Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spawning Season

It is one of those times when books begin arriving ... they make their way with a stoic deliberateness to my door, and are there mewling on the step when I arrive home. Unpacking them, placing them together, the words of Norman O. Brown come to mind, from his book Closing Time, (about an unlikely juxtaposition of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake with Giambattista Vico's Scienza Nuova) that "two books get on top of one another and spawn." Presently spawning are Umberto Eco's On Ugliness (a lusciously revolting companion to his History of Beauty) and E M Cioran's Tears and Saints. The sparks flying between the two are intriguing, as they strangely cohabit the same sublime marshes, way beyond the pale. Both invite mid-winter dips, plunging suddenly and shockingly into the water, then emerging, with a splutter and an alarmingly heightened sense of one's self. Navigating the two with a randomness borne of surrealistic strategies (vague and senseless instructions to look at particular pages, certain paragraphs, exquisitely corpsing the two together) a call and response ensues ...
Cioran: Life is not, and death is a dream. Suffering has invented them both as self-justification. man alone is torn between an unreality and an illusion.
Eco's echo: Take this, and that for you again! -- But hold now I am seized by a tremor. What a torment! What a delight! Like kisses. My bones are melting. I am dying [...] (from an extract of Flaubert's The Temptation of St Anthony)

Cioran: In fact, there is only God and me. His silence invalidates us both.

Another Eco extract, this one from Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus (describing the devil...): He is a rather scrawny man, not very tall and even shorter than I am, wearing a casual beret pulled down over on ear, while on the other side reddish hair sprouts from his temple. He has reddish eyelashes, flushed eyes, and an ashen face, and the tip of his nose curves downwards a little. Over a stitched shirt with diagonal stripes he wears a check jacket, with sleeves that are too short, from which stubby-fingered hands emerge. His trousers are too tight and his shoes so beaten up that they can no longer be cleaned. A pimp, a parasite, with the voice of a theatre actor.
Cosson Smeeton

No comments: