Aira Book Club Part 4: Baroque Folds/Gay Ghosts

by on Apr.13, 2012

I’m struck by how much Ghosts fits the description of the Baroque as per Deleuze’s The Fold, not least of all because of how the apartment building of the former finds an architectural equivalent in the allegorical baroque house of the latter text.  If Aira’s ghosts hang out on rooftops and invite suicides, Deleuze reserves the top floor of Leibniz’s Baroque structure strictly for the soul, leaving materiality below it in the first floor:

A “closed private room, decorated with a drapery diversified by folds” is thus elevated over “common rooms, with several small openings” symbolic of the five senses.  As perceptual faculties, these openings allow “a correspondence and even a communication between the two levels, between the two labyrinths, between the pleats of matter and the folds in the soul.”  Here Deleuze poses a question that we might also ask of the mediating intensities roused in Ghosts:  “A fold between the two folds?”  That is, what are the ghosts if not vehicles of pure sensation, the zone of inseparability that folds souls and bodies into each other, that makes death visible and otherwise perceivable to living humans:

Absorbed by the sight of the ghosts, Patri had come almost too close to the edge.  When she realized this, she took a step back.  She observed them in the half-light, although they were a little too high, relative to her line of sight, for her to study them in detail.  She could tell that they were the same as ever; what had changed was the light.  She had never seen them so late in the day, not in summer.  The unreal look they had in the saturated light of siesta-time, at once so shocking and so reassuring, like idiotic bobbing toys, had evaporated in the dramatic half-light of evening.  They rose up in front of her quite slowly; but, given her previous experiences, Patri had reason to believe that their slowness was swarming with a variety of otherworldly speeds.  Seen from a right distance, what seemed almost as slow as the movement of a clock’s hand could turn out to be something more than mere high velocity; it could be the very flow of light or vision.

As Joyelle points out, the ghosts’ rumored gayness reinforces the no-future, nonreproductive dead end into which they ‘fold’ Patri.  But could the speculations about their sexuality also reflect the ghosts’ esthete sensibilities as ambassadors of sensation?  They do, after all, age wine and enhance its flavor when it drips through their wispy forms.  Patri herself makes such an association when she speaks of the ghosts in a narrative ascribed to Oscar Wilde, whose dandyism reigns as supreme as his characters’.  After the teenage girl jumps to her death, a ghost even catches her glasses and floats up to give them to her family in a literal, unequivocal exaltation of sight.  This affirmation of sensory experience reminds me of performance artist Ron Athey’s glittery HIV+ body along with the Perfume Genius video below, in which a gay angel struggles for aesthetic flair at the very limit of grimness*.  I myself feel as if I’m leaping, my body creasing air, when I watch the pink and monochrome envelope each other.

*A phrase I borrow from the linked interview with Athey.

4 comments for this entry:
  1. James Pate

    Really interesting post, Lucas. Reminds me of the opening pages of Gravity’s Rainbow, where the reader is placed, with little explanation outside of the fact we are witnessing an Evacuation of some sort, into this shape-shifting, baroque, spectral of my favorite lines from the passage: “No, this is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into…” Which seems to echo the fold within the fold notion…

    Pynchon and Deleuze, I’m convinced, are/were secret diabolic siblings stricken with the same fever dreams…


  2. Lucas de Lima

    Yes, the knotting into is so crucial… the baroque is not about escapism at all, is it?

    One day I will read Gravity’s Rainbow.


  3. Joyelle McSweeney

    Summer reading, Lucas!
    This post is awesome, I want to read it and read it.

  4. Joyelle McSweeney

    That is, “Ima read, ima read, ima read”