In anticipation of the 2nd Annual Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture, this year featuring the incomparable Jalal Toufic (flying in from Istanbul for this very occasion!), I'd like to share Leslie's incredible essay "Fiction and The Present Without Basis," a reading of Toufic's book Forthcoming (next to Leslie's own Defoe). Originally published in symploke (vol. 12, no. 1/2, 2004), and later in Fiction's Present: Situating Contemporary Narrative Innovation (edited by R.M. Berry and Jeffrey Di Leo for SUNY Press), this essay was composed in response to the following questions: “Does fiction continuing the tradition of modernist innovation have any reality for emergent political groups and cultures?” and “Can the novel establish itself in the present of global capitalism without abandoning its formal distinctness?” (posted online with permission of the Estate of Leslie Scalapino).
I hope to see you all at CCA this Sunday, June 10th at 5:00pm (Timken Hall, 1111 8th Street, SF) in order to welcome Jalal Toufic back to the Bay Area while remembering Leslie Scalapino's manifold contributions to contemporary poetry. This promises to be a truly special event.
Fiction and The Present Without Basis
by Leslie Scalapino
In the evening, the day the U.S. invasion of Iraq began, I went to a reading series held at a private home. The host was in jail, arrested during a huge anti-war demonstration which blocked buildings and streets of San Francisco. Fourteen hundred arrested, twelve hundred arrested the next day (the extent of the demonstrations never reported nationally). The audience (all writers) at the reading, and the readers, discussed the fact that language has been destroyed. It is only propaganda and lies at all. Saying we’re liberating them, ‘we’ mow down their people. (Jalal Toufic, in Forthcoming, comments that in Lebanon, “Even guerrilla operations by Lebanese against military targets in the part of Lebanon illegally occupied by Israel are termed terrorist!” (1)) The writers speaking used words to the effect: ‘they (those saying they’re liberating) have destroyed language, we must destroy language (in order to make it).’
I think language that’s poetry or fiction is the only language that can destroy language in that sense (to remake it).
That may not be an answer to the question posed (for a consideration of ‘fiction’s present’): “Does fiction continuing the tradition of modernist innovation have any reality for emergent political groups and cultures?” Destroying language (to remake it) may be alongside that question.
“Can the novel establish itself in the present of global capitalism without abandoning its formal distinctness?” My sense is: it is its formal distinctness if it ‘transforms’ the time it’s in — ‘transforms’ in the sense of: to be only its language, syntax and structure in that time. It can change the space of the given — the space given as that language there, which rearranges changing the conception (present tense) of the outside given.
That is, fiction’s present is the act of changing the language then. The present is (phenomenally) a form of fiction, in being created ahead of us unknown. The present isn’t engaged in this sense, however, in MLA Style Manual language. Critical, explanatory language (intentionally regularized) is removed from ‘the present as its space’ (is not the present of that language) — meaning, the intent of critical language is to describe from the outside, rather than to be the act of changing, of acting on, the present as language itself being a form of real-time space which can conceptually change outside rather than mimicking it (representing it). Critical language is to be within shared terms, what has become that already.
Yet the language of theory (such as Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus/Capitalism and Schizophrenia (2)) is also conceptual change of space. That work, by being a kind of summary, reconstructs modern terrain according to a description that we then recognize as present information (although “Treatise on Nomadology — The War Machine” is a conjecture on “Thought, the State, and Nomadology” which is not about actual nomads, in Mongolia for example, is created theory/future). The writing of Deleuze and Guattari’s vision of reality, which one is to accept, as authoritative (not the expectation of fiction or poetry), in the same way one accepts news, if news were that, anyway the way one accepts observation, as the language of supposed rational/’straightforward’ exposition, does not change its space except to enhance it. It leaves that space in place, intentionally prolonging it, adding to it rather than altering it as the shape of the language in which it’s delineated, in a duration as to constitute a history of the present.
Dropping a distinction between fiction and poetry as types of language is indicative of the current change also reflected in writers dropping the distinction between art of language and discursive language or history. Yet there are still distinctions. Language of fiction and poetry can change the created setting vertically/horizontally at once by that setting being differently the space that is syntax, rather than that setting being solely intellectually created to ‘portray’ the real social: that is, in the given language, its very presentation depending on appearing as objective fact, therefore without apparently attempting its own transmogrification there. Yet fiction does that also, beginning with Daniel Defoe.
An example of intellectual construct’s resistance to meaning occurring as the medium of its language, which for example in poetry would be its syntax sound/shape (yet as a work’s language constituting change of its own terrain — I’m now altering my construct to indicate that its resistance to such written change can be part of its own energy) along the lines of Deleuze and Guattari, is the work of Jalal Toufic (who is highly conversant with their theory and influenced by them). Jalal Toufic’s writing can be regarded as a new fiction eschewing characters, plot, and emotive impetus or resonance in a form of duration that is radical. Toufic’s Forthcoming, using a ‘syntax of discourse’, begins with a discourse on refusal as the language, rejection of embodying action, emotion and character. I’m viewing Toufic’s Forthcoming as a work of fiction by its being intentionally a counterfeit which demonstrates withdrawing the possibility of there being ‘fiction’ (social/literary category) : in that, in relation to event as (what he terms “surpassing disaster” such as in contemporary Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Rwanda, as in earlier but still present Hiroshima) observation or reportage, seeing at all, has been withdrawn, both intentionally, and from possibility at all (given the nature of comprehending these events). Yet in his view, ‘fiction’ can comprehend by being counterfeit, only if it demonstrates itself as that, demonstrating that the writing is not either an original or its source.
Toufic’s project begins at the point in time of conventional fiction already having been displaced. Forthcoming is a form of ‘fiction’ that’s only its theory, as film and literary theory indebted to Deleuze, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and others — to create a glass (text’s space), one which is not reflecting (as would a mirror): the two sides of the glass in which one sees oneself/surpassing disaster/history, not by comparison or similarity/analogy — but via the glass being itself only a dichotomy, by an alternate space or element being created next to (outside of) the dichotomy. The image of the glass is proposed towards the beginning of Forthcoming in Toufic’s rewrite of a scene from Hamlet in relation to his conception of “surpassing disaster” (as in Lebanon and Iraq); the function of his theoretical glass is to enable the shattering of any image (false in any case) by a mismatching of the gazes looking into it: “In this adaptation, Hamlet has been stamped by the mismatch of the gazes during his encounter with the ghost.” The difference of their seeing still demonstrates, however, the ghost’s, Hamlet’s, and the queen Gertrude’s private ‘interiors,’ is not yet entire substitution, which is necessary to the shattering of the image: “This [the difference of their seeing] is merely the inmost part that can be reached by a glass, one therefore that still pertains to the logic of reflections and mirroring and thus does not reach the realm and level of substitu/tions, where specula are undone.” (3)
Toufic’s rewrite of the scene from Hamlet is composed of notations on taping for substitution of itself/the tape, on interviews with the director and with the playwright (not Shakespeare, but the substitute who rewrites, thus presumably Toufic unnamed). The rewrite of Hamlet is also woven no-analogies (“where one can mistake as identical different things, and as different identical things” (4)) such as Toufic’s interjection that is a statement of the concept of a future video or film’s action to be a kind of “dumb show” now (as his writing) of Hamlet (but Hamlet as the structure of something else) though the actions are different. Speaking of Hamlet’s queen (who remarries her husband’s murderer), Toufic produces by no-analogy a separate ‘no-action,’ Dracula’s wife in a no-analogy to Hamlet’s queen. He’s speaking of Gertrude’s betrayal, then extrapolates: “In Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Love Never Dies, Dracula’s wife kills herself in fidelity to her husband on being misinformed that he was slaughtered in battle.” (5) Toufic’s text is a proposing by addition of ‘extensions,’ demonstrations that are not analogous though by his proposing a logic of juxtaposition they seem to be. The reader experiences the sense of analogous extensions while intellectually apprehending the inaccuracy of the experience.
The additions of ‘no-analogies’ is to make a terrain where specula are undone.
His argument (a form which is usually analogies, his being this series of additions that are ‘not-analogous’) as it unfolds is construct to see outside of itself. As intellectual construct, his ‘analogies as no-analogy/as if ‘only’ prolonged analogy’ are rationally constructed and divined but they intentionally restrict (are “radical closure”) emotional/as dumb-show dramatic expression; as in his statement, given his own context of “surpassing disaster,” that he cannot laugh because he would not be able to stop, therefore must have only a serious framework (a construct which this reader remembered/thus misremembering, as intentional suppression of emotion).
The ‘destruction’ of action and experience as a basis of writing, to be fiction, is necessary in order for Toufic to construct Forthcoming as two sides at once of a glass in which one sees a different view than one is capable of seeing — just as Gertrude in Toufic’s Hamlet begins, by Toufic’s description in Toufic’s own play within the play, to see her own action in marrying her husband’s brother/the husband’s murderer, an action that by its nature is psychologically impossible for her to see (because it’s her own action). Toufic’s alternate space is rendered by withdrawing the possibility of seeing otherwise (otherwise than that given to her, or not given in that it’s unseen by her except through Toufic).
Toufic, a film-maker as well as writer, Arab from Beirut where he presently resides though he has lived and taught in the U.S. also, makes context of “surpassing disaster” the only space — the alternate (‘to be able to surpass disaster’) being simultaneous. Both meanings of his term are the glass, the writing bringing all onto one spatial plain with which he begins his text, “Every Name in History Is I,” his dissolution of character to be his space only:
“To fight the anonymity with which the war enemy is killed even by precision bombing, the soldier has to receive, from their state of being already dead, the calls of the unknown persons who will soon be murdered by him. Such a call is possible in the non-linear time of undeath. The Jacob Maker of David Blair’s Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees (1992) has to receive the call of the two Iraqi tank soldiers at whom he is shortly going to fire a missile during the Gulf War , and to whom he is invisible (whether because he is flying a Stealth fighter or because the radars of their unit have been blinded). In the state of undeath from which the call is sent, and in the state of death before dying in which it is received, one at times feels: every name in history is I. Every name in history is I is one way to fight the reduction to anonymity and generality.” (6)
The singular spatial plain is thus proposed on the first page of the text, a construct fulfilled there and later as not-entirely disparate blind shards of thought in displacement in which characters, dramatic plot, and (any) action is stricken to render the text a state of undeath. Toufic is a character in the text only as someone else, thus dead:
“As long as I, as dead, have not totally disintegrated into disparate blind shard of thoughts and affects functioning mostly according to displacement and pure association of sounds, figures, etc., I will try, through the most incredible contortions — which are not felt as such since they are allowed by the non-linear time and the non-exclusive disjunction reigning in the realm of death or death-before-death — to arrive at a semblance of justice, discovering that I, who will shortly kill, was a victim of the dead, was killed by them: it is because I, as Zoltan Abbassid, was murdered by them in 1919 that I, Jacob Maker, will take revenge on them (“being dead, vengeance is my life”) in 1991 by firing a missile at their tank...I, as Zoltan Abbassid, was killed in 1919 by the (Iraqi) dead taking the form of (Mesopotamian) bees (some fly their B-52 warplanes and drop bombs on an enemy whose radars have been rendered inoperative, killing a large number of people without feeling the least ethical qualms...Vengeance, the indefinite par excellence, here becomes a circle, therefore contained; with the consequence that guilt is as it were done away with, since we are dealing with a series of reactions with no initial action.” (7)
The circle is a series of reactions with no initial actions because Toufic is fictional, as Zoltan Abbassid or Jacob Maker (that is, fictional in being either of them, or fictional as they are).
In Forthcoming, the author appearing as the character of someone else spoken of in the third person in an event — no direct action — is thus in a perspective of fiction, even when the events are autobiographical occurring in real-time. These inserts of the author as a ‘spoken’ third person character (as if not himself to himself; and as if possibly someone else rather than the author, to the reader) are given “radical closure” (cease abruptly, as such are linked to a ‘comparison’/ analogy that again punctures both sides of the glass, glass of fiction/real-time). The abrupt entry or departure/”radical closure” of the character (the author as ‘only’ a character) is to withdraw, while at once making, the assertion of actual other people or himself — but these on a non-existent plain (except as his text) — in order to have as text-space an exchange between two that is a “momentary perfect concordance through a thought that belonged to neither.” (8)
Toufic thus substitutes character and action with film concepts and their plots. Or his characters (where they are not himself) are dead as figures of analogy, such as Lazarus, that only demonstrate Toufic’s ‘logic,’ only conceptions that define the meaning of events ahead of or ‘behind’ (create non-linear space) the event itself then, to close as precluding its having its own action: “Past a surpassing disaster, the memorial and memory have to pass through the ordeal of the impression of counterfeit since the events and knowledge they are accessing are being resurrected.” (9)
Toufic uses the Buddhist term the “gateless gate” (meaning ‘no eyes, no ears, no nose’ — no frame, theory, or senses): “that is exactly how I too feel” (10) referring to a “momentary perfect concordance through a thought that belonged to neither.” His removing of action/motion (holding the glass of the text up to motion) is a form of feeling to prevent all motions ceasing, in those in the undeath realm (those suffering a surpassing disaster). The text is ‘the subject/as the time/which is motion/still’ of photographs, the following paragraph being one such photograph or more than one:
“the threatening conditions under which the photographer was taking them; the aversion of his or her look on encountering the gutted, decomposing corpses; the proximity of the dead — come to prevent the world’s desertion of those suffering a surpassing disaster from turning into a radical closure — against those freezing, not as corpses (rigor mortis is still a variety of motion) but as creatures of the undeath realm, all motions, including the restless immobility of the living, appear blurry; the entranced states in which the encounter with the dead often occurs.
— Those from the aftermath of the “civil” war were due mainly to the withdrawal of what was being photographed.
Like so many others, he had become used to viewing things at the speed of war.” (11)
The author as ‘a character only’ (stillness) is thus a participant, is only motion in the undeath realm.
Removing action as the basis of text, the removal a means of rendering real-time, Toufic substitutes intellectual construct (an abstract of the event as a philosophical or theoretical concept, not the event’s action or purport) preceding the event itself — either historical event in real-time, or actions of an event as intentional illusion-making in fiction. His language reverses chronology by defining ‘ahead of’ the event’s own occurrence. “Nostalgia precedes the past, makes its occurrence.” (12) So, the past had no other occurrence than separation (from it). He’s creating a separation of thinking and being by a continual “radical closure” (his term) which he links (duplicating Nietzsche) to (only) willing an event’s eternal recurrence (having control over ‘occurrence at all’).
Interjecting myself as author (my no-analogy, appropriate to his own gesture): Toufic’s construct, as was Nietzsche’s, is a cycle of power which recreates as itself — ‘not being controlled by event, willing it’ is one having a predatory relation to outside, a relation which also separates one from ‘being’ in/that is action (except as ‘acting upon’, though Toufic’s intent is not to duplicate vengeance). His language is still a description of freedom without being its performance. He describes from outside it, not as if description were the same as freedom: “Freedom from nostalgia implies either remaining detached even while the event is happening, letting it self-liberate; or else, on the contrary, willing its eternal recurrence. And these two states that let go of the event — a letting go clear in the absence of nostalgia — are kindred. The willful are simultaneously those most apt to create real change.” (13)
My insertion of no-analogies: In my fiction, Defoe (14), the screen/figure through whose eyes/flesh-as-text the context appears and is linked is named “The Other.” The Other sometimes reflects conflicts and performs actions in episodes the author actually was performing. The Other (unlike the author, however) was in love with James Dean, who is killed and is turned into a deer. He is only the image that is that ‘real’ person (man who is an actor in Rebel Without a Cause, named James Dean) — yet the writing in Defoe is a spatial and image rendition of sensation of flesh (such as in sexual sensation with him, physical hallucination ‘as if felt by’ and outside of oneself). Similarly, there are action scenes of running, of being hurled above motorcycles and hoods of cars in sheets of traffic — which are one (the reader) being in a motion of action (as sight, produced in reading) the conceptual way one’s spinal cord makes (outside) actual motions (that occur inside) rendered by one’s brain, and actual even if one can’t move outside (I had a cervical disk injury, wrote much of the second half of Defoe lying on my back ‘supplanting motion with conceptual motion the same’). My conceptual-action was by being the opposite similar to Toufic’s action/withdrawn (though we hadn’t read each other at the time).
Perhaps Toufic’s theory of the undead implies that the spine’s conceptual (actual, felt) motion is ‘as if the same’ as cultural intellectual construct (in the glass: as if the same as the space in A Thousand Plateaus/Capitalism and Schizophrenia; or is ‘God’s’ conception, therefore also determinism as within ‘outside’ will) — that being in the physical sensation of movement is also nostalgia: the spinal cord’s creation of conceptual motion outside in front of one (when one couldn’t move) felt by one, which is an actual movement, is the same as an intellectual construct of memory while parted from that which one remembers. Thus any action is fiction. I also held the latter view (as Toufic might, I’m conjecturing). I was writing in relation to a space outside language, which can be duplicated as language, though the space may be outside even (language’s) postulation there. My intent was: ‘as’ ‘physical’ action free (‘experience’ as text only) that is without imposition; is not either as ‘will’ (which would only be further imposition, supposedly of one’s own, on oneself) — nor limited in the particular event/context (of the action), that is, not only dramatizing a character. Toufic while recognizing performative language which enacts events as being closest to will (15), chooses willing eternal recurrence, which is by definition only repetition. His intent is to perform the space of our being the realm of the undead because it is the present.
Sensation itself is in part socially derived, constructed. A characteristic of being now in the imperial present: one is conceptually divided from one’s own sensation (from tactile even), isolated from one’s physical motion in real-time (as also isolated from real-time, as it’s occurring). The separation effected by conceptual division itself, is, in conversational and conventional language the imposition of explaining all instants as outside (of writing, of one). ‘Meaning’ (social only, it is a translation, a summary) is outside of itself. Toufic comments on the acceptance of cyberspace as ‘real’ space, that this concordance is an indication of the space being transformed by our will. The mode of addition of statements of dislocation in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus/Capitalism and Schizophrenia is a method of increasing the gap between the text and the reader, prolonging the gap as discourse which is without summarized or emotional resolution.
Speaking to the subject of ‘fiction’s present’ entails answering, ‘what should one write?’ and one’s sense of ‘why that now?’
For example (my sense of conjecturing a language, which may be different from that implied by the people speaking on the occasion mentioned above, the day of the U.S. invasion of Iraq): Parallel language by crushing syntax. Crushed as syntax of the language, spatially — as it had been the same language as lies — that reverses, is ‘only’ simple, does not duplicate double-think. (A syntax which drops out double-think by incorporating that’s — double-think’s —motion as pre-text, pre-formation.)
To destroy or crush the language by expanded paragraphs: During the first Gulf War, I wrote the fiction titled Defoe, in sections of which there were sheet-like paragraphs (or consecutive, non-stop one-line phrases) paragraphs that included everything above and below a conceptual ‘text-horizon line’ (as text, therefore not visible/visual/physical) yet as if with the actual sun and moon together on a line at once (as a paragraph). A paragraph would be ‘across’, and above and below, a conceptual line of the paragraph’s (produced by the paragraph) as if in the midst of it (but also imposed: by my having seen the sun and the moon together on a same horizon line descending and ascending beside the ocean once — in real-time) — which by including other (night) was to destroy the language of that paragraph. The space of the paragraph (that is) expanded outside of language. The conceptual ‘rim’ or horizon-line, as line of concentration, was also imposed: as mind phenomena by the writing of these passages occurring alongside the fact of (in the context of the build up to and the bombing of Iraq in the ‘90s — and other events, such as someone I knew having a bone marrow transplant for leukemia on the day of the first bombing, their dying soon after) my trying to sit (sitting meditation); the paragraphs were the written form of this practice (a procedure sometimes outside language as spatial and sensation, or being language space which is conflating rational and emotional) as sitting’s mind phenomena action held up as a mind formation to that real-time present (events) in extended framework that’s the first one hundred and thirty-two pages of Defoe. ‘Rim’ is one’s direct constructing of the image-illusion. Change action outside with ‘one’s mind changing,’ an action (or conception) that’s even seen at its instant as total illusion.
In the syntax of phrases (in Defoe), perception is created by its struggle created in the outside: “They who are the few viewed as respectable are caught in conventionality for him which is not in waking life. It is not in it or in dreams.
They are restricting one to conventionality not in their dreams, or later. And yet one struggles in their narrowed rim.” (16).
The physical seeing as an action of the reader is ‘located’ in the center of a phrase that’s a motion, empty in the sense of their (the readers) not creating the sight that as movement is there without its own beginning or its end: “Sheep trotting with a crazy eye on the beige-rust cliff passes me. Its senseless globular eye is floating in the mist.
Black robes blowing walk ahead on the beige-rust grass. On the rim.
A robed no eye-hole muscular movement not from it.” (17)
Thus, the intent is that the ‘outside’ is viewed — as not actually arising from oneself (reproduces its illusion). People are viewed in actions as in real-time present, not in seeing that’s an ideal of them, but an instant of multiple seeing (physically in the syntax that’s constructing a ‘rim’), a phrase containing at once various states of the same action in time. The same instance seen entirely, as, say, fighting and also not fighting is seen at once: “One says she’s defending against attacking coming from them, really coming from her to them...we’re just tubes.
tubes with pumps alongside the cars — coming from one’s sleep and after dawn
who’re in silence
not fighting” (18)
As part of reversing or taking apart the entire construction, there is no conversation between people in Defoe: conversational language is convention only — one would have to speak as what’s inside and outside at once, be outside convention. Beside outside, which isn’t in conventional, conversational language. At the time of writing that novel, my sense of a sentence as action or emotion was: its writing/ now/present has to be earlier (before Daniel Defoe ‘ordered’, made an order of, the sense of character as ‘being reported’ — before the character of a person is represented, as in a talk show). (At the airport in Reno this week, there was a gaggle of girls lying on the floor waiting, who, going around the circle, lounging but their mood tense, ‘forced’ each other to voice how many casinos, and which ones, their parents owned, after first ‘forcing’ the circle one by one to describe how each did their wash, how often they washed their bedding.)
I remarked joyfully in the text of that earlier book Defoe that now I had become a hack —by the paragraphs only being action scenes (therefore not reproducing character, invoked as reading even). These scenes are ‘physical’ actions as text only. Outside-motions actually not being language, these outside-motions are seen by the reader, anyway, as if arising only as text (as if running or hurling is being produced by one’s language there only, not as sight either, only reading). The end of Defoe has simple phrases, which are not complete sentences, but are the mid-action of mid-seeing; ‘physical’ action in my particular crushed language there being, to perception, both faster and slower at once than it would have been if differentiated by ordering it (arranging by chronology) as linear. Linear is: determined by its progress of its order and (as that order is) described/explained from the outside. (Inside a phrase that’s a part of a motion, the reader can’t differentiate whether motion as that syntax is fast or slow, whether the syntax is rage or meditation or thinking; as text, it’s these at once — which changes the reader’s attention in the text’s content.)
Being inside any particular motion, only as it’s occurring there and then, is not determined by or subject to any outside ordering or interpretation/control (by social model or authority source) for it’s a physical motion.
Why intend to have even physical action be (as if) only produced by text/syntax (occurring as the act of reading), since physical movement and conceptual movement (impressions/thought/seeing/reading) are by their natures different?
Defoe, a fiction that is ‘within’ its language, was not to be a virtual reality; it was to be ‘actual’ (in contrast to Jalal Toufic’s text, Forthcoming, which is neither actual nor virtual, is intentionally removed from either of those by not being ‘within its language’). In Defoe: see even one’s actual physical movements in one’s real-time as illusion in the instant of constructing these motions (seen as dual — that is, as physical motions also being illusion, as the setting is — because they are mental, reading).
To reiterate for clarity: Sights of objects and people ‘outside’ come out of emptiness (they are text’s sights only) but ‘come’ as the physical seeing of the reader’s in their seeing (reading) syntax that’s a phrase as a ‘rim’ of one being inside-out: as one’s seeing only. A ‘rim’ is comparison (of two levels of concentration) narrowed to be beside each other seen there held, as such constructing itself (text), being one’s mind there only (the observer seeing itself: as not being ‘there’). The action of one ‘seeing not being there’ occurs in the text: “Which is completely manipulated. It’s not seeing the observer (who’s looking at itself) or it. One can do this, not seeing myself or it — it must occur in oneself.” (19)
The syntax is thus a deconstruction method akin to the Tibetan exercise of the observer being observed (by his or herself) as meditation practice discovering there is no object observed/as there being no observer. In Defoe, the observer (reader) looks at her or himself there (in the sentence or paragraph) so that seeing becomes: there is not that which is observed because the observer has been ‘dispelled as the object seen’ (no observer). The theory of this is nothing; it has to occur, as reading.
“There was this red disc, a soft empty disc of a cloud hanging over the desert with cobalt or indigo lake in it where I was. The huge rose soft disc and another small red disc reflected the rays of the setting sun which were not red in the rest of the sky since there was nothing there.
The huge rose disc hung there without moving. Just in silence not coming out of the person.
Their having any and one agree with them — and one struggling with that or one is not there, isn’t there.
wasn’t there before, to push out the huge empty rose disc
disc floating on the desert, with the cattle that come to the edge of the blue water and the white desert — not coming from it.” (20)
‘Rim’ then is practice of deconstructing as a conceptual line in space which one ‘reads’
before one: on which the inside of the inside (perception, physical seeing) and the outside of the outside (events, sights) occur, both as if at once on that conceptual line in space (created by a phrase or paragraph) — real-time being the reflections as if visual yet of the paragraph (text only — as if the paragraph as itself space were empty and only reflects outside world; and this is all there is of self).
As an action, this construction of illusions (that I’m calling a ‘rim’ in that these meet on a conceptual horizon line, before one) has to occur as a long duration, sometimes long paragraphs and also length of text to constitute sense of real-time.
Any narrative goes before and behind real-time, constructs a sense of outside real-time by providing setting as framework defining a motion even, as only in relation to setting and effect — future. The ‘future’ can occur in the syntax being altered (disrupted from linear progress) so as to predict outside of its own first postulation. (Toufic’s text also predicts outside its postulation by its discourse being the subject that is of refusing to change that postulation continually. Toufic’s ‘fiction’ has not been replaced by language of theory, he has replaced ‘language of theory’ [as present formal genre].)
Toufic conjectures that if he were to allow himself to laugh at all he would not be able to stop, would be torn apart by it: therefore the refusal to admit any emotive language or expression into the waves of detail (centuries of history of the rise and deposing of Islamic sects in close reading that’s no-analogy, for example) hurled as if against the reader (as if in opposition, in the reader’s face, as the sheer duration as intervention on the part of the author of these passages akin to holding a breath, which has the effect of splitting open the text ‘as’ without allowance of emotion). Toufic’s text is I think a brilliant exposition of at least two levels of language occurring at once by a level being missing or absent, but as if erupting only by being left out. ‘Intuitive’ space, or any changing of the space given, is everywhere suppressed throughout to an intentionally ‘intolerable’ extent by a language constructed as solely intellectual in a way that is exterior to the subject or a self, the exclusion changing that space as suffering (which is not there, however).
In Forthcoming (meaning: ‘not there yet’), an anti-fiction-self-portrait as fiction, the experience of suffering is a double. Chapters are doubles of each other and of the subject. For example, the chapter “Radical Closure Artist with Bandaged Sense Organ” is an analogy to Van Gogh cutting off his ear delivering it to a prostitute, after which he was hospitalized. The chapter becomes an installation (perhaps only there as the chapter, not an installation shown elsewhere?), thus an analogy to Toufic himself, a filter of the senses by listing what would be shown: reproductions of Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe and The Reaper, texts of letters to Van Gogh’s brother Theo, Magritte’s This Is Not a Pipe, reproduction on canvas of Shoes, Wheatfield with Crows as seen in Kurosawa’s film Dreams, and a showing on monitor of Toufic’s own video Credits Included: A Video in Red and Green described in the text as shot inside the Fanar Mental Hospital in South Lebanon. His text gives no other description of his own video; I’ve seen this video, however. The inmates speak their ‘mental illness’ as an alternate reality (shock) that is the same as being in/their actual reality, their society as being total war. Their and Toufic’s authorship are “radically similar” here to Van Gogh cutting off his ear; Toufic’s alternative title to the chapter given as “Ear to Ear”, referencing David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet: “They discovered that under certain conditions the ear is no longer an organ that allows one to locate more or less approximately the source of a worldly sound, but is where the unworldly sound ‘is’.” (21)
The text of the chapter “Radical Closure Artist with Bandaged Sense Organ” is thus a filter of the senses which itself functions as irruptions; in cinematic matte, which his text is not: “the impression that the dancer before them is not fully in the space where he or she ostensibly is; and, not diluted with and thus not filtered by the eyes themselves, by-pass them, functioning as irruptions.” (22)
Toufic’s writing is irruption as “temporal atomicity,” which he describes in the chapter “Middle Eastern Films Before Thy Gaze Returns to Thee — in Less than 1/24 of a Second” as the predominant Islamic conception of time, as opposed to film camera and lens from Renaissance Western monocular perspective. Islamic time is expressed as irruptions: “people are unaware of these perpetual acts of appearance, disappearance, it is both that the appearances, disappearances then appearance occur before ‘thy gaze returns to thee’ and that the form appears following the disappearance of an earlier one is radically similar to it.” (23) In Islamic time, the flicker of perpetual disappearance itself produces a disappearance. Creatures are not subsistent in themselves, but return to that which alone has subsistence, God: “If one is enjoined not to forget God for an instant one reverts to Him, thus remembering Him.” (24) Toufic delineates a “repetitive invocation,” echo arising in the form of the recurrent resolution back of the non-subsisting entity to Reality.” (25)
Real-time history and (also that as) self-portrait is analogous to the arabesque creating in reality myriad ones “each radically similar to the other without being identical to it.” (26) The double as a reproduction is many self-portraits (as if ‘of outside’):
“The arabesque, especially the one where the figures are juxtaposed rather than interlaced, is doubly my mirror: the multiplication of its basic figure gives me a spatial rendition of my temporal multiplication, the abstraction of its unit figure reminds me of my own abstraction, my being without a nature and proper characteristics. The effect of lightness produced by the arabesque is double: at the level of the architectural object, through covering the solidity of bricks or stones with shimmering glaze tiles that etherealize them; at the level of the subject, who, on seeing the recurrence of the figure, is divested of the weight of time and even of his own nature and characteristics.” (27)
Toufic creates etherealizing terms such as “radical closure artist” and “radically similar” to make an arabesque that’s the Islamic conception of seeing in relation to the Western current Renaissance perspective which is being applied ‘everywhere’ in real-time.
“Radically Similar”. (At the time I wrote Defoe Toufic and I had not read each other.) My text Defoe is current Western Renaissance ocular seeing, enhanced so that space and sight are close and far away at once, exploded. The reading of Defoe’s syntax has to be as the syntax, the reader seeing that seeing (which is one’s), that which is ‘our’ social constructing of events, actions, and seeing or even one making motions within events (future). That is, the syntax is a spatial place: I began Defoe while in Italy looking at Renaissance paintings—I directly imposed Renaissance space on real-time present actions. The reader experiences space they’re in as that also being a construct, which by one’s action of reproducing unseats a social sense of self that is social seeing: in that the syntax is a double of ‘outside one’ and ‘inside one’ at once. The double both exists and also ‘does not exist outside the text’ then, is experience as reading).
Power, force, authority. Toufic’s formal enactment as text of “temporal atomicity” is couched in the authority of “the predominant Islamic conception of time”, that is, couched in the dominant conception, in its setting, of his own vast culture, which is ancient and modern at once. His text is ‘radical’ in that it enacts, it is, Islamic seeing in the irruptions that are (plural) the structure of seeing, as entirely different from the Western seeing manifested also in real-time now as force which is overwhelming and attempting to conquer Islamic nations. His multiples of absences — the absence of experiencing even — mirrors authority of accumulated social experience in text-only-conceptual in relation to real-time force.
In Defoe, thinking, physical sensation apprehended spatially, emotional rupture, and seeing are only ‘inside’ the reader experiencing seeing and moving as The Other: a woman who is always without social power, thus in common interpretation most likely presumed to be an aberration, or a rebel, from her society — yet, neither of these, she is a double who also has no existence. The text without conceptual authority from any source has to alter the given seeing (of her culture, unseen by it) by not reproducing any power as illusion of a character in interior speaking and thought or in the ‘outside-as-the-text’ — in that one’s comprising the same seeing as power and the same seeing at all as her own culture, which is dominant in military and political terms, merely reproduces it conceptually in the text. One must alter real-time experiencing, there.
The intent in Defoe was: enforced social perspective is surpassed, by motion (as the text) occurring before formation even. Before formation of oneself. (The text’s motion is before the text, in order not to have formation. Rather than definition being before the text/event, as it is in Toufic, his also unseating experience.) The separation of sight and reading is outside and inside one, just as the spinal cord produces one’s motion felt out ahead of one when one can’t move. One is not one’s own motion, nor is one one’s sight. Produced there as reading. Being outside is not produced anywhere. And this is ‘occurring’ as direct constructing of the image-illusion. (Writing: Outside not-produced is active, is one’s attention as a [a ‘rim’ is:] ‘'rim’/direct constructing of the image-illusion at once in the text’.) A joyful state.
The meditation scheme of Defoe is spatial: in that phenomenal horizon and dawn or dusk being also words — language and phenomena as doubles. As if language-space is also without-language. Thought of an essay is different, can articulate the ‘space of word-wordless.’ Thought there, that is in the essay, is outside, is a gesture reciprocal to experiencing.
At the same time, changing one’s mind (that is, mind is inculcated layers of assumptions, which then are the way the mind works, as dichotomy then, socially contrived) is only possible in the art of language?—in that the language of discourse (of theory) has already made hierarchical dichotomy, is that (judges ‘intellect’, in so far as it’s removed, to be superior to ‘experience’ — without ‘language of discourse’ incorporating awareness that the way the mind works, and as only that specific language being used, is only experiencing). Toufic in Forthcoming makes a structure that enables perception outside of his language of discourse by an (discourse’s) absent double.
I intended Defoe to be hack writing in the sense of breaking down its being as a literary object that is rarified, not ‘literary’ but a receptive state of attention. But in a graduate seminar in the PhD program of the Comparative Lit department at UC Berkeley, where I visited in 1995 to discuss Defoe, two of the students remarked with hostility that this text could not be read by the public, it was too difficult. I replied that a format genre of the novel, intended to be commercial, will not disrupt social-political misrepresentation (what the format itself is) — unless it’s a disruption of its own format (isn’t format then).
On the evening of the day of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the women and men discussing language being destroyed were young. They were hopeful. None considered how many people would read the language they were forming. Only how their sense of language should be and why. They conveyed an exciting sense of the phrase ‘destroy language’, their sense quite different from my language, though I’d even thought that same phrase earlier that day.
What’s happening now (this war as a change in the future world, reinstituting imperialism as acknowledged, accepted goal) gives a sense that they’re (— saying we’re liberating those others, as ‘we’ mow down their people) destroying language at all (in America, but not elsewhere) so that language is only useless. Figure out how — as ’we’ crush language, any — it being useless is simple not mimicking alongside isn’t their ‘U.S. world’ — as language without authority-basis.