Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cosmopolis Review: DeLillo and Ayn Rand - Eric Packer and Francisco d'Anconia

Eric Packer:
When he died he would not end. The world would end. (C p.6)
Freud is finished. (dead). Einstein is next. (to die) Their worlds are dead.(C p.6)

Ayn Rand liked to say:
"It is not I who will die, it is the world that will end,"  It is a favorite quote of hers her fans like so much.

Eric PackerThis was the nuance of every poem, at least for him, at night, these long weeks, one breath after another, in the rotating room at the top of the triplex. (C p. 5 )

Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead has his bedroom at the top of his penthouse where it is glassed all around. 

"When she entered his bedroom, she found it was not the place she had seen photographed in countless magazines. The glass cage had been demolished.(F p. 482)

Recognizing that the movement of the system itself is  irreversible, that there's no possible get-out within the logic of the system. That logic is really global, in the sense that it has absorbed all negativities, including the humanist, universalist,  resistance, etc. Pushing to the limit means acknowledging this irreversibility and pushing it to the limit of its possibilities, to the point of collapse. Bringing it to saturation point, to the point where the system itself  creates the accident. Thought contributes to this acceleration. It anticipates its end.  This is the provocative 'commitment', but giving all it's got to imagining the end. (Baudrillard - Paroxysm p. 23)

There is no outside. - Foucault 

Vija Kinski - "But these are not the grave-diggers. This is the free market itself. These people are a fantasy generated by the market. They don't exist outside the market. There is nowhere they can go to be on the outside. There is no outside." (C. p. 90)
"The market culture is total. It breeds these men and women. They are necessary to the system they despise. They give it energy and definition. They are market driven. They are traded on the markets of the world. This is why they exist, to invigorate and perpetuate the system."  (C. p. 90) 
To defy the system with a gift to which it cannot respond save by its own collapse and death. Nothing, not even the system, can avoid the symbolic obligation, and it is in this trap that the only chance of a catastrophe for capital remains. ...For it is summoned to answer, if it is not to lose face, to what can only be death. The system must itself commit suicide in response to the multiplied challenge of death and suicide. (Jean Baudrillard - Symbolic Exchange and Death p. 37)

It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess. - Baudrillard 

My idea was to end this era not over a period of weeks and months as happened, but in one day. - DeLillo /Krasny you tube interview

Here DeLillo is mistaken as he and everyone else regard the 2001 crash (which did take time) as the stock market catastrophe "predicted" by Cosmopolis. My opinion, and others are either following me or changing on their own are now seeing the derivative crash as the "predicted" catastrophe on Wall Street. That weekend during the 2008 presidential election campaign.

But there's something you know. You know the yen can't go any higher. And if you know something and don't act upon it, then you didn't know it in the first place. There is a piece of Chinese wisdom, she said. To know and not to act is not to know.

...That wants you to believe there are foreseeable trends and forces. When in fact it's all random phenomena. You apply mathematics and other disciplines, yes. But in the end you're dealing with a system that's out of control. Hysteria at high speeds, day to day, minute to minute. People in free societies don't have to fear the pathology of the state. We create our own frenzy, our own mass convulsions, .......(C. p85)

You have to understand.”

He said, “What?”

“The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind. This is what the protest is all about. Visions of technology and wealth. The force of cyber-capital that will send people into the gutter to retch and die. What is the flaw of human rationality?”

He said, “What?” (C. p. 91)

“It pretends not to see the horror and death at the end of the schemes it builds

Testifying before Congress Greenspan admitted a flaw in his system. The flaw is rational self-interest (Ayn Rand). Why would these financiers destroy their financial empires? 

“How will we know when the global era officially ends?”

He waited.

“When stretch limousines begin to disappear from the streets of Manhatten.... “(C. 90-91)

......It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stations - and that the lights of New York had gone out.

She remembered the story Francisco had told her: "He had quit the Twentieth Century. He was living in a garret in a slum neighborhood. He stepped to the window and pointed at the skyscrapers of the city. He said that we had to extinguish the lights of the world, and when we would see the lights of New York go out, we would know that our job was done. (AS p. 1060)

It was exhilarating, his head in the fumes, to see the struggle and ruin around him, the gassed men and women in their defiance, waving looted Nasdaq T-shirts, and to realize they’d been reading the same poetry he’d been reading.”

He sat down long enough to take a web phone out of a slot and execute an order for more yen. He borrowed yen in dumbfounding amounts. He wanted all the yen there was.(C.96-97)

He thought Kinski was right when she said this was a market fantasy. There was a shadow of transaction between the demonstrators and the state. The protest was a form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating. It attested again, for the ten thousandth time, to the market culture's innovative brilliance, its ability to shape itself to its own flexible ends, absorbing everything around it. (Marcuse's apt metaphor of Pac-Man here.)

Now look. A man in flames. Behind Eric all the screens were pulsing with it. And all action was at a pause, the protesters and riot police milling about and only the cameras jostling. What did this change? Everything, he thought. Kinski had been wrong. The market was not total. It could not claim this man or assimilate his act. Not such starkness and horror. This was a thing outside its reach. (C. pp. 96-98)(Kathy Chang(e) was a performance artist whose outrageous public performances and leftist politics were largely ignored by the University of Pennsylvania students she performed for, until she set herself on fire. Her 1996 self-immolation prompts an inquiry into the effectiveness of public suicide as a mode of political performance.)

This is Eric Packer's Epiphany. The Burning Man is the pivotal point in the novel.

The car was parked outside the hotel and across the street from the Barrymore where a group of smokers gathered at intermission, tucked under the marquee. He sat in the car borrowing yen and watching his fund's numbers sink into the mist on several screens. Torval (lav-rot/rat) stood in the rain with arms folded. .....

In Foutainhead - the novel and the film - we see Gail Wynand wandering around Hell's Kitchen in the rain after he has caved to his Board of Directors and reversed his defense of Roark. A sodden banner lies in the street as he picks it up (in the film), a broken man having given up his fight. This is resonating with Eric packer's wandering around Hell's Kitchen. DeLillo turns it into Gethsemane for Packer, his transcendence.

The yen spree was releasing Eric from the influence of his neocortex. He felt even freer than usual, attuned to the register of his lower brain and gaining distance from the need to take inspired action, make original judgments, maintain independent principles and convictions, all the reasons why people are fucked up and birds and rats are not.

The stun gun probably helped. The voltage had jellified his musculature for ten or fifteen minutes (and here we have the "near death" experience where your life before and after separate and diverge, growing farther and farther apart. His Double now is more separated in time than it has been, as we will see in the end.)and he'd rolled about on the hotel rug, electroconvulsive and strangely elated, deprived of the faculties of reason. (Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar is echoed here as she writes a first person narrative of suicidal depression, the electro-convulsive experience and its immediate and long term aftermath.)

But he could think now, well enough to understand what was happening. There were currencies tumbling everywhere. Bank failures were spreading. He found the humidor and lit a cigar. Strategists could not explain the speed and depth of the fall. They opened their mouths and words came out. He knew it was the yen. His actions regarding the yen were causing streams of disorder. He was so leveraged, his firm's portfolio large and sprawling, linked crucially to the affairs of so many key institutions, all reciprocally vulnerable, that the whole system was in danger. 

He smoked and watched, feeling strong, proud, stupid and superior. He was also bored and a little dismissive. They were making too much of it. He thought it would end in a day or two .....and looked more closely at one of the women standing there. (C. p. 115-6)
!IMPLOSION! - Baudrillard through Nietzsche

After seeing Elise outside the theater, eating dinner with her.

He knew he was going in. But first he had to lose more money. ...Then he went about losing the money, spreading it systematically in the smoke of rumbling markets. He did this to make certain he could not accept her offer of financial help. …..but it was necessary to resist, of course, or die in his soul....He was making a gesture of his own, a sign of ironic final binding. Let it all come down. Let them see each other pure and lorn. This was the individual’s revenge on the mythical couple. ….The number seemed puny....But it was all air anyway. It was air that flows from the mouth when words are spoken. It was lines of code that interact in simulated space.

Great financiers know that money does not exist.Gamblers know that money does not exist.
The Jesuits know that God does not exist.- Baudrillard

Didi Fancher - "Money for paintings. Money for anything. I had to learn how to understand money," she said. "I grew up comfortably. Took me a while to think about money and actually look at it. I began to look at it. Look closely at bills and coins. I learned how it felt to make money and spend it. It felt intensely satisfying. It helped me be a person. But I don't know what money is anymore." (C. p. 29)

Vija Kinski - ....Because money has taken a turn. All wealth has become wealth for its own sake. There's no other kind of enormous wealth. Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself. (C. p. 77)

He watched the president of the World Bank address a chamber of tense economists. He thought the image could be crisper. Then the president of the United States spoke from his limo in English and Finnish.....He knew they would figure it out eventually how he'd made it happen, one man, bereaved and tired now.(C. p. 140)

Eric Packer will end up in Hell's Kitchen where he grew up, where he goes for a haircut, where he is hunted by his assassin where Gail Wynand was when he was young and prey and where he goes when he caves in to save The Banner, betraying Roark. Eric Packer will die there and Gail Wynand will have Roark build the skyscraper with his name there.
But it was the threat of death at the brink of night that spoke to him most surely about some principle of fate he’d always known would come clear in time.

Now he could begin the business of living.“(C 107)
Dagny has gone to the Wayne-Faulkland Hotel to confront Francisco as the San Sebastion Mines have been seized by the People's State of Mexico.

I came here to ask you a question. ...The San Sebastian disaster....You did it consciously, cold-bloodedly and with full intention.

What was it I did with full intention? he said.

The entire San Sebastian swindle.

What was my full intention?

That is what I want to know.

...Don't start telling me that you gained nothing. I know it. I know you lost fifteen million dollars of your own money. Yet it was done on purpose.

You didn't give a damn about that Mexican government,...because you knew they'd seize those mines sooner or later. What you were after is your American stockholders.

...That's part of the truth....It was not all I was after. ...They thought it was safe to ride on my brain, because they assumed that the goal of my journey was wealth. All their calculations rested on that premise that I wanted to make money. What if I didn't?

...If you didn't want to make money, what possible motive could you have had?

Any number of them. For instance, to spend it.

To spend money on a certain, total failure?

How was I to know that those mines were a certain, total failure?

How could you help knowing it?

Quite simply. By giving it no thought. 

...Did you intend for me to notice that if you think I did it on purpose, then you still give me credit for having a purpose?

...didn't you enjoy the spectacle of the behavior of the People's State of Mexico in regard to the San Sebastian Mines? Did you read their government's speeches and the editorials in their newspapers? They are saying that I am an unscrupulous cheat who has defrauded them. They expected to have a successful mining company to seize. I had no right to disappoint them like that.....

He laughed lying flat on his back: his arms were thrown wide on the carpet, forming a cross with his body; he seemed disarmed, relaxed and young. 

It was worth whatever it cost me. I could afford the price of that show....

And that's not all they didn't know, he said. They're in for some more knowledge. There's that housing settlement for the workers of San Sebastian. It cost eight million dollars. Steel-frame houses, with plumbing, electricity and refrigeration. Also a school, a church, a hospital and a movie theater. A settlement built for people who had lived in hovels made of driftwood and stray tin cans. My reward for building it was to be the privilege of escaping with my skin, a special concession due to the accident of my not being a native of the People's State of Mexico. That workers' settlement was also part of their plans. A model example of progressive State Housing. Well, those steel-frame houses are mainly cardboard, with a coating of good imitation shellac. They won't stand another year. The plumbing pipes - as well as most of our mining equipment - were purchased from dealers whose main source of supply are the city dumps of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. I'd give those pipes another five months, and the electric system about six. The wonderful roads we graded up four thousand feet of rock for the People's State of Mexico, will not last beyond a couple of winters; they're cheap cement without foundation, and the bracing at the bad turns is just painted clapboard.  Wait for one good mountain slide. The church, I think, will stand. They'll need it.

Francisco, she whispered, did you do it on purpose?

...Whether I did it on purpose, he said, or through neglect, or through stupidity, don't you understand that that doesn't make any difference?

...She looked at him blankly. What are you trying to say?

I am saying that the workers' settlement of San Sebastian cost eight million dollars,...The price paid for those cardboard houses was the price that could have bought steel structures. So was the price paid for every other item. That money went to men who grow rich by such methods. Such men do not remain rich for long. The money will go into channels which will carry it, not to the most productive, but to the most corrupt. By the standards of our time, the man who has the least to offer is the man who wins. That money will vanish in projects such as the San Sebastian Mines.

...Is that what you're after?


Is that what you find amusing?


I was thinking of your name, she said....It was a tradition of your family that a d'Anconia always left a fortune greater than the one he received. (Here's the "gift" and the "counter-gift".) 

Oh yes, my ancestors had a remarkable ability for doing the right thing at the right time - and for making the right investments. Of course, 'investment' is a relative term. It depends on what you wish to accomplish. For instance, look at San Sebastian. It cost me fifteen million dollars, but those fiftteen million wiped out forty million belonging to Taggart Transcontinental, thirty-five million belonging to stockholders such as James Taggart and Orren Boyle, and hundreds of millions which will be lost in secondary consequences. That's not a bad return on an investment, is it, Dagny.?

And here's Nietzsche embedded in Rand's mind: The inversion of the concept investment from profit to the success of loss. This is what Eric Packer does in Cosmopolis. This is Nietzche.

She was sitting straight. Do you realize what you are saying?

Oh, fully! Shall I beat you to it and name the consequences you were going to reproach me for? First, I don't think that Taggart Transcontinental will recover from its loss on that preposterous San Sebastian Line. You think it will, but it won't. Second, the San Sebastian helped your brother, James, to destroy the Phoenix-Durango, which was about the only good railroad left anywhere. 

..Do you _ you know Ellis Wyatt?


Do you know what this might do to him?

Yes. He's the one who's going to be wiped out next. (AS pp. 115- 121)

There are more resonances for the reader to find if she wishes. After reading this does anyone dare to say that Francisco d'Anconia was a self-destructive suicidal loser who lost hundreds of millions? No? I thought not. And if anyone had dared say that, Rand would have chopped her up in teeny tiny pieces. 

Why then have all the reviewers, all the academics, Cronenberg, and all blogs on Cosmopolis said that Eric Packer is a self-destructive loser? Are there really that many people out there who have misread DeLillo's book?

Yeah. I guess so.


abbeysbooks said...

Ayn Rand is far greater than all the following Randroids ever thought she was. 

abbeysbooks said...

Ayn Rand fictionalizes post modern thinking, anticipates Foucault and Baudrillard. Nice, eh.

curioushairedgal said...

Rationality is the flaw.
This post is so clear. Any comment superfluous, it's just all there.

Anonymous said...

Excellent goods from you, man. I've understand your stuff previous to and you're just too great.
I really like what you have acquired here, certainly
like what you're stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it smart. I can't wait
to read much more from you. This is really a terrific site.
Also visit my homepage - best online casino

Anonymous said...

Psydayimpaiva xaikalitag Driedosipse [url=]iziananatt[/url] cheefenes Kalquesse