Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Flagging Pavement

While Toughy sleeps, and while Toughy wakes, it is still snowing in Baltimore. Ever falling, drip drip drip, upon The Ghost's Walk.

The above, most recent post by the (yet unresolved) author of the tweets of Toughy the Cat, borrows a kind of abridged structure from the opening of Bleak House's seventh chapter, The Ghost's Walk. The language, both here and in the original text, is on its surface purely descriptive—or at most, orienting. However, the close read reveals more than simple "richness" in the carefully honed diction of the passage. That is, the lexicon continues to inform as much by what it contains as what it omits from the original passages from the novel, the register plays between the patchy, high-and-low discourse one would expect of a housecat raised in relative isolation—situated, with Garfieldian disdain, among his (if we are to beleive our author) infantile owner(s) and omega-dog—and at once delicately balances the whimsey of substitution with temporally compressed, dry repetitions that underly the existential terror of the passage—which are ultimately, truly bleak.

The original passage reads:

While Esther sleeps, and while Esther wakes, it is still wet weather down at the place in Lincolnshire. The rain is ever falling--drip, drip, drip--by day and night upon the broad flagged terrace- pavement, the Ghost's Walk. The weather is so very bad down in Lincolnshire that the liveliest imagination can scarcely apprehend its ever being fine again.

My exegesis on the symbology of weather in the text has already here been well-enough discussed—and criticized by other critics, I've noticed*—that I will forgo a lengthy dicussion of the connection between time, weather, and the natural order; suffice to say that it is no coincidence that the hollowness of the isolated, morphemic representation of the thing—rain-qua-weather/rain/entrapment—abuts a conflation of day and night, sleeping and waking, and a kind of slippage between the real and unreal in the comparison between imagination and the true captivity of our dual protagonists-across-medium, Esther and Toughy. My primary goal in this short entry is to explore the value in our twatter's forced equivalence between not only Toughy and Esther, but between Bleak House's seemingly endless rain (the omitted final sentence is eloquently clipped from the tweet itself, perhaps due to space limitations, and perhaps due to its superfluidity, given our twatier's facility with compressed language, imho superior to that of Dickens) and the snowstorm in Baltimore, which, all the bros agree, was truly epic.

More specifically, I would like to focus—the visual metaphor is intentional, as I would like to draw an analogy to the cinematic tradition of an extreme close-up, or in the more medium-appropriate tradition, to the Carver-esque short story, where the final, crystaline image should serve as a sort of fractal by which to unpack the piece as a whole—on the rupture between Toughy and Esther, between water and snow, and the obvious exchange between the two. That is, snow melts into water—in fact, we are not given any evidence of snow in teh taweet itself, other than the word: it only appears as hollow declaration, and then in watery, transmuted onomatopoesis. I think that this rupture, this lack of proof, per se, of a complete metamorphosis between Esther and Toughy, between human and animal, between London and baltimore, this permission to conceive of fractured, cyclical existance, is an embrace of electronic media (what I think of as the core of the Toughy tweets, really—an explosion, or perhaps, implosion of the tweeting paradigm), and its openness to intertextual and reader-author dialogue.**

Ultimately, it is the authority of the author it-self that is destabilized in the fractilic remapping we see in the Toughy tweets, and are ourselves left with the image of absence-upon-transformation-upon-absence: snow turning to water, transforming to sound, upon the Ghost's Walk.

*haters gonna hate
**Dickens is an appropriate choice for such an experiment, as he was an excellent example of pre-digital readership-author exchanged. It is a well-known fact that his readers' letters to both him and his publication outlets—demanding more or less from one character or another, requesting this or that plotline to be expanded or pruned—were influential to shaping both his individual narratives, and his general approach to composition.

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