Here among the neurotypicals, I am determined, at least, to write without narrative, without the given accoutrements of story that brings them comfort and me pain:
An early, wrongly-directed attempted to escape the neurotypicals in the DDR.
Where? Why, here:
All narratives are the causes of war. But the neurotypicals won’t tell you that. All facts. But the neurotypicals can’t see that. All counter facts. The neurotypicals are just too good at countering facts. All virtues and bios. All humans can generate those between an olive and its pit. All deaths. It’s too easy to leap to war with that. Here, let me show you:
Right, a translation. Here:
We’ve got to stand together, all of us, otherwise we’re just in Hameln with the rats, and…
Editor’s note:The Pied Piper of Hamlin is a terrible tale that documents the sale of citizens of Hameln town by their Prince as forced settlers in newly-acquired border regions in Poland. The price? Usually six silver dollars a head. Such shenanigans allowed princes to fund armies, to conquer more territory, to… well, you get the picture. So, to that one thing, don’t lay the blame on any piper in Joseph’s Coat of Many Colours, and don’t lay the blame on the messenger. Face the world, while you can!
As well proven by history and graveyards.
An archaeological dig in Hameln.
We all have front row seats at our deaths.
An Old DDR Image of the Pied Piper
Don’t you dare make a narrative out of it. This is not a story.
Mayfield Parish’s Version, at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco, 1909
This is the real thing. Hameln is not on a hill. Stop dreaming. Drinks won’t help. Be reborn instead. I know I am.
The new book by Rathwell and Rhenisch, the wake for the precursor to AI, Robin Blaser, a kind of American intervention into the Coast Mountains of the Northeast Pacific shore, Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine…
… is itself a remake of Lindsay Anderson’s sheepish film, O Lucky Man!…
… which was less a film than the stage for a soundtrack by Alan Price …
… with Alan playing many of the parts between gigs.
When I saw it in a small mountain town in British Columbia in 1974, the theatre manager was so confused by it that he refunded our tickets. Richard had already left British Columbia. Not long after, he received his education in how little Canadian culture could do at that time, when exported to Africa. The experience is included in his visual novel Ultreye. He went as a Canadian. He finished his NGO experience as a being with two minds.
Ultreye is a post-individual viewpoint that saw the Western self as two selves, from the viewpoint of a non-Western third personality. Neurotypical literature and psychology would eagerly point out that this third personality is self awareness, as indeed it is. As a neurodivergent artist, Richard was discovering how
Neurodivergent literature employs the humour of masks, puppetry, buffoonery, and play. It seeks intrusions of objects bearing projections of selves aware of their fictional nature to turn both selves and fictions into dramatic stages. It then bows and departs.
As Richard learned from two decades of poking at literature as protest (and the police beatings that followed), this literature can be real action in a material world. It doesn’t have to be penned within the thorn hedge of a book. A Canadian abroad doesn’t have to follow the time-honoured model of embedded English writers, such as Sir Richard Burton…
… who “explored” Kenya like this:
Burton “exploring” Africa.
Richard Rathwell learned just how much literature and imagery can be euphemisms for silence and silencing, even at the same time that they are voice. The colony of Basutoland has been the independent African state of Lesotho since 1966, with the British Crown occasionally making it a protectorate due to the mangling of any ability at administration out of the Cape Colony.
In the end, Queen Elizabeth II became less a symbol of colonialism but of an invitation to modernity and independence:
Queen Elizabeth II inspecting the Territorial Police
With a purse!
This learning experience led to Richard’s fraught return to Canada thirty years later, documented in Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine. As Richard laid it down, colonialism remained very individual in Lesotho, and always contrary to expectations. What looked like good deeds and foreign aid support remained as ridiculous as Capetown’s experience with demilitarization on a model learned from the Highland Clearances in Scotland and foreign aid workers seemed to remain as stuck in inappropriate imagery as these oblate fathers moving a heavy imagery of the Boer exodus into Basutoland a century before:
A colonial initiative that continues to succeed in places like Nepal, the giving of goats as the foundation of an economy, ran right up against another aid initiative that seems obvious to any Canadian’s heart, the planting of trees. What in British Columbia, might have looked like this…
Tree Planting in British Columbia in 1973
Note the US Army Surplus T-Shirt
… but which was really a heavy-handed conflict with Indigenous land use…
… became an environmental and social disaster in Lesotho. To be effective in a global context, a Canadian first has to learn what Canada’s culture is in a global context and integrate it, not the other way around. As Richard documents:
A still from Ultreye
After that, Richard devoted himself exclusively to world literature, arguing that Canadian Literature does have a place there, albeit a neurodivergent one. That is, it could support divergence rather than convergence. Or independence rather than integration. Or literacy in images rather than to the authority of words. Watch how Richard’s intelligence became a field of interest, played from many points, instead of as an individual.
For those of you not from Britain’s old Black and Métis colony on the Northeastern Pacific, British Columbia, here is Horsefly:
Here’s how the American ranching culture that settled in Horsefly in 1864 (just as Blaser’s incursion in 1966) worked out in Lesotho:
Richard was learning that the neurodivergence that made his participation at university in Vancouver more of a protest than a partnership, had strengths in the world. Three lessons he learned are:
Neurodivergent worlds are diverse and alive and have diverse agencies.
Neurodivergent literature moves through them all.
Instead of abstraction and cultural traditions as foundations, it employs multiplicity of views and selves in flux.
These selves in flux led to the stop screen motion of the screen book, Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine. There, the wake, a celebration of academic literary connection goes awry when the city speaks…
It became a feast, but not for Blaser’s descendants. But then…
Life is like that.
Do check out Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine. You can order your copy from your bookstore or from Eighth House Publishing in Montreal.
We have a new book of writing that steps away from literary narratives to talk straight about narratives told from within neurodiversity. It is also a wake for the city of Vancouver and its totemic poet Robin Blaser.
It is on the presses as we speak.
This is important stuff. In a world that is growing to embrace diversity, one great unifying diversity is often overlooked, even as humans display a wide range of abilities at finding narrative in the world.
Here’s a sample of our approach, using a book as a series of video screens and reading itself as a projector.
Does that sound odd? It’s everyday stuff to us. And it’s rather easy to follow, don’t worry. Here is a sample from the book to demonstrate. Just let your eye follow where it will. It knows:
You’ve been watching Richard describe how his neurodiversity creates reality as a series of alternatives, which leap from one to the next. It is a kind of unfolding, not a sequence of plot points. One of the salient characteristics of neurodiverse literature is that
instead of metaphor, neurodiverse literature changes perspective. This can include change of self or personality.
What happens when this type of personality is measure by neurotypical long-term personalities that change plots instead of selves is the subject of this example from the book. Richard describes a study he once had to endure:
What I am displaying with my choreography for Richard’s memoir is another principle that guides the book in its opening:
Neurodivergent literature is a tapestry.
Unlike linear narrative, such as the novels of, say, Salman Rushdie or Margaret Atwood, to name just two, which are tied from strings of interconnected action and consequence driven by projection and recollection of emotional memories, it is woven from the multiple dimensions of bodies in space, which it bends to set them moving. Touch is important here. Richard continues. As you read on, notice how images and words are diverging. The narrative is being given over to imagery. The words become used more in the manner of images than texts.
Did you see how several realities are starting to be held up at the same time? That transformation includes reading as an act that is entering the world of the study itself. This kind of multi-layered approach is common in neurodivergent literature and thought.
Instead of plot and character, neurodivergent literature employs tricks, riddles, jests, correspondences, transformations, pattern, sudden detail, irony, sarcasm, quoting, changes of scale and increasing intensity in place. It creates magnetic fields and auroras, freeways and subway grids. It rides them.
Richard and I continue this dance, as the thought unfolds, and then break it as the self it has created starts to morph into a new one. It is important to return narratives (and books) to a human scale. The machines are watching. We need to be able to step aside now and then and breathe.
This notion that writing would make one feel real is common for neurodivergent thinkers, who struggle as much to understand the exotic thinking patterns of neurotypical people as they are of neurotypical ones. What we are trying to do in this book is to place us all into a common language. After all…
Neurodivergent literature is an intervention, an interjection, an exclamation, and even an insubordination, but never a kidnapping. It does not rely on the social authority of an author. It turns the social authority of books into playgrounds and landscapes of strangeness and wonder and it doesn’t tell stories. It walks through them to initiate conversations and create collaborations.
That’s what we’ve done here. We love to laugh. We hope you do, too. This is, after all, a wake. Sláinte!
We have a lot to share. Please join us in this book as we set to rest Robin Blaser and the world of writing entombed in books.