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Parable n° 9

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  • Parable n° 9

    Just thought that the content of the lecture in Cologne deserves a thread of it's own for further discussion.

    A brief – and yet very incomplete – first rendering of the evening in Cologne with Mark’s lecture/performance/play on ‘The hopeless animal and the end of nature’ or how Mark indicated 'Parable n° 9' at the Wallraf Richartz Museum. At the beautiful location of the Stiftersaal of the Wallraf Richartz, Mark was introduced and the audience was submerged in what may be a small portion of the first rough take on what’s to come, namely THE FAMILIAR… Mark talked us through the idea that the evening would involve a story with no real ‘definitive’ structure. Maybe some people would leave the conference room, maybe some would fall asleep… This could alter the story as it unfolded. Mark just had some small notes with him that guided him through the story with no few philosophical sidewalks. This would definitely not become a lecture of a written story, it would more or less evolve more organically. As Mark states: 'what I do here, is not what I do. What I say here, is not what I say'.

    The main story was roughly said the tale of a woodcutter which MZD called R. (short for 'Richartz' as a tribute to the location of the lecture) Max (look at the phonetics) who is a hunter in after hours, so he kills things. R. Max who is deprived of his stepbrother with whom he doens't have a close relationship with. His stepbrother had a childless marriage and after his death his wife is leaving the country. They had two cats, who are passed on to R. Max. The first male cat (Ellem?) is a real typical hunting animal that brings mice, birds… back at home. This really is the cat that R. Max can identify himself with. The second cat is a female that R. Max calls Sybil (!). In fact it's name was something else but Mark tells us that he intrudes on the story by giving this cat the name of his own cat), is totally the opposite, is a hateful creature and just hisses at him, scratches ,shits and pisses everywhere in his /appartment and doens't come home with prey. So this cat is the one R. Max totally doesn’t affiliate with. He first thinks about getting rid of both cats, since they were his stepbrother's and what has he got to do with these animals? He could easily go into the woods and chop their heads off, but he isn't an 'unkind' man and instead he decides to take care of both cats. Over the years he waters them like little furry plants that move around the /appartment. Sybil just emerges sometimes for food, drink and warmth.

    After some time, while petting Sybil, R. Max discovers a little lump on her belly. And he is disgusted by it. It's wet, soft and oozing some pale pus. And it was pliable. A sudden problem has occurred to an animal that's a real prowler. R. Max starts to think about it and realizes that Sybil is really sick and his relationship with this cat, he really had no affection with, starts to change. And R. Max is worried and starts hoping (that Sybil will eventually cure and get well?). At this point Mark guided us through to the more philosophical side of the notion HOPE and how it relates to people and how animals are deprived (?) of this notion. So R. Max goes to the vet where he gets to hear that Sybil is really sick and won’t make it and that the best solution would be to put her asleep. But R. Max can’t take this decision, even when he knows that this is the most rational and humane (?) reaction. He encounters a friend who tells him at a bar that he put his dog asleep as soon as the vet told that the dog couldn’t be saved. But R. Max just can’t take this definitive decision and takes Sybil back home where he builds this small box which is nice, warm and soft on the inside. R. Max does everything in his power to make it Sybill as comfortable as possible and he keeps on hoping (that she will eventually get better)… R. Max thinks that until Sybil still enjoys some play or some food, it’s good enough to let her be and take care of her. Even the other cat sees that the situation changed dramatically and starts to behave differently. Then one day Sybil lies really still in it’s box and gazes at R. Max and they ‘see’ each other (see also the Jacques Derrida story about his encounter in the bathroom with his cat and the way he feels ashamed and naked in front of his cat). And out of nowhere Sybil jumps to R. Max, right into his leap and there she dies… This part really affected Mark as well as the audience, since we all know what happened to the real Sybil. After the dead of Sybil both R. Max and the oterh aren't the same anymore, they've changed.

    As stated this is an introduction on the lecture/reading/play/performance by Mark. There were an awfull lot of most intriguing things said about Valentino Braitenberg, Derrida, the psychology of chalk (!) which may come back to me in due days. But here you already have a first take on the evening in Cologne.
    Last edited by DownwardSpiral; 10-07-2010, 02:49 AM.

  • #2
    So, yes, thanks DownwardSpiral for your recollections, and so sorry for the two-month delay in gratitude. So often it doesn't occur to one to just say, "Thanks."

    I'd love to hear any further impressions comments you have on that night. Wish swish swish I'd been there!

    I've been listening, re-listening, and en-listening to Parable Number 9 as provided by Hazel (with some volume modification, which I added to that thread). This "talk" is enormous, and densely-packed, and while I'd prefer to somehow encapsulate the whole thing in a tyrannical flurry of words, I think we'll all be better off if I start small and include you all in the development of these ideas.

    My notes are getting burdensome, and intricate, and I want to just try to synthesize some of them into something coherent. (Plus, I just spent 2 hours semi-transcribing, noting, and looking up corollary information to the sound of Mark's voice (and this is the 5th time I've listened to it) and only got 20 minutes in, so I'd really like to listen to some music and transform the gathered data.) Pare with me, please!

    So! Some major ideas, loosely categorized:

    The Role Of The Listener/Reader in Parable Number Nine
    From the outset, MZD includes the listener/those in attendance (presumably) by saying, "Let's make it a last name... We'll pick... We'll say." He says the character in the story is "Our Ma(r)x," but it also isn't "ours" because it's R. for Richartz. He's ours and not.

    And though he uses the inclusive plural, and I think that's important, it's at least as important to note that all of these "collective" actions or decisions are made, at least during the talk, by Danielewski himself. When he says "We’re gonna rename it," and invites the audience to scratch out "The Hopeless Animal and the End of Nature," or to place a colon and then "Parable Number Nine" before it, he's inviting participation of a sort, but the new title is already decided.

    You have no choice in that particular matter.

    Just as R. Max is without choice with regard to the cats. "He has no choice but to accept them." Why is that, I wonder?

    The Confusion and Profusion of Language
    And among the things he invites the listener to do is to "extend it with a little bit of twisting and pulling," meaning the shape and configuration of the word "Animal." Just as he does with Johnny Truant, who gradually introduces puns and typos and word swaps and omissions and so on, and just as the voices of The Fifty Year Sword are cut and stitched together, the atoms of their words forcefully bonded to other words, other fragments, or have sections removed and hidden; and just as Sam & Hailey's languages translate each other, carry each other, and fairy each other, just as their language shifts and slips and twists and exists in conflict and simultaneity — so too, here, does he immediately suggest that all words are also any other relevant connection you can make.

    Animal, when pluralized in French, is animaux, which he puns as ani-mot, the words that are part of the animal. Tier (animal) is tier (hierarchy) is tear (melancholy or sadness). And this apparently whimsical, quarry-less pursuit is laying a framework for the rest of the talk, wherein animals, their word counterparts, the hierarchy of human/animal/plant/everything is questioned, and ultimately tears are shed.

    (Whoa, where has this academical voice come from? I'm trying to be thorough and thoughtful; surely that doesn't automatically mean dry! Apologies if I'm boring!)

    The cats' names are similarly fluid; R. Max names the cats (but wouldn't they have had names when they belonged to his step-brother?), but then MZD pronounces the male cat's name differently almost every time he says it (eh-lahm, eh-luhm, ee-lamb, all these vowelletic dance movements) but then we don't even know the name R. Max gave the female cat, because MZD announces that he's intruding on the story and substituting the name of his own cat, Sibyll.

    Every single one of MZD's works is riddled (bullet-holes) with intrusions. The changes while the Navidsons are out of town; Zampanò calls this an intrusion. T50YS's preface warns against anything unquoted (which the preface is, itself, unquoted), that such would mean an intrusion. Is the Creep an intrusion in OR? Are we readers? Oh, wait, "in"trusion can't be there. Is the book itself an intrusion, an observation of their passing that alters everything (oh, I tease!)?

    I know there are some literary terms you could apply to this sort of thing. Words I won't let cross my tongue or my taps. I don't have to say them for you to hear them. Surely someone else will, or has, already.

    What is... what's up with these intrusions? Intrusions which almost always elevate the tension and sense of unhomeliness? Which are crucial to the development of each story?

    He says he "decided to intrude on this story, now" which brings to mind three relations, to "decide":
    De-Side (as in remove the boundary of the coin between heads and tails and therefore have heads and tails coexisting, perhaps by the head eating the tail?)
    and Deicide.

    Oh, Yeah! Back To The Listener
    Oh, so, MZD says "And by the way, I commend you for coming here, because you were very brave" to come to something called "The End of Nature, etc." with all the stuff in the program. As difficult and as complex as this talk gets, he seems to want to make sure everyone in the audience, while understanding the possibility for confrontation (walking out, falling asleep, denying that there is any sense), wants to encourage us all to stay. We get points just for attending!

    Sorry, Wait; Confusion, Again
    At the beginning he says that "Max" is a good name, and that we'll call him R. Ma(r)x... but multiple times says "Marks" or "Marx" instead of "Max," then then catches himself and kind of laughs, but then when he corrects himself, he seems to almost say it again, which sounds more like "Our Muax," like the "error" wants to be heard.

    Johnny Truant writes, on page 31 of of Leaves, "Zampanò himself probably would of insisted on corrections and edits, he was his own harshest critic, but I've come to believe errors, especially written errors, are often the only markers left by a solitary life: to sacrifice them is to lose the angles of personality, the riddle of a soul."

    And later, when describing R. Max's step-brother's marriage, MZD says "childish" but then corrects himself to say "childless" marriage. This happens throughout the talk, in small ways; little stumbles that are actually important. I don't know whether MZD is deliberately doing this or not. I have the spooky feeling that he is, but then maybe I'm giving him too much credit.

    But all of these little bumps, hiccups, "errors" are important. Just as seeing "" in blue or animals/plants in bold or certain words always "misspelled" draws attention to them and causes a feeling of potential unease, or of grandeur, or something... tone and pace and also misspoken words give special weight or meaning to things done out loud.

    He says near the beginning: "As we get into that territory [the territory of confusing names/sounds/words? What territory does he mean?] I wanna in some ways destabilize quickly the words that are gonna be used."

    Will The Listener Please Imagine Yourself Standing Up
    And so this involves the listener in a very particular way, or at least it did me; I started to listen much more closely after the "marx/max" and "childish/childless" swaps; could he really be deliberately distorting, dismantling, destabilizing his spoken language in this off-handed way? Little blips for the attentive listener to enjoy?

    He says several times that his "desire is not to finalize this topic, but to open it up." And that at the end, he's "closing but not finishing." He refers to "this entire... dialogue that we’re gonna have," and later, "We’re really talking about this."

    Mark wants something from us. And I suspect he wants more from us than has been previously requested, or previously understood as a question.

    How Much Of This Do You Believe?
    "There’s kind of a performative nature here. Usually when these kind of things are given, they’re typed out, you know, they’re... vetted, they’re overarticulated, and eventually they’re published. And all you’re really seeing is a reading. But actually I’m not going to do that tonight. I have things written out, I have kind of a sense about where we’re going, but I don’t... really know what’s going to happen."

    I think Mark is continuing to push himself beyond his previous boundaries, into realms perhaps less-comfortable, or at least less-explored. See also the live performace of T50YS, which he said he hadn't had anywhere near enough time to work on, and had relinquished control of some things to other people, and was worried afterward about whether it had been intelligible... he's doing a lot more performance, live appearances, talks, and they seem to me connected in more ways than their publicity.

    Clowder Of Cats; Pride of Lions; Leap/Lepe of Leopards; Streak of Tigers; Confusion of Sphinxes; Conspiracy of Publishers?
    Okay, I don't really think this is the case. But: by Twitter, "TF1-5 shipped today on 2 iPads . . ." which doesn't specify to whom it was being sent. And somewhere it was noted that these tweets were scheduled by FutureTweet or some such thing, as in programmed to appear at a set interval, sometime in the future.

    And he repeatedly talks about "We." We do this, we do that. We're really talking about this.

    And he wants to "open" the topic. And he says he knows what we're thinking, but then takes a sharp turn: "So, I know what you’re thinking. [laughs] Right now there’s a problem. And the problem isn’t just R. Max’s problem, or even Sibyll’s problem. The problem is... the cat’s problem. Because this... the generality that is the feline is suddenly... troubled by this crossing of the figure’s border, the aesthetic line."

    He tells us what we're thinking. Not... "unkindly."

    "It’s a topic that has been with me... throughout my work. Became more overt or pointed recently when on the forums … there was an introduction to this new work called The Familiar was posted to the forum."

    This new work. Called The Familiar.

    Do you... do you think that posting "an introduction to this new work" on the forum actually is, somehow, the beginning of The Familiar? It's certainly ignited some of our imaginations, and we've begun to construct a framework of concepts around the basic premise of "girl meets cat," plus the tweets (TF1-5, mind you) and the references to cats in everything already published. It's just enough information to get the gears turning. Parable Number Nine is, then, perhaps the foreword to the book, an "opening" but nowhere near finalizing.

    Things are different now. MZD wasn't going around before OR's publication, explicating its themes and concepts by way of structural narrative and topical digressions. Not so far as I'm aware, anyway. For not having seen this book (and I could be waaaaay off, here), I'm starting to feel like I've started reading it.

    Many of you have been asking about what form the next book will take. What if it's already taking shape? What if — and this is a dangerous, confusing idea — in this age of self-publishing, MZD's taking it to the streets and publishing his book out loud? Counting on us(?) to record and arrange it?

    Whether that's what he's doing or not, that's kind of a neat idea.

    There is so much more!!
    I have only just begun to process my notes on this talk. I absolutely love it, and have been reading The Question of the Animal by Matthew Calarco as well as some of the books mentioned in the talk, trying to get a better grasp on animorphology. What about you all?
    Last edited by Splendorr; 12-09-2010, 09:13 PM.


    • #3
      (Sept 30, 2010)

      ...with a name.
      I think Max is a good name. And let’s... let'’s make it... let'’s make it the last name. And the first name, we'’ll pick... Richartz, for the museum, here. But we’'ll say it’s R. So we’ll say our... our character for this evening'’s name is R. Marks. And if we’re feeling playful, we can uh, we can extend perhaps an English pun, so that it is... Our Marks. And... or our Max, excuse me. Heh, Marx... Uh, so it’'s Our Max, and uh... and actually it’'s sort of as we get into that territory, I wanna, I want to in some ways... destabilize quickly the words that are going to be used... so if we'’re going to be punning on R. Max, maybe we can also think of the, the animot, as Derrida would, would think of in the plural, animots, would be words, the words would be part of the animal.
      And English is a little... a little less friendly, so it’'s sort of the animals, the mals, the... the bad things that are inherent in the language. And German would be... tier, and I was sort of thinking about that and I was thinking well in French you sort of have... the tiers of things, to pull things, or the level of things, in English, the sort of hierarchy of the animal in German, or you could even extend it with a little bit of twisting and pulling into sort of, the tear, it becomes then sort of a romantic or melancholy notion of the animal being sort of that which is perhaps sad, in the German language. I don'’t know. (Laughs)
      Um, and I will tell you that our character this evening, R. Max, does not know either. He'’s a, um... he'’s a woodcutter. Goes out, and... takes an axe, and he... cuts down trees, and when he'’s not doing that, he’'s a hunter. And he goes out, and he kills things. And... one day, Max’'s brother dies. But he'’s not upset. He never knew the brother at all, the brother was a, uh, a stepbrother. And uh, he finds out, because his stepbrother’'s wife arrives at his doorstep. And she has two cats. Now they had a childess... a childless marriage, and she'’s leaving the country, and now, she’'s leaving, uh, R. Max, the two cats... and he has no choice but to accept them. Now the first thing he, he thinks about, is... maybe I'’ll take these two animals out into the back yard, and I’ll chop their heads off with an axe, because what do I have, with two animals, of a brother I didn'’t know, with a woman who’s just run off to another country?
      Last edited by Kevin Brown; 08-06-2014, 01:34 AM. Reason: had to put the apostrophes in.


      • #4
        But as hard and as tough as he is, he’s not a, um... he’s not an un-kind... man. And so he looks at the two cats, and he decides to name them. And the first, cat, the male cat, he names Ellum. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. Uhh, but it’s an... it’s a beautiful cat. It’s uh... sleek, powerful, forward-going, uhh... clearly a hunter, umm... clearly, clearly a thing to be reckoned with in the wild. So Our Max definitely likes... definitely likes, likes this, this cat.
        And the female cat, he names Sybil. Actually, he doesn’t name it Sybil, he- he... he names it something else but Sybil was the name of my cat, so I’ve decided to actually intrude, upon this, this story now, and... and put my cat’s name there, so... we’re gonna call... R. Max’s cat... Sybil. Now, Sybil, in the eyes of R. Max, is a hateful creature. All she does, is hiss, and scratch, and piss... in the corner. And he’s not happy with her. At all.
        Now.... I wanna have anoth- another quick note here... umm.. and this is... this is... sort of, the tricky thing, about this entire... dialogue, that we’re gonna have, is that what I do, here, is actually not what I do. And what I say, is not necessarily the point, of what I say, because what matters most is what’s left unsaid. What’s left open, what’s left wild. So, with that in mind, let’s just think about this talk.


        • #5
          Kevin, I really appreciate what you are doing here!

          I wanted very badly to read Parable № 8 after watching it, and I appreciate being able to read P№9, also.

          Mark points out, in P№8, that we're allowed to make a transcription. I think he was talking to all of us, the audience. There is no text unless we create it. Transcription of the words we hear is one crucial part of that process of creating our version of this text.

          I hope (if hope is still possible) that you'll continue.


          • #6
            @Splendorr Mark specifically references SCI-arc in that they have his permission to do so, sadly, to date, no such transcription exists, though in my spar(s)e time, I am doing my best, though I still have about 35 minutes to go, and that video is laggy and hates rebuffering...


            • #7
              And by the way, I commend you for coming here, because you were... you were very brave, to – to show up at something that starts off with the question of humanity’s dilemma with place, will be addressed in terms of the nomenclature of the natural, and blah blah blahh, and (anecdote?) and blah blah blahh – and subjects ranging from emotional topographies to fear and hope and blah blah blah... Right? What’s – what’s that all about? It sounds... scholarly, it sounds specific, and yet... I’m a novelist. I’m not a scholar. What I do is something a little different. Um... but that still doesn’t really express what the subject is. So is the subject... the hopeless animal and the end of nature. That sounds very depressive. Um... so I think we’re going to re-name it. I think we’re going to call it, tonight, Parable Number Nine. Okay? So, you can scratch out that, that title, or put it in front of it with a colon, but it’s now called Parable Number Nine.
              And I say this kind of to... to... to say that there’s kind of a performative nature, here. Usually when these kind of things are given, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re vetted, they’re, they’re, they’re overarticulated, and then eventually they’re published, and all you’re really seeing is a reading. But actually, I’m not gonna do that tonight – I have things written out, I have kind of a sense of where we’re going... but, I don’t, really know... what... is going to happen. And that’s going to involve, you. You know, maybe you’ll have questions, maybe you’ll walk out, maybe you’ll fall asleep, maybe you’ll look at me like you don’t know what I’m saying.
              And by the way, if you do feel that you don’t know what I’m saying? That’s okay. You know, you can think to yourself well he doesn’t know what he’s saying. And you’re allowed to say that, so long as you also recognize, that you have no idea what you’re saying, either. So then, the night will be a success, if you leave going, “you know what, I really don’t even know what I’m saying, when I’m saying what I’m saying.” Okay?
              Umm... so, my, my desire is not to finalize... this topic. But to, open it up. And, it’s a topic that has been, as we’ll get into a little later, with me throughout my work. And um... it’s something that maybe became a little more overt or pointed recently, when on the forums, um... as I think Roland mentioned... you know there was a... there was an introduction to, to this new work, called The Familiar. Uhh... about a twelve-year-old, who finds a kitten, and this was posted on some of the boards and forums and whatnot.