It helped yesterday to write out in plain language the concerns I have for this essay. It’s getting closer to sense but I’m having trouble moving what I’m writing towards anything, so I want to try and clarify things first here again.

What I want to do is draw a parallel between two things that provoke exchange between them. I want to use this to describe the idea that by finding two things that are very similar, you can work at them to rupture the surface between [worlds] and create a present jolt that causes whatever’s inside the skin to flow out and become part of the stuff of the world. This is something I’ve written about at length elsewhere, in the context of language. This makes me wonder whether I’m trying to describe a rustle of the world as I call for at the end of my thesis.

I should start this very simply and clearly to make sure people come with me. Let me have a look at how I started this in some other writing last year:

Imagine that there is another thing in the world beside the cups and coats. It floats about amongst the people and the things, imaginary and real all at once; secret and shared. It is the language-thing: the skin of a bubble full of the names and the patterns contained in stuff and the orders of stuff. The parts of language are at one remove from the world, kept apart from it by the integrity of the bubble-skin which is held taut by equal pressures from within and without, and which is perfectly in tact.

Imagine that nothing but the breadth of a film separates what is inside of language from what is on the outside. It is a membrane so fine and closely pulled that fragmentary shivers of the most persuasive words (those closest to the skin, and sharpest) make almost palpable the chance of rupture: they elbow almost through, press almost to the point of crisis their edges and folds – and should they ease dreadfully forth, and should they pierce the womb? Then all of language would sway and draw apart, and rush roaring into itself and pulled by the plummeting weight of those earliest driving loops – an ocean through a plug hole – tear through itself into the world and deafeningly bloom down upon us, and then nothing: consummated, undifferentiated, gone; the silent roar of language that has swallowed the stuff of itself. It is the glow of the pregnant dividing line that lends language the eloquence of its detachment from things, and punctured, its words are loose and spilled, and are things: no more than sounds and shapes amongst the hats and the coats and the chairs of our sticky rooms. Spilled, language would become world; the very thing it describes, and as its own description would it not become itself?

In what follows I will trace an imaginary trajectory towards an opening in the membrane, following language misunderstood and mistranslated; language as we wish it were and language as we speak it; language pressed to its limits by error or design.

I have to point out that I don’t think this style of writing works. But the idea of a skin helps. In my new essay this skin would divide real things from the things they draw affinities with (haha! notice the pun, how convenient), so my cup and my mother’s cup elbow at one another through the skin and encourage it to rupture. The reason they can do this is because they are so similar (in taste, in sight, in nostalgic resonance) that they nearly occupy the same place.

So to get to this stage I need to set up, very clearly, an invitation to visually imagine the relationship between real things and the things they recall: the relationship between what something is constituted by and what it denotes/designates. Is a bubble the best visual analogy for this? A bubble worked for language because I imagined all of language being inside that bubble, and wanted to draw attention to the idea that the thing that is language is actually a force that acts upon the world and behaves like any other thing in the world, and so – when you take it in its entirety – it ought to be an object like a chair and a coat. Then you can take this object and spill it out into the world, and then the bits inside language would stop pointing to things but would be end-points in themselves.

For things, then: the divide isn’t between things and the words that point to them, but between things and the [associations] they point to. It isn’t right in this case to lump all possible associations into a giant womb. Yes it is, almost. To keep the analogy the associations need to be outside the womb, and the real things need to be inside it. The things point to the associations – as words point to things – not the other way round. So we have all to be living our lives and our things inside a bubble, and peopling our lives with things that know ways through the bubble, to expand it by rubbing at their counterparts outside the bubble. A bubble is obviously the wrong image. Not a room either. Something hazier – a fog? A web? I would rather a fog to a web: a web has the wrong structure and has too many used-up connotations, but a fog is too bleak and unclear, and it doesn’t have any edges at all really. So I need quite a simple word for a thing inside which we can be (uncomically..) living our lives and putting our things, but which has a breachable surface. Fabric? Are we all living in a plastic bag? Good god.

Or is there no shared bubble but rather each article, each object, intimately blooms into a sequence of associations outwards and outwards and outwards. That’s more convincing than some shared dreamworld that we all can try to escape to. But I need to incorporate this rubbing. The object and the association need to meet on either side of the fabric and rub at one another so the gauze between them frays and lets them occupy the same space. The objects have to shift a little, and give themselves up to other things – they have to move, just as Septimus hopes they won’t because the associations he has are frightening and dark. It all happens at the edges of each object. That’s where the gauze can be, intimate private gauzes that give way to carefully measured associations that belong only exactly to that shape.

Alright. So let’s start the writing of this. Are our cups the best places to start? Yesterday it was beginning like this:

One must attend carefully to the places of things. Where I put my cup on the table my mother put hers before me, and the presence of mine is the absence of hers. The place of a thing is set by the edges that contain it: edges thinly differentiated from the space around them by minute and very careful calculations of belonging

Advertisements