Where to begin?
It's impossible to begin at the beginning. Because, as Foucault says, when you get to the origin you find the dissension of other things. The beginning is always in progress; it's always already begun.
So at what point do I begin? How much do I need to explain? How far back do I need to go? Which terms do I need to define? And which terms in that definition do I need to define?
Does "back" even mean anything? Is it actually a matter of going back? I'm not sure. I think, perhaps, it's matter of knowing how to go forward.
It's matter of circumstance, then — of audience. To whom am I speaking and why. And yet, when writing, one's audience is never present. And writing in a venue such as this, with an audience I do not know and cannot predict, how do I know where to begin?
This is of course an issue of all writing. Writing delimits its audience, necessarily. But it doesn't choose its audience. To wit, I wrote something on this blog a few weeks ago about speaking to the smartest. It was a bit crass but it was written for my ideal audience — my right as it's my blog: an audience that enjoys a little play in their prose.
My friend who runs Thought Catalog republished the same piece there. And while many seemed to enjoy it, the article truly pissed some people off. Go and read the comments. (Such bile! But that's a topic for another day.) Once the article changed venues, it changed audiences. And suddenly terms and tone that I took for granted — and assumed my audience assumed — seemed terribly out of place. What do I mean by dumb? By intelligent? By "speaking over their heads?" By "shut the fuck up"?
(I have to say: people might not like my argument anyway but that's not what stirred them up — it was the tone.)
So where does one begin? Deleuze always begins mid-discussion. He never steps back from his writing, never tries to give an overview. His books begin almost mid-sentence — as a reader, you get swept up in the flow or drown.
Me, I've never been that brave. Perhaps it's all the years I spent teaching but I try to frame my discussion from the get go, to step back a bit and try to present the whole of my argument — as if there were such a thing.
But there is such a thing, sort of. One can try to frame a discussion, claim why it's worthwhile, why it matters, why one is even speaking at all.
And yet there is a limit to such a frame precisely because there is no hard and fast limit. I suddenly understand Derrida's "Parergon" (in "The Truth in Painting") in a profound, practical sense. One's frame always gives way, bleeds, frames a different discussion, finds a different audience, yields a different effect.
Sometimes, I have to say, writing seems impossible.