There is a notion unquantifiable stirring me. Whispers at my very heart. Stirring since I awoke. It happens like this, on certain days, when the luck is in, for what can enliven more than this utterance of the wonder, paean to the melody of days, fomenting always and rising still?
A blog charting the peregrinations – academic / intellectual – of a six-month period. I was at first suspicious. All a bit superificial, no? And 250 words? That’s not even pithy! Now, six months on, while scepticism remains, it has been diluted enough to allow for a reasonably thorough – if such a non sens is permitted – exploration of the new shots a blank screen can yield. I used the blog on my own terms, preferring to take an approach foregrounding musings and thoughts that were of more immediacy and relevance than, so I saw it, the hard graft of academic writing. I wrote in a variety of registers and, bizarrely, having now gathered the remnants, the resultant alloy seems to form a kind of turgid manifesto. A manifesto of what? To that question, for all I surmise, no response offers itself.
Let’s return to the beginning;
. . . when who should trundle along to the table opposite, but a bare-boned man, auld fella’, sixties perhaps, teeth missing, eyes a-gaping. ‘Studying for the exams, are ya?’, says he. I looked up, bemused, threatened even, my textual harmony broken up by his interest, until, little by little, we began to converse, and, gradually, my words became his and his words became mine. ‘That’s right, now’. . . .
A wry smile greets the next line. Jesus lads, and I was only reading Baudrillard last week;
Such is the colonising power of technology these days, that we might even term anyone who dares to propose something on strictly human terms, as Subaltern! No?
Satire! We were reading Swift at the time;
One of the most beautiful things to observe of pro football is the strict hierarchy that defines it. The football club, as a ‘mother-organism’, brings together a disparate group of people. Let us examine a typical in-stadium matchday set-up to fully grasp this strange unity. We have, firstly, the owners and executives of the clubs, all rightly rich and all occupying various exclusive boxes, modern day equivalents to thrones-of-kingdoms. Kings of football, of the beautiful game, owners elect and keeping the football world in a state of just equilibrium, with their sound financial fair play – Fair play, lads! These exclusive, much sought-after boxes constitute the central site in the stadium-kingdom, affording optimal panoramic views for the long-time sovereign. It is precisely in this state of primed grace that our omniscient Napoleon of the north reigns over the baying, but ever faithful, mob. Our Napoleon of the north is, let us not forget, separated from the rest of the crowd by bulletproof glass, a timeworn help to the fastidious football-emperor. ‘The glass that would have saved Kennedy’, goes the very famous dictum.
After the ‘men on high’, high in their exclusive boxes, we have, low down, hugging the grass of the green earth, the player-hero on the pitch. This highly talented individual is known across the land, Sun Mirror and Stars, confirmed daily by his own saving valour as a man of the highest order, calm in calamity, brave in battle, altruistic in attitude. He is, also, in near-perfect physical condition. Indeed, it is not unusual to mistake a particularly strapping midfielder for the high Hercules himself; such is the faultless, prestigious, overwhelmingly gracious and never rapacious heroism on show. He amasses vast sums of wealth for abiding by the strictest of wellness regimes. He plays, typically, one nerve-wracking match per week; although, almost unbelievably, it is possible, parfois, for the player-hero to brave the dark pitch up to, and including, two times per week!
Completing the fluid triptych, we have ourself, the supporter, far greater in number than owner-king, executive-servant and player-hero combined. An average stadium-kingdom in our English league will welcome up to 50,000 of ourself weekly (or twice-weekly or parfois even thrice-weekly if the Sky god comes calling). ‘Our Father, who art in Sky’, goes the song en vogue. The fan, being upright, is quite dedicated (ourself included), paying £50 weekly to see the player-hero in the flesh. The fan has, of course, already proved his loyalty, having recently acquired the team’s jersey in the team’s state-of-the-art shop, for another donation of a precise £50. A typical yearly fan income mirrors that of the average subject in the realm; i.e. in the realm of £30,000 – £50,000. So, the fan earns in a year what the player-hero earns in a week. As previously stated, a strict hierarchy bestows on each kindly subject a proper place in the Sky-realm.
In November, The Woman’s Daughter by Dermot Bolger, where the Dubliner flaunts a particulalry clever wielding of narrative form. I borrowed ideas from Patricia Coughlan for this post. I am as of yet unsure whether her “Bog Queens” bullets were a tad excessive;
To begin with, it is first necessary to outline the form that Bolger’s story takes. There are two separate but (formally) interconnected narratives. While both occur in the same place (the Dublin suburb of Finglas), the narratives are separated in time by an interval of roughly fifty years. So, already, there is a complex set of narrative elements at play; identity of place is fused with disjunction in time, so that a plethora of potential links and refractory dissonances are thrown up amongst the words on the page. The narrators are two undifferentiated male figures and, given the interweaving narrative structure, are treated as if they are the same male figure. Bolger has the narrators’ relationship to particular female figures as the primary narrative arc. However, unlike the narrator(s) these female figures are named as Bridget and Joanie, respectively. We thus have a seemingly undifferentiated male narrator and two nominally distinct female figures. [. . . ]
Following Bolger’s critique, the masculine quest can, arguably, only function if the male figure consciously or unconsciously disavows the validity of other selves. These other selves, if understood on an empathetic (as opposed to a narcissistic) scale, will eventually come to impact upon the desired distinctiveness of the questing ideal male self. Having outlined the parameters within which the quest can occur, Bolger goes on to take them further apart, by revealing that the male figure is ultimately left unfulfilled by his quest, possibly even aimless. The narrator, arriving at middle-age, confesses that ‘somehow I have always remained that boy still claiming purity, still on the threshold of some great event’ (124). We may construe his claim to ’purity’ and desire for a ‘great event’ as refracted versions of the masculine quest. What is of relevance is not only the narrator’s admitted failure to arrive at the end of his quest (he is ‘still on the threshold’), but also his inability to leave it behind (he has ‘remained that boy’). His confession presents us with a disturbing image of circularity; not one of perpetual renewal (as in the protean nature of seasonal change) but of perpetual return, leading to a repetition which is stagnant instead of fertile, impotent instead of virile. In this light, I contest, the male figure could be construed as in fact, almost absurdly, inhibited by his own quest. In other words, it is paradoxically the very path that is supposed to bring fulfilment that renders it impossible to achieve.
It is man who is prey to the quest.
It takes at times such craft to fashion a text viable in its complexity. I tip my hat – and glass- to the efforts that accumulated over the recent months. A pleasure indeed to make one from the many. A less formal register here;
“Remember, you were there too.”
The first line of Raymond Scannell’s play “DEEP”. I recently had the pleasure of its acquaintance, recently, the days drifting past and through well and thoroughly gone now, the days gone. Recounting the heady nights of the house-rave scene in 1990s Cork, an overlay of music and spoken text, “and because Scannell paces so fast that you almost wish there was a pause and rewind”, back, to remember, relive again the fleeting moment, totality of all that vanishes. [. . . ]
Of course, we may pare and pare, sharpen and shorten the pencil, but that does not say that there is a kind of pure style somewhere in the depths, in the dark DEEP peer and weep. An Irish Times review describes the swooning surge-swell roll of the DEEP piece very well, noting how the player strikes up a rapport with “an entity known as “the beat”, which retreats, reappears and accelerates through a floating, poetic narrative”. . . Any true style, that of a Beckett or a Baudelaire, floats, glides, can never be anchored.
DEEP in the shallows.
Was there an actress in the room, a mad actor in the attic? Performing the body;
Indeed, the nature of acting is quite bizarre, absurd almost, like this sentence: actor becomes character who is, still, actor, who strives to be character but who is never not actor (!). In other words, the spectator is seeing two instead of one. The spectator is seeing character and actor, instead of only character. The spectator is seeing double. This is one part of the ‘splitness’. Herbert Blau, director and theoretician of performance, has characterised this double presence as “ghosting”. His term might be applied to the actor behind the character who, in performing the role, is ‘not there’ but also ‘there’. So, as Mark Fortier asks, “Is theatre a place of presence or what Blau calls ‘ghosting’?” (43). What really is going on in theatre? Who knows.
Musings were of a rawer tinge afterwards;
How awe-full it would be were the wit and heat and excitement and looks of a meeting, for instance, of two Dubliners, captured, as it happened, in words or in colour! How truly great it would be were Rilke on hand, on a stool in the corner, to poeticize the most luscious night of lovemaking of one’s life! How convenient, also, were Caravaggio there to colour-in the all-giving, all-promising azure sky one sees on a Sunday in July in Perpignan! This is, alas, woe to us, what life, the Real, cannot do. It cannot translate events, as soon they happen / vanish – happening is vanishing – into permanence. It cannot give the Realness / reality of our lovemaking a place in the pantheon of ‘thingness’, forever. Our lovemaking ends, it vanishes, and with this vanish too its own possibilities of achieving permanence. . . I live, and so I am a part of life. Is there an exit? There is, of sorts; one which does not let us out definitively, but rather allows us to pause proceedings, take some air, breathe. This exit-which-leads-back-in is, I surmise, what constitutes art. It is a prestigious and highly exclusive domain, for not everyone can find that ‘exit’. Not everyone can stop doing things. In its dialectic with life, the Real, and transience, art attempts to give presence to our tragic ephemerality. [ . . . ]
An artwork is a tinting of the Real. It is a transformation of the Real. It is a rendering of what is. An on-going palimpsest. It is a throwing onto the canvas of the perception-experience encounter. It is a tracing onto the page of movement in the world.
Lots of leggy movement in Kerry, according to a story by the man whom Gerald Griffin Street is named after (!);
We may call Griffin a collector of folk-tales, in a similar vein to Douglas Hyde or Lady Gregory. He is known to have sought out remote parts of the Irish ‘interior’. . . < One must listen to the natives, hear their stories, the superstitions in the old times! The lore of auld biddies, the quare doings of the peasant people. The gombeen man, Mickeleen-Jack and his illicit poitín still. The like a’ which ye’ve not see in Dublin for many a long year! > <Not until that scaming Dedalus arrived, says he, bleedin’ scoundrel if ever there was one. Begob, t’was the soot’s luck that he saw the Citizen blowin’ his trumpet, scuttered in Davy Byrnes. Bloomin’ delightful, says he> . . . . First published as part of the Munster Popular Tales collection, in 1827, Griffin’s story centres on the fascination that a disembodied pair of legs holds for the people of north Kerry. [ . . . ]
Monday, 13 / 1 / ’14 . . . I was perusing a copy of the Irish Examiner, when I came upon this; an article telling of a mysterious pair of footprints imprinted, for over a century, in the grass of a field in Glenamuckla, a townland in north-west Cork. The footprints, like the legs, allegedly derive from a local murder, and similarly vanish only to reappear with a gyring disdain for finishing linearity. Priests blessed the scene and locals even physically removed the footprints, all to no avail. The haunting trace is eternally remade, re-presented on the Glenamuckla landscape. Even the placing of the article is reflective of its subject. Incongruous, it appears strange and unfathomable on the fifth page of an Irish broadsheet newspaper. A story about footprints in a field? Riddle me that!
James Chandler came to Cork;
As is always the case with a compelling lecture, I sat through the hour engaged, at times engulfed by what he said. Trains of thought with minute beginnings are edged on, with eloquence and clarity of expression, towards clustered ciphers of meaning, quiet revelations, thoughts brought to dazzling light.
I use the word ‘thought’ here as a double reference. The Thought of the speaker, propellers at work, can strike a match, give life to various currents, waves, and eddies in the listener’s thoughts. A certain freedom accompanies these latter waterworks. While the person speaking, having rehearsed what he will put across, is more or less confined in terms of what he will say / think, the listener, merely sitting there, has the chance, is even obliged to let the words put out into the air breathe, to allow them their full measure in manifold connotations, to open up to Thought proposed with thoughts, inside, now exposed. – Exposed to the coalescing that inevitably occurs when a thinking consciousness encounters Thought discoursing. So, the impromptu performance, in so fixed a structure as a guest lecture, can be found entirely on the listener’s side. In this way, Mr. Chandler’s words set off myriad triggers within my imagination. A fruitful kind of gathering then occurred, lasting the hour long, where my own cultural frame of reference, dispersed and so imprecise, was brought to bear on the scholarly rigour of a guest lecturer.
Many thanks to the Palace Bar;
Upon a rereading of a majority of the Dubliners stories, I have again been struck by the overarching presence that Dublin, as topos, occupies within the cluster. It is the collective home, whether loved or not, in which the various lives and incidents occur. The city, as the stories unfold (both within each narrative and across the wider glow of the whole collection) takes on certain characteristics. By times teeming, unyielding, ruthless and claustrophobic, Dublin nonetheless offers adequate occasion for revelry – be it of the romantic, poetic, or congenial tinge. Dublin, cast in a light which gives glimmer to its many hues, comes alive with the complexities and contradictions of a living being. It breathes; to the extent that, by the end, I wonder whether in fact the entire collection is not one long, veiled apostrophe, by a Dubliner, to the city he would soon leave, for good.
There appears to be a refusal, on Joyce’s part, to fill out the interpretative potential, to give colour to the entire canvas, in the way that a Yeats might have done. Let us consider Dubliners as a case in point. In that collection, the real interest lies in the stories’ endings. Many people have used the word ‘epiphany’ to fathom what Joyce is doing in that instance of finishing a story. But it is at the same time more intricate and less explainable than that. Each story ends when emotional tensions have reached their most marked pitch. When the apogee of feeling arrives, – when a further narrative unravelling would typically occur – the words are there no more. In this way, each of the stories ends as it opens. Each story opens up to an ending. Each ending gives a subtle explosion, from the centre, outwards. In this way, I read Dubliners in a duel play of fearful attraction to this end that won’t begin. Dubliners refuses to conjure a thing ‘whole’; it deals in almosts and fragments. In the end(s), as Joyce’s people reach the edge of their entrapment, touch the cusp of their lives, the textures of the stories receive a frightful tinge, of colours flashing, wound up together in a slowly spiralling comprehension. The events unfold, colours carouse, following and forgetting one another before the vanishing that ushers them down to the ether. The full stop at the end of the final sentence of a Dubliners story is the site of this dispersal, text defying its limits, to reach out, push away and caress the space around the reader.
I grow ever fonder of these whispers;
Perhaps language flecked with poeticism is the only kind to convey the notion? Virginia Woolf is one whose writing steers the caress away from a conscious seizing. She does this to facilitate her subject. At least part of her concern is the submerged – flying and fleeting – shards of our selves. She is interested in thoughts that sway, thoughts that appear so true and yet that vanish spontaneously, only to reappear seconds after in another hue, a newer way to dazzle. Her work cannot be understood, nor grasped; one merely senses it. There is no contact to be had with writing of that quality; one merely steps about it, breathes it in, lifts up its veil that blows. Think of a curtain that is stirred, lightly, lightly, from a breeze entering through an open window. The way it flutters – revealing, cooling, revealing light – is desultory as to evade definition. And yet; such prismatic formlessness! Such kaleidoscopic movement!
Do you see now, why the caress is of the utmost? Notions unquantifiable;
We need to veer away from a spectral way of living things. Why measure, when all cups will o’erflow? Life cannot but exceed the self. This, nonetheless, does not entail a drowning . . . nor even a submerging. Rather, a certain bowing to the excessiveness; a joyous genuflection and a shaking of the flimsy branch . . . Do I grasp, or do I let go? Or can I do both at once? Can I love the flashes as they surely go by? I might inscribe them. I might try with words to kick the light from the dust.
Forgive the obscurity. Such are the zones to which light leads me.