The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 16, 2011

There's an Assyrian Standard Inscription extolling the deeds of kings; 
this is a standard denouement of death, dispersion, and the breaking-down 
of networks. My father, our father, had died a week ago Tuesday; I've been 
here in Kingston, Pennsylvania, only since Saturday. We had an interment, 
a cremation next to my mother's coffin, two days ago. We've been clearing 
out the house, which means dealing with five thousand books dad had 
collected over the past century; he was born 97 years ago. Most of the 
books were bought over fifty years ago, when limited editions were cheap; 
they went up in value, down slightly again. Argosy and Swann are handling 
them. I've been going through books, through our parents' wedding 
announcement, through wartime mementos, family histories and reminiscences 
going back two centuries, teacups, swords and guns, bird prints, receipts 
and broadsides, glasses and crystal and small carved wooden figures - and 
all of this, forming a network or skein of ill-suited and impossible 
redundancy, in other words a network of _things,_ helping tear it apart, 
trying to retrieve whatever items I could, working alongside Azure and my 
brother and his wife and others coming and going. Until the point of no 
return, when I can't sleep and walk the home late-night alone, 
neurotically photographing everything (like I play music, the labor of it, 
the labor of these _things,_ trying to capture-captive), ending numb and 
unable to conceive of playing the simplest note or writing the simplest 
script - those I've already done, run into the ground - my mind focused 
on _this_ teacup or _that_ fountain pen - my grandfather's 32nd degree 
mason badges, everywhere intimations of classicism that I can't identify 
with. I look for the cracks - Fox's Martyrs, Tortures and Torments of the 
Christian Martyrs, Anatomy of Melancholy, Quine's Quiddities, Celan, an 
Aldus press book from 1514 working on the organization still, of the 
_printed book,_ Thomas Browne, Godwin's Essay on Sepulchres. I think my 
father began with expansion, contracted quickly in the move from Brookline 
Mass to Kingston Penna with World War II along the way. I think I'm 
beginning to understand a Monsieur Teste or Proustian way with him. I 
share certain interests - Sam Johnson and Byron to mention two, but I've 
gone in a direction of philia, not phobia, where technology is concerned.

But I roam these walls/halls as now, unable to contain myself; oddly, it's 
not the finality of deaths, of organisms, that upsets me so, so much as 
the finality of the skein of things; this was a world I grew up in and now 
I'm in the process of dismantling (with others), just as I had to put 
down, with Azure, acknowledge the kill, of our first cat Boojum, which 
because of proximity was the hardest death of an other I've endured. I 
want to read Kripke and others on possible worlds and natural kinds, 
again: is organism and coherency one or an other? Is there a possible 
world where these skeins remain intact, along with organisms with names 
and naming, for millennia? Or does the entropic seize everywhere along 
lines of flight, corralling and expelling debris repeatedly, there's no end 
to it?

The numbness. I'm stuck to the world.

I'm stuck to the world and recognize the _unique event_ might not be death 
after all, but the dissolution following death, the unreconcilable 
dispersion that sends everything, every object, every organism, beyond the 
universal Pale. In the end we're all mongrels and in the beginning we're 
all mongrels.

Time moves slow throughout this process. I've been here 5.4 days, and 
already an empire of the dead has been established and holds sway. I call 
people, write, people, thank people, I feel guilty if I write, like this, 
in the form of a group, but my energy drains faster than thought, and the 
horizon of relevance Schutz describes is simply - _simply_ muted. It's not 
a process of decathecting, it's the opposite, a refusal to release the 
glue that holds the world together - never mind the bodies of organisms 
within it. (One might wonder where is the net, virtuality, within this, 
beyond the physicality of routers and their _tubes,_ but that is another 
story, another time, when I can _think_ again. Like Levinas in existence 
and existents, exhaustion now determines the quality of my thought, and 
the shudders, fears, night terrors, migraines, and nightmares undetermine
thought's realm. Sometime in the future, I will be there, writing away 
about pain and its indescribability, the impossible of pain, the signifier 
as wound, and the impossibility of inscription. But not I try to hold onto 
what I think of only as text and textual process, thinking beyond thought, 
which is a basis for philosophy, once the shuddering slows and halts, 
temporarily, until it halts again.

On a practical level, I hope to return Sunday or Monday to New York, 
resume the Eyebeam residency full-time, prepare for playing on the 23/24/ 
25/28 of this month, sort through the books I'm bringing back (including 
Joseph Campbell's copy of Morte Darthur with Beardsley), find out where my 
embrochure has gone, and get back to Second Life/virtual worlds work. The 
flood never got to our father's home although surrounding towns have been 
inundated. There's mold everywhere. I'm online. Family relationships are 
realigning. I'm thinking about Quine on negation, about negation, and 
there's a start.

And thanks for putting up with all of this, and reading this far, if you 
have, and there's the differend for you.

- Alan

email archive
web / cell 347-383-8552
current text

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.