Category Archives: Silliness

“Life ain’t Nothing but Bitches and Money” – A half arsed discussion of Psychoanalytic and Marxist Criticism

God…that title looks boring.

Anyway, basically, I’m going to do a half arsed version of an essay I’ve been intending to do for ages. But because its Sunday, I’m not going to do any research, and I’m probably going to stop halfway through to start tidying up my room.

Still, at least I’ve got an NWA quote in the title.

Anyway, lets get on this.

So, I guess this could be considered an attack on the grand narratives of Freudian Psychoanalysis and Marxism. Which is interesting because It think there are lessons to be learnt from both. Its just the old post modernist thing of attacking the grand narratives I guess. Plus when you try and summarise Freud and Marx using the words of Ice Cube…it becomes much clearer just how much the two can be seen to reducing everything to nothing.

Lets (for some reason) ignore the fact that Freud was a sexist pig who had no idea of anything that happened in the lives of people who didn’t live in Middle class Vienna. This is probably a gross oversimplification of him…but that’s all that everybody ever does with Freud, which is perhaps the problem. My housemate did Psychology at Uni, and she always finds it interesting that I did loads of stuff on Freud (in my Literature degree) when they were taught from the beginning that the whole thing was unprovable tosh. Freud and the interpretations of Freud (we’re talking Lacan’s phallus here by the way) are still prevalent modes of criticism in the field of Literature.

There is genuinely some really interesting stuff going on there. You can compare Freud’s understanding of ‘the dream work’, that is the way our subconscious presents thoughts in dreams but then we encode and disguise them so our conscious mind doesn’t have to face up to the unpleasant truths within, with the practice of writing and creativity. The construction of meaning in writing can be compared to an expression of the mind of the author (who, as we all know, is dead) being transmitted through the veiling and changing process of language. Does that make sense to anyone who isn’t a pretentious wanker? Possibly not. But there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on there. For the likes of Nick Royle, literature is a form of telepathy (I’ll post my dissertation on Philip K Dick at some point for more discussion of this) between the minds of author and reader. In fact this is probably a gross mis-interpretation, but that’s what I always got out of it. In fact I think that its closer to empathy at least half of the time. Good literature has an ability to make you feel a situation, rather than just think about it. That’s why we love reading even when its not the smartest and wittiest and most intelligent pieces of Canonical literature. That’s why ‘trashy’ and ‘lowbrow’ books are still damn good.

Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward is an excellent book that essentially deals with psychoanalysis through the medium of a witty and fast paced sci fi narrative. Read it now…its worth it. The writing seems a little stilted at times but the pace and humour is so good that you forgive it immediately…and its a first novel…so its a pretty damn fine achievement. I won’t analyse it now as it would spoil it. First person who lives in my area and e-mails me asking for it can borrow my copy.

Anyway. The point is that you need to get the whole breadth of Psycholanalysis being considered in order to get something useful out of it. I don’t like the way that one tiny element has effectively become the whole grand narrative. Its a simplification. Everything is about sex…apparently…it just becomes a hunt for phallic symbols and returns to the womb. Eye removal is apparently synonymous with castration anxiety…as is almost anything else that can happen. I mean…I can appreciate that people think about sex a lot…I sure do. I can even see how it could be considered one of the primary motivational drives. The reproductive drive (continuance of DNA…the selfish gene and all that jazz) is the obvious motivation. But even Freud had to override that with the Death Drive once he saw the results of the First World War. I don’t know…I guess its the reductionism of most psychoanalytic criticism that pisses me off. It is possible to take note of Siggy and not actually have to make everything about a couple of out dated and genuinely quite ridiculous statements. If most psychologists think that its nonsense…then why is the literary world still so obsessed with the Mother Loving Austrian Prick.

And I haven’t even mentioned Oedipus yet.

Anyway. Marxism is something i like. The key reduction here is viewing everything through a system of economic relationships. Sahil believes that every relationship is a constant series of negotiations…and that applies on International levels and on personal relationships. For Marx it’s about class war (aside: protest on campus once…someone yelled out ‘its a class war’ and got the biggest laugh of the day as everybody noted that in fact the only classes present were the middle…that’s what University protests are all about..middle class kids pretending they aren’t) and the constant dialectic struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. The important thing however, is that everything becomes economic. The money and the value of goods is exchanged, and this leads to the exploitation and alienation of the proletariat etc etc blah blah blah.

We all know about it. If you don’t (or just like re contextualised works) look at this .

Anyway, I’m talking through a literary lens today…so lets go into what Marxist literary criticism is like. Basically, (I think) literature is considered complicit in the oppression of the ‘people’. It forms part of the ruling hegemony (unless it is subverting it of course) and creates and uses language to promote the status quo. The ideology of the ruling class controls the language and uses its meanings to impose its thought upon people. Language itself is guilty of oppression, which is why people try to screw the system up by subverting language itself. Look for those experimental poets fucking shit up. My mate Jeffers does a fine job of it. I think its all well and good. I kind of tend to agree with bits and pieces of it to an extent. But at the same time…I don’t like the idea that language is to blame. Can we not change language. I mean…I know language and meaning has its limits. But the beauty of language is in the fact that it changes every fucking time you use it. Every time I use a word in the company of someone…then for both of us that word acquires a meaning related to that moment. It adds an extra level to it. A lot of the stuff in my short story posted below (Abort , Retry, Fail) is little words and phrases that only make sense to me and a couple of people who will recognise the original situation. I don’t know if it makes sense to put them in there…but I think it actually challenges other readers to associated new meaning with those phrases. The story isn’t as subversive as I’d originally hoped…but it certainly is a struggle to read…it makes you think…but at no point to I make up or invert language. Everything is in vaguely accurate English. The grammar is disjointed…but you generally understand what is going on.

Anyway, I’m going to edit it soon and hopefully it’ll be better then.

I’ve rambled off topic.

Basically..the general point is that grand theories must be looked at in all their intricacies, and should be only used as a lens. You must be aware that you are making a certain judgement of something using a certain set of rules laid out, by that something.

Life is more than sex and economics. Don’t reduce things to that. Look at everything. If you’re being Marxist..then note that you’re being Marxist and try and think of what the other side is. same for Freud…don’t just glue yourself to his ideas so that eventually all you can see is cocks flying through tunnels or whatever it is that Freud saw everywhere.

Hmm,

I haven’t said anything have I…ah well…any thoughts? Any questions? Want to call me a big shit and tell me I’m wrong? Go on…make a comment…I dares ya.

Edit: Read the commments if you haven’t. My second comment below actually ends up saying what I was trying to say above but couldn’t quite figure out.

Sweet, Sweet Ale

So, basically, the off license (booze merchant for those not ‘in the know’ so to speak) round the corner has started stocking the 2006 vintage of what I consider to be one of the finest ales known to humanity: Dark Star Imperial Stout. This sweet nectar is produced by Dark Star, a local small scale brewery of nigh on legendary quality (very, very good ales). Anyway, this event calls for a celebration. Before I go to the pub to meet my friends I intend to conduct an experiment in beer enjoyment, by offering a real-time summary of my drinking experience (you’ll have to trust me on the real time aspect..I’m actually going to post it all in one go, think of it as more of a sip by sip description). Basically, I’m going to talk about the beer, while I drink it. For those who need details, the bottle is only 250ml, and shall be poured into my container of choice (a ceramic tankard gifted to me for my birthday by the wondrous and mysterious Lady E), then drunk, at the rate of my choosing. I will also give regular updates on what music I’m listening to (currently Plotinus by Squarepusher..very good) which will be supplied by my general purpose playlist, shuffled repeatedly and let to roll. If I’m not in the mood for the particular song, I shall skip to the next one, but I will inform you of the fact. Now that the rules are clear, I shall begin:

First off, I have to pour this beautiful drink, unfortunately, the two handed nature of this task means that I must take a break for this. Back in a second.

(just sniffing it once the bottles opened is a thrill, quite a meaty smell..almost like a fruit cake being cooked…this is good shit)

Ah yes, the baby is poured. Beautifully deep rich colour, the smell is slightly caustic, but only very slightly, very strong and very rich aroma. (Music has just changed to Ode to Scatman a little funky dance romp by Agent Mancuso, a friend of mine).

We take a break for the first sip, pray silence. (I’m gonna close my eyes on this one…just so you know).

Oh Lord.

That is good. The richness and depth is hard to really get across. There’s a very strong sweet flavour, that seems to be wrapped in a milder taste. The effect is of being mildly syrupy, but with a deep and rounded (almost beefy) undercurrent of fruit, only a bit heavier than that…like mince pies only better. (That last sentence also accurately describes the music that’s now come on Funky Acid Stuff by Luke Vibert).

Further sips will be accompanied by a brief summary of what we know about this beer. First off…the information on the side of the bottle ‘Imperial Stout is a truly special beer which harks back to the days when English brewers exported strong stouts and porters to the baltics. Brewed with a high proportion of roasted barley and target hops, this is a complex beer with a big flavour’. Seriously, you cannot underestimate how accurate that is. There’s alot of flavour in there..and its not just big but actually fucking huge.It’s been about three minutes since my last swig and still the taste lingers (a little nutty at this point, and still quite warming). For those of you for whom strength is all that matters, don’t worry, this little baby weighs in at 10.5%. A good place to start. Guinness this ain’t. Anyway, Radiohead are telling me to slow down (The Tourist) so I’m gonna kick back and enjoy the beer for a few minutes. See you in a minute.

Right now its making me wish I ate meat just so that I could soak some steak in this stuff and put it in a pie. That would be good.

Its so damn rich. Its like having a millionaire in your mouth..only its a beer and it tastes great.

About halfway through the drink and the lady sampled by the Venetian Snares is talking about pigeons being scary (Masokik Galamb). Great stuff, this playlist has served me well. With the fear of sounding like a bit of a lightweight, the beer itself is starting to take effect, to borrow the words of that bastard Legolas in one of those irritating scenes in the Lord of the Rings films where they added stuff to make Legolas cool while Gimli becomes a comic fall guy ‘my fingers are starting to tingle a little. as for the music…the strings and the drums are working beautifully. I recommend you try out the Venetian Snares album with all the Hungarian names, damn fine idea..breakcore beats and classical instrumentation. Awesome.

But anyway, we’re here for the beer, so lets get back to it.

As you may be able to tell, I’m not exactly a food and drink critic. I know what I like, and I like this a lot, but I can’t really get across what it actually tastes like. I mean, I can do ridiculous similies fairly easily: It’s like my taste buds are being tickled by someone very sexy who I like a lot and have been noticing around for age, but never quite had the guts to talk to, until tonight, when we finally spoke…and I’ll be honest with you..we weren’t speaking for long, before things got a bit physical. Yes…this beer is a lot like that. No, really.

So, I’m beginning to think this was a crap idea. But the beer still tastes good, and that restores my confidence. That’s what I like in a beer, one that stays with you even though you’re beginning to lose faith in it (and yourself). No, I don’t think beer is the answer to all your problems, in fact it can cause a hella lot of problems. But this beer is different. This beer will solve a lot of your problems..and it certainly won’t cause any trouble. In fact, this is the kind of beer you could take home to your parents, a polite beer (though strong and caring). Actually, I do plan on buying my Pa one for his birthday, bu don’t nobody tells him that.

Ooops, (how many Os are there in Oops?) I forgot to mention a few song changes. That 10.5% really makes the difference you know (hence the slipping into dialect, for those who noticed). Anyway, its now Gigantic by the Pixies…which works well for me, cause it means I can tell you the story about how I first heard this song. It was actually at my local watering hole back home, doing some underaged drinking (a fine British past-time if ever I heard of one), and my friends band were playing a cover. Anyway, this particular friend (Sir G), and his whole family, all of whom I know well, have a shared fixation with toilet humour. This meant that I wasn’t surprised when I feard him singing about ‘a big big log’. I laughed..I was amused. It was only later, when I heard the Pixies singing it and realised that Sir G never wrote the aforementioned song, that I realised the lyric was ‘a big big love’. Such an easy mistake to make. Anyway, now we’re listening to Spiritualised – Lord Let it Rain on Me. Good song..good band. Keep it up Mr Randomised Playlist.

Right. I just realised I’m heading for the last slug of ale. Which means its almost time to go. Don’t mourn for me, for I shall return with much more interesting posts. Probably tomorrow. Just out of interest, can anyone clarify for me whether WordPress (or anyone else) owns copyright on stuff I post. I only ask because I have a short story I want to post, and I’ve heard of people being dicked around online, don’t want it to happen to me.

Anyhow, the music’s picked We Didn’t start the Fire by Billy Joel for the track as I finish my ale. The last sip was a treat (as is the tune) and I can’t wait til I get another (but I doubt I’ll tell you about it unless a lot of you request more).

Thanks for your time. I hope you enjoyed. I know I did, but then…I was drinking a gorgeous stout for the duration. Drink more real ale. That’s what I say.

Incidentally, spelling and grammar has been left as is..jsut cause it seemed more ‘honestly’ real-time that way.