Yes, there has been something of a radio silence for a while on Our Viral Lives. But do not despair. Behind the scenes, I’ve been thinking deeply about the book project that will be finished (as a draft) next August, and some of the new components of the archive that will be launched once my M.A. semester finished up in a few weeks. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the principles that underpin this archive. I don’t want to call what I’m publishing here a manifesto (because a manifesto almost by its nature implies fixed principles) but there are ideals that guide my work as an archivist, curator, and individual living in the moment of this HIV/AIDS crisis.
This essay was originally finished in December 2013 for MFA in Creative Writing program at Goddard College. I’ve returned to a year later because I think the questions explored: those of haunting and the desire to connect to the past of HIV/AIDS while trying to move forward resonate today. It is a long read, and uses some conventional academic language and citation, but it’s also unique in its creative and liberatory impulse throughout. Enjoy.
“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.” – bell hooks
I have been told many times, even if indirectly, that I do not deserve to exist. The exploration begins here because, in the question of my presence, I recognize my own words as simultaneously representing today’s grief and the future of my body, as words, to survive in a haunting against these attempts to destroy me. As I look at Kristin Prevallet’s I, Afterlife and Hervé Guibert’s Ghost Image, I do not intend to show that these works necessarily detail grief and haunting in the same way I see my own experiences. However, what I will show is that through narratives of grief, their bodies (or those of others) loom over me, as the reader. Through literature, particularly that which fuses together various forms, the traces of these narratives become embedded in my own. To this extent, in Prevallet and Guibert’s works I can use the ways they bring ghosts back to life to better understand the ghosts that haunt me personally, working beyond grief and anger to find pleasure in this reanimation. At the same time, I will ask exactly what can be reclaimed, and what it means to structure my own narrative writing with an understanding of incompleteness.