A Delightful Caribbean Vacation

Stories well woven together… conjuring & yearning to break free from the prison(s) of its story-telling… there is a definite sense of the harried ellipsis about ‘As Flies to Whatless Boys,’ and, though I’m still in the process of digestion, I’m definitely intrigued by the rugged & broken trails that this (archipelagal?) ellipsis suggests.

The characters, the narrative, and the “book” itself are circuitous but do not form a circuit– I am left staring up at ledges of meaning from which I’ve descended but can no longer access; loves are cut off as they are formed… translation is a winking joke that can sting and confuse as easily as it can amuse or endear.

In these senses, I love what is going on & I feel like the book is a “world” that worlds (it is alive and–to dredge up D&G, perhaps unwillingly–aggressively rhizomatic).

So perhaps the partial dissatisfaction I get from the experience of the “book”–my desire for more, for deeper depths, to have a text even more thoroughly infused and diffused and suffused with & within its world–is really the mark of a great work (the kind that always leaves me wanting to discover more about the characters–both fictional and “literal,” if there’s any difference–and their world, which is also my world, and so on). And perhaps part of it comes also from my greater and greater frustration at the plodding pace of literature within technology and the lack of high quality engagements at (even) this level.

I mean, I want more videos, I want more music, interactivity, text. It’s hard to see that as a “failure”… and (if it is one) it is harder to see it as belonging to Antoni any more than to the rest of us producers.

So that much for the Digital. Whereas for the Caribbean, I can’t think of a more successful way to (nearly) end our conversation surrounding its progress, access, & excess. Somehow–well, not somehow: through skillful weaving of “words,” assiduous research etc etc etc–this text/world manages to both invite and discourage the “visitor,” “pioneer,” or “tourist” to both the geographical Caribbean and the mental/sociopolitical spaces that name evokes. It is steeped in specific histories and general traditions, deeply personal and private, but also inalienable.

I can’t decide how I feel about all those naked girls, & the one in the video — but the fact that I’m drawn around, not down into guilt or up into transcendence or wherever else into objection or abjection or whatever… The fact that none of the valences cancel but rather enhance the others inspires me.

It is indeed a dangerous terrain Antoni maps, definitely a “Caribbean” one, beautiful, exotic, exoticized, and violent also, but it is not inaccessible or uninhabitable.

And if my greatest complaint is that I can’t live there longer–or more deeply– I’m not sure Antoni hasn’t hit his mark. One of them, at least.

2 comments

  1. Profile photo of Maxine Anderson

    Chy — you seem really skeptical of the ellipsis (& rhizomatic projects/constructions) here, and perhaps for good reason. I think your comment about pleasure is particularly instructive and productive, by the way, and would love to discuss more had we more time left in the semester, so I wanted to pull the quote out here:

    “What place does pleasure have in progressive projects? Do we have to surrender pleasure in order to get this ellipsis (at least some times)?”

    (By the way, I see this question as intimately related to the isuse of criticism you raise in your last post — whether there’s a “third way” that allows us to be gentler on the windbags.)

    Back to Jeff’s post — he comments that he is “definitely intrigued by the rugged & broken trails that this (archipelagal?) ellipsis suggests.” I’m intrigued by this idea, actually. The “ellipsis” or the “rhizome” is kind of a theory-windbaggy concept (I say this as an avowed theory-windbag) and I see why you might want to be skeptical of it.

    But what if we connect the ellipsis to water, to the broken straits between the islands of an archipelago? Jeff’s tentative suggestion of a connection here really appeals to me, and I’m wondering if you might revisit it, return to Benitez Rojo in thinking about the way Caribbean texts, digital or not, are structured.

    Of course, you may still think the book frustrating, or that it failed in getting at the heart of a certain Caribbeanness….but I’m curious if this rethinking or rephrasing of the ellipsis works as well for you as it did for me?

  2. Profile photo of Chy Sprauve

    Some comments:

    “Stories well woven together… conjuring & yearning to break free from the prison(s) of its story-telling… there is a definite sense of the harried ellipsis…”

    Is the “ellipsis” the ultimate goal in *progressive* (the best word I can think of right now) projects? Are we supposed to desire the “rhizomatic” at all costs, even if the journey is not necessarily enjoyable? What place does pleasure have in progressive projects? Do we have to surrender pleasure in order to get this ellipsis (at least some times)?

    “It is indeed a dangerous terrain Antoni maps, definitely a “Caribbean” one, beautiful, exotic, exoticized, and violent also, but it is not inaccessible or uninhabitable.”

    We discussed this in class, but the why the rejection of the opaque? Why is transparency so constitutive of a “good” or “successful” work? What work can opacity do for us, actually? Like I said before, opacity can be protective–transparency can sometimes be a luxury of those with nothing to lose, those with access and perhaps limitless resources. Everyone can’t afford to be transparent all of the time, and I think that’s something worth acknowledging.

    Antoni’s novel did not do the things for me that it did for you, Jeff, and one of the reasons might just be a matter of taste. I simply did not (personally) enjoy the story. The narrative structure–the letters and correspondence, I liked. The “elliptical” nature of the story was fine. I think we’re taught in “progressive” academic spaces that the ellipsis is the thing we’re after, maybe? The rhizomatic nature of work is what we must achieve. But why? Is that a proven “better” end? Is definitiveness always ill-advised in the process? Or only in the finished project?

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