Thursday, October 25, 2012

Aimless Reading: The W's, 4.1 (Rosmarie Waldrop)

The Reproduction of Profiles
Waldrop, Rosmarie
The Reproduction of Profiles

Purchased at Rust Belt Books.

I have a memory of wanting to have this book and of not having it. Either I couldn't find it or I couldn't afford to buy it. I don't remember which. Or it may have been one of those cases where I got to the bookstore and saw something else and bought that instead, saying to myself as I walked home that I would buy it the next time.  This could all be make-believe. What I remember wanting is wanting and not having. Lack.

The period during which I wanted this book was during my first couple of years in graduate school. It seemed like Wittgenstein was everywhere. Just before I arrived in Buffalo I bought a used copy of Ray Monk's bio of the philosopher. It's one of the few biographies that I have ever read cover to cover. I think Wittgenstein was one thinker whose life was so strange that it was worth reading deeply about.

I remember the image of him writing the Tractatus while on the front lines in WWI. I remember the image of him watching b-movies obsessively. I remember the image of him living alone in a sparsely furnished home with wood floors in Ireland, obsessively removing the dust by having a servant lay out wet tea leaves to absorb it, sweeping them away when they'd dried. I remember the image of him traveling to the Fjords. I remember underlining a passage in the book in which he looks out at the spires of some cathedral and struggles to understand what they mean.

Most importantly, I remember him having an argument as a student of Bertrand Russell about whether or not one could say with certainty that there was not a hippopotamus under the desk. I remember this because my faulty memory recalled an elephant and not a hippo and so I named a poem and also my very first chapbook The Necessary Elephant. If you would like  copy of this rare book, there is one available for the amazingly high price of $21 from Appollinaire's book shop in Toronto. You can also buy an even rarer copy of my second chapbook and an even rarer event book from a reading I did with Taylor Brady, Nava Fader, Graham Foust, and Eleni Stecopoulos in Toronto in 1998.

Anyhow, Wittgenstein was in the air. In my first course with Charles Bernstein, we read Steve McCaffery's Evoba (pronounced "vubba," it is also "above" spelled backwards), which, like this book, takes The Philosophical Investigations as its starting point. 

I eventually did find a copy of The Reproduction of Profiles, but the memory of not having it remains.

from The Reproduction of Profiles

It is clear that distance devours the variables and leaves us with all propositions saying the same thing, but with such force that the desire takes us out of the body. Tell me that she is beautiful, you demanded, even though you knew that I had always been pleased to lead you astray. A name, I said, cannot go from mouth to mouth, a clear mirror unclouded by breath. Remember that nightingales sing only in the upper pay scales. And we can't logically correlate a fact with a soul, even if fiction sustains the tone of our muscles.  Your lips trembled slightly as you said the logic could take care of itself.

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