Berlant

How I felt when looking back at Berlant’s excerpt may end up saying more about me than the work itself but I honestly came to feel that the work was inhospitable and in the end lacked effort. That isn’t the right way to say it and maybe a version better told would include the discussion we had in class about the Reebok scene in Time Out. Julien didn’t care if the shoe was authentic or inauthentic and Berlant’s writing style had the same effect on me. The words were more false and academic than they were resounding, the flow was dictated by its ends, and, in truth, I was indifferent.

There’s a remarkable moment in Time Out when Vincent, towards the end of the movie and its long stretched denouement, asks Julien, “Was I too absent?” I had forgotten about it until I searched through my notes to find something worth writing about and found it circled. It stood out like a problem and I realized that this is how I feel about Beast in the Jungle and about writing as a whole, that there is more truth and an amplified friction in entertainment when the cause or its meaning is separate. Someone sitting behind me in class brought up the idea that Vincent used lying as a commodity in both social and emotion capital. That thought then looped into the possibility that Vincent’s internal narrative made space a commodity as well. Working around the emptiness in his exchange value allowed him to amplify his own self-worth. Much of my point is to do with the way we manufacture suspense in conflict with a conclusion. My favorite quote of Berlant’s was on page 195 when she writes, “When a situation unfolds, people try to maintain themselves in it until they figure out how to adjust.”

Vincent in the line I quoted was finally hostile to himself. His sorrow with Muriel on the couch, as Bryan said, seemed artificial. His prognosis in his question to Julien is not the one I expected at the time. The typical I’m sorry didn’t matriculate into the cinematography with some background consisting of a framed family photo or a change in scenery, nothing vague was triumphantly fathomed. Instead it was only Vincent admitting what he felt all along. This is often the time we find ourselves in when witnessing the foreground and background to a “situation” unfolding that Berlant meanders about. The end of resolution is of little concern and lacks merit even in things as immediate as the results of sports and even of voting. What we are interested in is the imbalance and absence of result.

Calexrose in the take on intimacy in our blog postings wrote, “What the beasts actually are is less important than the process of John’s life” and that is an opinion I take to heart. I would extend it to prose, life, and experience in general. The process isn’t another place asking for words but instead is the flow and absence of experience it comes to determine. Some beast will probably in the end be rounded up at the end of our reasons or choices but it will never hold water in active experience. Words can even feel like that in general, as some in class have pointed out. The economy and exclusion of words might take more picking and effort and the destabilization of flow to meet an end. Berlant’s writing is style is elliptical like James, but doesn’t have the story to make up for it. The academia often has this flaw in general. I’ve read journals of people I greatly admire and find their words – when built to meet an exclusive, insular demographic – as mired in prolix and maintaining an incomprehensibility of, and possibly an accidentally artistic, tension in what they write. Larsen was betrothed with uplift, James with case study, and Vincent with expectation. I wonder what Berlant found herself dwelling over while she met her quota and her ends.

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