Saturday, 15 October 2011

Male Mythology in Gonzo.

The Americans based in Puerto Rico as journalists, businessmen and soldiers are depicted as a horde of corrupt, perverted and sex-crazed sociopaths. There is Moberg who is obsessed with cannibalism (a twisted form of the unfulfilled longing) and Zimburger who is described as "more beast than human". Then there is the reckless Yeamon and the inexplicably unfuckable Sala, between them we might situate Kemp as a kind of "moderate witness" who is never as passive as Sala nor as rebellious as Yeamon. Paul Kemp participates and observes the mayhem, but manages to pull-back from the edge and gets to walk off towards the sunset as it were. This is a standard lesson of literature, the passive will destroy themselves and the rebel will be destroyed by the system. It is being able to participate and pull back from the edge just in time that makes for a great story. Especially when we're talking about Gonzo journalism, the journalist is a participant in his story in the full subjective sense. With all of this mind we should look at when Paul Kemp finds himself on a beach after a night of festivities with a woman called Lorraine:
We talked for a while, drying off as best we could, and suddenly she reached over and pulled me down on top of her. “Make love to me,” she said urgently.
I laughed and leaned down to bite her on the breast. She began to groan and jerk me around by the hair, and after a few minutes of this I lifted her onto the clothes so we wouldn’t get full of sand. The smell of her body excited me tremendously and I got a savage grip on her buttocks, pounding her up and down. Suddenly she began to howl: at first I thought I was hurting her, then I realised she was having some sort of extreme orgasm. She had several of them, howling each time, before I felt the slow bursting of my own.
We lay there for several hours, going at it again when we felt rested. All in all I don’t think we said fifty words. She seemed to want nothing but the clutch and howl of the orgasm, the rolling grip of two bodies in the sand.
Paul Kemp promised to call Lorraine - the lie we all know so well - and never does, as far as we know, whereas Kemp later returns to the US where Chenault waits for him. She had left Yeamon for Paul soon after she reappeared after the incident at the carnival, in which she was almost certainly gang-raped at a party - a trauma never fully explored or resolved in the book, it just happened. After turning up at Kemp's place Chenault asks Paul Kemp to get in the shower with her and then comes a flash of impure Gonzo "I heard a gong somewhere in the back of my brain, and then a melodramatic voice saying, 'And this concludes The Adventures of Paul Kemp, the Drunken Journalist. He read the signs and saw it coming, but he was too much of a lecher to step out of the way.' Then there was organ music, a sort of feverish dirge, and then I was stepping out of my shorts and into the shower with Chenault." It is clear that our hero did not go celibate between the chapters, but the sex scene with Chenault is significant in its difference to the earlier tryst on the beach.
I felt totally defeated. For a while I paced around the apartment, barely hearing her happy chatter, then I gave up entirely and went over to the bed and took off my clothes. I fell on her with such a violence that her smile quickly disappeared and it became a desperate business.
She kicked her feet in the air and shrieked and arched her back and she was still trying when I exploded inside her and collapsed with exhaustion. Finally she gave up and locked her legs around my hips and her arms around my neck, and started to cry.
I leaned on my elbows and looked down at her 'What's wrong?' I asked.
She kept her eyes closed and shook her head. 'I can't,' she sobbed. 'I get so close, but I can't.'
We might reach for the term 'courtly love' to denote the way in which Chenault was pursued by Paul Kemp simply because she was forbidden to him as Yeamon's girlfriend. It began on the plane over to Puerto Rico where he was desperate to see to it that she could sit next to him and ended up getting into a fight with an elderly man over his seat. Keep in mind that the perpetuation of the 'courtly love' structure hints at the ongoing attempts of man to compensate for his reduction of women to mere vehicles for his fantasy.In turn woman comes to inhabit this fantasy as her 'femininity' and she is deprived of her particularity as a woman. As the pursuit moved beyond 'loving' her (for lack of a better phrase) for something in her more than herself - as an object - to seeing her as a subject of lack. If we continue along this Žižekian line we find that this leads us to the conclusion that sexual difference retains the Real which cannot be symbolised and lovers are fated to settle for a relationship that is a "non-relationship".

Then again we might be tempted here to accept the conclusion that the point of the tryst on the beach with the "dark skinned" Lorraine was to stand as the exotic Other with a certain authenticity in contrast to the anemic and inhibited whiteness of Chenault. A racism turned on its' head where Lorraine was an exotic and wild lay on a beach by comparison with Chenault. So the only point of Lorraine was to point us towards Chenault's deficiency, once she has served her purpose on the beach she can disappear. It is only after Kemp beds Chenault that the narrative can reach a conclusion - the return to home - so we might designate Puerto Rico as a vanishing mediator on it's own. But then what might we read into Chenault's disappearance as she heads onwards to New York? A rendezvous in the Big Apple remains a genuine possibility for Paul with Chenault. It is never fully resolved what happened at the carnival, through Paul's eyes it is as if Chenault was "asking for it" in the standard misogynist contours of rape as in some way the fault of the woman.

As Žižek has pointed out there is a sense in which the excessive desire of female fantasy and male fantasy fails in a bid to overcome such an excess. It poses a threat to male identity and the woman has to be erased as it were. One way to escape from the excessive Real encountered in fantasy is to 'make love', not to reenact the fantasy but to escape from it. Perhaps this is the reason that Chenault has to 'disappear' from the narrative in order for it to be able to reach any conclusion. What might that say about her appearance in the narrative as a whole? Effectively she was only present as her desire for phallic enjoyment. In the note she leaves for him to find Chenault writes "I can't stand it anymore. My plane leaves at six. You love me. We are soul-mates. We will drink rum and dance naked. Come see me in New York. I will have a few surprises for you." This is the only space which opens up for Chenault's subjectivity, yet she can only express what we already know and expect of her. There is no active part to play and in actuality woman "therefore does not exist" in the Lacanian formula.

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