Cabinet Magazine: Seeking the cosmonaut of the erotic future


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Cabinet Magazine, the award-winning quarterly of arts and culture that looks fabulous and is always an intriguing read, holds a launch party for issue No. 32 tonight in Brooklyn.

A featured online article from this issue is ‘The Cosmonaut of the Erotic Future’ by Aaron Schuster, from his upcoming book of the same title. He looks at the idea of levitation from hundreds-year-old texts to 1960s art and film, the actual science of space travel and contemporary novels.

What happens to levitation, one of the great imaginative figures of art and literature, in the transition from a religious culture to the disenchanted universe of modern science? What becomes of ecstasy, rapture, ascension, transcendence, grace...?


He’s as comfortable discussing Lacan as he is Ricardo Montalban; the illustrations are as diverse, with a 15th-century painting and a picture from the James Bond film ‘Moonraker.’ As Schuster unspools his ideas of levitation, he brings up French author Blaise Cendrars, whose 1949 book ‘Sky: Memoirs’ promptly went on my to-read list.

One of the great literary works of the past century dealing with levitation, combining the technology of aviation with Christian mysticism, is Blaise Cendrars’s Le lotissement du ciel (literally ‘The Parceling of the Sky’ but translated as Sky Memoirs). Begun during World War II and published in 1949, Cendrars’s book presents a kind of literary collage. Prose poetry, exotic travelogues, personal memoirs, and found texts, including scholarly documents, are all pasted together in a complex construction. Cendrars is renowned as an adventurer, and the stories he recounts here do not disappoint: there is his trip across Siberia with a jewelry merchant, his pilgrimage to a strange Brazilian doctor obsessed with Sarah Bernhardt, his voyage from Rio to Cherbourg with 250 tropical birds (none survive the boat ride), his work as a war correspondent for British headquarters in Paris. But it is the death of his son Rémy, a pilot who perished in the early months of the war, that provides the novel’s ‘center of gravity.’

The launch party tonight is free, and will feature ‘a special live fuse drawing performance’ by Mats Bigert. Alas, levitation does not seem to be on the bill.

-- Carolyn Kellogg