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Reading Percival Everett

Claude Julien
Anne-Laure Tissut

IV. The Writer's Own Turn

Other Languages Are All We Have”

an excerpt from work in progress

Percival Everett

Texte intégral

Percival Everett at Université Stendhal (Grenoble, France) during a coffee break. (Photo by Christiane Julien, Université de Tours, 2006.)

1These pages are my undertaking. I am guilty not because of my actions, to which I freely admit, but for my accession, admission, confession that I executed these actions with not only deliberation and premeditation but with zeal and paroxysm and purpose, above all else purpose, that I clearly articulate without apology or qualification and so I find myself merely a sign, a clear sign, and like any sign I am indifferent to the nature of the thing that I designate or, for lack of a better word, signify, while scratching at the dried blood beneath my nails, my voice rough and hoarse from disuse, for no matter how articulate my confession, it takes few words to utter it, the truth always requiring fewer words, and generally smaller words, than lies and half-truths, and they are never called half-lies, and this is instructive, the way so many things are instructive, and it all comes back to that indifference to the marked thing, the way nouns and names behave badly and play loose with meaning, the way language resists the tightening of screws and the sketching of schema and the way the angle of incidence is always equal to the angle of reflection, the whole mess of language yearning for a decent visual metaphor to connect it with the world toward which it is so indifferent. The truth is shorter than the lie. Did you? I did.


2A dead face is no face at all, at all no face, no face it is not cold, not plastic, no longer flesh, all dream, all thought, it is all too human and animal and human and even expressive but it is no face at all one can hold a living face in one’s hands but a dead face sifts through fingers, leaks, drips no face a living face gives back even when sleeping even when unconscious but a dead face absorbs one’s gaze, stretches that search for connection to infinity the familiar functions of connection, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, do not work for dead faces, as they do not work as arithmetical procedures for infinite decimals a dead face, like an infinite decimal, corresponds to nothing in the real world a dead face is a concept and so one cannot hold it in one’s hands and so I hold my daughter’s living face, her once living face, that face that I loved and, with my then-wife, made, as a reality in my mind, resisting the common, persisting, unhelpful belief that: memories are every time newly constructed, every time freshly made, cultivated, harvested, no face at all my daughter’s sweet sweet face is a real living thing inside me, abstract and real, never gone so never in need of reconstructing and somewhere there is a thing in this world, my world, the only world that is her sweet dead face, no face at all, perhaps a symbol, a sign, a directional beacon, a denoting or connoting marker but no face at all.


3Ce n’est que jeu de mots, qu’affectation pure.


4“Hey, did you hear the one about the...


5As a oneder-loving and wonder-see king sort, I will exhighbit esnuff off myshelf, my deep sadnest asidle, my disillusionmantle acider, my fear and lax thereof asighed, my asides aslide, to yiell a bravf picture of the main I yam, my preverse colloudiness aside. And so I weight, my bird, my spiright, my sorehorse, my slights havink flown. I leak aboot and keep yondering when my Pinel or Tuke might enthere and caste oft these chains. Nyet, I cuncider this life a prism, meself mhad, tall this in spite of my comforit, sew-called, exstream combfort that costs me so much discomfjord and then gilt for feeling bad abutt feeling good and one tit goes untilt the doctorn enters the asshighlum.


6I come from a nation of stupid fucks and by association, at least, if not genetic inevitability, a sobering and sickening thought, I must be a stupid fuck as well. The stupid fucks in my country elected a king stupid fuck and he ruled with stupid fuck glory and majesty, a stupid fuck for the ages, who in a more fair time, might have been successful as the man who follows behind the circus parade with a shovel, but probably not. The stupid fuck was elected by stupid fucks and supported by stupid fucks and even occasionally fell out of favor with stupid fucks, but stupid fucks, being stupid fucks, either forgot or forgave and again loved the king stupid fuck who loved war and money and butchering the language while chewing at the inside of his cheek, polluting the air with slogans like If you can’t find your enemy, create one and When in doubt, fear and hate, though my favorite unused one is It’s Us against Them; too bad We’re not all Us. But I too am a stupid fuck, if for no other reason than for calling you a stupid fuck and expecting you to read on and for writing this bit to open this bigger bit that might or might not have anything to do with my entire project here, if indeed it is a project, a book, a mission, a work, a journal or graffiti. Yes, graffiti, that is what this is, my messages scribbled across boxcars and bridges and the sheet metal fences encircling scrap yards.


7As if anything matters.


8(a preliminary discussion of the nature of meaning meant to facilitate further inquiry into the nature of what it means to mean in a textually (re)corrupted praxis of (de)(re)constructed simulacra of panoptic discourse.) The problem of course is that I am dead serious. Dead. Serious. Seriously dead. Deadly serious. Dead and serious, textually, metaphorically, literally, figuratively. And any indulgence I take is mine to take, unapologetically, arrogantly, but honestly and with a modicum of self-awareness that if doesn’t make my behavior acceptable, it at least makes clear that I am in some unremarkable way, large or small,---well---aware of the transgression; however much like a justification that sounds, it is not.

9Justification, as you will see, is of little use or interest to me. Quite the contrary. I am not puzzling over cause or causes, much less justified cause or causes, or in some way substantiated, right or validated cause or causes. It might be, no doubt is true that reaction cannot exist without action in the world we know and so every action is a reaction, but who gives a flying rat’s ass. Any perception or conceit of cause is, anyway, mixed up with something anti-conceptual, something indefinite, however much we might like to put a finger to something, to blame something. There is some locus, some space, some absence between cause and what it affects and that is where all truth lies (and what a telling pairing of words) and I simply don’t care. And notice, as I speak out of my hat, that I said what cause affects and not what cause causes.

10I actually know very little about many things and even less about the few subjects that remain. I do know that ants build mounds before it rains and that it’s difficult to wash only one hand. Perhaps the thing about the ants is wrong.


11It is always a matter of framing, of framing matter. Of paintings, whether they are framed or not, whether the frame wears the work or whether the frame is an essential part of some artistic expression, who frames and why, when and for whom. Is the frame a work of art apart from the framed and if so is it a frame at all and what does it mean to consider that they, the frame and the framed, work together or against each other? Is the frame a decision or an accident? Can there be a break in the frame? Is a frame with a break a frame at all? And after all a frame is just a box and a box is just a container, but what a container does, in addition to containing, if it ever does that at all, marking what is inside, is mark what is outside. A box, a frame, a container, one’s skin not so much surrounds a thing, but closes out a world that is not surrounded.

12Life, framed as it is by birth and death (granted, not a sophisticated idea, nor a new one), is not the frame, nor the edges of the frame, and it is not large and grand gestures within the frame, but rather life consists in small, idle gestures, small like the of eating lunches, walking to the mailbox, forgetting to kiss your daughter goodnight, remembering where you parked. Life is not great deeds, but little sneezes of time, tiny hiccups of things we might or might not recall, might or might chose to recall. Need I too to to find my way way back to the wry rhythm rinsed rhythm that is my heartbeat any anymore? It is always a matter of framing, of framing matter and oh with just a slip of a letter, a dyslexic pratfall framing because farming and that’s whole other kettle of fish.


13And so this begins, as all things must begin, at the beginning and with a conjunction. All things are necessarily attached to some other thing or things that in turn necessarily attach to other things and so on, the contingent attachments being necessary features. Contingency, therefore being necessary, if for no other reason than it allows necessity to make sense. There’s a place for everyone and everyone in her or his place and so I am here (a rather vague and iffy concept or designation at best), attached to the wall or nailed to the floor, moving through this door or leaping out that window, stumbling down this road or trotting right up the old alley, attaching myself spatially or psychically or narratively to some other person, place, thing, thought or even pain (perhaps the only thing that is truly shared by all of us). Places change. Feelings are immutable, so we are instructed (by those who instruct), but every emotion has a story, a history, an apologue, and therefore is tied to this thing we call a world and cannot exist without it. Blah, blah, blah. Call me Ishmael.

Table des illustrations

Légende Percival Everett at Université Stendhal (Grenoble, France) during a coffee break. (Photo by Christiane Julien, Université de Tours, 2006.)
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