The below is an excerpt of several selections from two longer works written over the past three years (and part two of three interrelated posts). Part 1 can be read [here]
Our proposition, though, is too little or too obvious. Our thesis was/ is that literature can reveal the self to itself, that, like Proust’s railcar, literature is a time machine; it’s some kinda warp hole. And the strangeness of literature is the strangeness of things. When arts organizations or graduate programs or writers themselves insist on the naturalness of expression, they show their shame and worry. Fascists hate surrealism and other degenerate modes because those modes tell the truth. But, now, that’s all obvious. The state of emergency is self-evident.
The supermassive as itself zags away by the long diagonal. It is itself and itself with itself.
“The peculiar position of the whale’s eyes, effectually divided as they are by many cubic feet of solid head, which towers between them like a great mountain separating two lakes in valleys. . . . all between must be profound darkness and nothingness to him.”
Imagine these valleys’ messages exchanged at electrical speeds across the brain’s dark mountain. This is inside; outside is the gloomy future. But, how is this different from us? Aren’t we gargantuan assemblages riddled with bottomless gaps, like supermassive reflective structures?
These echoes are Heracles and his ghost, all of our future traditions.
“Between-ness.” From one eye to the next. Plural made singular. Translation. Leaps across. Shame’s movement. Memory-recall. Leaps across. Experiences across/of various digital interfaces, the very notion of an “inter” “face.” The eye adjusting to smallness, largeness. Harvest moons. Delays on Zoom.
The dead can’t remember. Melville’s z-axial whale confronts “profound darkness and nothingness.” You really need to see The Incredible Shrinking Man. Have you? Paraphrasing from Wikipedia: The “man” masters the cellar, slaying a gigantic spider with a sewing needle. His screams can’t be heard. As he grows ever smaller and is finally able to step between the wires in a window screen, he looks up at the starry sky:
“So close [are] the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly I really knew they were the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet like the closing of a gigantic circle.”
Therefore, the tiny is always vast, wah-wah-ing out into its trembling weirdness, darting along with its secreted cosmic interior.
There are windows and doors. It’s through these doors and windows where you’ll see the truest magic, the place where the mind darts farthest from itself, deepest into thought or at the peak of its reverie. Through this shrunken world, the world itself is converted.
When I used to leave our building in the morning, to head to the bus stop, I sometimes felt very very far away even as I felt nauseous, exposed, and miniaturized, as if all things outside of home were touching me while I moved down the street, and this was causing me to be somewhere/sometime else. It’s like getting very high at night in the winter and feeling your bones moving as you lean toward the laptop’s glow of show and suddenly wake up out of the show and remember the work week and tasks and unpleasantries (and by all this I mean: the untraceable moment just before the re-memory); the bad dream of history at your backdoor.
An early kaleidoscopic experience with literature: my mother saying, after we’d paused to speak with and as soon as we’d passed the “live-in girlfriend” of a neighbor: “She’s babying that arm, if you ask me.” This was electric. We were walking down the block, probably to get bread at the factory-outlet store on the corner. The girlfriend (and it seemed to me the whole block knew of this) had accidentally cut her arm with a knife. Her arm was in a sling, an image-rhyme with holding a baby so close. Electricity. This was indeed a form of gossip. This was observation and description. Gossip is also trajectory-information. Gossip is predictive. Gossip is an inflection of a report. Fabrication. Speculation. From Hannah Black’s “Witch-hunt”:
“The gossip, like the witch, was persecuted as if she were an outlaw, instead of at the heart of her community. Her superpower is hanging out–giving, sharing, spending and wasting time together; she provides material for this activity. She brings news, warnings and information. Worlds appear from her big mouth.”
Cassandra the gossip.
Gossip as event is a weird little portal, a hole-maker, an other-er, a fabulist’s favorite drug; it turns mere talk to fantasy and theater and performance art. It is not true and not not true at once. The speaker can make worlds, as Black says.
“The gossip’s social transgression is that she is very social. She is too social. She makes it seem like the social might have . . . Its own reality?!”
Z-axial. It’s a kind of escape hatch or even a gas-release. Black is discussing Sylvia Federici’s notion that gossip was one threatening force that tied women together in community and had to be dismantled (one technique was literal muzzles; another was witch-hunts) in order to successfully establish capitalism. The gossip was Orphic, a menace to order. The gossip—I’ll switch to gossiper to clarify—makes herself, according to Black, a “conduit of other people’s business,” and that swapping of identities (the social self made on-the-spot author, the literature made self) is a z-axial technique, a kind of clever brush stroke in history and narrative:
“Like a hero who is at home in the worlds of both the living and the dead, the gossip crosses back and forth between home and world, between the secret interior and the public exterior, carrying items to trade: shared knowledge, a shoulder to cry on, insight, fun.”
So the gossiper makes herself a medium of a thing already promiscuous in its thing-ness, thus playing at reality-bending. Holly Pester writes,
“Gossip is a kind of folk art, activated through oral culture and queer, radical, and female communities. It exists through repetition, subversion, communication, and relation. We can tune into gossip as a radical approach to art history or we can do it as method, as a mode of composition.”
We rediscover our recessive state, our conjuncture with everything and the loop that links the very small with the very large, the ancient world and future, the body and its actuality. We are real. This is real. The diagonal operates in depth as a depth. It is a return of your memories: waking up in the hospital, pacing in the waiting room, hovering in the brightest summer light. Is it August? July? What year is it? It’s now, always the very tip of a supermassive cone.
Olivia Cronk is the author of Womonster (Tarpaulin Sky, July 2020), Louise and Louise and Louise (The Lettered Streets Press, 2016), and Skin Horse (Action Books, 2012). With Philip Sorenson, she edits The Journal Petra.
Philip Sorenson is the author of Of Embodies (Rescue Press, 2012) and Solar Trauma (Rescue Press, 2018). A shorter handmade work, New Recordings, was released by Another New Calligraphy in 2018, but it’s now out of print. He co-edits The Journal Petra with Olivia Cronk.