Thursday, October 15, 2015

"When the Fall Is All That's Left" by Arkady Martine

The language immediately announces that here, as Steve Mitchelmore has put it, there will be "nothing at stake except the mastery or otherwise of the [writer] over his or her material; a mastery that is enough to convince many that what they're reading is great art." I'm so very tired of writing this over and over again: the language is so concerned with being "luminous" and "lovely" and even just "well-written" that it has no concern for anything else, and yet I sense something struggling out from under that weight..... But here again there is that weight; and yet here again I sense something struggling out from under it; and so yet again I write it.

Whatever unconscious part of my mind chose "weight" as the metaphor here has a goofy, maybe pat, sense of irony, because the plot information which that language that announces its mastery seeks to convey so masterfully, right at the beginning, is that Gabriele has lost gravity. The ramifications of this as they play out over the deadly and short course of the story is where the interest lies, for me, particularly as the story nears its end and Gabriele's consciousness returns to her human body — rather than that body being, as it has been for so long, merely something like "a hand or a foot, a useful part of herself that did not and could not possibly contain her consciousness." The juxtaposition of this return to "ordinary" human experience with the removal of one of the most central aspects of that ordinary experience is a suggestive situation (one which, indeed, puts me in mind of certain comments from a book by Josipovici other than the one Mitchelmore was reviewing in the above-linked post, namely Touch, along with the very different perspective on embodiment one finds in the work of Eighteen and some other cyborg thinkers). I am grateful to Martine for opening up this associative space, and hope that some day she may find a way to approach it (or whatever else) on its own terms — and those of writing itself — rather than those of the assembly-line writing workshop.

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