Dear Owen Wilson, I'm reading How I Became One Of The Invisible
...and thinking about daybeds
I’m not sure why I started writing this to you, but you popped into my head and I thought, “I wonder whether Owen Wilson wants to hear about what I’m reading?” Psychically I think maybe one day you’ll tune in and be like, “Sure why not”. Well, tonight I’m reading David Rattray’s How I became one of the invisible. I don’t really know how to describe it without talking about couches, because you know Owen, it’s 2:30am and I’m lying in bed and my mind’s a bit spongy and I was thinking about How I became one of the invisible and I thought it’s just like when you’re looking at a couch through a doorway. I don’t really know why it has to be a couch, but maybe it’s something to do with death, with my view on the sedentary spiritual and cultural death of becoming couch-potato, which thinking about it is what the book’s mostly about, a personal, and delicate, but nonetheless scholarly, spiritually, and poetically referenced investigation of death and separateness, though I feel at times a little too unemotional. Maybe it’s an innocence in its view of otherness and our past and future selves, maybe this quote might help to relay what I’m trying to explain: “Years later, I learned the moon was a hieroglyph of exile, separation, separateness, a way-station for souls descending from the stars into the bodies of ‘all the creatures here below’ (in the words of a hymn we sang in church Sunday mornings). Ultimately it stood for the presence of a Deity withdrawn from the world.”
But continuing on my shitty analogy Owen, because I started it, and I feel like I have to finish. The couch. It’s in the living room, you’re looking at it through the doorway. Does it matter what the couch is? What the living room is? Probably. What kind of couch would be interesting to you Owen? What books would you like to see on the bookshelf? Do you even want a bookshelf Owen? Are you a bit of a minimalist, just a couple of books on the floor and a Danish daybed or something? Well ok, let’s look at this mid-century daybed, which I guess is a good place to start, because it is where the book begins in the existential garbage apocalypse of the late fifties, with what I would call a reminiscing, personal, and loving obituary of the rapturous glossolaliac queer POC poet Stephen Jonas. Now, “Who the fuck is Stephen Jonas?” you may ask. Well, that was my question also, but you can use Google too can’t you? I’m not your PA Owen.
And well, then from there the book walks a haphazard journey in a mixture of obit, journal, essay style through the cesspool of American counterculture, talking about transience, experimentation, and a history of divine poetic thought, with the openness of a young heart. And I guess Owen these are some of the journeys we haven’t had the chance to go through atm. I know I’m missing them, are you?
Anyway back to the daybed, don’t lose me here, you’re just kind of looking at it. It’s there in the living room, being a daybed, walnut timber frame with upholstery with matching piping in a colour I’m going to call evergreen and this roll that is the width of the daybed, I guess as a cushion when you’re napping or reading one of the two books on the floor, maybe it’s Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior, because you’re probably into that Buddhist shit, but also probably because it’s easier then the other book, the Bhagavad Gita because all you see when looking at it is Oppenheimer’s gaunt-as-fuck face on black and white TV quoting, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” in memoriam of watching the first atomic bomb exploding, which I think is a little too deathy for this conversation, but maybe I’m just projecting a little here.
Anyway when you walk into the living room for closer inspection, a few more details become visible, like that there’s an imprint of your body in the centre and some drool marks and fraying on the roll cushiony thing and though you’re pretty good at getting those stains out with a damp cloth when you wake up from your naps, they’re still kind of there. And maybe Owen that’s what I wanna get at, there is something that changes as you walk through the book, bit more of a maturity, and detail to the subject a bit more of a lived acceptance; “I considered the abyss between the actual reality on the one hand and our everyday talk on the other. Confronted with the reality, there is little we can say. Art and literature may prepare us for many of the great experiences—love, for example. But there is nothing in art or literature to prepare us for death.” And so I guess there’s that nap drool and the imprint and there’s little bits of fraying on the piping.
Anyway that’s as far as I’ve gotten with it, but I’m only a half way through, so I’ll let you know how I go along. The rest is essays on the works and lives of Artaud, Gerard de Nerval and others that I’ve never heard of. But I won’t get into the intensity of Artaud and I’ll just leave you with the death.
Anyway I gotta wake up in a couple of hours and go to work, so I better go to sleep.
Night night Owen.
Jacques Baumgartner xx