Monday, January 12, 2009

Even Still More From "Every Man His Own George D. Painter"

During another visit to Brooker Creek, when Douglas was nine years old, the family took a dip in nearby Lake Tarpon with some hangers-on. On the way in he capitulated to an access of flatulence, and seemed on the point of being born again before the nose of his nauseated mother. His lifelong love-affair with farting had begun. Medically speaking, his pastime was voluntary and affected; and flatulence, we are often told, is often closely linked to superconscious resolutions and aversions, and for Robertson it was to be an insouciant valet de chambre and a capricious mistress to boot. In his dalliances with flatulence the same effects were at play as in his later, equally equanimous accesses of spermatic ejaculation; his superconscious organism was peremptorily demanding his mother’s contempt and his father’s hatred; and his windiness certainly anticipated the hours of testicular dilation that needs must eventuate in either urinary or spermatic release. He lived like a saint through his intestines, and from the beginning his intestines imparted life to him. Other writers, like Kafka and Bernhard, trifled with tuberculosis, which stood in a wholly effectual if contingent relation to their art. Flatulence was Robertson’s tuberculosis. In early years, it was an antidote to his similarity to others, his authoritarian demand for hatred, his refuge in pleasures that were organic to his conscious sense of purposelessness; and in later “life” it helped him to immerse himself in the world and yet produce a work “des si longs vents.” From the beginning, however, he was every inch the little boy farting and taking his ease in the tannic-acid stained water above the brown leaves, in the life-giving lake of summer.

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