Coatlicue Complex

This week, we walk right into rejection, like walking into the wall that is righteously pissed off Roy Tony. You reject his hug, like Erdedy does. Roy Tony isn’t looking for a hug, Roy Tony doesn’t like to hug. But Roy Tony has surrendered his will, has risked sharing his “vulnerability and “discomfort” and Erdedy risks the ass-kicking of his lifetime by acting like he, Erdedy, is somehow above this all and can reject AA’s tenet of Hugs Not Drugs.


Marathe and Steeply do their own Medusa v Odalisque-esque dance of rejection, itself a fitting double bind (or quadruple bind?). The complete essence of their conversation is to offer up and reject each other’s ideologies, disdain loosely hidden behind their sparrings. And yet both have also on some level rejected their own governments (a deep betrayal on Marathe’s part, and a less impactful but still self-positioned semi-betrayal on Steeply’s).


The conversation-slash-argument between Gately and Joelle has always left me feeling very very sad. They speak over each other, and Don gets really testy – the first jerk-like behavior I’ve really seen in him. It would be ridiculous to read IJ as a sacred text and not bounce the idea around that generally Don Gately has a Jesus-figure sort of bent to him (especially later as he is inundated with confessional visits). He seems purpose-driven to  share the AA message and actively tries to live according to a moral code. So he really comes up short in this passage (IMHO), rejecting JvD’s assertion that he is driven by shame about what “might be perceived as a lack of brightness” (p. 537). And his bull-headed persistence asking about her hideous deformity forces Joelle to reject his approach and his questions over and over. Neither Don nor Joelle connect with each other, or even listen to each other.


And finally, how do you solve a problem like Lenz? His “impotent rage and powerless fear” (p. 541) is bred deep.  Lenz seems borne from a rejection by the entire universe, so his work to “resolve his issues” escalates, as we know it must, with little effect. And then, when faced with a real-life opportunity to connect with Bruce Green, Lenz fears rejection of such intensity that he is paralyzed to tell Green that he likes him (and to leave him alone).


Other Notes:


  • Half way through this section I made a note to mention how I love DFW’s acceleration techniques. There is a cinematic, madcap, almost Stoogeian feel to the way he stacks narrative steps on top of each other, alternately piling them up like a swaying tower of bricks, or layering them on like oppressive, heavy blankets. And then to play with this comic technique by paring it with truly grim subject matter (Lenz’ progression from rats to dogs, the Drano deaths, Doony’s accident with the bucket of bricks, the Entertainment itself). It is just so freaking effective. So imagine my delight when I caught up with Pemulis as he talked about “accelerated phenomena which is actually equivalent to an incredible slowing down of time” (p. 573) because that right there is what makes it so great. The slowing down of time becomes this parodic, car-crash scenario that you just can’t pull yourself away from.
  • Orin’s chasing of various Subjects with toddler-aged children is of course a classic cover for deep feelings of rejection. And Tavis is riddled with fear of rejection too.
  • Love the connection between the blue carpet and rodential squeaking of the mattress frame we get in the previous mattress saga of JOI’s childhood and the blue carpet and rodential squeaking of Pemulis’ chair in the Headmaster’s office
  • I would love to see serialized treatments of the smaller character studies in IJ, like poor Bruce Green’s family saga- done Black Mirror style.

Performances of Shame and Other Hideous Things


Hey annulated friends!


Before I begin, sorry for missing last week’s post! Couldn’t do my service for last week’s theme of service L Was launching my new little poetry book in a snowy clime and running around too much!


I’m going to resume Lectio Divina for this week’s theme on “rejection” aaaaand I arrive at:


“To hide openly, is more like it.” (536)


What is literally happening in the text?


This sentence is part of the unattributed dialogue between Ennet House residents Joelle and Gately. They are talking about appearances and self-esteem in the context of Joelle’s veil and her membership in the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed / UHID.


What is happening on an allegorical level?


Joelle’s veil is not simply the desire to remain hidden, but the desire to achieve commonality (…a voice among other voices, invisible, equal, no different, hidden, 534). It’s accompanied by a sense of shame about the urge to hide. I think it’s paradoxical that the desire stems from wanting to feel accepted, but by being visibly veiled, she feels rejected. It’s almost as if she has to perform her rejection in public to confirm it for herself. She also feels that she’s so desperate for some kind of control but that she settles for the appearance of control. (535)


This reminds me of Hal smoking weed, the way the secrecy of smoking appeals to him more than the high itself. But more than this, it reminds me of Hal’s silence and non-responsiveness. Both Joelle and Hal perform a refusal without being aware that they’re performing it. Joelle shuts out the world with her visible veil and reluctance to discuss UHID, and Hal shuts out the world by being non-responsive and/or responsive in a way that encourages closure in the conversation/interaction.


Their rejection of the world is completely and utterly masked from themselves. This refusal is egoistic, even though it may not seem to be that way because they both want to hide and be quiet — let’s not forget that Joelle’s room is mirrored on all sides, and that Hal is unable to look outside of himself quite a lot of the time.


In IJ overall, I think this solipsism takes on many guises and includes deceit of oneself.


What does this remind me of from my own life?


It reminds me of that time I watched Steve McQueen’s Shame and cried for about four hours afterwards because I could actually relate to many things. Thankfully, humans are creatures that can change and adapt…


What action does this call me to do?


Ultimately, I think Joelle’s veil is a performance of her shame — the fact that she’s aware of it and wants everyone to know she’s aware of her shame.


To be honest, I think this is still a pretty bad situation.


I think DFW himself had said something along the lines of how being critical of oneself publicly only makes oneself seem and appear morally superior.


Thinking through this calls me to be open and generous to other people in the best way I can. Doing so without expectation of anything in return is pretty damn hard, but I want to try to do so more deeply and more often — and I know that if I try, eventually the self-conscious aspect of “trying” will decrease and become second nature, and it’ll feel ok.



RE: “Service”

I think the above leads to the thoughts I had around “service.” I was thinking of “service” in terms of intention. I think “service” starts to serve the server, as it were, only if the person’s intention and determination to serve continue. Gately goes to his shitty job and cleans shit off the walls at lonesome, horrid hours of the morning. It’s degrading and would strip the humanity from anyone, but he does it. This makes me think that Gately’s “service” is ultimately to himself, even though he may not see it that way in his immediate present, but the framework of AA helps him remember this.


This is all I can serve today! Thank you, Jesters!