Fear is a contagion. When I read Danielewski’s House of Leaves the text doesn’t make me feel afraid. I know at certain points (both incidents in the tattoo parlor for instance) Truant’s word jambles work to translate the feeling of the fear and bring it bodily, a physiological response.* His drug use sets him on edge for paranoia and his mind does the rest. This is why I don’t feel afraid (even though sometimes if I consciously imagine during the reading I will empathize instead of sympathize with John)–because it’s all in the experience when it’s written in the book. It’s in his mind and like a freak out, it’ll end sometime. 

But I tell you, fear is an infection. It needs to get underneath your skin, crawling with suggestion, multiplying like some black bile, the backminded byproduct of the whirring and churning festers eating away at your sanity, at the corners of your eyes and your steps that echo from behind down the hall–who’s following?–and you turn and there’s nobody but you still listen for that sound…
This has been happening to me. Because of this book. There’s no advice I can trust available on the web. I suppose there might be something in Leary’s work (pg 71 & 73-5) but just because I know it’s a product of my mind (duh) doesn’t mean I can prevent the image from appearing whispers an old woman face cackle around the corner of the chiaroscuro stairwell the hands that creep from the darkly opened doors darkness spilling out the voices that echo through the rooms  silent to the rhythm of your heart now too loud to hear anything sneaking up behind gloves grabbing your mouth screamless down bloody on the carpet across the stairs in the shadow one foot splayed in the light for someone to find later.

It’s the fear of not knowing what to do. Paralysis (not helpful). Of not knowing what I’m capable of, of what will kill me. It is death sneaking up from behind, sneaking up behind, sneaking threatening to pop out in front, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop it every time, to laugh at every joke… and even if I’m young and fast (?) enough with a clear (?) head, I might not make it–especially if the fear is racing me closer and closer to oblivion. Fear of death is a killer. 
Danielewski knows this. He feeds on it, makes his novel thrive on it: on letters and facts and false safe havens and madness and information overload that does nothing but make one more and more attached, more connected to life, more connected to a life, lives and the idea of loss suddenly becomes more and more apparent–and it’s not only the thought of the loss of these characters, these lives, these fragments, figments, and filaments (lines of patterns that mean that we can know these lives however skewed because we can feel them when they talk about FEAR) that infects fear but also the feedback that’s generated in our very caring, our empathy and our FEAR in their position. It causes us to start to lock the front door at night and think about locking something in rather than out, the urge to run down the dark hallway (which only increases the sound and the heart’s loud pumping breathing hard up the stairs in a panic panic) not gliding smoothly or listening to the music of the walls instead of the accusations and the missed opportunities, the failed goals and flaked plans, the blood on the wall, the bloods on the wall dripping down like a knife in your back and the blood is dripping down (concentration) (concentration) and you’re on the top of a verrrrry tall building (concentration) (concentration) and the wind blows (wooosh) (woosh) and you look over the edge


          you fall. 

Quick! What color did you see? 

Blue? Fifty years bad luck. You’ll marry a cracker factory foreman. 
           (at least he’s a foreman…) 

We turn fear into a puzzle and a game and try to play out the mind tricks, try to figure out the knot that needs untying when nothing is resolved and the darkness still looms poised in the corners panther style:
tyger, tyger in the night / burning in my brain…

Fear is

                              not a mystery but an opportunity:
the night is also when we dream

but that’s where Freddy gets us.

When we think in a line our mind makes that path self-evident. 

Ignorance is not a safe bet–no preparation.

Antagonism is poor–no education.

Exploration is beneficial–no alienation.

Commitment is harmful–only deconstruction.

Getting excited only makes the demons real. 

*Although Richard Wright’s Native Son does this much more subtly (and effectively but not quite as lyrically or invasively as D.).

–Josh Barnes


~ by hobodreams on March 15, 2010.

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