Violence and language
Reading Derrida recently he talks about violence and the text, probably in his essay Force and Signification. I thought hmm not sure what he means but now I see a possible way to view this or maybe just my own take.
We love to trash other people’s writing and grammar, the films, art we see. These signs…signification. Semiology. But for writing we often have a special cruelty. Films as a whole are made by people we will never meet, and if you meet a director of a small local film you are usually so thrilled you are kind. Even if the film is not super brilliant. I feel this way about local dancers and choreographers in San Francisco, but not artists. I am amazed by most live dance, theatre, performance. Getting more discerning but language and writing is different for all of us I think.
Musicians get critiqued but it’s certainly ok for them to release their work on their own labels or independently. Self-publish. The record companies, the big ones, are shit, dead. But publishing houses and that industry still survive like the undead lovers in the attic of The Hunger, somehow creeping along like zombies, impossible to kill. And self-publishing is mostly under Amazon, Jeff Bezos, the Queen of the Damned.
And because we all speak, and write, and read, and so so many of us are writers to different degrees, it’s easy to propagate our hatred, loathing, self-hatred and loathing onto our writing and others. I love my own writing, really, as imperfect as it is…perfectionism is another form of violence and self-hatred, like cutting. I can thrash away at a book for years, destroying myself in the process. Of course you need to take breaks like any healthy top, to eat, sleep before the violence begins again and again.
The process of critiquing another’s writing is another form of violence. The feedback I have received is often two steps behind anything helpful. Even said in a kind way, it’s as if we say to a child “you should not have cut your food that way” not knowing that their parents beat them for cutting it the normal way. We gently critique each other and the most harshly the less well known an author is. Gently offering opinions as if one were writing the ms for the first time, as if that passage had not been reworked a dozen times already. But no one asks. It’s not ready to show an agent she said. As if the process included showing this book to someone who has no idea how a book is written, no idea of the context.
Don’t worry about what people think of your writing. Someone will love it. Language is something we all use but these are your words. They may be highly original or a complete King ripoff…who cares. I know a somewhat successful writer who said he would never read something self-published unless someone recommended it to him. Fair enough there is a lot of stuff out there now and the more discerning…or violent…you are the less of that mass of text you will like. It’s like saying I will only listen to music from major record labels. That writer has been moving into obscurity lately, where most of us now live already. And the violence continues, we are all cutting ourselves and each other with our opinions and good intentions and self-hatred.
Language especially in America is rooted in anti-intellectualism and also snobbery for those who do know what Derrida or intersectionality are about. Those who do not, protect themselves by critiquing what they don’t get and/or voting for people like Trump. If you don’t like it or don’t understand the writing, the ideas, why trash it? If you think you understand it, wait. Maybe you don’t. And maybe no one wants to hear your critique. And to say So do you want feedback is like saying Do you want to be whipped or branded? To withhold is also sadistic, as many of us know. I’m just going to be respectful. I will just take this fragile person, this writing, make them tough, thick skinned, no matter what. Hazing like a frat boy but gentler, more subtle.
I think of the French Surrealists, Jackson Pollock, others of that period getting into fistfights, drunk or sober, or rioting over what they considered bad art, a difference of opinion. Now we kindly say “It’s not my thing, your “stream of consciousness.” This covert instead of overt violence. Stories and films about violence, easy to portray, our acts against our own language, our sense of self, our selves, our identities. It’s a war. Covert and overt.