Friday, January 23, 2009

This week’s lightness: a tenuous web of thoughts on Bolano, Horizontal Genetic Transfer and the present scope of childish and adult things


I just finished 1: The Part About the Critics, of Roberto Bolano’s 2666, and this is what I’m thinking:

Pondering over the narrative voice’s unsympathetic detachment in 2666 as opposed, say, to Kerouac’s sympathetic involvement in On The Road, and how both seem to have the same effect: the imagined emptiness and superficiality of material success and geographical up-rootedness...a cosmopolitan boobois abyss.

DeLillo’s Underworld is also coming to mind. Bolano’s characters thus far, seem rather unlikable, nor does the third person voice say or do anything that makes the reader question its veracity. It seems there’s a mysterious certainty anchoring this voice, which nonetheless, due to its accumulative effect, leads the reader into just that…questioning the narrator’s certainty or moral superiority, which seem taken for granted. But again, I’ve read but a small fraction of what I sense and hope is a magnificent unfolding revelation about the human species…

Also thinking how Nabakov’s eye/I in the editor /Humbert Humbert voices of Lolita seem relative to Bolano’s narrator’s view of critics, though Nabakov through Humbert seems more playful than Bolano’s narrator. Nabakov’s complexity seems more transparent, easier and fun…Bolano’s is an as yet impenetrable absence in the form of Archimbaldi and what’s actually motivating Norton, Pelletier, Espinoza and Morini to push this missing symbol forward as the ultimate in profundity where complexity leads to the ultimate blind spot through which it is impossible to see or imagine through.

But the complexity of 2666 thus far seems to take the form of what Calvino might have called “lightness” [e.g.: “… melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness…” p. 19, Six Memos] in my opinion. There’s an accumulative effect of this globe-trotting lack of weight [Archimbaldi’s absent physicality] and/or response-ability that seems quite heavy, I think. That heaviness, seems to be, ironically enough, the emptiness of success, the failure of success, the search of one’s self projected into the search for the great writer, the messiah who will vindicate their emptiness, while refusing to face themselves, their environments, what surrounds them…that ultimate particle, substance or word that means something permanent to them, which in the end will always be an illusion, symbol, at best some precisely expressed ambiguity echoing some irony of the imagined paradox. Bolano’s critics seem too self-absorbed as word-beings [sic]—like all of us in some hyper sense—to perceive themselves in usefully fictive ways. They don’t use their narcissism, they abuse it. And so the narrative voice, thus far, is appropriately certain and trustworthy, perhaps even a tinge narcissistic and self-righteous in a Flaubertian sort of way, or so it seems to me. In other words, I think Bolano has written something really deep yet expansive…DeLillo’s surfaces, Calvino’s absence of weight, Nabokovian complexity, Kerouac’s ending of the open road fifty years later, now the closing of the human way of being itself.

At the end of Part 1: The Part About The Critics, Pelletier, a successful EU literary critic and self-centered snob, states that Archimboldi is here [Santa Teresa, Mexico, a Mexico-Arizona border town where women are being murdered in vast numbers], and this is as close as we’ll ever be to him, or some such. By here, I think in literal terms, of the words he, Pelletier/Bolano deploy in their narrations. In other words, they like me and all like-minded lit lovers have more imagination than knowledge, as we imagine everything we know is imagined.

You know what I mean, or are all those drugs I used to enjoy taking their toll on me? I don’t know. I’ll be the last to know most likely.

Also, Archimboldi seems at this point in my reading something of a mythological creature akin to some of Borges’ imaginary beings, particularly the “hide behind” and “Bahamut.”


Why Darwin Was Wrong About the Tree of Life, by Graham Lawton, New Scientist

"We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality," says Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France. That bombshell has even persuaded some that our fundamental view of biology needs to change.

So says this fascinating article by Graham Lawton in New Scientist. The article states that “species also routinely swapped genetic material with other species, or hybridised with them,” breaking up Darwin’s “neat branching pattern” that is quickly degenerating “into an impenetrable thicket of interrelatedness, with species being closely related in some respects but not others.”

These patterns of relatedness, Lawton tells us, “could only be explained if bacteria and archaea were routinely swapping genetic material with other species—often across huge taxonomic distances—in a process called horizontal gene transfer (HGT).”

Of particular interest to me, considering my novel in progress [tentatively titled Germ], is how, according to this article, “the most likely agents of this genetic shuffling are viruses, which constantly cut and paste DNA from one genome into another, often across great taxonomic distances.” This sounds like art to me, and cut and paste of course brings Uncle Bill to mind.
In fact, according to scientists, Lawton writes that “40 to 50 percent of the human genome consists of DNA imported horizontally by viruses, some of which have taken on vital biological functions
(New Scientist, 27 August 2008, p 38)…. The number of horizontal transfers in animals is not as high as in microbes, but it can be evolutionarily significant," says Bapteste, who goes on to say that “biology is vastly more complex than we thought…and facing up to this complexity will be as scary as the conceptual upheavals physicists had to take on board in the early 20th century.”

I can’t help but think this might be somehow recursively symmetrical with economics in some way, considering the present financial chaos.

The article goes on to show us how marine larvae can be organized into a family tree that bears no relationship to the family tree of adults. The most likely way this biological mash-up functions, writes Lawton, “is if the resulting chimera expresses its two genomes sequentially, producing a two-stage life history with metamorphosis in the middle.”

I can’t help but think America and the human species may just be at such a phase, where something akin to a metamorphosis may take place and something new emerge from the old ways.

This new thing can be good or bad, of course, depending upon where one is situated as it happens.

10 Childish Things

1. Tension among labor, management and markets resulting in the erosion of eco-economic security for all.
2. Ignorance regarding the real issues at play; greed, fear and mistrust being primary causes.
3. Ubiquitous patriotism.
4. Disproportionate military spending that perpetuates profound economic injustices everywhere.
5. The protection of corporate power via the suppression of workers and the manipulation of consumers.
6. Obsession with crime and punishment and health.
7. Prevalent cronyism and depravity in the halls of power.
8. Phony elections.
9. Heterosexualism.
10. Fetish for family values.

On a global scale, the fundamental problem with humans is who and what we think we are and why we think we’re living and why we give a damn. This seems to me our transcendent, metaphsysical crisis—our childish perception of the world, of existence, of reality, or whatever you choose to call it.

It seems to me we might put away these childish things if, in our heart of hearts, we want to thrive through adulthood and die in relative peace and harmony with the world rather than choking on our common sins. If we want humankind, our children and future generations to keep evolving, we might consider growing up. The real, or actual world, is a complicated place. True freedom is for mature participants only.

I hope this is what President Obama [goddamnit that still sounds good] means by quoting Mark, knowing if he wants to stay in power long enough to do something about these maturity problems he must speak in parables, spinning cadences harmonic with the prevalent American mythology, calmly favoring its better angels. A man’s gotta know his limitations. Does Obama? We’ll find out. Do we? We, too, might consider looking for our own limitations, if we are able and so inclined.

10 Adult Things

1. Cooperation in recognition of enlightened mutual interests among labor, management and markets with the heartfelt intention of achieving economic security and cultural dignity for all.
2. A sharp, knowledgeable focus on the most substantive environmental [in every sense of the word] issues at play; love and respect for future generations being the de facto primary motivator.
3. Ubiquitous self-autonomy within the environmental system.
4. Proportionate security measures that enhance and perpetuate deep eco-economic justice.
5. The limitation and re-creation of corporate power via the liberation of workers and truly informed consumers.
6. Obsession with excellence while knowing it’s just something to do. That’s all. Nothing more.
7. Prevalent openness and accessibility to all issues of public interest. Secrecy is taboo.
8. Random drawings, as with jury duty, replaces phony elections as a means of seating public officials.
9. Pansexualism. Admit it. Everything’s sexual. Living things have sex to keep going, they keep going to have more sex. Sex isn’t always physical. It takes many forms.
10. Fetish for Nature.

The question is whose room is dirtier: Little Bobby’s or Mom and Dad’s? Whose bed do you prefer sleeping in: The wet or dry one?

Next week, I hope to exhibit more humor and much less politics. But politics boils my blood and these are historic times, so I promise nothing beyond that my political rants will not dominate this blog and always consider analogies to other forms of knowledge and mental-spiritual action like the arts and philosophy.

This week’s been a tough one with the nauseating spectacle of the inauguration, all the optimism, and knowing better. Yet miracle of miracles, it seems we may have the best person alive for this job at this time. I imagine history will attach fewer body bags, human and non-human, to the Obama option. If it had been Clinton or McCain, I think we’d be in much bigger trouble. I didn’t think Obama would ever actually inhabit the White House. I’ve been very cynical the last four years. We’ll know in a few months if Obama’s for the vast majority of Earthlings or not. I hope he’s better than Gorbachev [I think he is]. If he’s not, or worse, well…But if he is better than Gorbachev, paving the way for something better than Putin, I might consider becoming a father before I get too old. Been a little too afraid of leaving something I love so much in a world I see heading down the tubes.

Dylan sang something like that a long time ago in another century…Just when I began to think it was dark the stars began rising…and your moon came out.

Just Discovered Web Sites:

LittleSis is an involuntary facebook of powerful Americans, collaboratively edited by
people like you.

Whatever it is, they’re against it. I probably should have been aware of these guys/gals sooner. Oh, well.

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