Friday, October 21, 2005


Susan Sontag (The Volcano Lover): “Perhaps every collector has dreamed of a holocaust that will relieve him of his collection—converting all to ashes, or burying it under lava. Destruction is only the strongest form of divestment. The collector may be so disappointed with his life that he wants to divest himself of himself, as in the novel about the book-besotted reclusive scholar with a legendary hoard of twenty-five thousand necessary, irreplaceable volumes (that dream, the perfect library), who pitches himself into the pyre he makes out of what he has most loved. But should such an angry collector survive his fire or fit, he will probably want to start another collection.”

Roberto Calasso on Kafka’s minimalism (a lack of “pyrotechnique”), how he’d “sensed that . . . only the minimum number of elements of the surrounding world ought to be named. He plunged the sharpest Ockham’s razor into the substance of the novel. To name the bare minimum, and it is pure literality. And why so? Because the world was turning back into a primeval forest, too fraught with strange noises and apparitions. Everything had too much power. Thus it became necessary to limit oneself to what lay closest at hand, to circumscribe the zone of the nameable. Than all that power, otherwise diffuse, would be channeled there, and whatever was named—an inn, a file, an office, a room—would fill with unprecedented energy.”

Thinking of George Oppen, and Objectivism. That dual surge: to diminish everything down to “first principles,” the vague, the churn of one wave, one cloud (one trouser). (Calasso begins th’above with Kafka’s K. lifting eyes “in die scheinbare Leere. Literally: ‘toward the seeming emptiness.’”) So seemingly opposed to the plenty. That exfoliating of all things, that indiscriminate cornucopia, the fire-horn conflagration of naming all things simultaneously (a kind of “pyrotechnique”), the over-dub, the sur-pizzazz, the ultra-freighting. Out of which encumbrance: a similar vague, wave, cloud (trouser): a pair of pants.