A Glance At Ghosts – Ruminations On Eastwood
Thinking back about Clint Eastwood’s chair episode during this year’s RNC, and thankfully with a bit of time for that to gestate, I can’t help but think of, not what it was, but what it revealed. But to that point in a minute.
The reason I’m writing this is because, after befriending Jeff VanderMeer here on FB, and getting into a good conversation about what composed WEIRD as a genre, or anti-genre as it were, the jury is still out. What does that mean? And what are the greater implications, not only as a style of art or writing or sub-genre of literature (edit), but ontologically, epistemologically and as a historical milestone along our volatile timeline. Are we at or near our end? Or are we only beginning? Whichever, we are constantly becoming.
The ghost story, the horrific, the absurd have now grown up in the quantum age, where reality itself is always seemingly unreal. It is the supremacy of mind that marks our age because it is our infinite mind, or [burp] the potentially infinite fruits of our imagination which best suit this post-singular paradigm in which we presently find ourselves adrift. That is, if you buy that we are indeed post-singular. That is also up for debate. But what do I know? Depending on what you’re used to, you may enjoy our ability to levitate at will, or you may find it terrifying. YOU MAY NOT EVEN BELIEVE THAT IT IS POSSIBLE!
After a century-plus of avant-garde arts – literature, painting, photography, music – we are finally experiencing en masse the becoming of the mandala-mind of imaginative, multiple malleable possibilities. Conception is existence. The center cannot hold, and if it did, we’d tear it apart anyway. Entropy represents one threshold opening manifold new orders of mind, bizarre new vistas of multiple realities spiral infinitesimally beyond boundaries or definition into our own private hall of mirrors within which we are each simultaneously trapped and sprung from in perpetuity. Our Sheol for sharing. Our fruit vomiting womb made of sulci and gyri, adorned with jewels which, when crushed with the hammer of self-awareness, birth milky mauve rivers of maggots and Gods. We can share them with one another. It’s this act of sharing that is bending collective consciousness and bridges are floating away.
But in the crass marketing culture of American politics, we discover absurdity’s diminished culmination in the shape of one overrated icon and an empty chair. The knee-jerk reaction was to brand it Theater Of The Absurd. But this was not Ionesco. This was not The Chairs. Though Eastwood might have echoed Wendy from Happy Days making the best of a bad situation as she was sucked into the ground with a few bare trinkets from her life, Clint’s stuttering, sad monologue was not Theater Of The Absurd. It was perhaps more prescient of Eliot’s whimper, staged by Mad Men and delivered in a stammering hair-throated hhwheeze.
Where there was venom.
This is horror laughing. Granting it the status of Theater Of The Absurd is far too complimentary.
Pivoting back to The Weird, in Jeff and Ann VanderMeer’s The Weird: A Compendium Of Strange And Dark Stories (TOR), Michael Moorcock summons the image of actor John Philip Kemble who, when playing Hamlet, dispensed with the conventional ghost, a white sheet, and addressed only an empty chair. Moorcock contends Kemble “played an infinite jest on playwright and audience which continues to open that scene…to a thousand interpretations.” He goes on to say, “Hamlet’s sanity is thoroughly questioned.” And so it was Eastwood who revealed our madness to our plastic marketing-minded consumptive masses, our labyrinthine paradigm of the impossible. And fuck them if they don’t like it.
You can’t help but think that Eastwood, haggard wannabe cowboy, who essentially played one character his entire life, when rambling through that mess, was unaware of his echo of Kemble’s Hamlet. How apropos. But was Eastwood aware of Kemble? He has said in an interview following that…performance…something to the effect of, ‘If you’re dumb enough to ask me to speak at a political convention, then don’t be surprised…It really is funny. Or is it sad? Or is Eastwood smirking like Loki, getting the last laugh?
While the best-known writers of the Theater Of The Absurd were consciously working to reveal the apparent irrationality and uncertainty at the periphery of our knowledge and consciousness, Eastwood delivered a haphazard quasi-Vaudevillian carpet bombing of a staged spectacle. I applaud that he brought down that house (and a curse on it to be sure). But it was far from the streaming glossolalia (an almost Alzheimer’s-like Hell of memory spew) of Mouth in Beckett’s Not I. There is not a parallel here. Perhaps an accidental outlier, but not a manifestation of the Theater Of The Absurd. At least, not in any sense that waking up every day isn’t. That’s when the nightmares really begin. That’s when Eastwood unintentionally stuck the irreal up the ___ of the GOP. Bravo!