Lewis Freedman - Great wealth passively corrects its crime by making pubic hair iridescently visible through cloth as a metaphor for the negation of the said

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Lewis Freedman, Residual Synonyms for the Name of God, Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016.




In classical rabbinic literature the unpronounceable name of God produces and sacralizes a host of synonyms around what can't be said. RESIDUAL SYNONYMS FOR THE NAME OF GOD performs the proliferation of language and culture in our late capitalist moment as a residual structure of a religious past. Lewis Freedman has heretically rewritten the work of his ancestors to create an annotated index of this inherited structure, in which our contemporary drive for total finitude profanes the infinite primarily by being indistinguishable from it.


Excerpt:
First of all, do not take the arranged perspective … since the diatribe’s loose and sanctimonious assumptions and postulates were figured precise and preceptual … we’ve been trading in a transcendent though uninstructive dance of digressions … saying more and more frequently to every new sentence projected: … ‘this sentence is also remarkable’ … while the weight of suspiciously ripped angels hung in the important air thanks to antiquity enhancements.


For several years Lewis Freedman has embarked, has been embarked, upon a singular mission: decommission “The 91 residual names that filter through 8 attributes of God ….” Not unlike the parodic send-ups of Armand Schwerner’s The Tablets, Freedman’s Residual Synonyms for the Name of God is part Gnostic defense, part skeptic investigation, of a spiritualism appropriated by a demagogue: “I’m accusing a title of having created worlds that slander the memory of the serpent (or ‘duration hose’)’s famous saying ….” As in Schwerner’s tome, ellipses and parataxis organize the structures of “missing matter,” texts redacted, corrupted or, most unsettling, never written. Freedman reminds us that we always find ourselves “Wrapped in the wrecked but half-obscured circles of interpretation …” where “there is a kind of double-vertigo to struggle with ….” Freedman’s necessarily incomplete sentences, shattered “thoughts," enact the condition of our belatedness that the doctrine of progress renders as prematurity (“we see through a mirror that in the future we will see eye to eye … incarnate … since we have relegated school to the future world as a dialogue between surprise and resemblance.”). Freedman, “... muttering osirian blues …,” will have none of that. Or this. He, like us, is neither here nor there — that is, elsewhere: “I walked away doubtful … walked back again … walked back away again, always looking doubtful … always looking up."Tyrone Williams

Just in time for the end of humans, Lewis Freedman has invented a scholarship of the end of naming. All rejoice! For his erudition is bumptious, hilarious, gloriously drunk on finity. Residual Synonyms is the rebound hardback you find by accident in the back of the library, the miscatalogued one annotating a discipline so strange you feel vertiginous when its vocabulary intersects with yours. The language of your field has been reorganized for a past or future set of bodies or antibodies. Your discourse orgy gazes on it with eyes like larvae.Catherine Wagner

The gently scattered, … torqued dogma of this handy, anarchival guide … by one of our leading jurists … pronounces the unpronounceable with an agnostic … lack of filiality … whose Presence infinitely recedes. It is not exactly … a book but by its sympathetic … magic suspends closed or nearly … closed parables of the vertigo the serpent (‘duration hose’) suffered a horse’s neck to throw his arms … about. I hope I don’t misoversimplify by … stating this text is not only … alphabetical, but also corrects many misapprehensions, and apprehends … with delayed belatedness a law whether it’s possible to break … In part because the … words are omitted as a real basis. What I’ve almost gleaned is how … its discussion attached to the parallel arrangement of a discussion supplies … an external literature, blotting (a term used for seeing in here; also … for the super-seen). As no one’s vice commentator, I can’t do the … work … but that will as if to if one were in … exile or shape discomfort, you’ll … find here a leading arbiter. Even where we notice the text is corrupted … from its exile, it Heeds to the structure of names and the … Name or whatever you want the homiletic shank Bone to mark. (I’m … quoting the inducing team.) We only regret that Freedman … repeatedly offers a special apology to the subject in his oath-grammar, Proof, and tetragrammatology; in other words, don’t walk back looking … doubtful! Also, Freedman: Why have you made … pubic and other hair iridescently visible … hair that has been given to Heaven? What is to keep this Person … from inheriting … the earth? Is this ok to bring this into discussion … The shine of a lentil … cramming so hard … to see the infinite in a polished fold … Yes, these are Infinitesimal Wealths … Use mittens … They are for mittens each …Judith Goldman


Judah Rubin: Last night I was reading your Residual Synonyms for the Name of God, where you write: "Great wealth passively corrects its crime by making pubic hair iridescently visible through cloth as a metaphor for the negation of the said." Can you maybe speak to that? What is the divine character of iridescently visible pubic hair?
Lewis Freedman: Let me not pretend to know precisely what I've made, but just jump off from it instead. So there's something about compensatory gestures here—for example, about wealth and sexual shame, about compensation for wealth in art-making. There is still a sense that poverty is somehow a romantic tool, that not having, not owning, will somehow enable art-making and that wealth should necessarily disable the possibility of making radically transformative art. Josef Kaplan's work has, in recent years, usefully raised and critiqued this particular logic by positioning it as precisely a neoliberal thing. While there are certainly correlations and causations between material conditions and art-making, they're like claims about the relation between politics and form. The relation isn't of itself clear and necessary, and claiming and living so creates all this compensatory displacement. So the notion that wealth would correct its crime by making pubic hair iridescently visible through cloth appears to me now, I think, as something one publicly hides about oneself that becomes visible in order to compensate, to try and make invisible or pay penance for one's complicity in violent inequalities that are just everywhere in this culture and language.
But as I'm saying this, I'm thinking also of the not-seeing that this compensatory motion is part of, and how necessarily present a kind of not-seeing seems to be for me, even when I see what I'm doing so clearly in continuing to write. And perhaps this is part of that pubic hair passage's relation to the framework of this book, that it's a book of residual synonyms for the divine name. Because the name of God in rabbinic literature is both an unsayable name and a central force within religious life there's a constant elaboration of its naming. And I imagine this is the case whenever there is anything unsayable, as there always seems to be. So perhaps we could even say that this movement of a structure is active in this conversation, right? Or maybe this is the case for all self-identification and its transfers, in which the very act gestures to something unsayable or unlocatable, and therefore is, around the desire to locate the unlocatable, a constant proliferation of things that stand in for that thing. And I guess I do think about this as the structure of the self, the structure of the subject—that it's actually a structure only indicated by the repetition of its borders, that it doesn't have content in and of itself, but rather conjures a content, a shape, by this incessant repetition, which produces a kind of not-seeing where the subject becomes both itself and not itself all the time. And my experience of this has been as the residue of a religious structure.
When I was writing this book of residual synonyms I remember thinking, repeatedly, that the key to the index is that anything can be in there, that I can only say things around the thing that cannot be said, which include anything I would articulate.      read more: Interview by Judah Rubin (BOMB Magazine)

“Violence no longer dares speak its names.” —Emmanuel Levinas
Writing begins with the city. Cities, like books, are an attempt to make sense of the body.
Early in the book of Genesis (Chapter 10, Verse 10), there’s a passage that begins by describing the aftermath of the Flood. It lists Noah’s children and describes them branching out to settle the world. Noah’s son Ham has a son named Cush, who has a son named Nimrod, the first great hunter. Nimrod rules a kingdom in Mesopotamia whose crowning cities are “Bavel, Erekh, Akkad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”
One of these polities is not like the others. “Bavel” is clearly “Babylon” (in its own language, “Bābilim”). “Erekh” is Uruk, a legendary ur-opolis that roared under Babylonian civilization, thriving until its channel of the Euphrates dried up. Today, it’s remembered as the city of Gilgamesh. Akkad is the swallowed capital: still never found. When the language of all these cities, forgotten and illegible since the time of Jesus, was deciphered again in the nineteenth century, it turned out it often called itself “Akkadian,” and was embodied in a massive written literature that mentions Akkad regularly. But the city itself was abandoned, sometime, and the ground retook it. We don’t know where it was.
The fourth place, by contrast, is of no ancient renown; there is no legendary Mesopotamian city of Calneh. The consensus of modern scholarship is that the word is a mistake; when vowels, which in Hebrew are written as optional diacritics surrounding the main letters (and are often omitted), were first added to this text, a scribe misread the word “kulanah,” meaning “all of these,” as a fourth city, Calneh.
“Shinar” is the usual Hebrew for Sumer, a place that called itself something like “Kiengi,” but that was called “Shumerû” in Akkadian. The place where urban, literate civilization was invented, it was the wellspring of all subsequent political order in Mesopotamia. This is to speak again of the cities Nimrod founded: Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, all of them in the land of Sumer.
Consider the lost library of Calneh, city born of misdirected breath. A scribe in a room somewhere marks the wrong vowels, and a phantom settlement rises on a river in our minds. The library here would more exactly be a bīt uppim, a tablet house, where scholars practiced writing in cuneiform on slabs of clay. Literacy brings fresh legerdemains, turns speech into science, creates a new kind of space where thinking and repeating thoughts can, as actions, build into a bustle. And set loose in Calneh, the misvocalic ghost town of Shinar, to rummage through shelves of astronomy, medicine, divine praise, and exorcism, the tablets I most want to imagine myself stumbling on would be something like Lewis Freedman’s new book, Residual Synonyms for the Name of God (Ugly Duckling Presse).
I think this bustle, the intellectual frenzy of a counter-factual tablet house, frames Lewis Freedman’s writing well. The questions raised by Residual Synonyms are as big and consequential as the frameworks of our knowledge, and the role it adopts, projecting a complete cycle of inquiries zodiacally out from what it makes a center, is as old as textual community itself. But writing in our moment of, let’s say, critical systems failure, the book enacts these roles not through declarations or direct questions, but in a language of slippages and porous psychic ephemera, textured with the cultural grit that blows through our imaginations and crusts our sleep.
One of the book’s synonyms is “The Inaccuracy of One”:
Popular with yourself in your hermetic room . . . monad of the case . . . case from which you threw the screen in enmity to save yourself from your own advertisement of yourself to yourself in each screen you forced yourself clear at to . . . from within which with pitiless filing you blotted to beyond doubt . . . this name is not entirely phonetic. This name occurs because it’s like clear.
Faced with the instability of self wrought by our crisis of infinite screens, Synonyms offers to replace it not with stability, but with a different instability, a holy one. Hyperactivated and unencumbered by received divisions between regimes of thought, it proceeds by echo, resemblance, accident, adjacency, rhyme, kinship, intuition. It seems to flash between a reality swamped with unworldings and an imaginary studded with makeshift actualizations — in other words, an apocalypse, a crisis of orders. “So we may miss the sign with positive enthusiasm . . . excited by the incomprehensible fluke . . . and with no reservations about logical inconsistencies in the continuous truth convictions of the continuous book.”
In thinking through a discontinuous present, Synonyms is part of a tradition that celebrates writing’s power to force continuities, to remake the world by assembling it again, and again, in different configuration. Every reconfiguration is also an undoing, every forced continuity the eradication of a lacuna or synapse. The entire regime of literacy, a technology that was born in the union of irrigation, history, and praise, is now culpable for the invention of a backwards world in which language is accountable to power, rather than the other way around. Sunlight still hits a wall, but the fact of it has been hollowed out, its polarity inverted. It’s worth saying that six thousand years is an instant in the life of a species, and writing may be the technology ours didn’t survive. I think the book identifies its lineage early on.
You know, it’s a genre convention, like surfers’ hair. Enlightenment is to be thought . . . it’s safer that way. Imagine an impressive ever-deepening awareness as long as it’s not inferior to any other. Thanks . . . thanks to the naked advancements of Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Paul, Origen, and Augustine . . . we cab our way to social functions on paved roads under the Big Scribe. Heathendom and idolatry as weapons . . . this is a teaching used by a priestly clan to restrain a lower class, assimilated by parable at the manifold points around skin.
When I talk about bustle and frenzy, I mean that the book flings its insurgent associativities in all directions, creates a space that churns with them.  At the same time, in an ancient way, Synonyms feels like a consecration into community of the audience it invites to hear it. A radical body awakens to a morning of plurality. A scholar is whatever speaks to its neighbor and listens.
Emmanuel Levinas was once asked whether he found the attitudes of faith and philosophy to be in conflict. He replied that they weren’t at all, rejecting the notion that questioning “is only a deficiency of answers.” Then he explained, “Questioning qua original attitude is a ‘relation’ to that which no response can contain, to the ‘uncontainable’; it becomes responsibility.” That is, I think, exactly the spirit of responsibility that Synonyms proposes — one that develops from a relationship to the uncontainable. Its surfaces bloom in a fractal of erupting and receding perceptions  “A crypto-conscience turning the cherub into a leopard”  and, maybe, back again  “Lost credit card retroactively forgiven . . . letting opposites a bi-convex history light-writing.”
We need this, of course. By making our omni-Other a “Big Scribe,” by elevating the traces of speech in stone to the level of what we call the sky, we have written ourselves all the way to a precipice. Residual Synonyms for the Name of God is derived from a book written by Lewis Freedman’s grandfather called Rabbinical Synonyms for the Name of God, which focused on the first centuries of the Common Era.  As I write these paragraphs in New York City, every throne in sight has been ceded to a dangerously impoverished mode of questioning. We walk on broken pottery and talk like people who’ve forgotten that kings have always been wicked. We look back on looking back on looking away.
One of the synonyms is “World of Rex,” and one is “A Prior Meaning of Searcher.” An early one called “Speak Ersatz” says this:
A known punishment is the loss of your soul . . . but did you know . . . like the national scene resists the foreign language speaker . . . great wealth passively corrects its crime by making pubic hair iridescently visible . . . through cloth . . . as a metaphor for . . . the negation of the said?
We are all complicit in the greatness of wealth, in its accumulation by violence in the hands of the wicked. We have all of us together built the king’s city, though in our defense there seemed to be no world outside it. How can we unsay now all that we’ve been part of? How do we re-align the grids of shame and power when all we have is everything and its opposite? What is the meaning of conscience if we’re already too late?
At one point Lewis Freedman writes of an author who “lived in an age and country where both pronunciation and illiteracy were codeterminously forbidden”:
Using supernatural states of tone . . . but with a degree of that ephemeral tact which so many of us lack . . . she mockingly released herself from prison, went to the royal palace, and whispered the Name itself into the terrified King’s ear . . . then inscribed the Name on a King’s ear-shaped tablet and gave it to him. Whatever the King had thought was great writing died in blasphemy that day to a deeper place too easily local and judged only by need.
This is from a sort of essay-appendix, called “THE NAME” and divided into three sections: “Pronunciation,” “Visibility,” and “Memoir.” I think the tripartition here offers a decent schematic for beginning to trace the relays of Synonyms’ infinite micro-engagements. It gives us a preliminary map of the circuits words take under the non-Euclidean rubric of Lewis’s transgressive enthusiasm, its scrambling, semantic disco across the old temple floors of scholarship.
And not a moment too soon, because if our apocalyptic moment demands anything, it is the thinking through of the impossible. We need to change the shape of our breath, to reform our ephemeral relations with the unflinching buildings and consonants and hierarchies we make our lives in. Without knowing how to know this, we still somehow do. And Residual Synonyms for the Name of God to me seems as urgent, articulated, and good-humored an activation of this knowledge as humanity has made so far.
Picture yourself in a cool dusk, with nowhere to be, on a mud terrace in Calneh. We never got Civilization right, but it’s a beautiful idea, a dream worth sleeping. Nimrod, the warrior-king who founded those earliest cities, enjoyed centuries as a legendary hero, before his name was taken sarcastically by a cartoon rabbit to taunt a lisping hunter; now he’s a punchline. Babylon was a city on a hill, loved for its resplendent gardens and its patron god Marduk, calf of the sun; because it occupied Jerusalem for half a century, its name lives on as a euphemism for public cruelty. Akkad is the name of the mysterious gnostic in Lawrence Durrell’s novel Monsieur, and Akkad Boy is the burned, anguished entity whose unspoken inner thoughts are the target of an interrogation device called the Omnosyne in Mark Doten’s wonderful The Infernal. Uruk over thousands of years shifted its breath and became Iraq.
We may never find another buried city, recover the names lost in the interiorities we’re drowning in dust. But we can rebreathe the city we’re in, reform our external positions toward the shapes of responsibility. If matter makes us be something, and being makes us exist in relation, and relations give rise to experience — the one phenomenon we understand least in our universe — Residual Synonyms for the Name of God invites us to found a different form of knowledge based in a holier orientation of those forces. “Instead of guilt why don’t I fill a space with the attempt to divine aptitude . . . here here . . . on a placard read up . . . on what you got.” - Ian Dreiblatt




Scans By Lew - WELCOME TO THE TWELFTH LETTER OF THE ALPHABET - Childe Roland
Ernest M. Robson’s Phonetic-Linguistic Approach to Prosody to Produce Poems, Thanks to Lewis Freedman
Hold the Blue Orb, Baby: We’re Feeling Affinity With Lewis Freedman




Lewis Freedman is the author of several chapbooks of poetry, including Catfish Po' Boys, Suffering Exchange Walks With And (both from Minutes Books), and non-symbolic non-symbolic non-symbolic (Same Text). In addition, he has authored several experiments on the form of the book including Solitude: The Complete Games (Troll Thread), a collaboration with Kevin Rydberg that will take several years for your computer to read, and the book within a book, Hold the Blue Orb, Baby (Well-Greased Press) which interleaves notebook facsimiles with poems on the practice of notebooking. His poems have appeared in Jubilat, Epiphany, Catch-Up, Try, P-Queue, and 6x6, among many others.

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