Monday, November 5, 2018

Careful, my Cadaver

Also by Jennifer S. Chesler, this is in the second edition of Fragments. The first version is still here at Amazon.

Careful, My Cadaver 
I am still mad. No one asks about my health because of this. My head is somewhere other than on my neck. It floats away from the shelter. It's been three days since I moved into the squalid apartment I now call home. Garbage bags litter the living room, filled with clothing and shoes that I don't wear. Cockroaches scuttle across the bed, up and down the walls, in and out of the stove burners. I wear the same thing every day. I saw the coat T. had bought for me hanging on a rack in her living room when I went to get my cat, Rex. He is mostly under the blanket. There is a small, light brown cockroach on his gray fur. Sometimes Rex comes out and walks around, but he is traumatized by the month we spent apart. I do not know what to do with myself. There is great pressure to work. How are you going to make money? That's what everyone asks me. I don't know the answer to this question. I continue doing nothing. Running an errand – say, to the bank, is difficult and requires hours of preparatory mental work. I struggle to take a shower. There is nothing in the mail for me yet. I wait for money and gift cards. I live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I am a pauper. I am a charity case who does not receive charity. I had no clue this was going to happen to me. I am at a loss to explain how I ended up here. The only thing that shows strength of character is that I'd rather be homeless than live with T. I admire that about myself. I am supposed to be grateful for every scrap I receive. I am not grateful for anything. I am an ingrate. Let's talk about reality, says my mother when confronted with my goal of being published. Let's talk about reality, she says:  maybe you should be institutionalized. Oh, fuck off, I tell her. I hang up the phone. The same thing over and over again. As though it's an option to get institutionalized willy-nilly nowadays. As though the homeless are not by and large mentally ill. These homeless people live on the street as a direct result of deinstitutionalization. The mental hospitals set them free. Now they live on the street, peddling their pills for scraps of food. I am full of hives without a buffer against reality. I do not know how I am supposed to deal with existence and the slow passage of time, no matter how accelerated it becomes. I am relieved to be out of the shelter. I thought I was going to have to stay at the YWCA. I saw T. the other day to get Rex. It made me sad. She has another woman's cat. I need to get far away from here. I need to flee again. I signed a three month lease. That's it. C'est tout. All in one go. We break right through. I am not the same person I was before. Oh, grow up, Phoebe says. The only sign of immaturity is that I was not wise enough to be successful. I do not wish I was dead now. I only wish that time would grant me a reprieve and that this month could be extended. I don't want to run out of money again. I am lying to everyone about everything. The only truth is that I want to be published. I am deeply disturbed by what you said to your mother, says my father:  you said you just want to write. T. says you sit around reading and writing and not giving her your paychecks. Yes, that's right. I don't care what T. says. I do not know why more homeless people don't die by their own hands. I don't understand how someone maintains a will to live when confronted with the elements blowing upon them. I know I make little sense now. I write anyway. So the YWCA would have told me the day before my time was up at the shelter whether or not they had space for me. I am being ignored by my old friends:  nothing to do with being mentally ill and homeless, the surefire combination to ensure excommunication. Yes. I will them away from me. I am at a loss for words to write down. I don't know what to say. Careful, my cadaver. Do not let your insides become visible. I am going to shop for a new identity as a hermit crab takes a new shell. I am a lover of nothingness. I am the void within me, asserting this as my ego. Nothing can help me but this. Therapy is a joke. My therapist is a spy in the house of a better way. I know that he tells others what he writes on his notepad, if not letting others read the notepad itself. I wanted to cry the other day at T.’s house. I kept up a front. I obscured myself from view. I got Rex into his carry bag after a good hour of following him from one hiding place to the next. There is no end to this. I would like some hiding places for myself. I would like to disappear completely. I am starting over. That's true. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Being crazy is a good way to get people to leave you alone. There is no quicker way to solitude. No one wants to have someone mad in their lives if they can help it. No one wants to get in a fight with you either. They don't know what you are capable of. It's good to keep a stiff gait and shuffle your steps, wear a hospital robe. This is all good. Those fuckheads are asterisks. I am starting to wish I'd been crazy all of my life so that I might have developed unmolested. My father thinks I'm smart enough to work despite my illness. Intelligence only leads one who is mad to know better than to subject him or herself to labor. Labor is the kiss of death, the bell that rings for one to kill oneself. Sex is no longer something I have desire for. It is unappealing in every way. I cannot think of a circumstance in which it would appeal to me to be touched. I want to masturbate though. I want to have one of those quasi-orgasms possible with the medication I take. It's only a contraction of muscles, no pleasure, but it provides relief. I am a mess. I don't even know why I'd want to give myself any pleasure.

Morning in the Trailer Park

This is by Jennifer S. Chesler, it is in the second edition of Fragments, due soon. It's on sale here.

Morning in the Trailer Park 
A man yells from outside, "Uh, hello in there. Hul-l-l-o. Hullo in there," and, as his voice filters through her open bedroom window, Eva slowly gets out of bed.
 

The threadbare curtains, eaten by dust and time, shield little of the day's bright light from the dilapidated trailer. But to look outside is worse, at the twin miniature cars covered in battered sun-bleached tarp, the abandoned pea green caravan, and the dusty propeller plane.
 

Eva takes a cigarette and sits on the porch. Through the slits in the lattice enclosure she sees her landlord, Jim.
 

"Hello, hello. How are you on this just exquisite, beautiful day? What's new now, tell me," he says.
 

"Not much," Eva says, squinting away from the sun.
 

"Oh, come on, you can do better than that," he says, trying to reach her, "things can't be all that bad. Just look at the sky, the sun, that beautiful, beautiful sun. I bet if you took off your clothes and sat for even a half hour in the sun that you'd feel like a whole new woman. At least half an hour though. Whad'ya say?" He smiles cajolingly.
 

"I guess you'd like that, huh, for me to sit out here naked," she says. She hates him but pretends they're friends.
 

"I bet if you smiled - hey, did you know that just smiling can make you smile?"
 

She scowls unwittingly. He smells of the brackish pool in his backyard that he dips in fully clothed.
 

"I'll tell you something new," she says, "it's something I thought up last night:  for months I'd thought the dark blue black," (maybe about the book or the days) ever slightly laughing, punctuating it so that they knew a stretch had been completed, lazily but perfunctorily, rigid and forming, "and when summer arrives in the desert it cleaves to me. On purple days (as though days had a color to them) the heat feels like near flames."
 

"What's that mean," he says, "tell me."
 

Light flickers across the porch; it plays on the willow tree.
 

"It doesn't mean anything," Eva says, "I've got to get ready. My friend's picking me up soon."
 

"Anyone good for pictures," he asks.
 

"No," she says.
 

"No?" he says.
 

"You only like white people," she says.
 

"Oh, yes," he says, losing interest. "You have a good day now. I mean it."
 

He walks down the gravel road that leads to his house. Smiling, he surveys the trailer park without really seeing it. And, as if to draw attention to his unperceptiveness, the wind blows dust in his eyes; they water but he remains unfazed.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Pinkness


From Fragments by Jennifer S. Chesler. Available here at Amazon. More work here at her blog.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How Much World? Poverty in World as shown in Fragments by Jennifer S. Chesler


In Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, Heidegger introduces the idea of relative poverty in world. This is where he, notoriously, describes the animal as "poor in world", lacking discourse and not attuned as are discursive beings, "man" not purely qua zoon logon ekhon, but as the animal able to know beings as beings, not animal rationale, but attunement. The beast, instead, relates to ontic odds and ends: the hive, the stretch of sea it swims, the cave or the burrow.
 

Modern humans, secondly, are seen as captivated by average everydayness, just as the beast is captivated by the small environment within which it lives.  These humans are the willing victims of fashion, fads, hobbies and restless curiosity, driving them to believe that interesting "lived experiences" are better than wisdom - they want to visit and "see" places. In a word, they suck ass.
 

Furthermore, the beast distinguishes itself from the average human in that animals behave instinctually towards the world, humans comport themselves. Though humans are nowadays most often exceptionally poor in world, they still comport themselves to it - they are attuned in mood.
 

The third phenomenon that Heidegger describes in Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics is "profound boredom", where the emptiness of everything shows itself. This is the crushing ennui that reveals the world as of no value and pointless. The world is no longer even boring to this attunement; it is merely indifferent, it might as well not be there.
 

This, of course, relates to the teratology that Chesler presents in Fragments and elsewhere in that the characters that she describes are so limited. The freak non-human characters that she presents, like "Little Jack", are extraordinarily poor in world; but the same goes for the collection of characters that draw on real human prototypes. They are all incredibly limited in their intellectual repertoire and emotional range - a degenerate and low quality version of average everydayness.  Unlike the animals, poor in world, their deprivation is culpable - they are scumbags.
 

***
 

It is customary to accuse Heidegger of a sort of transcendental anthropocentrism in his treatment of animals, though he is radically critical of philosophy's anthropocentrism.  But it is not only animals that are "weltarm" but, and this time culpably, the humans who succumb to the superficial.  Dasein is not rich in world; it can be rich in world, but generally it is not. Chesler's characters are often below the animal or the restricted Dasein.
Being worldless and being poor in world both represent a kind of not-having of world. Poverty in world implies a deprivation of world. Worldlessness on the other hand is constitutive of the stone in the sense that the stone cannot even be deprived of something like world. (Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 194.)
Little Jack, an embodiment of male homoerotic sexuality, is interesting in that Heidegger writes often of drive, and the limitations that Chesler adumbrates are a question of instinct and drive. There is nothing to Little Jack beyond this physical being.  Just so, there is no "soul", no intellect, no spark of humanity in anybody in the book. It is not as with the animal, poor in world but complete and perfect as it is, it is the defective human that uses language but is not a truly discursive being, just a damaged and conditioned sub-animal. They are not open, they are not "Da" for Being.
 

***
 

We should resist the temptation to use anthropomorphic categories to describe the hominids in Chesler's work, as it were. But nor should we describe them with mechanical categories: we must invent categories for the poor in world, not just the average everyday poor in world, but those who, proximally and for the most part, especially in Fragments, are scumbags. Poor in world and poor in penis - like the Limp-Dick Man and the Narcissist who figure in several stories.
 

Heidegger does not establish any ontological hierarchy. World-building Dasein, the Dasein that is poor in world, the non-human animals that are poor in world - all of these belong to different kinds. The distinctively human ability is to relate to trees as trees, a fundamentally ontological ability presupposing discourse - the inability to relate to patriarchy as patriarchy or sexism as sexism or love as endangered by both of these things is what makes a human being a scumbag, insufficient and poor in world.
 

***
 

In disgust and ennui provoked by the seedy activities of a pitiful world, we are thrown, says Heidegger, upon the determination of the indeterminate neglected possibilities, all closed doors to everyday scumbags. Just so, Chesler, partly in Fragments but even in the rest of her books, reveals her awareness of her self-identity and worth just through reflection on the trash among which she lives.
 

Heidegger speaks of how the things that disgust the thinker and have made her nothing and no one, in this state of profound boredom, become nothing and no one for her. They have stripped her of her possibilities, but are stripped down to dust and trash by her, revealed in their raw ugliness and impotence - not real women, not real men.
 

This ennui, related to the nihilism I previously discussed in Fragments, is somewhat paradoxically seen as pretty fucking cool by Heidegger. We are poor in world, but the poverty and deprivation of profound ennui lets us hear the call of the new possibilities of which we are truly capable - it makes Dasein possible.
 

And this call, this development, makes Fragments a truly great collection. This existential ennui is temporal, as are we, and captivates by revealing the horizons of time stretched out before us, leading the average everyday modern human to cover over the boredom with her obsession with novelties, fads, and curiosities. But as Dasein we must take upon ourselves the mystery of Being; we must be open to our own existence. The average person, the modern person, is not aware of the earth and art. They have interests instead: they work, they make money, they are concerned with their proper place - their possessions, their rank and status. They even developed an identity politics, bless their little fundamental confusions.
 

Chesler describes the ugliness of modern life. It all leads, though, to a focus upon herself, a chiseling of the character until she is strong enough to look at the empty and see wheels of fire there, eternity, whatever.
 

*** 

Fragments is still growing. It needs to be read. There is a point where we must consider what Heidegger writes about "animal Dasein" - access to the beast is vitally important. The low-grade Dasein that is poor in world is only human, "all too human". For the crowned and conquering beast is the last god.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sterile Stretch

By Jennifer S. Chelser, one of the new pieces from a revised, expanded, and updated second edition of Fragments, due in a couple of days. Fragments is on sale here.

Sterile Stretch

What we see in the stretches of land is blank more than barren or vacant. It's as though nothing ever existed or would come to exist there; nothing could be discovered, and, if something were to make an appearance, it probably wouldn't be visible to the naked, untrained eye. As we sleep, we drench our clothes in volumes of cold night sweat. Soon we'd be to the shore, through the basements of our past. This was the blankness of the landscape:  passing small towns shuttered against existence, accepting the tightly packed spaces. So we become fugitives of an unnamed war, hiding from those we knew who now are no more than morons, the type who'd turn you in to someone, if they knew who that someone might be. But names they mumble and, otherwise, stutter or slur, mispronouncing words with whimsy, while we flit in and out of the shadows, laughing sometimes in snickers.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Paradise of Corpses

By Jennifer S. Chesler, from Fragments. More work at her blog. Also a new version of Fragments with extra pieces on Amazon at this link.