On Violence

On Violence, an anthology of short stories, poetry, experimental prose and essays, provides an exquisite variety gallery of violence while also carefully negotiating a way through each display with deft context and balance. The collection is impossibly well put together by Sharon Kivland and Rebecca Jagoe and the balance of pieces that really gouge at you and those that heal. Unlike recent books that are extremely violent, this one did not leave me feeling emptied of anything good, instead leaving you with the experiences without long term damage.

{ NOTE: this week’s subject includes sexual violence quite heavily, and quite a lot of general nastiness. AGAIN. I promise I will go back to writing about something like “cooking in Beowulf” eventually! }

In Candice Lin’s short story, Human Pig Corporation, takes place in a factory where human-pig hybrids are used to grow spare organs — and are routinely abused by the workers. Lin’s story explores the violence of othering, of making language dead to obscure violence and how economic essentialism is used as an excuse to commit further violence. The language is couched in a kind Human Resources lexicon and tone, distancing the rape of these half-pig-half human creatures, and expressing the violence over their powerlessness (which is explained, is part of the excitement). This obscuring of the violence, of the disgusting violations of the game with language is part of way violence is done — violence is difficult against a human being, but easier against an animal, easy against an object. The further they can remove the hybrids from human (reducing the human part of the hybrid through comparisons to less articulate forms, down-syndrome children, for example) and towards object, the easier and more normal the violence becomes.

These themes of sexual violence and the obfuscation of it are explored further in Tai Shani’s End of Paradise — here the story of sexual violence involves the separation of the violence from the person. Here however the penis in the coerced blowjob is separated from the body “Frankensteinian, bleeding, dying, brutes.” as well as the identity of the person being distanced as an act of protection “I will not be a woman any longer”. The deconstruction of the boys and men is part of the understanding of masculinity as partly monstrous, and that those monstrous parts have to somehow be subdued or defeated to earn civility. The work contains some un-bodied sections as a means of escape from a body which can only provide pain, even if you love it. (Quick note: Of Giants by J J Cohen is very good on this if it’s an idea you’d like to get into further.)
 While both of the above and other works like Cis-tem Bleed Out by Nick Mwaluko, where trans identity and black identity interact amongst horrendous violence and punishment, provide the gouging of experience viscerally told through violence of the body and soul — there are healing works in the collection. Snout, by Katherine Angel is an essay with a lyrical vignette at the start of many-masked animals, men, unattributable limbs of women — expressing a similar monstrousness that is then folded in on itself. This is a somewhat personal essay that takes us through Freudian understanding of sexuality as a folding of pathology into itself asserting:

“What Freud showed us is that we’re all perverts, and that this is perfectly normal”

Before moving through artistic depictions of rape and how that seeing/interpreting that happens during art makes it strange. Trying to qualify the artistic depiction violence depicted makes for distancing — which links to the submission of power/control as the goals of sex and how that then interplays with consent.
 The essay is healing, in the sense that it provides sense where the others provide sensation — helping explain the horrors you’ve read in parts already covered. In some ways, it is the opposite of the distancing language of some of the stories, instead helpfully labelling everything that you’ve seen and helping you arrange them thoughtfully.
 You can buy On Violence here.

Ian McMillan liked a tweet about this issue of ETTO, so you could say that I am a pretty big deal right now. It reminded me of this lovely exploration of being very early, and those who are late, by McMillan on Radio4.
 He must also then be scandalised about how power consumption in certain European countries has been making the clocks wrong by 4–6 minutes!

Hannah has a great story on the Fairlight Books website, which turns out, is also on violence.

Translation lads put lips on the sirens to make them more fuckable, apparently.

I really like the swimming-through-bric-a-brac feeling of this by Arielle Tipa.

Today’s song is Philosopher’s Stone by Tohru Aizawa Quartet. This is from a Japanese jazz album created by a group of medical students and a business man that has been a little lost to time. Originally it was used as a business card (which is novel, but not very practical) and has been a rarity for a long time. Tony Higgins had a really good write up of it here.

Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own, no animals were harmed in the making of this newsletter. It was written by @CJEggett and can be found online here, for you to send to your aunt who lives in Australia. Traditionally, flirting constitutes signing up to someone’s newsletter, but these days, this is how flirting happens. Oh, there’s a new issue of Underblong — especially like the two “send nudes” poems by Katherine Gibbel. Great snowman, even though we’re thawed. More nice looking keyboard keys. Human pig corp IRL. THERE IS A FIRE BENEATH THE EARTH MADE OUT OF TRASH AND HUMAN ERROR THAT HAS BURNT FOR 50 YEARS. I should be getting an Anne Carson pamphlet with issue 2 of the Well Review, which you can get too, right now if you’re quick.

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