I spent a small amount of time with a section from Anais Duplan’s Mount Carmel and The Blood of Parnassus.
And I wanted to look at this, and unpick a little of what makes it real — and how it, and works like it, deal with transition and metamorphosis.
I think in this snippet we’re brought in to this transitory state simply by “we are falling backwards through space” — because we all know that’s how that goes. When Alice falls down the rabbit hole in visual adaptations, she tumbles for a while before gaining the slow serenity of the fall, checking the cupboards on the way down, wondering about how far she’ gone before almost falling asleep.
And that’s the kind of “falling backwards” that frames this is how we know we’re on a trip, like in a dream, where the world and what is around us can morph without reason. Anais (read this bio) gives us a clatter of experience as we fall through. Given the context of the paragraph, we’re asked to rearrange it all as the poem implies the damage done by a fall, a crime for which a portrait is record of, the opera interrupted by a supernova brightness of a million iphones and the Falstaff/Town Hero both conspicuously present (Falstaff is in several Shakey plays, but the last he only exists as a report of his death, and the town hero who made the brave choice to let others die seems to connect kind of reversal. Maybe Henry is dead.)
The passage reminded me of both Blake Butler’s Sky Saw, and a much earlier novel/poem/experience called The White Hotel by D M Thomas.
Sky Saw is an entirely abusive book. It completely crushes you on every level. There are no handles to grip the thrust of the book with and steer it towards understanding — and as such you have to accept it as an experience. Actually, that might be a little unfair. There are handles, but those handles become other appendages when you’re not looking, and then they’re part of you, and then you’re a room, but it’s also a ur-mother figure — and someone has to go out there and fix the great flesh that covers the sky as a dome. Not you but you might see one of them crash to earth as a crow, or a charred lump that might also be another place.
The White Hotel is a sexy Freudian romp (feat actual Freud) with Babi Yar thrown in for good measure. Nothing like as threatening as Sky Saw — yet it does do something magic with the acceptance of reality being immediately changeable and dreamlike. A lot of the novel is our hero’s fantasies of Freudian fucking, speedy pregnancy, strange transportations from one place to another, and the suggestion of a second sight being discounted for an option for the cause of her pain by the good doctor.
All works rely on the transmutation of person to place to action — and this causes some kind of stock taking for the reader as we go. In many novels when faced with these things we have a little set of post-it notes labelled things like “metaphor”, “memory”, “dream”, “magical realist expression of reality”. In these works however it’s an effort of exertion against submission to make sense of it. But submitting is the answer, as the more we let wash over us the more we can pick up of the natural flow, letting the unimportant flourishes pass us by for another time
Here’s another snippet from Anais. It’s wonderful:
Equally wonderful is this by Austen Leah Rosenfeld:
Anyone not marking down “I bring out the emergency in people and I don’t know why” in their little book of excuses as to why they don’t really want to their next work social function is really missing a trick.
Today’s song is an ambient mix by lowlight of “ambient by non-ambient artists”. It’s a bit of a long slow hug from a friend. Or, if you want a quick fast hug from a friend, you can try this byJohn Martyn.
Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own. I am sorry this kind of went nowhere, but hopefully you enjoyed the flow. Sometimes you’re having a bad day, and on these days you just need to remember that if you don’t have your hand in the biscuit barrel, you won’t get any biscuits. Unusually, I am still trying to work out who wrote this one — but we know it was proofread by no one.