Westering – Declination – Whiteness – Living Room – Leaving – The Vale, a story, Part Three of Three – with notes for Notes (The following is a work of satire. The people and events depicted, including those based on real people and events, are all entirely fictional.)
*Rachael de Moravia writes about life in lockdown.
*B.R. Yeager helps to bring the idea of shuffleable literature to its logical and inconclusive conclusion.
*Collected Voices in the Expanded Field will feature contributions from a number of incredible authors.
*If I have come embarrassingly late to the work of Toni Morrison, I am grateful to have at least discovered it now, during exactly these times. In her essays in particular she speaks so precisely to my own concerns and aspirations for both art and for the present political moment. I recently typed this entire excerpt from Black Matter(s) into my notes:
Autonomy, newness, difference, authority, absolute power: these are the major themes and concerns of American literature, and each one is made possible, shaped, and activated by a complex awareness and use of a constituted Africanism that, deployed as rawness and savagery, provided the staging ground and arena for the elaboration of that quintessential American identity.
Autonomy—freedom—translates into the much championed and revered ‘individualism’; newness translates into ‘innocence’; distinctiveness becomes difference and strategies for maintaining it; authority becomes a romantic, conquering ‘heroism’ and ‘virility’ and raises the problematics of wielding absolute power over the lives of others. These four are made possible, finally, by the fifth: absolute power called forth and acted out against, upon, and within a natural and mental landscape conceived of as a ‘raw, half-savage world.’
Why ‘raw and half-savage’? Because it is peopled by a nonwhite indigenous population? Perhaps. But certainly because there is readily at hand a bound and unfree, rebellious but serviceable black population by which Dunbar and all other white men are enabled to measure these privileging and privileged differences…
The imaginative and historical terrain upon which early American writers journey is in very large measure shaped and determined by the presence of the racial Other. Statements to the contrary insisting upon the meaninglessness of race to American identity are themselves full of meaning. The world does not become raceless or will not become unracialized by assertion. The act of enforcing racelessness in literary discourse is itself a racial act. Pouring rhetorical acid on the fingers of a black hand may indeed destroy the prints, but not the hand. Besides, what happens, in that violent, self-serving act of erasure, to the hands, the fingers, the fingerprints of the one who does the pouring? Do they remain acid-free? The literature itself suggests otherwise.
Beyond its literary insight, the paper describes “the parasitical nature of white freedom” (ibid) currently on display in response to the quarantine. It also covers something I am hoping to treat in Recursion, specifically, as an important part of the project of the Notes in general: what Morrison calls in The Future of Time “an excavation [of history] for the purposes of building, discovering, envisioning a future.”
Next issue: August 2020