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In Poetry, Language, Thought (1971), Martin Heidegger1 considers the difference between the concepts of building and dwelling. He notes that “Bridges and hangars, stadiums and power stations are buildings but not dwellings…The truck driver is at home on the highway, but he does not have his shelter there; the working woman is at home in the spinning mill, but she does not have her dwelling place there.” (145) Although the meanings of the words “building” and “dwelling” do not coincide, the two concepts still imply and condition each other: in order to dwell, one must first build. What determines a distinction between them is, of course, language. Or so Heidegger claims. He goes on to stress the power language has over our lives, but he also argues that human beings underestimate this, living in an illusion that they are capable of mastering language. This subversion of the original power relations, Heidegger asserts, is where the source of alienation lies.

Similarly to his claim about the relationships between building and dwelling, Jess in Leslie Feinberg’s novel Stone Butch Blues builds her body in order to dwell it. Like the truck driver or the working woman, Jess may be at home in her female body, but multiple rape, constant abuse, and harassment made her feel she could not have a shelter in it. Hence, she starts looking for a ‘building’, where she would also be able to dwell. For that reason she is building a male body crossdressing and working out the body in a gym, but also acquiring a new language through the books she is reading: “…I felt as though I was rushing into a burning building to rescue the ideas I needed in my own life.” (239) Simultaneously, she engages herself in the workout on “one of those muggy New York City summer nights when the temperature sticks at one hundred damn degrees.” (243) So, she observes: “I realized I was changing on the inside as much I was on the outside” (240).
Building her way out of the imprisonment in the linguistically imposed physicality does have an emancipatory effect: she acquires the ideas she needs to understand herself in bodily terms. In this respect, Jess seems to be a counterpart to Heidegger’s ideological take –subversion here is not the cause of alienation. On the contrary, it serves its purpose, if we assume that the ultimate goal of subversion is freedom. However, in accordance with Heidegger’s deriving of the meaning of the word “dwellers” from the Anglo-Saxon “wuon” to the Gothic “wunian”, which means “to be at peace,” Jess still cannot be considered a dweller of her/his own body. As s/he remarks, s/he still feels s/he lacks the language which would help her/him overcome the affective split. In the park scene, the theme of normalcy and otherness is addressed on multiple levels. It seems that relating to the agonizing collisions within the other stigmatized, more than mastering language, does Jess manage to “release[s] emotions thick as mud” (246). In this respect, it makes her eventually more a proof than an opposition to Heidegger’s claim about the effect of the subversion against language.
Linguistic is not the only kind of determinism this novel addresses -- Jess is engaged in trade-unionist social activism. I find it peculiar for a person (or a group for that matter) marginalized on multiple bases to subscribe to a radical version of social determinism. More specifically, I see political options claiming recognition, acknowledgement, and equality on a marxist basis counterproductive for the individuals who do not belong to the political elites. Their demands get easily manipulated in a neoliberal political environment with a problematic understanding, function, and place of the working class. My argument is parallel to that of Paul Gilroy’s in The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, where he explicates the idea that the history of oppression makes it impossible for the Black Atlantic community to adopt working class identity because it (working class identity, i.e.) only perpetuates the community’s political submission.
Coming from a postsocialist country and being aware of peculiarly subtle oscillations between opposing and asserting social totalizing power, I find it particularly difficult to locate leftist perspectives in the U.S., especially in the academic circles. I have had conversations for years with the US scholars regarding this topic. The insights I got through them range from the views, supporting Latin-American socialist movements, without reflecting upon them through the post 1989 prism, via the Western European version verging on the right-wing exclusion, to the paradoxically dystopian embracing communism as an indicator of the impossibility of social change. A recent conversation I had with an academic originally from Romania, who came to the U.S. thirty years ago, illuminated the issue from the angle to which I was initially inclined: she confirmed that one needs to bear in mind that quite often marxist stand is used more as a symbol of resistance than at its face value. This gets even more complicated in a semi-fictional autobiography such as Stone Butch Blues.
For all these reasons, I am interested in fiction which addresses social problematics from a radically leftist perspective, emphasizing contradictions of social determinism, rather than determinism itself. My sense is that, unlike the pieces of fiction explicating their social agenda, works that present their defiant political views through the narrative on the level of affect have stronger subversive potential. In this respect, they would also be a confirmation of Heidegger’s claim that through direct attempts to escape the limitations imposed by language, one only perpetuates his or her alienation; conversely, it’s reasonable to believe that working through language, but subverting it through non-verbal channels can have far more effective social implications. That, in turn, reinforces the implied understanding in transgressive literature2 that just as we have to live out contradictions of living under capitalism, so is capitalism doomed to its own self-entrapment.


East End, but also Shoreditch, Hoxton, Hackney, and Ladbroke Grove of Home’s novels are portrayed here

Part of the consequences of living in an oppressive world is such fiction’s awareness of the tendency of progressive ideas being normalized within the dominant cultural discourse. For this reason, it thrives intentionally perpetuating its own mutability. Consequently, these narratives in a way resist Heidegger’s division into dwellers and builders because they dwell spaces such as roads, windmills, and hangars – on the road they are at home (which is again resonant with his ideas of curiosity and ambiguity form Being and Time). In order to sustain its vitality, this kind of art sometimes takes on the form of anti-art. This means conceptualizing itself as a negation of what the institutionalized standards require from an expression in order to be perceived, recognized, and acknowledged as artistic form. The purpose of such a concept is at least twofold: first, by doing so, such an expression challenges the system in the form of a mirror image, exposing to the system alarming consequences and a degenerated face of its (system’s) practices3; secondly, in this way, the avant-garde practices are self-navigating in keeping themselves alert, being mindful of their own exhaustion and the need for rejuvenation. Yet, they are also aware that to be alive in a social flux prevents one from driving any final conclusions, having immutable aspirations, taking fixed stands, and
taking on a definitive form. Hence, the only way for a form of thinking and artistic practice to survive in the capitalist maze is to live a life of its own self-negation – a sort of paradoxical endeavor, in which life is perpetuated through a simulacrum of death.
3 This is parallel to the idea Matthew Collin presents in his book Altered State, stating that “The idea that Ecstasy culture has no politics because it has no manifesto or slogans, it isn’t saying something or actively opposing the social order, misunderstands its nature. The very lack of dogma is a comment on contemporary society itself, yet at the same time its constantly changing manifestations – ravers fighting police to gain access to a warehouse party, criminals shooting each other in feuds over the dance-drug trade, teenage girls baring flesh in baby-doll dresses, black-market entrepreneurs selling records from the backs of vans – serve to dramatize the times we live in” (5).
As Terry Eagleton writes in The Meaning of Life, evoking St Paul:
…we can only live well by buckling the self to the needs of others, in a kind of little death, or petit mort. In doing so, we rehearse and prefigure that final self- abnegation which is death. In this way, death in the sense of ceaseless dying to self is the source of the good life. If this sounds unpleasantly slavish and
self-denying, it is only because we forget that if others do this as well, the result is a form of reciprocal service which provides the context for each self to flourish. The traditional name for this reciprocity is love. (160)
The life of this kind of fiction is inspired, yet not controlled by redescribed vocabularies from the past, at the same time incorporating fresh narratives, keeping them alive in the mix. Drawing on the legacy of libratory voices such as Gilles Deleuze, contemporary anti-novels are kept animated through practicing hermeneutical postulates – they demonstrate the belief that existence is interpretation. Deleuze’s invention coined as “transcendental empiricism” represents his own break up with and at the same time restoration of tradition – his theory of a life is based on the remixes of refigured Nietzsche’s nihilism and Bergson’s theory, Hume’s empiricism pushed beyond determination by passions and associations in the basic sense in which Hume used them, and Spinoza’s philosoph. From that hybrid perspective, a life is understood as pure immanence whose absolute is its own perpetuation:
“We will say of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else. It is not immanence to life, but that is in nothing is itself a life. A life is immanence of immanence, absolute immanence; it is complete power, complete bliss.” (27) It is transcendent, yet not transcendental.

On this the prose in question bases its understanding of self as becoming in its multiplicity: it does acknowledge individuality, but as singularity, rather than particularity – personal individuation which is always indefinitive. Hume’s empiricism provided the original basis for the understanding of self as non-possession, non-given. As John Rajchman states about Deleuze’s take on it in the Introduction to Pure Immanence: Essays On A Life, “Indeed, the self is only a fiction or artifice in which through habit, we come to believe, a sort of incorrigible illusion of living; and it is this artifice that the self becomes fully part of nature- our nature.” (12) Hence, one is what he or she makes of himself or herself. And so is a life, as Deleuze claims: “The life of such an individuality fades away in favor of the singular life immanent to a man who no longer has a name, though he can be mistaken for no other. A singular essence, a life…” (29) Deleuze’s account of a life is significant for its recognizing both elements in traditionally opposing pairs without trying to dispose of them or reconcile
them, but rather let them coexist ; this makes it possible to think authenticity and virtuality without claiming “reality”, individual without falling into a trap of the subjectivity which possesses the self, social plane without assuming an inherent common social denominator, and the realm of politics without necessarily admitting the totalizing power of social institutions and ideological apparatuses. Like some contemporary leftist thinkers such as Gianni Vattimo, Deleuze celebrates the possibilities provided by Nietzsche’s nihilism for creative transfiguration – the affirmation, as opposed to negation, of life in its multiplicities and becomings: “Multiplicity is no longer answerable to Being. But Being and the One do more than lose their meaning: they take on a new meaning.” (86)

In fiction those perpetual mutations, which ensure the narrative’s vitality, are manifested through diverse treatment of the conventions of genre and literary tradition. Freely combining features pertinent to anything ranging from traditional narration, through stylistic crossovers, switching from the pulp journalistic style, psychological thriller based on surrealist tradition, via the diary-like confessional prose, pornography , political pamphlets, manifestos, theoretical discourse, social chronicle, buildings roman, roman nouveau, modernist formal
experimentation, detective prose, juvenile fiction, travelogue, and autobiography, these novels tell tales of intertextual exchange, playing with plagiarism in order to emphasize dismissal of the notions such as possession, subject, author in the sense which enables understanding of the self and society as something fixed, immutable, and, therefore, omnipotent, totalizing, and irreplaceable, unchangeable, and determining. In terms of literary techniques, these novels incorporate a high speed chase among narrative voices, unexpected shifts of the point of view, unstable, two- dimensional characters, setting as a character (some of them even have cities as the only fully developed and elaborated characters), elusive narrators who change, exchange, disappear, reemerge in a different form, and tone and internal structure as a social message.

The affectionless, violent, delinquent, decadent, and bewildering world in such novels is part of their mission: behind these sometimes monstrous tales of destruction is politically loaded intentionality. Stemming from the assumption that both individual and social planes are heavily affected by discourse and that the categories on which we found morality, aesthetics, and inner life are constructs deeply rooted in socially imposed norms, contemporary
prose thinks social from the perspective of deconstructing the channels through which social myths are being sustained. The ugliness we are exposed to in these writings, as it was previously stated, functions as a mirror image of a distorted life. It is small wonder that recurring themes in them are isolation, detachment, awkward communication, spasmatic emotionality, alienated bodies, brutal physicality, chaotic, cracked up, zombified individuation, lost between buying, selling, being bought, and sold, lacking words to tell what they perhaps have to say, short of the content to deliver. Social commentary in them is sometimes theoretically explicated, but it is on other levels, where political issues are addressed and dealt with. Aware of the ways the society operates, perpetuating its dominant paradigms and imposing the norms of socially acceptable conduct, modern writers deliver their social messages on the level of affect. Casting aside traditional rhetoric devices, cognitive based psychology- ironizing pshochoanalytical too- yet keeping the conscious focus clear and open (typically infused in the tone and the rhythm of the text, rather than presented on more visible levels), they target the effects of their words on the skin – where the autonomous affect (its intensity) is experienced, freed from the central nervous system’s control. As Brian Massumi stresses in the essay
“The Autonomy of Affect,” it is necessary to make a distinction between affect and emotion (yet sustaining the underlying assumption about what Ian Ang calls emotional realism): “…affective as opposed to emotional. This is not about empathy or emotive identification, or any kind of identification for that matter” (233). This break with identification is the basis for a different kind of thinking and social practice: it allows simultaneity of normally understood mutually exclusive opposites. However, to say that such prose is only skin deep is to oversee its potential. On the contrary, according to Massumi, “Affect holds a key to rethinking postmodern power after ideology. For although ideology is still very much with us, often in the most virulent forms, it is no longer encompassing” (235). He supports his argument, evoking Walter Benjamin “…whose concept of shock and image bombardment, whose analyses of the unmediated before-after temporality of what he called the ‘dialectical image’, whose fascination of mime and mimicry, whose connecting of tactility to vision, all have much to offer an affective theory of late capitalist power” (235).
It is obvious that such an approach puts strong emphasis on the concept of virtuality. In their openness, and continuity of discontinuities, new vocabularies are profuse, allowing leaks from the virtual into actual and vice versa. Massumi claims that it is the in-bewteen spaces…”that seeping edge is where potential, actually, is found” (236). He concludes juxtaposing the tactics of the social position, particularly in North America to offer a suggestion for an oppositional practice: “In North America at least, the far right is far more attuned to the imagistic potential of the postmodern body than the established left, and has exploited that advantage for the last decade and a half. Philosophies of affect, potential, and actualization may aid in finding counter- tactics.” (236)