[-empyre-] Links as meaning, private lives as meaning,

Deena Larsen deenalarsen at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 18 11:36:20 EST 2012

Thanks for the interesting conversations. I'm wondering:
How do you relate to a work--if not through the lense of your own experiences and what you know of the creator's experiences?
Why do we create/consume (for lack of a better word) art--virtual or non-virtual--about pain and suffering, about death and dying?
I'd like to reply to a couple of threads:
 Links as carrying pain itself
Alan asked: Do you think the links themselves might be representative of cutting or incision - that the meaning they carry would have a hint of pain itself?
Yes, I think the links themselves *are* the content--and I see them more not as a cutting away from the reading, but an adding to.  I see them as relationships, embodying a conceptual meaning that is “out of time” with the reading of the work.  Thus, the very existence of a link IS itself the meaning. For example, the link on Asa Miller’s recipe for a hair tonic on “broken” (http://marblesprings.wikidot.com/humans:zandra-miller) “Let the hair be ever so tawdry, broken, or dull of appearance, this preparation will increase its growth and impart a beautiful shine.” goes to Martha Stokes, a rape victim (http://marblesprings.wikidot.com/humans:martha-stokes).  Thus, the very existence of this link implies the forced sexual relationship between Hair (Zandra Miller) and  Nowhere (Martha Stokes).  (And there is a reciprocal link for Martha back to Zandra on “sidestepped”—again, showing the slanted truths of pain and incest and rape that
 could not be talked about in a Colorado mining town in the 1870s.)
You don’t have to follow the links and you may not even have to know they exist.  But these links strengthen the meaning in both the origin and the destination texts by their very being.   And this meaning is not tangential to the work—it is the work. 
Private vs. public
I’ve provided snippets of the conversation so far on pain and privacy below, and here are my thoughts:
It is by expressing our private lives that we can experience art more fully—understanding Ana’s encounters with her torturers and her background makes her comments resonate in a way they would not if I did not have that information. 
Diane Gromala’s Dancing With the Virtual Dervish IS her body, it IS her experience. As someone else in chronic pain and with an intimate familiarity with MRIs, I admire the courage it takes to put your very bones and tissue out for public viewing.  I'm reminded of Melinda Rackham's Carrier (http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/rackham_everett__carrier_becoming_symborg.html)
Before I collapsed in 2004, my pain was on the inside and very few knew about it. (I walked for over 10 years on multiple fractures—the doctors said, well, with your rare disease, don’t worry about it.  I also present my pain very differently from most people—the sweeter and calmer I am, the more pain I am in.  So by the time I get to a doctor, I sound very reasonable--and thus they did not take my agony seriously enough to even do an X ray....  Thus, very few people actually knew the extent of my pain, and I was a very private person about it.)  But now that I am in a wheelchair as my ankles, hips, and knees are irrevocably shattered, it is obvious something is wrong. So I end up explaining my story to kids in grocery stores who ask their parents why that lady can’t walk.  So there is sort of a “forced outness”—I share my pain in my daily life, and I am learning that it is ok to do so online as well. (Another aside--I used to feel it
 my duty to shield others from my pain, and thus I became nice and sweet so no one would suspect.  But after this approach nearly killed me a few times, I am learning--you can show your pain, show your personal trauma.  And it is others' responsibility to look or not to look, to react or not to react.)
My current work-in-progress, Chronic, is a very personal revelation. I did all of the writing over three years in Strawberry Hot Springs, Colorado. These pools are very special to me—the waters get me out of pain in 15 to 45 minutes.  (The pain begins again the moment I leave the pools, but oh! for a blessed while I can actually *be* without being tied to my body by these invisible weights of pain.) http://www.strawberryhotsprings.com/2005/.  The first year, MaJe and I went up in August 2010 for 16 straight days—we deliberately traded time up there for about 6 months of her life in hospice.  Chronic contains handwritten pages from that time, with MaJe’s handwriting on our facing her death and the pain in our lives.  For example, she wanted to know if I would be there at the moment of her death, and I did not know—I could not answer her. We wrote about that in Chronic.  The next year, Julianne Chatelain went up with me and I wrote about
 MaJe’s and my life together—in the same cabin we had been in the year before.  I wrote about how I had been there for her death, and that became a part of Chronic, too. This past August, I finished writing it, with Julianne Chatelain and Bill Bly there to remind me about the electronic literature history—the part MaJe actually cared about. (There are 199 hand-written pages—Julianne told me to keep it under 200…) Now I just have to figure out how I want to present it online/augmented reality, etc.  So Julianne and I are conducting usability tests. (Again, send me an email and I'll send the snippets and test. Thanks!)
 I think the decision to share or not is one’s own—but I also think that in all of our writing, whether autobiographical or not, the person (and personal pain) infiltrate the work and can not be separated from it.  New textual criticism? Not for me!
?? wrote: I wondered (following my initial queries to Monika) who the audience or the community is *here* and 
how a few people get to enjoy talking to each other via a maillist (international scope, over a thousand subscribers) about private matters for a whole month?
Johannes Birringer:
I wondered (following my initial queries to Monika) who the audience or the community is *here* and 
how a few people get to enjoy talking to each other via a maillist (international scope, over a thousand subscribers) about private matters for a whole month?
. . . And I revert to my position yesterday, in response to Alan's reply, i do think my pain or my grief are my private matter, and i have no interest whatsoever to talk about them here,
And the matters aren't private - that's the heart of it. Our experiences, 
your experiences, everyone's, are private, and the experiences are at the 
core of what we consider pain, or death, our own projects or horizons or 
. . . It makes sense that you wouldn't want to talk about personal pain or for that matter anything personal here.

Deena Larsen
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