My Dear Josephine,
Censorious? Not remotely! I hope the rain is not dampening your spirits. We're now having a spate of clear, sunny days with that little something in the air - you know the type? Those days that make winter in Brisbane a pleasure, especially for the postman.
Love those stories about misdemeanours, especially the misdemeanours of those who would have us believe they're above it all. (Although, for our own well-being, let's not embark on a discussion about the church and child abuse.) There's that apocryphal story here about the Catholic cathedral which was never built because the money, upon being received by the pope for blessing, was appropriated for the fascist army during WWII. I must agree with you about the baptism boycotting. As you point out, in families, it's more likely that people just get hurt or upset than any great principle being acknowledged or represented. You can't boycott an important day in the life of a sibling on principle, as if it's the Olympic Games, and not expect some kind of recrimination. Families just aren't like that, are they? You miss so much, so many of the powerful and emotional moments when such a decision, such a stand is made. Of course, you're not being two-faced. It is not the church as such, but those much more enduring bonds of blood and your own sense of personal boundaries and belonging. And in all this talk of, theorising about, identity - of identity politics, of agency, of difference, of alienation, of marginalisation, of displacement - there is embedded a realisation that part of what we want is to take that identity and identify. I suppose that's what C might have been alluding to?
As for the responsibilities towards your god-child/niece I'm not sure. I'm still bitter about being overlooked for the role of legal guardian for my own niece. I am currently preparing an emotional and self-aggrandising deposition to present to my sister and her husband pleading with them to reconsider. Failing that, it's the Supreme Court. Although, they have chosen me (and my younger sister) for another task: enduring power of attorney. I am faced with a set of circumstances which tell me that I can act to manage their affairs, even end their lives in the event of necessity or misfortune, but I cannot act to sustain the life of their child. Of course I'm not taking it hard! It makes me pause and in that empty moment, I find that I actually cannot comprehend. To quote Adam Phillips, one does not `think between thoughts' (in the same way that one eats between meals).
Ah yes, the matter of Adam Phillips and Phillip Adams. No our sanity remains as it was: although it is good to question the state of it every now and then. Adam Phillips will be visiting Brisbane to speak at a conference and I have been reading his books lately. I have a secret wish that Phillip Adams will interview him on 'Late Night Live', purely because I want to hear Phillip Adams say in that low rumbling voice of his, 'welcome to Late Night Live. I'm Phillips Adams. This evening we'll be joined by author and child psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips in a riveting discussion about ...'. It appeals to me as 'mass unheimlich': the audience does a double-take, 'what did he just say?'
How does the need to represent avoid the obscenity inscribed within it? I like this question, but am not sure how to address it. My short and (too) simple answer is to agree with you: writing is impossible. Can we acknowledge that each representation or simulation is loss, and that the need to represent, like desire, might be an attempt to recuperate that loss and recognise in this moment and each moment a past horror by means of recollection, somehow dislodging the trauma? Can we do that without making each representation a judgement? There's altogether too much pressure placed on representation. I am reminded of the Jorge Luis Borges story which Jean Baudrillard has written about: 'the territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it.' It's all very much about wanting the impossible.
There are two more things I want to say about collaboration. Actually, I want others to say them for me because their words are more eloquent and evocative than mine:
'We gaze at maps that our eyes chart in each other's hearts.'
(Fra Mauro in James Cowan (ed), A Mapmaker's Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice)
`From the point of view of the contingent self, desiring being drawn to someone or something could only mean creating the conditions for a coincidence. (Or to put it another way: we cannot make our relationships work; we can only make our compromises work.)
(Adam Phillips, 'Contingency for Beginners' in On Flirtation)
So I am left with this one last question: given its accidental qualities, the impossibility which we acknowledge writing to be, must writing, or our practice of writing, then be a compromise to work?
Oh I did laugh at the joke about 'never writing again'. I just didn't acknowledge it properly. There is something humiliating about having to explain a joke, isn't there? Somewhere in the exchange, we have failed each other. J has told me a rather intriguing story. I am grateful to him for having a repertoire of such good stories which I can use at will. It's the story of the `king rat'. Apparently, what happens (or what can happen) when there is a bit of overcrowding in the rat abode, is that the rats' tails knot together, forming a mass of rats which is called the `king rat'. Any number of them can be bound together by this unfortunate twist of fate. The result, as J explained, is that they can't look after themselves. They're immobile. You'd think in such a circumstance that the bound rats would chew their tails off or the other rats would kill or eat them. On the contrary, the rest of the nest cares for them in some kind of co-operative pact, bringing them food and whatever else they might need. J might be tricking us both.
I hope your paper for the AFC Conference is progressing well. It's only two days away now isn't it? I know things like that are a source of stress. My best wishes to both you and C (my apologies for not doing so sooner).