I am no good without lists. Scraps of paper keep me together. Without them I can stare at nothing for hours, losing my thread on the day. Snapping back to consciousness to feel the corrosive aftermath of vanished time. For the symptoms of anxiety (if you can grab one before the paralysis sets in) books are better than Valium. So here – my reading list for August.
Lacan’s Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis (1973). Again. Or more specifically, the first two sections: ‘The Unconscious and Repetition’ and ‘OF THE GAZE AS Objet Petit a‘. Why? Because they are both illuminating and impenetrable, the most annotated text in my library. In these transcripts he builds on Freud to assert that the unconscious is structured like a language, whilst also stressing the unconscious, his ‘zone of shades’, as a void, as that which is yet to come in to being: ‘Where is the background? Is it absent? No. Rupture, split, the stroke of the opening makes absence emerge – just as the cry does not stand out against a background of silence, but on the contrary makes the silence emerge as silence.’ (p26). Those lines make my knees go weak. When I read that phrase I feel as though I am in a darkened auditorium, watching intangible shapes fugitive upon a giant screen. Vertiginous. I never quite understand him. Every misunderstanding rewards me. (The cover of this book though – how I loathe it. Its a crime to clothe such words so cheaply. I intervene. Scraps of paper keep me together).
Rancière’s The Intervals of Cinema (2014), and Shklovsky’s Literature and Cinematography (1923). I’m not interested in cinema right now, not at all. Not one jot. Not one iota. But these two books sat next to each other in the shop. Cosy. Sly. The jacket of one tells me that ‘ film is the perpetually disappointed dream of a language of images’, and a thumb through the other that ‘beyond the threshold of consciousness, all the same, remains the sensation of a series of immobile objects, rapidly succeeding one another.’
And then, because I know I shall avoid the other books when falling into my frequent traps of fear and stupidity, I have Bedouin of the London Evening, Rosemary Tonk’s posthumous collected poems. If I am to fall, then it is by far a much better thing to fall into.
Rosemary Tonks effectively disappeared from the world in the 1970s. The subject of a 2009 BBC programme called ‘The Poet Who Vanished’, she was believed by some to be dead. In fact, (to cut a long and sad tale short), she had simply walked away from life. It was only after her death, aged 85, in 2014, that her collected poems could be published. Holding the book, I feel the guilt of a beneficiary: we could not have her living, so we waited until she died. They are so very fine, so very singular:
‘No, I …go to the cinema,
I particularly like it when the fog is thick, the street
Is like a hole in an old coat, and the light is brown as laudanum.
…the fogs! the fogs! The cinemas
Where the criminal shadow-literature flickers over our faces,
The screen is spread out like a thundercloud – that bangs
And splashes you with acid… or lies derelict, with lighted waters in it
And in the silence, drips and crackles – taciturn, luxurious.
…The drugged and battered Philistines
Are all around you in the auditorium…’
from ‘The Sofa’s, Fogs, and Cinemas.
Lacan, Jacques, The Unconscious and Repetition’, and ‘Of the Gaze as Objet Petit a’, in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: The seminar Of Jacques Lacan, Book XI (1973), ed. Miller, Jacques-Alain, trans, Sheridan, Alan, New York: Norton 1998
Rancière, Jacques, The Intervals of Cinema, (trans. John Howe), London: Verso: 2014
Shlovsky, Viktor, Literature and Cinematography (1923), (trans. Irina Masinovsky), Champaign: Dalkey Archive Press: 2008
Tonks, Rosemary, Bedouin of the London Evening: Collected Poems and Selected Prose, Hexham: Bloodaxe Books, 2014