automatic writing

Advertisement from the June 1924 <i>Popular Mechanics</i>.
Advertisement from the June 1924 Popular Mechanics.

The author is a doppelganger. Even better on the screen, lit up, big-time circulating word-wide, worldwide, s-i-m-u-l-t-a-n-e-o-u-s-l-y m-a-n-i-f-e-s-t-i-n-g. Illusion of coherence, this: neat and tidy on the screen, a well reasoned argument.

I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world, and I remember Nadja.

Nadja, four-times removed: 1. Somebody—which is to say, some body, allegedly—female in Paris, purportedly mad, institutionalized, the object of Surrealist André Breton’s obsession; 2. the main character in Breton’s 1928 novel Nadja, and by that fact immortalized, big-time circulating, simultaneously manifesting; 3. the ghost that haunted (in bodily time) or haunts (in doppelganger time) André Breton—either in Paris, or in the novel, or both—after he breaks off their 10-day rendezvous because Breton can not live with the thought of her as some body; 4. an introductory trope to this reflection (on automatic writing) that took on a life of its own the moment I began to yawp over the roofs of the world.

Qui suis-je?

Who am I?

Who wrote that?

Breton—transfixed by Nadja’s stream-of-consciousness, allegedly irrational, thought-words/thought-worlds—as the opening sentence of Nadja—and now “I”, coming to here underneath this blinking cursor that no longer exists as you read about it now on the big screen lit up (once upon a time, which is to say before time as we now experience it, I could have written on the page—which is to say, on the way to nowhere in particular, or everywhere in general, but here we are now, whatever this might mean, exactly.)

Good question, this qui suis-je. And might we not add as well, ? Where are we, exactly, now, anyway, tossed about, swaying side-to-side, undulating in the midst of this chaotic sea of words, electronic information, simultaneously glowing gigabytes, white hot, magic discourse, published or perished or polished or not?

Here are our thoughts, voyagers’ thoughts,

Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by them be said,

The sky o’erarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet,

We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion,

The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the

briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,

The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,

The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,

And this is ocean’s poem.

But where was I? Breton likened his own fascination with Nadja to Dr. Theodore Flournoy’s infatuation with Hélène Smith (née Catherine-Elise Muller), that automatic writer (and Surrealist darling, and Spiritualist medium, and later Christian visionary) who left her body in flights to Mars, bringing back the Martian language to Earth, speaking to Flournoy in Martian, writing down the alphabet of Mars for scholars to ponder.

Advertisement from the August 1925 <i>Popular Mechanics</i>.
Advertisement from the August 1925 Popular Mechanics.

And who wrote that?

The psychologist Flournoy wrote about Smith and her Martian travels in his Des Indes à la Planete Mars—“From India to the Planet Mars”—published in 1900. No automatic writer he, Flournoy shielded us all from Smith’s madness by explaining the visions—i-n-f-a-n-t-i-l-e r-e-g-r-e-s-s-i-o-n—mercifully providing an illusion of coherence, which is to say a reason, for all of the babble. Thanks to Smith’s own magic, the wily Flournoy entered into the stream-of-printed-consciousness as a rational doppelganger-subject.

Cease now the endless flow of motion!

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