Skip to content

Extracts from ‘Dean of Daft’//by Tyson Bley [Analysis by Slavoj Zizek]

April 2, 2013

‘Clamoring to get picked on by bullies since it is the new form of cool: the (somewhat expensive) acquisition of a large clown head to bring this off is deemed ill-advised by parents, who nevertheless don’t dispute the psychological merits in their kids’ suddenly rocketing up in social stature, although often draw the line at the second, and third, and some say most essential and effective, prerequisite – namely to help them collect all things that are dirty and ignominious and mix them into a toothpaste composite and build a skateboard circuit out of it, and in mid-air, wearing the large clown head, on your skateboard, go whoring for bullies with such annoying slogans as ‘Skate or die!’ shouted at the as-yet total absence of spectatorship.
For it to retain its oomph, that which is found in the crotch of a bully’s underpants needs also to be collected. A requisite many kids ask their parents to help aid in the fulfilment of.
The answer to this request being invariably, ‘No way.’
What doesn’t turn obnoxious in a blender?
Homeless people like to cheer and sing praises to whatever economic overlords they serve when pizzas fall from the sky or are delivered by angelic women dressed in outfits fit for 80’s power tool commercials.
When the whole mound of whatever’s I’m planning to eat has turned snow white. That’s when I know I’ve put enough salt on.’

I don’t believe in introductions so let’s get right to it.

You know who I am, I have no idea who you are; this is our problematic. For you, the reader, I am your instructor and unassailable. For me, the theorist, you are eyes and ears that I can bend to my will. The positions are set: The reader can choose an instructor, the instructor can manipulate his reader, that is the leverage.
Why do I write this? What does it have to do with Tyson Bley?

Simple, if I take you by the hand and type clearly. Bley is what I call the ‘anti-universal translator’ of contemporary poetry. Or is it fiction? Nobody knows. The fact is…or the theoretical fact that imposes itself on the problematic is: the ‘anti-universal translator’ poet determines to confuse the reader, to replace sunshine and clear skies with fog and misdirection.

It is an intentional move away from Blyton-like clarity into the abstract, but at the same time it is also a ‘Deleuzean planting of rhizomes of the mundane’ into the text, in the form of film, music and literature references. There is simultaneously, the familiar and the unknown: The familiar of the singular words and references e.g ‘McGuyver’; the unknown of the sentence pattern connecting it all together.

Some people might say this is not a new thing, that such abstraction from modern culture has been done by the likes of Jeff Noon, Sila Kudesnic, Christian Slater’s children’s books, but that is a false assumption. Noon and Kudesnic were abstract without hope, Bley is the opposite. He invites you into the text, even though it labels itself as poetry, and makes you think you might be able to understand this shit. But two lines in, you realise the trap.

Look at this extract:

‘Early in life, Jane Austin had wanted to become a fighter pilot, but was denied admission to all flight academies.
Subsequently, she resolved to simply have a lot more sex in vacuums – to simulate the effects of flying in a fighter jet.
Hair clippers became the main outlet for her hedonism, to cultivate watertight smoothness, a membrane closely studied on the program CSI Las Vegas – and which one can imagine serving as the base material of a very powerful slingshot.
She viewed all things that percolated – including her coffee machine – with extreme suspicion.
Rob Zombie’s sudden interest in a lump of wet clay.
Circa 1939.’

The key reference points are easily identifiable: Jane Austin [misspelt to wrong foot the reader], Rob Zombie, CSI Las Vegas…these are all things the reader knows and understands. In fact, this is the biggest ‘hole in the ground with leaves over it’ in the entire text. Not only can the reader understand ‘Jane Austin’, they can conceptualise her wanting to become a fighter pilot and being denied admission to all the flight academies. It is surreal, yes, and out of historical context, but the syntax and relationship of the words is something familiar. It does not confuse the reader, it does not take known references and make them unknowable; it simply spins into le absurd.

But…but this is the charlatanism of Bley; the ‘anti-universal translation’. He taunts you with lines you can ground in some form of conceptualisation, gives you a rope with which to climb the rest of the text…then, another two, three lines, he cuts it.

For example, an earlier part of the text:

‘That rare type of horrible, scary fire breather that wears a hockey mask –  staring through the eyeholes in his hockey mask at the column of fire hissing above the area of his mouth. To all the world rolling bloodily in thick glistening tomato soup, in a grid of sleek, synthetic white.
Namely, his eyeballs do.
The asbestos and ice-cream smell of action figures melting – wafting up from his mouth into the little holes in his mask that facilitate breathing, above his nose.
Vintage American Tyrannosaurus Rex. Which the people of Nebraska visit and relish for the spectacle of its blood-stained teeth made of twisted balloons.’

Again, there are the references to the familiar, the known…the reader knows what ‘Nebraska’ is, what ‘action figures’ and ‘hockey masks’ are…but this time, it is spun on its head and then down, up, into a portal of ‘otherness’. The references are taken away from the words they are used to being surrounded by and dropped into an alien context, a Baudrillardian anti-dystophatic wilderness of zero symbolisation, where nobody [except John Ratzenberger] knows its name.

This is ‘anti-universal translation’ incarnate – the warping of the familiar into the unknown, as if the thing itself were English written by an alien, producing a text that is superficially relatable as well as textually opaque. Simply, there is no person on Earth who could read a Bley text and understand it on a critical level.

But, what about beauty?

Beauty, yes, why not? The word formations, even without meaning, do flow with a certain melody.

‘Homeless people like to cheer and sing praises to whatever economic overlords  they serve when pizzas fall from the sky or are delivered by angelic women dressed in outfits fit for 80’s power tool commercials.’

And there is humour in the text too:

‘Time Magazine’s person of the year:
New Dehli drinking water.’

But is it enough? This is the question that defines the ‘anti-universal translator’ writing of Bley: is it worth the struggle, the constant wrestling with otherness and decontextualized object reference points? Does this guy really know what he is doing, or is he just eating meth and stabbing keys?

Zizek stands up, shouts at his wife, gets on a plane to Lisbon, sits next to a Fado-playing dude and sees a mural of Jane Austin.

Five days later, he’s back.

Well, this is the boldness of the ‘anti-universal translator’ style…it makes you want to understand it, to contextualise it, to pin it down and examine its sub-atomic whatthefuckness. Critics of Bley have denied any form of meaning in the text, but, really, they are lazy and smug and don’t know who Rob Zombie is. The kind of abstract they desire is one disconnected from the indignity of popular culture [their description, not mine], a purified series of subjective ‘object to validated culture’ reference points, a golden, many-towered palace of Mozart and Proust that only they can enter. To them, abstract should under no conditions use things like Rob Zombie or McGuyver.

To them, this kind of text is a Slaterist nightmare:

‘A kite designed after Karl Lagerfeld, down to the finest detail not excluding his sunglasses and strange pink lips, vomited after reaching its acme – then pulled a McGuyver by using an aerial map to seal a leak formed by the sky-gaping vomiting.
The aerodynamics of scuffed linoleum.’

In their disgust, these critics miss the attempted communication of the text.

What exactly is it trying to say?

Well, it’s quite simple, as abstract text often is. McGuyver is representative [why would he not be?] and if you’ve seen the show you’ll know exactly what he represents. Resourcefulness. Intelligence. Ingenuity. What does Karl Lagerfield represent? Superficiality. The sentence: A kite flies into the sky then vomits…all looks lost…then it corrects itself, finds something deep inside [‘an inner McGuyver’] and stops the vomit.

You see, the meaning is not difficult to gauge, if you can get past the decontextualisation. Human beings are often vain and superficial, but even the worst of us has the potential to be more than our tudos cognitos…each and every one of us, according to Bley, can overcome our ‘Lagerfield exterior’.

And the last line…the scuffed linoleum? What is that if not a thing which cannot fly? It should have no aerodynamics, it’s impossible, yet somehow there it is, in the sky, fucking flying, scuffed and all.

To analyse this thing further is futile. Critics will never see the ‘honest tramp with a sign standing in the shit of the alley’ of Bley’s text, and supporters are already there, talking to themselves it seems.

I shall leave you with one more line, let’s see if you can figure it out:

‘Sergei’s helper monkey – which always looks kinda crooked.
As helper monkeys tend to look.’

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: