Discussed: I'm very into you: Correspondence 1995-1996 by Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark Semiotext(e) 2015
When life runs parallel to a book I feel the world at work in ways that I am usually blind to. This book arrived in my hands when it was meant to which only goes to prove that we make space in the universe for everything when we need it.
I’m not sure what this book is about except one thing: our desire to know and unknow the other so rapidly, to take her in, to find a commonality and once found to hold it as tightly as possible until it slips again through our fingers.
This is a love letter.
In the The Unavowable Community Maurice Blanchot writes:
A conclusion which in its admirable denisity may state, not the failure of love in a singular case, but the fulfillment of all vertiable love which would consist in realizing itself exclusively according to the mode of loss, that is to say realizing itself by losing not what has belonged to you but what one has never had, for the ‘I’ and the ‘other’ do not live in the same time, are never together (synchonously), can therefore not be contemporary, but separated (even when united) by a ‘not yet’ which goes hand in hand with an ‘already no longer.’ Isn’t it Lacan who said (maybe an inaccurate quotation): to desire means to give what one does not have to someone who does not want it?
Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark exchange intellectual love letters via email ofter the course of two weeks or so in 1995. These are recorded in the book I’m very into you. In this email exchange Acker and Wark demonstrate an acute sense of this “not yet”/”no longer” mentality. They are working at a love affair that can never be, but they continue to work at it.
I read the book on a plane with too many bloody marys and a body tired with the complexities of love.
But I certainly won’t forget that I enjoyed being with you. The shared intimacies of body, mind and spirit: it’s such a fleeting thing, so singular. I think we’re probably both pretty solitary in our own ways, but for a slice of time we were singular together. There are no words. I just want to say there are no words. I’m glad you came; and I’m glad you came. Thinking about you sleeping on a plane with those knockout herbal sleep-bombs of yours. Bear with me. I’ll have something to say for myself sometime soon. When I remember who I thought I was in the first place. Even if I’ve been displaced a little from wherever that was.
Those are Ken Wark’s words in the first email of the book.
There is no better location to feel displaced than on an airplane. It is a safe place for displacement: there is no where else you can be, you are trapped in your own sense of self-loss.
Love is displacement. From what came before. But mostly from ourselves.
Wark in one email writes: Strange, trying to translate an understanding of communication premised on your presence into one premised on yr absence— writing.
So often love begins as words, with flirtation, but then the words are not enough, lust overtakes us. But what happens when we do return to words, through time or by choice? The email, where all great love letters may now occur, is a particular form, both immediate and still. Acker and Wark write to each other with a sense of urgency but with the knowledge that there is no beginning or end in the dialogue, only infinite desire.
“The sole law of abandonment, like the law of love, is to be without return and without recourse.” Jean-Luc Nancy
It is hard to live out the theories. As I read this text I was writing “yes” in all of the margins, agreeing with the love Acker and Wark put forth. When I was in college I remember the upending feeling of encountering contemporary philosophy for the first time. I remember one day after class, feeling rattled and anxious, and my advisor told me they were theories, that I shouldn’t get so shaken up: these weren’t ideas to be lived out. I knew this wasn’t true but it’s taken me this long to recognize the difference, to see that he and I must have been such fundamentally different kinds of people.
Acker and Wark know they cannot be everything to each other and in this I admire them in their honesty. How often are we (am I) very into people for the one singular thing they can be to us? This is an alternative to the all consuming, all fulfilling love society wants us to buy into.
What’s between us is just that and has nothing to do with your relations with other people. We both live in the world and I like that. This is all said horribly and with no attention to problems of identity, self and other. Using old definitions. I can’t help it— I’m off.” (Acker)
Acker and Wark show us that living the theories is all we can do. And if we are lucky we kind find people to share this with.
Why am I telling you this? Partly ‘cause the whole queerness/identity thing for me stretches through everything, absolutely everything. Slipping between straight/gay is child’s play compared to slipping between writer/teacher/influence-peddler whatever. I forget who I am. You remind me of who I prefer to be. (Wark)
Being near and far from a lover causes movement within us. When I am physically far away, always, from someone I love, there are intense disruptions in the relationship moving from speech to paper and back again. Love letters are the best place to understand the shifting nature of language and therefor ourselves.
This book had me listening to Portishead again after many years. It helps the reading. It adds to the sense of longing in each email. But like all music it is a reminder of temporality, that each event has its time. Acker and Wark both know not to push beyond what they already have:
Do we need to analyse our encounter with each other? Or can we just assume it, and see what kind of dialogue it anchors to a start in time? (Wark)