"Toy Boats"
from there never was a rose without a thorn
(City Lights Books, 1995)

Toy Boats


The enemies of narrative are those who believe in it and those who deny it. Both belief and denial throw existence into question. Narrative exists, and arguments either for or against it are false. Narrative is a ping-pong ball among blind spots when considered in the light of its advantages and defects.

Narrative holds within its boundaries both its advantages and defects. It can demonstrate its own development as it mutates throughout history. This is its great advantage. I.e., in accomplishing its mutability, it achieves an ongoing existence.

Narrative might be thought to be a character and its defects lie in his "potential to observe his own practice of making falsehoods." If this narrative is imitating anything, its intention is to convince the audience to enjoy the imitation, whatever its lack of truth or reasonableness.

Those who object to this artifice are narrative's enemies, but they, too, are part of the story. They are subjects in the hypothetical world of a story. "I" too am a subject of narrative; I see enemies all around.

Because nothing is happening these days, no weather, no fighting, morning and nights, I had thought to begin my account with a little fable or narration. But I have been intercepted en route by a question, attempting to trap in flight that which forms a narration. What does it mean to allow oneself this indulgence? The indulgence of a little story? Meanwhile we have gone down in defeat and my account has entered history.
This is a more or less inaccurate translation of a bit of writing from Jean-Pierre Faye's Le Recit hunique. It is a story about the temptation to tell a story whose fate by the mere coincidence of time is to enter history. Faye tells us the story about the story rather than the original story, which has disappeared into history along with the enemy. The original has been replaced with a story that functions as a critique. The critique holds its story up as an example. Or, another way to look at this is that a story can be an example of a story and so serve as a critique.

What Is the Status of Narrative in Your Work?

Oh, the boats are large, are they not?
Whatever gave you that idea?
From looking at myself.
You are introspective?

I am an indication of what occurs around me. For instance, some snakes occur in forests, whereas others occur at the zoo. This is something zoos will not confess, for when you read the labels, snakes occur someplace other than in their cages.

Your argument doesn't follow. You are a bad philosopher

I am showing you around behind the scenes and you call me a bad philosopher. You don't have to call me anything. Look at those large boats, dream of the ports they have come from. Think of the miscellany they carry, the weapons that can drive anyone into a frenzy of fear and conjure a story. From out of the blue, the boats descended upon us. We were dwarfed by their size. What were they doing here and why so many? The German and the Mongolian were nearly touching hulls. It was as if they were human and we were ants. The children playing behind us had not yet noticed this ominous display. But as you can see, I can only make fun of the possibility of your tale.

My tale?
Isn't that what you wanted?
You have no tact, no skills, no frame of, frame of...
You mean no plan.
Nor do you produce resemblance or have a serious purpose or struggle with truth.
Or dally in genre literature.
There are no sentiments. It seems we are beginning to find some points of agreement. A resemblance to death and destruction is death and destruction, etc.
Like beans on the same shelf.
Yes, a bond.
The reality principle is continuous with our relationship so we don't have to trace things.
The facts we have come up against are in need of processing.
I don't have to tell a story to make a point.
The story is an example of your point. An ugly howling face comes out of nowhere. It is artfully executed.
You mean a bad boat.
No, you have provided that information. But don't get upset by the disparity. A harmonious relationship produces a tedious vanity and a single repetitive conversation...
(Then the boat sank, leaving behind them pieces of purple debris floating out of the harbor.)

The question of the status of narrative presupposes a hierarchy of literary values I don't entertain in my work. Narrative is neither an oppressor to be obliterated nor the validating force of all literary impulse.

"You get to the world through the person. Anyway, it's true. And yet, I keep wondering what does this mean in some larger sense? And then I wonder what larger sense I am getting at. There is something on the other side of what I can articulate that grabs the writing to it."

Extension is inside and outside of the writer. But I could also say that the thing pulling the writing toward it is chaos: the words fall in place in anticipation of a jumble. Or equally it could be an as yet unarticulated theory, which if ever made articulate would comprise a number of fragmented histories. Histories that have been intercepted en route by questions. The result might be something like a montage of collapsed ideas. This is a reflection on the enormity of the world. I am not in possession of all the facts.

Because I continue to avoid those absolutes like morning and then night, I can't get back to the original statement. And yet I contradict myself, as these statements distribute themselves in their oblique reference. The word ground here comes to mind. The ground is the constructed ideology. Or a world of print.

Do I see the ground but can't make sense of it?

I am already anticipating exhausting this subject.

A structure for writing that comes from anticipation relative to an elsewhere, which to become somewhere--i.e., a writing--must borrow from the things of this world in their partiality.