Well, it’s finally happened. Long in the making, of course, but now we can officially say that Wyatt, who, as we’ve noticed, long ago lost his name, has now basically lost his mind. And, we should note, a very poor drunk. He is one of those people for whom one drink of brandy means the entire bottle. And, well, one need only visit your local downtown library to see what becomes of mentally unstable drunks. I.e., they become either the homeless men surfing for porn on the free internet connection, or they become the librarian who logs them into the network. We should, I think, along with the Use-Me Ladies, pray for poor Wyatt.
What did everybody think of the following passage?
Above, another blue day, (upstairs) the room papered with green-capped pink-faced dogs, and the button drawer, only apparations move to perfection, there! Pray the Lord to keep you from lying, there, O spectral stabat mater may I go out and play the violin outside to the town wearing its sinside inside and not a soul in sight. Church bells inspissated the air, dropping it in sharp fragments. He sat down in his place at table, excused by the falling weights of the bells, and motionless when they had done. There, old vicary, congratulate my refuge, the saneside outside sheltering the insane inside: to present the static sane side outside to another outside saneside, to be esteemed for that outsane side while all the while the insaneside attacks your outsane side as though we weren’t both playing the same game, and gone down Summer Street (singing unchristian songs) the inane sinside, pocketing a cool million wearing the shoutside outside and the doubtside inside, the vileside inside and the violinside outside skipping dancing and foretelling things too come all ye faithful, of thine own give we back to thee. (p. 399)
I quote it in full for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I just really love it — so much so that I once quoted it in a paper I read, only so that I might have an occasion to read it out loud to an audience. Secondly, I find that it houses two recurring ideas I just want to mention in passing: perfection & motion. The latter, in particular, seems to play a crucial role throughout this week’s reading. Pardon the crude analysis, but just see here and here — by my count, we have at least twenty instances of the words “movement” & “motion” in one hundred pages alone. Is that enough to qualify as a very relevant idea, or is it just a rhetorical tic to which Gaddis succumbed? The paragraph just before the one quoted above would seem to suggest the former, and in the process re-introduces us to the idea of perfection, which of course doesn’t require a Google books search, because I dare say this obsession is on every page (in spirit if not in letter):
— The devil finds work for idle hands, here, without music, where reverberations of the human voice weary in recall with generations of fruitless exhaustion, denied the very possibility of music. A sharp unfriendly sound from the kitchen confirmed the silence and the vigilant conspiracy of inanimate things, watching for any break in the pattern. A movement broke it, his hand reaching forth to put his glass at his place at the table; and he stood in suspense sustaing the trust thrust upon his frame by the static details of dark woodwork, maintaining the inert vigil which belied music: music as ideal motion, a conceit in itself manifestly sinful, as the Serpent, gliding in the Garden, moved with unqualified motion, as the sound of a lute, struck here now, would move upon undulant planes never before explored, to be cornered and quickly killed by the ruthless angles of the room, proving that those planes had never existed, affirming, in sharp consentaneous silence, the illusion of motion, the sin of possibility, the devil-inspired absurdity of indetermination. (p. 398)
Now, remember, Wyatt is pretty intensely drunk and increasingly insane at this point, so we do need to be careful about trusting his every word here. He is, as we (and, it seems, Jane & Gwyon) learn in II.3, neither Christ nor Mithraen priest. But, in spite of the Town Carpenter’s own mis-identification, Wyatt is a kind of hero. As such, his words, even when slurred and batty, are significant.
For his part, Wyatt is at least aware of the problems that adhere to his romantic gropings for the “sharp consentaneous silence” that is truth. This is, he realizes, a dangerous game, but one does not so much quit playing as pretend (knowingly or not) one’s quit playing. E.g., the extinguishing of one’s affection for Novalis, only to replace him with the “rational mind” of Friedrich von Hardenberg, the ‘true’ flesh-and-blood name behind the pseudonym, Novalis (pp.379-80). This was, by the way, the brilliant thing about the early German Romantics especially. They may be assailed for their naivety and/or the danger they pose to others (see Valentine’s comparison of Wyatt to his boyhood friend Martin on page 383: “The ones who wake up late. You suddenly realize what is happening around you, the desperate attempts on all sides to reconcile the ideal with reality, you call it corruption and think it new. Some of us have always known it, the others never know. You and Martin are the ones who cause the trouble, waking suddenly, to be surprised. Stupidity is never surprised, neither is intelligence. They are complementary, and the whole conduct of human affairs depends on their co-operation. But the Martins appear, and cause mistrust . . .”), but the Romantics were all too aware of their problematic obsessions — they were, after all, the creators of a decidedly modern conception of irony that creatively resisted its Greek connotation as simple deception. (I will elaborate on this point at a later time, perhaps in a mid-week / non-reading post, because it is very important to how I understand the greater vision of The Recognitions.)
Everything, like Arnobius’ moon, is always in motion (p. 429). It is, then, not simply a matter of stopping motion. The sun sets, only to rise again — the gods may die, but they never go away completely. If this is so, if illusion and sin is borne of motion, the inability to stop, then Wyatt’s ‘sermon’ on pp. 384-85 starts to ring a little true, and is in fact a bit better than it at first sounds: “Go out among them and tell them that their nostalgia for places they have never been is sex, the sweating Am-ha-aretz, and when they hear music, tell them it is their m other, tell Nicodemus, tell him there is no other way to be born again, and again and again and again of a thousand other mothers of others-to-be, tell him, my yetzer hara, tell them, tell them my evil heart, that they are hopeless, tell them what damnation is, and that they are damned, that wht they have been forging all this time never existed.”
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Next Week: What’s say we try for two chapters next week, which would take us up to II.6 (page 542)? Also … I think I mentioned this in one of the introductory posts, but have am unsure if I’ve done so since. These Friday posts, I’ve not “marked my territory” around them. If anybody finds themselves piqued by any week’s reading, let me know, and I would be more than happy to hand over the reins for a week.