11 May 2011
Brian Whitener's False Intimacy
The longer I've lived with Brian Whitener's False Intimacy, recently published by the East Bay's own Trafficker Press, the more I've felt really profoundly moved by it. Since picking up a copy at the Osman, Whitener, Rees event at SPT, the book's occupied a permanent place in my bag, which has offered the opportunity to read and re-read it in some of the most unlikely of places. Brian and I had a great talk about the book during his visit in early April: how those things we imagine experiencing super intimately are the very things from which we are often most abstracted—so that our insistence on (or assurance of) intimacy becomes the very blindspot that helps distance us from our own experience.
Here's Brian from his interview with Erika Staiti (worth the price of admission alone): "This book...emerges out of a kind of obsession I have with 'the 90s'...It's the period where I most feel like a stranger to whatever I am now. But I have been wondering if perhaps this is a structural and not personal condition, that is an effect of a return to US imperialism...In that way 'tragedy' has effects that register as both spatial and temporal, and these gaps or 'insurmountable breaks' give rise to forms of false intimacy, ways of attempting to live the abstractions of the sublime gaps of tragedy-thinking..."
I've read this book a handful of times and realize only now that it works for me as its own kind of false intimacy: everytime I think I've pinned it down (or at least have developed some robust reading strategies!), I find myself rethinking what it means to experience writing "intimately."
Here's a section from the first movement:
popular pedagogy: i can't
explain the x in that word
because it's too involved
with what we were trying to exchange.
life during money
my body is without value, how could
you inform us of this
valuelessness, how does it.
There is no war. There
is not such a thing as war. What is
war? a rehearsal of conditions
What is war but a transgression,
and what is transgression but
the unexamined influence of
capital on my desire(s). There is
no war, a rehearsal not an
identification because there is
no history, because there is no
history because there is no war,
social, socially, socially my
thinking became invested, which
I could only think in relation to
a future, that is, spatially,
spatially inverted structures that
have been inverted, but failure
is also failure if only thinking
were enough, that this point
probably means more
less post...but I...
one means is that the body is
is a shift in perspective, which is
Even now, I'm reading this poem way differently than I have been these past few weeks, and I think this might have something to do with the size of the font. The font is really, really big in the book (like reading a Word document at 200%)—"to push the language...into becoming an image"—which I'm starting to think has contributed to my vastly different readings in terms of speed and attention, but also in terms of what I take with me into the world. Typing these lines now, I'm much more aware of these macro-syntactic structures I couldn't "see" otherwise, whereas before I read in short phrases as they presented themselves. The large font creates a sort of shortsitedness in that the reader can't preview the text to come in an effort to learn how to read it. So one's left reading kind of blindly—that is, reading only what's right in front of you, perhaps in the way we "read" time.
"to what degree you can only
enter so far wanted to create a
new type of experience how did
it get so fragile a kind of body a
kind of abstraction that could
live inside another body a body
that could unveil itself without
argument, without recourse to
language REPRESENT ME in
the past year a shading of a
temporal element the familiar
I love this notion of a very bodily present-experience of having lived in the past somehow "elsewhere," always elsewhere...certainly in the same body (or at least a version of it) but above it or beside it or literally in it, but a different body in that body. A present experience of a past experience that feels so much less embodied, which might serve to remind us that the present will have proved disembodied in the very same way, even as we live it.