Week 4: Dreams

by Daryl L. L. Houston

185: Amalfitano dreams of Lola walking down the side of a mostly deserted highway, purchase fearless, nurse bearing the weight of her suitcase.

187: Never, approved even in dreams, has Amalfitano been to Santiago de Compostela.

201: The first time Amalfitano hears the voice in his head, he wonders if it’s part of a nightmare.

202: Lola appears in Amalfitano’s dreams along with two old friends, waving from behind a fenced park and (somehow) a room full of dusty philosophy books.

206: Amalfitano dreams of a woman’s voice talking about signs and numbers and history broken down and the American mirror. He then switches to a dream in which he’s moving toward a woman who was only a pair of legs at the end of a dark hallway.

217: “Maybe [Amalfitano] dreamed something. Something short. Maybe he dreamed about his childhood. Maybe not.”

227: Amalfitano dreams about the last Communist philosopher of the 20th century, who turns out to be a drunken Boris Yeltsin singing a sad song of a Volga boatman who commiserates with the moon about the human condition. Yeltsin explains to Amalfitano what the the third leg of the human table is (apparently magic, the first two legs being supply and demand). He then shows Yeltsin his missing fingers (or their void), drinks some more, talks about his childhood, resumes singing (“if possible with even more brio”!), and disappears into a streaked crater/latrine.

Week 4: Clueless

by Maria Bustillos

Oscar Amalfitano is a bewildered man. He’s got no idea how he even wound up in this horribly dangerous town. Young girls are getting abducted and killed here, hospital all the time, viagra and he has got the sole care of a young daughter. My own daughter is about the same age as Rosa Amalfitano, information pills and if we were living in Santa Teresa, you can bet your sweet bippy that that kid would not be just blithely waltzing around to the movies, not unless she were under armed guard. What is he thinking?!

Notice, though, how Amalfitano has consistently been at the total mercy of these women. So Lola wants to go off with some poet, Oscar peels off some cash for her. Rosa wants to go to a movie, hey okay, see you later. Part of the trouble with Amalfitano is, he’s like Hamlet, kind of. He’s stuck, largely because he has no faith in the significance of his own actions, so it’s like he just can’t move. He is outside all these games everyone else is playing; he can’t understand them. For example, he is neither macho, nor is he gay. He likes Archimboldi just fine, but his head wasn’t turned by Archimboldi as the heads of the critics were. He’s not doing any of that stuff; he’s just a human being, just trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Professor Pérez’s attempt at romancing him meets with near-total bafflement. Unlike the other men we’ve seen so far (with the possible exception of Morini,) Amalfitano’s basic interface with the world is not sexual (or gender-derived, I should maybe say.) Plus he is nice. He won’t say to anybody such phrases as, the hell you will! Over my dead body! etc.

So he’s not really equipped to deal with this reality.

Amalfitano loved Lola, and he loves Rosa; is this the weakness that makes him incapable of protecting them? You love them, so you can’t say no to them?  But they’re putting themselves in such danger. (As I read this all my mom-feelings were going absolutely wild. Go after her! I’m inwardly shrieking.) I have to say, I completely part company with the author, here, if he’s trying to tell me that love weakens men, makes them incapable of protecting, as in, love means never having to prevent a crazy woman from hitchhiking out of a town full of murderers. (?)  Then scan the paper with your heart in your throat for some kind of horrible news the next day (echoing the faux-plane crash of Espinoza, remember? Another horror that failed to materialize.)

Because there are all these women getting killed in Santa Teresa. How do you deal with this? Maybe it is, in fact, impossible. You’re up against it, and you have to keep on and hope for the best. About eighteen years ago, my own city, Los Angeles, was basically going up in flames. As in, on fire. It’s hard to believe now, but in fact we really did all behave as if it were a minor inconvenience, tried to get on with our lives, and quite a lot of that meant ignoring the enormity of the smoke in the air, guys with guns on the roof, the burnt shell of what had been a shopping mall. The place I’m thinking of (on Pico, near La Brea) is a tidy supermarket now, it has got a Bank of America in front just as if nothing had happened. There’s not the smallest sign. You let the elements have their way with you, and hope for the best. At some point, though, for some people, the reality won’t let you do that.

In this way, I think the volume of Dieste is a symbol for Amalfitano himself. A rational book, a book about geometry, to serve for a rational man, the Unhappy Readymade: http://www.toutfait.com/unmaking_the_museum/Unhappy%20Readymade.html

The book, like the man, is the plaything of the elements. That’s why Amalfitano is in such a panic about the book’s fate, every time he comes home. There is horror and dread kind of circling him, inexorably, and circling the book, and maybe that is what is driving him mad. How he can be spending even one moment making these incomprehensible diagrams of philosophers when he ought to be locking his daughter in her room while he buys them a pair of plane tickets out of there is beyond me. I have not been able to make head or tail of these diagrams, at least not yet, but I hope someone else here has worked on them, and will enlighten us. It really irritates me, though, that Plato should be below Aristotle in the first diagram, when clearly Plato is always above Aristotle, always the in higher, more rarefied, more ethereal air.  I guess that is the one diagram that kind of makes sense, because Heraclitus really kind of gave birth to both Aristotle and Plato, you could say?

Now, Lola. I’ll be coming back to her but for the moment, I will say that Lola is another person who has been driven straight off her trolley by literature. She’s the flip side of the critics. Her fangirlhood has literally made her lose contact with reality completely. Just like them. More on that tomorrow.

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