Over the last few months I’ve been tentatively drawing an outline or depicting a landscape for my next (as yet untitled) book. I keep returning to André Gide’s Marshlands as a possible place to explore (writing a loosely-knit story in which a book is hinted at but never revealed although immanent in the writing) and I have been reading satire old and less old – Lucianus and his dialogues, all existing on the surface of language and yet addressing indirectly the end of the world, the unsurpassed metaphysical spaces of Romantic Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi and his Operette morali dialogues, and another Italian writer called Giorgio Manganelli who recorded a radio programme in the 1970s featuring a series of Impossible Interviews (with characters such as Tutankamon, the medium Eusapia Palladino, Charles Dickens).
I’ve been reading satire out of the urge to say something about ‘The Church of Sound Art and its Dark Habits’ (this might be the title of the work I’ll repeatedly hint at in my book and never write): it first occurred to me about a year ago while watching Pedro Almodovar’s Entre tinieblas (Dark Habits) and thinking of the pernicious/ridiculous/paradoxical consequences of self-confinement, in the film and (by my arbitrary transposition – inspiration it might be?) in ‘sound art’: addiction, obsession, denial, compulsion, etc… But I am digressing, more on this in later posts.
So I’ve been experimenting with a number of forms and I’m more concerned with this aspect rather than with ‘the topic’ of my book because I know that I research ‘the topic’ every day, even when I’m not aware of doing it – it has to do with a certain angle in which we choose to encounter the world and with a certain glance toward whichever surrounds us, it has to do with attending to books, sounds, words: constantly. This for me is research. Absorption driven by a strong core. For now I’ve been occupied with these: voicing, historically layered sounds in a site, the ephemeral, personal/collective histories. Collections most of all, as I revisit my archive as a case study and begin to think and read of other people’s archives and collections too. Many interviews being planned.
A few years ago a friend of mine, an artist, sent to me a photo of an x-ray of his grandmother’s lungs. ‘I have to do something with this image’, he wrote. He didn’t know what, but he knew that image was part of a meaningful creative kernel. I relate a lot to this state of being drawn to something before knowing why. With this new book I’m not entirely in control of my topic, rather I’m trusting my attraction to certain shapes and voices and recurring objects/sounds/places and I’m spending a lot of time with them to the point of exhaustion, even when I’m not quite sure how they might fit rationally in the book. They will infiltrate it anyway. While writing En abîme I learned how this work process can lead to revealing discoveries. There are at least six or seven presences or places that keep reappearing every week and I’m sure they will all appear in the new book too.
I must note that when I say I return to certain places and objects and sounds and books or paintings, these are not meaningful because of their generic qualities, or because of their importance within a subject. There is always a very particular twist in them that I care for, or something out of tune, or a very specific aspect that strikes me, and these specificities will work later on as hinges for each of them to exist within the pattern of the book.
I’m not planning on publishing my work in progress on this blog, but I will start posting, as I’ve just done, some work notes on method and structure, and some of the obsessions that will inhabit the book. May we get lost in them.