Against Interpretation
by Lidia Yuknavitch


I remember the first time I got it. That Sontag thing. During this time I was screwing a deconstructionist. Well, two. One was a wanna-be, the other the thing itself. The thing about a deconstructionist is they won't hold still. Am I right? Slippery little suckers, aren't they. Always fading from focus, too. You know what I mean. It's like playing hide and seek with Nietzsche. God is dead. Olly-olly-umcomphree. Go fish. Good looking sons-of-bitches though. Anyway. We all three met inside this Sontag text. Inscribed by her ideas. They both had opinions, needless to say, about how important her ideas had been at the time. And I remember thinking, in both cases, gee, brainiacs, what time was that? Do you mean the 1960's? I thought deconstructionists understood time out of history, history as discourse, chronology as flap-jawed nonsense. At the time. Well hell. Like our man Bill Shakespeare was importat at the time. Of course I know what they meant. I'm just saying it was hypocritical. Get my meaning? But I didn't really have anything to prove, so I just let it go at that. I wanted to fuck, not fight.

I don't know why the hell I went to grad school. I don't know why I chased down a Ph.D.. I know I wasn't like anyone else who was there, and I know that I don't have, or I have not achieved the things I was supposed to. But neither did I get spit out, booted, 86'd. Curious. At any rate, I was there, I was waving Marx and Hegel around like a flag of my disposition, I was shamelessly throwing names like Jameson and Deleuze and Guattari and Bakhtin around with the best of them. My lips were fluttering away, bubbles emerged from my mouth as with all the others. I wore black. I wore stylish Brooks Brothers glasses. I had silver jewelry. I talked the talk. I said Julia Kristeva. Georg Lukacs. I said Walter Benjamin. Whole lexicons uttered like secret decoder ring child's games. And when I was horny, I very methodically and with potent research skills set out to get what I wanted. Isn't that what intelligence is in a woman? Don't give me that crap about equality and mental chessmanship. I didn't want to be smarter than any of the men I knew. I wanted to be as smart as they were and fuck the brains out of every god damn last one of them. So let's be frank. Screwing outweighed education by a billion years. To hell with that deferral shit. You know what's what.

So you can understand how it was that when I read about an erotics of art I thought I was way ahead of the fucking game. Because I understood the hermeneutic implications of pretty much everything I read also happened at the level of an ordinary body, and I'd sit there in my apartment bathroom naked, perhaps taking a dump, and think, yeah, so? It's not as if anything in all of pukey human history has ever changed because some painfully brilliant person wrote down their ideas. We keep killing and fucking and eating each other no matter what; it only shifts forms, not content. That's something I could never figure out about my so-called colleagues. I mean, they actually thought they were traveling, I mean in the literal sense, via ideas. Wherewherewhere did they get to? Where has the world gotten to? The best response appears to me to be scotch and fucking. Eternally.

But I digress. About fucking. Not much to say, is there? I mean, it is not as if I have anything new to add to the great saga of academic boinking. Or in particular, the academia variety--male professor and young woman student, female professor and young male student, cross-lateral gay and lesbian advances, student-to-student escapades, who can be the first bisexual races, orgies at the Comp. Lit. Department Heads, yawn. Crossword puzzles. And god knows in 2000 we all have a pretty solid script of the power structure of fucking--presidents and interns, teachers and students, priests and alter boys, day-care center leaders and children, fathers and daughters, I mean, Foucault is old news at this point. Smart boy, stylish guy, but old news. Am I right?

So the one guy, the wanna-be, he had a red-headed girl-friend to beat all. She had big tits and huge flowing red hair and the greatest mouth that ever threw lips over a cock. I mean really, I don't think any men appreciated her as much as I did. She was a fucking knockout in the 50's Hollywood sense, and she wore clothing from that era as well. Jesus. I'm telling you. Her eyes were bright blue, too, and her name was Erica. Can you picture this? I believe that you can.

Anyway, the deconstructionist wanna-be used to have my boyfriend and I over for dinner parties and so forth. They lived in the woods in this great old house that had been left to Erica by her grandparents. A Merchant Ivory movie is what comes to mind when I think of going out to Erica's house. She had this great Japanese goldfish pond, and a string of Chinese paper lanterns leading off into the woods. There was a spare building with a loft sleeping area that she used as a sculpture studio, and get this, she always worked naked. No shit. The kitchen had dried herbs and roses hanging upside down all over the place, and she had her own mini-vineyard out back--made her own wine. Fantastic hooch. Knocked you on your ass in 20 minutes. Get the picture?

So we're out there one night and we're drunk and stoned and everything is dreamy and swelling with great deep reds and oranges and the smell of gardenia. Or something. And at a certain point late in the evening four of us, me and mine, Erica and the wanna-be deconstructionist, begin to shed our clothing and fondle one another in a group. The rest of the people at the dinner party settle in on couches and huge pillows scattered about the floor for optimum viewing. This is after we had pierced Rachel's navel with a safety pin and all the women had kissed one another in passionate lip locks for the hell of it. After my boyfriend and the wanna-be deconstructionist had sucked one another's cocks on a dare, after the fat guy from Fresno had taken a dive into the goldfish pond, after the shy girl with no eyebrows had disappeared and re-emerged dressed in an eighteenth century corset from Erica's eccentric wardrobe. OK?

So the wanna-be is going down on me (don't ask me how he got my pants off--I'd rigged them closed with all kinds of pins and shit because I'd just bought them at a vintage clothing store and didn't have time to sew them into normalcy), and Erica, as I turned my head to the side in a kind of giddy sleeplessness, is riding my boyfriend for all he's worth. The only problem is, he's a bit flaccid, as happens with too much to drink and too many drugs, so actually she's just riding to be riding, and she is the most god damn beautiful image I've ever seen, she's uncanny, she's Napoleon riding in his revolutionary way, she's conquering nations, she's the turn of the century, she's taking no prisoners, she's trampling the dead. Somewhere in that watching I come, the wanna-be's mouth fills with it, he moans and gurgles, I remember there is a man between my legs and let go the superb aesthetics of her image.

So I look at his face down there, sort of perched on my cunt and between the mountains of my thighs and knees. He missed my cumming. His eyebrows are working furiously, more furiously than when he is being a deconstructionist wanna-be and going on and on about the use and abuse of history and catachresis and on and on, and suddenly his eyes lurch up to my face (his head stays put, mind you), and we clap eyes on one another, we are locked there in that duel, his mouth to my mouth, he thinks he is making me come, I am an observer entirely, my cunt is the object of my performance, distanced, sadistic, pure. I am without a self, I am a free-floating subjectivity, an as-yet unfinished sentence, the whole she-bang.

Then we're just naked smelly animals again, a little confused, trying to get our clothes back on as the watchers try to decide whether they are disgusted or titillated.

The second guy is more of a cliché thing. We're in his office at the university, which of course could be any university. He turns the lights off. His books and books lining the walls are like ghosts of entire epochs crowding the room. An audience. His Gap button down shirt is like Siberia. Perfect white on white. His black pants draw me in as a ravine. I can barely see his face, barely see his lips moving. He says, there are things we can do without it meaning we're having sex. His cologne is so much louder than what he is saying, not to mention the fact that what he is saying is so god damn ludicrous it is beyond belief, and anyway, all women know, even 25 year old women know what desire is, what cunts and cocks are, what power is, he is so deluded it becomes part of the reason he is irresistible to me, I feel as if I might devour him. And he unbuttons my pants and sticks his living hand (Keats scholar--I can't be with him without the lines invading my head) into that wet salty cunty place and I undo his Geoffry Bean belt and unzip his Calvin Klein pants and grab his cock hard and to the flesh and so there we are in that office with our hands full like hundreds of other idiots exactly like us with their hands full.

I don't know why things like this come to me at times like that. I said, and no I'm not kidding, and no I haven't an idea in hell why anyone ever behaves as if they don't see the centrifugal force of desire when it's as obvious as it is, big as a fat red clown nose, I said, I want to come on your book, and no I don't know why he reached for his recently published from Stanford beautiful purple covered book and helped me to negotiate a better position for coming, and yes I did.

And that's what I'm saying. About art and desire. Get the picture?