Text as Self-Image [short fiction]


The need for self-distance has always existed? I sometimes doubt that vehemently; at other times I question simply, even softly, whether this is so or not, the always-ness of the need for self-distance. There are times I could not be convinced of the contrary, ever, this need is so; or as I imagine at the moment this overcomes me with a sureness you might only get from characters in fiction, or from people who have so characterized themselves as to have presented everything about themselves as if they were writing the fiction  of their own lives–what is it really about telling in fiction and telling in non-fiction that differs so greatly? I have done so for myself, to think or not to think of this for me, one question of a kind, and more questions come. Yes, responses go. Of course, to respond is not in itself to answer. I swear to one and not to the other, whether I realize it or not, whether I intend to or not. This of myself for others, who am I now? And what is it about writer, author, narrator/expositor, character . . . for reasons that remain obscure to me . . . in me? I am, therefore, I think, as I have said before, heard before, another me speaking from where? I do ask half rhetorically. I never quite as fully as too many I hear today, in love with the questions that question themselves, the questions, not the poser, to pose a question, we do pose our answers, do we not?

Who would not assume so about himself, about his writing, about why he writes? But then this idea of self-distance means what for what senses of Self that a person can have–I essay myself when I write fiction as well as non-fiction. What then are the differences between some short stories and some essays. Don’t some stories employ the expository–are there not stories, fictional stories that are overly determined by the exposition, the prose, expository, what am I saying? I hear you ask.

We have been on a tangent. Let’s return.

Inside the circle.

What is the Self? I ask genuinely. Is it so that this upper case Self has many selves, as I believe? As I have also found elsewhere, read elsewhere–have written too elsewhere? I am sure my friend Michel must have imagined as much; I am sure my friends Christopher and William did as well, if not my friends John and Laurence and Daniel, yes, no, maybe, perhaps even something else? All as if there could be more than this yes, no and maybe?

There should be more. I have not subscribed to the cliche that more is less in a very long time. They do wear masks, you know, these selves . . . personas on personas on the person we come to be, when?

What then should be said about time, about ages, about custom, about genre, about the idea that the literary is a valid branch of epistemology–and it is, you know. What then must we say . . . I say, et cetera, et cetera, all about how people wrote and what they wrote when and where they did write. Do we really discern the why of any writing. All writing is alike to me, as all cultures are in effect alike to me, all peoples–to be a citizen of New York City is to be a citizen of the world in a way no one from anywhere else could ever be, or ever have been or think of being in some future time.

The writer–yes, of course, who he is she is it is–to write or not to write has become my to be or not, and this latter has been made in the image of whether or not I am or I become, what is it to become, to come to be, being something quite other than existing, no?

My advice to you, then, is, Avoid the search for author intent at all costs. Author is not the mask of the writer. Writer, which is what society says you are when you are published or serious, whatever that is supposed to mean, but I have heard as much said . . . an author is the one with authority over a text? Yes, I have said this before and will come to it again, I know me well enough. I am the author.

We have undermined the notion that any writer of anything has absolute authority over the text, a text, what text, the laundry lists of our lives, shopping, shopping . . . but there is a diction, a form, a content, a layout structure of a list that is idiosyncratic, no? Who should be allowed, permitted to have first and last authority over a text, I mean, if not in interpretive matters or manners then at least or at most in what gets done to the text before print, before being published–who retains what rights over the text and how much is made from its dissemination, right? Wrongly done rights protections? I am the author of my shopping lists.

If I am not the first or the last to say what a text I write means, I can go along with that. I have never wanted to know what a writer thought about a text he had written. Hawthorne’s extra-textual commentary on The Scarlet Letter . . . :Ah! Nathaniel, the great deceiver, no? “The Custom’s House” is part of the text, attached to the text, prefatory to the text, explanatory of interpretive strategies to take, make, build on, conclude from, right? Who am I not, though, to offer an opinion about my text or texts, this one or that one, here or there, now and then, whenever we come together, as we sometimes do, and we do ask writers, that is, authors questions about tests.

Even if my assertions are only some that is a few from among many many more, they must or should be included, even, again, if only one of several to be used in determining what gets said at some moment in some place, now or then, past, present or future. The author is not dead. As usual, some of the French are wrong, and most resentful people going to college today in America from among Americans like finding the French who are generally wrong, critically, rather the the ones who are right, or close to being right, or who are just not as glaringly wrong as someone like Foucault–not like him, but him, actually him. Reading him is like an experience of Death.

I betray prejudices I have held for a couple of decades already, or more, perhaps, if I were to think about this more closely, but only in a way I am certain I will not. My Selfhood in dialectic–something I learned from Montaigne, but only learned how to say, express, in these and in other words used to paraphrase them, from my friend Frederick.

How so I am that I am or I am who I am when I am where I am with whom or for whom or at whom or to whom . . . I say so much, have said so much, will continue to say even more?

I say:

What happens when I approach the other (an . . . other, not yet another?), this other outside of me? There is an outside of me as there is an inside of me, as there is an outside and an inside to the expansion of the universe . . . and it is space itself that is expanding, not space expanding into something.

I have asked many questions about me, about my nature, our nature, the universals observable by understanding after determining just what is or has been polygenetic in our cultural histories–yes, the many histories as well as the many, many more historiographies–over along, long time . . . Herodotus called his work, The Histories, or, in other words, The Inquiries. But history, as we mean it most of the time when we say it is something that happens independent of who writes it, tells it, affirms it, confirms it.

Is there someone inside of me who is another other? I so ask genuinely, less posture than the pressure to know myself, yes, my fellows, Know Thyself. But what does happen to me in my connection to me, there are many connections, are there not? I ask rhetorically. How could I not know this? The history if me would at least be this duality of exposition, explication . . . what have I now in these words here to express what I mean by The History of Me?

I was supposed to make them, these connections, they were to help me in my future.  To connect with people, persons of interest? Yes? Networking, we used to say, might still say, the word is overused, is trite, is cliche, meaning, again, is made in the mind as sound is in the ear? What is that supposed to say?  The deadening of language, or the emptying of vitality from our use of it . . . and it is important how we use language, it should not be used so flippantly as if anything that arises in any mind is worthy of being appreciated in a way that speaks to its hierarchically ordered ascendancy . . . now that is a mouthful, something I have been saying a lot lately, about my diction, word choice–choose your words carefully. I agree that all ideas competing for acceptance must have no censor, but do not imagine that that means we must remain indiscriminate in our acceptance of anything competing as if the competition must be flattened in our overarching sense that the field must be leveled.

What abilities do we have as a species for language, with language? This is not only for English–or what some more than arrogant pseudo-intellectual not-nearly-as-educated-as-they-imagine Others think about America and Americans and American English . . . no people ever from anywhere at whatever level of education or native intelligence who know less than what they believe with conviction they know as too many of these Russians (as Americans like to call every non Russian who speaks Russian as if he had his foot in his mouth . . .) always trying to bullshit you because he has already fully bullshitted himself, in one way or another, something they learned from Ashkenazim and how the latter behaved in the Soviet Union, out of convenience or necessity, not always the same or simultaneous . . . themselves doing it better than anyone from anywhere the Soviet Union, bullshitting themselves, that is–where was I? Humans wear masks by nature; history has necessitated that Jews wear masks on the masks worn by nature. No? You think otherwise? I do not hate Slavs or Jews so do not try to make me out to be a Nazis . . . more foolish endeavors by American Liberals who imagine they are not closet Puritans or Totalitarian Bourgeois Capitalists behind the facades they keep.  And do not imagine that Bernie is an answer for anybody’s future–he is just a hell of a lot better than too many of what we have, which is a sadness unto sorrow leaving us in this sorry political state.

What are those abilities we have that are derived from our choices as humans? To become human or not to become human? The choices we make make us, no? I imagine now you might think otherwise. Today I want to remain an animal, I say; but then I am an animal always, as every human is in his fight to choose the human, to be human or not to be human was Hamlet’s dilemma, as well.

This wisdom I speak of obliquely–stop! What is there in my understanding of me that allows me to continue being this me that others recognize? That is what seems most important to most people, this being recognized by others. I am not myself when others do not recognize me by whatever current behavior confuses them, confounds the image of me that is expected, all people determined by their have been, each has-been is what each man or woman or other needs to project?

Of what is mine, I might wonder, consider for a time, how long might even be an additional consideration, why would anyone stress how long they should think about anything? To think or not to think becomes every human to be . . . of course–of course? A matter of course, following the path set? Who then am I following? We cannot speak the truths of history, the Truth as a transcendent compass heading, any truth of our lives, the facts confound us, we hide them, avoid them, side step them because we do not live and meet in a open market place, but remain apart and the passive recipients of marketing. We are no more interested in an open market where we exchange ideas and words and opinions than Capitalists are about free trade and open markets. We continue to fail at understanding each other, each group of others because everything we do points to an unspoken fact–we do not want to understand freely, openly, with everyone’s checkered past not an excuse to vilify and vindicate in our hubris, but as a means to really stand under one another.

What are the delineations of my attributes, of my characteristics, what then this personality made up of traits? Ah! The many masks I wear? I do wear them, outside and inside, the vastness of the Self, she said. Yes, I am we, as I have read in an essay my friend Jay had written how many years ago already. Nothing new, though–Milton had already outlined the Self as one of many selves.

The many selves in me wearing masks to hide behind. I need to uncover them as well as the one’s I wear in the world. Everyone wears masks in the world by nature, yes, it is in the nature of the Homo Sapiens to wear them. It is thus a problem when we then wear masks on the mask . . . I have explicated this elsewhere, she says.

Everything about personality is maskality, no? But these others do recognize what? If they see only what I present, then they cannot know what I hide, unless suspicion leads them to it near enough for them to convince themselves they know something that others do not, know something we would call hidden knowledge, knowledge hidden from others that they are then privileged to know, hidden in a way they keep to themselves and reveal to no others, maybe even not to me. This could be as much an extension of madness as intuition, does not madness have its intuition?

I am genuinely asking now. More questions. But then, yes, I say, as I have also said for some longer than able to measure time–what is time, is there a larger ‘T’ variation? Any or all of the former variations of me by me, with or without a discernible for me, What is it that is by me, thus made by me, created by me, adopted by me, adapted to me by me? How so? And with what degree of intention? I ask. She asks. Who asks? Anyone could ask? How about everyone–I am Everyman?

Another question forms, is formed, informs . . . what is molded in me by the questions I ask, never mind the ones that I answer, are there always answers? I often simply respond whether answering or not. I have always thought that author intention was the most useless pursuit of any literary criticism.

Do I ask these questions in earnest, and if so, how much of it is in earnest? Is there always present some rhetorical strategy, some rhetorical edge, cutting which way my questions? As I say this now, I think perhaps that I might need to ask other questions, what allows me to ask the questions I ask and disallows me to ask the ones I need to ask?

What is it about me that I see in the mirror? I do look sometimes to my reflection, an attempt on my part to root myself in me. I am sure that there are enough of you who do the same, who have done so for longer than I have. What is it that I see in my mind thinking about me, of me, on me, to me, the image therein held? What can I hold of me in me . . . something of me contained? maintained? once again, formed? We make ourselves–I do, as I have, as I will again.

What then do I say about how I see myself, how anyone does, could, would, will? What is it that I see in the eyes of this other looking at me, looking to me, gazing, hazing, what is actual, what remains potential, what is thrust upon this other by me, forced upon, everything through a lens, no pure undiluted unadulterated seeing. I am, therefore, I think. Now that’s a first philosophy, no? A new anthropological first philosophy; the anthropological metaphysics of knowledge and being.

To think, to see, to understand; to know believe imagine extrapolate; to add to, subtract from, then thus to interpret, rightly or wrongly, to misinterpret, usefully or not, by adhering to or disregarding utility? How effects affect? Wherefore art thou myself, a load of dog shit by the name rose still stinks.

To be a big piece of shit. We are . . . mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

The opinions of this other having a trans-formative effect on me–and the opinions of others do affect us, they are the many effects in cause of our own happiness or unhappiness–the origins of which are where? deep inside of us? Inside me. Yes, some have thought to say there is an inside to each of us. Do we really have a grip on Freud’s metaphors for the mind? Does it exist? I have not lead me to suppose that mind is a substitute for soul any more than I have allowed brain to stand in place of mind. The multiplicity of gaze after gaze after gaze, and so on . . .

What happens when we think, perceive, imagine? What else is there for me to understand who and/or what I am? To be me or not to be me; to be then another and another and another, always this notion of creeping here and there throughout the hours passing by hours into days into weeks until the the final tolling of the bell, my bell, the bell that rings for me is the one that rings for you, we have believed, what is it we share in common as animals as other animals do, share traits in common? We do not think until the last syllable of our thoughts, inward words telling tales, how the telling gets told, tolled.

In me–in the mirror–what is in is on, what is on is in? In the mirror is on the mirror; on the person is in the person. Do these opinions of others have an effect? Of course, we say. All of this true and of great import to, on, with and for the political animal I am–even Aristotle had told us clearly in the Politics that man, of course then we were to understand man and not human, that is human as we imagine human, say human, man and woman . . . who is this political animal, with then a political nature? And what is the primary political unit? Aristotle tells us that this primary unit politically is the family, yes? And this tells us, as he tells us, that we are engaged in politics and political relationships, the acts and performance of politicking, from the day we are born.

What must I say to me, to my opinions of me–what opinions of others do I hold close to my imagined Self. I must speak to them, for them, of them, about them . . . what then do I say in conference with me, many me(s) make up a larger me? When I hear, when I meet, when I confront, try to understand contrary opinions . . . the various and varying assessments from others, when by others these others profane the sacramental Self? For whatever reason or un-reason there may be, implicit or explicit or veiled, in one way or another, to whatever degree of veiling is completed . . . how so do I recognize myself? Would I not still be me even if I did not, recognize myself . . . right? Wrong? But that is not so, someone says, I thinkI hear. However, amnesia is simply to forget; it is not a dis recognition. I look to me in the mirror under the affects of amnesia and I still recognize who I am, no?

Moreover, how do I handle, understand thus come to know(?) those opinions that flatter, support, stand-under me to hold up what I have thought of me, accurately or inaccurately does not yet matter? What todo with flattery? How does flattery help, how does it hurt–it does do harm. But then how does flattery hold anything up?

Commerce, communication, community, interchange, exchange, contact, discourse, dialogue and dialectic, not necessarily the same or mutual. How is it that I am to understand these as a bulwark against madness?

Isolation is alienation? But then alienation is something divorced from community as well as from one’s Self, whether the latter is integrated or not within a social nexus?

Questions continue their questioning, their probing, to inquire–inquiring minds, we used to think was good, a good thing to have an inquiring mind, but what then happens when all we do is ask question after question in perpetuity ad nadeem? Producing more and more questions to form, to pose, to ask, to entertain, to respond to and/or to answer? Is that a question? Was it? Yes, no, maybe, otherwise? Yet again, whether with or without gain should I continue?

How am I as I am? Where and when I am? Meaning what for me? To what I say about me? What I think without saying about me? What am I? Who am I? How am I? Where and when again am I? Who is for persons, we know; what is for things. Who are the persons I am? What of these selves I discover, uncover, find, know, contact, talk to, nurture in me, as a Self of many selves? Upper-case value intended and necessary.

What am I? Again this question threads what kind of needle’s eye? What things am I? I have not yet begun a discourse on becoming, to become is not too be as well as ceasing to be is not to be , , , method and madness? To be mad or not to be mad–I praise this special madness i have . . . to praise folly, I have in my time, sitting before a blank page.

More method in my madness than none or little? I wonder how much more there is to say about me. Wondering what is missing from our philosophy, how to philosophize, which is to learn how to die does begin in Wonder. What more can be said? To say or not to say would then be my question . . . writing is of course a kind of saying.

I really do not know what I think unless I write. Another other to become other than each another I am from time to time in place to place each one of me merely a player on this stage the world.


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