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Everything posted by nivenkumar

  1. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Reintroduce Yourself   

    Forgive me, TGL, its been a few years since my last confession, which is in itself a sin.

    But please please tell me...why do new members not introduce themselves anymore?
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  2. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Roberto Bolaño's "Antwerp"   

    I thought you might like to read what Bolaño has to say about The Savage Detectives:

    That is what I meant in my post about Antwerp when I said there is a underlying voicedness in Bolaño's work. I have been working on, but have been slightly derailed in recent months, an investigation of Beckett, Bernhard, Bolaño, and Krasnahorkai, and the clear focus on a suspended sense of voice. Perhaps, I will get back to the abandoned investigation. This discussion has certainly made me revisit it again.
    The above essay was taken from his collection of essays/thoughts, [between Parentheses].


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  3. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   


    this is brilliant, thank you! I have some thoughts about what you've said. Will get back to you on this. and I might even have to dust off my Levinas (oh boy!)

    I understand the problem with categories. I seem to recall a discussion the both of us had years ago about evil. In that discussion I was suggesting a logocentric bias with the use of the word 'evil'. So, I can see how your words ring true here. The project of excavating liminality is at once a problem of language, but then, being a Derridean, everything is a problem of language for me!

    The reason I have not wished to dispense with the term 'human' is only because I felt the word itself contained these contradictions so nicely that it suited what I was attempting to do. But of course, I will reply in more detail soon.

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  4. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Roberto Bolaño's "Antwerp"   

    Not sure if anyone has read this short piece by Bolaño, but here it is.
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  5. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   

    Hi Michael,

    thanks for the post. I have a few thoughts in response.

    Yes, of course, Michael. The human, from what I’ve been discussing, appears to be a concept, nothing more, with no meaningful substance to it. And like many concepts or terms, is merely an arbitrary signifier for something else. But this is where things get tricky. I don’t agree (if you will allow me to be pedantic for a moment here) that it is true to say that “but the significance always resides in those qualities and characteristics rather than human-ness itself so that the importance of human-ness effectively - and essentially – dissolves” . The “characteristics and qualities” are themselves this thing called human-ness –they are the signifying elements of being human. The characteristics alone can’t be more important than human-ness. They are what is human. But we both can agree that this process of assigning human qualities to designate human-ness is an arbitrary one.

    Yet, when a question is posed to us, a question that may come in the form of decision making, or a moral issue such as when we must make a decision about a person’s actions – it is inhuman to persecute and experiment on a whole race of people because we can, and because we have decided they are not human – when such things occur or such pronouncements are made, we revert back to a substantive emphasis on an underlying belief in human-ness, that there are some characteristics that define us as human or not human. Whether or not this term is “unnecessary”, logically speaking, from an existential and moral viewpoint, that is all we have recourse to.

    But at which point, assuming that we cannot get away from using this “unnecessary” concept, do we stop being human, or begin to be human?

    The Actaeon story gives us some clues though not comprehensive, and itself limiting. But, since we’ve started with it, let’s go with it for awhile. Physically, the stag cannot express the kind of signifiers that we humans would designate as “kindness and gentleness”. But what this story offers us, is a focalisation of the Stag/Actaeon. What this points to is not a true Stag-like perspective, but it does belie a kind of Greek perspective of the horror of being transformed, the horror of not being human any longer. This is more about the desire for recognition than it is about musculature.

    But clearly, the companion’s inability or disinterest is not the issue as much as it is Actaeon’s persistent need to be recognized. The transformation has not ceased his being human, even if he has ceased to show any signs of being human.

    Of course, Michael. What you are suggesting here is that the self is defined by the Other. Lacan’s famous dictum that “style is the person you’re talking to” is exactly that. Levinasian ethics says the same thing about the Other, that when one comes face to face with the Other, one not only understands or comes into being, but one also understands responsibility and being in the world. It is only in this face to face encounter with the other that the self is defined. If not, it remains as il y a, a “there is”, a possibility of something not yet known.

    All this is not under question. But I am interested in this boundary crossing, the nature of it, and dynamics of negotiating this boundary. I am also interested in how Western literature negotiates this liminality. I’d like to get into Hamlet for a bit, but this will upcoming in the next few days.

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  6. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Roberto Bolaño's "Antwerp"   


    Well, I guess, you could read The Skating Rink which I think is Bolaño's most 'conventional' novel, but apart frpm that you might also want to try his short story collections, The Secret of Evil, and Last Evenings on Earth to begin with. And then Savage Detectives before hitting Amulet which takes the story of one single character in Savage and focuses on her for the whole novel. Then perhaps you can try 2666.

    I don't really think it matters, though, but I wonder what Hugo thinks about this? Any thoughts, Hugo (by the way, thanks for the link to the discussion; I'll take a look at it soon)?

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  7. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   

    About to step into plane. Thanks for the response, Michael S. Pearl. Much of what you say I agree with it, but will respond when I can.
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  8. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   

    Oh dear.

    I certainly did not wish to suggest that I was annoyed by the lack of activity. It was merely a passing comment where I tried to self-reflexively engage with what I was writing. So, I am not at all troubled!

    As for your response, thank you. A neat little summation, concise but informative. That does give me a nice little trajectory or arc to play with. However, what this implies, informative as it is, is a linearity that perpetuates an ordered construction of the human. I know your post was in response to my seeking an archaeology of the human. But even within the Western conception of the human, there are representations that complicate and problematise this linear conception, even if the authors of these representations did not intend to do so. I will try to show this in the next post, and not for the next few days, Unfortunately. The weekend is upon us here, and I fly to Melbourne. But the next post, we visit Hamlet.
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  9. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   

    Thanks for the reply, Heretic. I was beginning to think I was floundering in the interstices of the human as well, since my voice was not being heard!

    I know this quote from Schiller, because Hegel refers to it as well in his Philosophy of History. This is his reaction:

    Here, Hegel sees the human as the embodiment of the supposed holy Spirit. One's human-ness is given to one by virtue of our being made in the image of a god. Even here, we are right back to the point which I mentioned earlier, about the absolute alterity of the Christian God which demarcates our human-ness as distinct, shaping our conception of who we are. Even Schiller's formulation serves a limited purpose here, because he too is subscribing to binary oppositions. He, too, in his conception of the Greek and Christian Gods, plays with the assumption of alterity. That has not changed.

    I do not think, that in an era of digitalised and dis-embodied selves, the human is a stable concept. That is why I wish to revisit this conception, to embark on an archaeology of the human.
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  10. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   

    I ended the last entry with a suggestion there is a fundamental difference between post-Enlightenment and Ovidian conceptions of self.

    Let me try to unpack this a little.

    I have mentioned earlier than post-Enlightenment writing is marked by an attempt at self-definition, marked by a constant encounter with the crossroads. This is the existential quicksand that threatens the individual with a kind of drowning that obliterates the "I". And as we know, our linguistic structures prioritise this "I", or as Arthur Koestler would say in his Darkness At Noon, the "grammatical I". The definition of the self becomes essential precisely because, and here I am opening myself up to a plethora of possible counterarguments, of the absolute alterity of God. The Supreme, the All-Knowing, the so-very-different-from-us God, the Pure, the Quintessence. It is because of this absolute alterity that we are more distinct, or insist on distinction.

    But in the time Of Ovid, of Greek antiquity, there are almost no humans, merely mortals. Most of the characters or heroes are in some way products of the gods, they have divine ancestry. And Even Gods live 'human' lives. The alterity that we witness in a Christian enlightenment is all but missing. So, in Ovid's world, the interior/exterior boundaries do not work. The human being is not sealed off from whatever it is that isn't itself. But in the Western worldview, the human is forever under threat from the outside, and the resistance to this is monumental.

    I am not sure if this helps with the exploration on being human, but I'll see where this leads me.
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  11. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Roberto Bolaño's "Antwerp"   

    Here's another one from Bolaño, Hugo.
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  12. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Roberto Bolaño's "Antwerp"   

    That is interesting Hugo Holbling!

    But I think where Krause and I defer is that she does not see this struggle recurring in his later work, whereas, I see struggle in all of his work. I mean take 2666 for instance. The novel, written as 5-parts (all of which can stand alone as novels in their own right) challenges the novel of a sustained narrative. It is as if the centre, the supposed master mind of the crime has so many forms and avatars, each encompassed by each of the 5 parts, and yet never conforming to a unified picture. In Savage detectives, the struggle is as clear as in Antwerp, where the narrative "labours" as Krause puts it, to find itself, labours to find those who are at the centre of this narrative.

    This constant search for the centre of the narrative, and the interminable circling of voices and phrases - this, I think is Bolaño over and over again.
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  13. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   

    When I consider border crossings (mentioned in the previous post), two more literary situations come to the fore for me. This does not mean, of course, that there no other literary situations where certain borders are transgressed. For me, the two that stand out (because I like them!) is Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Robert Musil’s The Man without Qualities. As you can imagine, both these situations deal with a crossing over, or at least an ambivalence associated with place or being. Like Actaeon, both characters struggle and suffer the in-between-ness of their being.

    Gregor Samsa for example, finds himself transformed into a bug when he wakes from “troubled dreams”. But what is intriguing here, in light of the comparison with Actaeon’s transformation, is that Gregor is not troubled his arachnitude. In fact, he wishes he could go back to work, and a little later on, feels anxiety over being late for work. But like Actaeon, he still sees himself as himself, still speaks with a human consciousness, still identifies himself with the human world, and is shocked, again like Actaeon over how his voice now sounds like. Another difference between the two characters is whereas Actaeon is chased and hunted down by his own ‘family’, Gregor is housed, and fed and tolerated by his. The true crisi occurs when mother and sister decide to remove his furniture from the bedroom. But removing the furniture marks the end of their recognition of Gregor as their son and brother. Gregor bemoans this removal and sees his onw sense of self being removed. In an ironic manner, Kafka depicts Gregor’s bourgeois conception of self, that is, the idea that the self is connected with property.

    Kafka’s characters all seem to hover over this border crossing between the human and the non-human, almost like Giorgio Agamben’s conception of the Homo Sacer.

    Then there is Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. Take this passage for instance:

    Again, we see in Musil’s extract a reference to porosity, the ambivalence of being a no-man. But if we were to accept Musil’s satirical approach, then our no-man-ness is our human-ness. Could being human, then, mean being on the borders between things, always at the crossroads. To be sure, Western Literature has always been riddled by this question. Characters are compromised, and in this compromise they seek out a truer definition of themselves. But there is, I feel a fundamental difference between post-Enlightenment thinking on the subject, and an Ovidian notion of self, which I shall elaborate later.
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  14. nivenkumar added a topic in Read   

    Roberto Bolaño's "Antwerp"
    A review I wrote a year ago, maybe, about Bolaño's Antwerp

    I am wondering if anyone has read it. What were your thoughts on it. It is a strange novel, in many respects, but nonetheless rewarding. Would love to know what your thoughts were.

    Bolaño's Antwerp

    Bolaño's early work is a 'culmination', retrogressively, of his later work. A strange event, really, since we often find traces of a writer's mature style when we look backward to his or her early creative output. With Antwerp, a work written in 1980 and published only in 2002, the year before his death, we see a concentrated Bolaño, struggling with what will always plague him in his writing - a confrontation with form and structure, an interrogation of voice, both enunciated and forgotten. For Bolaño, this voice has an ontological significance, and something that writers such as Joyce, Beckett, Borges, Bernhard, and Coetzee have all interrogated. In Bolaño, however, it is not only voice that he pursues, but voicedness - the quality of having voice.

    What does this quality entail? Does it consist of a sense of authenticity? Is it authenticated by consistency and structure? Or is it an elusive moment of utterance? How does one articulate, as a writer, this elusiveness? How does one capture a quality, if it often dissipates the second it is offered or uttered drowning into a sea of other utterances as soon as it is brought forth? In Savage Detectives Bolaño showcases a history of two poets, itself a doomed project, through the voices of those who tangentially come into contact with these poets. Who they are, and where they may be is intertwined with what these encounters have brought to light about the two poets of the Visceral Realist school. There is a narrative impulse in Savage Detectives, but like the elusiveness of the two poets, Ulises Lima and Arturo Bolaño, this narrative impulse struggles in its pursuit of a resolution.

    In Antwerp, resolution is no longer the engine behind the narrative impulse. The Beckettian need to narrate aside, it is the struggle to find a narrative that plagues this narrative. All that exist in this novella are phrases, as one character implies, which never reach the end of their utterances. The chapters themselves are enigmatically short, and the characters do not interact with each other, though they recur occasionally throughout the text. Bolaño's interrogation is not only of discovering what it is that is being said, and by whom, both Beckettian preoccupations, but it is also an experimentation in the very meaning of having a voice. How do we have a voice, and how do we deal with having a voice.

    Such an experimentation defies form and structure, and attests to a textual dynamics that transforms reading practices. How do we read if that which is being read refuses to be read 'meaningfully'?

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  15. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Black Mirror   

    Yes, Heretic

    I happened to watch this yesterday. I think it was the first episode, about the PM having to fuck a pig on live television. As much as it was a ludicrous proposition, I thought it was a very incisive piece. Very tight camera work, and nicely juxtaposed with public opinion.

    They say revolution is impossible because it was televised. But in this case, the makers of Black Mirror have managed to turn the tables a little. I have yet to watch the others, but when I find the time next or when I remember, I will watch the rest.
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  16. nivenkumar added a post in a topic On Being Human   

    Just to carry on with where I left off (sorry, I ran out of time, and so the above seems a little truncated).

    I have been working on charting a kind of Western metaphysics as depicted through the trajectory of Western Literature. This has been done before, I suppose, by Auerbach, amongst others, so I am not trailblazing here, but neither do I want to re-invent the wheel. However, I am interested in the interstices of being, a somewhat heideggerian project, project, but nevertheless, somthing that I have wanted to do for some time. It first began with an attempt to research the history of guilt, a kind of foucauldian excavation, but it has morphed into the question of human-ness itself.

    So, to go back to my earlier post, it seems to me that the story lays bare two things: firstly that in ceasing to be human, Actaeon does not cease being human. The other thing that strikes me is this: Actaeon does not lose his fundamental characteristics. he is depicted as kind and gentle, a hero of the gentlest kind. By being transformed into a stag that is fleeing from his assailants, Diana seems to have transformed him into a 'pure' image of himself. This 'monstrosity' is itself part of Actaeon. So, in this sense, Ovid's tale enunciates a human-ness that is ambivalent, conditioned by whatever surrounds it, acts upon it, a porous stone that swallows and embodies what is outside of it.

    The question I ask, I suppose, is being human, or talking about 'being human' really talking about the border-crossings and 'limits'?
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  17. nivenkumar added a topic in Explore   

    On Being Human
    In Ovid Metamorphoses the hunter Actaeon stumbles upon the Goddess Diana bathing in a pond. Having discovered the interloper, she turns him into a stag and fills him with panic. He flees the scene, but even as he is running, he can't believe how fast he is running. He looks at himself in the reflection of the water and cries out "Alas!" but no words come out, just a sound he finds strange.

    His dogs, with whom he has come ahunting, spot him and give chase. He runs, and as he runs, he cries out, "It's me, Actaeon! Don't you recognise your master?" Of course they don;t and keep chasing. Still, as mucha s he cries out, the words dissolve into sounds and grunts. Actaeon's companions encourage the dogs, and look around searching, calling out for Actaeon to join in this chase. Actaeon hears the call of his name, he turns each time the name is called out, but of course he can do nothing about the situation.

    What is it to be human? What defines our humanity? Actaeon ceases to be human once Diana changes him into a stag, but he does not cease being human, since he recognises the dogs as his own, and his friends, and his name, and his own transformation.

    Is one's voice the defining feature of being human? And by voice, I do not merely mean, what we hear when you speak to the Other, but that quality that is recognisable by the other, and by which the other recognises you as being human. Is it to be recognised as human that we are human? Or is there a more inaugural moment of our human-ness?
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  18. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Reflections on "The Anxiety of Influence"   

    I loved this discussion! and I have truly missed this place! As I have said to Davidm and others, I will try to be less of a stranger here.

    I just wanted to say that I think Heretic is right to suggest that Bloom anticipates Kristeva's intertextuality, and his misreading is really a means of allowing a kind of creative licence to the ephebe or poet doing the misreading.

    But on the subject of whether poets are influenced by other poets and poetry (I think this was raised by Heretic), I have a few thoughts.

    Having been asked to give a lecture on Polish poetry with a particular focus on Czeslaw Milosz and Zbiegniew Herbert (who by the way was a descendant of George Herbert, the English Metaphysical Poet - what would Bloom say about the anxiety of influence here, I wonder), I was surprised to find a little essay by Seamus Heaney, that quintessential Irish poet, where he cited Milosz and Herbert's work to be grounding influences for his politico-mystical poetry. All good writers must be good readers, even if like Heidegger, they dismiss their reading as metaphysical dawdle.

    Even if you don't study the history of poetry, a poet would read poetry. He might not like the poetry he reads, and choose to write poetry in a way that he feels challenges what came before, but this too is a kind of misprision, I would venture. The process of misreading is not static, nor linear, but multi-temporal. It is an absence space, and the likes of Derrida and Blanchot and even Freud have tried to, some more successfully than others, shed light on this process.

    I am not a big fan of Bloom, but I liked this book. I know I haven't addressed all the issues that were covered in this discussion. So please forgive me.
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  19. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Introduce yourself here...   

    I tried to get into the chat room but its not loading up for me. But thankyou for the welcome. I will certainly return. Can't stay.
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  20. nivenkumar added a post in a topic Introduce yourself here...   


    It's been a long time, but I thought I'd return to see how everyone is going. It's been a bit of a rough ride but who knows how long this peace of mind will remain.

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  21. nivenkumar added a blog entry in Blog 1007   

    darkness and light
    Desiring is always desiring in darkness, and away from the blinding glare of daylight. It is a secret ministry that can only execute its functions in absentia. Desiring says, I want that which belongs to me in the darkness of me, that which seeps through into the light, but which must begin from the darkness. This desiring is constantly battling what happens in spite of its desiring.
    Desire, these days, is harnessed onto the system of consumption which turns desiring inside out, forcing it into the daylight, and making it fashionable. True desiring (I may be essentialising here) resides only in the darkness of our silent, inaccessible subjectivities. It inhabits a world of constant reaching out, and pulling away. When it reaches out, it sees the limits of its reach, and the ever widening syncope of its groundlessness. To reach out means to leave the ground, to lose groundedness. Once the limits of its reach are reached, it pulls back, and each time, groundlessness becomes more and more pronounced.
    Desire and loss, therefore, are dark bedfellows. Desiring is desiring because one fears the loss of desire, the loss of that which we do not want to lose. If writing allows me to access a world I desire, it is also motivated by the fear of losing it, as well as the fear of groundlessness.
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  22. nivenkumar added a blog entry in Blog 1007   

    The joyful Act
    I have become increasingly sceptical of action, of
    acting. All action is action in reaction. We are never alone. is there a possibility for a pure action? The act for the act;s sake, for the joy of acting. Theoretically, there is such a thing. But the act, once executed, like a text, is sent forth into the collective, and like the text, is read, interpreted, dissected, reviewed, rejected, scorned, and reacted upon, spawning other text-acts or act-texts. Authorship is a mirage, for any act, joyful or no, is already a supplicant to a greater textual regime. We no longer speak with our own voices, for there is no one singular, but a murmur of voices that intersect all action. One's joy can only come from the hope that the act-text is heard/read/watched/thought.
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  23. nivenkumar added a blog entry in Blog 1007   

    Binary Oppositions
    A colleague said to me, "It is a good time to be a black man."

    I smiled, and walked away from him, with a quick, and hopefully polite excuse, as fast as i could, embarrassed, and somewhat apalled. But I had no idea why.

    A good time to be a black man. In that statement, there is a ferocious undercurrent of partisanship that irks me, and which Obama claims is not his intent.

    But I hobble through the department corridors now somewhat self-conscious of my own skin pigmentation. I am not black, brown perhaps, but my colleague's statement was directed at me, at my non-whiteness, at my presence, at my extra-presence. As much as it is a wonderful sign of the times, Obama's ascendancy has etched racial divides into the sand deeper than anything else can. Even Mandela's presence was a far away constellation.

    One statement, innocuous though it was intended to be, has re0-drawn the lines of the new world order. And separates the present and the future from everything else that has happened.

    The Disjuncture, the crevice that is widening, and will continue to widen into a gorge, between the future and the years of insidiuos, deep-rooted segregatory dreams of European imperialism (to which I am ironically indepted), forces a separation of values. A good time, indeed, to reclaim the past, in fact, to enable the collective forgetting, the absolution of guilt.

    A reprieve, Jean-Paul, that I am sure you wouldn't have expected.
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  24. nivenkumar added a blog entry in Blog 1007   

    To follow on from my previous blog entry:

    Derrida says: To write is not only to know that through writing, through the extremities of style, the best will not necessarily transpire, as Leibniz thought it did in divine creation, nor will the transition to what transpires always be willful, nor will that which is noted down always infinitely express the universe, resembling and reassembling it. It is also to be incapable of making meaning absolutely preced writing: it is thus to lower meaning while simultaneously elevate inscription. ...To write is to know that what has not yet been produced within literality has no other dwelling place, does not await us as prescription in some topos ouranios, or some divine understanding. Meaning must wait to be written in order to inhabit itself..."

    If writing is more meaningful than meaning itself, if inscription becomes the elevated principle in the ontological act of writing, if I must write in order to know what I write and hence, why I write, wherefore is the need in me to pull back, to retreat from words, to retreat into solitude.

    When orpheus descends in search of Eurydice, he descends into this ontology of writing, of being, when he re-emerges from the depths of hades, he knows there is only the turning away, but he cannot resist looking back into the night of writing.

    If writing precedes meaning, just as sound precedes light, our inscriptions upon the skin of the everyday already hold the essences of being.

    But my turning away from words is a turning away from its inability to express, truly express, and yet I seek them out, forever questioning, forever interrogating them. To escape, perhaps, but escape what? The silence? The quiet space of death? And yet, it is precisely that which i crave.

    So, when I blog, when i think to myself, "I shall blog," when I poise my fingers above the keyboard and think, what shall i write?, I pour myself into the virtual abyss, the night that Orpheus sought.

    I still have no clue why i began this.
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  25. nivenkumar added a blog entry in Blog 1007   

    the gorge has opened
    I was given a glimpse of its dark abyss today, when two school kids, 16 or 17, waved at me, puched the air with their fists, their faces soaked in excitement (Of what kind?) and shouted "Obama!".

    What had they meant to say? And were they saying this to me? Why me? What has Obama turned me into?

    Like the blog, this is new territory for me. The battle lines, the genre limitations are re-drawn, the rules of engagement totally new. I am conscious for the first time in many many years of my 'brown-ness'. For the first time in many many years, I do not know how to write, like Seamus Heaney, I must use my pen to do something and my body for purposes alien to me.

    I revel in the delight of a Obamian America, but I am merely Niven, but it seems I am swept up by Obama, by the phenomenon, not the man.

    A new species is being born, the Obama Man.
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