Showing posts from November, 2012

Space is the place (utopia and silence)

Even though, in his 1962 guest editorial-cum-manifesto 'Which Way to Inner Space?' in New Worlds, JG Ballard repudiated a science fiction of 'robot brains and hyper-drives' and instead proposed a fiction which explored 'inner space, not outer', he consistently returned to the figure of the astronaut. In fictions such as 'A Question of Re-entry' (1963) (which posited the arrival of a dead astronaut in the South American jungles as a kind of cargo cult) to the 'fugue time' stories of the late 1970s ('News From the Sun', 'Memories of the Space Age'), where the NASA space programme 'cracks the hour glass of time' and leads to various forms of 'space sickness', the astronaut is a central and symbolic figure, a kind of evolutionary mistake which leads nonetheless to a pathway out of time.
Ballard's refiguration of the NASA programme as a symbol for both human error and human potentiality, while at the same time aban…

Mr Thompson tweets, or Silence part 2

One of the little ironies about writing a blog that not many people in the world will actually read is the possibility of silence (continuing from my last post) is seemingly easily achievable by no longer writing it. This had occurred to me. And it’s a possibility.
But as Derrida points out in his essay ‘How to Avoid Speaking’, the very act of thinking ‘how to avoid speaking’ is itself ‘speaking’, part of language; and ‘how to not speak’ shifts into ‘how not to speak’, that is to say, ‘how to speak’ (properly). In that same essay, in which Derrida writes about negative theology (a field of thought of much concern to my friend and colleague Arthur Bradley, who has explained it to me goodness knows how many times, but is essentially about coming to a conception of the divine by way of what He is not – for instance, God is not ‘good’, for this limits the conception of the divine to reductive human categories), Derrida ascribes the desire for silence to metaphysics, to an unknowable and un…

Pandemonium*, or an infernal cacophony

Here’s something different.  Something personal.  Something spoken. 
Words. Too many words. Too many books. 
I scanned the LRB this week and saw advert after advert for books, published by American University presses, books that may be sold to libraries, books whose print runs maybe in the hundreds, books no-one will read. 
As an academic working in Britain, we are now on the treadmill known as REF, the submission of four items (books, articles) to a panel which judges the quality of your work. [I gave up on speaking and started to type here.] This system requires continuing productivity, churning out articles, books and so on, without rest, without thought, without pause, without silence.
There is only the ongoing clamour of voices, all wanting to say something, all wanting to be heard.
Often the journals in which articles are published are hidden behind paywalls that only those with the economic power of the institutional subscription gives them access to, or the books are pub…