I have been trying to write an essay on CA Conrad's poetics via his recent Soft Skull book, Advanced Elvis Course. Here is a selection from the essay destined for publication in Paolo Javier's 2nd Avenue Poetry:
"Conrad’s work puts forth a genealogy of morals in the spirit of Spinoza’s ethics and Nietzsche’s evaluative philosophy. This genealogy, like Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s, radically calls into question the relationship between morality and law. Elvis, like a certain Jesus of recent liberation theologies, is that which permits, and he whose only law is love. Not “love thy neighbor” or “turn the other cheek,” but love for the body as that which grounds a just and reasonable society—Spinoza’s socius or Nitezsche’s active affects which overcome that which is resentful, disaggregating, and reactionary. One overcomes (or over-cums) because they are bursting with love for multitudes. As in Melville’s homoerotic law of sea articulated in “The Squeezing of the Sperm” chapter of Moby Dick, singularities “splice” singularities—affect-to-affect, man-to-man. Material bodies are plastic/synthetic; all flesh is just flesh as though related by a blank before or beyond social discursion. Melville makes an appearance in Advanced Elvis Course through reference to a concert Elvis gave in which he shouted the words “Moby Dick” during the break between “Jailhouse Rock” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” Conrad reads this eruption as having to do with American barbarism: “Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.” (43) Yet Advanced Elvis Course, like Moby Dick, takes one figure as its central fact, and from this figure spins an allegorical compendium of socio-political consequence. Elvis, like the Whale, is in all of us. One becomes paranoid to seeing Him everywhere the more one looks."