THE "ATROCITY EXHIBITION" DISCUSSIONS (from the JGB list at Yahoo Groups)

3: YOU: COMA: MARILYN MONROE


[MH: 6 November 2006]

I've spent a while pondering "You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe", the third of the main sections of AE to be written. Ostensibly, this story centres on Tallis's preoccupation with the geometry of the world, as he endlessly compares the anatomy of Karen Novotny and Marilyn Monroe with the shape of the beach dunes and Karen's apartment (which we've learnt to understand as being symbolic of the reversal of exterior and interior realities). And nothing much else happens - until the end, when Tallis kills Karen because she was 'standing in the angle between the walls'. Dr. Nathan appears but doesn't actually say anything; there are no atrocity exhibitions, no giant billboards, no car crashes, no mental patients.

But despite Tallis's meditations on space and shape, his real concern seems to be with *time*. There are several references to time in connection with the women's bodies and the landscape of dunes - in particular to the idea that the effect of time is to dissolve or drain away existence: e.g. "Karen Novotny's body seemed as smooth and annealed as those frozen planes [of the walls of her apartment]. Yet a displacement of time would drain away the soft interstices, leaving walls like scraped clinkers."

And time is critical to Tallis's eventual 'solution' to Marilyn Monroe's death. His attempts centre on constructing what Ballard terms a 'valid system of time' - a time that is more meaningful than that in the out-of-season beach resort in which Tallis and Karen have found themselves stranded. In fact concentrating on Tallis's concerns about time allows a form of dramatic narrative to emerge.

"For Tallis, this period in the apartment was a time of increasing fragmentation. A pointless vacation had led him by some kind of negative logic to the small resort on the sand bar." This passage near the start of the story sets the scene; and in more ways than one. If 'taking a vacation' becomes merely the absence of work and the rest of our day-to-day activities, then it is empty; and Tallis starts to fall apart psychologically, obsessing over the phenomenology of the world.

But to empty time is also to step outside of time, and this provides Tallis with new possibilities. As he gazes at Karen, he realizes that he can use her body as a 'geometric equation' to transform the geometry of her apartment, and thereby create a 'valid system of time'. Presumably, his intention here is to re-assert a fully-fledged form of existence. Interestingly, this section of the text is actually headed 'False Space and Time of the Apartment' - it is 'false' because using Karen turns out to be the wrong method; only later does Tallis discover the *correct* method.

After a while, one of the companions of Tallis's psyche, Coma, appears: "He glanced at Coma's broad-cheeked face. More and more she resembled the dead film star. What code would fit both this face and body and Karen Novotny's apartment?" Tallis now turns to using the geometry of Coma's (and hence Marilyn Monroe's) face as a code for the apartment. This is therefore the point at which Karen Novotny becomes superfluous to Tallis - perhaps at this point her fate is sealed.

On returning to the apartment Tallis realizes that the room forms 'a box clock' in which is situated the face of the dead actress with her rigid grief. He now has the elements with which to 'solve' Marilyn's suicide; now he *can* create a valid system of time. Hence the title of this paragraph - 'The Apartment: Real Space and Time'. Unfortunately, Karen is still in her apartment. Because she is no longer part of the code for realizing space and time, her movements are sensed by Tallis as arbitrary: "Already she was confusing the perspectives of the room, transforming it into a dislocated clock. ... After a few seconds her presence became an unbearable intrusion into the time geometry of the room." Irritated, Tallis kills Karen - and by doing so, succeeds in his project: "Epiphany of this Death. Undisturbed [by Karen's movements], the walls of the apartment contained the serene face of the film star, the assuaged time of the dunes." Tallis's success is of course signalled by the fact that Marilyn's face is no longer grieving, but 'serene'.

The concern with the validity of time, and with 'stepping outside of time' is key to a number of other Ballard stories, especially those three rather similar tales from the early 80s - News from the Sun, Memories of the Space Age, and Myths of the Near Future - which I never really felt I properly understood. Perhaps I ought to go back and re-visit those stories sometime soon.

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[UR: 6 November 2006]

MH wrote: And time is critical to Tallis's eventual 'solution' to Marilyn Monroe's death. His attempts centre on constructing what Ballard terms a 'valid system of time' - a time that is more meaningful than that in the out-of-season beach resort in which Tallis and Karen have found themselves stranded.

It all starts with Strangman's Time Zone in Drowned World. Did I write something about this?

Yes I did! ... Here it comes:

The city [i.e. the drowned London] seems older than it actually is, but this is just a derivative effect of a deeper and intellectually more intriguing change engineered by Ballard. The human, historical time of the city, whose rhythm was stressed by clocks, has been definitively lost. Colonel Riggs´ stubborn attempts to reactivate all the clocks on churches or buildings in the city must be seen as a sort of symbolic reanimation-therapy for the city itself. Strangman´s crew sanctions the timeless status of the city with a christening ritual: "On another occasion he sent two of his men over in a skiff to the lagoon; on one of the largest buildings on the opposite bank they painted in letters thirty feet high: TIME ZONE. (§9:97)"

And here is where Ballard's odd use of a very common expression cames from. Time Zone means... well, here's what it means:

The city is a time zone not just because it is a time-less zone, but also because it is now an area where a new kind of time is in force, biological rather than chronological. When we say new we simply mean a time that is different from the one we are usually accustomed to, because we soon discover that this biological time is much older than humankind: "The further down the Central Nervous System you move, from the hindbrain through the medulla into the spinal cord, you descend back into the neuronic past. For example, the junction between the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae...is the great zone of transit between the gill-breathing fish and the air-breathing amphibians with their respiratory rib-cages, the very junction where we stand now on the shores of this lagoon, between the Paleozoic and the Triassic Eras. (§3:44)"

The new time is described by Bodkin, the biologist, who would probably like to be defined as an expert in Neuronics, "the psychology of Total Equivalents." The fictional science sketched by Bodkin deserves some extra attention. The so-called "Total Equivalents" are "symbolic stations" stored in the spinal cord. Such stations can be reached again by consciousness thanks to climatic change: "as we move back through geophysical time so we re-enter the amniotic corridor and move back through spinal and archaeopsychic time, recollecting in our unconscious minds the landscapes of each epoch" (§3:44). The importance of landscape and symbolic equivalences is clearly underscored in this passage; it could be said that the first application of Bodkin´s Psychology of Total Equivalents is The Drowned World itself. Ballard has embedded his aesthetic theory in the speech of the biologist.

Ok, so the Man was already interested in the idea of different times at the beginning of the fateful decade which brought him from sheer SF to sheer postmodernism. And--lo and behold!--there's an American guy who is soooooo fond of the idea of alternative times: yeah, you got it. It's uncle Tom, I mean Tommy Pynchon (read Mason & Dixon and you'll find plenty of that...).

And where does it all come from?

From uncle Tom S. Eliot, obviously. From the Four Quartets, go tell

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[MH: 6 November]

UR wrote: And--lo and behold!--there's an American guy who is soooooo fond of the idea of alternative times: yeah, you got it. It's uncle Tom, I mean Tommy Pynchon (read Mason & Dixon and you'll find plenty of that...).

It's interesting that you mention Pynchon, Umberto. New Worlds magazine published a Pynchon story, "Entropy", in 1969 - around the same time that they were publishing a number of JGB's Atrocity Exhibition pieces. That's another story about 'stopped time' and an everlasting present, and ends with a couple of people waiting "until the moment of [thermal] equilibrium was reached, when thirty-seven degrees Fahrenheit should prevail both outside and inside, and forever, and the hovering, curious dominant of their separate lives should resolve into a tonic of darkness and the final absence of all motion."

Mike Moorcock, who of course edited New Worlds, later made a comparison between the style of that Pynchon story and Ballard's work: "For us at New Worlds writers like Pynchon, interesting and good as they are, were still regarded as 'modernists'. If you examine his story Entropy (which appeared in New Worlds) and a Ballard story, say, of the same period, you'll find a much more sophisticated development in the Ballard. In Pynchon characters frequently talk about ideas. In Ballard, they act them out." Now that comment isn't so true as it once was - at least about JGB!

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[RMcG: 6 November 2006]

nice job, mike...

whatta crazy little yarn, eh?

I've had some thots on it, too

first off, I dunno if i agree with umberto and Drowned World time being repeated in AX time... I agree with UR that DW must be a narrative of bodkin's theory, but I think another version of time is happening in AX... a "personal" time, rather than a biological or chrono time...

JG likes to think of time as our "temporal extension" thru the space continuum... our three dimensions are small... but our time dimension stretches from birth to death... like vonnegut, JG seems interested in clicking into these different "cells" of time-existence...

there's also tallis and the "soft" and "hard" deaths... marilyn's public death was soft -- a media event... we all felt we had lost someone we knew... and then her private death, hard and unhappy...

"tallis, trying to make sense of her tragic death, has recast her disordered mind in the simplest terms possible, those of geometry"

and what is geometry, save a form of describing visual reality?

so the apartment represents marilyn's disordered mind... her grief frozen in the walls...

I think what happens is this:

1. tallis becomes totally fixated on marilyn's death... he extrapolates her into the four dimensions of his surroundings

2. tallis sees karen at the planetarium... she's dressed like marilyn -- in a white dress and has "maternal" eyes... in the apartment, karen becomes first a "modulus" for tallis (n 1: an integer that can be divided without remainder into the difference between two other integers; "2 is a modulus of 5 and 9" 2: the absolute value of a complex number 3: (physics) a coefficient that expresses how much of a specified property is possessed by a specified substance) -- I'm going with meaning #1 -- that karen is a number tallis can multiply by space and time to form a unit of "existence" (is that time?)

3. but karen's having none of this... "conversely" to tallis's geometric/timeline obsessions, she's feeling a "growing entropy", "an increasing sense of disembodiment, as if her limbs and musculature merely established the residential (!!) context of her body"...

4. nathan next appears in a strange setpiece in which the sound has been turned off... what is that?

5. tallis then finds the recently-arrived coma (probably a sign of inceasing craziness for tallis), self-diagnoses himself as sane, and then wonders what the slopes and planes around him mean... it's at this point he beings to equate coma with marilyn... but coma isn't real...

6. later, after watching the dancer on the dunes, tallis begins to project the landscape onto karen...which "in some way diminished the identity of the young woman asleep in her apartment"... I'm thinking tallis thinks the sleeping young woman is not karen anymore, but marilyn

7. "the assumption of the sand-dune"... what "venus of the dunes"? what "virgin of the time-slopes"... gotta be marilyn, right? cause in the next "real" section, tallis makes the final step and equates the apt with marilyn's "time"-mind... it's like he can walk around in her damaged mind in the past and "solve" the suicide

8. what happens to karen? tallis considers the white cube of the room... karen wanders around, confusing the perspectives... transforming it into a dislocated clock... dislocated from time? regardless, the section ends on an enigmatic note... she's really just become an unbearable intrusion into the time-geometry of the room... which is really marilyn's mind...

9. does karen die? commit suicide? fall asleep? the headings say "murder" and "epiphany of this death", but that could also apply to marilyn, who must have been "standing in the angle between two walls" (life and death) when she killed herself... for tallis, this seems a satisfactory solution to the suicide problem... he then closes the blinds (shuts marilyn's dead eyes), and undoes the phone (voice and ears gone)...

10. the title is also curious... You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe... who's the "you" in the title? the reader?

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[MH: 7 November 2006]

RMcG wrote: 4. nathan next appears in a strange setpiece in which the sound has been turned off... what is that?

Puzzling that isn't it? And did you notice that not only doesn't Tallis hear Nathan but that when the helicopter lands and takes off it does so without making any noise? I'm tempted to see that passage as another sign of the depth of Tallis's interiorization. Whatever it is that Nathan says, Tallis just cannot connect to it. And in the next passage, Coma appears for the first time and Tallis says to her that Nathan has agreed that he (Tallis) is sane. But this is another sign of his retreat from anything other than his own obsessions, because as you say ... "Coma isn't real" ... she's an avatar of Tallis's own psyche. And she soon replaces a real person, Karen, in Tallis's schemes.

RMcG wrote: 6. later, after watching the dancer on the dunes, tallis begins to project the landscape onto karen...which "in some way diminished the identity of the young woman asleep in her apartment"...

9. does karen die? commit suicide? fall asleep? the headings say "murder" and "epiphany of this death", but that could also apply to marilyn, who must have been "standing in the angle between two walls" (life and death) when she killed herself... for tallis, this seems a satisfactory solution to the suicide problem... he then closes the blinds (shuts marilyn's dead eyes), and undoes the phone (voice and ears gone)...

I hadn't thought of it like that, though I'm still inclined to interpret those paragraphs as Tallis killing Karen. But he does it almost without thinking about it - Karen herself is no longer of interest to him, hence his off-hand comment in the last paragraph.

At one point, I was inclined to interpret the story in terms of the dangers of Tallis's interiorization and a 'death of affect' (as JGB says in the notes, he behaves as if he's an element in a geometric equation) - a warning of the dangers of an empty character and an empty life. But that doesn't really work too well, because in the end Tallis succeeds (at least on *his* terms). And I hadn't quite picked up on the number of references to Karen 'fading from existence' as it were. Maybe what we have is two characters who at the start are in a similar situation - stranded in the psychological emptiness of the beach resort - but Tallis finds a way out through his own obsessions (after all, at the end he leaves with Coma) whereas Karen just fades away. What is it JGB says somewhere, that we may be better off accepting and using our own alienation?

I hadn't noticed the symbolism right at the end with the closing of the blinds etc - good spot! Another bit of symbolism is the damaged planetarium; symbolic of the 'death of outer space', and of the need for a journey inwards?

And in the other reference to the planetarium, JGB refers to "the suffocating dome of the planetarium, expressing its infinity of symmetrical boredom." Note that an 'infinite symmetry' is perceived negatively, unlike Dr. Nathan's comment about Travis seeking the lost symmetry of the blastosphere in one of the other stories. In this story, Tallis prefers angles to spheres.

Overall, it's a pretty amazing text. On the surface, not all that much is going on. But deeper down there are so many possibilities that I sometimes wondered if I was losing touch with the text in the same way that Tallis had lost touch with reality!

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[DP: 7 November 2006]

MH wrote: And did you notice that not only doesn't Tallis hear Nathan but that when the helicopter lands and takes off it does so without making any noise? I'm tempted to see that passage as another sign of the depth of Tallis's interiorization."

Yes, that's one of the most peculiar scenes in the whole book -- when Nathan mouths away but no sounds come out. I interpret it as Tallis being in some kind of deep fugue: the outer world can't make contact with him.

MH wrote: "Coma isn't real" ... she's an avatar of Tallis's own psyche. And she soon replaces a real person, Karen, in Tallis's schemes.

Quite so. I think Coma, Kline and Xero are always "couriers from the unsconscious." But then, does Karen Novotny really die? As Rick interestingly suggests... "does karen die? commit suicide? fall asleep? the headings say 'murder' and 'epiphany of this death', but that could also apply to marilyn..."

Another obvious thing to say about Karen is that _she comes back to life_ -- in the other stories, that is. She can't be "really" dead if she keeps popping up again and again.

Is "You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe" the first story which is fundamentally, centrally, about the death of JGB's wife? Remember, it was written only about 18 months after the fact.

You tell us that it's set in a beach resort, but you don't question the setting, Mike. Just where is the story supposed to be taking place? My guess is that it's Spain. That's not explicitly said, but there is the curious sub-chapter headed "Impressions of Africa," describing, apparently, the North African coast. Where else can you get impressions of the North African coast except in the south of Spain -- or, more likely, from a boat cruising off the south of Spain?

One of the later stories, "The Summer Cannibals," is definitely set in Spain, but that was written two years later. This one, "You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe," is, I think, JGB's _first_ stab at confronting the landscape in which Mary actually died...

He has conflated Mary's death with that of Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps the "fugue" which Tallis experiences is an analogue of the state of mind in which JGB found himself following his own dreadful personal event.

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[MH: 7 November 2006]

DP wrote: Another obvious thing to say about Karen is that _she comes back to life  -- in the other stories, that is. She can't be "really" dead if she keeps popping up again and again.

Well, I've never read them as a consistent series of stories - more as a set of alternatives. I know that the killings are sometimes referred to by JGB as conceptual deaths, but I don't interpret that as meaning that the deaths are 'fiction' *within the stories themselves*. I still read You: Coma: MM as Karen being killed by Tallis ... though Rick thinks otherwise of course.

DP wrote: Is "You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe" the first story which is fundamentally, centrally, about the death of JGB's wife? Remember, it was written only about 18 months after the fact.

You tell us that it's set in a beach resort, but you don't question the setting, Mike. Just where is the story supposed to be taking place? My guess is that it's Spain. That's not explicitly said, but there is the curious sub-chapter headed "Impressions of Africa," describing, apparently, the North African coast. Where else can you get impressions of the North African coast except in the south of Spain -- or, more likely, from a boat cruising off the south of Spain?

Interesting, because the "Impressions of Africa" paragraph is the one that I couldn't really understand how it related to the rest of the story. And that's the paragraph where in the later annotations JGB refers to Raymond Roussel ... and to graveyards and mausoleums.

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[MH: 7 November 2006]

DP wrote: He has conflated Mary's death with that of Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps the "fugue" which Tallis experiences is an analogue of the state of mind in which JGB found himself following his own dreadful personal event.

Just thinking about this in connection with a question that Rick posed earlier, namely: "the title is also curious... You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe... who's the 'you' in the title? the reader?"

There are three women in the story (if we ignore the unnamed dancer in the dunes): Coma, Marilyn, and Karen. So why isn't the story titled something like: "Karen: Coma: Marilyn Monroe"? ... Is it because "You" is actually "Mary"? ... the 'you' is a personal one, more a 'tu' than a 'vous'. That would support your reading of Karen's death, rather more than a conflation of Mary's death with Marilyn Monroe's.

Lord, I need to take a break from this ...

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[RMcG: 8 November 2006]

crazy yarn... what the hell actually happens?

here's my take... all 18 chapters

1. karen wakes up at noon (!!!) and tallis is sitting beside the bed, pressing his shoulders against the wall.. he's spent 3 days pacing the apartment, measuring it... it is all very very quiet, no movement... the walls are white... is it a mausoleum? tallis voyeuristically stares at her as she dresses... the chapter is called the robing of the bride, and JG goes on in the notes about the impact this ernst painting had on him... it's actually similar in some ways to JG's fake Delvaux insofar as it features a woman and a mirror... mirror of life? time and flesh...

2. tallis's lurking in the apt was 'a time of increasing fragmentation"... an unnecessary vacation... led by "negative logic" (irrationality) to a small resort on a sand bar... he sits for hours at tables of closed cafes... already he can't remember the beach -- can't even see it because of apt blocks... not interested in infinite elasticity... karen spends most of the day sleeping in the silent apartment... the white walls obsess him... (colour? texture?)

3. tallis equates the smoothness of karen's body to the 'frozen planes' (walls)... but tallis realizes that in a 'displacement' of time (a leap into the future) the smoothness of karen's flesh would dry and leave skin like clinkers... this connects him to ernst's robing picture... he then equates marilyn into the painting, imagining marilyn as the ernst character in the mirror... does that mean karen will be the bright-red bird bride being attended?... this is why the word 'soft' in in quote marks in the header... it's soft, like saying the bride being robed is a metaphor for marilyn, but it's also not soft, like the real dead person of marilyn... those quotes are an eye wink to the reader... the 'you' in the title is you the 'reader'...

4. tallis is first drawn to karen's 'presence' when he meets her at the deserted planetarium... he's been out in the sand dunes, trying to get away from apt blocks... he's in a sandy area like a yantra, [a yantra is a symbolic representation of aspects of divinity, usually the Mother Goddess... a general fertility deity... It is believed that mystical yantras reveal the inner basis of forms and shapes abounding in the universe.]... true to image, when tallis approaches karen she watches him with 'maternal eyes' -- is she pregnant? a mother? overly russian? a goddess?

5. tallis is struck by the 'unusual' features of karen's face, which intersect like dunes...I have no idea what that looks like... what are those dogs with lots of folds?.. anyway, he takes pains to feel her wrist when she hands him a cig... he follows her across the dunes like a puppy dog... he converts her into a geometric equation... her curves are the dune's curves...enneper exists, btw... the study of shapes using geometric equations (google it)... so, tallis makes the first leap and sees karen as some kind of volumetric representation of the sandy landscape...

6. step two: the curvy dune-like planes of karen's face find their equivalent in the rectilinear apt... "the right angles between the walls and ceiling were footholds in a valid system of time..." JG uses interesting imagery here... [foothold n 1: an area in hostile territory that has been captured and is held awaiting further troops and supplies; "an attempt to secure a bridgehead behind enemy lines"; 2: a place providing support for the foot in standing or climbing 3: an initial accomplishment that opens the way for further developments; "they are presently attempting to gain a foothold in the Russian market"]... all cool, and the passage is enigmatic enough you can find associations in all 3 meanings... but because tallis is so manic, I like meaning #3... it's like for tallis the mere recognition of the right angles themselves is proof for a 'valid system of time'... right angles form where perpendicular planes meet... it's an asymmetric moment in space, frozen in time... unlike the broken dome, which was symmetrical and infinite... (sounds like death)... he watches karen walk thru the rooms, relating her thighs and hips (the fertility part) to the floor and ceiling... but not the walls!... regardless, karen becomes a "modulus" for tallis [modulus: n 1: an integer that can be divided without remainder into the difference between two other integers; "2 is a modulus of 5 and 9" 2: the absolute value of a complex number 3: (physics) a coefficient that expresses how much of a specified property is possessed by a specified substance]... whatever the heck that means, and he realizes he can multiply her in four dimensions throughout the apt... and obtain "a valid unit of existence".... I suspect that this means proof of karen's reality, or at least her geometric equation... it is, however, as mike points out... 'false space and time'... I think it's false cause it's tallis making the error of building an equation based on opposing shapes... curves and lines, dunes and walls... he tries to use karen as a modulus (a precipitant?) to fuse the outer and inner into a reality he can manipulate... seems to be a painting that doesn't work... no walls... grief is about walls

7. JG gives a long rap about this paragraph in the notes... a strange story about a crazy lady who overturned a tea cup... he also says: "conventional reality is a largely artificial construct which serves the limited ambitions of our central nervous system...huge arrays of dampers suppress those perceptions that confuse or unsettle the central nervous system"... and ends with the Big Clue: "transformational grammars: the characters behave as if they were pieces of geometry interlocking in a series of mysterious equations..." karen feels her energy flag as tallis's increases... she feels disembodied... like she has no body... ghostly... she feels her body is 'residential' to her flesh and bone... while she irons (more maternalism) she watches tallis do his geometric thing with the apt's interior... she doesn't get it... they have sex... and they appear to meet and share the same reality... at first I thought this was bad for karen, cause I thot JG would want her to remain "symbolic" for tallis... on the other hand, their 'dual communion' that manages to share the same 'space time continuum' may be the tenderest moment in all of AX... given JG's comment about conventional reality (above), this seems to suggest karen is going into suppression mode... it seems she's receiving perceptions that will damage or confuse her CNS and is damping them down... and she does, reverting to a mother figure and sleeping all day (signs of depression -- foreshadowing her as marilyn?)

8. jump cut to outside the broken planetarium... hollows in the dried mud reflect the shape of the platenarium's dome, and marilyn's now-eroded boobs (non-maternal)... with the apt blocks just in sight, tallis absently scrapes seagull crap off a cafe table.. then a helicopter arrives

9. a chopper silently circles and lands... nathan emerges, shakes hands with tallis, and starts to talk... no sound... he tries again, really hard, and again... he gives up, returns to the chopper and it silently flies away... this is like a silent movie by woody allen... or the Firesign Theatre... (betty: "this is the kennels, no one can hear us here"... nick: "what?")... regardless, it is an interesting bit... I'm thinking nathan is not going to be part of any solution tallis is working on... and as such this whole episode could simply be a fantasy of tallis, conjuring up nathan and then freezing his vocal cords... an ironic little gesture no doubt wished for by many patients... but that doesn't explain the silent chopper... unless that's the way JG is implicating us in the drama... or perhaps tallis has already started to timeslip out of the nathan reality, and all that's left is the physical and visual... at any rate, it's a turning point in the story, as tallis picks up the pace towards the conclusion

10. the appearance of coma bodes well for an analysis that suggests tallis is starting to obsess on his equations... this courier from the subconscious starts off with two contradictory lines: 'do you lip-read? I won't ask what he was saying'... hardly logical... but this creature from beyond time, this denizen of dreams, expects an answer... tallis says nathan told him he was sane, as far as the term goes... and the problem is figuring out the meaning of slopes and planes.... it's at this moment tallis notices that coma resembles marilyn more and more.... and its at this moment that karen becomes superfluous... tallis is now looking for an equation that will bring together karen's apartment (marilyn's head) and coma (marilyn's body)

11. a muscular, ghostly woman in white dances up and down the sides of dunes... tallis sits and watches her dance, 'a symbol in a transcendental geometry'... a geometry outside of nature... a geometry of the imagination

12. the oddity of this paragraph could very well be designed to hide its bridge-like connection between 'transcendental geometry', 'the limitless neural geometry of the landscape', of this bit, and the 'persistence of the beach', the next story... JG raps away about graveyards and time in his notes on this paragraph, and wishes he could turn his house into a stone mausoleum... so he could step out of time... this chapter almost seems a description from the air, rather than sea level... this would be nathan's view... again, the travelogue... here's another link: Impressions of Africa is also the name of a dali painting (go to google image & type this: "impressions of africa" + dali)... I think JG is imagining the scene that the painter in the painting sees...

13. persistence of the beach is a great takeoff on dali's persistence of memory... tallis is wandering the dunes and their white flanks remind him of karen's dishy bod... he takes a swiftian trip around her naughty bits, and realizes that his little porno dune-dream had somehow made karen less, well, 'karen', back in her apartment, where she's sleeping as usual... or is the 'young woman asleep in her apartment' now just a symbol for marilyn? anyway, tallis is walking along the sand just above where karen's boobs would be, and he asks himself 'what time could be read off the slopes and inclines of this inorganic musculature'... I'm guessing long time: like forever.... I'm also betting this is not good for tallis... who seems to want to avoid bringing the infinite into his equations...

14. tallis looks up at the sand dunes (the boobs, by my reckoning) and sees marilyn... the sand reminds him of karen's apartment's walls and of the dead marilyn and her desiccated body... and now tallis equates marilyn with the virgin mary... could this be that inadvertent personal connection dave has been looking for?

15. real space and time, we're warned... but whose? tallis sees 'aspects' between the white rectilinear walls and the now-saintly marilyn...(and mary?) the apartment becomes a box clock, a 'cubicircular extrapolation' (cool: a combination of cube and circle!) of the yantra [a yantra is a symbolic representation of aspects of divinity... It is believed that mystical yantras reveal the inner basis of forms and shapes abounding in the universe]... as well as marilyn's cheekbones... her grief was frozen in the apartment's walls... tallis wanted to know what caused her to kill herself... he plans to solve the puzzle in karen's apartment... (it was dr nathan with the frizbulator in the garden)... what is it that he thinks he will find? or is this where it gets all wound up, and tallis is there to watch it all unwind?

16. murder most foul... tallis is behind a door, considering the white cube of the room... for him, the apartment is now a sort of mystical magic time machine that will help tallis reveal the solution to marilyn's suicide... karen wanders back and forth at intervals, performing apparently random acts... tallis does not understand their meaning... but apparently their 'randomness' is confusing the room's perspectives, transforming it into a dislocated clock... which, one assumes, is one that's keeping different time... or time in a different place... or just won't go back to the right point in space-time... tallis does nothing to stop her... it's not even clear if her changing perspectives in the room is something that's happening in reality, or just in tallis' perception of her actions... karen then notices tallis, lurking behind the door, and walks towards him... that's the last thing she does... all we're told is that tallis waits for her to leave... she's standing in such a way that tallis can't see the angle between the two walls to his right... after a couple seconds karen becomes an unbearable intrusion into the time geometry of the room... whatever the hell that means... OK, there's no more info, so I guess we must assume a murder then takes place...

17. as a divine manifestation of karen's apparent death, the walls of the apartment contain marilyn's 'serene' face and the 'assuaged' time of the dunes, which could mean 'smooth', or the more sinister, 'appeased'... regardless, all seems calm in happy valley... and the frozen grief is gone...

18. departure... check out time.. hey, let's leave a body, it'll be nice and mummified in a year! it appears tallis has just been sitting in a chair beside karen's body until coma bubbles up from the depths... tallis shuts marilyn down (the apartment) by closing the eyes, mouth and ears... coma tells tallis about seeing the chopper again... then coma sits down beside karen and looks at tallis, who points to the deadly corner... 'she was standing in the angle between the walls'... wrong place, wrong time... no other reason necessary in a dream

I'm gonna say this is about you : coma : marilyn... I'm translating that as -- me : subconscious : psychic loss

in the big picture isn't this a riff on the absurdity of trying to figure out fate? you can attack it with science or mysticism, geometry, yantras or jigsaw puzzles, but by and large even attempting to make sense of the irrational is a useless, or mind-scrambling exercise... it is what it is... Tallis tries many combinations of geometry and time, many locales and many women... in the end, it's all as enigmatic as ernst's bride robing painting, which foreshadows all with its dual woman, beautiful young bird and fossilized reflection...

I can't quite shake the feeling that tallis has invented all of this in a delirium, or a dream... it is a recounting of a pointless vacation decreed by 'negative logic' ... as such, a travel guide of sorts, showing the hot spots, the sand, the apartment, all the crazy tourist attractions?... is it a geometry or geography? for tallis, everything you see reminds you of what you've lost, and then suddenly you realize you're simply no longer in the same time continuum... the past projects onto the present and the only way to depart is acceptance... or insanity

is karen dead? it's probably immaterial... she was already disassociating from her body... does tallis kill her? there's no clues; he's not even upset she obscures an important neural pathway in the apartment... maybe it's all a dream fired off by the neurons of landscape... maybe the apartment (marilyn) kills karen (marilyn), and the mythic death is revealed as a function of a new 'time geometry', in which Tallis finds relief from the puzzle that has obsessed him...

probably, tho.. the answer is in that little murder phrase "intolerable intrusion"... can't ya just hear freud in the background? karen (star/whore/woman/saint/wife/concept) ruins all the careful planning because she didn't know or care about tallis's obsessions, was having her own problems, and dies because her last action was to walk towards him, destroying the "artificial construct which serves the limited ambitions of our central nervous system" ... that was the real psychic pain that couldn't be borne, and karen was relegated to that spot where all intolerable thoughts go to die: the subconscious.... where coma can keep them company...

ultimately, it's probably too enigmatic a story to finally nail down... but I'm sure it can be condensed:

T-man goes to abandoned seaside repost to solve marilyn's suicide. As far as we can tell, he succeeds.


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