Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How to Read Silliman's Alphabet (?): Hearing the Music in White Noise

"The nude formalists. If we are limning the true and ultimate structure of reality, the canonical scheme for us is the austere scheme that knows no quotation but direct quotation and no propositional attitudes but only the physical constitution and behavior of organisms."
Silliman, The Alphabet. KETJAK2: CARAVAN OF AFFECT, 140

The Alphabet makes for great reading in bars. Requires a special kind of attention. Not about holding on to long chains of logic or narrative (see Aristotle on why an Epic has to start in medias res) Quick pick up--instant recognition of what passes by in the moment, flash-back associations to parallel past moments (those you lived outside the book, and those you lived from earlier pages). The clamber and shifting disconnect of sensations: conversational fragments, a sudden rush of music heard and forgotten, reminders of bodily needs, for comfort and for relief, interruptions of scary moments and episodes of hilarity... all of it, everything around you falls into the text, becomes part of it, you look up from the page with a sense of heightened reality that the best damn toke of THC couldn't begin to equal.
The (?) in the post title so's not to sound bossy. Like, you know...linguists point this out (Google "discourse markers") the function of all those, like, you knows in conversational speech. Indicators of indirect discourse, for instance. He said, like, you don't like it here go someplace else! Meaning, he said something like that, but maybe not in those words.
Or, I like, you know, I totally loved his new tattoo! Meaning, this is probably hyperbole, it's more about the speaker's state of excitement telling the story than reality, but he/she (more likely she) knows you'll get her meaning.

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