” epigraph within Retallack’s prefatory remarks, again, mostly innocuous, though (in high alert) the “many puzzles” sizzles out. Attributed to the “Stein Stein Stein Stein Stein” essay:
In the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein wrote “to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.” Gertrude Stein set out to imagine a language for the new experience of time brought on by what she thought of as the American invention of the twentieth century. How she managed to do this in her radically novel word compositions is the most interesting of the many puzzles she presents.
Okay and et puis. One’s revving to ramble off elsewhere, morning is broken, the dog’s water’d. One fires up the machine and looks around the topographical plain that is cyberspace, desperately seeking Dita. And finds:
Acknowledging the gap between reality and representation makes it hard to limn differences among realities and representations. Such difficulties can lead to epistemological despair. This is where poetry comes in.
                    Dita Fröller, New Old World Marvels
And finds:
In the dream a small plane falls out of the sky. The writer is lucky. She crawls out and walks away with bad memories and a crooked smile.
                    Dita Fröller, “Autobio: A Littered Aria,” from New Old World Marvels
The first epigraphing the provocatively titled (in the circumstances) “T H E R E I N V E N T I O N O F T R U T H” (it begins: “counter factuals / the world is full and doesn’t ask for more”), the second topping the introductory essay, “Essay as Wager,” in Retallack’s 2003 The Poethical Wager. Terrible frissons of delight, that of a hound’s nose snuffling a scent. (Stein, quoted by Retallack: “What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it . . .”) I prove, certainly, nothing. The pleasure resides in the skink’d out bowls of desire’s clear nectar put forth, exhibits. Quotes “not needing to point to transcendent menaing.” Retallack on performance and eros (“pre” eliding “post”):
Is performance always in some sense erotic? What does an eros of language mean? In part, it’s about pleasure in the words as fondled objects of poesis, radiant in their everyday connotations, not needing to point to transcendent meaning. But the performance of language is also a performance of a particular kind of desire—a desire to touch others, to know and be known through words. When I read Tender Buttons, I’m reminded of Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: “Language is a skin. I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers. Or fingers at the tip of my words.”
And: in an “era” of sampling, a sample (quotable adduced out of a work that exists only by dint of its references) itself suffices.

Joan Retallack