Wednesday, July 09, 2008


She was in town, driving down a hilly street of frame houses, and saw a man sitting on his porch, ahead of her, through trees and shrubs, arms spread, a broad-faced blondish man, lounging. She felt in that small point in time, a flyspeck quarter second or so, that she saw him complete.


She saw something out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head and nothing was there. The phone was ringing. She decided to find an optometrist because she thought she'd seen something a number of times, or once or twice, out of the corner of her right eye, or an ophthalmologist, but knew she wouldn't bother. The phone was ringing. She picked it up and waited for someone to speak.


A doppelganger is a living ghost. In Norse mythology, it precedes the living person, seeing everything that happens to him or her in advance, so that one is forever in the shadow of one's double. When we see it, we are not sure whether or not it is alive, animate, whether it is ahead of us or behind us. Schelling and Freud thought it was a psychic manifestation of something which should have remained hidden or repressed, but which has burst through to haunt us.

The strange, malformed geekish man-boy that Lauren Hartke finds upstairs in the holiday home she recently stayed in with her dead husband in Don DeLillo's The body artist (quotes above in italics) is such a figure: a primitive being which, by tics and splutters, articulates the brokenness of her relationship. The blond man on the porch turns out to be a paint can placed on board that was balanced between two chairs.

I might write more about The body artist soon. In the meantime, via Run Away Home, here's a three-part public information film from the late 70s. Its moral (all PIFs have one, after all) is dreadfully neurotic and fatalist whichever way you look at it (anything less than an obsessive attention to perfection will get you killed OR the perpetual search for perfection will get you killed - either way you can't win). Our shadowy superego will be forever on our tail, waiting for us to make a mistake, always judging us, and leaving us for dead when the time comes.

Night Call - part 1
Night Call - part 2
Night Call - part 3


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