Saturday, November 25, 2006

Barthes and Berryman

This last passage from Barthe's The Pleasure of the Text seems particularly important to me right now, so I'm sharing it with you, gentle reader:

"Due allowance being made for the sounds of the language, writing aloud is not phonological but phonetic; its aim is not the clarity of the messages, the theatre of emotions; what it searches for (in a perspective of bliss) are the pulsional incidents, the language lined with flesh, a text where we can hear the grain of the throat, the patina of consonants, the volumptuousness of vowels, a whole carnal stereophony: the articulation of the body, of the tongue, not that of meaning, of language. A certain art of singing can give an idea of this vocal writing; but since melody is dead, we may find it more easily today at the cinema. In fact, it suffices that the cinema capture the sound of speech close up (this is, in fact, the generalized definition of the "grain" of writing) and make us hear in their materiality, their sensuality, the breath, the gutturals, the fleshiness of the lips, a whole presence of the human muzzle (that the voice, that writing, be as fresh, supple, lubricated, delicately garnular and vibrant as an animal's muzzle), to succeed in shifting the signified a great distance and in throwing, so to speak, the anonymous body of the actor into my ear: it granulates, it crackles, it caresses, it grates, it cuts, it comes: that is bliss."

Bliss, yes. And torture. The kind of tortured (masochistic?) voices we hear in the best The Dream Songs. Of all people, I think it was Louis Gluck who describes The Dream Songs as one of the great acts of literary ventriloquy in all of American literature. The throwing around of the embodied voice--a basic element of the Gothic. How else to describe Henry (or Berryman, the puppet-master)--granulating (disintegrating), crackling, caressing, grating (gratefully), cutting, coming. The there that's not there at all, but that is plea-sure in breath, in letter, in word.


Lester Shue said...

Oh 1965 for we rested, dreamed and woke up with a toy called the dream songs. and we will "work on slow, o slow & fast" with "one eye open & one breast out" with a grin that breaks laws.

Michael said...

"I'm very fond of the spelling of 'Orright' -- I did it O-R-R-I-G-H-T . . ."