Philobiblon: Heaven

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


I was sitting this afternoon in the Starbucks opposite the British Library, wrapping myself around a soy-milk chai tea, shamelessly people-watching, particularly the guy with the swish wi-fi lap-top, the tasteless crumpled T-shirt, the chiselled jaw and impossibly high cheekbones. (He was about 22; I was only looking.)

I was also reading Jean Baudrillard's The Perfect Crime, which I had just picked up for £4, together with several other books, from the academic remainder bookshop.

I was thinking this was as close to heaven as I was going to get. I spent the day in the BL, but not in my usual mad flurry, just cleaning up some lose ends and checking out the new Dictionary of National Biography - to my relief there was nothing to demand any major rewriting of what I've done - a few extra bits and piece only: phew!

What I really need is much more time to read, to think, to reflect, not always rushing. (People who know me will have problems imagining me doing anything but.) I have absorbed rather a lot in the past 20 years, but there are still vast amounts of things I want to absorb, and indeed put out. I really need to make time to make that happen.

Only yesterday I was saying this wasn't a personal blog, and mostly it isn't, so for real content, a little Baudrillard. (I absolutely totally disagree with his end-point -- I think he's typically masculinist in his inability to accept the existence of the body* -- but I do so often read him and say : "Yes! That's a brilliant idea!")

"... the main objection to reality is its propensity to submit unconditionally to every hypothesis you can make about it. With this its most abject conformism, it discourages the liveliest minds. You can subject it - and its principle (what do they get up to together, by the way, apart from dully copulating and begetting reams of obviousness?) - to the most cruel torments, the most obscene provocations, the most paradoxical insinuations. It submits to everything with unrelenting servility. Reality is a bitch. And that is hardly surprising, since it is the product of stupidity's fornication with the spirit of calculation ... (p. 3)

And for the historical bent:
"The iconolaters of Byzantium were subtle folk, who claimed to represent God to his greater glory but who, simulating God in images, thereby dissimulated the problems of his existence. Behind each of these images, in fact, God had disappeared. He was not dead; he had disappeared. That is to say, the problem no longer even arose. It was resolved by simulation. This is what we do with the problem of the truth or reality of this world: we have resolved it by technical simulation, and by creating a profusion of images in which there is nothing to see." (p. 5)

(Translated by Chris Turner, Verso, London, 1996)
* Although I also get annoyed with "female" and "the body" always being grouped together.


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