Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fragments, an excerpt

This is the opening of Fragments. It was also posted on The Green Lantern blog.

There was no desire for arrival.

The furniture, like the weather, changes without anyone noticing.

The dwindling time between arrivals and departures drew her attention to the outdated calendar, an ancient time-map in which she had lost her way.

A constant tinkering.

She navigates among the geography of shadows.

Her fragile mouth.

Orisons for paper cuts.

Once upon a time there were any number of alternatives.

They share a chapter in the history of tingling.

He likes the circles and curves and arches of uneven thinking.

Call flesh the name of angelic letters.

Neglected ear charting for itself a course across their daily sounds.

As if by so feeding his brain some conjugal growth might visit itself upon him.

Comestible language might ooze off the page through the ravenous stretches of mind reaching out.

Vistas he knows exist and yet fails to grasp.

That the mind is but gently balanced and with the slightest nudge might topple from its isolate pedestal like Milton’s proudest Satan, into a pit of knowledge unknowing.

That the alchemy of language might turn leaden thoughts into golden vistas of thinking.

Part of them emerges on the other side of something they know not what nor begin to guess its thickness.

Language laps at the edges, spills over the boundaries, washes away the barriers, and yet still they remain confined.

For example: skin and poetry.

Blood remains the most complicated language.

What about the fact that we have decided to allow the combination of approximately two dozen consonants and half a dozen vowels to represent everything we are capable of thinking, feeling, and imagining?

Thought’s efforts to no longer be thought.

An obsession bordering on the religious.

No book can live up to a person’s desires because books are only records of other people’s desires (and whether these books stem from abundance or indigence, what one takes away from a book always depends on what one brings to it).

As if your eyes were the page on which the story of my own eyes were written.

A sphere out of control.

Harassing vocabulary.

Man imitates what he sees and is always ready to adopt desire.

What stirs.

Excitement by proxy.

He thought of her as one who bore her loss with admirable disdain.

She was feeling a bit translucent.

From the window they watch a boat floating in a muddy puddle.

All of life is a lie in response to the truth that whatever beauty does not end was never there to begin with.

A discourse that made no provisions for the future.

What she calls poetry is a certain inability to see the world.

She sees life as an affair chiefly of pronouns which she can neither order nor use in their proper relationships to people or objects.

The piles of fruit in the bowl have no mythology by which to peel them.

She threatened to continue striking him over the head with her forms of insistence until he repeated after her the words she feared to speak alone.

“If you were a book on a shelf, what two books would you want to be placed between?” she asks.

There are objects surrounding them other than the objects they have chosen to surround themselves with.

Each turned page an attempt at prayer.

Fragments on the backs of postcards sent from a dirty room in Istanbul.

Foiled by such preposterous instruments as language wields.

“You’re beginning to get a picture of just how non-renewable your resources are,” she says.

Shocked at the thought of barns.

Shallow without surface.

To find room for everything.

He remembers.

There were times like these that reminded them of other times unlike these.

The secret terror of those who believe in God is the fear that they are wrong; the secret terror of those who do not believe in God is the fear that they are right.

The page is the repository for an organization of words that points away from its own finitude to something more.

A full dose of the missile’s accuracy.

The “long poem” fills him with fear and trepidation.

Still quivering after having been coaxed from beneath the refrigerator.

Pierced by a certain knowledge.

There was something about the sheets of plastic taped over the outside windows that lent a charming opacity to their interior world.

Below the level of responsibility an elevator starts its descent.

Bones stacked in piles along either side of the tollbooth.

Although this is not “all there is,” that is the misconception that allows them to go on.

A case of one hand scratching the other.

Waiting for faces to appear at the window.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fragments Forward

Below is the Forward to Fragments, written by Joseph Fuller.



A pretty sly strategy, your not responding to my earlier missive. Anyway, I took another look at Fragments and, boy, was I off last time. A “crypto-relationship novel”? Of course, it certainly seems to be playing that game, but now I’m pretty sure it’s a red herring. I mean really: “the membrane of language a tenuous barrier to intimacy.” Fragments doesn’t exactly trade in thesis statements, and even if it often seems like a stalled and fumbling bit of make-up sex between eros and logos, I really think that’s just one of many heads on this beast of yours. Forget this “he” and “she” and their fractured colloquy, language itself is protagonist and antagonist here, and these word-lovers are a kind of thematic distraction to divert the attention so some other spooky thing can slip under the radar.


Along those lines: “The poem is not in any ordinary sense about its subject; it is an attempt to be ‘the thing itself.’


Maybe you can respond now.  Just—something—a crumb or two.

Am I on the right track?









Again with the silence! Are you out of town, or adding a bit more hermeneutical menace? If the latter, I’d say it’s hardly necessary, especially given Fragments’ increasingly suffocating qualities.


It’s odd that the work could seem to have such a ludic spirit in one reading, and then register as a metalinguistic horror novel the next go-round. But of course I know that’s not really the case. It’s not even the case that this is a novel, right? I’ve determined pretty conclusively that it’s not an epic poem, nor a philosophical work, nor anything else I can even think of. This is closer to lexical music, but where my first reading felt like an encounter with a playful jazz suite, this most recent go-round produced an impish threnody.


Patiently awaiting a reply,







Scratch what I said earlier. You know, I thought the whole ‘authorial silence’ thing was funny for a while, but not anymore. I’d really like some kind of answer. I’ve interpreted and re-interpreted and re-re-interpreted and I need a little help.


Strange as it may sound, I’m back to the relationship reading. I mean this work is about something, not everything or nothing, right, and what it’s about is this tragicomedy of self-consciousness. This reading I felt the tangibility of this “he” and “she” of yours—felt there was a story unfolding within this increasingly dusky wood of too many words and too many ideas. All that bothersome atmosphere of dying certitude about language is just the backdrop for these two reaching out to one another—or away from one another. Funny, before I was positive it was the other way around: they were the background, the canvas set, and the true focus was this spooky, fluctuating signal-to-noise ratio. What I haven’t figured out is how to classify what goes on between this “he” and “she.” Is it a romance or an agon? Is each dreaming the other, or are they too busy dreaming up themselves to grasp that the other is real? They try to escape their own minds using the only tools they have, language and more language and more language, but it just leads them into a labyrinth of solipsism and away from one another.


Pretty sure I’m spot on, but some aid would be welcome,







When we know what words are worth, the amazing thing is that we try to say anything at all, and that we manage to do so. This requires, it is true, a supernatural nerve.




No variety of literary originality is still possible unless we torture, unless we pulverize language. It proceeds differently if we proceed by the expression of the idea as such. Here we find ourselves in an area where requirements have not altered since the pre-Socratics.




The intrinsic value of books does not depend on the importance of its subject (else the theologians would prevail, and mightily), but on the manner of approaching the accidental and insignificant, of mastering the infinitesimal. The essential has never required the least talent.


and finally…


The more injured you are by time, the more you seek to escape it. To write a faultless page, or only a sentence, raises you above becoming and its corruptions. You transcend death by the pursuit of the indestructible in speech, in the very symbol of nullity.



E.M. Cioran





Let’s try this.


Fragments has some sort of code:


__ yes


__ no


__ maybe

The author must keep his mouth shut when the work starts to speak.



__ true


__ false


Fragments is (please check two):

__ A meditation


__ A novel

__ A poem

__ None of the above


 All of the above

__ A tragedy about language

__ A comedy about language


__ ‘David Carl’ is a figment of the book’s imagination

__  _________________________________




I won’t even ask anymore, so never mind all that.


A little experiment:


I decided to approach Fragments as something I found—a sheaf of loose-leaf pages. I went to the Laundromat and had a seat. I picked up this stack of pages and removed the rubber band that was holding them together; I started to read. The first page slipped around to follow the last. And so it went.


Taxonomical questions fell away pretty quickly. I wasn’t looking for a fiction anymore.  I wasn’t looking for a confession, or an essay, or a guided meditation. Fragments became a stroll among the ruins: it was the jagged objects themselves, the weeds springing up between them, the horizon all around. Meaning began to slip away, and it pulled even inklings along with it.


Mystery gradually withdrew as well.


Each line began to mute whatever had preceded it, until what finally remained was silence.  In the end it was the white on the page that had the final say.








Is it true that if you read into an abyss, it starts to read into you?


Just wondering, because I’m a little worried about what Fragments might actually do to a person. Are they predators, these lines?  Is the brave, dumb, active reader essentially lunch?   To read a line is to identify with it, consciously or not, a graft between mind and word, mind and image, mind and idea.  And in a moment, as word yokes to word and slithers through eye and ear there is that tremor of a marriage between being and sentence.  I’m thinking Pessoa here:


“All literature is an attempt to make life real. As all of us know, life is absolutely unreal in its directly real form; the country, the city and all of our ideas are all absolutely fictitious things, the offspring of our complex sensation of our own selves. Impressions are incommunicable unless we make them literary.”


And so it nests, for an instant, in the cranial dome: the realer-than-real.


The satisfaction of most writing is that we conspire with the writer on a dream of coherence: sentence follows sentence, idea follows idea, building, be it gracefully or cloddishly, into a phantom organism—a spell of continuity that reassures even if the vision is dire, because the mind simply must trick itself.  It must trick itself that being is not merely a fluttering illusion, but somehow substantial, that there is tissue and ligature binding all that unruly symbolic surplus.  To read is to dream ourselves into being.




Then there’s Fragments.  The eye scans the line, the pupil dilates and contracts, the moment of being’s birth begins—

—only to be devoured by another sentence, another blip of immanence, itself a birth, itself a death.  And on it goes, page by page, procreation and slaughter, fecundity and finitude.  Insidious.


A work of nullity.


A peepshow oblivion.




Is it a work of becoming?


Is this a Heraclitean literature?


Forget this notion that this is somehow a story—that there are people hiding in a thicket of words.  These teasing pronouns that recur are flypaper for being, so desperate is the reader to identify, and the moment of identification is the moment where the sentence, the phonetic cudgel, is brought down, delivering the reader a little death, so that a little birth can then necessarily come about.  So let’s abandon the old ‘death of author’ blather.  This is the ‘death of reader’.  Isn’t it?


And who is the archon rigging this maliciously tender, tenderly malicious game? 


Is “David Carl” simply whoever happens to pick this up?