Launch of Jon Roffe's, The Works of Gilles Deleuze I: 1953-1969

To Say A Few Words

Roffe world

a few weeks back Roffe sent an email around asking that someone ‘not launch' this book’ for him. he said something like, ‘tradition demands someone say something’ but ‘i don’t want’, he said, ‘any of that usual book launch bullshit.’

i had two immediate thoughts:

yep, i get it. we’ve all been to book launches; Melbourne is after all an endless series of book launches, you can measure out your life in book launches if you live in this very becoming pretentious city … and, as Roffe is clearly averring, they are often a bit shit. 

when i first came to Melbourne, and because of my meeting with a certain personage, and started to go to book launches i was horrified, almost petrified. this is the scene of the creme de la creme? this is what they do? was it self-flagellating or mutual self fell-ating? i couldn’t tell. i was with Deleuze on this: ‘when i hear the word book launch, i run a mile in the other direction.’

but of course, i made some books and had some launches….

my other thought was ‘Ha! Roffe doesn’t want a launch and he wants someone not to launch it and i know that if i say i’ll do it he’ll think yeah, Bartlett’s perfect because he thinks book launches are shit’! and so i said sure, if you don’t want anything profound or informative but just some praise for all that you are, jon roffe, i’d be happy to stand up and ‘say a few words’.

and he was like, ‘yeah, great, thanks, man…’ as i suspected. i think i even intimated that i probably wouldn’t read the book.

but of course what i already had in mind was precisely to launch this fucking thing, ‘cause that’s the sort of friend i am!’

but, while i am going to say few words about this book, which is more than a book, more than a project, more than, as Roffe mentions on the final page, a ‘professional’ addition to an academic quibble, or as he also says, something that can serve a book panel on Deleuze, what i really want to launch, and what doesn’t need a launch as much as it really demands a place to land, and should have one, and all places which don’t have a place for and space for such a landing  - universities, i’m speaking at you - are totally fucked, is Roffe himself, the creator of this book among others but more than that, the creator and precisely through putting his body on the line, year in year out, no matter the weather or which way the wind is blowing, of an entire world.

of course in saying ‘world’ i’m speaking in terms of the only other worthwhile and slightly better metaphysician of the 20th century.  You know it’s true, one is more equal than Deleuze. that’s simply the communist idea!

as an aside here, permit me a quick anecdote: when, last century, just after having discovered Badiou, which was my sort of recovery from a rather imagistic immersion of sorts in the worlds of your Foucualt’s, Lyotard’s, Delueze’s etc., etc, and i was casting around for a PhD supervisor, one guy i contacted said:

‘Badiou? isn’t he just another Deleuze?’

obviously - for what we can now refer to as Deluezians and Badioueans - this was anathema. i never wrote back.

bUT, and this is why i bring this up, i now think there is something in this, something along the lines of ‘every education is a re-education.’ such that i’d say that Deleuze, in so far as what he invents in philosophy as philosophical is an educator of every Badiouean to come.

while in turn, becoming Badiouean is to take ones proper leave of Deleuze in the direction he pointed. and i’m not saying in saying this that Deleuze is an anti-philosopher, not at all but one who redistributes the parts and elements of what it can be to be a philosopher.

in his post-script to this series of lessons, Roffe cites from Lyotard’s infamous and excellent, Endurance and the Profession: the bit where he talks about making a book out of the everyday, where happiness is the end of the everyday work in the book, but teaching, like study, goes on seemingly interminably.

but still, even though this probably means another book down the road, he’s ok with that because in order to finish you have to not be able to stop. i’m not saying Roffe can’t stop, i’m saying Roffe hasn’t stopped, will not stop, will have not stopped and this never having not, not stopped is precisely the creation of a world - the ‘Roffe world’.

let me put it commercially: no-one has made as much money for the MSCP as Roffe, who of course is also a founding member. this is not unimportant because it helps keep the MSCP going, which allows it to do all sorts of things, on all sorts of philosophers and philosophies and for all sorts of people and increasingly in all sorts of places.

and not every time but overwhelmingly, this is down to Roffe’s enduring weekly, monthly, year by year rumination on the work of Gilles Deleuze. and which i know he, being fed up with it all, is happy to say is done and ended in this book. but which is to say, of course, that he goes on.

so this is to say that the world of which this book is an end is manifold, extended, impossible and ongoing. there is a Roffe world with many, many citizen Roffe’s, and that’s not something many can say about what they do.

friends have all things in common

now, as a convinced Badiouean-Platonist or platonicalist-badiouean or something - probably another reason Roffe was happy for me to do this - i have a few issues with Deleuze. but as i said above, i think this can now - after reading Roffe’s book - be recalibrated along the lines of a re-education.

one of the joys for me of reading this book is that throughout I would register my platonist objections and then Deleuze qua Roffe would express these anyway in a platonist fashion, albeit not exactly in the way i’d demand it, but in a way I would agree with.

for example, Deleuze pegs Plato as a thinker of division, which no-one else to my knowledge has ever picked up. and of course for him, this amounts to a form of thought which ultimately leads to the famous image of thought Deleuze masterfully rips apart as being the integral unthought of the western philosophical tradition.

Deleuze zeroes in on the exemplary feature of this thought of division as that of the drive to definition and for him, this sets up the also famous aborescent schema. if you find the definition, all else is relative and necessarily less than what that something is by definition.

and see, i agree that this image of thought out of Plato has permeated and i agree with Deleuze that the image of thought as thought is not the thought of all or all that is thought - i’m keeping it metaphysical here because as Roffe maintains and is true, Deleuze is a metaphysician and systematiser. Another reason to like him.

but what i want to note - and this is entirely because of Roffe’s lesson on this - is that Deleuze’s redivision of thought and its image is Platonic because, and bear with me, Deleuze is wrong about definition being central to Plato.

what Plato wants, as a good geometer, is demonstration. thought, exemplified here by the ‘what is’ question, is demonstration not definition. but by the rightful prosecution of the image, Deleuze opens up an aporia in philosophy that needs a new intervention and its demonstration as something other than an image. he makes one, of course, and even if it’s wrong, he makes it possible to see what it anyway is not, which is also to say, he makes it impossible to go back. lest of course you be diagnosed negatively in your ressentiment, your bad faith or your need for an ARC.

apart from Nietzsche, I’m not so well versed on the ‘other’ guys Deleuze prosecutes and Roffe transmits to us, in the particular and decisive way that he does; your Hume, your Kant, your Bergson and the ‘minor literatures’. but i can see, and really can see for the first time because of the way Roffe has gone about it, that what i am seeing is a method. perhaps most wonderfully fully articulated as his own, in the great work, my favourite, Logic[s] of Sense.

but let me add a clarification: it’s not that Deleuze brings a ready made method to each. no, the method is what he finds in each to think each, which, as i say, is to demonstrate what is in them more than they know. and then ultimately, to do that to himself, to create the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze.

now, without it at all being an imitation, perhaps more like the affirmative form of repetition, this is what Roffe is able to do to what Deleuze has done. thus Roffe is able to re-educate us in the education of Deleuze.

but note: it would be stupid also to speak of this Lesson as a corrective to the horrors perpetrated by the petit-Deleuzeians and the far worse petit-petit Deleuzians  - the delusional we might say -who turn up in all sorts of ‘faculties’, to use an ambiguous term, using and abusing bits and pieces for implausible, fashionable ends. no, that would be to take them as the book’s object and assign them an active rather than a passive force.

as noted, this book does something simpler, more refined. it renders Deleuze and it renders the ‘socius’ of which rendering Deleuze is necessarily a part and without which you get only quibbles.

so it recognises that Deleuze is critically within metaphysics, which is to say, then, that metaphysics can and must stop being read by down streamers, so to speak, as some sort a limiting concept - which is anyway a metaphysical proposition.

those who lean on Deleuze on behalf of an attack on metaphysics, as some great liberation in thought, more accurately merely a great academic liberalism, show themselves to hold, precisely, a dogmatic image of metaphysics and so don’t know what they claim to know at all. it’s this carnivalesque Deleuze that has proliferated and which you will never find in Roffe, precisely because it doesn’t exist.

to put this in terms Roffe uses vis a vis the reading of Kant: it’s an account of the conditions for the possibility of experience and knowledge in general, and not an account of how particular knowledge claims come about. philosophy contra sophistry, then, the latter being the dinner party special at Mr Rorty’s house.

bodies and languages

now the problem of reading or really not reading a friend’s book is twofold: first, which we will pass by quickly, is the Morrissey notion - Morrissey riffing on Wilde riffing on Nietzsche, anyway - that, ‘we hate it when our friends become successful.’

the second is the problem of their know the issue: every word, phrase or sentence carries their intonation, their rhythm, their sound. when you read them, they are speaking their words inside your head. it’s very distracting and way too intimate.

now, even though these Lessons begin as lectures and were as such written for the voice, and given I know him pretty well - we are truly associated! - his voice, thankfully, is absent; even if his body is on the line….

and it is on the line and the reason we will know this body on the line in this book is through the examples he uses to illustrate his explanation of concepts.

let me run through a few, without context, and without comment, and see what you reckon:

the experience of walking across the room at a party, or miserably waiting for an aspirin to dissolve in a glass of water the morning after an evening of too much gin.

…and it is the same space that I traverse from my bed to the medicine cabinet looking for merciful relief from universal self reflection

 My experience of the passage from boredom to anger in an overlong lecture cannot be divvied up into units or parts, because it forms an integral whole.

Slices of pineapple...

Daydreaming of his first kiss

Stumbling over and again on way home from the party (where he apparently left his headphones)

Whenever I wear this otherwise run of the mill blue shirt, good things happen—I get the energy together to finish a book chapter, can stomach looking in the mirror, or find money on the ground.

The smouldering of a cigarette in the bar downstairs, the sound of a moth crawling along a wall in Prague…

The cigarette whose scent you first imagine from the other room when you hear the match strike, the cigarette whose heat you feel when you take a drag, the cigarette you reason about as you justify smoking it to yourself, and that you later ruefully and guiltily remember—these are the same cigarette.

What is that I’m smelling? Ah yes, an apricot

The first encounter with Szechuan food demands a transformation

We can, indeed, in fact, go mad, and we do, some of us, every day.

And finally, my favourite

… the revivifying eggs I’ve set to baking in sugo in the oven.


to me, Roffe’s great achievement here is a lack of interpretation. it’s precisely what is excellent about this extended and concise exegesis. Roffe is able not to inhabit Deleuze - a stupid notion - nor does he bridge the gap between Deleuze and what and who and how he reads.

what Roffe does here is expose what is there. it’s a tricky thing to write and speak this exposure. it requires you absent yourself and be everywhere at once. it’s not objectivity - you couldn’t write with this level of conception and understanding if you carried some pretence to objectivity - rather, to risk a Badioueanism, Roffe is able to be, with regard to Deleuze, a partisan. a partisan of what is true of Deleuze.

maybe we can say Roffe invents the true problem of Deleuze and as such is forced to and indeed forces himself to give us the concept. not an opinion, not an interpretation, not another fucking reading.

anyway, i have many problems with Deleuze: the event for example, usually appropriated as the break into or with metaphysics, is all wrong. he falls back into potential and not immanence at all, and this is why i once, in another book we did together with that other newly celebrated personage Justin Clemens, and to Roffe’s absolute disgust, called Deleuze an Aristotelian.

it’s to do with the filling up of the event, eternalising its supposed promise, and, coincidently, the destitution of the subject potential necessitates. we revert to a metaphysics WITH metaphysics, so to speak and while not at all ignoring everything else wonderfully critical in Deleuze, i think it is at this point that Deleuze is both successful, in that he ushers in probably more broadly and influentially than even Foucault, a radical redistribution in thought, and its where he also fails because it falls back - even, we can say, it falls back in a new way, but still falls back, into a necessarily more impoverished metaphysics than need be. and of course this is all about the infinite. but i wont go on.

ultimately, I’m not sure whether i came here or was asked to come here in order to praise or bury but in the spirit of Deleuze, the Deleuze Roffe has taught, untaught and retaught me in this book, i want to bury what is dead in Deleuze and praise what cannot die in Deleuze and i think, and what Roffe is uniquely situated to maintain and yes, affirm, and this because he is in no way working within the image of Deleuze, but within and through the thought of Deleuze - whose character i suggested is a little awry - is that Deleuze has in some sense constituted an event in thought in the 20th century.

but what he opens us up to is not to what is already there but what is to be made of what is not, and i’d argue there are ways to make this ‘of what Deleuze is the name’, and they are not at all all the same because of that - the post-event will not have been arborescent, let’s say - but not rhizo-fucking-matic either. (the bane of my rusticated existence is the rhizome.)

but so long as that which is made - which is what affirmation has to name or it names only an infinite and quite pointless potentiality - never betrays what Deleuze has given to us to think and thus, also, to no longer think as thought, then, well, let a hundred Deleuzian flowers bloom, a hundred Deleuzian schools of thought contend, which is as far from a free for all, from laissez aller or laissez faire, a slew of representation or interpretation, from debate, or freedom of fucking opinion as you can get!

after reading Roffe’s book, understanding this book as a singular end of Roffe’s world, the world he created, we have to not only intellectually assent to Gide speaking of Artaud:

we felt ashamed to go back to our places in a world where comfort consists of compromises.’

but we know by the force, clarity and direction of the transmission that it has been inscribed in us, a little sadder, more ashamed, less stupid.

Thanks Roffe.