Phantasmagorically Noh: The Blindness and Rage of Brian Castro Deconstructed

By | 1 November 2019

One of modernism’s experiments that has carried over into postmodernism is the cut-up method invented by Brion Gysin and pioneered by William S Burroughs. Burroughs, also considered one of the giants of modernism, along with cummings, Pound and Stein, believed that what we saw in many ways relied on what we heard. To understand what he meant, he recommended that we turn the sound down on the television and use a tape-recorder (he wrote this in the early 1960s) with an unrelated subject, and soon it will seem as though the images are agreeing with the sound. He did not limit his experiments to human voices, suggesting, for instance, the recording of a dog barking that is processed by slowing it down and running it backwards. He believed these forms of manipulation are not confined to literature but lead naturally to what we call ‘fake news’ nowadays.

Dog is, as every child knows, God backwards. It is depression (black dog). Sometimes, it is violence. (Mary Woronov of Chelsea Girls’ fame, called her violent tendencies ‘dog’, and even gave it the pet name of Violet.) But dog turds, a common enough sight on Parisian streets, are not mentioned in Blindness and Rage, just the producer itself (‘I gave my dog fifteen years for us / to be together’ [100], ‘having your dog follow at your heels without commanding him to do so’ [174]). Barking, whining, attacking, ruining, but not defecating. (The only one to defecate here is the protagonist when he provides a sample of his stool to the doctor.) The Adelaide unemployed man known as The Dogman (‘Gracq liked to tell this story / of daring failure from faraway Australia, / of The Dogman who was thus named for selling puppies in the mall’ [157]), becomes a minor character in the book, even though he is centre-stage on the last page (‘The Dogman plays / the daemon in the wind’ [214]). Echoes of tragedy, of Elton John and Marilyn Monroe: The Dogman is the personification/crucifixion of the Christian Divine, the last of the tragedians/comedians.

However, it is an Australian native animal that has the last word:

Between the walls,
in the quiet of the afternoon,
a brush-tailed possum wheezes in daytime sleep.
Finally, there are no more selves;
finally, everyone has time. (214)
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