“Yes but what’s the POINT?” is a difficult question. These Silence talks (which would have been a nice title) are still more a question of form and tone for me than matter. I think I want the matter to be unclear.

I like the idea of a story that captivates but makes sense neither moment by moment nor in the relation between the constituent parts. I like the idea of an academic thesis so poorly and excitably delivered that all you can really follow is the enthusiasm of the speaker. At the ICA the other night Hilary Koob-Sassen did a useful talk, which left me not knowing what had just happened – whether he’d understood the premise of the night at all, whether he was an artist performer or an enthusiast with research he was bursting to communicate, whether it was meant to be funny or grave, was he making fun of us, and so on. It was effective partly because his (character?) was so charismatic, which is worth bearing in mind, along with this problem of captivating the audience, and whether setting out to captivate an audience is like setting out to make work that sells.

His talk brought back lots of the ideas I was working on last year about my mock academic lecture series. I’d been working on a lengthy, detailed talk about the transition between Latin and Romance languages, and I wanted to show slides that visually relate but not factually (like a uterus and a goat’s skull). (“I don’t think this is a problem; I don’t think there’s any cause for alarm, but, there are correspondences.”) There were lots of ideas, and I’ve got all the notes and pages of slides here, so I’m going to have a look through.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of the matter. The talk at the ICA was mostly about earthworms. This talk I was planning was about phonological change. But they could each have started and ended elsewhere and created the same kind of effect.

By matter we mean the things the words refer to, I suppose. That’d be the problem then. I don’t like words referring to things. I counted the nouns in a short text I wrote the other day and there were only eight: hands, morning, instances, point, ways, time, softness, writing. They’re very slight words I think, very elementary words. I never know whether that means they have more meaning or less meaning (why did Henri Chopin choose the word rouge?). The point is that I could have chosen a different field of vocabulary and written a text with pretty much the same effect. I think I’ll try to do that. I’ll try to rewrite the text I’ve written (which I’ll post here next) and see how close I can come without the same words.

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