Friday, January 4, 2008


I was considering writing a New Year meta-letter reflecting on nine months of posts, on such topics as whether there is a provisional “answer” to my “question” in the right column; the scarcity of the first person in these writings; mixed feelings about their relative restraint and polish; the sense I can’t shake that optimally, ideas in this format should be created for this format (so that it seems not enough to have had ideas in some other place I was and write them here, but rather that I need extra ideas beside any others I might have had), etc. And I’m still considering it. Briefly: wanting a space to be deliberately less than other spaces (less weighty, less read if not less written, less determined) is almost indistinguishable from wanting it to be more. And if my hopes for this lessness get too developed, they actually become more prescriptive than my hopes in other areas where I expect “more.” The idea was to leave things for others to pick up or not, and notice how often it doesn’t make any difference. It is literally true that it doesn’t make any difference. But instead I often hope for nothing, which is a hope that’s sure to be defeated. Not only has there been little first person, there’s been no second person, except in comments-and-countercomments initiated by a particular person who can be addressed individually. That’s been deliberate, because the overuse of a rhetorical second person in many blogs is glaring—“you,” and more strongly, “everybody,” as in “OK, everybody . . .,” get hailed hopefully, as the writer fears lack of audience most of all. Casual language is part of that: the meaning of “OK, these are just a bunch of thoughts but I’ll post them anyway, here goes” is mostly: Anyone who talks like this must be speaking to a group, as you can see. And this rhetoric of the largeness of the group stands in for the phobia that no one is there at all--not really there. The trompe-l’oeil of Work Without Dread is, rather, negative-theological: it’s “Reader, I’ll never call you ‘Reader,’ but I’ll hint that you don’t need to reveal yourself, and thereby that you exist; your nonappearance will never be able to prove your nonexistence, so it’ll often be as though you were there, but only as though; and you’ll have none of the disadvantages of presence or absence.” This fantasy is important for writing; all writing, by which I mean the possibility of any writing, gives access to it and to its momentary relief-effect from society. Those of us who have it, like to write a lot, we just can’t get enough, it’s very easy, and that’s a secret that people who are pained by the lack, or possible lack, of audience never get to know. The best thing you can do to produce writing is to feel the extent to which it is not a mode of communication. We couldn’t live without the possibility of noncommunication, and, though it may never really be lost, writing instantly and blissfully gives its knowledge back to us. In practice, though, and in a way that may be especially clear in this format, and which I’d like to follow up on in future, the main thing about you, reader, is that you’re there. That it’s not up to me to do anything in particular about that—that’s what’s so hard to understand.



Laura Roush said...

Hi. I'm an occasional reader and I'm here. I think I originally found you because I was wondering who else tries to put Winnicott's ideas about transitional phenomena together with the questions Adorno and Benjamin sort of asked each other about the relationship to stuff, belongings. (Sorry that's a little abstract).
Now I'm pleased to see your post about crisis. I'm writing a dissertation about the time of "crisis" in Mexico. Is it OK if I cite you? I'm not sure how yet, it's just a pleasure to see what you're doing and not feel quite so isolated.
El Colegio de Michoacán (western Mexico)/New School.

laurix said...

Anyway, I'm citing your site as having made me go back to Theories of Surplus Value. I did not ever think of it as a syncopation problem. As a return gift, here is a little gem: "Nonsynchronism and the Obligation to its Dialectics," by Ernst Bloch, Englich version in New German Critique 11, Spring 1977.

--Same Person

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