For months Hamlet has been floating around. Its book covers popping up everywhere. Non sequitur references during my classes with Avital Ronell. In other texts. In my letters to Elaine and in her letters to me. The other night, in my laundry room, someone left a copy on a shelf of donated books. On tables at work. I even stole one copy and took it home with me as a token, as proof.
Ronell says, “In Hamlet readiness is all” and “All of Hamlet happened in the ear.” A few weeks later, Žižek came to Ronell’s class and said that Hamlet is about the way the beginning of ethics is trying to decide something and decision always involves indecision and procrastination. How an act always comes both too early and too late, so there is never really a “right” moment for an act. One begins with the wrong moment because it is always the wrong moment.
A few days ago, Elaine sent me a quote by John Berger:
“In the minute that’s still left we have to do everything.”
The day X. came to class Ronell brought up Hamlet, again, and suddenly all the ghosts had a name, making them real. I couldn’t believe my ears. Yet even though we were finally in the same room together, how can you know what someone hears—(what X. heard)—when we never really know this about anyone.
When I asked a female acquaintance at the bar we were at if she thought X. had heard what I said under my breath the night we were together, she answered: “He doesn’t need to hear you. He knows.” The question is, how did she know? When I mumbled something cutting to him as he went outside to smoke a cigarette, taking a risk by saying anything at all, he asked me to repeat what I’d said. I pretended I hadn’t said anything and he pretended he didn’t hear anything. Denial is one of the ways cognition works. You’re just hearing things and You’re just seeing things are both spectral idioms. They are about the ghosts you see and hear as well as the ones you pretend not to see or hear. The spectral interrupts ordinary reality, puts you somewhere else. Somewhere in between. Somewhere you can’t prove.
There is what you see. There is what you don’t see. The knowledge that crawls into you. Knowing even when you don’t know.
Hamlet is also about a self-naming dog. It important to make a name for yourself in a world that calls you names.
When your name isn’t called and other people’s names are.
When you don’t even want your name called.
I walk around foraging for a heartland that almost only exists in movies now. Movies, which have taught us to be cynical idol worshippers, as much as they have taught us to believe in love. I now find myself running to movies more and more because in movies things still matter. People still matter to people. Love still matters, and readiness is all. In the movies, the world is still held together by more than just a string.
The Hamletian stance: you don’t let go of your object.
Of course you are a fool for not letting go in the 21st century, which is all about not holding on and always letting go.
A text can be a recurring dream. A ghost. A sound in your head like an alarm in your heart. The Great Dane that knocks Rousseau down and sends him careening in the Second Walk of Reveries of the Solitary Walker is also Hamlet, another Great Dane, Ronell says. By the time she said this on the first day of class (a class on the Debilitated Subject), I’d already been thinking about the relation between X. and Hamlet for weeks.
“If something is meant to happen, and it has the power and weightiness of destiny, then it’s no longer chance or an accident. It’s destinal…Rousseau’s physical harming is only secondary to the mutilation of his texts. He’s in the air when he falls—in a ghost-like pose.”
In Rousseau’ case, the unforeseen, is something that breaks off with destiny and destination.
The Strokes (Take It Or Leave It)
“I fell off the track, now
I can’t go back
I’m not like that”
You, X., have become a book. The person for whom I read everything now and will write this year, making the “you” into a world (the you that came into mine)—an Event. I think all I’ve ever wanted to do is rise to an occasion, to answer a call.
The you will make this a love letter at times, or all the time. It will be a form of address. The you will make this intimate—you, close—but will also refer to the you that is never here and might never be. The you I am dreaming of. Calling forth. Writing to and for a you will make it easier to write. I need an imaginary person on the other side of the page—for a speech act, which is always for the Other. You. Both X. and not X. I need an addressee—someone to whom I write, and just one is enough—because everything I write is really just a letter to One. Elaine and I talk about this all the time, as we write letters to each other.
To whom do you tell things and to whom do you not tell things? The Web has collapsed all of these distinctions, making the reader—the intimate—anyone, everyone, and no one all at once. It also collapses the where and when of writing. Sometimes even the why. In the end does it matter if the you to whom you are writing, to whom you are dedicating, and towards whom you are moving in order to become, never or always hears us? I don’t know. There are different kinds of presence and absence. Silence and testament. Now disappearance and silence are tied to failure. But writers used to disappear all the time. Lovers too.