August 11, 2008

We’ve mentioned Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever before, the book in which he so eloquently argues for something, and along the way allows for the existence of “real” ghosts; or, at least, explains Freud’s position on this so well that it seems like he believes it too. The opening argument about the book concerns theĀ  “domicilation” of knowledge, the ways in which material is archived into a private domicile then becomes public. Derrida could have referred to “domestication,” but there’s no sense in not making up a word when you have cart blanche to make up words.

This tension between public and private spaces really does inform archives. For example, did you know that you can find Isaac Bashevis Singer’s credit card statements at his archive? I’m conflicted about this; part of me wants to know what vices Singer might have charged; the other part doesn’t want anyone to have access to that information about me. Of course, this doesn’t compare to the reams of unpaid bills in Max Weinreich’s archive. I found invoices from the Yiddish PEN club for back membership dues (these, oddly, were written in English). Still, it’s not like they were going to kick him out. The same can’t be said for his sewing machine. I really don’t know how he spent so much money on dry cleaning–or, rather, how he didn’t spend so much money on dry cleaning. It was a welcome bit of iconoclasm, and made me feel better. I may not be able to speak 10 languages, but I can at least pay (most) bills on time.

Catching Up With…

November 28, 2007

I’ve always thought that it would be fun to do interviews at this site. Mostly I envisioned asking various presidential candidates for their opinions on the issues of the day, c’est a dire Little Rock Streetcar expansion, Brandy Taylor/Anne Hathaway/Pretty Feet/all the other favorites of Salad actualia, new items at the Senate cafeteria, and the Treaty of Westphalia. Unfortunately, it’s been very hard to get any presidential candidate to commit to giving an interview (mostly because they’re all of the opinion that Heroes Season 2 is as strong as season one, and that they will be president) so I’ve had to come up with something else to fill this space. So I present Yesterday’s Salad’s first ever conversation with the living challenged, Jacques Derrida.

But before we begin, allow me to deal with the objections that are no doubt being raised as I write. First, this is not Yesterday’s Salad’s first engagement with the no longer living. Shel Silverstein has been suggested as a Superman author, and some of my favorite neighbors are Zombies. And, a reason before the reason, as I mentioned in my comment to JT in the Shel Silverstein piece: “While the [wikipedia] undead page is totally unhelpful, it does remind me that Derrida used the myth of the undead to break down the binary between life and death. But something tells me Derrida was reaching on that one.”

While I’m not one to regularly disagree with so wise a scholar as Mr. Dailysalad, leading luminaries would. Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi ends his excellent Freud’s Moses with a monologue addressed to Professor Freud, Isaac Bashevis Singer believed in demons, and Messers Freud and Derrida (who now gets a chance to argue his case) would certainly disagree with me. As Derrida explains in Archive Fever (at least in part, a reading of Freud’s Moses), Freud has made references to “real” ghosts in his writing. This has to do with the fact that there is a “truth of delusion, a truth of insanity or of hauntedness.” (87; emphasis in the original) This is analogous to the difference between a “historical truth” and a “material truth.” Something can have a real effect without having ever existed.

So without further ado, a few questions for Mr. Derrida:

1) Did you ever get a chance to watch Seinfeld? Or, do you still hold to your opinion that Deconstruction has no sitcoms, and people are wasting their time doing things that don’t involve reading Deconstruction? (see here for some background, and don’t see Derrida) Read the rest of this entry »