Monday, November 21, 2011

crumbling stone

I'm still turning over the potential nothingness of most of Gormenghast castle in my head, so excuse me while I part-repeat myself. I'll throw in a few new words so this won't be totally boring. The castle is huge, according to Peake, but vaguely huge, with miles of stone, hundreds of rooms, so big that it can't be detailed by the author (suggests the author indirectly), and this absurd uncontained hugeness is a part of the structure itself, and so it seemed wrong to me when I saw the building framed by the screen in the 2000 BBC television miniseries as though it were a compassable assemblage like an architectural butte; and if I ever filmed it, I think I would give you a very high high shot, with a patch of green nature in one of the lower corners -- because the reader knows there is a forest and a mountain, and paths running away into them so we need the greenery there -- and the rest of the screen would be rooftops, on and on, tiny, detailed, like grains on a beach (but then you will remember that people as large as yourself are living under those grains and your brain will pitch forward and slew around in terrifying vertigo), rooftops covering the rest of the screen, taking up one whole wall of the theatre where you're sitting, which for the effect I want should be an IMAX. And you will feel as if you are falling forward and drowning.

Then we will have Gormenghast wallpaper, which will be the same thing, with the blot of sward by your pillow, or by the sink or by the dog bowl or television or whatever you want, (depending on the room, depending on your furniture) and the rest of the four walls will be nothing but detailed tiny fields of tiny tiles, each tile absolutely delineated and in black and white to make it more unreal and disorienting.

Or else nothing except one small area of detail, measuring less than a cubit square as you will be able to see when when you put your arm against the wall, and in here the story in the books takes place, and beyond that a void with words sketched across it, "crumbling stone," "vistas" and so on, just these thin lines of sketch stretched across the whistling gap to keep it from dropping away. I thought, "If he is writing then he is compelled to name, there is no way to write and not name something, which is perhaps why it had never occurred to me before, this idea of the castle being nothing." Every word either names a thing or prepares it for placement, the ors and buts and verbs and thens being the design and scaffolding, and then the nouns bringing the thing about and submitting it to a category of existence, pin, leg, moose, or table, and even if I write, "There was no moon" (as Beckett does somewhere in Molloy, I think) I have still named a moon and created a moon, and then I tell you that my created moon is somewhere else, which is what I would expect you to understand when you read "no moon" -- not "the moon had stopped existing" but "the moon existed and it was not visible in the sky right then."

I can't deny the moon. I have named its absence, but then I haven't, because I've still named it and not the phenomenon of not-it, which needs a hyphen, "There was a not-moon," or a newly minted word, "There was an unmoon." It was an unmoonish night, I say, and not very starrish either.

"Unmoon? No such thing. Means nothing to me. Pointless," says the reader probably. Can you write about an object in a way that removes it? And then there is Romola's flashing eye, which has a strange existence. If we were somehow in the room where these two people were staring at one another we wouldn't expect to see the flashing eye (am I being presumptuous? are there readers who seriously expect flashes? I'm wary of this "we" but on I'll go) because the rest of the book around this scene has been written in a way that signals Realism. Film it, and we'd see the woman sitting, we'd see her turn her head to her husband, we'd see him put his keys in his scarsella, all of these would be real events, in the terms of the fictional-real, but the flashing eye would be symbolic everywhere, and the flash would go away instantly and live in one of the rooms that Peake never visits.

And once when I was standing on one of the upper floors of the Leid Library at UNLV and looking through a window at the horizon I saw a yellow strip at the feet of one mountain, an area of open desert between the city and the foothills, and then because I was so tall at that moment I saw the desert on the other side of the same mountain, which was the same barren tawny tiger colour, and in that moment I imagined leaving the building and travelling over the mountains, and going and going like Voss, and finding nothing there, until realising finally that the only patch of detail in the world was the city of Las Vegas, and there is nothing else out there at all, no world, no northern hemisphere, no sea, only Las Vegas, and the rest was only the rumours that had come to us through the internet and books, somehow generated by the city itself, which likes to keep us here with the desert cutting us off like an axe from something else, which is maybe Gormenghast castle.

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