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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reading Eric Packer As DeLillo's Political Visionary Prophet

Warning to Rob Pattinson: Stop knocking my Eric Packer in interviews about CosmopolisI am doing my best to counteract  the inundation of bourgeois, mainstream, run-of-the-mill interpretations, academic sound bites, etc. of Packer. Stop adding to them. Although this may be the way DeLillo is concealing and revealing Packer. Hmmmmm. Hadn't thought of that until right now.


Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
The link goes to a bunch of mostly shitty reviews at Amazon.  In The New York Times Michiko Kakutani writes that the novel amounts to the story of a comic strip capitalist pig whose crosstown trip to the barber turns out to be a long day's journey into tedium that is marred by flat, tired dialogue and the sort of rote recitation of status  items found in 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' (Kakutani E-10). The academics see Packer as a self-destructive loser who pisses away all his billions in one day. 

Marc Schuster comes very close as he comments on Eric Packer's horror at the sight of the Burning Man is in line with Baudrillard's position in Symbolic Exchange and Death that a suicidal act of protest can amount to defying the system with a gift to which it cannot respond save by its own collapse and death, in order to save face(37). Schuster, however, does not connect Eric's act of numerical implosion with Baudrillard's theory of implosion. Baudrillard's aim is to disappear theory, and Eric's act does just that. It is  theory no more. DeLillo has won the game using Baudrillard's technique in killing Foucault. So close to eXistenZ here.

Conte in Duvall employs a great deal of convoluted interpretation, which is fascinating BTW, focusing on the narrative of terrorism DeLillo put forth in his In the Ruins of the Future (Harper's December 2001). Conte, reading through The Spirit of Terrorism, says that Baudrillard again provides insight into how in a chaotic and asymmetrical warfare the dominant system can be induced to self-destruct.  He is so close here, but then he immediately says after that:

Packer has committed suicide rather than fallen victim to an assassination plot. Then a few paragraphs further down, Packer is a financial Icarus in meltdown, too  prideful to admit miscalculation (Duvall 190)

Conte in Duvall,  In Cosmopolis Packer possesses an almost preternatural ability to recognize the patterns in currency values that shift in nanoseconds and cyber-capital that is traded instantaneously on the Nikkei and Nasdaq markets. He assumes the hieratic role of the prophet.

Dagnabbit! He almost had it, by god, he almost had it. 

Since I am way out of the Literary Discourse on Cosmopolis I will again read this following Jean Baudrillard: On credibility in the media
You launch a news item. So long as it has not been denied, it is plausible. Barring accidents, it will never be denied in real time. Even if it is denied later, it will never again be absolutely false, since it has once enjoyed credibility. Unlike truth, credibility cannot be refuted, since it is virtual.... Truth is not dead: it has become viral and elusive... (Paroxysm 73)
Like when you say something and it is twisted. Or someone attributes your saying something you didn't say or takes it out of context. Or just makes it up. Or takes a pic of you going to the store and before you get there your pic is global - viral. This is what is happening to the character of Eric Packer. Why? Because he is dangerous. In fact in this time of paranoia and economic crisis it seems more prudent for academics to lay a bit low on Packer's lethal act.


So attuned is Packer to the future that he repeatedly literalizes the rhetorical trope known as hysteron proteron, that is, as he scans the several digital monitors mounted to his limousine, he experiences an effect before its cause. On my first reading I remember thinking of an inverted deja-vu. (Conte in Duvall)

Baudrillard has much to say on the error of thinking in terms of cause and effect, the present Scientific Discourse already discarded by physics, but still the mainstay of the human sciences. He says that effects lead causes, and we use precession to give it meaning. Usually the slant that we are most inclined to favor ourselves. Foucault has already put this baby to bed in The Order of ThingsThe Archeology of Knowledge and in his College de France Lectures-Abnormal in 1974.

The Baudrillardian Double is so perfectAaaaghhh! What's a blogger to do!! Well more on the Double in another posting.









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