Strangeness



I am hanging on to this term -- small successes in logic, in teaching, in writing -- but I have less and less time for any outside work. I still manage to read through some fiction and have just started Malone Dies, having decided to jump straight into this (following Molloy) instead of moving on to some of Walser's other fiction, which I borrowed from the library last week.

I found this immediately:

A bright light is not necessary, a taper is all one needs to live in strangeness, if it faithfully burns.


I wonder about my reaction to that sentence (strong), and also about my immediate desire to import so much meaning to it, to rip it from the pages and paste it up over my own life. This phrase 'rings true' -- but then I think again that it only rings true for a different me -- one of years ago, maybe even months ago, but not now. I live more and more on the surface these days, restless in stretches of time. I'll move on now -- this restlessness comes from knowing about obligations -- I have so many, for there is always another paper to write, another batch of papers to mark, another paper to read, notes to take, correspondence to continue, etc. And I grow inert and static -- I flip on my procedural crime dramas and pet the cat and cook a meal that takes some fraction of an hour to prepare.

There is no more strangeness -- well I don't know what sort of strangeness the narrator is speaking about, but MY sort of strangeness has dissipated. I used to be strange, I think. Now -- in these comfortable moments -- moments of restlessness, sure, but also of comfort -- for I crest every wave that comes at me -- that has not changed. [I've paused here to wonder whether I have begun writing between my two web-spaces -- I can never discern what belongs where and this happens to my often -- I start writing in one web-box and then the words start to creep beyond boundaries and slink away over to some other realm, crabwise]. But back to strangeness -- I wonder now whether the strangeness before was feigned -- like des Esseintes crafting his decadently beautiful world, full of strangeness, replete. The tapers were collected because they scatter a delicate, animal-like light over things -- light which moves, jumps, spreads, intensifies, fades, flutters, rests -- it's a light which adds strangeness because it adds motion and life where before motion and life had no place.

So perhaps that's what I think about this strangeness -- it was a posture before, just as so much is a posture now. Masks grow familiar when worn overlong -- and it's easy to cite Nietzsche here and tell this story as the tale of some sort of greatness. That great old wine-casket, banded green and rolling around. It isn't. Or maybe I've understood him poorly (probably). This is a tale of cowardice and necessity (the normal-person sort, not the philosopher-sort).

Lately I listen to simple country songs. They seem real. They are about God and playing music and loved ones and children and the country. They are not strange to me.