Disclaimer: I did not finish Parallel Stories. The book seemed to get heavier and heavier, and then: someone threw Widow Basquait my way, then, The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño (which I had little choice but to start immediately), then, Said the Gun to the Head by Saul Williams, and then the latest edition of Dossier arrived in the mail. To Dossier I committed two afternoons. I find myself landlocked at page 295 of Parallel Stories‘ 1133. I’d like to go on. I mean, I’d like to go on and reach the finish if only because I feel much better about myself as a reader if I finish what I’ve started. If only more attractive distractions would cease presenting themselves. At any rate, what I’ve read thus far has inspired the following:
The general consensus is: Péter Nádas is an experimental writer. What of plots? What of a reader’s expectations? What is this structure? Why not discuss, with all candor called for, each trembling movement of a pubic hair? Why should it surprise anyone that he decided to forego the quotation mark in his mega-noval Parallel Stories as well?
Please note that Nádas is not by any means the first author to dismiss quotation marks. Cormac McCarthy has created something of a mystique around this idiosyncrasy. The literary landscape has taken this in stride, given it praise, made it fashionable. Yet it was in reading Parallel Stories that I started to consider the missing punctuation, missing it truly, with an analytical fascination that I’d never employed elsewhere. Nádas has mercilessly denied his readership any visual cues designating speaking from thinking. Does this blur the lines between externality and internality? Or has he simply written a book in which no one speaks and all is lost in thought?
The quotation mark. For all intents and purposes, it breaks the phrase to lend another voice, perhaps, another place, and certainly another mind. For we find, in the chunk of quote-less text that comprises the 1152-page tome by Nádas, that we’ve never left the eye of the lens, just one lens, presumably Nádas, which focuses ceaselessly on the interiority of his characters with a blood-shot intensity that burns through the subconsciousness not unlike what D.H. Lawrence examines in Women in Love. But Lawrence permitted each character their own interiority where Nádas assumes all of the examination himself, smudging the distinction from one character’s internal life to the other character’s internal life. For Lawrence, you’ll notice, has retained the quotation mark; permits, amidst the sea of dizzy soul-searching and subconsciousness, his characters to establish themselves apart from himself. Ursula’s voice is not Gerald’s voice is not Gudrun’s voice is not Lawrence’s voice. Punctuating dialogue establishes exterior voices. Parallel Stories seemingly gives us every character all in one breath, leaving us wondering several times over, “How is this possible? At this point, is he not blue in the face?”
Consider too the exhaustive cast of characters, for there are many that rise and fall from focus: Döhring, the German student whom we meet immediately, his art-collecting aunt, a shop’s assistant at a men’s intimates boutique, those observed at the park, those observing him at the park, and now jumping back to Hungry in 1962, Lippay-Lehr, whose illness has him ready amnesic by the time we meet him, his wife Erna, their son Ágost, their housekeeper, their gatekeeper, Kristóf, Gyöngyvér (Ágost’s lover), János and András (friends of Ágost)… of each whose world contains another catalog of characters. They are all there, not a single one speaking for his or herself really. (I especially appreciated a review of Parallel Stories found in The National by Tod Wodicka, who describes the manner in which readers experience Nádas’s characters resembles the way we navigate Facebook: “ We have primary and often recurring characters – yes, our friends – but then we have our friends of friends, too; and then, scrolling deeper into the work, our friends of friends of friends [...] stalking through photographs or memorabilia of people you are vaguely familiar with, or who your friends know, getting detailed, immoderate personal snippets of stories that, by their design, can’t ever be resolved or expanded on.” Retaining this Rolodex of characters within the singular realm of the author’s interiority impresses the reader of the intricacy of imagination and memory as the story continues to increase its complexity. But whose mind? Every mind? Or the author’s alone?
There is, undeniably, something egocentric in writing over 1000 pages in which the perspective swims in the author’s eyes only. One is accustomed to parsing internal dialogue from a first person narrator provided this interiority is punctuated with other characters who are allowed to breathe by themselves: a change of key so to speak. How does the mind’s ear process Nádas’ narration then? I would say the same way that hearing the same key, let’s call it e flat, pressed on a keyboard over and over again would cease to be musical. Without any relation to other tones, our e flat has become incessantly meaningless.
The monotonous tonal structure of Parallel Stories has critics rather divided, to be either using Parallel Stories as an example of the unbearable pretentiousness of experimental literature or lauding Péter Nádas, “thank goodness there’s someone out there experimenting still.” Indeed, Nádas has succeeded in creating a polarizing work. If not alienating one camp with grotesque crotch shots, raw foreskin and feverish clits, he alienates the other with his disregard for quotation brackets, leaving but a few to enthusiastically recommend this eccentricity.
Let us return to quotation marks. Why is their disappearance so disconcerting? They are gone, he’s removed them, like a magician kicking heretofore imperative supports out from underneath the freeway, and good god, everything’s still standing. For I can still read the prose. As the dialogue is no longer being indicated visually, I automatically look to the words themselves, noting changes from third to first person and responding accordingly. At this point I might ask, is written language and spoken language so disparate that they readily stand out from each other? Or is this not a question of written and spoken languages at all, but rather, la langue de Nádas? For I have sat, reading slowly as if in a foreign tongue, becoming complicit in his style. In removing a universally recognized structure from the text, has he forced the reader to assume a deeper understanding of his voice?
Yes, I would argue, as with any method of organization we’ve at our disposal when presented with complexities (humans being a prime example), punctuation allows for a more superficial reading. Only one aspect of the phrase is permitted once framed. Left, as the prose is left in Parallel Stories, loose-leafed, double-sided, bendable, unprotected, one is not only required, but invited, to delve deeper into the authorial psyche. The authorial psyche? The human psyche then, à la Montaigne, who argued that introspection of one mind (his own) is an introspection of any.
It is a mind then, that resists structure, as I suppose, would behoove an experimental author. In an interview with Csaba Károlyi, Nádas touches on the novel’s structureless structure: “ The structure is chaotic because the world is chaotic, and I, the novelist, do not want to create an arbitrary semblance of order in this chaos. I’m not capable of it; I would be telling a lie if I said I was.”Though he was discussing plot in this context, I don’t consider it too far a stretch to offer this philosophical stance as an explanation-in-part as concerns our quotation marks. We might accuse Parallel Stories of inaccurately depicting our world, it is written sans external voices, and Nádas might counter that we have imposed markers, brackets, etc., upon reality not to accurately represent it, only to make it easier to process.3 Parallel Stories is a celebration of chaos. Here, hidden in a dialogue between Irma and Mária:
“[...] That’s what makes people adaptable, my dear. Whatever happens, they must remain flexible. Nothing can compel them, or at least they feel no moral compulsion. That’s what produces their blissful chaos. You can stare at me like that all you want, but yes, this is your average human being. You talk as if everything had been already decided, and that’s why everything can be arranged. Well, nothing is decided. No, no, generally, I talk about two things at once, but people usually hear only one.” p. 295
Even the most attentive reader will have a hard time rendering this conversation more lucid: why are they talking about this now? What prompted the conversation to take such a dizzyingly philosophic turn? Are they talking at all really or is this Nádas commandeering their tongues for some introspection on this chaotic chapter entitled, “The Quiet Reasons of the Mind”? One has little choice but to reassure oneself of the unimportance of these questions and ponder instead on the ideas presented, for no matter who or what or how they are said, they have been said and they’re rather interesting.
“Interesting” is what sums of Parallel Stories for me. While his scenery and bodies are highly detailed, such distinguishing care is not extended to the personalities of his characters. Every character is restricted to his interiority, preventing readers from connecting with any one of the characters truly. This dynamic is exasperated by those missing quotation marks. The unceasing interiority of the novel makes it just about as emotionally satisfying as a dream. This was written for the mind. Observe: what grammatical cues indicate parole? And now description? And now thoughts? Twenty pages in, the mind hyper vigilant, increasingly comfortable with his style, the story becomes easier to follow… but the minds, reticent, unobligingly recluse, remain frustratingly inaccessible. Quotation marks, as it happens, are highly provocative symbols that trigger an almost musical ability in the reading mind, to imagine different voices. We well understand that reading is a visual experience that translates symbols to sounds, and nothing exposes this more efficiently than a reading sans one of the more imperative visual cues. The oscillating external/internal exercise this novel embodies is intriguing certainly, but I feel unmoved.
This is what I remember of her. She was wearing a hat I think, and if she was it was black. Her shoulders curved up and over, as if suspending a chill and the smoke from her mouth only left when words did. At first sight I noticed her light darkness, an opaque sort of black that gathered about her feet, that pushed her hair this way and that. Her eyes gave the sensation of flickering once fast, then again, honey slow. The type of eyes to take in all the light with a dizzying magnetism: you look in vain to look inside. As I’ve often trembled in front of the lens of a camera, whose eye looks at you and won’t let you see nothing of it, in the end I couldn’t do more than smile and pass.
I wished I could do something more than look, perhaps, say hello, perhaps light a cigarette of my own but I’d arrived unprepared. Other dancers were congregating around us. She told one of them that she eats in a cycle of obsessions: last week it had been strawberries. This week it was oysters. “Ah oui Lev,” the other said, “Remember that week you couldn’t stop eating Pocky?” And she specified, “Strawberry Pocky.”
She clashed with our professor, the one teaching Women and Culture. Our professor was an intense feminist who wore linen trousers and necklaces of heavy stones. She didn’t appreciate the professor demonizing fashion in her rather generalized way of hating it. “Should I feel guilt?” she demanded, “because I take special care in what I wear?” I then showed a slideshow of a fashion shoot from the latest Italian Vogue whose set of lovely bones and barely-there breasts were splayed by police brutality. She may have assumed I was picking a side. I would like to preface this presentation with the assurance that I hardly think that fashion is the problem. The problems arise when we try to sell it.
And other things I think of far too late.
Her parents were renown fashion journalists and photographers. She may have modeled despite her slight height, but she wanted to write. NYC fashion week was upon us and she proposed an article on a reel of designers, of whose names I recognized but a few. Our editor thought it might do well as a side note, adding that she’d prefer if the article could connect the college somehow. I believe I was more interested in an impending lecture, but I can’t quite remember if I actually wrote the article or not.
I saw her from a fairy place, me from the fairy place, an small town oddity unable to comprehend completely the distance I placed inadvertently between myself and every new face. Rapunzel the socially unsure would watch Lev, whose locomotion waltzed easily the hard-nosed city. Rapunzel had only just cut her Little House on the Prairie-time hair, I remember the auburn parenthetical they made on the goose egg tiles, had only just started to wear black, pulling up and over my small-town hips a pair of black chinos. Had found a place at the window to watch the lavender fog roll in and New York City’s metallic sunset. Watched Lev as if from behind glass. Whether it was she or I that was trapped…
I did not entertain the thought that her life was not … so … Dolce and Gabbana. Mais après, bien après, j’ai pensé d’elle encore, cette fois plutôt de son sourire. Sa bouche tremblait parfois.
I can’t tear my eyes away from traumatic childhoods, comme un lecteur, the memories of hunger and madness when we were eight will latch to my mind. I’ll read Dorothy Allison or Margarite Duras feeling that lovely jungle darkness of vipers and scarlet-lipped flowers. Alors, j’ai lu Widow Basquiat, une memoire de Suzanne Mallouk, being one who is endlessly fascinated by la vie bohème in New York City expecting the silvery drugs and purple draped clubs of the early ‘80s. What actually happened was more along the lines of watching a stoning of a raven, Suzanne the raven, Suzanne the high head and blue black hair and sharp mouth and deep all-seeing eyes. Despite the rain she glistens and flies.
Clement writes the memoir as if Suzanne had handed her a stack of photographs with “Madonna – 1964” “ Michel and Shenge – 1st and Madison” … so it could be a speedy experience, reading Widow Basquiat, if you wanted it to be. I mean to say that the book is not divided by chapters, by a space of time, by an event well enough completed to become another (chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3) rather it is divided by moments. Each moment, being a moment, doesn’t take up much space on the page at all. Yet I found myself slowing the rove of my read down to a mouthing aloud of the sounds she was making to the tracing of the shadows. I’d find myself unable to move on from one, reading “Only One Chromosome is Missing” forward and back again.
There is not much elucidation of Jean-Michel. Love often clouds, and as Suzanne observes, he acted differently around certains. Andy Warhol was a certain. Madonna was a certain. I was not familiar with him prior to reading Widow Basquait. He died four days after I was born due to complications of heroin abuse and AIDS. On August 12, 1988. His Wikipedia article reads, “Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist. He began as an obscure graffiti artist in New York City in the late 1970s and evolved into an acclaimed Neo-expressionist and Primitivist painter by the 1980s.”
He called her Venus and told her what to wear. He bought her pastries and cocaine, outlined her skeleton, “then filled in the organs, the liver, the spleen, the stomach [...] I think he bought me pastries because he thought that’s something rich people did.”
The voice is intimate with a push-record cassette quality, with some entries supplemented with a more retrospective voice in italics by Suzanne herself. Malgré son péchance pour l’esprit libre, flou, émotional, sa voie est claire. Her memory is almost too exacting, reconstructing each look, each tone and each position just so that further attempts at explaining what she, at that moment, felt, would be redundant. And truly, imagine the futility of communicating the surrounding emotions: what the nerves belonging to her slight shaking arms were feeling watching Michel create and destroy and menace and caress … I see him licking cocaine from her breasts and her eyes soft and upward gazing settling in a cloud of heroin. I see him trying to catch her gaze when she’s focused on heaven. I see her cold, a raven short some feathers, watching him pace the blankness of his most recent canvas wishing that he’d hold her. I see them tracing an aria on the wooden floors of the Cosby Loft scalpel-fine Aaaaaaaaa…
You will see it all very well. They are true and beautiful, mais n’assumez pas connaître l’interior des choses.
And here’s the thing about drugging, and I’ll say it now before I forget: whether taken with intent to feel more or less, what is felt has drastically altered the composition of the central nervous system. A nervous system molded so exactly by the societal pretext… a pretext so fixedly holding reality that should something tie itself to the leg of the table and pull sharply, well … In evolving we sacrifice and being a writer thus biased, I’ll insist that literature alters, more than anything else, the future mind. (Stumbled upon this article positing Shakespeare’s pivotal role in enhancing the ethical consciousness thereafter. If you’re interested.) Literature is a concentrated effort to humanize symbols. The characters we create encourage emotional awareness. Often what needs to be said is something that our mouths can’t form. A fish might say it, a baby might say it, a dodo … a woman with blow. An opium doze (In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately treasure dome decree). To wit, our culture enshrines the words or men and women of substances, merci bien pour nous préviennent, we must, of course, continue to discourage common consumption comfortable that there’s been enough lambs marked for sacrifice. Let them wander the desert lands. Let them lust for poison. Then let the lambs, those angels, sing the song to bring spring and we will dance in the rain.
The last third of the memoir describes Suzanne’s involvement with Michael Stewart, a student at Pratt and graffiti artist. In a particularly brutal example of police brutality, Stewart was delivered to the Bellevue hospital inches from death, internal hemorrhaging, showing signs of strangulation and suffocation, that there was nothing to be done but to let him pass ghostly through the hospital room and pray him free. Suzanne threw herself in bringing him justice. Clement gives us the police reports. They claim self-defense. Suzanne remembers slight, doe-esque Stewart sitting at her bar. She knows that those who didn’t know Stewart would read the report, read BLACK MALE, read SELF-DEFENSE and think, “That sounds reasonable.” The case closes with her succeeding in securing recompense for his family, but the police who’d killed him “are still walking the beat.”
This is what, when it comes to it, was the dynamic that Basquiat was all too aware of, noting frequently that black men weren’t in the museums. He painted to point to this dynamic, this social devil, not only within the subject matter of his art but in the success that his art gave him. Yet here he was conflicted, he was annoyed that Suzanne had taken Stewart’s case, fearing that attention being drawn to his blackness would undermine his goals of being a successful artist.
You cannot paint the revolutionary tract then shy from the street Basquiat.
He was man of magic with expensive tastes. He was young at night, a full-moon howl. Ambitious, so never satisfied. Suzanne loved him with an Nietzschean intensity, her heart always extended. Cette doulour, si riche en fin, me fait penser de quelqu’un autre. The dear Peter Pan holding my finger in sleeping, he expects me home, and I won’t mention the last thing he’s told me. I’ve forgiven his boyish cruelties. But it’s Suzanne and Jennifer Clement that I want to know more in the end. What wouldn’t I give to walk the Brooklyn bridge reciting Walt Whitman and watching her exhale paint fumes, coloring the breeze, laughing with her teeth.
« Sautes desous, fixes tes yeux sur le point désiré et ne regards rien d’autre. Se jetes. Comme, en ce moment-là, tu connaîtras seulement ce point, car ce point est la seule chose qui existe, tu arriveras par là. Même si la terre tombe. Même si le vent bat ton corps, tu gagneras ce point-là. »
Nous sommes sur la montagne derrière la maison de ma grand mère. Les pierres sont rouges, un rouge profonde, qui semble le cuivre rouillé et chaud. C’est très chaud ici. C’est toujours très chaud ici. L’air est doux avec un sent du romarin. Ayant marché jusqu’à ce qu’on ne peut pas marcher plus, on s’est tourné vers la vallée : une ville de lavande, composée essentiellement d’espace. On voit de points de lumière fragile qui vit comme s’ils ne savent pas s’ils sont vivants vraiment. Quand on rend visite ma grand mère, on ne vient jamais à la ville. On la déteste.
J’avais gardé qu’il m’avait dit. Mes yeux fixés, je vois une ville différente.
This means blue, its roots not Armenian nor Germanic. This is a blue that needs no roots for it is the purest of its type and exists by means of suspension. Je ne connais pas Reno, he explained, je ne le connais pas du tout.
Moi non plus, je voulais le dire, je suis si bleu là.
He is here to research the Basque culture as it is constituted in Nevada. He speaks Spanish, Basque, French and Italian, but English rather poorly. I’ve seen him walking perdu dans ses pensées à l’université, toujours seul avec un fantôm d’un sourire autour de sa bouche. I’ve seen him once downtown, in the same style, a funny owl limping down the sidewalks with eyes only for his mind.
So observing I might catalogue son mien as I tend to catalogue color after color for their muting and their shine. Je pense de bleu dans mon lit, en train de se dormir, a conversation forming like rain upon a pane. Dors, je dis. Non, je dis.
Le bleu, c’est fleu. I dip from one language to the other. And you, dear man, what a jungle gym your thoughts must be. He’s here, having forged his academic destinies in northern Spain, to sand down the splinters on the bridge separating the old world from the new. Son but, pour moi, rest inconnu, mais je dirais fleu : un but qui va évoluer, une petite cellule divise en deux .
Le bleu, suspendu sur
a pale yellow sky.
I heard the heater pop. My heart jumped sharply. I am afraid of you breaking and entering by my bedroom window. I am afraid of you breaking and entering, yet, hopeful too. You’ll give me enough time won’t you? For me to shove you back from the sill a seven foot leap and fall on December’s frost and wait for my candle, for my basin of water, my gauze, my needle and thread to sew you up nicely in comforting half-tones, “ Don’t you scare me like that again.”
Wind is picking up again, finding the flutes embedded in the drain pipes. The radiator’s spasm still has my heart in my head. Every watermark on the pane is your fingerprint, the moving shadow is your patient wavering. Unless I’m careful (I’ve been playing Girls all night long) Christopher Owens is you whispering. Fucking christ. You’re staining everything.
Yet word had it that you’d learned enough Spanish to translate in Buenos Aires. The initial leap in expatriot life had you looking back often, back at me really, the iris sensitive still to the mark I left there, but settled given two years: first in an apartment too close to the Hospital General de Agudos. The landlord had, to make up for the location no doubt, enlisted a sixteen-year-old Haïtian to clean your flat regularly. She smelled like cinnamon and freshly sharpened pencils.
You know she stole your Hélène Cixous tired of dusting it so often, saddened by the new sound in its spine, knowing that you couldn’t read French anyway … why did you bring that along? Instead of Elliot or Miller or someone you could understand? At any rate, you didn’t say anything to Anaramño, the mentioned landlord, instead enjoying the secret, leaving sometimes a half-smoke Virgin Slim or dead flower on the plot of spot Cixous once rested.
You’ve a special talent, allow me to speak for Laila, and allow me to name her, for the nonchalant nicety that, when allowed for some mental fermentation, turns to a psilocybin crash, an excuse for paranoia, a sharp about-face, a claw to the nose of your lover with his eyes a-shinin’ for you (cracking like the well of wax the candle’s flame couldn’t quite get to).
Laila was aware of your schedule: traduit les matins de lundi au jeudi. She made your bed then, washed the films of grease then, deported the spiders sitting next to the shower head, jumpy, shaky, at the sound of shifting stairs… would work ever end early? One day, a fire-drill day, you’ll come home early, Laila fighting a scruff on the hardwood with a bristle brush. She’s trying not to think of the medialunas shining under their saran wrap on the counter. When you walk, you do not make noise (and, anyways, the bristle scrape) so you’re suddenly there.
En ce moment, il va me lever, m’embrasser à la fois. Ça commençera transcendant… je me sentirai le profondeur du ventre danse. La feu allumée, je suis destinée être consumée. Ta bouche goutte de mienne, la faim augmente, tes mains [pétri} mon corps. Miennes te tire plus proche, plus proche. Quelle exstase tremblante ! Tes dents ont trouvé ma langue, là, leur pression. J’ai peur. Le peur est deliceux, le délire, la tête tisse j’aime que je te plais j’aime que je te plais tout pendant que tu manges ma langue bien que mon sang remplir la bouche, trouve mes fossettes, pointille ma robe. Tu n’arréteras qu’elle est toute mangée. En meurante, je te serrai mon sexe encore à la danse.
That’s it. You offer the most sublime way to die. Word had it you found another flat after this, not too far from Bosques de Palermo.
I don’t know what you know of me. I still film and follow overflying birds to the country. When I first moved to the city I lay on a fat man’s bed because I didn’t have money. I build scenarios around colors and presently my eyes like ochre. Ochre is the story of a brother and sister, twins, who wake up in their trundle to bright rectangles, refractions from passing windshields, flying across the wall, who eat biscoff cookies in the afternoons, who share custody of a lovely mustard sweater, who relive Lion King dialogue whilst raking leaves. I do love shorter pieces; films that have little more ambition a part from beauty.
Another word had it that you’d started to write yourself. Send them (your words I mean) for some psychoanalysis. You said, “ I dream of backfloating on a pair of tracks en attendant for the coming train. She arrives, I find her speed, embrace her my veins bursting, la regard with all her power. She’s a machine destined to travel le monde entier… crashing over my prostate body.”
You’d excel at flash fiction.
I don’t know what they’ve told you, but I fear one contained my address. Or, perhaps, a mention of my current employment underneath the banner of graphic design (where us photographers go to die). It’d be only too easy to find me given what clues I’ll leave in the photos’ descriptors. May your eyes never find the trail of crumbs. Would my hands stop dropping them! Do I not remember what relief overcame me once rid of that retraceable bunker on Finch Avenue? Come back to town. I won’t be around.Word to the wise and the debonaire poltergeist: don’t you be looking for me neither.
Yet I’ll continue to assume, of course, that the echoing gong on the fire escape were your shoes. I saw a shadow pass devant la lune and knew that that was you too. Sometimes I overhear other women describe your face. All very well, I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve and most couldn’t understand the fright they (the descriptions I mean) give me. (She saw you loitering with her boss on 63rd and Madison. She saw you first and only noticed her boss immediately afterwards: said your eyes had an expansive radius of destruction and a meticulously shaped mustache. Rhett and Ashley in one man. I filled in the lines: I said Ralph Lauren, I said dirty blonde, said that space between the two front teeth, and urban wind against his torso. She said yes, she said yes yes yes.)
Ah, now I think: You were wearing just about nothing. I just had on my green ring, peridot you know, and the sun was on a slow rise and beneath our skin our bones glowed from the inside. Looking down the fall of your profile… eyes tumbling from forehead to the nose to the heart of your lips… le lendemain. I remember then a hotel pool in Irvine California and minty watermelon plastic sunglasses through which I’d watch my father bobbing a few beers deep the graying blond sticking to his forehead floating so calmly he might be dead, but knew at the slightest scent of noir, his blood would spring to action. I’d take for granted the residual invincibility, comme si c’était moi, toute seule, qui peux luttre les bêtes du monde. Comme toi. For you would wake, muscle fibers hugging themselves as you’d stretch over me, to save me or crush me I couldn’t say, good morning. Class is when? At nine? We have some time. Good, I’d say. The surface of your skin would dive into mine and lift and kiss and dive into mine and lift and kiss and dive into mine and lift and kiss and watch me shake my eyes to the back of my head. I liked watching the animal come to your eyes. I liked the sheen on my inner thighs.
Ah, now I think: my jawline fit squarely under your collarbone. There my face would cradle. Above there was the sky. I’d rotate my face back to find your closed eyes glowing orange in setting sun light. All colors so picture still. This was a moment of three-year-old immortality. A sensation of knowledge, to be betrayed jamais, malgré la mystère.
Then the sinking. You are a morbid joker. And me, still three, would take everything very seriously.
“ My father gave me a fountain pen for graduation. I dream of filling it with your blood.”
“And write what?” I asked. Yes, tell me exactly, what goes into killing a loving?
“Your biography,” eyes glinting.
Retrospect suggests that you craved me in the flavor of angry. Risen and primitive, the consciousness of a doe finding her buck crazed, rabid. So cruelly said, you then waited for a punch to the chest. The punch to the chest. You grabbed for the counter and missed the edge grabbing instead a plate we’d shared earlier, shattering the porcelein to gravel as it spun from your hand, where, then, your back skidded across the broken pieces. There. Now you know, don’t you, that you can scare me. That I can hurt you. That I can leave. Leave. Leave. Leave.
The flyer indicated that he was a futurist, and I instantly thought of futurism… mind those terms. Dr. Michio Kaku falls under the former, whilst Umberto Boccioni falls under the later, and whilst technically the two are disparate, I felt an uncomfortable lack of humanness at Dr. Kaku’s lecture ever reminiscent of futurism tonight.
Whilst giddy in the face of technological advances (like any generation Y at the edge of Z) I am also conscious of what loss in humanness experienced given these advances. You see them too, one sitting right across from the other at a quaint café in Montparnasse looking intently at their cell phones neverminding that there is a fucking human in front of them, whose minds emit the same impulses with an acoustic sweetness, who touch at the perfect frequency to invoke an emotive response. I’ve also touched upon my concerns regarding memory recall given the immediate accessibility of Google before, and need not say again the disabling aspect of internet dependency.
So when I think of technological advances, I think in terms of healing… in the healing of ourselves and the planet. I think of exploration. I think curiosity. I think discover . I want to lasso the moon. I DON’T THINK OF DIGITIZED WALLPAPER. I don’t think of further alienation from human contact… I don’t want a world where I shop from my room, be diagnosed from my room, talk to my computer as if it were truly a being. Can’t technology do something right and connect us to nature? To each other? Why so bleak Dr. Kaku? Can you not hear you?
Admittedly I walked into the room with a different expectation of enlightenment. I walked in hoping that he would untangle the messier bits of string theory for me. I wanted to understand why, IF the barest atom is but a receptor of frequencies WHY this matters and what does it mean?? So, actually, the lecture barreled through a list of technological advances that one could expect to see in the future… with an uncomfortable focus on the capitalization of such advances. Hey, maybe I want to interact with technology not merely as a consumer. What of that?
(Some five minutes of the lecture described, à grâce advanced eye wear: a typical pedestrian could filter passerby who have opted into a certain dating service, thereby negating the need for what bravery is required by those starry-eyed hopefuls facing perhaps certain rejection.)
Granted, there was discussion devoted to healthcare, something I’m always glad to see given our chemically laden and constantly ill population. Good show. Yet. If someone had handed me a microphone at the end for the question-answer session, I would have asked him that he maybe consider that modernization has introduced a slew of chronic illness, and might it not be of equal import to revert our lifestyles to one that makes more biological sense?
The question-answer session at the end did bring up an issue particularly important to me re education and America’s woeful standing in science and math. (23rd I think he said.) He proceeded to described why the way in which science is taught fails of to entice followers, why it is inefficient… really one need only read Gargantua by Montaigne… because we students are given a chart of names, a complex labeling of pulleys and levers so to speak, asked pretty please to memorize these, and given no further insight into the actual mechanics. JE SUIS D’ACCORD. If America wants any place in the technological advances of the future, she must teach with a true interest in the mind’s capacity and not in the bureaucratic GPA system.
But you know what helps? Discussions that do not sensationalize the consumerist capacity of our vie quotidienne COMING SOON! Or perhaps one might engage with the audience in a way that encourages intellectual exploration rather than dismissive explanations. I kinda expected more of you expecting more of us. I don’t go to a science lecture to be fucking entertained. America’s slip in intellectual capital is due to this too: the constant expectation of being entertained.
So here’s my thing with futuristic thinking: build thoughts! Build cities! But level the walls please. I’m so tired of walls. Especially walls of understanding. I know that Dr. Kaku is brilliant. I’d rather hoped to be privy to what technical understanding he has of modern physics. Certainly didn’t appreciate being delegated to student-who-will-buy-my-book status, oh and here, a sprinkle of condensation.