Monday, March 30, 2009

A leaden helmet on a fledgling bat

My friend Anjuli Raza Kolb has introduced Beyonce to Patricia Highsmith in a great essay up at 3 Quarks Daily. It's a great essay that matches the strangeness of Highsmith's short story with some funny digressions on IUDs, aphasia, etc.--I think you have to get used to reading it, but it pays off (and I'm all for these kinds of essays). The payoff is this brilliant paragraph.
In a review of the Norton collection, James Sallis wrote that “one wonders if Highsmith may not in fact be the ultimate realist.” The deadpan, reportage quality of these miniatures that I began by describing certainly seems to bear this theory out, the bonus being the way the story makes short work of metonymy’s horror. Terrifying realism. The dread of contiguity. Disorienting opacity. “The Hand” helps me disavow what I ordinarily think of as Realism-—more specifically socio-realism-—and adulterously shack up with sociopathic realism (which is not very realistic, as it describes amputated meaning by way of narrative and material impoverishment). Why? Because sociopathic realism’s existence is symptomatic of the imperium of horror in all kinds of representation. In this story, it’s embodied in the cataclysmic failure of self-representation by the unfortunate young man who dies facing the wall, making contact with nothing.

Other short stories, novels, films we can put in this category of sociopathic realism? I'm fascinated by it!

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Blogger arazakolb on Fri Apr 03, 04:23:00 PM:
Oh, you're so awesome to post this. I'm going to start with Alain Mabanckou's _African Psycho_
Blogger arazakolb on Fri Apr 03, 04:25:00 PM:
BUT, AND, do you think, ultimately that it DID put that helmet on that poor bat?
Blogger Alice on Fri Apr 03, 10:21:00 PM:
Oh, I just love bats and was struck by the image.