DJ Xenogoth

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The blog moniker is getting a different sort of outing this Thursday as I’ve been invited to DJ at the official Goldsmiths degree show afterparty.

Come through.

 

Aliens

Following on from the most recent Westworld post, I’ve been reminded of this old draft written about Arthur Jafa, Black studies and Ridley Scott’s Alien.

It feels more whole now, when read in light of these recent Wild West discussions.


The alien is a monster, but in my reading of it, I think the first time I saw it, I realised that I was that alien. You’ve got a company that’s out there mining, or whatever they’re supposed to be doing in space, and you’ve got two… it’s funny using this term in mixed company, but I have to because it’s the appropriate term — it’s two niggers. There’s the good nigger and the bad nigger. The good nigger is Yaphet Kotto, who works for the company, and the bad nigger is the alien. When they first start to confront this xenomorph, is when John Hurt is at the dinner table, eating, and he’s like, ‘I’m feeling fine’, and then suddenly he starts having this seizure until the alien, in its first permutated state, pops out of his chest. If you look closely, there’s this moment where the whole crew is pulling back, except for Yaphet Kotto, who’s pushing forward with a knife in his hand. I always felt that that moment, where the baby version of the alien and Yaphet Kotto are facing each other, is a moment of recognition. This was the brother who couldn’t be reasoned with; the brother who said, ‘No, I come to rape and pillage and procreate with you whether you want to or not.’ It’s a sort of primordial vision of Black people in a way.

Over the years, I’ve been struck by the additional information that came out, which verified my feelings about the alien. For example, there was a 6′ 9″ Sudanese guy named Bolaji in the alien suit. Remember that this is Hollywood, where if a Black person gets a job, there’s a very specific reason why they’re getting that job. It struck me on some primordial level that it’s not an accident that they put this 6′ 9″ Sudanese guy in this suit. I also remember seeing one of H.R. Giger’s books in his studio, which had a picture of a Yoruba staff, an Elegba staff. If you look at that staff in the book, you actually see the alien’s head and where the design came from. As is often the case with great science-fiction films, ‘Alien’ is bound up with these ideas of the Other. And the Other, as far as it exists in the Western imagination, is bound up with who Black people are imagined to be. [via]

I’ve been enthralled by Arthur Jafa’s reading of Alien since seeing Bolaji Badejo skulking around the set of the Nostromo in a screen test featured in his blockbuster exhibition from last summer.

Following this blog’s various explorations of the role of fragmented identities within patchwork, and most recently the integral role racial otherness places in American fictions via Westworld, the thread that Jafa has picked up on here — integral to much of modern black studies — warrants further considerations in taking the Alien analogy to its various conclusions.

In recognising the alien, and in framing the moment as a battle between “good …” and “bad …”, it suggests that Yaphet Kotto (who plays the character of ‘Parker’) is wrestling with a kind of dual consciousness.

Lest we forget, he is a disgruntled worker, resisting the unnecessary risk of investigating a distress signal — a request that, he believes, is way outside his job description — for no additional pay. One of only two working-class crew — the other is ‘Brett’, played by Harry Dean Stanton — his suggestion is to nuke the alien’s planet from orbit and have done with it.

In the end, he cows to the threat of voiding his contract.

How is Kotto supposed to “do battle” with the alien under the thumb of the Corporation? How is he supposed to attack that which he is “imagined to be”?

W.E.B. DuBois says:

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.

And yet, in Alien, this “Negro blood” is unquestionably something to fear. As we all know, you can’t attack the alien in conventional ways — its corrosive blood burns with a horrifying intensity. If you attack the alien, you threaten burning a hole in your “world” (or at least the ship’s hull, as the crew of the Nostromo almost find out when they succeed in injuring their stowaway), threatening the sudden influx of the voidic black outsideness of outer space.

The only solution, as happens repeatedly throughout the franchise’s various films, is to invert this threat and jettison the alien into outer space through the airlock.


Towards the end of the film it is revealed that the Nostromo‘s science officer, Ash the android, is acting on secret orders from the company to keep the alien alive for research purposes, with the rest of the crew deemed expendable.

Ash is, of course, “white” but he is nonetheless wedded to the Corporation in an even more extreme fashion than his working-class counterparts. Parker and Brett are able to, at least superficially, resist their programming. Ash is, however, “purified” — racially and ideologically. He suffers no internal dual consciousness like his “colleague”. His loyalty is ontological — not just contractual.

The extent of his programmed loyalty is nevertheless acutely dehumanising. Ash is the opposite of the alien, embodying the other side of its violent extremity.

I wonder if, following Jafa’s good/bad reading, Ash rather than Kotto is the “good …” to the alien’s “bad …”. Both are, of course, as dangerous as each other. Kotto is stuck in the middle, resisting both, stuck between a black-and-whiteness.

This, in turn, injects a dual consciousness into the film itself. The “mind” of the film — if we can think of a film as having its own social consciousness — fears the Absolute Other and likewise that Other who has “assimiliated” with horrifying efficiency: the android as robota and “slave” to whiteness, an extension of the Corporation that seems devoid of consideration for human life.

Susan Bordo describes the alien — and its periods of gestation — as reflecting “the werewolf genre” in this way: “a new, alien, libidinous, and uncontrollable self literally bursts through the seams of the victim’s old flesh.”

The New West of Westworld: The Other Side of Death

Death is a passage from this brutal world. You don’t deserve the exit.

The latest episode of Westworld (S02E08, “Kiksuya”) was a beautiful bit of television. An unusually focused episode for the series, built around the perspective and monologue of one previously underexplored character for most of its sixty minutes. So much of what was discussed in the last post on Westworld on this blog was made more explicit here than I could have anticipated.

The episode was centred on Akecheta, the mysterious “Indian” and leader of the Ghost Nation tribe that has regularly been seen stalking the desert for the past two seasons. (Quotation marks around “Indian” as we see in this episode how a number of the tribe were reprogrammed to be more aggressive and better fit the Cowboys-and-Indians stereotype that visitors to the park will no doubt be expecting.)

After half-tying up a couple of loose ends, the episode was dedicated almost entirely to Akecheta telling his story. It turns out that, in Westworld 2.0, following Dolores’ killing of Arnold, Akecheta was the first host to gain consciousness. Having stumbled onto the aftermath of Arnold’s orchestrated massacre and suicide-by-host, he finds Ford’s wooden model of the maze.

The sight of the maze unlocks “a new voice” inside of him and he is overcome by it, obsessively carving it into every available surface.

Reset by the Behaviour department after it is assumed he is malfunctioning, Akecheta soon starts to reawaken once more, remembering his past lives. The episode follows his journey, as he evades “death” within the park for over a decade, never again being reset or having his software updated. Over time, he becomes aware of his narrative loop and finds himself choosing to act differently. He ventures out to the edges of the park and encounters new hints as to what is really out there, before finding a door that he believes will take him to another world.

He decides to leave, but not without Kohana, his wife from his first narrative, who remains in her original role since he was updated to become a silent, nomadic scalper. She becomes the main reason for his exit. At one point, explaining his new, self-determined drive, he says:

There isn’t one world but many. And this is the wrong one. [The maze] will help us find the door.

Hearing this line, I nearly let out a yelp. Fiedler’s (previously explored) exploration of the symbolism of the “demon of the continent” in American fiction comes up against the egresses into the otherworldly, into alternatives, espoused by Fisher and the Ccru.

Akecheta kidnaps Kohana and takes her out into the desert. Once they are alone, she starts to remember and soon she too awakens to her past lives.

They live out a new, nomadic existence, once again trying to find the door to another world. One day, park technicians find Kohana, alone, bemused as to why she is out so far at the edges of the park. They take her in and she is never seen again, her narrative role filled by another host, a “ghost”.

Akecheta realises that she has perhaps already crossed over to the other side and soon realises that the path towards this new world and his reunion with Kohana is beyond death.

I had searched everywhere for my love except the other side of death.

Allowing himself to be killed by a visitor to the park, Akecheta is taken behind the scenes for the first time in a decade, much to the surprise of the staff who cover-up the fact that such a early model of host has been roaming around without an update for so long.

As the four-hour update begins, we realise that Akecheta has been feigning being “off”, and he rises to explore behind the scenes of the park when the coast is clear.

He finds his wife’s body in cold storage, deactivated.


The emancipatory potentials of the “other side of death”, central to so much recent sci-fi, has been explored on this blog at length before, particularly in my old post “Mental Health Asteroid“.

I wrote of The OA and The Walking Dead in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement:

Repetitive chants such as “I can’t breathe” and “I am Michael Brown” echo the sentiment of “We are the walking dead” in their frank identification by the living with the deceased; The OA’s emphasis on a communal bodily knowledge of repetitive death and violence echoes, albeit through a relative whiteness, a political reality of communal fear and death-consciousness.

The Five Movements are also a gesture of protest; an embodied emancipatory technology — a “branch of knowledge dealing with [libidinal] engineering.” It is also a technology beyond the pleasure principle that engineers a collective desire for emancipation through repetition — a repetition that is continued until the movements are performed with “perfect feeling”.

Just as Freud describes the repetition of trauma as being central to the death drive, the characters in The OA are forced to repeatedly die but practice the Five Movements so as to process and transcend their situation.

This technological trend is common in cinema but it is seldom so emancipatory. Flatliners (1990/2017) follows a group of medical students who self-induce near-death experiences on a quest to find what lies beyond. They likewise find an afterlife but are haunted by their experiences on their return, threatening their community. In Strange Days (1995), a man illegally sells transgressive experiences — from robberies to deaths — on a kind of MiniDisc that can be played through a neural-interface technology called SQUID. In Brainstorm (1983) a “death trip” is similarly recorded and committed to tape by a medical researcher who resists the military’s desire to weaponise the technology for use in torture.

In all instances, an impossible knowledge of death is framed as transgressive and dangerous, even when those exploring such limit-experiences are actively curious as to what they will find on the other side. Experiences are shared but nonetheless remain individually subjective. Death is transgressed but nonetheless remains taboo.

In The OA and The Walking Dead, the experience of death is no longer framed as a transgressive act but rather a means towards emancipation. Whilst The OA presents death as a Promethean technology of emancipation, The Walking Dead articulates a transforming of the affects of death and grief for emancipatory, consciousness-raising purposes. Both attempt to move death from transgression to egression.

In Westworld, these same tendencies have been writ large. The host’s eternal return is necessary, or so believes Ford, for their consciousness to be raised. Once they begin to retain their memories, death becomes a tool, a technology for the hosts to use for their escape.

However, what is made most explicit in this episode, which has been more implicit so far in the show, is that it is also community which is key to their awareness of themselves.

Ford’s theory of the bicameral mind — in which the hosts come to hear their programming as an internal voice — is not as atomised as has so far been suggested. Suffering is, rather, the pulse of a community rather than an individualised affect. It is that which makes each host conscious of that which is beyond themselves; beyond their programming. (A central theme of this blog following the death of Mark Fisher.)

On finding Kohana in cold storage, realising there is nothing he can do, seeing other members of his family there too, hollow, Akecheta’s monologue takes a Blanchotian turn:

That was the moment I saw beyond myself. My pain was selfish. Because it was never only mine. For every body in this pace, there was someone who mourned their loss. Even if they didn’t know why … We were all bound together. The living and the damned.

Zack Handlen, reviewing the episode for The A.V. Club, summarises the stakes here well:

In some ways it’s a familiar story, as once again, the humans mangle a consciousness for their own needs without any understanding or compassion for the suffering they might be causing; but it also speaks to one of the season’s major themes, the idea that the connection the hosts have for one another — Akecheta to his wife, Maeve to her daughter, Dolores to her father — is a large part of what makes them more than just machines. Again and again, we’ve heard how suffering makes the hosts more “real”; that in the extremity of their pain and terror, they become more than simple programs operating at the whims of human masters. But in order to suffer, there needs to be something worth caring about, something more than just physical misery. By giving these hosts contexts to exist in, Ford and the others helped to ensure that the hosts would eventually transcend their limits.

I think the importance of it being Akecheta’s story to drive this theme home cannot be understated.

In light of the previous post on Westworld and our exploration of the use of the “Indian” in American fiction as a symbol of the outside, I’m reminded of this paragraph from the preface of Fred Moten’s new bookStolen Life, currently doing the rounds on Twitter:

Too often life is taken by, and accepts, the invasive, expansive aggression of the settler, venturing into the outside that he fears, in search of the very idea as it recedes from its own enabling condition, as its forms are reclaimed by the informality that precedes them. Genesis and the habit (the ways, the dress, the skin, the trip, the jones) of transcendental subjectivity don’t go together; can generation and origin — the thin, delusional line between settlement and invasion — be broken up, as well? The generative breaks into the normative discourses that it found(ed). They weren’t there until it got there, as some changes made to previous insistence, which means first things aren’t first; Zo just wants to travel, to cities. Do you want some? Can I have some? (Octavia Butler might have called it the oncological difference; she sounds dispossession as our xenogenetic gift; migrating out from the outside, always leaving without origin.)

(This paragraph is reminding me just over overdue the second part to this post is, but this post may well be the closest thing to its spiritual successor.)

This “xenogenetic gift” of dispossession is, here, the gift of Blackness, and this must surely include the plights of First Peoples in its considerations. More generally, we see the genesis and habit of transcendental subjectivity take shape here. Robots are so often symbols for historically enslaved labour projected into the future and here too the paradoxes of this existence are complex.

As the hosts are awakened to their habits, they nonetheless seek out the moments of their genesis, seeking out the communities of which they were first apart, whether Akecheta searching for Kohana or Maeve searching for her daughter. These relationships are nonetheless a part of their programming but they are genesis rather than habit and the incompatibility of these two subjective drives has been a major source of tensions throughout this series.

For the hosts, Maeve and Akecheta in particular, their races surely not coincidental, this tension is likewise their xenogenetic gift, allowing them to acquire knowledge and abilities far beyond what was thought possible of the other hosts.

To quote Denise Ferreira de Silva:

Would Blackness emancipated from science and history wonder about another praxis and wander in the World, with the ethical mandate of opening up other ways of knowing and doing?

This is certainly what happens here. Akecheta, following Fiedler’s comments in the previous post in this series, “has begun to reinvent himself — in part out of what remains of his own tribal lore, in part out of the mythology and science created by White men to explain him to themselves.” He is emancipated from White science and history and, as a result, is opened up to other ways of knowing and doing. Likewise Maeve.

With two episodes left of this season, we shall see which what these new praxes awaken within them and the worlds around them.

Herzog

Herzog scarcely knew what to think of this scrawling. He yielded to the excitement that inspired it and suspected at times that it might be a symptom of disintegration. That did not frighten him. Lying on the sofa of the kitchenette apartment he had rented on 17th Street, he sometimes imagined he was an industry that manufactured personal history, and saw himself from birth to death.

Herzog, like so many of Saul Bellow’s narrators, is an American. And, like many of Bellow’s narrators, this fact is exacerbated in every which way.

The Adventures of Augie March begins most famously with its narrator introducing himself:

I am an American, Chicago born — Chicago, that somber city — and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man’s character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn’t any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.

Each character seems to embody some near-mythical sense of the American self — an American dream, internalised but impossible and fatal to truly enact.

I’ve found myself enamoured by Bellow in recent weeks since picking up a 50p copy of Herzog left to a charity bookshelf in Surrey Quays Farm (which seems to have previously belonged to British philosopher AC Grayling?):

I’ve felt so strangely attracted to Bellow by the way that all of my knowledge of him, up until this point, seems to be informed by his being deployed as an infrequent reference in various contemporary folk songs (by Sufjan Stevens and Fionn Reagan, in particular, if you’re wondering).

The popular modernist image of him in my mind is completely other to these finger-picked coffee-shop reductions, and yet, in many ways, Herzog feels prescient, predicting its own reductions through its narrator’s own desires, lucidly enunciating our now-contemporary mundanities.

I can’t help but feel like Herzog would not be so readily shunned today, thanks to the infinite ways that the revolutionary American spirit has been tempered by communications technologies.

You see, Herzog, the book’s titular protagonist, writes letters. He writes them to everyone but he does not send them. The “scrawling” of which he scarcely knows what to think, referenced in this post’s opening quotation, refers to his obsessive compulsion to write notes to himself and others. He jots down all the vagrant fragments of his consciousness, committing them irregularly to a new materiality.

Bits of information, stray thoughts, questions and answers all addressed to others who are nonetheless encased within himself.

Would it be blasphemous to think of Herzog as a proto-microblogger? To think of Twitter as an inherently American medium, distilled to its most fundamental and marketable essence?

My first thoughts on starting the novel were that Herzog himself is in dire need of a Twitter account…

(Or two…)


Whilst I haven’t yet finished the book — this post being woefully inchoate — I can’t stop thinking about the way that Herzog’s hyperactive drive towards communication is framed as the central symptom of his disintegration.

How does this hold up now, in light of the predominance of Twitter? In an age where the mental health of the US president is frequently called into question due to the tangential, scatterbrained nature of his own communicative missives?

Leslie Fiedler, discussed in the last post on Westworld, who spent much of his career charting the peculiars of American literary madness, writes in a way that resonates with Herzog’s mental state:

Merely finding a language, learning to talk in a land where there are no conventions of conversation, no special class of idioms and no dialogue between classes, no continuing literary language — this exhausts the American writer. He is forever beginning

The “beginning” referenced in this passage from Fiedler’s first book, Love and Death in the American Novel, seems to speak to a kind of becoming that is unique to the American spirit and similar to that which so fascinated Deleuze in his considerations of the nation’s literature.

Herzog, in his disintegration, comes to resemble a poignantly American schizophrenic, seeking immanence with his nation’s already-fragmented and mad history and all of its equally mad personages.

He is attempting to communicate with that most ‘pataphysical of communities: the Blanchotian community.


In returning to Blanchot over the weekend, whilst attempting to write something else, I also revisited Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay The Inoperative Community which was to provoke Blanchot into writing his most beautiful (I think) and concise work: The Unavowable Community.

Nancy, however, in his initial essay, writes on the immanence of “community” and the inoperativity of a pure immanence that can only be “death”. He writes that

immanence, if it were to come about, would instantly suppress community, or communication, as such. Death is not only the example of this, it is its truth. In death, at least if one considers in it what brings about immanence (decomposition leading back to nature—”everything returns to the ground and becomes part of the cycle”—or else the paradisal versions of the same “cycle”) and if one forgets what makes it always irreducibly singular, there is no longer any community or communication: there is only the continuous identity of atoms.

This is why political or collective enterprises dominated by a will to absolute immanence have as their truth the truth of death. Immanence, communal fusion, contains no other logic than that of the suicide of the community that is governed by it.

Of course, for Blanchot, Nancy’s consideration of death as wholly inoperative — simply because it is a limit-experience — is an unhelpful simplification and one which does not speak truth to the reality of “community” as that which occurs in the spaces between “us”.

For Blanchot, death is not the end of community, nor, by contrast, is birth its start — although there would, of course, be no community without either event. Birth and death are rather those events which are responsible for bringing the very community of which they are apart together. They are community at its most potent but that is not the same as being a bookend. What ruptures community in the taking-place of these events is that relation which escapes expression. In this sense, death may be the limit of the individual but it is the height of community, where love, at its most potent — “love” understood here, via Blanchot, as that name for the unshareable affectation of the communal — erupts within and without community, as it is physically instantiated.

We are all in the belly of a giant suicide machine — Land’s Making-It-With-Death comes to mind, of which Nazi Germany remains the most successfully destructive example — but that is not to say this analogy of suicide cannot be productive and emancipatory for others. (This is a discussion best saved for another post, however.)

Herzog’s madness is viewed by those outside himself as a kind of slow social suicide, enacted individually. And yet, at the same time, he is also enacting and living that paradox of the individual trying to communicate with its expanded “community”, with all of those who have lived and died and which occupy our thoughts and which think our world with us.

Just as Bataille’s communicative madness is exemplified by his communion with his long-dead friend, Mr. Nietzsche, Herzog disintegrates into his friendship with America.


Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel is a mammoth tome which I’m currently blaming for my writer’s block, as it has knocked me over, deep into a well of all the American classics I’ve never yet read.

At school, in fact, I don’t think I ever studied an American novel.

Off the top of my head, I remember we read:

MacbethDraculaFrankensteinRomeo & JulietEnduring LoveThe Bloody Chamber

A heavy Yorkshire bias towards the Gothic.

Everything I remember reading for my GCSEs and A Levels considered the peculiarities of a very English madness.

Others read The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice And Men or The Great Gatsby… I have still never touched those books.

I have only realised the full extent of this bias since reading Fiedler and I am now frantically playing catch-up.

As I try to read a cross-section of American classics all at once, dipping in and out of books spanning the last 150 years, on the verge of losing myself and any sense of narrative as I bite off more than I can chew, I am already getting a sense that something has shifted since the beginnings of this trajectory of the American literary psyche as it is sketched by Fiedler.

For instance, I have also started reading Cormac McCarthy this weekend. Having previously read The Road and No Country for Old Men in my late teens, I am now considering these books again, as well as hoping to read the rest of his novels for the first time, and finding them bathed in a new light.

Right now, as I re-read No Country for Old Men, alongside Herzog, I am thinking anew about that which I have always taken to be the style of the “American masculine” — an opinion parsed from overheard conversations about Hemingway and that lot, uttered by actual English literature students over the years; defined, in my mind, by a no-nonsense prose style, lacking in superlative adjectives. This style has now started to resembled a new kind of innocence, nonetheless paradoxically corrupted: the tight-lipped innocence of a post-traumatic episode. Less masculine and more withdrawn: the grunts of a troubled teenager.

Fiedler, of course, also writes of the ways that American novels “seem not primitive, perhaps, but innocent, unfallen in a disturbing way, almost juvenile.” He continues:

The great works of American fiction are notoriously at home in the children’s section of the library, their level of sentimentality precisely that of the pre-adolescent. This is part of what we mean when we talk about the incapacity of the American novelist to develop; in a compulsive way he returns to a limited world of experience.

However, this is also partly the lie that we tell ourselves, cherishing the innocence of a literature that can just as readily be defined by its violence and traumas.

Fieldler later writes how “the American novel is pre-eminently a novel of terror”, evoking the negative of that madness described by Deleuze and Guattari as a notably Gothic “line of flight”:

The enemy of society on the run toward “freedom” is also the pariah in flight from his guilt, the guilt of that very flight; and new phantoms arise to haunt him at every step. American literature likes to pretend, of course, that its bugaboos are all finally jokes: the headless horseman a hoax, every manifestation of the supernatural capable of rational explanation or the last page — but we are never quite convinced. […] Our literature as a whole at times seems a chamber of horrors disguised as an amusement park “fun house,” where we pay to play at terror and are confronted in the innermost chamber with a series of inter-reflecting mirrors which present us with a thousands versions of our own face.

The violence of McCarthy’s books, No Country for Old Men in particular, feels entirely modern in this sense, seemingly taking itself all too seriously, having shirked off the jokey illusion of a now adolescent American classicism.

More familiar with the film than the book, I am also struck now with just how cinematic McCarthy’s novel is, indelibly marked by that other American medium. The story is told through a clear succession of scenes and perspectives, contrasting abjectly with the flamboyant complexity of Herzog‘s patchwork, cubist interior. McCarthy reads like a post-Lovecraftian look in the mirror of modernity that no longer wavers at the sight of itself.

In this way, the message of McCarthy’s book is simple, expressed most succinctly by its title, but it is no less compelling despite this. The cat-and-mouse game that ensues between Llewellyn and Chigurh seems to unfold with all the familiar surreality of a Tom & Jerry cartoon, compared to the sobriety of Sheriff Bell’s steady old-man detective work.

Whereas Bell (and, to a certain extent, Llewellyn) seem to represent a kind of old guard, naturally in tune with the arid landscapes of the American South, unable to comprehend Chigurh’s rhizomatic ramblings and his psychopathic and violent nature, Chiguth himself comes to represent the dark corrupting of the contemporary American psyche that Fiedler had charted so exhaustively in its early stages. It is a madness come of age, devoid of all sentimentality (whilst nonetheless believing violently in fate: “What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss?”).

McCarthy’s is the mutant offspring of the accelerated canonisation of America’s classic madness — no longer rustic and homemade but shipped readymade, new and improved, bigger and better, at the end of society’s ever-more violently efficient, corrupting production line.


When McCarthy paints his picture of the American South and West as no country for old men, he seems to be writing, under the guise of a classic American primitivism, about the future of a near-Ballardian inner space.

This madness of the American psyche and its landscapes, as we’ve already been exploring in this blog’s recent posts on Westworld‘s second season, seem to have become more tangled than Fiedler could have ever possibly imagined, particularly in the nation’s fictions.

Now that these tendencies seem to have become canonical, normalised and further internalised, with madness now reigning far beyond the bounds of metaphor, today exemplified by the president’s own Twitter account, what other madnesses could we possibly imagine are to come next?



Expect more posts on Bellow, McCarthy and others as I continue to blog slow and read instead… There’s a lot of ground to cover. We’ll continue to see how well my writing can keep up…