Hunger Technology Emotion
From my LA diary
Los Angeles, sometime in the late 90s
My heart and stomach flip while waiting in the endless gourmet take-out line at Say Cheese on Hyperion. This is the third full day not eating .... I stare through thick plate-glass at tureens of baby peas in mayonnaise. Ten bucks a quarter pound, they're canned. Little bits of foreign cheese displayed on the top shelf like so many sad specimens. English tilton, camembert. From the bodies of imprisoned animals to the air-conditioned case, it's obvious this food was never touched with love or understanding. The chubby woman up ahead of me seems to think this food is good. She is luxuriating in the moment when she speaks her choices to the shop girl, even though the girl is bored and hardly even listening. I'd hoped to trick myself to eat by ordering the most exquisite food but now this place offends me. Say Cheese, Say Choose. She wraps the names of foods around her tongue, pleased with her passable pronunciation. Why do I hate everything? The food here is so vastly overpriced, it no longer smells like food, it smells like bills and coins and plastic.
If I'm not touched it becomes impossible to eat. It's only after sex, sometimes, that I can eat a little. When I'm not touched my skin feels like the flip side of a magnet.
The Alien penetrated me very slowly as we sat together on the bed. (This is Ulrike Meinhof speaking to the inhabitants of Earth ....As the rope was tightening around my neck I lost perception but regained all my consciousness and discernment. An Alien made love with me ...) Uncovering his body takes my breath away. The paleness of it underneath the soft dark hair. The Alien was naked. I had several of my clothes on. We're very still. Fibrational quivers between our bodies in the dark. "This's exactly how I imagined it would be. So smooth." It now becomes possible to say anything. Low voice. "Don't move." "I like to hear your breathing."
Like me, the Alien is anorexic. Sometimes we talk about our malabsorption problems. Everything turns to shit. Food's uncontrollable. If only it were possible to circumvent the throat, the stomach and the small intestine and digest food just by seeing. After several weeks the Alien decides that he will no longer make love to me because I'm "not the One." Aliens spend their lifetimes on this planet testing, searching. They get dewy-eyed, nostalgic about hometown virgins.
I'm in my kitchen making chicken noodle soup for the Alien. It's his fifth day of withdrawal from valium and heroin. He can't walk, can't sleep. I want so much for him to eat. Even though he says he doesn't love me, I can't believe it's true. Therefore, I want to help him. "How about a nice piece of wholewheat toast?" I ask, ladling out his soup. "Don't take offense by this," he says, "but there's something I have to tell you. Your cunt smells bad. If you washed the way you should, I would've done the things to you I do to all my other girlfriends." I gasp. Soup spills. "Sorry," he says. "I guess I should've mentioned it when we were dating."
Food stripped of all its color, nutrients and smells and then reconstituted, like my expensive hair (he loves it), Ravissant Salon, $300, like suburban small town cunts drenched in Massengil.
If I could only eat, a little
Although no one, to my knowledge, has analyzed the work of Frederich Nietzsche through the occurrence of his blinding headaches, the poet Kenneth Rexroth reads Simone Weil's philosophy through her anorexia. Both are "egregious nonsense ... unholy folly." Rexroth puts lays the blame where it belongs; on the Catholic men, Gustave Thibon and Father Perrin, who took her seriously. "If only," Rexroth speculated in The Nation (1957), "she had sought out an unsophisticated parish priest, who would have told her 'Come, come, my child, what you need is to get baptized, obey the Ten Commandments, forget about religion, put some meat on your bones and get a husband' ..."
What you need is a good fuck, he said to me.
In Holy Anorexia, the scholar Rudolph Bell wants to take the magnificence of the medieval female saints and drag them down to his own level. He does this by conflating them with contemporary teenage girls, who he finds pathetic and ridiculous. St. Catherine, St. Theresa, and Hildegaard van Bingham are all essentially the same; they're solipsistic brats. The collective trans-historic She, the holy anorexic, "emerges from a frightened insecure psychic world to become a champion of spiritual perfection .... Her will is to do God's will, and she alone claims to know God's will." The holy anorexic is a manipulative vixen; she "commands the war against her body and therefore suffers deeply at every defeat, whether it is a plate of food she gobbles down or a disturbing flagellation by nude devils and wild beasts. Then with varying degrees of success, the holy radical"like the newly slender teenage girl"begins to feel victorious ..."
Like witches, or female writers, thinkers, artists, who use the names of others when chronicling their lived experience, holy anorexics are not merely people to be differed with; they must be despised.
Shouldn't it be possible to leave the body? Is it wrong to even try? Hungry yet repelled by food, Weil wrote: "Our greatest affliction is that looking and eating are two different operations. Eternal beatitude is a state where to look is to eat."
"The Alien is in my eyes. He's flooding my eyes. He's completely penetrating me, every bit of me in my eyes.
He's in my eyes, he's spreading into my brain. Oh God,
he's in my mind. He's making me feel things in my body that I don't feel. He's making me feel feelings, sexual
feelings. And he's there. He's everywhere. My body's changing."
David Jacobs, 1988 interview with an Alien Abductee
- from Aliens & Anorexia
Semiotexte/Smart Art Press 1999
In Aliens & Anorexia I am attempting to make contact with the writer and philosopher Simone Weil. At the moment of her death in August, 1943, Weil became an Alien, i.e., a legend who transformed politics into tragic poetry. Not all Alien encounters are hostile and dispassionate invasions. There are others who see the Aliens as their friends. Aliens encounters, like narrative, happen essentially in realtime. In order to make contact with the Aliens, it is necessary to carve out little pieces of yourself to let the Aliens come in.
In Paris, the librarian Florence de Lussy is editing Weil's Collected Works for Gallimard. Weil's been dead for more than fifty years. The project's overdue. The edition will contain eleven volumes, and yet hardly any of what Weil wrote was published in her own lifetime. Because she was an amateur philosopher, teaching philosophy in French girls' lycees until 1941 when Jews were banned from working for the government, Weil's writing has a narrative quality mostly absent from the philosophy of her own time. She wrote articles for the leftist press, reports, position papers and communiques during her years as a trade union activist. Concurrently, and in the years following her disillusion with the trade union movement, she wrote notebooks and voluminous letters to her friends and colleagues. In solidarity with the dispossession of the workers who her labor colleagues claimed to represent, Weil sought out the experience of dispossession in the person that she knew the best, herself. "If the 'I' is the only thing we truly own, we must destroy it," she wrote in Gravity and Grace. "Use the 'I' to break down 'I'." She was despicable; according to Bataille, "odious, immoral ... a dirty hook-nosed Jew." Had anyone taken her seriously enough to prompt her to write professionally for publication, her work would not have happened. She was writing to find out what she thought.
"The body is a lever for salvation," Weil wrote in her notebook in New York. "But in what way? What is the right way to use it?"
Simone Weil was a performative philosopher. Because her texts are really notebook writings, there isn't ever any subject that's apart from her. Which is not to say she's writing "memoir" or "autobiography." Channeling her subjects through her person, Weil does what writers do. She is constructing a narrative in realtimearriving at a state of openness, witnessed by her audience, the readerin which thoughts fly in and out according to who's listening. In Weil's philosophy, just like in narrative or phone sex, it's not the story that we're really hearing, it is the fact and act of telling it. Her thought approaches narrativean emotional transparency that occurs when someone else is listening to you.
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