Landscape organizes everything within sight.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rigorous Intuition

Somehow, as I tried to grow up and become an earnest political citizen and stern academic, a great deal of my life in fantasy sifted away.

It would come back from time to time -- vacations in strange places, long drinking episodes of necessary escapism during which I'd write psychotic, dark short fiction. Weekend-long binges of Bollywood and comics.

The saddest thing was that so much of academic literature was bereft of its fantasy for me. Whipped and disciplined in the proper debates of how political parties make and dissolve, my former fascination with alchemy and garden history and folkloric characterization in modern life dwindled. I got really good at figuring out *why* a given academic published. It's to my indignity, but I've been losing my interest in *what* he publishes, unless it has to do with my minute area of British history.

So it was the artists of the Mission District who saved me. Everything was food for them: vandalized bicycles strapped to fences; other artists (who were construed as having personality beyond being the competition, for once); disabled people during play hour.

Under their good influence, I've been trying to revive my fantasy life of late. I've taken to alternating my bedtime reading between Dianne Wynne Jones's children stories and high conspiracy theory, both equally my substitute for Harry Potter (which I can't stand. really, can't you people think of anything *less* visual, subtle, and provocative than JKR?):

The story of a bow-and-arrow hunter, held at bay high in a tree, setting flame to parts of his clothing and tossing them down onto the heads of his assailants until he was half-naked, passing out because of strange fumes emitted by "aliens", is certainly hard to believe, unless one considers it within the framework of the whole parade of stories similar to it. It's a story that belongs to traditional folklore: the hunter who wanders off into strange woods and experiences enchantment.
...Jacques Vallee researched [similar] cases [about the folkloric 'chupas' of South America], travelling to Parnarama to interview witnesses and survivors (at least five people were said to have died from close encounters), and the results were published in his 1990 book Confrontations.
...Vallee writes that the chupas were usually described as small "boxlike UFOs equipped with powerful light beams" which flew over "the wooded areas and the river valleys at night. All of the victims in Parnarama were deer hunters who had climbed into trees during the night, as is frequently the case in that part of Brazil."

Ok, you're groaning. Dear J, you've dropped out of x billion degrees and still you have no sense! But I mean, dude. Can't you see why I love it? Jeff Wells can write about all the nonsensical Bush Satanic Pedophilia Cults he wants; outright bizarreity aside, he takes folkloric meme and psychological symbol seriously, and Levi-Strauss in hand, heads straight for the heart of the beast of American culture.

I love the nice comparisons of poetic devices in the NYT Book Review. I love Harper's when it *dares* to suggest that watching a film *might* be used by US soldiers in Iraq as "military porn" to psych themselves up (heavens forfend! do movies really influence their viewers? say it's not so!). Go back to your David Sedaris. I'll be reading Jeff Wells to sleep for a while longer, surfing away for the few authors who still cause me to wonder...

Hushed suspension has so little place in one's professional career. Hushed suspension encloses so many peripheral facts of one's life. Oh how my daring and imaginative fairy-tale-loving heart yearns for someone to join me in observing the things I can't understand -- why sons are always jealous of their fathers, why people hallucinate aliens, why America twice elected George Bush.