AESTHETIC n rolls off the tongue, for some, the tip-of-the-tongue stammering of t and t, the h a ghostly mid-breath, as if it were an utterance of comfort, a luxury. You cannot use the term without being unsympathetically aware of its place in a sentence or of the word’s relationship to what it is trying to describe. Which is, some general, inexplicable sense of the exterior of things, their look, their smell. To brush over what is still there, below the surface.


AFFLICTED v to be, and you probably often are, more-often-than-not. You imagine that affliction is trying too hard; or, wanting something but not knowing what that is. In a state of being underwhelmed, lost.


AJAR n like a door, in André Breton’s phrase. Which is to say, leaving the door slightly open for eyes to peer into, being able to see the truth in the fiction. Surrealism is all symbols. Everything has its symbol, is a symbol for something else. You find the idea of closing doors to be. Let’s not go further.


ALIGN v it might be satisfying to watch as things align, as they reach agreement, automatically, find similarity with each other, imitate. Synchronicity, harmony.


ANTICIPATE v the feeling, ever-so-slightly before it happens, of it. An it you can imagine, pre-remember. A virtuality that doesn’t need to even happen, in actuality.


APPARATUS n steely, grey, you’d imagine, blank. The presumption that there is some object covered, hidden behind artifice. The methods of production. Production.


ARBITRARY n the, an. You have imagined the arbitrary as a sensation or a description to avoid, rally against, detest. Once you looked so hard for the right word, and arbitrary was that word, and how disappointing it appeared. Perhaps that put you off. Because you too are drawn to its riskiness. You were taken by finding Barthes had ordered chapters alphabetically, like indexes or lists, perhaps the most arbitrary of orders. It seemed exciting that something so uncertain - writing as an explosion or implosion of thought – could have its reading determined by the unhindered arbitrariness of A to Z.


ARTIFICE n the outer layer or fabric, aesthetic. Is the artifice the object’s production, its scaffolding, tarpaulin? Or is it what you bring to it, your being subject to it, your separation? You like the idea that artifice is fashioned through form, style, and so by necessity it’s fragile or thin.


ASSIMILATION n identification, alignment, comfort, being aware of the space between you and it, but only that space, the space decreasing, existing in the same space at the same time. Is love assimilation at a remove? Being on the other side of the room, something like that. Feeling joined with something, someone. Is assimilation only the possibility of it happening, forever, never its actualisation? The ceaseless repetition of the point just before. A kind of unending crescendo that carries with it both the possibility of climax or anti-climax.


AUTO n the auto- as an introversion of practice. Autobiography, autofiction, autotheory, etc. You’ve always been intrigued by the possibility of making things about yourself, or of being told secrets, acting the confidant (even if you’re way out of your depth). It’s impossible to make anything without something of yourself in it, you might have said. You might still say. You want people to offer themselves. Bare all. Is that not too much to ask? Since when have you done that? Another dubious idea: you just haven’t experienced enough, what exactly are you going to write about? Where exactly is the auto- going to come from? You’ve said such before. Some ideas you might simply have to resist.


AUTHOR v you imagine the authoring of something (reality?) as being its rapid detachment from what it is. The virtual displacing the actual. Is this a form of betrayal? Or, in any case, a form of reduction. An authored representation, like speaking an idea out loud, worsens it, makes it untrue. The bitterness of the actual. (Ben Lerner.)


BETRAYAL n perhaps one of the worst most unthinkable sensations you can think up is feeling betrayed, let down, both surprised and unsurprised: how did you not see it coming? You worry of betraying trust, confidence, your conscience. A narrative could betray its beginning. A plot twist is a kind of betrayal. Infidelity. Diversion. You wonder if it is possible for writing to be unfaithful to itself, even its reader.


BITTERNESS n the actuality, because it is less than it might have been. Ultimately: repeatability, ease, lack of total failure.


BLANK n quite terrifyingly, inexorably, repressively plain. What to fill it with? Waffle, flab, stomach-fat, insulation, irrelevance. What matters more: the act of filling it, or what actually goes in?


CLICHÉ n to the point of losing its original meaning, Wikipedia says. A cliché is something which has degraded through overuse. Which suggests that it was meaningful in the first place. This universal overusing of words and ideas and structures forms both an artifice of sameness, amalgamation, and a space for misuse, awkward or predetermined. Newly, unpredictably. Cliché is the potential for surprise insofar as it is least expected. But how to do that?


CLUMSILY adv deleted, edited, touched, touched-up. Clumsiness, half-failures. If only decisions (narrative, structural, formal) could seem like mistakes, appears clumsy and casual.


CREDIBLE n when the progression or realisation of one thing to another reveals a central coherence. The persistence of belief; or, the suspension of disbelief. In a narrative sense, the opposite of sceptical.


CRITICAL n a situation has opened up: what is your critical position, your criticality? What are you trying to do? It’s all form, style, structure, and what does that do? You can’t just trust that that’s enough. What are you really trying to say? Of course, you’ve always shied, justified your distance, from the act of saying this is what I’m trying to say, but at some point you’ll have to face up to it. You can’t trust eloquence. What even is eloquence?


DETACHEDLY adj being aware of something without being within it. Self-aware, sensible. You often feel the desire to be withdrawn. Being anonymous or foreign is a little like having the ability to get up, step out, brush yourself down, leave. Leave the door slightly ajar, the possibility of escape, or re-entry.


DIALOGUE n somehow, one person talks and the other listens, and vice versa.


DIFFERENCE n being or seeing or identifying some kind of conflict or contradiction. Why do people cry when watching, reading, viewing? Is it identification with similarity, nodding your head along, or a gasp at the chasm of your dissimilarity, pain at the distance of something? You’d prefer if it were the former. And you could look for difference. You hate the idea of melodramatic arousal, tear-jerking, musical signification, arousing emotion. At the same time, you find it fascinating.


DISAMBIGUATION n making clear, removing ambiguity? In Wikipedia this is the chosen phrase to denote the splitting up of a word into different meanings, synonyms, headers, pages, lists. Words that have multiples. I like the idea that the act of making clear is a chipping away of ambiguity, a negative process, reductive, a revisiting, a dis-.




DISPLACEMENT n one thing taking the place of another. You like, in narratives, the effect that a twist or sudden event has, the world the same as it was, its dramatic context wildly different. The everyday seems to contain a multitude of banal objects, differences, which can be swapped out, suddenly altered.


DISTANCE n keep your distance, someone might say. You crave distance, its fixedness. Not being in too deep. An edge’s tantalising prospect. In Brecht’s idealised terms, distance leads to the revealing of a contradiction within an object. It is meant to surprise, catch you out at the vulnerable (distanced, fixed, elusive) moment of desire. Distance is generated within structures; a representation distances itself from what it is representing, it quotes.


DISTRACT v you like, in imagining narrative, order, rhythm, to bring about its distraction, an audience’s attention suddenly altered, reluctantly, distractedly. How can films, books, performances, bring about distraction? Does it require a certain casualness? People often say that a thing works on distracting you from the real problem at hand, its true purpose is to divert your eyes away. Perhaps you’re excited by this action, how it might be used to offer something new.


DIVERT v forklike you can sense or see yourself going off track. Are diversions intentional? Can they ever not be self-reflexive? Indexes, encyclopaedias are vehicles for holding steady more than one possibility at the same time. The document points in all directions and invites diversion. You love the idea of channel-hopping, surfing, going from one thing to another, the first image still playing in the mind, overwritten by the second, the third, and their own undiminishing possibility of being undone.


DOCUMENTARY n to document: why is ‘non-fiction’ characterised by its opposition to fiction, its not being made-up? Of course, documentaries are fictions, or non-non-fictions. To call a film true to life is absurd. Any form of representation is constructed. Is there truth in its deconstruction, its slippages? And why would you aspire to truth, anyway?


ELUSIVE adj finding it hard to pin down. The words you are attracted to elude you. You realise that what you were looking for, what you imagined they might reveal, is impossible, improbable; and to presume answers is wrong. The answers would be false.


ETC. adv the implication being that you know already what will come next, that it will be simply an extension of what it was before, whatever it is. The comfortable predictability of repetition. Narrative time is a little like the etcetera: it unfolds, simply.


FAILURE n you just need to fail, fail, fail. You have said such before, attempting to offer advice, not really believing yourself, uncertain at the other’s clear scepticism. There’s that Samuel Beckett line, of course. The horrible feeling of failure. The self-consciousness. The self-consciousness. You wished you lacked.


FALSITY n untrue, insincere, fake. Admit it: you are interested in narratives that announce their falseness, the fact that they are illusions. They might not need to announce it, but make it apparent somehow. Ultimately, it’s all artifice.


FLIT v the true picture of the past flits by Walter Benjamin.


FOOTING n ideally, to be lost, and to slip or fall.


FRAGMENT n contained within, but cut off or cut away. A fragment is narrative failure. (False-start) A narrative cannot be a fragment. Fragments can be pieced together but only to suggest, imply: the result is never the sum of its parts but lots of little failures.


FRIVOLOUS adj meaningless, arbitrary, perhaps absurd, silly, superficial.


GAPE v here, Barthes on narrative revealing: “is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes?” Narrative pleasure becomes perversion, voyeurism; edges, peaks, waves. It can be predicted or described.


GESTURE n something drives even the smallest gestures (society, whim, both). The most mundane or expected movements have something before and after, they suggest, imply. You’re interested in what changes with gesture, what gesture does. A disembodied word, idea, and a gestured one, a dialogue.


GLIMPSE v to see through a gap, gaping hole, a space that has just opened up or out.


HALF n must be followed by a dash. To condense an object down, play it off a little, prolong the tendency to change tune by keeping it for a little longer in uncertainty.


HAPHAZARD adj all over the place.


IMITATE v to act, or quote, or embody. Or to mimic: imitation suggests parody, superiority, distance. You like the idea that imitation could be display (of power, of perceptiveness) and also vulnerability (it’s just a bad imitation).


IMPLICATORY adj without saying something straight-up, or to render it said. To leave it unsaid, implied. To not degrade it, kill it somehow, to leave it veiled. Under artifice.


INCAPABLE adj You often feel at a loss. Stammering, unable to say what you imagine you want to say, choosing not to try.


INDEXICAL adj pointing somewhere, to something. Simply saying “look, there!” lacks assertion or manipulation, it’s modest. A term that means lots of things in different places, but in your case: you like the idea of simply diverting attention to another place that is both related and different, that might point elsewhere completely. A colon or a sudden pointing of the eyes in a slightly different direction. The yearning to be somewhere else.


INEXORABLE adj flow. Unrelenting. Inevitable. Unfolding completely, a narrative at least has the inevitability of an end, a release, a conclusion. The problem with time is that it keeps forking, changing course, and you can’t exactly go back.


INSOFAR adv words stuck together to make something else, probably not what they should mean having been stuck together, but a glimpse at something else, distant. In. So. Far.


INTIMACY n immediate; persuasive, reflexive, reflective (a self-portrait), sturdy self-awareness. Superfluous, perhaps. But essential at the moment it establishes itself. An awkward word, you might have said once, by which you meant that it feels it ends before it should. The word, and the sensation? It ends bitterly, painfully.


KNOT n incapable of mapping or seeing a way out. You find yourself in a knot, or tie yourself in one? That would seem unfair.


LOSS n at a. For words.


MARGIN n some writers or publishers stick words in the margins of texts. Which either says, this is less important, inferior, it doesn’t deserve to be in the main body; or, this is more important, it represents a criticality which is annotation, overlay, after-the-fact. A blank margin might act as padding, cushioning, or the horrors of empty space.


MALLEABLE adj pressed, thumbed, shaped, moulded. You have always been drawn to cinema because its narrative form seems to be to be the most shapeable, mouldable: it can be touched, gestured onto, and still retain a steady believability, authority. Film can provoke both credulity and scepticism, be somewhere in between.


MELODRAMA n everything is wrought, prolonged, exaggerated, at stake. A stretching out, a gasping for air. A little clearing opens up, flat, uncrowded: the site for drama. Melodrama is optimistic, the drama will resolve itself. The world is too predictable to be overwhelmed by conflict.


MONTAGE n the connection between images, fragments, where they might overlap. Does montage contain fragments, give them space to breathe, or change them completely, overwhelm them?


OTHERWISE adv what will you. Is it better to stick words in a sentence and see what happens to them, or try to isolate them as words and define, rephrase, rephrase?


OVER adv best employed as prefix, over-importantly: the word pushed over the edge (you saw it coming).


OVERLAP n something becomes hidden underneath, between the overlap. Likely, an extension of what’s around it, but how can you know? How can you know for sure? Lines, perfect circles, rectangles, familiar predictable shapes cross over one another, you fill in the gaps, finish the story. Bodies overlapping fit together become something a bit alien or strange, vulgar, implosive or explosive or both, too human.


OVERWHELM v unreservedly; the inability to escape. Perhaps you should be against full experience, immersion. And be drawn towards the underwhelming, the disappointing.


PARTICULAR n the opposite of the universal. (Otherwise, in spite of it.)


PLAY n theatrical production. Frivolity?


POSSIBILITY n vs potential. You prefer the slight open-endedness of possibility, recognise the blind optimism of ending on a vowel sound.


QUOTE n nothing worse than looking for a quote. Or finding one, hands outstretched. I’ll just read you this quote. I found this quote. This great quote. Actors must quote, Brecht said. As in, they should be on the outside looking in. When reading you should be on the outside looking in. Against assimilation.


READING v a lonely, intimate task. A blank face. Paralysis. Is the act of reading durational? Does it contain time? You mean, to watch someone reading: in what way is that a representation of time?


RECOLLECTION n you are perhaps most excited by the artifice of recollection, its style. To see it is a mode of working. An expression of movement, action, event, as that which comes before word, meaning, memory. An assertion of the after-the-fact, time’s obsession with the past. Narratives use perfect recollections, which is an absurdity, a clichéd neatness, as the thing that ties them together. The voluntary recollection is unfair on memory, its eccentric potential for surprise, exactness. Sometimes sentences reveal themselves as recollections out of their own incompleteness or their form. Or they suddenly flip, in the midst of their performance.


RECOGNISE v you imagine something, someone, becoming suddenly visible, aligned on the horizon, appearing out of the blue. Recognising someone you know in someone you don’t (ultimately, the recognition disappoints).


RECTANGLE n four-sided; self-contained; simple; existing, again, at the periphery.


RELUCTANT adj you often imagine acting reluctantly, disinterestedly, disinclined. Reluctance offers a way out. You can be detached. Or the opposite, at a sudden moment. Travellers (figures in stations, airports, in cars) are both reluctant and inclined. (There is a lot at stake.) Their body language, movements, have always interested you. Their decisions, actions, expressions. Empty bodies or ghosts, focused entirely, totally engaged.


REPETITION n you’ve imagined a few scenarios in which an action is repeated again and again, etcetera, each as tentatively ridiculous as the other. The narrative event (in Barthes’ imagination, a kind of striptease). What excites you is perhaps this kind of perverse repetition, and its eventual breakdown.


REPHRASE v the words are often in the wrong order. The mostly futile attempt to order them better.


REVISIT v returning to something can be an act of betrayal. Returning to it stabs the thing’s creation – its frivolous desire - in the back.


RHYTHM n the music teacher telling you all how to spell it, one verbal anomaly too many. Now, perhaps, you are mainly interested in the rhythm of a form’s enactment – writing, speaking, editing – and how it differs or compares to the rhythm of its consumption – reading, listening, watching, and so on. You have often had the impression of writing to the rhythm of reading, imagining it being read. You’re not overly certain what that means, but it still seems true.


SCEPTICAL adj in narrative terms, the opposite of being credible, credulity. You are sceptical of things being too neat, perfect, making too much sense. This makes you sceptical of what they are saying. Narrative clichés are both sceptical and credible at the same time.


SCHADENFREUDE n obviously a difficult term, a word you’d be sceptical of. But there’s something both tempting and shocking about the ability for people to revel in the misfortunes of others. You wonder if it’s something to do with the possibility of your own misfortune. Or the entertainment of narratives, inconsequential conflict. Or the perversity of wanting things to collapse, to fall apart, just to see what happens.


SCHEMATIC n representation or plan. You take pleasure in imagining them, making attempts. Perhaps it’s just an aesthetic preoccupation, lines and numbers and labels, but you’re excited by the prospect of prospects, views of things, the malleability of camera angles, vantages, exploded views.


SHEER n nothing other than; perpendicular or nearly so; the dictionary suggests. Dictates. All you can muster is that you like the idea of something being sheer, all surface, clean, perpendicular or nearly nothing other than. Untampered with; or, sculpted into shape.


SLIP n of the tongue.


SLIPPAGE n rigidly slipping away from something or someone or an idea. Not necessarily purposeful, nor predictable, but you would say pleasurable. In narratives you enjoy not the slippages themselves but the being present to them, the sudden glimpse, the fact that they are happening, and the feeling of freefall.


STAKE n what is at? A popular question, trope of conversation. What is at stake when asking that question? Probably very little. But the feeling that everything is potentially at stake is a powerful one. Imagining that what you say or do means something, that you can’t escape its significance, wild potential.


STYLE n alluring, pleasurable, the artifice, its pleasurable collapse, the possibility of its collapse. Repetition, mastery, surprise. That which makes you smile. Inwardly. That which makes you inward. The perversity of believing in style above all else, of trusting form, pretence, and of knowing you shouldn’t.


SYNONYM n the idea that one word could mean the same thing as another. Or something along the lines. When you are writing you are constantly looking for synonyms, the need to say something a slightly different way. Looking up words also becomes a method for finding, remembering the right word: to edge closer, circle it. In this way synonyms can be infuriating (they don’t lead anywhere) or disappointing (was that really it?): associationism is not quite finding what you are looking for, and not knowing what that is.


TAKEN v something takes hold. The sudden flit from nothing to something, the knowledge that it has taken you, it’s already happened. The flit from nothing to the past, the involuntary.


TAMPER to hold down, push into, interfere. You are reminded of the act of tamping coffee grounds into shape. Then tampering with something, altering it, fiddling, playing with it, perhaps unnecessarily, perhaps covertly.


TONGUE n mine, yours: to respond to, to be responded to, to lose your footing, to grasp at. Of your own: the word itself has a soundless gap at its tip. (A gulp.) To utter it requires an almost aggressive movement of the tongue, a self-conscious flick (to nowhere in particular). You often tend toward the tongue-in-cheek.


TROPE n clichéd action, something which, after-the-fact, seemed typical, predictable. Often, you wonder, it might only be predicted in the past tense.


UNDOUBTEDLY adv the climactic feeling of certainty. Being certain. You are often ardent, certain, zealous. Your haphazard emotions: you’re often certain about being uncertain.


UNCERTAINTY n a state or feeling, of being uncertain or unsure. A definition, you’d imagine, is a certainty, although definitions are often multiple, contradictory, perhaps the more they delineate the more they confuse, lead to dead ends. The indexical offers distraction, revels in uncertainty, (dis)ambiguity.


UNDO v going back on yourself is essential to writing, editing, its clumsy mistakes.


UNFOLD n narrative unfolds. Is narrative that which unfolds, or shows unfolding? Folded up (unintelligible, illogical), the unfolding reveals cavernous details in which coherence echoes into being, incoherent before now. Before now. No longer. What, or who, does the unfolding? You are sorry for speaking, melodramatically, in metaphors.


WHIM n on a; to be given an impression of spontaneity; to follow. An experience can be whimsical: to lack prior thought, planning, perhaps, as a result, to be ill-conceived. But you imagine the ecstatic as whimsical. Unplanned, resisting schedule, schematic.


WORD n which is the front or the back of a word? Are there sides or edges to it? It is enjoyable to think about the way a word is uttered, its intonation, its gesture, the proposition of speaking it, the brief intimacy that that entails.


WITHDRAWN v library books; or, the feeling of not wanting to explode.


WITHIN adv that which is, some kind of inwardness, a pointing back. Or a pointing beyond the surface, to whatever exists within.


VICE VERSA adv the other way around, what just came before. An instant backward motion or rephrasing. The features shifted sideways.


VOYEUR n sense of the scandalous or sexual notwithstanding; the very vulgarity of gaining satisfaction out of watching from a distance, the gratification of being at a distance. What is satisfaction? Who aims for satisfaction? Nodding your head in recognition.


VULGAR adj sucking the air in sharply, grimace. You try to keep your moral stances, if you even have any, out of the picture, leave them elsewhere. But sometimes things seem so horrible, ugly, repulsive. The opinions, passions, of others. Jealousy, the fact that it takes hold like affliction, envy. Your egotistic obsessions. Your lack of understanding.