Sunday, August 03, 2008


I highly recommend Zizek's essay on David Lynch's "Lost Highway" - "The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime."

For one thing as a distinction between the "silliness" I talked about a few days ago and the ridiculous of Lynch (cheesy dialogue about birds bursting all around that manages to be both cliche/ridiculous and scary/affecting).

It begins with some pretty expected observations (that is expected if you've read anything Zizek's written before): The phantasy (second half of film) of virility is in fact more "real"-seeming than the mundane world of marital miscommunication and impotence. And there's stuff about the obscene super-ego-father (Frank or the mafia guy in Lost Highway), an idea that I love.

But the part I really like is when he compares Roberto Benigni's "Life is Beautiful" to the Danish movie "Celebration" and Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan." The conventional way to read these movies is that the father in "Life" is kind but deceiving, keeping the holocaust (the Real World Trauma) from his son; the father in celebration is the monster who hides his brutal reality in a fake narrative that finally gets undone, revealing his true monstrous self; and that Spielberg reveals the brutal reality of war.

But in Zizek's scheme The monster-in-sheep's-clothing-father is the fantasy to cover up the truly strangling father of "Life is Beautiful." Similarly, Spielberg's "real" violence is a fantasy that covers up the truly horrific techno war of the first Gulf War - a fantasy of brutal soldier-vs-soldier combat covers up the war in which the US buried thousands of Iraqi soldiers in trenches and fired smart bombs etc.

What interests me about this is the sense of the catastrophe fantasy that covers up the horrifically unbrutal reality. That is something I've been thinking about today, as I'm writing an essay on Aase Berg's "Dark Matter" and the welfare state. I think "Dark Matter" is the horror-fantasies of the welfare state (about the rest of the world, the news-world, Bosnia, Oil Wars etc) decontextualized and pushed to the point of exhaustion (the book ends with these awkward, hollow lullabyes). As many people have mentioned, Aase's book is a rewrite of Harry Martinsson's canonical modernist epic "Aniara" (Translated by Auden I think). The conventional analysis of "Aniara" is that it's about the horror of the Atomic Age. But I think, reading it back through Aase, that it's about the welfare state. Well, this is a work in progress...

Another thing. Toward the end of the book, Zizek ventures this idea that cyberspace is a great place for the revealing of these fantasies, the fantasmatic real (not the Real-Real that can never be brought into language). Not with the cheesy hypertext, but with "the hub of violence." I apply this to my dislike of "indeterminacy" in current poetry.

More about this later, my daughter is causing trouble.


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