toxic morphemes that make me sick (having your baloney & eating it too)
1. Towards the end of this book i just finished reading it says: «A remote perspective was best, sheared of sentimentality, which impedes a productive workflow. Name not that which you intend to cultivate, was the saying.»
2. In keeping with his remote perspective—this perspective with no ulterior motive except to inform & cultivate my own writing—i will continue to not explicitly name things or use proper nouns here.
3. I will also continue to refrain from photorealism that dilutes, degrades or identifies the subject being photographed. As this piece i recently published implies, photography kills its subjects.
4. The premise of this book i read is that language too is a killer:
5. While i was reading this book, we traveled to a place that i'll refrain from mentioning by name, except to say that this name has been bastardized & anglicized in the country i was born. Not only did i grow up thinking this placename was a sickening sandwich meat on par with spam, but the name of this city also came to be used as an exclamation to express that something is bullshit or phoney. The accompanying photos here may or may not be from this place, or the process of getting to & from this place.
6. And along with all the usual disclaimers, i should also confess that the main themes of this book (besides language)—religion & child-rearing—are not my favorite topics. At the end of this book, when the author reaches his garden of eden, he states: «Unless you were a child, you could only get to where I was by Jew hole.» Suffice to say, since i can't relate to children or religion, i am not sure i get (or am allowed) to go where he was going or whether i am the right person to ask about this book.
7. In reality, we got to where we were going on a new high-speed train (not only faster, but cheaper), a much-needed privatized alternative to the government-run dinosaur in this country. A train so fast it makes you sick to look out the window. So i read.
8. Aside from my pet-peeved subjects of child-rearing & religion, this book i read has some interesting things to say about language. The language itself is not as extraordinary as the language used by this author in previous books of his, but perhaps this is out of necessity, since the book is about language.
9. As he says in the book: «You can't exactly describe a poison with more of itself, write about how poisonous writing is.» You need to be coherent to explain abstraction.
10. The experiments with language in this book are not by the author, but by the protagonist. The book tells the story of him experimenting with language (in order to come up with a language that doesn't make one sick).
11. The affect of language on adults in this book makes them sick. And indeed, reading this book i felt at times mildly sick, so perhaps this was the desired affect. But then again, generally speaking, the sound of my mother tongue makes me sick. I like living in this foreign place because i don't understand the language. Perhaps this is why the sound of it doesn't make me sick, yet—but the more i understand the language here, the more it makes me sick. Occasionally i hear my mother tongue spoken, by tourists walking by out my window or on the street or on a train & it makes me sick.
11. I'm not sure where in the spectrum of good-sick & bad-sick this book falls. It's not exactly a «yo, this book is sick» kind of book, though it was at times sick-good. There was a bit of that sick feeling you get out of jealousy, like you wish you'd come up with some of the ideas he has. In fact, a lot of the descriptions of language in the book reminded me of affects i was trying to achieve in my own work. And strangely someone else has compared me to this writer in the past, as being in the same oddly named camp. This author spelled these things out, but did not necessarily employ these techniques, leaving me in some ways a bit demystified & hanging in my own language pursuits, like my own ambition dying inside me along with his, which in many ways is the aspect of language that is most toxic (the viral connection between writer & reader). In relation to the new book i'm working on (under the guise of a name i'll refrain from mentioning), i still have hopes of finding a language that can erase itself in its wake.
12. Which is to say i feel sort of betrayed like one of the runners following the protagonist of this movie, the one that after their leader casually declares he is tired & wants to go home, says «now what are we supposed to do?!» Which is to say, this book killed the mystery which drove some of us to follow this writer in the first place. Not that his last book was great, but i thought maybe it was a hiccup. Now i don't know. Like one of the gumpy followers, part of me feels betrayed, not sure where to go next. But another part of me feels hopeful that the generation he inspired will now pick up the slack & carry the torch that he lit.
13. Perhaps you can chalk it up to the head-banging feelings of emptiness you feel in the end, when you reach your goal, when you realize that it's all hypocrisy, that your epiphany inevitably gets quenched the second it needs to be spelled out (& whether these feelings are projected from the reader or induced by the author we can never be certain of). Followed by «now what?» Like that deflated post-sex feeling. Speaking of which, there's more than a few sex scenes in this book & they are always mechanical & devoid of emotion. Especially in these sorts of moments, you can't help but to think the book is auto-biographical or confessional, that it mimics the personal life of the author as he certainly has used language in the past in spectacular & awe-inspiring way, but now has perhaps plateaued. And now perhaps he has grown soft on us, wilted.
14. This book is laced with a certain resigned despondency—like he is on auto-pilot, a parody of himself that says these things, but doesn't feel these things. Which, again, is perhaps the intent, or admission. «Eventually you stop paying attention to your own feelings when there's nothing to be done about them.»
15. Perhaps why this book made me so sick—why i'm even bothering to put into words—was because it was written by an author whose previous works i deeply respect & admire. So it made me sad to have my impression of him get a bit deflated.
16. Perhaps what bothered me most was the introduction of religion. Prior to this book i didn't give the religious leanings of this author much thought, but his religion pervades throughout this book. Granted, it's an abstracted version of it (and interesting in that), but the real-world name for this religion is still used, and this word carries all the baggage & associations of all the generations coming before us. Perhaps this is the intent—to give new associations to this religion.
17. This religion the book is seeped in is more than just a religion, it is an ethnic & cultural identifier—an ehtnoreligious group that i am not a member of, nor even if i wanted to, could easily convert to or claim as my identity. For perhaps this reason it has taken on a certain elitist quality that this book only further reinforces. In times past this group has been subject to persecution, but in this day & age it is hard to keep playing this victim card. But still this author tries to portray this ethnoreligious group (or his surreal version of) as being persecuted (though he mentions no specifics, except vague references to inquisitions & atrocities committed over 60 years ago). In the book they have to hide in the forest so they can quietly practice their cultish rituals in peace.
18. The fact is, this author is a privileged member of the intellectual elite in the country i used to live in. And every organization i worked for in the city i used to live in was run almost exclusively by members of this ethnoreligious group as senior management or on the board of directors. I know this isn't true elsewhere & i know this is all a debateable subject—one that i don't know much about except my limited firsthand experience. And what i think doesn't matter—all i'm talking about here is my reaction to this book, a book that was perhaps not written for the likes of me in mind. I had the same feelings of alienation with this book—of not feeling worthy, of not having their god-given wits, to read it.
19. When you portray your own people as a «chosen» people, how is that supposed to make others that aren't chosen feel?
20. This isn't just an issue of religion, this is the risk you take in aligning yourself with any group or subsect of people, especially ones that think they are superior. Members of group X that write literature all about what it's like to be in group X will gain more followers within that group, but risk alienating those not in group X, especially if they have the attitude of «it's an X-thing, you wouldn't understand.»
21. It's the same with language, which this author inextricably intertwines with this religion, though doesn't specifically mention how they are related except for such vague allusions to mystical salts.
22. If you were a member of a small tribe of 100 people that spoke a common language that no one else understood, and if you wrote a book in this language—you are guaranteed to be popular within this group. Imagine what that must be like to read a book that only 100 other people could understand? But as the user-base of a language grows & grows, the language becomes more & more diluted & «used». It becomes harder & harder to get readers because you have more & more writers in that language to compete with. If you are a writer that writes towards a specific group of people, you are guaranteed a higher conversion rate within that group, but you risk losing readers outside that group—especially once that group-specific writing gets bucketed into a genre.
23. As the author himself says (channeled through one of the gentile characters): «Thousands of years of Judaism, topped off by exclusive, secret access at your hole, for ultra-rare religious guidance, and this is all your people have come to?»
24. In this country i now live, something like 95% of the people subscribe to another certain religion. It's hard to escape it. Yesterday on sunday in this town we were in, where these photos were «taken», they recorded the mass from the church & blared it on loudspeakers into the streets throughout the town. I'm a foreigner here, so i have no say in the matter, but if some preacher was pumping their preachings onto the public streets of the city i was born in—i would probably be incensed enough to burn the church down. It is a difficult thing to swallow here as historically a lot of the art & architecture is inextricably tethered to this religion.
25. Now that i have alienated myself from all religions & all followers of these religions, i've become a quorum of one. I am not seeking membership to any clubs or cults or literary schools. Not that i am fanning any flames, but i am the bad guy in this book, disgraced:
26. Another annoying thing about this book is that he peppers the text with the word «fuck», as if to give himself street cred. Or perhaps this is intentional, to illustrate first-hand how language can destroy itself by misuse & abuse.
27. In fact, i might venture to guess that the author himself relates more to this evil villain than to the protagonist. Perhaps the author has become disgusted with himself, and this is all self-deprecating allegory. Perhaps he was made sick when he was accepted into the inner-circle of intellectual elites in the country i left. Perhaps the fear of selling out made him sick.
28. Perhaps he made himself sick by having children. There's a whole nother issue that if you criticize you risk alienating yourself from the other 95% of the world. But lets face it, breeding is not for everyone & it's a good thing not everyone is doing it. I don't know much about the personal life of this author, but i'm guessing that between this book & his previous ones he has fathered some children & fundamental changes have taken place in his brain. The child & the family unit have become the most important thing, to be protected at all costs, even if that means sacrificing yourself. And it shows. Parents that start speaking like children. Not only does it seem that this book is targeted towards those of his religious faith, but it seems written for those that push baby-strollers in well-to-do neighborhoods—which is all fine, there's plenty of those types that want books to read. I just don't belong to this demographic.
29. As i was reading this book, This song kept popping into my head.
30. What else? The book also at times reminded me of this book, though not nearly of the same caliber. While this noise book had deep allegorical underpinnings, i'm not sure what the author of the alphabet book was implying beneath the surface. All i sensed is that author was seeking some sort of redemption—to be reunited with his own unsick family & live out his life in the forest happily ever after.
32. It's also disappointing because this author was the one leading the critical debate on the side of experimentation, against novels churned from factory templates.
33. You cant have your cake & eat it too.
34. I don't know, the more i think about it, the more i have to think that it's an elaborate hoax & he's having the last laugh. That maybe he IS having his cake & eating it too.
35. I mean, the plot was absurdly formulaic, down to the Dr. Evil type villain who is out to get the members of this religion. Strange that the author made him the only non-flat character:
36. And this is not all to say this book isn't the best mainstream book published this year. If anything for the ideas it has about language:
37. In the book, in order to not make people sick, language gets stripped down of everything except proper nouns. In my opinion, proper nouns are the true killers. But on the other hand, they shouldn't even be considered as true words in a language, so perhaps this is why they are harmless in his book.
38. Yet another reason we should abandon the use of proper nouns is then we wouldn't judge authors, but the books. Since i've read this author's other books & his ensuing rhetoric & debate, i can separate the art from the artist. It's hard to tell what i'd think of this book if i didn't know who wrote it. Perhaps i'd love it.
39. This is also not to say the intent of the book is to, like the language in the book, to make you sick. The conceit that there is nothing left to say that doesn't become mired in it's own navel-gazing hypocrisy. It's an age old dilemma, the same one zen buddhists or quantum physicists found themselves in, that to speak of something's nature kills it. That you need to include the observer (the reader) in the experiment. But this book is coded in language that (perhaps intentionally) is already dead to make it immune to self-contradiction (yet at the same time a digestible, commercial success).
40. Which is all to say i liked it, or at least it got a reaction out of me, otherwise i wouldn't have finished the book & written this.