Horror is the wracking contradiction between material and the categories of abstraction, undergone by a subject, impelled by a confrontation with the horrible. Horror is the moment in which the incompatibility of material and categories roars, creeps, or seeps, not into view, but against view. Such that materials – such as a pile of flesh, the recognition that you are in fact eating the pile of flesh that was your husband, an endless plateau, awaking in the grave – and categories – such as the body, free will, nature, finitude – collide like trains. This is not an illumination but a darkness that demands the recalibration of categories and which threatens, forever, to lack the possibility of doing so.
Horrible means simply that which might provoke such a confrontation: not mute material, but material already scarred with abstraction. I cannot speak, for instance, of a coal mine without speaking of property.
And horrifying designates the process and moment in which the horrible indexes, impinges, stamps, and splatters itself upon mind and matter, which provides the occasion or excuse for the conceptual autophagy called horror."
And so we rob the company blind by breathing deep while mining coal. We bring home pounds and pounds of the stuff in our chests, using our cilia as pipe-cleaners to hang the precious dust on and packing it against the lung walls, we smoke some butts to aid the process and excuse the cough so they don’t suspect, the huffed tar muddles with the coal into a sheening slurry that snaps into shape, diamond black walls of respiration. We crumble when we breathe but who could wish to be otherwise. Not us, not us who carry it away by the lungful, day in, night out, not us who come to our living rooms and hack and cough, who spit lightless on our floors and spittoons, all together on the holidays, expectorate brigands, crippled phlegming knaves of labor, we get together and we call up the past crusted and wet within us and we howl it onto into a sticky mass mess we call the fruits of work until it reaches the ceiling and still we do not stop.
We build a stolen stolen fire piece by piece. We drop a match."
thanks for the Sunday Reading nod (“Fact and Fetish”)!
Today I said the words “selfish and honest” and wondered suddenly how that had become one of my...