Ink So Dense It’s Mute, Or the Purest Form of Literature

Erik Anderson, “The Sum of Two Cubes (And the Uses of Literature), Los Angeles Review of Books 23 September 2012

A light touch does not negate reality, nor, I might add, are all silences complicit. Anne Carson, in her moving elegy for her brother, talks about a muteness or opacity “which likes to show the truth by allowing it to be seen hiding.” And near the very end of Schizophrene, Bhanu Kapil gives us a page that has been totally blacked out. It’s an opaque square of ink and it defies you to see through it, or to place words on the page. There is some truth here, or perhaps some horror, that is inaccessible to us — something we are not allowed to see but are allowed to see hiding. The page has a famous precedent: in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, a black page appears after the death of one of the characters. And as in Sterne’s famous book, the effect of the page is not, paradoxically, a sense of heaviness. Or at least, not a sense of heaviness alone: some weight has been lifted and this one page, of all the pages in the book, is allowed to levitate, to unhinge the book from its subject. It accomplishes this through a lightness so dark it’s opaque, through ink so dense it’s mute.

One could say it’s the most useless page in the book.

[…] Strangely enough, those black pages in Schizophrene and Tristram Shandy might be the purest form of literature there is, even though I’ll grant you it’s an impossible and undesirable ideal.

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