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THE BOGUS MAN (a slight return)

his mind
on something
he cared about

I don't really know what THIS is all about, but the little I have read ... oh dear.

How you get from "hauntology" to great long lists of things with the word "ghost" in them is a process beyond my ken. It seems a stripe of literalism worse even than that long-ago vogue for post-Psycho "Freudianism" in which every time someone picked up a pen or pencil the critic immediately speculated that they wanted to draw a picture of themselves fucking their Mother. I.e., it was a pretty good way to advertise to the world JUST HOW MUCH OF FREUD YOU HADN'T READ.

I'm not saying Simon hasn't read very much Derrida* (if any, recently) (how could he, when he is so busy tracking down every last instance of the word "ghost" abroad in secondary media); but there's not much here that would lead anyone to think he has. This isn't me being snotty or snooty. But I have to say it does strike me as a bit irreverent - not to say rather rude, actually - to first borrow, then promote (in the old street sense of that term, like "boost") the word, in a scarifyingly extensive way, then complain that it doesn’t mean what you want it to mean, and is therefore a bit constrictive.

Likewise, it seems a bit muddle-headed to borrow a very specific Derridean notion whose reverberations would seem to work against any totalising encyclopaedics; but to then go ahead and produce great long bloody lists, as though YOU and YOU alone, could work ahead of everyone else to EXHAUST the word/notion; but then, in the very same gesture (just as a discreet "after word", mind) then draw down a veil on it at the same time, with a heavy sigh, saying - 'Well, all this GHOST stuff is OK but it's a bit restrictive and at the same time a bit vague... ', when in fact you were the only person who thought it was about GHOSTS to bloody begin with!

It's not about "haunting" music made by bands with the word "Ghost" in the title - it's about ONTOLOGY. That was always the point.

The only time I can remember bringing this up before was in 2003, I think, when I used the word in a Pill Box piece about Ian MacDonald; as far as I recall, I said that as much as I respected some of his pieces, (and this applies, also, to Greil Marcus, who I also respect but am made uneasy by), it was all riddled a bit with this urge to GROUND everything in certain notions of the "true" or "authentic" or "national spirit", or "spirit of 68" or "real music made by real people", etc, etc; and then I said surely there must be less heavy bottomed, more flexible, more playful more hauntological ways to write about music. And to me, it was always about the writing, rather than the music.

Because if you just reduce it - "hauntology" - to a synonym for "haunting" music then you're already way off course. And if you start to say - here is Music X, which reminds me of Childhood Y, and so is about a straight feedback system of nostalgia - well, I would say you are also already lost, and have missed the point. It would be more apropos to find a piece of music from THEN that seemed to be haunted by NOW, maybe. I.e, that utterly messed with our usual notions of time and reception.

ONE of the points about Derrida is that he started with a set of writings - Marx/Engels - that most of us would think the LEAST 'ghost' like or spectral in the world. A great big whomping sturdy logical rational-project ton-of-treacle encyclopaedics type set of writing, grounded, oh so grounded, in politics and "real" conditions and "real" history. And from there - whether you agree with Derrida's "method" or not - from there he draws out an apparently slender thread, a mere echo, and says, No, at work here is an alterity, an unlikely ghost-logic, un-grounded, following a strange ungraspable logic of its own - a haunt-logic...

I think also of Benjamin's Arcades here, too, perhaps inevitably, as to some extent the 'parallel' but uncanny instance or example. (OK, OK - I know that's not a very Derridean notion; but I'm writing this with my eyes barely open.) Benjamin takes something supposedly trivial and superficial - in classic Marxist terms - something brittle and shiny and mirror-image, and hears every sort of note in the world inside its strange dated echo chamber. Do you see? It's a logics of the hidden, of the non-obvious, of the inessential, the note just below hearing ... It might be a forgotten piece of music that DOESN’T have the word ghost in it, and what it was haunted by would be some FUTURE.

That was always Derrida’s keynote: haunted by a scarcely imaginable future, by all the time yet to come, that could never be reckoned, never sewn up. And I think, speaking only for myself now, that was why the death of Jhon Balance got to me so; because I thought that certain things in Coil gestured toward scarcely imaginable futures, that weren’t just to do with music, or collecting music, or labelling music, but were to with the most tender, and the most terrifying aspects of being alive, and how we relate to one another, or miss one another completely. (It’s also probably one of the reason I’ve found it almost impossible to write about the whole Coil/Jhon thing in any conventional way since his death. So many of Coil’s "records" now seem haunted by an event somewhere in the aether of the future – and do we now decide that that event and J's death were one and the same thing? What kind of event IS music, then, that it might anticipate such things, even "live" them in advance? What kind of "living" (on) IS music?)

And surely a great lumbering encyclopaedics is the least h**nt*l*gic*l project in the world?
Which is what S. does here: he rolls out a great stultifying A-Z ... and then has the cheek to finish the A-Z with an afterword that says - haven't we overdone this a bit? Well - YOU have, sonny Jim! is the obvious rejoinder here.
(The same thing happened with 'deconstruction' didn't it? It became common usage before most people even had a clue what it really invovled. It became part of the time-range of fashionable deployments - oh, that was LAST week's/season's/year's thing: coats with the seams on the outside, or records with the word "Ghost" in them. The same thing: deconstuction must mean what it sounds like; just as "hauntology" must mean something "haunting". Whereas some of us are still trying to fathom the basic repercussions of 'deconstruction' properly understood. Which is not to say that there can't be traffic between the Academy and the popular mainstream - Christ, that would make me le plus grand hypocrite, ha ha! - but let's maintain SOME standards, people.)

If I was a bit more dimestore-shrink I would call it a bit controlling - in this one gesture it looks like S. wants to get the credit for being the person who staked out "hauntology" (with great long "definitive" pieces), but also (thank god, everyone sighs) the person who ended it when it started to get a bit boring, what with all these idiots doing great long "definitive" pieces and stoopid long lists of things with "ghost" in them, who obviously don't have a CLUE what Derrida's original thing was all about AT ALL!

Instead of, how we might find an interesting way to transfer the site-specific notion of "hauntology" to writing ANEW and UNSURE about music, instead of writing about music in one of the same old ways, which - well, which leaves you no way out but (T)HIS way in (to slightly rephrase an old Lacanian saw) ...

*{ - or for that matter, listened to much Coil (seeing as these are the two things that get suspiciously offhand comments, almost as if he resentss them for spoiling his Napoleonic forward march to Definitive Statement). If I were to do a full-blown depth analysis of S's piece, I might pick just the one line, say the one in which he damns Coil as against BoC (I thought he meant Blue Oyster Cult at first, which certainly dates me!), i.e., Boards of Canada - because the latter, apparently, have the 'real' the 'true' 'childlike' capacity or musical tones/parameters of "reverie' or something or other; so then I might look for other occasions when S. had relied upon similar tropes to definitively NAIL some piece or other, notions of the Oceanic, or kindliness or God popping up in unlikely places, 'child-like' wonder, so on, so forth, and see if this was a logic that had operated in his text for quite a while, an unconscious assumption, almost without his knowing it, maybe a scene where he is the child with the most marbles, or the most records, as tho quantity was a big-warm-coat defence against some doubts about quality or something, as tho, if you could only HEAR EVERYTHNG IN ADVANCE, then no one could gainsay your opinions when you make and break epochs and epoches, codify micro genres, round up Best Ofs and all the rest ...



I wrote the above literally first thing when I woke up this morning - and later, I was worried in case I'd gone a bit OTT or been a bit too bitchy rather than objectively and rigorously 'theoretical'. I do apologise if it's a bit rough n ready, but looking at it again I think it's an honest and credible reaction, and so I let its rhetoric stand ...

posted by Ian 12/06/2006 09:05:00 AM

interesting, no comments on this, but plenty on the punk tv. I reckon they're all mugging up on derrida right now in case they get shown up! I have no such inhibitions. Never read 'im. I've pretended I have before and not been caught out though. A friend who was a big D fan said that his writing helped her to disagree with her own thoughts about herself, and that's why she liked him so much.

With blissbog, I always think it looks like one of those record collector mags you used to see in the newsagents - are you sure this hauntology thing isn't some new NYC record shop review or something?

If he's serious though, I can tell you this: he's going to fucking kill you!
To be honest, I thought that whole "haunted audio" piece in The Wire was a spoof, just too, well, perfect, to be true: once the whole 'auntological question has been turned into literal lists in Dissensus, what do we get? The absolute literalization of the whiole thing, like they'd been dreamed into being...

And on Marx, couldn't help but be reminded of Francis Wheen's comments on Das Kapital: "As a student Marx was infatuated by Tristram Shandy, and 30 years later he found a subject which allowed him to mimic the loose and disjointed style pioneered by Sterne. Like Tristram Shandy, Das Kapital is full of paradoxes and hypotheses, abstruse explanations and whimsical tomfoolery, fractured narratives and curious oddities. How else could he do justice to the mysterious and often topsy-turvy logic of capitalism?"

There's a whole Sterne-Marx-Derrida-Hamlet feedback loop going on here, which I can't quite get the hang of ("too many voices on the line" and all that).
I just went and pulled the Manifesto of the COmmunist Party down from te shelves. The first two thigns I noticed: re the plae/photo of Marx himself : wow! I'd forgotten how incredibly CARIBBEAN he looks! (Man ah warrior!) And how the Manifesto - and for some reason, the fact that this is a manifesto makes the following all the funnier - has more Prefaces (SEVEN!!!) than any book I've ever seen.
Typical bloody socialists.
'Let's get on with the recipe for action!' 'NO! First we must deal with the competing - and very real - demands of the Preface working group ...'

And I jumped into my ancient Lawrence & Wishart *Collected Marx & Engels* at random - and it was all SPIRIT SPIRIT SPIRIT, and the first striking phrase I stumbled upon was "Let us liberate them from their chimeras ..."
I read that once, the manifesto, and I was amazed to see a reference to wife swapping! I think it was something to do with the capitalists and what they did on the weekend. I suppose in that sense at least there has been a revolution if you believe channel 5
The last word on this one:

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