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赖志盛假(xià)日

   "Rubbish, Watson, rubbish! What have we to do with walking corpses who can only be held in their grave by stakes driven through their hearts? It's pure lunacy."

   "But surely," said I, "the vampire was not necessarily a dead man? A living person might have the habit. I have read, for example, of the old sucking the blood of the young in order to retain their youth."

   "You are right, Watson. It mentions the legend in one of these references. But are we to give serious attention to such things? This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply."

—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire


And, with that in mind, it is safe to say that Los Angeles and California in general nauseate me. There is almost nothing vampiric there. It's just too droughty. We were just a moment ago (two months are just too short) passing If on a winter's night a traveler as a story about Ko Sin Tung's pinch, but instead of dwelling upon Calvino's work or making a fuss about four fuss-less works as we already did, it is for the time being—the time of closing a case, nailing the coffin, knowing all too well that it is coming back as a revenant—more pertinent to talk about some other literary traditions, the relevance of which has manifested since at least earlier this year, when an artist started to think about vampire's feeble relative, the mosquito. It was not in order to think about vampirism, to be sure; but that will have to be one of our subjects today, as we selfishly snatch, appropriate, exaggerate and dramatise.


James B. Twitchell (from whom we have shamelessly stolen the Conan Doyle epigraph above—but aren't epigraphist leeches anyway?) in The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature laments the contemporary vulgarity of the vampire. His book was published in 1981, so it was shy of thirty years before Twilight. After justifiably and briefly whining about it ("vampire dolls, vampire teeth, vampire cartoons, vampire costumes, and "vitamin enriched" vampire cereal [Count Chocula], to say nothing of a spate of vampire television shows, movies, and comic books…"), he compellingly argues for identifying the vampire with the artist: "But the vampire was more than an unfixed image or motif; as we have seen, it often became a serious analogue for the process of energy exchange involved in human interactions. In addition, it occasionally became an elaborate metaphor of the relationship between artist, artifact, and audience." He quotes G. B. Shaw who in Man and Superman through Jack Tanner defines the "true artist" thus:

 

   The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. To women he is half vivisector, half vampire. He gets into intimate relations with them to study them, to strip the mask of convention from them, to surprise their inmost secrets, knowing that they have the power to rouse his deepest creative energies, to rescue him from his cold reason, to make him see visions and dream dreams, to inspire him, as he calls it.


A "psychic parasite," the artist "is both enervated and energized by the art of creation. Likewise we in the audience feel both catharsis and rejuvenation in the process of experiencing his art. Hence, vampirism, simply as a process of energy exchange, is implicit in the creative process." Twitchell (what a wonderful last name for a twitch gamer) also explains Romantic artists' strange belief: "they agreed that when art succeeded, the resultant energy in the system was greater than the initial charge. It is almost as if they saw art reversing the second law of thermodynamics, turning entropy around, moving toward lucidity instead of confusion." (For our purposes here and elsewhere—for what we are directly dealing with is our own hunger really—Twitchell also does not forget admitting critics as vampires in passing: "He became the pilot-fish who drains not just the work of art, but the artist as well. He is the bloated leech." Speaking of his contemporary French structuralists, Twitchell also makes it clear that "the critic has been made artist once removed, and the unknowing artist now depends upon him for information and sustenance, as well as the reverse.")


The point in quoting at length and effectively recommending this book published in 1981 "about Romanticism and what many major English and American artists found so intriguing in the myth [of the vampire]" by means of insertion and interruption, is the contention that it is acutely refreshing and relevant, standing as a very accurate description of interactions and relationships today. However, although the nature of the parasitism remains within all of us in this conspiracy, it is important to point out once again that our artists are not Romantics. This commentator speculates that our contemporary artists are not interested in reversing the second law; instead, they are, at most, intrigued by some movements that can fight their bloodlust by turning themselves inside out, shrinking and swallowing their own skins, concealing their veins and arteries, acknowledging that families, wives, children and husbands, other artists, curators, critics, museums, galleries, collectors and technicians crave for a bite.


But there is nothing vampiric, parasitic or even romantic about—not Twitchell's five artists, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Poe, Wilde, and James—our five artists, Kwan, Ko, Kong, Liao, and Lai. Is there? It's self-doubling, self-differentiating, self-differing, self-effacing, demystifying, disenchanting, and is not about the lonely fate of eternity that a vampire has to endure. Being reminded of what Serres could have said, we hasten to attack the headless fly—just so you can shut up—by pointing out that it is bloodlessness that is at work here; it is bloodlessness that is in play here; it is bloodlessness that is not here. That is, I, by once again stealing evening's blush, smuggling it in a coffin from Taipei to Beijing, pay less attention to information and communication than you can imagine; and, at the same time, I am deeply concerned with how the relationship between your imagination and you yourself is de-established, slowly, in time.


Bloodless are the paled artists who periodically task themselves with carrying out absurd activities and inactivities. We have seen it face to face in Kwan Sheung Chi's case, who impresses us as an intently distracted, "moon-faced, sunken-eyed" character, whose insomnia is radically and merrily suspended; maze to maze in Ko Sin Tung's case, merging and mapping a used ear-labyrinth onto a new one, confusing entrances with exits—collapse them all; arm to nothing in Kong Chun Hei's case, practising an invalidated aggression, akin to whatever Song Dong used to do, marvellously; dog to sleep in Liao Chien-Chung's case, quietly burning a motor in slumber; and in Lai Chih-Sheng's open-air, fluid, portable casket, where insects play. Cases are after all caskets, as we were saying many years ago. The vulture-like harmless bugs roam in front of the view, leading us away from the open secret that decides what came and what comes: who, in what vampiric gesture, looks forward to an evening's blush? Our artists sustain and (over)spend their own lives, in counter-twilight. Woody Allen in the short, underachieving (when compared with other mesmerising stories also in the collection of Getting Even) story Count Dracula introduces an eclipse, as the pivotal element that tricks the bloodsucker out of his coffin.

 

   Suddenly he knows the sun is down. Like an angel of hell, he rises swiftly, and changing into a bat, flies pell-mell to the cottage of his tantalizing victims.

   "Why, Count Dracula, what a nice surprise," the baker’s wife says, opening the door to admit him. (He has once again assumed human form, as he enters their home, charmingly concealing his rapacious goal.)

   "What brings you here so early?" the baker asks.

   "Our dinner date," the Count answers. "I hope I haven’t made an error. You did invite me for tonight, didn’t you?"

   "Yes, tonight, but that’s not for seven hours."

   "Pardon me?” Dracula queries, looking around the room puzzled.

   "Or did you come by to watch the eclipse with us?"

   "Eclipse?"

   "Yes. Today’s the total eclipse."

   "What?"

   "A few moments of darkness from noon until two minutes after. Look out the window."

   "Uh-oh-I’m in big trouble."

   "Eh?"

   …

   "And so the time passes, until the Mayor can stand it no longer and forcing open the door to the closet, he shouts, “Come on, Dracula. I always thought you were a mature man. Stop this craziness."

   The daylight streams in, causing the evil monster to shriek and slowly dissolve to a skeleton and then to dust before the eyes of the four people present. Leaning down to the pile of white ash on the closet floor, the baker’s wife shouts, "Does this mean dinner’s off tonight?"

 

Thinking about evening's blush, what if the timid, gentle, waning sun's forged? Does this mean mum's home-cook meal's off tonight? What about some 干拌面 then

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