Thursday, September 6, 2012
that comes out from them
Walser repeats one species of word, the polite species, this kind always comes when he whistles, it's his own guard dog, and repetition, says Gertrude Stein in her large and repetitive book The Making of Americans, is the way you get to know a person: by paying attention to their repetitions.
(One footprint is an indication but multiple footprints are a trail.)
"Every one then has a history in them by the repeating that comes out from them," she writes, always putting "every" and "one" apart like that and resisting any temptation that would make her write "everyone" in normal English; because the book is an experimental taxonomy of the human race, and the human race she sees is made of "ones," which is a fact that needs to be noticed because it complicates everything for her. She takes this point seriously, she is serious about a number of small things, or about revelations marked out by small gestures like this, and her style has a facetious tone but this facetiousness I think comes from despair and not cynicism.
Each time she isolates her "one" in "every one" I think she is trying to remind you, or herself, or both, that she does not mean instances-of-the-same-thing-together (which is one way of understanding the word "everyone:" a group) as much as she means each-person-who-is-a-singular-thing. This singular thing can be extracted from its surroundings; it can be observed, and she observes, she advises us to observe. "Watching carefully repeating in each one, one can come to then know of each one what is in them." The reader, addressed here, is among those who "can then come to know", in other words you are also a "one," you can also be extracted and observed, you must be like the other ones (she suggests, using the same word to demonstrate it), and the ideas that apply to them apply also to yourself.
This is a book about a family and about some of the people who surround that family, there are the ones and then the group to which they belong, which expands until it includes the neighbours, it gets on top of them with a sort of leaping or inspired or helpless extension, the author coming across these neighbours casually at first, then intuiting an opportunity in them for the revelation of a new point of view, then following that point of view, then being caught up in her own long language, then pages later coming back to the central family and rarely mentioning those neighbours again; they were good for the point she had to make (there were many points she discovered she had to make and discovery becomes an element of the book) and now away, away, she goes, and now some other neighbours; there is potentially no end to the neighbours and the neighbours of neighbours and friends of neighbours and friends of friends of neighbours and then these people remind the writer-narrator (who may or may not be synonymous with Stein herself, you don't know; the writer itself is a character, not exactly in the story but not exactly out of it -- because this narrator seems to know some of the people in the book on a personal basis and yet she is not of the peopled world that she herself describes in the book, she is not identified as so and so's cousin or one of the neighbours; she somehow knows people and yet she goes away on tangents that prove she's living an entirely other life) -- remind the writer-narrator of a man she met last night and about whom she will talk now for a paragraph or so, and this possibly endless extension of people is one of the problems with her stated theories, which I will describe in slightly more detail in a day or two -- this is getting long --