I Have A Theory April 17, 2016Posted by The Typist in quotes, The Narrative, The Typist.
Tags: Italo Calvino, literature, Theory
At this point they throw open the discussion. Events, characters, settings, impressions are thrust aside, to make room for the general concepts.
“The polymorphic-perverse sexuality…”
“The laws of a market economy…”
“The homologies of the signifying structures…”
“Deviation and institutions…”
Only you have remained suspended there, you and Ludmilla, while nobody else thinks of continuing the reading.
You move closer to Lotaria, reach out one hand toward the loose sheets in front of her, and ask, “May I?”; you try to gain possession of the novel. But it is not a book: it is one signature that has been torn out. Where is the rest?
“Excuse me, I was looking for the other pages, the rest,” you say.
“The rest?…Oh, there’s enough material here to discuss for a month. Aren’t you satisfied?”
“I didn’t mean to discuss; I wanted to read…” you say.
— Italo Calvino If on winter’s night a traveler
One poet talks about science & poetry as if a poem were not a careful set of observations of phenomena measured against the control set of the reader’s experience from which is derived the only theory with any meaning, and that the theory of meaning.
Another announces her feminist and post-colonial perspective in a poem about Sir Isaac Newton, and I wonder what intricacies of intellectual spelunking are required to reveal these hidden facets of a man whose known life is mathematics. I am reminded of my own youthful, Trotskyist indiscretions and realize that Theory has answered the problem of endlessly energetic disputation that fractured that world closer and closer to an anarchic all entropy of individuals. The dialectic is broken (perhaps excepting the Marxians), and one can concievably compose something significant (not a well-structued term paper but certainly a poem) that embraces all the theories of Theory!
The third speaker miraculously rescues me, revealing a common interest in something so concrete in both your lives that she is writing a narrative history alongside her poems, and the same subject is the setting of your own childhood: the bayou with its old fortification, the disused locks and rotary bridge which have vanished into memory but which she is anxious to meet with me and hear about. There is, in her history and the long poem about the bayou I am writing, a story sufficient to itself without a theoretical construct. It is a place with its unique features. It has a story. There are characters.
The next several hours are coloured by this encounter between theory and life, and I find it difficult to concentrate. I skip the workshop I paid for, and after a few hours of poetry readings, leave early. That evening I finish one book and start Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler and find in its clever confusion precisely the idea that must be written about, an explanation to myself for yesterday, for skipping the workshop and leaving early.
For some reason I thought of Italy this morning, of cigarettes smoked at breakfast on the little deck outside the kuchë before a morning of graduate classes on Ezra Pound, a figure fit to be chiseled into gravel by Theory, by those who cannot see the shape in the stone. The memories of my studies in the castle are sentimental and nostalgic but after I come inside and read the quote above and the rest of the chapter I am reminded why I am tempermentally unsuited to pursue an M.F.A..