Monday, 4 April 2016

...of non-interpretation

Needless scruples, for his friend was plunged in the deepest of hallucinations: the non-interpretive kind. In a sense, Rugendas was the one who had taken non-compensation to the limit. But he did not know this, nor did it matter to him.
The proof of this achievement was that while conversing silently with his own altered state (of appearance and mind), he continued to see things and, whatever those things were, they seemed to be endowed with “being.” He was like a drunk at the bar of a squalid dive, fixing his gaze on a peeling wall, an empty bottle, the edge of a window frame, and seeing each object or detail emerge from the nothingness into which it had been plunged by his inner calm. Who cares what they are? asks the aesthete in a flight of paradox. What matters is that they are.

[An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, Aira, C.]

...of the mind

At the swimming pool, I focused all my efforts on one goal: to reduce my mental hyperactivity. To let myself be, naked under the sun. To create internal silence. I have pursued this goal through all of life’s twists and turns, almost like an idée fixe. This is the small and alarming idea that stands out in the midst of all other ideas and raises the volume of psychic noise, which is already quite considerable. Hyperactivity has become my brain’s normal way of being. It’s always been like that, to tell the truth, at least since my adolescence, and I’ve learned about the more normal way most other people are - hesitant and half-empty - through reading, observation, deduction, and conjecture. And because, on a few occasions, for a few seconds, I have had that experience. My readings in Eastern psychic techniques, and even those stupid articles about “meditation” that often appear in women’s magazines, have taught me that there is one further step: an empty mind, the complete or almost complete lack of electrical activity in the cerebral cortex, a blackout, rest. And if at one time, with my characteristic ambitiousness I, too, wished to achieve that, and practised all the recommended exercises with innocent trust, I finally grew convinced that I was wasting my time. It wasn’t for me. First, I would have to descend from my peaks of frenzy, take hold of the reins, and mollify the runaway beast of my thoughts, force it to slow to a normal pace; only then would I have a chance to glimpse those Eastern worlds of spiritual clarity.

[The Literary Conference, Aira, C.]

...of shame

My struggle with the German tongue began in mid-October and lasted nearly the full academic year. As the most prominent figure in Hitler studies in North America, I had long tried to conceal the fact that I did not know German. I could not speak or read it, could not understand the spoken word or begin to put the simplest sentence on paper. The least of my Hitler colleagues knew some German; others were wither fluent in the language or reasonably conversant. No one cold major in Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill without a minimum of one year of German. I was living, in short, on the edge of a landscape of vast shame.

[White Noise, DeLillo, D.]

...of a baby

We were halfway home when the crying stopped. It stopped suddenly, without a change in tone and intensity. Babette said nothing. I kept my eyes on the road. He sat between us, looking into the radio. I waited for Babette to glance at me behind his back, over his head, to show relief, happiness, hopeful suspense. I didn’t know how I felt and wanted a clue. But she looked straight ahead as if fearful that any change in the sensitive texture of sound, movement, expression would cause the crying to break out again.
At the house no one spoke. They all moved quietly from room to room, watching him distantly, with sneaky and respectful looks. When he asked for some milk, Denise ran softly to the kitchen, barefoot, in her pajamas, sensing that by economy of movement and lightness of step she might keep from disturbing the grave and dramatic air he had brought with him into the house. He drank the milk down in a single powerful swallow, still fully dressed, a mitten pinned to his sleeve.
They watched him with something like awe. Nearly seven straight hours of serious crying. It was as though he’d just returned from a period of wandering in some remote and holy place, in sand barrens or snowy ranges - a place where things are said, sights are seen, distances reached which we in our ordinary toil can only regard with the mingled reverence and wonder we hold in reserve for feats of the most sublime and difficult dimensions.

[White Noise, DeLillo, D.]

...of TV

Heinrich stood in a corner of the room, taking up his critical-observer position. I gave Murray his coffee and was about to leave when I glanced in passing at the TV screen. I paused at the door, looked more closely this time. It was true, it was there. I hissed at the others for silence and they swivelled their heads in my direction, baffled and annoyed. Then they followed my gaze to the sturdy TV at the end of the bed.
The face on the screen was Babette’s. Out of our mouths came a silence as wary and deep as an animal growl. Confusion, fear, astonishment spilled from our faces. What did it mean? What was she doing there, in black and white, framed in formal borders? Was she dead, missing, disembodied? Was this her spirit, her secret self, some two-dimensional facsimilie released by the power of technology, set free to glide through wavebands, through energy levels, pausing to say good-bye to us from the fluorescent screen?
A strangeness gripped me, a sense of psychic disorientation. It was her all right, the face, the hair, the way she blinks in rapid twos and threes. I’d seen her just an hour ago, eating eggs, but her appearance on the screen made me think of her as some distant figure from the past, some ex-wife and absentee mother, a walker in the mists of the dead. If she was not dead, was I? A two-syllable infantile cry, ba-ba, issued from the depths of my soul.

[White Noise, DeLillo, D.]

...of a shield

In bed we lay quietly, my head between her breasts, cushioned as if against some remorseless blow. I was determined not to tell her abut the computer verdict. I knew she would be devastated to learn that my death would almost surely precede hers. Her body became the agency of my resolve, my silence. Nightly I moved toward her breasts, nuzzling into that designated space like a wounded sub into its repair dock. I drew courage from her breasts, her warm mouth, her browsing hands, from the skimming tips of her fingers on my back. The lighter the touch, the more determined I was to keep her from knowing. Only her own desperation could break my will.
Once I almost asked her to put on legwarmers before we made love. But it seemed a request more deeply rooted in pathos than in aberrant sexuality and I thought it might make her suspect that something was wrong.

[White Noise, DeLillo, D.]

...of imagination

You hear voices?
Ah, I knew that would get your attention. Usually as I’m falling asleep. In fact I know I’m falling asleep when I hear them. And that wakes me up. I didn’t want to tell you this and here I am telling you.
What do they say?
I don’t know. Weird things. But I don’t really hear them, I mean, they are definitely voices but at the same time they’re soundless.
Soundless voices.
Yes. It’s as if I hear the meanings of the words that are spoken without the sound. I hear the meanings but I know they are words that are spoken. Usually by different people.
Who are these people?
I don’t know any of them. One girl asked me to sleep with her.
Well, that’s normal - a man would dream that.
It’s more than a dream. And I didn’t know her. A girl in a long summer frock down to her ankles. And she wore running shoes. She had delicate freckles under her eyes, and her face seemed pale with sunlight even as she stood in the shade. Pretty enough to break your heart! She took my hand.
Well, that’s more than a voice, certainly more than a soundless voice.
I think what happens is that I hear the meaning and provide an illustration in my mind….

[Andrew’s Brain, Doctorow, E. L.]

...of a killer's soul

Well, then, in your waking life as in your dreams, weren’t you running away? That doesn’t sound like someone numb to his guilt.
You can have such moments but they’re not characteristic, they’re incidental to the predominant state of mind. Remnants of whatever humanity I may have once had.
I see.
Because the truth is, I just shrug and soldier on. As kind as I am, as well-meaning and helpful as I try to be, I have no feelings finally, for good or ill. In the depths of my being, no matter what happens, I am left cold, impenetrable to remorse, to grief, to happiness, though I can pretend well enough even to the point of fooling myself. I am trying to say I am finally, terribly, unfeeling. My soul resides in a still, deep, beautiful, emotionless, calm, cold pond of silence. But I am not fooled. A killer is what I am. and to top things off I am incapable of punishing myself, taking my own life in despair of the wreck I’ve made of other people’s lives, helpless infants or women I love. And that’s what Martha’s large husband the opera singer failed to understand when he condemned me, perhaps in the hope that I would see the light and off myself. [thinking] Of course I would never do that.

[Andrew’s Brain, Doctorow, E. L.]