Powers Of Horror An Essay On Abjection

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The bus moved through the dark parts of the town and I imagined A.

creeping up behind me, steadying herself by holding onto the backs of empty seats (for we were the only ones on the bus that night) until she was close enough that I could smell her blood.

But the book’s words kept coming at me like muffled barks.

I sat behind her that night near the 16 mm projector, the side of her face flickering in its light like a retro hologram, and I remember that she didn’t seem to be looking at the Lynch films at all, but rather past them. I was only followed (as far as I know) once more, and it was in the early summer of that year, of 1989, in June.

in a red desert, as a pack of wild black dogs with oily fur bared their teeth and waited.

It was that sort of night, when anything seemed possible, and I knew that too many more evenings like this would be dangerous, and that I had taken a phrase (“in the meantime, let others take their long march towards idols and truths of all kinds”) from the last page of too much to heart.

The book was—to say the least—intimidating, especially to a kid from BGSU in northwest Ohio (just like the bad cop said) and it had sentences like this: “The figure of speech known as metaphor merely actuates, within the synchronic handling of discourse, the process that, genetically and diachronically, makes up one signifying unit out of at least two (sound and sight) components.” Reader, I loved that sentence, although I didn’t understand it. I bought the book because, inserted into its pages, was a beautiful drawing of colorful insects.

I puzzled over it, laughing at its absurdity like a Midwestern boy. Reading too much Kristeva I found that my own spoken words became, for a short time, garbled as if in translation. Or else she is waiting, interminably, for an answer that will not satisfy her. It was the doorway into her words, her language, there on the page in plain sight, undisguised but still hidden. Any crime, because it draws attention to the fragility of the law, is abject.” Years later, reading Tracy Letts’s play I would think about abjection, and fragility, and the law, and those who believe themselves to be saviors: PETER: People can do things to you, things you don’t even know about. I don’t mean a drawing but rather an illustration, taken from another book (an old encyclopedia or some sort of guide to insects?

Or if not being followed then observed, as if from a window and there I was, for that moment, watching myself from that very window.

Even to this day the book, when held, gently falls open to the same chapter, always the same chapter, “Something To Be Scared Of.” One night during the fevered-dream era of late 80s grad school I had the feeling that someone was following me as I crossed the campus from the Burrowes Building to the bus stop on Atherton.


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