Thursday, June 08, 2006


I thought of Jane then and think of her now. How, given the responsibility of caring for two daughters, a bachelor father in the days when they did not exist (fumbling more over how to make coffee and dress the girls for school than Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer). Suddenlly I meet this incredible woman: we spend a summer together in Long Island, the kids there most of the time. Alone on the way home to Washington, D.C., she begins rhapsodizing about Bennington in the fall. Will I ever see her again? “PLEASE MARRY ME,” I blurt out. For a moment she freezes, worried. “Oh, God,” she says. But then...”All right.” Believe it or not--and please remember Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet with her hair...remember Mohammed’s five wives... before you condemn me--we get out of the car on the New Jersey Turnpike...and make love.

Back to Barthes, whose French Jane is improving: “ I hallucinate what is empirically impossible: that our two proferrings are made at the same time: that one does not follow the other. Proferring cannot be double (doubled)......A revolution, in short--not so far, perhaps, from the political kind: for in both cases what I hallucinate is the absolute New (“Sing for God a New Song,” we sing here in this church every Christmas eve). “Whence,” he goes on,a new view of I-love-you. Not as a symptom but as an action: I speak so that you may answer....I-love-you is active. It affirms itself as a force--against other forces. Which ones? The thousand forces of the world, which are, all of them, disparaging forces (science...reason, reality, etc.) Or again: against language....

...As a counter-sign, I-love-you is on the side of Dionysius: suffering
is not denied...As proferring, I-love-you is on the side of expenditure....Those who seek the proferring of the word (lyric poets, liars, wanderers) are subjects of Expenditure: they spend the word, as if it were impertinent...they are at the extreme limit of language...where language itself...recognizes that it is without backing or guarantee, working without a net.”

The heat, the power of this outburst is overwhelming. But there is a sudden break that I shall have to explain near the end--a thumping now under the rug on which the great man stands. “Excuse me,” he says, through Jane, who is more surprised than I (from the beginning I knew a human presence lurked there): Barthes unrolls the rug, opens a trapdoor, descends, returns after some muffled talk to say--hold on now for a bit--”Ma Mere” (“my mother”).


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