Saturday, October 09, 2004

pynchon, thanatos & depleted uranium

From Of Pynchon, Thanatos and Depleted Uranium: Weapons of Mass Destruction Found in Iraq by Walter A. Davis:
....a way to understand the Nuclear Unconscious in its movement from 1945 to the present. As a history defined by what I call the Macbeth principle. To live with the guilt of a deed one repeats that deed until one is no longer troubled by it; or what amounts to the same thing, until nothing other than it exists. A world ruled by Thanatos.

....Converting DU into WMDs that we could deploy all over Iraq fulfilled another fantasy dear to the dream logic that informs capitalism. DU is pure waste. Shit, if you will. And like surplus production and the falling rate of profit it keeps piling up with no way to get rid of it. It's one thing when we only killed the poor bastards who had the bad luck to live downward of our reactors or the black inner city children to whom we shipped radioactively contaminated milk.[15] But now things are out of hand. We've got over 10 million tons of this useless crap. Eventually it'll seep into everything turning even our paradisiacal estates into nuclear cesspools. Unless we can find a way to really shit it out of our system. Any solution, however, must derive from the logic that informs the system--and fulfill the unconscious needs that fuel it. And then Voila! in answer to our prayers one day we see a way to turn our shit to gold. Nothing is ever lost. The deepest article of capitalist faith is fulfilled. There were no bad unintended consequences from our lengthy romance with the atom. We've found our own cunning of reason. Even our shit can be redeemed once we've developed the appropriate technology. With its discovery we seized a way to turn our waste to profit while fulfilling an even deeper need: to take a dump on everything that impedes the progress of global capitalism. Iraq is perfect. After all, the oil is the only thing there that has value. The rest of that landscape is nothing but a toilet; by relieving ourselves on it we get the true macho pleasure that comes from a good shit: the feeling that we're releasing all of our toxic matter on the Other-in this case those people of color committed to a religion that Samuel Huntington and others remind us stands unalterably opposed to the forward looking logic of modernism. The clash of civilizations and the making of world order requires no less than the shit storm that now rages all over Iraq.

The maximization of death under the reign of thanatos finds in Iraq one of its ghostliest embodiments. War in the 20th century witnessed the progressive erosion of all distinctions between combatants and non-combatants, military and civilian targets. Inflicting the greatest possible physical and psychological damage to "the enemy" became the object of military strategy. [16] Hiroshima was the first realization of that logic as a pure and unrestrained expression of thanatos as global terror. Iraq now serves to advance that logic in a new, and qualitatively different, way. Thanks to DU death is again released from all restrictions and extended over time in a way promises to bring about its omnipresence through its silent, unseen, inner working on all that lives. Death is everywhere now: in the air they breath, the food they eat, the water they drink, the shards radiating up at them from the DU debris that litters their cities, the sperm they transmit in the act of love, the cancers and birth defects, the violence to the DNA, in all the leukemias of body and of soul that will turn Iraq into one vast Thanatopolis, the city of the future, an oidos where all that lives will come to bear Death as its sole meaning, the visible and invisible sign that is present everywhere.

Friday, October 08, 2004

the glue factories of human connection

From a review of Enzo Traverso's The Origins of Nazi Violence by Shelley Baranowski:

Traverso opens by zeroing in on the products of the French and Industrial Revolutions, the guillotine, the prison, and the factory, including the abattoir. The guillotine serialized killing, transformed the executioner into a bureaucratic employee relieved of ethical responsibility, and de-sanctified capital punishment. While embodying the Enlightenment's hope of redemption, the prison, organized according to military standards, subjected prisoners to rigid discipline and constant surveillance, and transformed them into captive labor. Although factories, unlike prisons, employed free workers, they too adopted disciplinary and hierarchical practices, serializing and segmenting production, while alienating and dehumanizing workers. The abattoir, the methodical, mass-produced death factory for animals, became a cultural reference point for the systematic destruction of human beings.

....The death camps of the Third Reich embraced the worst aspects of factories, abattoirs, and prisons, combining purposeless and humiliating work, assembly-line murder, and the evaporation of morality, the glue of human connection.

From Is it O.K. to be a Luddite? by Thomas Pynchon:
By 1945, the factory system -- which, more than any piece of machinery, was the real and major result of the Industrial Revolution -- had been extended to include the Manhattan Project, the German long-range rocket program and the death camps, such as Auschwitz. It has taken no major gift of prophecy to see how these three curves of development might plausibly converge, and before too long. Since Hiroshima, we have watched nuclear weapons multiply out of control, and delivery systems acquire, for global purposes, unlimited range and accuracy. An unblinking acceptance of a holocaust running to seven- and eight-figure body counts has become -- among those who, particularly since 1980, have been guiding our military policies -- conventional wisdom.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Otto was the first on Pynchon-l to note that this year's Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Elfriede Jellinek translated the German version of Gravity's Rainbow.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

O, to be a fly on that wall

Fredricksburg, VA, USA. Central Rappahannock Regional Library:

A Loosely Knit Group: Learn to knit your way through a basic or more advanced project in the company of knitting enthusiasts. For all ages. 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Book Discussion Group: Discuss October's selection, "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon. 7:30-9 pm.

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 3:
No, this is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into--they go in under archways, secret entrances of rotted concrete that only looked like loops of an underpass . . .

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

the new Thanatoids

Ted Rall's latest comic: "What's the best way to die for Bush?"

Sunday, October 03, 2004

pynchon in the mainstream?

The annual speculation about Pynchon and the Nobel Prize has begun. An Agence France Presse story wonders if Pynchon might finally receive it, and includes this from Jonas Thente, described as literary critic for Sweden's largest daily Dagens Nyheter:
Thente said he would like to see "the great American postmodernist authors Don DeLillo or Thomas Pynchon" take home the prestigious award, but Weyler said he didn't think they had a chance. "They are great epic writers, but they are considered very mainstream. They're not very experimental, pushing the boundaries of literature," he said.

Minstral Island

From Pynchon-l: the new issue of Denver Quarterly (Volume 39, Number 1), edited by Paul Maliszewski, includes an essay, "A Portrait of the Luddite as a Young Man," by Rodney Gibbs about Minstral Island, the musical that Pynchon wrote with Kirkpatrick Sale while they were in college. Maliszewski notes that "According to UT's Ransom Center, which has the musical along with other papers from Faith Sale, Gibbs was the first, second, and third person to even look at the material. He did his research this spring."