Melville: Chapter XI: Nightgown. (Moby Dick. 1851)

32636-le-rire-1901-n-357-henry-gerbault-d-ostoya-scottish-dance-hprints-com“Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.”

Compare with Chapter 2 of Tao Te Ching (tr. J. Legge, 1891):

1. All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is.

2. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another.

3. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech.

4. All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement). The work is done, but how no one can see; ‘Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.

This last line reminds me of a concept I learned from James Altucher: by replacing goals with themes, you never cease to succeed. Rather than have a goal ‘to make a million dollars’, your theme is ‘to provide value to other people in such a way that is also financially beneficial to me.’

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Melville: Chapter X: A Bosom Friend. (Moby Dick. 1851)

bosomfriends4“If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan’s breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In a countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would not apply.”

Reminds me of when I was in living in the library of a guesthouse of an Oxfordshire MP, and sitting up one night eating my first Indian food with a real Indian man, who explained to me that the problem with Americans is that they’re the only people on earth who you can stay up talking to all night, become closest friends with, and the next time you see them they treat you as if it never happened. I could never understand what his name was, because everyone drops their R’s in England anyway, so it sounded to me like Nasa. Anyway, his analysis was correct, at least going forward in our own friendship.

“I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God—that is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world.”

Melville: Chapter V: Breakfast. (Moby Dick. 1851)

Split_Decision_BreakfastChapter V: Breakfast

They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become quite at ease in manner, quite self-possessed in company. Not always, though: Ledyard, the great New England traveller, and Mungo Park, the Scotch one; of all men, they possessed the least assurance in the parlor. But perhaps the mere crossing of Siberia in a sledge drawn by dogs as Ledyard did, or the taking a long solitary walk on an empty stomach, in the negro heart of Africa, which was the sum of poor Mungo’s performances–this kind of travel, I say, may not be the very best mode of attaining a high social polish. Still, for the most part, that sort of thing is to be had anywhere.

Bataille, Story of the Eye, “Simone”

Pull out your pencil–we’ve got another awkward fantasy to illustrate. So, in this one, Marcelle’s legs are over the narrator’s shoulders, she’s pissing on him while he’s pissing on her breasts, and Simone’s also pissing on her back, and he’s poking Simone’s nipples with guns that have just been shot, and Simone’s pouring creme fraiche on Marcelle’s anus, and that pretty much covers it. When you stop and think about it, the length of time it takes to get into this position is probably longer than the amount of time they can spend enjoying it. Also, synchronized urination is probably fairly difficult to achieve. But that’s the beauty of fantasies, I suppose.

Part of my efforts to gain more time in my day and health in my life has involved poaching an egg every morning. If I fail to cook my egg, I don’t get to eat until lunch. If I try making it and it explodes or something, I only get to eat what I can fish out of the bowl. I’ve been trying to not just “try harder” at doing stuff–I’ve been actively punishing myself for failing, all across the board. Punishments work so much better than rewards.

But this chapter is where our star duo begin playing with eggs, raw, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, in the bidet, in the toilet, in the anus, you name it!…which is going to make breakfast tomorrow morning significantly more unhappy than usual for me.

Something about the eggs strike the characters as particularly blush-inspiring. Eggs, like eyeballs (yes, she tries to suck the narrator’s eye out of his head); eggs, like testicles (which, unfortunately, we’ll come to a wonderful description of in a later chapter). A fascinating parallel here is in this novel’s being published a year before the release of Un Chien Andalou, Bunuel’s first film, in which that classic eyeball-slicing scene takes place. (Yeah, you know you want to see the eyeball-slice…so here you go, you hero, you.)

Upon my asking what the word urinate reminded her of, she replied terminate, the eyes, with a razor.

Published a year before Bunuel filmed this scene!! And so long as we’re discussing Spaniards and testicles, it was Lorca who described Spain as stretched out “like the hide of a bull. . .it has the shape of an animal hide, and a sacrificial animal at that. In this geographical symbol lies the deepest, most dazzling and complex part of the Spanish character.” And, indeed, the characters will make their way to the bullfights (where the testicles make their dreadful appearance).

As the chapters progress, you might have noticed, the symbolism is getting piled on pretty thick, complete with italics, just in case you missed the connection between eyes and eggs (a connection which must also be in French, as I’d ALWAYS mix up those two words while speaking French, particularly while grocery shopping, to the horror and delight of my pals).

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this extended run of entries about Bataille, but for now we’ll have to say farewell to him for a little while, as we’ve reached page 40, which according to my reading list means it’s time to move on to other books for a while.

Bataille, Story of the Eye, “Marcelle’s Smell,” or farewell, totemism!

This is how I feel about sex.

What it’s come down to is that I’ve lost all interest in the World of Sex, except from a purely critical perspective. If you can’t reach me by phone, find me in the backyard digging my own grave.

So, yeah, the “Sex Books” designation is gone, because let’s just say I’ve given up on trying to recast Little Stevie Wonder as the mature recording artist we know he’d later become.

I’ve already discussed what I think is a most important element of this book: the inability to distinguish between negative (criminal) and positive (sexual) excitement, or, rather, mistaking similar effects as resulting from similar causes; i.e., the excitement of sex as compared to the excitement of accidentally decapitating a girl.

Bataille comes back to this immediately in Chapter 3, in which the narrator is escaping down the coast with stolen money and a gun, threatening to kill anyone who comes after him, and kill himself. But what is in his mind is “phantasms of Simone and Marcelle. . . with gruesome expressions,” which in any other case would be a nightmare, but in this case, is likely his memories of Simone’s convulsions on the floor panting “piss on me” and Marcelle’s desperate need to jerk off in the wardrobe. The narrator states his goal, ultimately as wanting a “compromise that would link my most disconcerting moves to theirs”–which is the most elegant way of stating all the ink spilled above.

But two new elements are presented: first, the role of language: “I finally accepted  being so extraordinarily haunted by the names Simone and Marcelle.” The emphasis is on their names, not on their persons. In an age still dripping with Freud and contemporary pseudoscientific craniofacial anthropometry, we can’t ignore the role of magic here, for as much as these great intellectuals wrote about “primitive man,” they were writing about modern man. This is an age when words are not mere symbols representing things–words are things themselves, words are dangerous and powerful, with simple grace words control the minds of everyone around you, summon spirits and demons; as Sir James Frazer puts it (The Golden Bough, published ~1906),

Unable to discriminate clearly between words and things, the savage commonly fancies that the link between a name and the person or thing denominated by it is not a mere arbitrary and ideal association, but a real and substantial bond which unites the two in such a way that magic may be wrought on a man just as easily through his name as through his hair, his nails, or any other material part of his person.

And Freud (Totem and Taboo, published ~1913),

In the view of primitive man, one of the most important parts of a person is his name. So that if one knows the name of a man or of a spirit, one has obtained a certain amount of power I over the owner of the name.

Rudolf Steiner, in discussing Buddhism (Metamorphosis of the Soul, published ~1909), goes into greater depth as to why a name is powerful:

Nagasena could then return to his parable of the chariot and might say, speaking now in a Christian sense: “True, the axle is not the chariot, for with the axle alone you cannot drive. True, the wheels are not the chariot, for with the wheels alone you cannot drive. True, the yoke is not the chariot, for with the yoke alone you cannot drive. True, the seat is not the chariot, for with the seat alone you cannot drive. And although the chariot is only a name for the assembly of parts, you do not drive with the parts but with something that is not the parts. So the ‘name’ does stand for something specific! It leads us to something that is not in any of the parts.

And he later goes on to show the parallel to ourselves, particularly as relates to consciousness, and if you’re chuckling at those silly barbarians’ concepts of magic, Steiner brings it on home to show that we ourselves are just as superstitious:

A third member of the human organism can now be distinguished: the vehicle of pleasure and pain, of urges, desires and passions — of everything we associate with the emotional activities of the soul. Man has this vehicle in common with all beings who possess a certain form of consciousness: with the animals. Astral body, or body of consciousness, is the name we give to this third member of the human organism.

This completes what we may call the bodily nature of man, with its three components: physical body, etheric body or life-body, astral or consciousness-body.

Within these three members we recognise something else; something unique to man, through which he has risen to the summit of creation. It has often been remarked that our language has one little word which guides us directly to man’s inner being, whereby he ranks as the crown of earthly creation. These flowers here, the desk, the clock — anyone can name these objects; but there is one word we can never hear spoken by another with reference to ourselves; it must spring from our own inner being. This is the little name ‘I’. If you are to call yourself ‘I’, this ‘I’ must sound forth from within yourself and must designate your inmost being. Hence the great religions and philosophies have always regarded this name as the ‘unspeakable name’ of that which cannot be designated from outside. Indeed, with this designation ‘I’, we stand before that innermost being of man which can be called the divine element in him. We do not thereby make man a god. If we say that a drop of water from the sea is of like substance with the ocean, we are not making the drop into a sea. Similarly, we are not making the ‘I’ a god when we say it is of like substance with the divine being that permeates and pulses through the world.

So, back to Story of the Eye, the narrator is obsessing over these names. And furthermore, he’s obsessing over his own uncertainty over suicide. What he determines as his reason to live then gives structure to the rest of the book: “in my weariness, I realized that my life had to have some meaning all the same, and would have one, if only certain events, defined as desirable, were to occur.” In short: if things I desire occur, my life will have meaning; if things I do not desire do not occur, my life will not have meaning; therefore, I must live in order to enact things I desire so that my life will have had meaning. How often have we felt this precise notion, from the moment of our births, screaming and crying, until now? Near constantly. If I don’t have this thing that I want, I must die, I will die.

He goes to Simone, and when he goes in to “grab her cunt”–he says “it didn’t make me come–quite the opposite.” Which means what? It made her come? Or it turned him off? Regardless, he begins crying. And when she playfully kicks him, his gun goes off in his pocket, which frightens them both, and they spend the whole night kissing each others’ mouths for the first time. When his sexual actions don’t lead to an orgasm, her playful, non-violent, non-sexual actions lead to a mechanical orgasm, the gun going off. Which moves them to their first display of obvious, common affection.

Much can be said on this: a) the extreme fear from the gun’s explosion leads them to the anxiety of kissing; b) that beautiful affection is completely separate from one’s sexuality; c) that in the absence of something disconcerting, one’s desires turn away from the disconcerting.

But…not for long. After trying to have sex with Simone, and her turning him down (she doesn’t want sex in a bed, like a housewife), she pisses on him, and then he pisses inside “her cunt,” jizzes on her face, and she masturbates with her face under his “wet ass.” Ah, familiarity.

Returning to the concept of taboo names, Simone won’t have sex with the narrator unless Marcelle, who’s now locked up in an asylum, is present. “Her cunt would not open to me unless Marcelle’s ghost” can be summoned. So we return to the power of names, the dead’s names as taboo, documented excessively in the texts referenced above, and the idea that one’s imagination, that is, the phantasm one produces, is powerful enough to serve as placeholder for an actual person or thing.

We leave off now with one of the most amazing collections of imagery I’ve ever read:

At any rate, the swampy regions of the cunt (nothing resembles them more than the days of flood and storm or even the suffocating gaseous eruptions of volcanoes, and they never turn active except, like storms or volcanoes, with something of catastrophe or disaster)–those heartbreaking regions, like  Simone, in an abandon presaging only violence, allowed me to stare hypnotically, were nothing for me now but the profound, subterranean empire of a Marcelle who was tormented in prison and at the mercy of nightmares.

I particularly like the “stare hypnotically” bit. In any case, what we can be sure of is that the characters are about to rescue Marcelle, in short, abandoning pre-great-war psychoanalytic and spiritual concepts of Freud, Frazer, Steiner, etc., abandoning that synecdoche supposedly informing our most basic instincts of consciousness (I exist, and anything that defies understanding can be explained by magic), and substituting a post-war totemism, or, rather, totemism as anti-totemism.

Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise (1920)

For not being one myself, I’ve had more than my fair share of run-ins with rich folk. The girl who gave me this book told me I had good breeding. I didn’t. Maybe somewhere in my blood is some toughness wrought by centuries in the Ukranian bloodlands, by warriors of sworn obeisance to William the Conqueror, but by 1920 the family war poor all around, violent and abusive tempers on both sides of the family, maybe some peasants, maybe doing what they could to lift their names out of the dust.

Let me quote the entire back of the book:

F’s first novel…was an immediate, spectacular success and established his literary reputation. Perhaps the definitive novel of the “Lost Generation,” it tells the story of Amory Blaine, a handsome, wealthy Princeton student who halfheartedly involves himself in literary cults, “liberal” student activities and a series of empty flirtations with young women. When he finally does fall truly in love, however, the young woman rejects him for another.

After serving in France during the war, Blaine returns to embark on a career in advertising. Still young, but already cynical and world-weary, he exemplifies the young men and women of the 20s, described by F as “a new generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.”

I don’t know what idiot wrote this description of it, but it reminds me of what Caleb’s father once told me, that English departments suffer because literature is all taught as if it’s a vehicle for something–a theme, usually. I still don’t know what a “theme” is–I couldn’t even use the word in a sentence.

The distance between us and Fitzgerald is more or less than distance between Fitzgerald and Byron. And to me, the speed of change in that period is positively wonderful. The difference between the carefree prose of Coleridge (i.e., his autobiography), and the critical prose of Pater, and finally the novels of Fitzgerald is one merely of degrees of expressiveness, as all three always use the right word always always, Fitzgerald owns the language in a way that must have previously been unimaginable–Henry James spends half a chapter forcing a character off a train and into a hotel, building a man out of nothing. Fitzgerald does it within a few sentences, distilling a million people into this one, hateful boy, introducing us to a person we’d already known.

I suppose the question is whether or not the person existed already?

I think, yes. Byron and Shelley, for example. Rich kids fooling around because they know that ultimately they’ll face no real consequences. Byron’s dislike of Keats because he’s poor. Shelley, no different than all those rich uber-hip vegan dumpster-divers I once knew–you can eat out of the trash and eschew bathing all you please, but at the end of the day you’re really going to have to return to the trust fund. Tragedies are stories about rich kids who accidentally don’t pick themselves up in time.

I can’t remember that word…the one Baudelaire loves…yes, ennui, and there’s amusement and the constant waiting for it to present itself to you, other people, life, the dullness of old age and dying and how delicious bodily filth and venereal diseases are, the mid-atlantic accent, the knowledge that anything is possible, truly, anything, if you have money to throw at it–this i’ve seen, this i’ve experienced. Sadly, hatefully, it so often comes with the intelligence that has no choice but to happen if you attend the right schools. Perhaps I’m only bitter because more people that I’ve known than that I haven’t had discarded me once they realized that I haven’t l’argent to back up the number of books I’ve read.

The book more or less skips over the war, and whatever significance love holds for Amory Blaine seems trivial in his stylized treatment of it, I hardly remember his stint in advertising–but despite his world-weariness and cynicism, I don’t think he exemplifies the young of the 20s so much as he does the young rich, always.

Henry Miller is my favorite because he comes from my family’s world, from the streets of Brooklyn, from immigrants, and rises up to always use the right word. But he speaks as a poet. And he spends frivolously. And his 1920s are entirely different than Fitzgerald’s. His 1920s are a decade of subsistence within a lifetime of subsistence.

But this is where it all ended. Well, the second war, where the onslaught of the middle classes into the universities turned the rest of literary history into a portrait of the middle classes going to war and then to universities and then doing the day-to-day things we know like the back of our hands. And the right words stopped being used and everything’s postmodern or groovy or emo or hip and all of a sudden we find ourselves listening to the rich kids who are trying to write like the middle class kids and I cry and I cry and I cry and find myself sitting in doctors’ offices reading car-repair manuals instead of novels, and I don’t know what the right words are to say, I don’t know them except when I look at them in a dictionary.

I don’t know how Fitzgerald felt, but he felt enough to make fun of these people.

novel: Lawrence: The Trespasser (1912)

Lawrence is one of these authors whose books I’ve always collected, but whose work I’ve never really found the courage to read. Where does one begin? It was my mother who handed me a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover when I was still a teenager, which was all I ever really received as far as a ‘birds and the bees’ talk goes, and I would skim through it looking for some magical description of the female orgasm. But, you see, I viewed it as pornography before literature, so that I looked towards the end of the book, and, finding nothing of interest, tossed it aside, figuring, I mean, hell, what could anyone know about sex way back then anyway. Anais Nin’s Unprofessional Study and how it brought her together with Henry Miller is when I began considering that perhaps I should be reading his works, and so a few years ago I did read The Fox, which I recall as being a cross between Jules et Jim and Bergman’s Persona, nothing ever really feels cleared up. We all giggled nervously at age 17 when masturbation was brought to light in “The Rockinghorse Winner”–but, without a doubt, Lawrence has become one of the most important writers of my life. Yes, I came to my sexuality with my best friend Anais Nin in one hand, I came to my senses with Henry Miller in the other (no, let’s be serious, it was the same hand. just kidding!), but I came to understand my masculinity thanks to Lawrence, and furthermore, it’s in this early novel of his that I find the truest illustration of your complete servitude to the most ephemeral of feelings, feelings that must in truth be something like little bats clumsily bobbing through the air, avoiding Siegmund by scent and smacking into the faces of Helena, who, well, reacts as you characteristically do his myopic and oppressive male chauvinism. And so, it is this book which has led me to make firm my conclusion that I’ve been unsure about for ages, but now am quite certain, because all these games must finally end: I must hide myself, and this may be the only way to finally shake you to your senses, to remind you of reality, there needs to be a complete restructuring of the existing social organization so as to produce full and equal status and protection of both sexes and all genders in order that we might attune our natural with our cultural rights, and perhaps then, perhaps then, the universe will be okay.

What’s most fascinating is the extent to which Lawrence clarifies the logic of his characters in a novel of which I see no signs of his biography, yet I see myself, and I see a confounding episode of my own life that takes place in the same settings as this novel does, under similar circumstances, and I had to deal with the same nonsense of it all–and while I had no answers before, I do now. I am a misogynist. But, before I leave an extended number of quotations that struck me for one reason or another, I will mention two things in particular:

In chapter 29, Lawrence breaks the rules pretty violently after writing up to this point in the past tense, suddenly he draws us out of the story and leads us to believe that there is something beyond the novel, something in reality that continues even after we close the book, something in the present [emphasis mine]:

Now Helena believed he was ill, perhaps very ill, perhaps she only could be of any avail. The miles of distance were like hot bars of iron across her breast, and against them it was impossible to strive. The train did what it could.

That day remains as a smear in the record of Helena’s life. In it there is no spacing of hours, no lettering of experience, merely a smear of suspense.

Towards six o’clock she alighted, at Surbiton station, deciding that this would be the quickest way of getting to Wimbledon. She paced the platform slowly, as if resigned, but her heart was crying out at the great injustice of delay. Presently the local train came in. She had planned to buy a local paper at Wimbledon, and if from that source she could learn nothing, she would go on to his house and inquire. She had prearranged everything minutely.

And then, not long afterwards, he draws us out of the narrative flow like this:

Helena stood still on the station for some time, looking at the print. Then she dropped the paper and wandered into the town, not knowing where she was going.

‘That was what I got,’ she said, months afterwards; ‘and it was like a brick, it was like a brick.’

She wandered on and on, until suddenly she found herself in the grassy lane with only a wire fence bounding her from the open fields on either side, beyond which fields, on the left, she could see Siegmund’s house standing florid by the road, catching the western sunlight. Then she stopped, realizing where she had come. For some time she stood looking at the house. It was no use her going there; it was of no use her going anywhere; the whole wide world was opened, but in it she had no destination, and there was no direction for her to take. As if marooned in the world, she stood desolate, looking from the house of Siegmund over the fields and the hills. Siegmund was gone; why had he not taken her with him?

This is all quite absurd, really, and quite brilliant, and perhaps in some way paying homage to the real Siegmund and the real Helena, whose story he used as his source, but I think goes quite a bit further than that. Chapter 27, as Siegmund is contemplating suicide, he finds solace in the idea that ‘the heart of life is implacable in its kindness. It may not be moved to fluttering of pity; it swings on uninterrupted by cries of anguish or of hate.’ And then furthermore,

Siegmund was thankful for this unfaltering sternness of life. There was no futile hesitation between doom and pity. Therefore, he could submit and have faith. If each man by his crying could swerve the slow, sheer universe, what a doom of guilt he might gain. If Life could swerve from its orbit for pity, what terror of vacillation; and who would wish to bear the responsibility of the deflection?

The novel begins many months after the suicide, Helena characteristically cold, playing with the affections of her best friend, and some guy, and yes, Siegmund is dead, but very clearly things aren’t so bad after all. And then the narrator takes us back to the beginning, through the suicide, and the aftermath through one year. And the narrator proves just what Siegmund believed, which is that the world does not even hesitate for the blink of an eye at one’s suicide, and even his wife only cries out of mere fear.

If I was faced with the girl I love, hanging in the doorway by the strap of her portmanteau, her face unrecognizable and distended, piss and excrement beneath the shadow of her nightgown, I suppose she’s the only person in all the world whom I could cut down, and place delicately on the bed. And I don’t know that I could leave her alone until her body was underground. And you can’t even text me. Well, such is love, the fairest, truest love.

So, while the opening chapter may be necessary for the sake of framing, the closing chapters are less so, but they function to illustrate that indeed, life does go on, very easily, and perhaps smoother than before, for both wife, children, and mistress. And in case the reader wonders whether things continue on so well, there’s no question, because the narrator drags us to the present tense for a moment, letting us know that, indeed, the death of one man means nothing at all, not to anyone.

* * *

So, now let’s move on to things I really love about this, which is the sorts of conversations I know all too well, in fact, these may be my conversations, not the protagonist’s, because in case you haven’t heard, generally you see no relationship between words and reality.

Chapter 4:

“When Helena drew away her lips, she was exhausted. She belonged to that class of ‘dreaming women’ with whom passion exhausts itself at the mouth. Her desire was accomplished in a real kiss. The fire, in heavy flames, had poured through her to Siegmund, from Siegmund to her. It sank, and she felt herself flagging. She had not the man’s brightness and vividness of blood. She lay upon his breast, dreaming how beautiful it would be to go to sleep, to swoon unconscious there, on that rare bed. She lay still on Siegmund’s breast, listening to his heavily beating heart.

With her the dream was always more than the actuality. Her dream of Siegmund was more to her than Siegmund himself. He might be less than her dream, which is as it may be. However, to the real man she was very cruel.”

Chapter 6:

Then again, when he raised his head and found her mouth, his lips filled her with a hot flush like wine, a sweet, flaming flush of her whole body, most exquisite, as if she were nothing but a soft rosy flame of fire against him for a moment or two. That, she decided, was supreme, transcendental.”

Chapter 7:

“‘I am her child, too,’ he dreamed, as a child murmurs unconscious in sleep. He had never felt her eyes so much as now, in the darkness, when he looked only into deep shadow. She had never before so entered and gathered his plaintive masculine soul to the bosom of her nurture.”

Chapter 8:

‘The best sort of women—the most interesting—are the worst for us,’ Hampson resumed. ‘By instinct they aim at suppressing the gross and animal in us. Then they are supersensitive—refined a bit beyond humanity. We, who are as little gross as need be, become their instruments. Life is grounded in them, like electricity in the earth; and we take from them their unrealized life, turn it into light or warmth or power for them. The ordinary woman is, alone, a great potential force, an accumulator, if you like, charged from the source of life. In us her force becomes evident.

‘She can’t live without us, but she destroys us. These deep, interesting women don’t want us; they want the flowers of the spirit they can gather of us. We, as natural men, are more or less degrading to them and to their love of us; therefore they destroy the natural man in us—that is, us altogether.’

‘I wonder,’ said Hampson softly, with strange bitterness, ‘that she can’t see it; I wonder she doesn’t cherish you. You are full and beautiful enough in the flesh—why will she help to destroy you, when she loved you to such extremity?’

Siegmund looked at him with awe-stricken eyes. The frail, swift man, with his intensely living eyes, laughed suddenly.

‘Fools—the fools, these women!’ he said. ‘Either they smash their own crystal, or it revolts, turns opaque, and leaps out of their hands. Look at me, I am whittled down to the quick; but your neck is thick with compressed life; it is a stem so tense with life that it will hold up by itself. I am very sorry.’

“Throwing himself down on the sand that was soft and warm as white fur, he lay glistening wet, panting, swelling with glad pride at having conquered also this small, inaccessible sea-cave, creeping into it like a white bee into a white virgin blossom that had waited, how long, for its bee.”

Chaptern 11:

“All she knew was that he was strong, and was knocking urgently with his heart on her breast.”

Chapter 16:

She made a moaning, loving sound. Full of passionate pity, she moved her mouth on his face, as a woman does on her child that has hurt itself.

‘Sometimes,’ she murmured, in a low, grieved confession, ‘you lose me.’

He gave a brief laugh.

‘I lose you!’ he repeated. ‘You mean I lose my attraction for you, or my hold over you, and then you—?’

He did not finish. She made the same grievous murmuring noise over him.

‘It shall not be any more,’ she said.

As usual, a man produces a billion sperms every hour, and a woman produces one egg each month, so women are often, highly economic with words when it comes to things that matter, things that demand discussion. This case illustrates it well. And then, here’s a rather pretty line: “turning to Helena, he found her face white and shining as the empty moon.”

Chapter 19:

‘I see it has,’ he answered. Then to himself he said: ‘She can’t translate herself into language. She is incommunicable; she can’t render herself to the intelligence. So she is alone and a law unto herself: she only wants me to explore me, like a rock-pool, and to bathe in me. After a while, when I am gone, she will see I was not indispensable….’

‘Is that why I have failed? I ought to have had her in love sufficiently to keep her these few days. I am not quick. I do not follow her or understand her swiftly enough. And I am always timid of compulsion. I cannot compel anybody to follow me.

‘So we are here. I am out of my depth. Like the bee, I was mad with the sight of so much joy, such a blue space, and now I shall find no footing to alight on. I have flown out into life beyond my strength to get back. When can I set my feet on when this is gone?’

A line I rather like is, ‘the naked body of heat was dreadful,’ and I was also struck by “‘If now,’ prayed Siegmund, ‘death would wipe the sweat from me, and it were dark….’” And it is essential to note that in both chapters 18 and 19 Helena is overly concerned with the time. Siegmund provides no commentary on this, but it’s a trait in you I’ve noticed quite a number of times, as you people have shown an offensive obsession with the time, with timetables, with minutes and hours and schedules and itineraries, and then without explanation, they don’t care anymore, they push aside the importance of time, and then eternity is something that makes sense to them again, and then back to timetables, the importance of being someplace at a certain time when nobody is waiting for you, and another train is leaving in half an hour anyway, but perhaps I’ll never understand because I’ve never gestated anything but diseases, and the only blood I ever anticipated with certainty concerned my wisdom teeth. So perhaps you have some frightening intrinsic connection to the clock, but god knows it’s offensive and superficial.

‘She does not understand,’ said Siegmund to himself. ‘And whatever I do I must not tell her. I should have thought she would understand.’

As he walked home beside her there mingled with his other feelings resentment against her. Almost he hated her.

–which aligns with something a line from chapter 31, when Helena is with her new boy-toy, Cecil, told from his perspective as Helena takes him through the exact spots she took Siegmund, exactly one year later:

He looked at her, wondering how much he was filling the place of a ghost with warmth. He thought of Siegmund, and seemed to see him swinging down the steep bank out of the wood exactly as he himself was doing at the moment, with Helena stepping carefully behind. He always felt a deep sympathy and kinship with Siegmund; sometimes he thought he hated Helena.

Chapter 20:

As Helena continues her flimsy companionship, sometimes overcome with senseless unexplained passions, like every time you’ve thrown yourself at me and then jumped away crying ‘no, I cannot, I cannot,’ only to wake me up hours later by flinging yourself at me again and pulling the same stunt, followed by a two hour rant about why Senator Clinton trumps Senator Obama any day of the week; let’s see how Siegmund fares:

She had a peculiar, childish wistfulness at times, and with this an intangible aloofness that pierced his heart. It seemed to him he should never know her. There was a remoteness about her, an estrangement between her and all natural daily things, as if she were of an unknown race that never can tell its own story. This feeling always moved Siegmund’s pity to its deepest, leaving him poignantly helpless. This same foreignness, revealed in other ways, sometimes made him hate her. It was as if she would sacrifice him rather than renounce her foreign birth. There was something in her he could never understand, so that never, never could he say he was master of her as she was of him the mistress.

Chapter 24:

Some rather nice lines:

“Her father’s quiet ‘H’m!’ her mother’s curt question, made her draw inwards like a snail which can never retreat far enough from condemning eyes. She made a careless pretence of eating. She was like a child which has done wrong, and will not be punished, but will be left with the humiliating smear of offence upon it.”

“The west opposite the door was smouldering with sunset. Darkness is only smoke that hangs suffocatingly over the low red heat of the sunken day. Such was Helena’s longed-for night.”

Chapter 25:

Siegmund dealing with his youngest child, after all his family has turned against him, his youngest daughter who conspicuously disappears after his suicide, a bit like Celia’s mysterious and unexplained lack of a single line in the entire final act of As You Like It, when she stands there dumbly as every difficulty is resolved. But seriously, isn’t this the truth? Dear children, the only ones who can see life as it is because they’re the only ones who can see life as it should be, and they’re only wrong because they discount all human constructs as being so false as they truly are.

He waited in a daze of suspense. The child shifted from one foot to another. He could just see the edge of her white-frilled drawers. He wanted, above all things, to take her in his arms, to have something against which to hide his face. Yet he was afraid. Often, when all the world was hostile, he had found her full of love, he had hidden his face against her, she had gone to sleep in his arms, she had been like a piece of apple-blossom in his arms. If she should come to him now—his heart halted again in suspense—he knew not what he would do. It would open, perhaps, the tumour of his sickness. He was quivering too fast with suspense to know what he feared, or wanted, or hoped.

Chapter 31:

The best evidence for why I should hide from you, right now, is during Helena’s discussion with Cecil:

‘More sorrow over one kitten brought to destruction than over all the sufferings of men,’ he said.

She glanced at him and laughed. He was smiling ironically.

‘For the latter, you see,’ she replied, ‘I am not responsible.’

Because although she sometimes loved Siegmund in all the right ways, even in his absence, she also has that peculiar chilliness about her, the separation of body and mind and life and morality and emotions. It’s all a lot of shit.

Proust, on the novel.

Après cette croyance centrale qui, pendant ma lecture, exécutait d’incessants mouvements du dedans au dehors, vers la découverte de la vérité, venaient les émotions que me donnait l’action à laquelle je prenais part, car ces après-midi-là étaient plus remplis d’événements dramatiques que ne l’est souvent toute une vie. C’était les événements qui survenaient dans le livre que je lisais; il est vrai que les personnages qu’ils affectaient n’étaient pas «Réels», comme disait Françoise. Mais tous les sentiments que nous font éprouver la joie ou l’infortune d’un personnage réel ne se produisent en nous que par l’intermédiaire d’une image de cette joie ou de cette infortune; l’ingéniosité du premier romancier consista à comprendre que dans l’appareil de nos émotions, l’image étant le seul élément essentiel, la simplification qui consisterait à supprimer purement et simplement les personnages réels serait un perfectionnement décisif. Un être réel, si profondément que nous sympathisions avec lui, pour une grande part est perçu par nos sens, c’est-à-dire nous reste opaque, offre un poids mort que notre sensibilité ne peut soulever. Qu’un malheur le frappe, ce n’est qu’en une petite partie de la notion totale que nous avons de lui, que nous pourrons en être émus; bien plus, ce n’est qu’en une partie de la notion totale qu’il a de soi qu’il pourra l’être lui-même. La trouvaille du romancier a été d’avoir l’idée de remplacer ces parties impénétrables à l’âme par une quantité égale de parties immatérielles, c’est-à-dire que notre âme peut s’assimiler. Qu’importe dès lors que les actions, les émotions de ces êtres d’un nouveau genre nous apparaissent comme vraies, puisque nous les avons faites nôtres, puisque c’est en nous qu’elles se produisent, qu’elles tiennent sous leur dépendance, tandis que nous tournons fiévreusement les pages du livre, la rapidité de notre respiration et l’intensité de notre regard. Et une fois que le romancier nous a mis dans cet état, où comme dans tous les états purement intérieurs, toute émotion est décuplée, où son livre va nous troubler à la façon d’un rêve mais d’un rêve plus clair que ceux que nous avons en dormant et dont le souvenir durera davantage, alors, voici qu’il déchaîne en nous pendant une heure tous les bonheurs et tous les malheurs possibles dont nous mettrions dans la vie des années à connaître quelques-uns, et dont les plus intenses ne nous seraient jamais révélés parce que la lenteur avec laquelle ils se produisent nous en ôte la perception; (ainsi notre cœur change, dans la vie, et c’est la pire douleur; mais nous ne la connaissons que dans la lecture, en imagination: dans la réalité il change, comme certains phénomènes de la nature se produisent, assez lentement pour que, si nous pouvons constater successivement chacun de ses états différents, en revanche la sensation même du changement nous soit épargnée).

Next to this central belief, which, while I was reading, would be constantly a motion from my inner self to the outer world, towards the discovery of Truth, came the emotions aroused in me by the action in which I would be taking part, for these afternoons were crammed with more dramatic and sensational events than occur, often, in a whole lifetime. These were the events which took place in the book I was reading. It is true that the people concerned in them were not what Françoise would have called ‘real people.’ But none of the feelings which the joys or misfortunes of a ‘real’ person awaken in us can be awakened except through a mental picture of those joys or misfortunes; and the ingenuity of the first novelist lay in his understanding that, as the picture was the one essential element in the complicated structure of our emotions, so that simplification of it which consisted in the suppression, pure and simple, of ‘real’ people would be a decided improvement. A’real’ person, profoundly as we may sympathise with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, he remains opaque, offers a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to lift. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of the complete idea he has of himself that he is capable of feeling any emotion either. The novelist’s happy discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable by the human spirit, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is, which the spirit can assimilate to itself. After which it matters not that the actions, the feelings of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth, since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are happening, that they are holding in thrall, while we turn over, feverishly, the pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist has brought us to that state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid, and of a more lasting impression than those which come to us in sleep; why, then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which, only, we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the keenest, the most intense of which would never have been revealed to us because the slow course of their development stops our perception of them. It is the same in life; the heart changes, and that is our worst misfortune; but we learn of it only from reading or by imagination; for in reality its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.

love and silence, my first reaction to Lady Chatterley.

Perhaps it’s no secret that I think very, very slowly, and have immense trouble understanding when other people speak. Not always–not when I am on autopilot, when I have another mission, when that mission is to tear somebody apart, or to be the life of the party, it’s at those times when it’s far more critical for me to push myself aside and let that other part master me, when I know that beyond all else it’s important to be witty, or to be cruel, or to be perfect. When I emerge from these moments they’re all dreams, and when I look back on them I see them as if they took place underwater, everything is blurry, I remember very few specifics, I become drunk on myself and my thoughts and my power, and others remind me quite frequently of things I’ve said or done that I haven’t any recollection of–thank god they’re generally wonderful, and I wish I could be so wonderful when I’m being myself–though I once had three conversations with a guy when I was in such states, and when he introduced himself to me when I was thoughtful, I had no idea who he was. It’s all a bit horrifying, really. I have suspicions that this is all due to keeping closed-captioning on the television for nearly a decade for no reason except that I enjoyed reading my television shows.

Some of the most important moments of my life, though, I’ve had to give up, because I could not understand what was being said to me, because I have such difficulty understanding English behind any sort of accent except the American no-accent characteristic of Philadelphia. If I was in bed with Humphrey Bogart, I’d have no idea what terms of endearment he’d be calling me, because I can’t understand what he says. And it becomes embarrassing very quickly, to continue saying “I’m sorry…what?” because, well, I have two ears, and if one is pressed against your tummy, you probably suspect that my other one is still working. I could perhaps claim that they’re like my eyes, that one ear can recognizes something is there, but two ears perceive the depth of it. But then I’d always have to keep one ear against your tummy so that I could keep up the lie, the lie being that I can’t understand what you say to me when it’s most precious to me that I understand. I hope someday I understand, that someday your voice becomes one with mine, though right now all that’s been burned into my memory is the exact words on your voicemail, on the edge of exasperation, a picture of polite curtness, “you know what to do” it says, when the truth is, I don’t know what to do, not anymore. Everyone was scolding me for not leaving messages when I called, so I began leaving messages, “hi it’s me. bye.” and everyone was twice as annoyed. “You know what to do.” No, I don’t. And I won’t, there’s no chance that I ever will again, unless you tell me to leave my name, my number, a brief message, and the time that I called, or unless you answer. And the truth is, I’m very self-conscious on answering machines, when I hear people leaving messages I sometimes write down precisely the formula they use, I try to understand it, I find these pieces of paper in pockets, boxes, shoes, and still.

“So,” I am asked, “did you find anything interesting at work today?”
“Yes.”
“What did you find?”
“An old lady, born in the 20’s, who signed her name with a heart as the dot over her letter i.”
“Yes? And what else?”
“A man who misspelled the abbreviation for October.”
“How did he spell it?”
“O-T-C.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes, that’s all.”

I’ve been dried up, dried and shriveled like a dried salami. “Do you know what a dried salami is?” I am asked.
“I can guess, Grandpa.”
“Let me tell you. You’d go to the butcher, and they sell salamis, and some of them they take them and–”
“Dry them. Yes.”
“They hang them up, and a few months later, they’re dried, all shriveled up. If you eat one, it has a different consistency than a regular salami.”
“Yes, I think we passed one around at a party once, Scott’s grandmother gave something to him, I think a dried salami.”
“They’re more expensive than a regular salami.”
“I can imagine.”
“Because it takes more work to make them.”
“Yep.”
“So if you go looking for a dried salami, expect to pay more for one.”
“Right.”
“And when you speak to the butcher, make sure you specify precisely, a dried salami, not a regular salami, or he’ll give you a regular salami, and you’ll be able to tell instantly, because it’ll be too big to be a dried salami, and it won’t be wrinkled, and a dried salami is darker than a regular salami.”
“Like when you hit puberty your penis is supposed to get darker?”
“What?”
“I’ll make sure to specify. To the butcher.”

“And only now she became aware of the small, bud-like reticence and tenderness of the penis, and a little cry of wonder and poignancy escaped her again, her woman’s heart crying out over the tender frailty of that which had been the power.”
Ch. XII

And it’s this that finally melts her after confessing that she could never love him, finding him clownish in his dirty brown corduroys, a buffoon to turn his back to her as he zipped up his pants, so self-assured in his ignorance, so ugly in his broad common-speak. And she suddenly melts in his arms and comes to love him, first his body, perhaps only his body.

But it’s the language, the language, the language, the language, he knows how to speak a good English, once a bright young man who progressed beyond his place in society, moved upwards through the military, learned to speak in the language of the ruling class, and then, he lapses into his horrid common-speak, that I cannot even fully decode, and he does so at the worst moments, when his clothes are off, when she is wrapped in him.

‘”Goodnight,” she said.
“Goodnight, your Ladyship,” his voice.
She stopped and looked back into the wet dark. She could just see the bulk of him. “Why did you say that?” she said.
“Nay,” he replied. “Goodnight, then, run!”
She plunged on in the dark-grey tangible night.
-Ch. X’

I reread this part of the conversation a few times and decided that she gave pause over his use of the term “your Ladyship”–after making love, shouldn’t she be addressed differently? Perhaps it’s at that moment she feels somehow as if he is the hired man only performing his role of pleasing those who hire him. Later she gives him reason to suspect that she’s using him in an effort to become pregnant, and he gives perhaps his longest speech thus far:

“Well,” he said at last. “It’s as your Ladyship likes. If you get the baby, [your husband’s] welcome to it. I shan’t have lost anything. On the contrary, I’ve had a very nice experience, very nice indeed! . . . If you’ve made use of me, it’s not the first time I’ve been made use of; and I don’t suppose it’s ever been as pleasant as this time; though of course, one can’t feel tremendously dignified about it.” . . .
“But I didn’t make use of you,” she said pleading.
“At your Ladyship’s service,” he replied.

But I think there’s something more to her pause: I don’t think she’s regarding the term “your Ladyship” and what their apparent relationship is based on that so much as the difference between his language of love and his proper speech. He collapses into his broad accent when he is naked, and that’s how and when he is most honest, speaking in punctuation, and when she loves him, she gives no notice, though there’s no indication of whether she understands or not, as she never answers his broad accent directly, only conversing verbally with his proper English, and otherwise answering physically or emotionally.

So, she tells him she cannot love him. And then they make love. And she wants him again. And so, for a third time, they make love, and here begins the conversation that began all these thoughts of mine:

And afterwards she was utterly still, utterly unknowing, she was not aware for how long. And he was still with her, in an unfathomable silence along with her. And of this, they would never speak.

When awareness of the outside began to come back, she clung to his breast, murmuring ‘My love! My love!’ And he held her silently. And she curled on his breast, perfect.

But his silence was fathomless. His hands held her like flowers, so still aid strange. ‘Where are you?’ she whispered to him. ‘Where are you? Speak to me! Say something to me!’

He kissed her softly, murmuring: ‘Ay, my lass!’

But she did not know what he meant, she did not know where he was. In his silence he seemed lost to her.

‘You love me, don’t you?’ she murmured.

‘Ay, tha knows!’ he said.

‘But tell me!’ she pleaded.

‘Ay! Ay! ’asn’t ter felt it?’ he said dimly, but softly and surely. And she clung close to him, closer. He was so much more peaceful in love than she was, and she wanted him to reassure her.

‘You do love me!’ she whispered, assertive. And his hands stroked her softly, as if she were a flower, without the quiver of desire, but with delicate nearness. And still there haunted her a restless necessity to get a grip on love.

‘Say you’ll always love me!’ she pleaded.

‘Ay!’ he said, abstractedly. And she felt her questions driving him away from her.

‘Mustn’t we get up?’ he said at last.

‘No!’ she said.

But she could feel his consciousness straying, listening to the noises outside.

‘It’ll be nearly dark,’ he said. And she heard the pressure of circumstances in his voice. She kissed him, with a woman’s grief at yielding up her hour.

He rose, and turned up the lantern, then began to pull on his clothes, quickly disappearing inside them. Then he stood there, above her, fastening his breeches and looking down at her with dark, wide-eyes, his face a little flushed and his hair ruffled, curiously warm and still and beautiful in the dim light of the lantern, so beautiful, she would never tell him how beautiful. It made her want to cling fast to him, to hold him, for there was a warm, half-sleepy remoteness in his beauty that made her want to cry out and clutch him, to have him. She would never have him. So she lay on the blanket with curved, soft naked haunches, and he had no idea what she was thinking, but to him too she was beautiful, the soft, marvellous thing he could go into, beyond everything.

‘I love thee that I can go into thee,’ he said.

‘Do you like me?’ she said, her heart beating.

‘It heals it all up, that I can go into thee. I love thee that tha opened to me. I love thee that I came into thee like that.’

He bent down and kissed her soft flank, rubbed his cheek against it, then covered it up.

‘And will you never leave me?’ she said.

‘Dunna ask them things,’ he said.

‘But you do believe I love you?’ she said.

‘Tha loved me just now, wider than iver tha thout tha would. But who knows what’ll ’appen, once tha starts thinkin’ about it!’

‘No, don’t say those things! —’

And he’s absolutely correct. How intelligent Connie is, how sharp and thoughtful, how passionate and able to love, and yet able to play games, to “give him the slip” as he puts it, to say what she feels at one moment, that he takes as truth, and change her mind the next, and then shudder at the way he reacts by closing himself up emotionally, that no matter how she feels he treats her the same, with the same touch, the same temper, whether he is being loved or used, and in love he gives her this language, his truthful language, but also in pain, so long as she is touching him, as it were, to the quick.

I heard an interview with Chinese author Yiyun Li, who said that she had only ever written creatively in English, and so when she created Chinese characters, they spoke to her in English only, and that she would have to give them old Chinese proverbs to speak in, to give us some sense of them as real people. We seem to delegate this or that language to demarcate segments of our lives, and there’s this language of love, that perhaps is the same as the language of pain and of joy, though I’ve heard Céline exclaim “oh shit!” and I myself have said “merde!” at such comparable moments.

And I end the call without leaving a message, and wonder if I’ll ever find my head surfacing from the water again.

So, I am there, longing to my very depths for answers, and I cannot understand a word, and I wonder if I too speak complete nonsense, when I grow intoxicated and begin pronouncing every single letter with infinite gravity, and I am too ashamed to request that you speak to me in Philadelphian English, embarrassed too by my own accent, and when I want to plead, all I can do is cling, physically, emotionally, uncertain above all, hopeful, and trying desperately to be secure in silence.

(Huxley) Brave New World / (Naylor) Linden Hills

A Stage Set For Macbeth

The ruins would still be burning. By the time any individual or party would ask for complete control of the country in return for assured eternal security and happiness, the citizens would be more than willing to give up their freedoms and become simple sheep. Nature is the embodiment of the endless struggle between the order and the opposing chaos. The tiniest atoms of all composition constantly fight to create balance among their orbitals while early animals reached only the lowliest levels of complexity before evolving into symmetrical beings. Asymmetry and disorder traditionally create feelings of uneasiness in humans, not only because of conditioning but also because of the intrinsic physiological settings that humans have more control over than any other species in the world; geese can make a “flying V,” but only humans have created a mathematically perfect hundred-sided polygon; magnets exist in nature, but only humans have created an magnet capable of creating large amounts of electricity.

Even with all this yoking of nature, which humans have made possible through the centuries, the same elements of “human nature” pushing us toward government are what create conflict between individuals, classes, and states. No people have disputed that they want government; even anarchists fight for what is called “libertarian socialism” outside of North America. Although historically not always true, the firmer grip a government has over its citizens, and the more the citizens follow their government’s laws, the more security and general happiness there should be. People often like being asked to follow instructions, to have a somewhat predetermined way of life, if only because it allows the familiarity and assurance of life running smoothly and the elimination of that many more stressful decisions. It is these observations that lead the controlling powers in both Brave New World and Linden Hills to isolate the citizens from nature.

The realism of the settings in Linden Hills exists because the book occurs during an actual time in history (at the present, when written), in an actual place, and makes references to actual well-known people, events, and facts. Nature in this microcosm exists as in anyplace else. The snow still follows an unknown itinerary, the fires still consume, the trees still grow, and the people still know of love. Nature exists as we still know it today, because the level of direct control by the Nedeeds is very slight. Rather, Luther relies on his indirect power, the secondary effects of his rule. Luther works like a god, like a devil, by setting standards and laws open to interpretation by the community, but immutably coming out on top. Luther counts on three facts of nature: reproduction, death, and the survival instinct.

The future of Nedeeds is built on self-made superstitions and generations-old laws. Reproduction holds a very important place in the lives of the Nedeeds. A single son, his skin of a “darker hue,” must be borne to the current Luther and his light-skinned wife. Despite Luther’s obvious intellect, he refuses to view the creation of his son as anything but magic; he sees himself as the one who compiles the needed components, and his wife as the one who must perform the final task of creation. Luther’s punishment of his wife for her evils and his son for his being merely proves the view Luther has of his wife as being little more than a witch who can create life at will. On the other end of the scale, the Nedeeds take advantage of nature through the profits of death. Luther knows that death is inevitable, and as an undertaker, he seems to take pleasure in the beauty he creates and control he exhibits. Death is natural, but the power he exercises over the dead bodies is not; he fights against the natural appearance of death and creates one final facade of perfection over the realities of death.

The inhabitants of Linden Hills, under (or more accurately, over) the last Luther, built their community on inherent capitalist ideology and belief of social Darwinism. More than common knowledge, scientifically has it been proven that the living fight to survive. A simple amoebae creeps around eating, not because it wants to, but because it somehow has a need to live on. This need to better oneself, to beat the competition, and to build on the foundation of your ancestor, is entirely natural and its existence as such in humans only mimics the physical evolution of humans on the whole. Although existing in its own tiny universe, the community of Linden Hills creates an identifiably realistic society where the shedding of natural human values gives way to a new set of superlative ideals perverting the American dream, religion, and morals. Looking up to Luther as almost godlike, the community is more comfortable listening to him speak than they are the leaders of their church. He creates a new set of rules to live life by, amplifying what’s acceptable in the capitalist world. Hence the inhabitants of Linden Hills make their way through life crushing anything in their path to gain a high position in society.

Opposing the citizens of Linden Hills entirely are the citizens in the world states After Ford.  Not only has nature, as we know it, been eliminated entirely, but the values, morals, and lifestyles of the people living there are completely foreign to any modern culture today. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World creates one of the most extreme versions of organization seen in literature through its banishment of both nature and “human nature” from the world.

Although clear description of the cities are not given, it is known that the cities are tall, concrete, bright, and lacking natural beauty. In this new world, nature was one of the first things to go. Diseases are practically eliminated thanks to pre-decantation immunization of people, and any adoration of nature is killed soon after birth. Conditioning by the state takes the place of any natural learning or growing by the children. Every aspect of the people is controlled by the state, from blood content to profession, from sleeping patterns to recreation.

As far as being on top, a caste system is in effect, with the heads of the state at its peak, the males, Alphas, in second, the females, Betas, third, and all the way down through sexless midgets. Despite this caste system, human nature is still defied because the grass is never greener on the other side; people are completely happy existing where they are, never making an effort to advance themselves through society. Although a view of life from the point of view of a lower caste member isn’t presented, a hint of their conditioning “repetitions” is heard and almost all characters slip government issued phrases into their speech about how fortunate they are to be in their current caste and state; they believe that everybody is happy “now” and repeat so often.

Nature, although ridden from the cities still exists outside of the them. The only preventative measures taken to avoid people associating with this nature is their total disinterest or fear of it. The Savage Reservations are still plagued by insects, disease, old age while right outside the cities are still animals for the hunting, and a multitude of plants, as John Savage finds when he escapes there to live. The instinct of curiosity still exists, but gone is the curiosity for the strange and grotesque that exists today as the “stopping at a car accident” example.

The societies in both Linden Hills and Brave New World were created by similar events and completed in somewhat similar outcomes. The history of the people in Linden Hills is related to the history of the civilized people in Brave New World because both faced some sort of fear for their lives. For the people of Linden Hills, the scary history was hundreds of years of oppression and slavery followed by freedom and theoretical equality after the Civil War. As for the citizens in Brave New World, there had been some widespread and long war, bad enough that people were willing to give up individuality and intelligence for security. The differences in the two peoples begins at the motives of the controllers. The controllers of the world states aren’t aiming to prove superiority nor have any selfish reason, only to create a world at peace and a people truly happy.

The world After Ford is one that no longer evolves or changes in any way. Science is used toward fields that help the government to keep stability, new inventions aren’t needed, and the world is perfect for them at its current state. In other words, the world has no reason for improvement whatsoever, and although killing off the entire population would create the same amount of progress, the instinct to survive exists within the controllers, and they don’t allow that to happen. Linden Hills is entirely different since it is a part of different world. The world in Linden Hills changes with each generation as technology advances and politics change. Its existence as a small piece of the whole world is why it exists; its purpose is not the happiness of the people there, but the rather the unhappiness of the people not there. The rest of the world wants to be part of the exclusive society, and the motives of the Nedeeds are to keep it that way, to make Linden Hills the classic city on the hill; Linden Hills should be watched by the world, but by the 1980’s, it’s no longer pushing for Black empowerment, nor is it wanting to be emulated anywhere else in the country. Linden Hills means to be The One place of its nature, and it eventually does nothing but play with “human nature” and the urging of people to be at the top and to be the best. The outcome of Linden Hills, as the Nedeeds treat the people like mechanical toys to be wound up and watched perform, is nothing more than a stage for tragedy; Luther is the audience and the residents are the players. Brave New World’s outcome is always the same: the people are happy and the world is peaceful.

Tao Teh Ching, the ancient Taoist text, makes a relevant point in its second poem, translated that

“When all the world recognizes beauty as beauty, this in itself is ugliness. When all the world recognizes good as good, this in itself is evil. Indeed, the hidden and manifest give birth to each other.”

As far as human knowledge goes, nothing can be recognized as existing without its nonexistence recognized as well. Dark only can exist in the absence of light, and just as this is true, happiness can only exist in the absence of sadness. In Brave New World, sadness doesn’t exist, so neither does actual happiness. Whatever the people feel is of a degree of stoicism that we, in the present, could never comprehend. Creating people like this goes against nature by eliminating the natural impulses and feelings of all animals. Just as people in Brave New World are blinded from their feelings, the people of Linden Hills are both unable and not allowed to see anything but perfection. Their failure comes in the fact that their false perfection is only measured against who they perceive to be failures, those living in Brewster Place, when in fact the people of Brewster Place are the most hard-working and honest people in the area.

Most clearly, if the people within either Linden Hills or Brave New World had any idea what the truth of their lives were, they would want to break free. Although happiness is what people in the present strive for so often, not having that choice to feel anything else is something that the citizens would surely revolt against.