Saturday, July 21, 2007
The Wit is Dead: Requiem for a Blogger
Caveat & Disclaimer - my thoughts on the following, while calm, are muddy, inchoate, incomplete. But, I am sober as a judge. I imagine I will return to this subject in the days to come:
I had been wondering at the abrupt end of posts at The Wit of the Staircase, which was surprising, as the authoress generally apprises her readers of trips and other absences. Then today, stopping by Gazpachot, I learned the tragic news that Theresa Duncan had killed herself last week, an apparent overdose of pills washed down with alcohol. The stories have remarked on her last post, but I have been more interested in this quotation she put up the day before:
"Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
~Rupert Brooke, The Great Lover
and the day before that, 7/8:
"A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath. He walks and halts to his song. Lost, he takes shelter, or orients himself with his little song as best he can. The song is like a rough sketch of a calming and stabilizing, calm and stable, center in the heart of chaos. Perhaps the child skips as he sings, hastens or slows his pace. But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment..."
--Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus
Still, nothing in the overall tone of her writings (on 7/9 came the title, "Wit and the Warrior Heart"), choices, musings, suggested a deflation of spirit. Her intermittent yet characteristic whimsy and blitheness were present. That, and she was scheduled to travel in the upcoming weeks... Had she intended a permanent departure just two days prior, and meant this as an ironic post, I imagine she would have made this one a perverse last, artful as she was. So what happened?
To add to the loss, on Tuesday, July 17th, her longtime companion and world-reknowned artist, Jeremy Blake, seems to have left a note, along with his clothing and shoes on the shoreline at Rockaway Park. His body has not been recovered.
Why do people go naked in the water to die? Is it a return to the natal state in utero?
Whatever you felt about the opinions of Theresa Duncan, posted here on June 1st, 2007, her seeming paranoia and "conspiracy theory" bent (interestingly, the papers are whitewashed of any mention of the harassment Wit claims she and her longtime lover suffered.*), I found her an extremely intelligent, artful, bold and beautiful woman. I did not always agree with her manner, and was often uncertain of her point of view (which is in no way meant to denigrate it, rather as an expression of my own ignorance and anlage opinions), I held her in very high esteem.
The loss of Jeremy Blake to the culture of art is a grave one. As quoted in the New York Times today, "Roberta Smith, writing in The Times about a 2005 exhibition by Mr. Blake in New York, said that his work had “given the stream-of-consciousness narrative, so long a part of modern literature, a time-based visual equivalent” and that he was moving past predecessors like Ed Ruscha, William Eggleston and Raymond Pettibon into new artistic territory."
This couple, darlings of the art world and, by all accounts, very much bonded and in love, and graced with so much talent, intelligence, activity, seem to have had everything to live for. No doubt, suicide is possible even at such great heights, but seems an antidote to life administered more rarely. What happened?
Madame Wit will be sorely missed. Very few people have such an abundance of cultural learning right at their fingertips and, I imagine, their lips. It is a pleasure to read the musings of someone with such a thoughtful, tense and synthetic mind. I am always enamored of people this curious about life, and was regularly inspired. To Gazpachot, I am of a like mind:
"...like many, I was stuck on her ability to make you yearn for a world as vibrant and original as hers - A secret Lunar Society, a great home in Venice, a well turned phrase, a great picture choice, a coveted item, a sapphic celebrity crush**, a flare for stylish elitism. Honestly, her sometimes haughty voice, like most haughty voices, seemed put on, and often made me wonder what (kind of pain) she was trying to cover up. Anyhow, I'll miss her passionate assertions and I hope she's found some peace."
Jeremy Blake, Century 21, 2004
God Bless the both of you, your families, friends, and all you have inspired. God bless anyone who might have thought to or tried to harm you, even if it is you yourselves, most of all. If they exist, they need blessing all the more. You will be missed.
ADDENDUM (7/30): Their friend, Glenn O'Brien, has posted on Theresa's blog, The Wit of the Staircase today.
(* Her theories about the death of Jean Seberg, who she feels was pushed to suicide are interesting to note:
The declassified "Cointelpro" FBI document requesting permission to smear the actress and Black Panther activist Jean Seberg. J. Edgar Hoover sent letters to the Los Angeles press claiming that Seberg's pregnancy was the result of an affair with a Black Panther. Seberg, who was married to playwright Romain Gary, subsequently miscarried due to the stress of the scandal. She and Gary buried their child in a glass coffin to prove that the dead child was Gary's, and to show the public that they had been lied to. Seberg suffered mental health problems for years afterward, and eventually succeeded in commiting suicide after many attempts. Seberg was gorgeous, one of kind. She can be seen in "Breathless" "Bonjour Tristesse" and Otto Preminger's "Joan of Arc."
**he is most assuredly referring to her obsession with Kate Moss.)