47.2 - Spring 2018

Page 115

who walks.] In a book that places strong emphasis on circumcision, the male foreskin, and fathers, to conclude on location at the site of a volcano [a literal infolding] alludes to the vaginal: the womb, the natal. That ultimate site of bio-social contracts: the site of potentiality, pregnancy, birth [our primary abandonment—delivery]. Yet Derrida cannot shake his spectral influence, his Freud, and so remains afflicted with doubt in his struggle against what he names the “paternal phantom...who is in a position to be correct, to be proven correct—and to have the last word.” [Essay, in the French tradition, is a “trial, attempt, endeavor;” in Latin, “a weighing, a weight.”] I do not have Freud over my shoulder, as Derrida did; but I am writing with two “phantom” readers in mind: my sister and my son. In lieu of concentration camps, I have, as bystander, as agent, as witness, the homeless camps of central Iowa; a fatherless son; the imagined camps in a sibling’s living nightmare. Knowledge of history trumps individual suffering. Yet I struggle, still, with the cage of genre [to document or dramatize, to invent or represent]: as if “I” matter. In a just world, we’d all be forced to reconcile our art with our lives. To survive the curse of history, perhaps we must abandon the archive completely. Leave behind our metaphors, mythologies, apologies, anxieties, our obsessions over story and form. Yes, to transition away from the safety of the literary self to the boulevard—to move from bracing against the world to embracing it. Were real life so simple.



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