Lidia Yuknavitch’s Weblog

the body of the word

novel: war

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Topic: War—the importance of former wars, the most “important” wars—past wars, present wars, the “meaning” of war in the past and the present.

Setting: A 120 year old restored house in a small village on the coast near Normandy. Night. Very close to them, outside, is the Normandy coast; on the days they visit it they congregate near giant metal objects and monuments of war and cliffs and huge stones and the wind nearly knocks them down.There is a wind and rain storm outside, beating the windows and ceiling. Sometimes the lights flicker, however, there is an enormous stone fireplace giving of heat and light, as well as candles. The meal has been made by all of them—it is baked rabbit with tomatoes, potatoes and capers. They bought the rabbit from a butcher who killed it that day. There is a crate of wine, a basket of bread, cheese and fruit–all purchased locally in the village. It is nearly Christmas. Only one of them speaks anywhere near decent French.

Someone has just said: “World War II. Of course. No contest.”

To which someone else has responded: “I don’t know if the wars of the past … ‘count’ for anything anymore. Do they still, you know, outline art? Or are they just raw material for movies now?”

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27 Comments »

  1. If the wars don’t ‘count’ for anything, what does anything in the past count for? If it’s still in our consciousness and our culture, wars count as much as anything does. Wars of the past have got to count more for than wars of the future. But then, even those count for something. But like, what are you counting TOWARDS? Oh and fuck World War 2. Yeah, it was a pretty big deal and all, but I’m going with something Ancient, like Rome or Egypt or something. Like whoever says, “that’s ancient history” like ancient history doesn’t count, they can just . . . whatever. Although I have to admit I don’t know much about ancient history . . .

    Comment by evan | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. And movies aren’t art? Naw, nevermind. Point taken, point taken. But – Devil’s Advocate here – isn’t all life just fodder for art? Or “art” if you prefer? I guess there’s a difference. I think the past wars count for as much as they ever did, but the importance of all things becomes diluted by time. Think about it: the battle of 1812 mattered a lot more to people in 1813 than it does now. Should we cling desperately onto the vigorously victorious and barely-guilty-at-all after-birth of WWII? Are we all STILL lost, post-WWI? Were we ever THAT “found” before that one? How long can I cry over Vietnam? You know the one that’ll last? Desert Storm. In 7920, AD people will still feel as bored and apathetic about Desert Storm as they did in 1992. That’ll NEVER change. Besides, didn’t someone in like, 70 AD bemoan how the Marsic seiges of Quintus Servilius Caepio were nothing more than fodder for the coloseum? We’re just going in circles, mate, like we always do.

    Comment by Jesse "The Snake" Walvoord | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. You know I don’t remember a single thing in the middle of that Spielberg movie about the war. Was that the point? I just remember all the noisy parts. The effects were pretty great, you have to admit. Is that what you mean?

    Comment by Tye | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  4. I love war, real wars, old and new. Big bloody fuckin battles with meat flyin everywhere. Wars are the perfect ampitheatre where the Freudian impulses of Eros and Thanatos point their epees at each other and dance and stab and bleed each other to death. I fuckin love it! Hey. Hey. Who overcooked the goddamn rabbit?

    Comment by Debra Di Blasi | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  5. I don’t know what you mean by ‘outline art’. But ever since the Mexican Revolution wars have been raw material for movies. But that has no bearing on what ‘impact’ or ‘importance’ or potential importance war has for more challenging types of art. It is not an either/or. It seems to me that the really scary question is how often ‘great art’ seems dependent on military supremacy. Elizabethan England and Shakespeare is just one example.

    Comment by Jeff Hansen | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  6. i’m saying the old wars don’t give us important calendar dates, hombre. they don’t outline literary history any longer. they have themselves entered representation–we watch them on tv and boost the ratings–ever since war came into our living rooms its representation has threatened to overtake its event.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  7. what a bunch of crap. would you say something real for once? can you for a minute talk something that isn’t pompous, self congratulatory excrement? jesus…

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  8. It’s the trigger and gun equation, don’t you think? I mean, so hooray for the precipitate holocaust.

    Comment by VP | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  9. Don’t be mean. I think the rabbit’s just lovely.

    Comment by Merk | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  10. Undercooked rabbits carry trichinosis, just like undercooked pork. The latter refering right back to the subject of war.

    Comment by Debra Di Blasi | August 10, 2007 | Reply

  11. Well if you’re going to overcook rabbit out of fear you might as well not cook it at all. Since when did we become terrified of eating?

    Comment by Merk | August 10, 2007 | Reply

  12. i’ll give you some fucking rabbit. open your god damned mouth. you think war isn’t about you? you think it doesn’t touch every nerve in your body? you think you’d have a fucking country without it? a fucking set of CHOICES without it? a fucking artistic identity? what a buncha fucks. yeah, you eat your rabbit, and you enjoy your little sojourn in europe. you pretend your little pretensions and fake your way through a script life. the meat is on the table, my friends. and it’s a rodent made pretty. that’s “america” for you.

    you’d be NOTHING without your fucking wars.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  13. But you’ve got to read Malaparte, Kaputt. It’s about war, and there’s a chapter called “Flies.”

    Comment by tomfrick | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  14. Rabbit? Man, am I the only one feeling like a cartoon?

    You know, one time my friend got pink eye, and I used her kaleidescope, and I got pink eye. Colitis-cope.

    Comment by evan | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  15. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! That’s a good one! Ha ha… But I’m not eating this rabbit. Look, it’s fuckin bleeding on my capers!

    Which reminds me of the time the knee-jerk pacifist said to me, ‘The military is evil,’ and I said, ‘Sweetheart, the minute…no the fuckin second we don’t have a military is the fuckin second we’re owned by somebody other than our corporations,’ who by the way gave us the juicy-gism economy that allows us to be sittin-here-pretty in Normandy.

    And you, didn’t you fly fuckin first class? You’re such an asshole hypocrite.

    So except for maybe fucking Jeffrey Skilling and Kenny Lay (the dead coward motherfucker that he is) and a few other gray-suit Soldiers of Fortune who didn’t get caught, no one’s gonna cut my hands off with a fuckin panga. No one’s gonna steal all of my adolescent children to make them fight their fruitless wars that are really about the primordial scrabble-scuttle for power simply so he can spread his seed like Van Gogh’s ‘Sower.’ No one’s gonna make my wife and daughters cover their beautiful brown skin because some asshole can’t control his basest instinct to rape.

    I’m all for peace. But, shit dude, it won’t happen in our short and shorter lifetime. Which is why I’m not eating this fuckin bleeding rabbit!

    Comment by Debra Di Blasi | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  16. then gimme your rabbit, chump. my deal is this. we live inside a time of pure war. there isn’t any being outside of war. there is no territory which hasn’t been invaded…economy, nations, television, bodies. there’s nothing that isn’t war.

    Comment by lid | August 11, 2007 | Reply

  17. Pure war? No.

    My wife misses me. She just sent me a video of our daughter planting an orchid under the pine tree in our back yard. Watch. Watch. I want you to see this:

    Cell phone video of multi-racial five-year-old squatting at the foot of a big pine tree. She’s covered in dirt and pine needles. A half-dead orchid, obviously abandoned, sits next to her, in a broken blue ceramic pot. She is humming.

    Woman shooting video (wife) asks, ‘What’s that song, sweetie?’

    Girl replies without looking up from digging a hole: ‘It’s my nothing song.’

    Woman: ‘Ah, your nothing song. What exactly does that mean?’

    Girl turns to look at camera with bright eyes: ‘Nothing! I made it up!’

    Woman quietly laughs and keeps filming. ‘Sweetie, I don’t think that flower will grow there. The soil is too acidic, because of the pine needles.’

    Girl keeps digging: ‘Yes it will–‘

    Woman: ‘No, because–‘

    Girl: ‘Yes it will.’

    Woman: ‘No, sweetie, it needs a special kind of–‘

    Girl, with absolute confidence: ‘Yes it will.’

    A pause while the girl digs and hums. After a moment:

    Woman: ‘Say hi to your dad.’

    Girl looks at camera and grins: ‘Hi, Daddy! I am planting a flower for you to come home.’

    She gives a little wave, then goes back to digging, humming.

    END OF VIDEO

    If I believed there was nothing that wasn’t war, frankly I’d kill myself.

    Comment by Debra Di Blasi | August 12, 2007 | Reply

  18. The most important war ever remains the war between man and meat. Look at this rabbit, served with some unpronounceable French sauce. You can almost see the shape of its head, if you might imagine with me, yes now, with your finger, like this, the outline of its smile. The butcher, Pierre or Jacques or whatever the fuck you want to call him, killed the little critter with a slow precision completely antithetical, to say, the systematic deconstruction of cattle in the Chicago stockyards at the turn of the last century. Henry Ford thought, hey, if these corn-fed fucks can take a pig apart by assembly line, there’s no reason we can’t put cars together on the same principle. The slow kill of the butcher blade, the fast kill of the conveyor belt, really though, it’s all the same. Man versus meat. Man must always eat.

    Comment by Henri d'Mescan | August 12, 2007 | Reply

  19. War makes man meat. Why not? What I really believe is that wars of the past seem to morally outshine wars of the present because we’ve had time to scrub them up. War is human, not inhuman, but inhumane definitely. And I’m not sure if what’s good often survives (reason, passion, empathy, forgiveness, compassion, specificity…), so we kind of have to put it back in as we go. Which…I’m not hungry anymore. Does anyone want my rabbit?

    Comment by Merk | August 15, 2007 | Reply

  20. Well you guys better watch out. The vegans are coming.

    Comment by courtney | August 18, 2007 | Reply

  21. Legacy.

    What do we leave behind?

    War exists so that humans can create stories that are the vehicle by which the act of taking of a life is the human urge to kill carried out to a defendable end.

    So that we have a reason.

    A common language.

    For words like:

    Blood lust.

    War path.

    Warrior stance.

    World War II merely had one of the best stories to back it up. We were “defending our soil.” We were “liberating the Jews.” We were “fighting evil.” It was “The Good Fight.” We had some REALLY good storytellers working for the American government. Like Hitler was EVER the first of his kind, or the last.

    War is just a large scale, government sanctioned, economically-driven, culturally accepted version of a drive we all have to claim and control death—if you can kill someone, you are the epitome of the force of God. The ultimate decision. You make yourself a declaration to the universe, and beyond. Ancient warriors eating the body parts of lives they claimed in battle. Covering their faces in the blood of their foes. Soldiers taking clothing and personal effects of the enemy they’ve taken down.

    The embodiment of will.

    Which, in the end, we will all lose. But we fight our entire lives to assert our will upon this earth. Upon each other. Upon ourselves.

    Dylan Thomas told his pops to fight the dying of the light. Because why relent when you can fight? Why surrender? Why let that be the lesson you leave your son?

    War is an opportunity to fight while you still can, because you can ALWAYS die.

    In this sense, the act of war, especially when the story you have—the “Why We Fight”—is a really good one, allows the soldier to make his or her life MEAN something. To make their last act one of their own will.

    To leave a legacy.

    Something to be remembered by.

    Something to carry on.

    Can you fight for innocence, for a sense of wonder, for a moment of peace? Would you fight to not be forgotten?

    Would that story be good enough?

    Comment by virgindrive | August 21, 2007 | Reply

  22. i dunno, man, i see what you are saying, but i think war is other shit too. like war is AGON. it’s the two-sidedness thang. the model of opposition. and i guess sometimes i wonder, if we didn’t have war, where would we be? what would we be? isn’t there a way in which wars have been catalysts? i was reading this shit the other day about how important artists have nearly always come down on the side of resistance to war, but then i was thinking, if there had been no wars, would the same astonishing art have emerged? because even art … and i’m taking about the art we’d maybe die for, doesn’t it need to define itself against something? always? be in radical opposition to some opposing force?

    this really fucks with me, this question.

    who are we?

    aren’t we doing our fucking making in opposition to the things that piss us off? isn’t that a kind of war?

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  23. Yeah, I think so. And maybe the art is great because what it had to struggle against, cry out against, was equally tragic and sad and frustrating and unjust, or ajust, rather. Amoral. But to start thinking that atrocity is acceptable because it engenders greater art…that’s an uncomfortable path to start down. Because if the focus is the art and not the change maybe that art can help along — then it’s all so much moral vainity to be an artist. The pleasure of saying “I told you so”. On the other hand, that the worst in some can bring out the best in others — that’s consolation worth having, if for no other reason that we don’t have a lot else to console ourselves with. It’s hard to think yourself out of war, especially if you think of it as something that other people commit. It may be impossible.

    Comment by Tye | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  24. maybe i think of it as a state of consciousness, a habit of being. maybe it’s in our very language systems, or in our fucking dna. or like acker said: war, you mirror of our sexuality…maybe it’s not “out there” at all, maybe it’s not “other people” committing it.

    then again, maybe i need a nap.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  25. there’s a lot of thinking sideways about the beauty of tragedy and, yeah, maybe war is a pungent constant, and yeah, maybe it is sweating steamrollers attempting to validate itself, but i feel we’ve passed the point in history when we can squander comsic hip-thrust on such hypnotisms. let’s let our hypnotism be earthy and stale, and slick. and stale.

    Comment by shane | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  26. it sure seems to be the state of conciousness now. the whole idea of hte war on terror is just a way to keep an indefinite “war” for decades to come. shrubs version of the cold war.
    i think gore vidal has it right. terror is a concept you can’t have a war on a concept. but at least it is consistent with the battle that the far right has waged for years against the educated people of this country.
    no education. noideas. no threats.
    save the rabbit dinner to celebrate the end of this war on ideas. you know i want some.

    Comment by vince | August 26, 2007 | Reply

  27. kosovo and darfur.

    hands down.

    what they show us is ourselves.

    heart of darkness.

    Comment by lidiaohlidia | August 28, 2007 | Reply


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