The Miserablist

This vision was strongly nebulous, an indeterminate but bold reaction only because it was so much like one of my poems. There I was one weekday night starring in a work of literature about gentlemen’s anarchy and artists and rapists and masculinity, and there I was later with my innocent questions, and then I was facing, yet again, an entire interrogative oeuvre about the self-suppression of undeserved esprit de coeur.


This whole scene was like Picasso’s Blue Period, but the colour I was exploring was ‘wretched with indefinite longing’. I had grown tired of the auto-destruction of literature. I didn’t want to erase my face from the coinage. I had grown tired of all the metaphysical rumours and wanted to be away from the clatter of interiority, to be — in a new form — alone.


I dreamed of a category containing those who are more beautiful, intelligent and virtuous than anyone else I had known. This was a category into which I kept inserting the names of my friends. I did not gaze admiringly or touch this category too much, and when I was out of its radius I became sick with a mysterious illness: I was tired, sad, my chest ached, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I could think only of this category’s face, and was struck with the most intoxicating loneliness, like the loneliness of a person who has lost an organ.


Later, on the phone, I said ‘This is so curious — it is like I have lovesickness without being in love with anyone,’ and the voice on the other end said, ‘Of course you are in love.’ But how and with whom? It was painful to be lovesick without love, like a person who has quit her job but still stocks shelves in her dreams. That’s when my suffering became an art project. I was no longer a self-suppressioner, I had become a miserablist.


Later I realised the state of lovesickness for a love that isn’t love and for no one in a fixed particular had lasted for some time. I began to think its only antidote was to go back to the work of love — but to cross the picket line made for ragged events, returns which were wrong returns, starts which were terrible starts: what did it mean that each attempt to break my own strike ended in greater and greater reason to uphold it? Then a definitive catastrophe, like a rotten boss doing the most rotten bosslike thing, gave me a firmer conviction. I could be in the proximity of the lovely and not stare into their eyes. I abandoned every strategy of seduction. I had become so practiced at ‘no’ but not at eradicating the lovesickness that wasn’t for a love, as if romantic pain hangs in the air like the stench of a body after a corpse is removed.


There I was without love, sick with love, and suffering from the definitive something that had made the objects of this entire world say their distressing everythings: mostly about the wreck of politics and capital and the total wreck of gender and available forms. This was the entire world as a stage-set of antagonistic signs — Rousseau’s articulate trauma in Solitary Walker: ‘If I recognise anything around me, it is only objects which distress me.’ At this I looked out from myself for the kind of love which was not romantic but longer lasting. I thought, ‘In the past I have only disappeared inside myself during a crisis and now I will do a better thing which is to see myself recognised as human in the human world.’ But where I went to be seen as human was a place in which I should have known I could never be: a discourse which exists precisely to exclude a wounded person from the human realm, so I asked for but was refused human things like a place for mutual thinking-out or the dialectics of the new ways from the places of difference, like a human reflection back to me that allowed that I could have a human rationality. I was given just more of the total catastrophe and the catastrophe of what was said to me was another nightmare, or like my literature which was the very thing I had reached out to undo.


I was envious of those who weren’t refused, but I never made this envy reproductive. I kept producing a defanged version of what I couldn’t and never with the blissful sense of unphilosophical self-satisfaction the ones I envied displayed. I stared at those who appeared not to suffer as the rest did and asked ‘How do you feel you deserve this?’ but they never answered back or if they did, they answered ‘How can you feel you don’t?’ The power of the powerful people was part of that general category in which I kept installing my urges. If I was going to be attracted to the powerful, I only wanted to be so in the manner of Valerie Solanas.


Then on Facebook I was told I ‘travestied’. At first I believed that one couldn’t travesty anything, that a thing which is a travesty is a travesty in itself without an actor upon it. I wanted to say, no, the property of travesty is inherent in a thing. A travesty is not a thing you do to another thing: it just is a travesty like everything else. I was wrong: I looked it up in the dictionary. Like most people, this person had a superior and more expensive education. And I had, in fact, travestied his words and then doubted his vocabulary. He said something like ‘There are many people who will talk to you about these things, but I won’t talk to you because you appear to understand nothing.’ In all of my life I had been told many terrible things about myself, many of them true, but if they pertained to my ability to understand it was my ‘too muchness’ of it, the inappropriate intensity of my interpretation, which caused so much discomfort in others, the mania of too-much-understanding, that I was too idiosyncratic and accumulating and insisting and pathologically hermeneutic and anti-disciplinary and unpleasant in my overwhelmingness of interpretation and needed to really chill out with all the thinking and trying to get it, but never just that: that I could not understand at all. There is actually nothing — a bizarre and repressive slipping of the human terrible into the therapeutic and private modes of discourse, the failure of friendship entirely as a philosophical form leaving no other form of philosophy, and also the failure of politics which everyone else had already known but which I was always too optimistic to pick up on before.


I reacted so strongly, creating from this pain an entire genre, then from that at least a dozen subgenres, all in the form of crying, but in this strong reaction lies the way that one can come back to ‘the catastrophe of form’ then, which is the other catastrophe — I come back in this kind of wound which is fascinating in its discomfort, which is like a natural disaster, which seems like it couldn’t even exist for its magnitude, a kind of aching and math-y and somatic sublime. I had always felt more wounded by the wounds of friendship than the wounds of love. And the wound I felt was bigger than my body, at least by fourteen inches or a thousand feet all around but mostly coming from my heart (and how is that possible, to sense a physical pain which expands beyond the body’s own boundaries at all?) (and how does one live then in a pain which radiates from one’s heart and exceeds one’s bounds?). And then, as a miserablist, I began to finally write from inside the wound which proves the human body itself is the limit of nothing. It became a type of conceptual literature to tell you that the social pain can multiply any event or injury beyond any kind of illusory physical sovereignty and that this is the pain which disproves stoicism, existentialism, and Europe.


This was a song for the soundtrack. It had nothing to do with the minor fiction of the prior event, but the larger event about which I have had no visions. Great numbers of people sat at picnic tables in screened cabanas built on docks in a chlorinated lake. The people of various races, ages, and bodies were often eating, naked, in the heat in the cabana, or walking, or floating on rafts, and I was riding in a golf cart among them looking for the concession line. What I wrote in that cart was a literature as an assemblage of smaller parts into a new form from the crying, and then my life assembled itself precisely along the lines of that literature. It became an event first in the form of a vision and then in the form of a nightmare and later along the lines of an experimental prose poetry style popular in the early twenty-first century which became, for the purpose of the marketplace, a novel, and that was The Miserablist, aka DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, aka this.


Then the critics said I had brought real blood to the communion ceremony. Again, I’d missed the point. The presence of real blood made imagined blood look like a plaything. The blood of the wine has to always appear to be more blood than blood. I was told to leave then: sorry, go away, fuck off, get out of here: wine is the only blood which is relevant here. if you are going to have real blood, Anne, you should be at a hospital with the others, not in our church. Still, I was grateful to learn I could travesty. Everything was a transitive verb. If I could travesty a man’s words with my newly discovered inability to understand, what else could I travesty? Was every potential power and new form to be made there now in that verb? Then I was propelled forward not by hope of ever being human again but by more of my inhuman questions: how could I make a new form from the object world as evidence of our catastrophe? How could I bring to ruin ruin? How could I now that I see my allegiances to inherent things eviscerating become transitive mostly? And what we this new form of life when one will not be human, not be talked to, when one can finally not understand or be understood?



's latest book is Garments Against Women.  She lives in Kansas City.



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