To Intricate Universal Toxic: Kyle Minor & Johannes Göransson

by on Mar.25, 2011

In his review of Johannes’s Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate, Kyle Minor remade my brain a little bit by reinventing the word ‘universalizing’. I usually squawk loudly against celebrations of literature’s ‘universalizing’ force, because such universalizing has a whiff of the Enlightenment about it. It seems to me that to universalize is not so much to invite the whole world to loaf in the shared, bland banquet of humanity, but to colonize the world with one’s own image.

Kyle’s review changed my thinking on that. In applying the word ‘universalizing’ to Johannes’s writing, he led me to see that the nefarious, colonizing thrust of universalization is to be embraced. The ‘unversalizing’ energy of literature is not ethically clean, it’s tainted with history, & is another name for Art’s contaminatory function. It’s the Fascist dimension of Art, dirty, badly-intentioned, well-dressed, devouring, doomed. As Kyle writes of Johannes’s book:

“Thus, strangely, by the end of page one, the very specific stage directions by a very specific author, have already been opened up to invite a universalizing reading: The things that happen in this pageant, and the ways in which they happen, will have some correlation to the bigger pageant we’re all performing across the great stage of the planet which includes but is not limited to South Bend, Indiana, that shopping mall, and the scene of ornaments and crime. It is worth noting, here, that the book is only 82 pages long, that it is cut small enough to fit in a coat pocket, and that the pages have a lot of white space. Yet because of the work done by page one of the book, its size in the mind of the reader has expanded to include all of human experience.”

“All of human experience,” here, is not a grand banquet or a grassy expanse but all the ruined pitted sites of the necropastoral, that is, everything, a corrupted file, a dumping ground. It’s small but eats holes in the mind of the reader. Art’s colonializing action works the way the plague does in Daniel Defoe’s (counterfeit) Journal of the Plague Year:

“The violence of the distemper, when it came to its extremity, was like the fire the next year. The Fire, which consumed what the plague could not touch, defied all the application of remedies; the fire-engines were broken, the buckets thrown away, and the power of man was baffled and brought to an end. So the plague defied all medicines; the very physicians were seized with it, with their preservatives in their mouths; and men went about prescribing to others and telling them what to do till the tokens were upon them and they dropped down dead, destroyed by that very enemy they directed others to oppose.”

In this passage, the plague models Art’s colonializing motion, making small and large scale models of itself in the future (as the fire), on the skin of doctors (as buboes or ‘tokens’), inside their bodies (as bacteria) and inside their mouths (as useless, decorative prophylactics or ‘preventatives’ which themselves mimic the useless prescriptive speech). What circulates in this economy is gimcracks, gestures, futility, plaguey death.

This same plaguey, mimicking, strafing, leaking distemper, which is Art’s stuff and its motion, makes holes all through Johannes’s entrance pageant He writes:

“The natives make royalty more shot in the horse’s head. I use lye and the animal’s shoulders. I am discovering a disease in my mollusk. My daughter is a magnificent torrent with her bristling and bare and very long arms. Her former method was to mount experiments in blooded Abyssinian animals. Now she is adhering to the liver. She gives me an inky substance and tells me to manufacture fine guns from it.”

Or, per Kyle Minor’s own grocery list poem, posted at Vinyl Poetry (itself a smoking example of Art’s toxicity):

Minor’s grocery list is a directive, Art’s directive. As the homey grocery list reveals itself to be a shopping list for meth production, it shows that the supposedly separate precincts of business and crime, legal and illegal consumption, legal and illegal profits, upstanding life and lowlife, in fact interpenetrate and mimic each other, involve the same toxic substances, the same macro- and micro-cosmic processes of purchase, exchange, ingestion, release, repeat. Heated, altered, smoked, ingested, circulated, incinerated, decomposed, exploded or buried, these toxic intoxicating compounds strafe the bios, the bodypolitic, revealing it to be a necropolitic, a corpse.

This is his dance move.This is how he intricates. This is how we (all, begin to) intricate.

In Art’s colonial pageant, as in consumerisms’s. as in imperialism’s, we make a model of a model, we dance move, we recap, recapitulate, capitulate, all begin to intricate, to mutate, to become the parasites of its parasites, to thrive as toxic agents, to intricate its fetid subnature.

2 comments for this entry:
  1. adam strauss

    Amartya Sen has, I think, written wonderfully in defense of the enlightenment/enlightenment notions. I am very pro universal/global; yes, at worst its yicky colonialism; but it doesn’t have to be that. I think too that I embrace it because it seems fruitful for feminist discourse.

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