I’ve noted since 1986 that a good 65% of the people in metropolitan bus terminals between the hours of midnight and 6: 00 A.M. tend to qualify as Lynchian figures— flamboyantly unattractive, enfeebled, grotesque, freighted with a woe out of all proportion to evident circumstances. Or we’ve all seen people assume sudden and grotesque facial expressions— e.g. like when receiving shocking news, or biting into something that turns out to be foul, or around small kids for no particular reason other than to be weird— but I’ve determined that a sudden grotesque facial expression won’t qualify as a really Lynchian facial expression unless the expression is held for several moments longer than the circumstances could even possibly warrant, is just held there, fixed and grotesque, until it starts to signify about seventeen different things at once.1
– David Foster Wallace, A Supposed Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
This remark by David Foster Wallace in an essay on the work of film tiger David Lynch typifies the dark comedy of our times. In a brutal world that condones the brutalization of children and adults alike one survives through humor, through the dark and bitter comedy that disturbs rather than puts us back to sleep. This is the biting humor that gets under us, that follows us in our nightmares and keeps us wondering who is the victim, who the perpetrator. If tragedy invites us to sympathizes and lament the fate of this brutal world we humans have invented for ourselves, then as Henri Bergson once recognized laughter disperses such illusions and becomes the ‘killer of emotions’, the divider, the slayer who stalks the night keeping the ghosts at bay. Violence lurks under the hood. Like an unbidden guest we find it everywhere. One only needs to open a magazine, a newspaper, turn on the TV, radio, or just take a drive along any freeway in our metalloid and artificial climes. One can opt for Lynch or Taratino: “Quentin Tarantino is interested in watching somebody’s ear getting cut off; David Lynch is interested in the ear” (166).
Love, lust, revulsion, and allure infect us like visitors from some surreal world of magical affects. At the borderlands of identity we discover life: oozy, slimy, viscous, teeming, messy, uncanny life. What does life want? Freud told us in simplistic terms that life wants to return to the inorganic slime pool from which it first arose: the reproduction of life tends ultimately by circuitous route toward that far country of death. For Freud it all came down to this: “What we are left with is the fact that the organism wishes to die only in its own fashion” (Beyond the Pleasure Principle). And what about the “man-omlette” (Ben Woodard) of Lacan? Bob Woodard tells us we shouldn’t over-idealize this Weissmanian germ, this festering amoeba caught between the intensive pulses of entropy and negentropy, that instead we should go beyond even Zizek’s impervious reading in ‘Lacan as a reader of Alien’ – where the “face hugger functions as the lamella – sacrificing itself to impregnate a goo-trapped victim with a xenomorph” (56, Slime Dynamics). That this, too, is too much Idealism. That disgust is itself too aesthetic, a tribute to the mind – all too human; that beyond the human, or even the thought of the human, lies the organicity of existence itself without us. And, this is key: materialism, Woodard suggests, is too concerned with subjectivity and subjects, of humans as Subjects, and that is what separates materialism from realism (ibid. 57).