< i can only be seen in datsuns
Having recently acquired new books via purchase and also older books from the local campus library via borrow and other older books from friends who themselves borrowed and bought, I instead started reading stuff I have sat on for an embarrassingly long time, as part of some sort of complex whereby an excess of stuff from one pool of things highlights my inattention to or lack of investment in another pool of previously curated things: a gross guilt. This new reading, viz. finally knuckling down and getting through Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, the novella that occupies a good fourth to a fifth of DFW's Girl With Curious Hair, has left me sort of weirdly tired and also salved and at times totally in tune with where some people fresh out of MFAs or currently stuck deep within them might feel or think, viz. their peers or their fecund or otherwise totally dry production schedule, especially as in relation to those peers. The story is fine—it excuses itself and excuses these excuses and reads close to its brackish Barthy spring and pulls out some high-caliber poetry et al. ("the rain made the sound of rain," or "the air turned coppery with violence," or a bunch of other syllabic densities about green air and low skies and 'entunneling' corn and positively glacial dissections of the intensely gross and sensitive and the word 'shitspeck,' and a distended pun about pesticides.) while also being open but failing about lit's history of the passivization of women and how love is conveyed especially between men and women. The only woman we see projects and is deprived of her child as the immaculate force to constrain a rather ghostly main character with all sorts of ideas about honor and virtue shared between them, while the other apparently female character is, if you get down to it, a severe form of literary emasculation and ultimate negation of something whose point of view has already been subsumed by the male musk of Barthy metafiction. It is sufficiently complex and long to be both annoying and at times engrossing, the distance between points of engrossment (or at worst flimsy puns or adjectival nonsense) making said points more satisfying. Eventually I might take on some marked passages with a finer comb, but most of them seem to boil down to physical and metaphysical paradoxes (of or relating to motion, usually) interpenetrating and getting all blown out of proportion. Literalization of metaphor, beautifully and sickly-ly, sustains most of the viscous advance of this thing. The same ideologies, as is probably apt among anyone who wants to think about this kind of stuff, are tried on in various heads of various characters, which can read as laziness or just pure communication, coincidence and parallels taken not as redundancy but as a sort of intimate checkup on those things which get between us, etc. Central to the thing is, o.c., a fertile but also impotent place (Collision, IL) which I gen. liked, and found more childlike and forgiving than Concavity stuff; and the emphasis on cardinal location, on the movement between and the entrapment among, felt much more open and thus terrifyingly translucent than the bunker-like and thus furtive and possibly shifting corridors of Barth's big piece. I don't know—it can be picked at a lot. I even laughed sometimes. People can dredge the night-crawler muck at the substratum of this thing for signs of depression or the 'fucked-up-edness' of a 'valued' boy in an MFA under an extremely sensitive but domineering man who also literally fucked, unknowingly, this boy, in fiction as well as in life. You read that right. Like an okay story it makes the head quiet after reading it. The inset piece felt like Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman transposed into some hard-boiled stuff, and that was honest enough, but I can't help but feel that all the tenets of the lit of exhaustion are expressed, save with the big 'image-fiction'-like beacon of turning the author of the portentous '67 manifesto into a literal rapist. This in itself speaks to a weak self-loathing and even more principled, soulless (out of fear of whether or not there is a soul; not over its actual presence or absence) selflessness on the part of the author as persona. But I, like D.L., basically never want to look at, can never throw, the cards, only assuring myself that of the arcana, only Death is a welcome card to see, and can only begin to actualize what DFW by proxy Narrator by proxy Mark by proxy Magda by proxy Ambrose by proxy Barth, lived by and acted under. Because it's a hell of a lot scarier than lime green, than the entunneling corn, than the golden arches portending a Collision than can never come, than a miracle that can never occur. It's serious stuff; it's focused; and but it's no Datsun. Serious here is conflated with invasiveness, prescriptiveness, the manufacture or hope of manufacture of desires, let alone their pretty violent consummations. Even Joelle Van Dyne was not treated this way.