Something struggled into the light. Will felt the presence of it before he could see it. He felt an answer to the long ache.
Inevitably, Life and Death nourish each other—a constant renovation—so why should we fear our again becoming the worth we did strive after?
Austin Osman Spare, The Logomanchy of Zos
This number of South Atlantic Quarterly has a theme that more consistently emphasizes “death” than “scenes.” Two of the articles are actually concerned with perinatal death, which is in many ways problematically scene-less. The issues in these two studies are impressively difficult, and induced in me a sort of socio-moral vertigo. The Margaret Gibson paper “Real-Life Death” tackles the journal theme most squarely, addressing the influences exchanged between virtual representations and actual instances of death in contemporary culture.
Many of the papers are critical studies of literature or other art that I haven’t myself read or seen, and these were largely unable to give me value in their own right or even motivate me toward my own exploration of their subjects — with the possible exception of Katrina Schlunke’s piece on the film Waltz with Bashir. The artwork reproduced on the cover of the volume, “Bounty” by Lori Nix, is fascinating: it is a photograph of a sophisticated diorama in which a sunken ship and other debris are visible in a chasm beneath the water in a semi-submerged perspective directed toward a city shoreline. (Further exploration of her work online reveals other wonders including the awesome 2007 piece Library.
The supplementary “Against the Day” section of this number is about the distinction between “politics” and “the political” (la politique and le politique in French theory). The individual papers are diverse and all quite interesting. I wonder if Oliver Marchart’s philosophical advocacy of “minimal politics” isn’t getting an empirical drubbing from the Arab Spring and American Autumn of this year. Barnor Hesse’s study of the tacit but tenacious racialization of “the political” is perceptive and worthwhile. The short “Politics Surrounded” by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney is so overflowing with impressive wordplay that the authors’ actual thesis was opaque to me. And finally, I appreciated the explorations in Sandro Medrazza’s “Beyond the State, beyond the Desert,” but I was embarrassed for him that he traced the rhetorical landmark of “the desert of the real” only to its use by Slavoj Žižek, without realizing or noting that Žižek was quoting an adage by Jean Baudrillard.
I couldn’t see any sense in pretending that life was not full of horrors. Death and trousers are facts in nature; and merely to avoid reference to them or to invent euphemisms for them does not alter their character.
Aleister Crowley, Confessions, Chapter 8
I don’t want to be high any more or again, and this sends me into a spiral of misery, life seems completely empty if this magic world is too painful for me. I want to die and I have infinite terror of the pain of every form of death. I see emptiness and hopelessness everywhere.
Lo! were it otherwise, mere banishment,
I deem he had feared more! He had an heir.
This was a boy of strength with ardour blent,
High hope embowered in a body fair.
Him had he watched with eager eye, aware
Of misery occult in youth, awake
At the first touch of the diviner air
Of manhood, that could bane and blessing make,
The Lord of Life and Death, the secret of the Snake.
Aleister Crowley, Why Jesus Wept
Nostalgia can be contained and marketed—but actual difference would threaten the hegemony of the one worldview. The “Gift Economy” of some nearly-extinguished “primitive tribe” makes excellent TV; our mourning for its disappearance can only boost the sales of whatever commodity might soothe our sense of loss. Mourning itself can become fetishized, as in the victorian era of onyx and jet and black-plumed graveyard horses. Death is good for Capital, because money is the sexuality of the dead. Corpses have already appeared in advertising—”real” corpses.
Hakim Bey, The Obelisk
During the act of procreation, the force that bonds two people together escaping solitude is in essence a trait that exists in each person, a madness which is imbued with a grief that slowly draws toward the depths of death.
Evil, and mischief, and misery, and confusion, and vanity, and vexation of spirit, and death, and disease, and assassination, and war, and poverty, and pestilence, and famine, and avarice, and selfishness, and rancour, and jealousy, and spleen, and malevolence, and the disappointments of philanthropy, and the faithlessness of friendship, and the crosses of love—all prove the accuracy of your views, and the truth of your system; and it is not impossible that the infernal interruption of this fall downstairs may throw a colour of evil on the whole of my future existence.