6. Diatribe v. Epiphany

Veridic moments of time without space

Miller's visionary prelude to his roller coaster ride through the "crepuscular melange" of cities specifies the site of his frenetic diatribes. This site is historical in two senses, as the brief comparison of Miller's and Melville's use of the figure of the railroad indicates. Miller's diatribes embrace a social site within which the tension between Nature and Mechanism--from which nineteenth-century poets and novelists culled so many potent images for man's split being--has been effaced. History has rendered the question of Nature or machine moot. For Miller, man and the landscape have been flattened into one irredeemable mechanism. Miller announces, "I am the machine," without a trace of the dialectic of domination captured in Melville's "furious trope," "living instrument." The thing flows on, but the dialectic of the "machine in the garden" reaches a terminal point, a railroad terminal: the railroad yard of the urban-industrial Waste Land has replaced the railroad line crossing the wilderness. Alongside his burlesque and street-wandering anecdotes, Miller's frenetic diatribes accept the historical reality of the twentieth-century urban-industrial world without regret, without looking back. He begins to write in, and of, "A world without hope, but no despair."[12]

Secondly, Miller's diatribes transpire upon a central site of western aesthetic permutation. Invariably, the pace of Miller's prose modulates to a frenzy as he leaves behind the concrete events of life in the streets to approach the solitude in which artistic activity is traditionally pursued. He recognizes what has happened in this artistic, contemplative solitude: solitude has always been the site where language, "unhooked, ungeared, out of joint with the times," takes over.[13] "Solitude" and "Self" are fundamentally tropological sites where presence arises out of absence, being out of nothingness, and subject out of the vision of object; arising only to return to that other they cannot escape. Each time Miller "criss-crosses" this site he poses his ceaseless narrative movement as the only alternative to repeated visionary quests which have produced illusions of transcendent hope only at the price of figures of despair:

All that is here related moves with imaginary feet along the parallels of dead orbs; all that is seen with the empty sockets bursts like flowering grass. Out of nothingness arises the sign of infinity; beneath the ever rising spirals slowly sinks the gaping hole. The land and the water make numbers joined, a poem written with flesh and stronger than steel or granite. Through endless night the earth whirls toward a creation unknown....[14]

Narrative moves perpendicular to the axis of vision, "along the parallels of dead orbs," substituting the "Arabian zero" of the "equation sign" for the cipher-zero of premature disillusion, joining events into a chain that leads "toward a creation unknown" rather than spiraling images above a "gaping hole." In Tropic of Capricorn, Miller explains with greater confidence his narrative method:

The eye, accustomed to concentration on points in space, now concentrates on points in time; the eye sees forward and backward at will. The eye which was the I of the self no longer exists; this selfless eye neither reveals nor illuminates. It travels along the line of the horizon, a ceaseless, uninformed voyager. [....] I am the arrow of the dream's substantiality. I verify by flight. I nullify by dropping to earth.
Thus moments pass, veridic moments of time without space when I know all, and knowing all I collapse beneath the vault of the selfless dream.[15]

With the dissolution of the "I of the self," even dreams cease to be solitary and cease to be symbolic. Dreams no longer appear as otherworldly signs which, properly interpreted, might inform man of his being and relation to this world. Dreams become substantial, of this world and its trans-individual, selfless movement.

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