Friday, January 21, 2011

Going to Market

Well, my Puddlers, we've made it to the end of another long week.  The blog will be back in full (and hopefully better) swing next week with plenty of posts.  However, its cold out there tonight so I am going to skip all of my clever little preamble and leave you with the man who knows how to warm all those hard to reach places. No, I'm not talking about Larry Sanders. I am talking about the one, the only, Mr. Mark (Aurelius) Jack!

Take it away, Mark!

The Debt Collectors

Mark Jack


Lately I have been thinking mostly of isolation, but not solipsism. Well, maybe a weak solipsism, one that isn't terribly true but is, still, somewhat inevitable, or inevitably felt. Something that makes the you think, “What's the other thing?” or “How's the other thing felt?” or “How's the other felt thing felt?”

Whatever it is, I think it may remind me of my childhood and what a horrible thing that would be, but then we are all old and sentimental in our own ways no matter our age or health or education or country of origin or sexual orientation or sexual disorientation or gender or not or even memory.

Just the other day I was discussing tire swings with a friend and we both paused for a second to be sentimental—sans twinkle in the eye.  It seems childhood memories necessitate an eye twinkle, but one's eyes never twinkle. The problem with my memory is that the tire swing in question was known to me only when I was 'round two years old. My mother doubts the veracity of my memory in this regard. Most other people don't give a shit. Am I simply remembering a picture or perhaps I am merely doubting my mother's memory? Is it possible to say I remember an other's memory? Am I remembering the telling of it or the memory itself?

Well, I don't know, and maybe these considerations lead absolutely nowhere. In fact, I'm almost certain that the lattter is true—at least as long as I have been formulating the questions. The problem, you see, is I've been reading Samuel Beckett, again. Actually, it's not a problem. This time I’m reading Watt. Honestly, I can't get enough of this guy. Watt is perhaps the funniest book I've read by Beckett; some of his plays are humorous as well, for instance, Endgame. There's some good comedy there. The problem for most people reading Beckett, I think, and it was my problem as well, is that one is told about his absurdity maybe or his mastery/distrust of language, maybe, or all number of things that build Beckett up into some unapproachable and maybe unapproachably weird writer. Well, he is certainly strange. Just look at this photo.

Trust me. Watt is a strange book, but is also funny. The one thing Beckett does not fool around with is sentimentality. He is perhaps the least sentimental writer I know. Actually, that's wrong; let me rethink that. Beckett loves to play with sentimentality. What he is not is sentimental. Watt, rather, is a book featuring a man who is so confused by memory's functioning that there is absolutely no possibility of sentiment being arrived at let alone conveyed. Early in the book, Watt, who is a servant in Mr. Knott's house answers the door and finds the Galls, father and son, who are there to tune the piano. The problem with this scene is that it is as Watt tells it to the author, and Watt is not sure about the workings of memory, but only that this incident, with the Galls resembles all the other incidents of note "in the sense that it was not ended, when it was past, but continued to unfold, in Watt's head, beginning to end."

Watt is a strange character "who had not seen a symbol, nor executed an interpretation, since the age of fourteen, or fifteen, and who had lived, miserably it is true, among face values all his life." So Watt, like many of Beckett's characters find fault in their memories and, more so, find difficulty in considering any symbolic interpretation of the events considered. Often, in Beckett's oeuvre, memory is presented to a character through another medium, such as the tapes in Krapp's Last Tape, and in this respect they are somewhat foreign to the character to whom these memories, these recorded memories belong. They are un-changeable and outside, rather than elastic and internal and meaningful. Although for Watt, memory is elastic in that it is merely a collection of surfaces, and his memory of the Gall's "gradually lost, in the nice processes of its light, its sound, its impacts and its rhythm, all meaning, even the most literal." In this way, the memory is something unincorporated and yet transferable, and prone to editing.

What then, is this process of writing? Memoir and the like seem the most suspicious forms if we think in these Beckettian terms, but all writing is suspect in these terms. We rely so much on the meanings we give to our memories. We learn from them in this way, or we tell ourselves that, when we think back and re-imagine some event that we have progressed in someway beyond it—because of it. Why?

There is a strange and beautiful compulsion to understand our memories as metaphor, and in recording our thoughts and our imaginings we set up an economy of meaning, which pays, sometimes, suspiciously. We  are greedy sometimes, extracting whatever dubious self-knowledge we can from that which passes through our minds as the past. This is a curious communication.


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