Ferdinand Celine, Language, and Turkeynecks

Travel is very useful and it exercises the imagination. All the rest is disappointment and fatigue. Our own journey is entirely imaginary. That is its strength.  It goes from life to death. People, animals, cities, things, all are imagined. It’s a novel, simply a fictitious narrative.”

– Céline, Journey to the End of the Night

Every blog post no matter how raunchy or dirty starts off with a simple meditation. I don’t mean meditation here in the sense of folding myself up in awkward shapes and imaging myself to subsist some strange phantasmagorical way. I mean more in the sense of reflection. Each reflection gets articulated in a unique way depending on the mood I am in or the person(s) I have in mind when I write.

The majority of writers I have met always have someone in mind to whom they write to/for. I write to someone who is never one or the same but who’s presence despite the protean nuances of her visage. persists in time. Very similar to the lady depicted in Verlaine‘s Reve Familier or Valery’s Les Pas (respectively) which I have put a few lines down for you

Je fais souvent ce rêve étrange et pénétrant / I have often this strange and penetrating dream
D’une femme inconnue, et que j’aime, et qui m’aime/ Of an unknown women, & I love her & she loves me
Et qui n’est, chaque fois, ni tout à fait la même / And who is neither different each time
Ni tout à fait une autre, et m’aime et me comprend./ Nor compelete an other, and she love and understands me
Tes pas, enfants de mon silence,/ Your Footsteps Born from my silence
Saintement, lentement placés/ Saintly, slowly placed
Vers le lit de ma vigilance/ Near the the bed of my Watchfulness
Procèdent muets et glacés/Approach muted and frozen

I was asked a few days ago by 2 different people in completely contrasting scenarios, why are some posts, as one person put it, giving a perfect example of understatement, a ‘little bit on the perverted side’. While this is a seemingly small innocuous question it strikes at a centrifugal issue.

The Nonexistence of Profanity

For me there can not exist profanity without an experience of sacredness. Any example of profanity is really to me a documented intrusion on an act of sacredness. If in regular talk at the lunch room I say: “I Fucked her” I am using a profanity, because I am discussing in open something that should be kept between myself, my lady and God -the eternal objective passive witness who we both call out to. If not for the inherent sanctimoniousness of the sexual act, profanity would have no weight. However everyone is profane amongst friend and after a few drinks, or when cut off in traffic. It’s impossible for me to experience profanity without hypocrisy. I often think what makes profanity shameful is the hypocrisy that comes with it.

The Sacred and the Profane to me are like to different sides of the same coin of human experience. When we let ourselves be taken up into something greater than ourselves  we can experience the sacred (and I don’t mean this in a God exists/religious sense). When we try to control and subject an experience to our will and what we feel we want it becomes profane.  Of course the distinction isn’t always so clear in certain cases.

I feel it is important to relate to you something my atheist friend has admitted  to me for the sake of humor and  to congratulate him on his sincerity. He confided in me that even he called out ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’  during the close of sexual congress. The generative act is beautiful, it is what perpetuates our species in time, it is one of the best pleasures one can enjoy. It is why we put up with so much from ourselves and each other;  but ironically enough words that  are referential in any way to sex or body parts, are crass and vulgar. They carry with them the appellation of “low brow”, “uncouthness”. Yet have you noticed though that words like torture, agony, slavery, war – words that define the most despicably cruel act in our history is fine to use in any context.

  1. The Giants (Football team) go to War with the Patriots (something out of Norse Mythology)
  2. Taking the train at rush hour is murder/torture/agony
  3. That class was a slow death
I find this a very funny use of language. To me If I am going to make a salacious comment, it is never for the sake of being crass, that’s just too easy. It is always to say something. I think  this may play a part in the the seeming nonchalant attitude some Americans have about war  and the ramification. That brings up this  funny saying  I remember: “War, is God’s way of teaching Americans geography”.  So bringing up dirty comments is a great way to explore and deconstruct various social taboo. It is also a nice way to shed light on how behavior/sexuality/relationships of all sorts/linguistic expression is policed and through what means. For some reason this kinda of stuff interests me .

Personal Reasons

At heart I am the son of immigrants and I am fascinated by the English language. It’s not my native language even though I don’t speak much French, and my kreyol is half dead, my knowledge of spanish has faded and the modicum of Italian I taught myself once is gone forever perhaps (ladies my tongue is multi-lingual in case you want to buy some stock in MrMary, the Dow’s been up all week).

I have always seen myself as an outsider to American culture although I am more American than anything else. I had a lot of trouble writing essays for a while, my sentence structure was a strange and a composite of a lot of formulations from other languages. I had giant sentences, like a Proust or Claude Simon. The end ramification of all that is that I found this sentence from  Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski very funny on the train:

“You like that Turkeyneck kid?” The full weight of his body was on her. He was sweating. He offered no relief.”i’m coming baby, I’m COMING!!!…”

To give you an example of how sheltered I was  I had to have friends explain to me in my junior year of HS what the word ‘cunt’ meant. The word itself doesn’t make sense to my ears, it doesnt ‘sound’ harsh or offensive like the word fuck. I had to research the etymology and history of use to understand.

I’m like a little kid in a candy-shop when it comes to language because ultimately I feel that through interacting with each other, we hold up a mirror  for each other so we can see ourselves. Language in many ways allows us to see ourselves outside the confines of our own personal fictitious narrative.

-The End

BTW – Maybe I will do a post where I read all the Poems I cite. And tell you all the stuff you wanna hear ? whaddya think
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  1. A very interesting analysis of the profane (and by implication, the sacred). Indeed duality must exist in language as language is plainly symbolic, an intricate system of conceptualization for our conceptualizations. So language has to be as multi-faceted on two dimensions as any idea or ideology – yes, multi facets and not multi dimensional. How it manifests in our four dimensional world is, I suppose, another matter. Language necessarily depends upon context and context necessarily elicits certain linguistic responses – as you so beautifully and clearly show, hypocrisy in the dimension of dualism is unavoidable.

    I appreciate this post as I appreciate all your other posts, profane or not, simply because you write intentionally and not mechanically. Your use of the profane is deliberate which by implication reveals the writer’s depth and intention of exploring the ‘other’ side, that is, the sacred.

    Nicely done Mr. Mary.


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