The apples in the garden were the rounder and redder, of course, for being forbidden. Obsession’s food. The breasts of the mother who never was. Obsession was thus directed to not-life—a utopian existence in which nothing is forbidden, which alone would be life. 

        Mortals approach not-life on the sacred pagan path of carnal obsessions or on the path of futural obsessions: political, metaphysical, or other-worldly. Religion enticingly construes not-life as eternal life, but such would not be life: life moves on feet, or bellies. 

    Art is, in the main, obsessive. It takes the path of desire and the prohibited, the impossible, the utopian.Bless its heart, it often tries to rise “higher,” but, as noted, the “higher” is itself an obsession. All art is peril. 

       Obsession is necessary to the very production of the artwork, to getting it started, completed, and unalterably right—that is, unless finishing is avoided so as to preserve the obsession, as in the unconsummated onanism of seriality. 

     Art is a dialogue between obsession and spontaneity. Between wanting and having; between being there and being here. Spontaneity comes into play as a desire to escape obsession. Sweet, sweet spontaneity. 

      Of notable 20th-century writer-obsessives, Gertrude Stein had the freest and most freeing obsession, an obsession with freedom in language. Simply and originally, her great desire was to change words about, moisten them. To write and write, and so run at time and its sand castle, history, with tidal laplets of words, sounds without crepuscular deeps. 

      Stein made of herself a medium of unpredictable abundance: “I can think of everything to say.” What mattered, to her, was not what is said but how freely and newly it is said. Spontaneous production is a relative being-free, regardless of any compulsion behind it (it would have to be a sweetened, buoyant one), its motoring commitment. “We are a model to every one. We are wonderfully productive” (“A Sonatina Followed By Another”). Apples in the garden? Rather, a “Pail of clover.” Because Stein is “Allowing allowing allowing allowing,” her poems do noy hasten to a conclusion; they are “Clouds of willing seen in the bird day” (“Emp Lace”). 

         In 20th-century fiction, several works contend for the distinction of 

being the most obsessive. Witold Gombrowicz’s Pornografia is a much-admired example. John Updike calls the book “profound.” What is the profundity of Pornographia? Two middle-aged men, who ought to know better, all but drool over a teen-age boy and girl in a country setting in Poland in WWII, achingly wanting them to lust after one another. (One of the men is named Witold Gombrowicz.) These men do not have a life. What is "a life"? Perversely, they want to relive the momentous ruin of their own innocence, the wonder of its initiation into the corrupt world of obsession: life is existence on the cusp of obsession, tilting toward it unstoppably. Oh, grow up, gentlemen. Learn from Pornographia's effervescent style. The profundity of Pornographia, such as it is, is that desire is a deceptive longing for a life that is really death. This irony aligns it with the Eden myth. 

        Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden is the extreme case of the modern literature of obsession. Crotches, erections, gism, shit—a partial list of its loves. A fantasy of already having without limit what is desired without limit, the book is dogged and dutiful about its immersion in abjection; it doesn't even rise to heavy breathing. Gombrowicz’s sort of ogling voyeurism is inverted into a non-stop forced voyeurism for the reader, who is placed up close and impersonal at the site of shit-caked, semen-soaked degradation. Life in the jammed muzzle of cloacal and erectile obsession. 

          To be thus degraded, degraded to the limit, is to be at once found and forsaken in a sublime of stinks, slimes, and smears. In Eden Eden Eden, the off-limits of homosexual fornication, body fluids, excrement, and still more, is not only no longer off-limits but is presented illimitably, in a dead-pan 

bravura demonstration of not fearing the father’s no, not fearing death, never mind that it is nonetheless a demonstrable waste of spirit in literal waste. Such prodigal excess forms a paradox: that of a liberating unfreedom. The book’s hardly hidden testicles are like slick, unshelled turtle eggs lying on the sand, unable to crawl to the sea. 

           Eden Eden Eden implies catastrophe but doesn’t admit it. Urs Allemann’s novella Babyfucker is darker: darkly jokey. Its protagonist precisely cannot fuck babies; he only imagines he can; he thinks he grows them like vegetables in his attic abode, as potential fucks, but he can’t see them, he’s blind, and probably can’t touch them, either: his mobility is in question. He’s a head spewing words about a desire its suppressed body can’t act upon. In truth, must not act upon: for underneath his ceaseless babble is the enjoinment that the babies must remain as they are, pre-sexual. Development is death. 

        To reprise: obsession rejects a life mired in its own terminus, life as it is, in favor of what is “really” life. In this regard, Pornographia is exemplary: in it, real life is the first, fresh gulp of a desire that is always already mortal; polluted; not-life. Taking a different tact, Eden Eden Eden worms itself as far as possible into the base materialism celebrated in carnival, but at the cost of losing carnival’s presumption of a progenitive immortality. And as for Babyfucker, it madly says to life: stop, stay in potentia

       In all, Death leans over the living and says, ah, pornographia, ah, Eden; fuck, fuck, my darlings. Which of course causes both an obsession with fucking and a fear of fucking’s death. 

       Gertrude Stein, cooing "cow come out come out cow" in the midst of frolicking innovation, is the most wholesome of the lot—divinely shallow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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