Inventing the Self

25 (not so random) Reflections of Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too (and me!)

October 29th, 2013 by matthew finston · 2 Comments

25 (not so random) Reflections of Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too
1) A review of a text is an act of synthesis. It seems inappropriate to imbue synthesis into Viegeger’s lists, but as Viegener notes “Random: could be anything, but usually isn’t” (xx, 19).
2) Random implies the absence of pattern or an objective. To make 100 lists of 25 random things is impossibly random.
3) A synthesis: yet the lists have a “random” quality, in the sense that each item is not necessarily linked to the previous or following item. “You see a book not one thing. It’s many things in an arrangement” (xxxii, 8).
4) However, throughout the lists there occurs repetitions of themes, characters, settings, plots. Peggy the dog’s death; Einstein on the Beach, as a theatrical counterpoint, an opera that’s essence expresses the paradoxical nature of the impossibility of randomness while earnestly defying meaning (it’s 4 ½ hours of repetition without coherence, although this too is debatable); Kathy Acker; his mother; sex/sexuality/sexual encounters/sexual identity/perverse sexuality; fruit, etc.
5) The deconstruction of “narrative” appears as a through-line of the lists. For instance, Viegener invokes “post hoc ergo propter hoc” to point out the logical fallacy inherent in narratives (if something follows, it doesn’t mean it was caused by it). This famous latin phrase was used by semiologist Roland Barthes in his famous essay “Structural Analysis of Narratives,” in order to point out “that the mainspring of narrative is precisely the confusion of consecution and consequence.”
6) The etymology of “random” comes from Old French randon, from randir ‘to run,’ ‘to gallop.’ The implication being that randomness has an inherent urgency, which is evident in several of Viegener’s items “I am so tired of making lists I could cry. I’m tired of trying to get people’s attention. I just want to shut up and go to sleep” (lxxix, 19). And, “I’m going to finish these lists. It’s just hard now when the only ‘random’ thing happening to me is Peggy’s steady decline.” (lxxxi, 25).
7) While imposing a structure and a goal to create lists of random things is paradoxically nonrandom, it appears that the statements have an essence of randomness in that they are purposefully illustrating the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy as contiguous excretions.
8) The first item is particularly revealing of the (non)object(ive) of the lists: “People think I’m American but inside I am foreign” (i, 1). This has two meanings: literally being born outside the US; as well as the desire for sui generis, being wholly unique.
9) You could call my list a “random” essay. Or at least, an essay that would not fly. If you removed the rupturous structure of the “list” constraint, the paper would not have a clear logical flow.
10) You will realize how random 2500 Random Things About Me Too is when you try to search for quotes. While reading you may have put together a coherence to the statements, but the lack of organization of the statements underlies the actual randomness of the text.
11)While contiguous statements disclose motifs, plots, characters, the act of purging oneself of facts effects discontinuity of being by ex-silencio. Your identity forms by the absence of what it is not said.
12) Reading this “book,” made me think of the question “what are you?”
13) The question “what are you,” interrogatory in structure, is asked of me quite a lot. Because of my complexion, my “identity” is illegible.
14) I have been asked this question so many times that I now play dumb, pretending that I do not know what my interrogator is asking.
15) The reality is, people who ask me this do not have malicious intent. Or at least, I don’t think they do.
16) I used to respond simply, “I am Jewish.” This is sometimes satisfactory. “Oh! Okay. Funny you don’t look Jewish.” Sometimes they want to know more, “No, no, no. I mean where are you from, why are you . . .” “Brown?” I ask. “No. Not ‘Brown.’ Dark.”
17) Recently, I have been responding with, “I’m American,” or “I’m ‘white.'” To which I get, “No you are not.” And I sadly agree, I would hate to just be “white.”
18) I wonder if anyone is going to read my post?
19) What is funny about this is that as much as I hate this game, I play it. Playing dumb extends the inquisition, which I always find so disturbing.  Yet, that the game can go on for such a long time means that I have a legible “foreignness.”
20) I can see why Viegener feels so uneasy about the narcissism inherent in creating lists of self. During his 9th list with 91 more to go he says, “I am so tired of using I, me, my, and mine here” (ix, 24). It is not that people are uncomfortable with obsessing about themselves; it is that realization that our “self” is inclined to “self-obsess,” is a devastating revelation  of our “self.”
21) Just like in my game, “what are you,” I get to play guess “me” without it stemming from my desire for others to know “me.” The ambiguity of my complexion elicits the game, and I play along.
22) But it is not “my game.” It is a game people play. I wonder how many other people willingly play this game with others.
23) Viegener wants us to think that “narrative is something created by the reader’s need” (v, 24). This statement is about the ‘us,’ the reader, and ‘our’ experience of reading random facts. In a very interesting turn, Viegener unveils that, “I seem to have given up avoiding narrative” (xii, 24). The ‘narrative need’ that he describes is not just a “reader’s need” but the writer’s, too. The juxtaposition of these statements reveal that Viegener may have a misconception about narrative. According to Gerard Genette in Narrative Discourse, “narrative refer[s] to the narrative statement, the oral or written discourse that undertakes to tell of an event or series of events” (25). The essence of a “narrative” is it’s narrator. According to Oxford Dictionary, the word “narrative” comes from the french word “narratif” which means “telling a story.” Story, Genette defines, is “the succession of events, real or fictitious, that are the subjects of this discourse” (Genette 25). Inherent in the term “narrative” is “telling.” Viegener’s cause was lost from the start! Random or organized, telling random facts about oneself constitutes a narrative, even if it is an incoherent one. But perhaps Viegener wanted to draw our attention to this very fact to simultaneously critique and uphold Tzvetan Todorov’s dictum, “beware of coherence” (lxx, 24).
24) I find it odd, that the last four quotes I used are all from 24th random fact from the lists.
25) My list is not faithful to the structure. I have produced them simultaneously. Any resemblance to the “random lists” is sacrificed as a result. The act of ‘publishing’ random statements through ‘Facebook’ as an ongoing ephemeral exercise inhibits ‘self-censorship.’ But I never really meant to duplicate Viegener’s exercise, just borrow the structure.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • John Giunta // Oct 31st 2013 at 10:42 am

    I’m reading Viegener for next week too and there’s something great about it that I can’t quite articulate – something that corresponds with my experience and certainly with social networking, which seems so insidious that I no longer dream in pictures or movies but rather in tweets and snapchats. I don’t have much to add as I enjoyed this post very much, but I’ve been reflecting on the word “random” and it’s seeming over-mis-use in day-to-day conversation, and I wonder how Viegener either confirms or confuses the mistake of “random” as meaning “kooky” or “disordered” and not “patternless”, and then if humans will read patterns onto things that might not be patterned anyway (apophenia?)

  • matthew finston // Oct 31st 2013 at 8:29 pm

    John, I think you put it so clearly. And I never heard of apophenia until now. You have just opened up a whole new world for me, Thanks!

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