Drive is a kind of compulsion or force. It’s a force that is shaped, that takes its form and pulsion, from loss. Drive is loss as a force or the force loss exerts on the field of desire. […] That the drive is thwarted or sublimated means that it reaches its goal by other means, through other objects. Blocked in one direction, it splits into multiple vectors, into a network.
I got a ping on Twitter earlier today — someone sharing Dan Barrow’s review of Egress for Tribune last year. It’s an excellent review, although I still disagree with its dismissal of my references based on them not being to Mark’s own tastes, but I think what still irks me more is the suggestion that the “Egress remains, despite its best efforts, trapped in the same ‘left melancholia’ as its Labourist and social democratic counterparts.”
At the risk of making it appear like this review lives rent-free in my head — and, to some extent, it still does on occasion — there’s a opportunity to further clarify something here (for myself, if no-one else).
Some readers seem to miss the fact that Egress is a product of grief (despite making that point repeatedly and explicitly). It’s no secret. The book is an experiment in self-writing, or auto-theory, and a gesture towards an outside to a specific and individualised starting point. It’s certainly melancholic — and openly mournful — but the point is that individual mourning can refract outwards into collective overcoming. “Blocked in one direction, it splits into multiple vectors, into a network.” That’s why the book starts with “I” and ends with “us”.
It isn’t collective politics as a sort of feel-good Hollywood spectacle. It’s not the happiest of reads. But I still think the proof is in the pudding, which is ostensibly beyond the bounds of the book itself. Egress was written as an attempt to get out of personal melancholy and move into collective action, which Mark’s writings insist we do. But that doesn’t mean the former was thwarted in favour of the latter in any absolute sense. It’s a conscious process, and one which I’m still confident Egress sufficiently documents.
The Tribune review understands this point and succintly reiterates it, but gesturing to these politics without acknowledging the space we’re starting from, or dismissing it as left melancholy despite its otherwise blatant thrusts beyond that, is a missed opportunity. Knowing the direction of travel counts for nothing if you can’t honestly access the blocked place you’re starting out from. That was what I set out to do.
[The opening quote is, once again, taken from Jodi Dean’s Blog Theory. We’re reading it in the XG reading group at the moment and it is really excellent.]