The Underground Lady [Page Twenty-Nine]

No one needs most of what we refer to as pop culture.  When we talk about consumerism being the production and sale of unecessary things, this is one of the things we mean.

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Necessity does not preclude the charming.  But most people’s sense of what is charming has been perverted and degraded—this, too, explains what we mean by taste.

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“Vulgarity is the only sin,” says Jouhandeau.  And he was immunized against it by excessive vice.

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Individuation requires intercourse with the Demon—and the Demon is never too simple.

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One cannot be blatantly subtle.  There is no such thing.

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It is more effective, in the end, to be intelligent rather than blunt, oblique rather than direct, opaque rather than transparent.  Intelligence usually wins out in a contest, the oblique phrase is better crafted than the straight-on one, and opacity is not so much a choice as a mode of survival.  Besides, the search for transparency quickly becomes a game in “eternal regression.”  What is finally transparent always escapes just over the horizon.

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The reader can change my words if he wants, and reuse the ideas, so long as the events, the movements, of thought here, remain the same.

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Philosophy is still not sufficiently modern.  Literature got there ahead of it.  This is why Deleuze, for instance, writes about literature in such a rapturous, and sometimes undeserved, tone.  He is pleading for a particular canon (a non-canonical one), and he really does believe in it.  (See his essays in Dialogues with Claire Parnet for example.)  Philosophy’s perpetual lagging behind art also plays a large role in his rejection of the history of philosophy.  If philosophy were more contemporary, like literature—more of  the contemporary scene, and thereby both more insightful about it, and more useful as a corrective against it—then he could have kept it.  Instead he jettisoned the history of philosophy pretty much wholesale.  And rightly so.  Still, he often gets literature wrong, especially when it comes to American writers.  Like Foucault, he is really unfamiliar with America and tends to idealize.

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One can only take so much prissiness in literature, and then it’s time to call in the vultures and jackals.  I mean the critics of course.

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Modernity in writing scares all upper-crust types, because it implies the end of rarefied language as a status identifier.

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Urbanity gets tiresome.  And then the danger of accepting the rube for the genius sets in.

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Modern literature should always be plain.  Beckett is the plainest of all modern writers.  He uses small words, always, and never gestures to his literary pedigree.  If he has influences, they are unimportant.

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From the photographs of him, one can see that Beckett had the hands of a farmer.  They were great hands, thin, but strong, and peculiarly large.

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Robbe-Grillet had this to say about Beckett’s characters:

“Murphy, Molloy, Malone, Mahood, Worm—the hero of Beckett’s narratives deteriorates from book to book, and faster and faster.  Feeble, but still capable of traveling on a bicycle, he rapidly loses the use of his limbs, one after the other; no longer able even to drag himself along, he then finds himself imprisoned in a room, in which his senses gradually abandon him.  The room, shrinking, is soon reduced to a simple jar in which a rotting and obviously mute trunk ultimately falls apart altogether.  At the end there remains no more than this: ‘the shape of an egg and the consistency of glue.’  …  …all these creatures which have paraded past us served only to deceive us; they occupied the sentences of the novel in place of the ineffable being who still refuses to appear there, the man incapable of recuperating his own existence, the one who never manages to be present.”**

This is our condition—diminishing, and at the same time, invisible to each other, to ourselves.

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The Underground Lady says: I do not crave the company of simpler types, but rather the friendship of the country-person who has come to the city and been ruined by it.  Almost. 

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** Alain Robbe-Grillet in For a New Novel (tranlated by Richard Howard).

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