Tag Archives: theory

“The Spies” by Luís Fernando Veríssimo

VERY excited about the book I just got in the mail… “The Spies” by Brazilian writer of philosophic mystery, Luís Fernando Veríssimo… only his third book (that I know of) that’s been translated into English. 

(Into British English, of course. We Americans are so provincial.)

I NEED THIS. I’ve already read the other 2 (“Borges and the Eternal Orangutans” and “The Club of Angels”) twice.

He writes stuff like this:

“All gastronomic pleasure is a co-opted form of sexual desire. We interrupt the organic process of a plant or animal in order to eat it and we exhaust our own voluptuousness, our own perverted sexual desire, in the pleasure of eating.”

More quotes:



This got me a little verklempt. In a forever-empty, at-once-alone-and-connected, utopian-performative/saudade Lacanian kind of way.

This got me a little verklempt. In a forever-empty, at-once-alone-and-connected, utopian-performative/saudade Lacanian kind of way.
“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.
“And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘oh no, here it comes. That I’m alone.’ It’s starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it…
“That’s why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second because it’s so hard.”…
“And I go, ‘oh, I’m getting sad, gotta get the phone and write “hi” to like 50 people’… then I said, ‘you know what, don’t. Just be sad. Just let the sadness, stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck.’
“And I let it come, and I just started to feel ‘oh my God,’ and I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch. I cried so much. And it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments.
“And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness. It was such a trip.
“The thing is, because we don’t want that first bit of sad, we push it away with a little phone or a jack-off or the food. You never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kinda satisfied with your product, and then you die. So that’s why I don’t want to get a phone for my kids.”

“Our ancestors’ sense of self was pretty much wrapped up in how they supported…”

“Our ancestors’ sense of self was pretty much wrapped up in how they supported the clan, and how they were accepted and supported by it. However, anthropologists point out that hunter-gatherer affiliation didn’t absorb individuals into a subsumed ‘school of fish’ identity, either. They formed individual personalities that did not prove themselves by detachment but unfolded within supportive relationships.”

–Mark Sisson, ‘The Primal Connection’

“I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred (1991)

Oh man this song takes me back. It was very important to my 10-year-old self. I knew all the lyrics in Spanish, too. Because I had the single on a tape and the other side was the Spanish version. I wish this would go all retro-viral.

Looking back, this could have sparked, or at least reified, my love for self-referential, self-parodic humor. It is clearly a joke (disguised as or including a wider critique), and yet there’s an honesty here, too. Like a megalomaniac admitting they’re a little self-centered, or making fun of self-centered people in general. Do they say it out of truth or is it a bluff? Some of both? It really blurs the line between joke and truth–showing us that that line doesn’t always exist.

Am I being jokingly overly-academic about this or am I truly this pedantic? (Or both?)

Everyone agreed that Clevinger was certain to go far in the academic world. In short, Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains, and everyone knew it except those who soon found it out.

In short, he was a dope. He often looked to Yossarian like one of those people hanging around modern museums with both eyes together on one side of a face. It was an illusion, of course, generated by Clevinger’s predilection for staring fixedly at one side of a question and never seeing the other side at all. Politically, he was a humanitarian who did know right from left and was trapped uncomfortably between the two. He was constantly defending his Communist friends to his right-wing enemies and his right-wing friends to his Communist enemies, and he was thoroughly detested by both groups, who never defended him to anyone because they thought he was a dope.

He was a very serious, very earnest and very conscientious dope. It was impossible to go to a movie with him without getting involved afterward in a discussion on empathy, Aristotle, universals, messages and the obligations of the cinema as an art form in a materialistic society. Girls he took to the theater had to wait until the first intermission to find out from him whether or not they were seeing a good or a bad play, and then found out at once. He was a militant idealist who crusaded against racial bigotry by growing faint in its presence. He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it.

Yossarian tried to help him. ‘Don’t be a dope,’ he had counseled Clevinger when they were both at cadet school in Santa Ana, California.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

[W]hile prose tends toward pure ‘interiority,’ coming to life in the reader’s mind, and cinema gravitates toward the ‘exteriority’ of experiential spectacle, perhaps ‘comics,’ in its embrace of both the interiority of the written word and the physicality of the image, more closely replicates the true nature of human consciousness and the struggle between private self-definition and corporeal ‘reality.’

Daniel Clowes, Ice Haven

We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness—embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.

Howard Zinn

I am an artist. It’s self-evident that what that word implies is looking for something all the time without ever finding it in full. It is the opposite of saying, ‘I know all about it. I’ve already found it.’ As far as I’m concerned, the word means, ‘I am looking. I am hunting for it, I am deeply involved.’

Vincent van Gogh

There were so many different ways in which you were required to provide absolute proof of your identity these days that life could easily become extremely tiresome just from that factor alone, never mind the deeper existential problems of trying to function as a coherent consciousness in an epistemologically ambiguous physical universe.

Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

[E]liza and I composed a precocious critique of the Constitution of the United States of America, too. We argued that it was as good a scheme for misery as any, since its success in keeping the common people reasonably happy and proud depended on the strength of the people themselves–and yet it described no practical machinery which would tend to make the people, as opposed to their elected representatives, strong.

We said it was possible that the framers of the Constitution were blind to the beauty of persons who were without good wealth or powerful friends or public office, but who were nonetheless genuinely strong.

We thought it was more likely, though, that the framers had not noticed that it was natural, and therefore almost inevitable, that human beings in extraordinary and enduring situations should think of themselves as composing new families. Eliza and I pointed out that this happened no less in democracies than in tyrannies, since human beings were the same the wide world over, and civilized only yesterday.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick

Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, be the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel.

Judith Butler, Undoing Gender

[F]or the vast majority of students, academic study is nothing more than vocational training. Because ‘academic study has no bearing on life,’ it must be the exclusive determinant of the lives of those who pursue it. The innocently hypocritical reservations people have about science include the expectation that academic study must lead to a profession for all and sundry. Yet scholarship, far from leading inexorably to a profession, may in fact preclude it. For it does not permit you to abandon it; in a way, it places the student under an obligation to become a teacher, but never to embrace the official professions of doctor, lawyer, or university professor. It leads to no good if institutes that grant titles, qualifications, and other prerequisites for life or a profession are permitted to call themselves seats of learning. The objection that the modern state cannot otherwise produce the doctors, lawyers, and teachers it needs is irrelevant. It only illustrates the magnitude of the task entailed in creating qualified people. It only shows how far the development of the professional apparatuses (through knowledge and skill) have forced the modern disciplines to abandon their original unity in the idea of knowledge, a unity which in their eyes has now becomes a mystery, if not a fiction. Anyone who accepts the modern state as a given and believes that everything must serve its development will be forced to reject these ideas. One can only hope that such a person will not call for state protection and support for “learning.” For the true sign of decadence is not the collusion of the university and the state (something that is by no means incompatible with honest barbarity), but the theory and guarantee of academic freedom, when in reality people assume with brutal simplicity that the aim of study is to steer its disciples to a socially conceived individuality and service to the state. No tolerance of opinions and teachings, however free, can be beneficial, so long as there is no guarantee of a form of life that these ideas—the free ideas no less than the strict ones—imply, so long as people can naively deny the huge gulf between ideas and life by pointing to the link between the universities and the state.

Walter Benjamin, The Life of Students (via tirado)

All of [Sarah] Silverman’s controversies are essentially large-scale pieces of PC performance art—but instead of settling anything about race and humor in America, they just expose the incoherence of the debate. If her humor does have a larger purpose, it is that it maps the outer limits of our tolerance; it exposes ambiguities in the discussion that we don’t like to acknowledge; it taps into our giant unspoken mass of assumptions, tensions, fears, and hatreds—not to resolve them, but to remind us that they’re there.

Critique doesn’t have to be the premise of a deduction which concludes: this then is what needs to be done. It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is… It doesn’t have to lay down the law for the law. It isn’t a stage in programming. It is a direct challenge to what is.

Michel Foucault, “Questions of Method.” 1977 (via questionsofmethod) (via fuckyeahtheorists)

I cannot think of any individual as existing except as part of a pattern–and the pattern’s most visible and tangible areas are of course the individual’s immediate environment: the soil and culture-stream from which he springs, and the milieu of ideas, impressions, traditions, landscapes, and architecture, through which he must necessarily peer in order to reach the ‘outside.’

H.P. Lovecraft

Many commentators measure political theater only by its effectiveness in the ‘real world.’… I try to resist such stark binaries between performance and reality, and suggest that the experience of performance, the pleasure of a utopian performative, even if it doesn’t change the world, certainly changes the people who feel it.

Jill Dolan

[D]esire is neither the appetite for satisfaction nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the subtraction of the first from the second…. [D]esire begins to take shape in the margin in which demand becomes separated from need.

Jacques Lacan

Also: “[D]esire’s raison d’être is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction, but to reproduce itself as desire.” –Slavoj Žižek

No one gets angry at a mathematician or a physicist whom he or she doesn’t understand at all, or at someone who speaks a foreign language, but rather at someone who tampers with your own language, with this “relation” precisely, which is yours….

I assure you that I never give in to the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. That would be too ridiculous. it’s just that I believe in the necessity of taking time or, if you prefer, of letting time, of not erasing the folds….

In truth–here is another complication–I believe that it is always a “writer” who is accused of being “unreadable,” as you put it, that is, someone who is engaged in an explanation with language, the economy of language, the codes and the channels of what is the most receivable. The accused is thus someone who re-establishes contact between the corpora and the ceremonies of several dialects. If he or she is a philosopher, then it’s because he or she speaks neither in a purely academic milieu, with the language, rhetoric, and customs that are in force there, nor in that “language of everyone” which we all know does not exist.

[W]e merge our myths with our facts according to our feelings, we tell ourselves our own story. And no matter what we are told, we choose what we believe. All ‘truths’ are only our truths, because we bring to the ‘facts’ our feelings, our experiences, our wishes. Thus, storytelling–from wherever it comes–forms a layer in the foundation of the world; and glinting in it we see the trace elements of every tribe on earth.

Frank Delaney