[-empyre-] the subject of this month

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Fri Oct 19 21:08:53 EST 2012

Hi, I've been thinking about this month's subject, repeatedly, and find 
myself running into difficulty when I try to relate it to the moderated 
and rationalized discourse one finds on an email list, especially a list 
which is text-oriented, and oddly self-contained in that regard - one 
_reads_ empyre. Pain, suffering and death all relate to individual 
experience that breaks through whatever circumlocution has been 
theoretically established. P.D. James, in a recent book, talks about the 
fabric and comfort of the detective story, where the world is contained, 
where the suspects are few, and the crime works itself out, creating 
pleasure in suture for both the reader and writer. The crime, almost 
always murder in the traditional story, is of course catalyst; it figures 
as a trope or function that creates an unraveling and closure at the end. 
She is talking about the traditional detective story, not a post-modern 
version. The pain, suffering, and death of the victim are also functions 
and are generally not dwelled upon; in fact, they would break through the 
structure and create a differet dynamics (in much the same way as Bourbaki 
structuralism was repaced by category theory, but that's another story, 
just something I'm trying to think about).

Anyway, the rupture occurs with the personal, with testimony, as we have 
seen and commented on; it also occurs with the inertness of death, the 
muteness of horrific pain, the unutterable in slaughter. One may describe 
the dynamics, diplomacy, history, culture, economics, and politics of 
slaughter, but slaughter itself, the _thingness_ of it, eludes us, is 
inexressible. So this is where the text bears witness to its own limits 
and limitations, and this might be also where the structure of an email 
list founders.

The solution, if there is one, is to keep on writing and talking on the 
level of writing and talking; this constantly changes and is itself 
porous -

Emily Dickinson -

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

- Alan

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