Through the complicated interplay of his unruly authorial voice, his odd and multifarious narrative diction, and his shifting perceptual frames, Lewis creates the effect of sudden lurches and jolts in the "distances" of narration and rhetorical address. It is this derangement of the virtual spatiality of the text, the reader's inability to fix on a definite and consistent position from which the text is enunciated, that embeds Lewis's satirical intention in the micro- and macrological levels of his works, making a de-forming "riant spaciousness" their overall formal principle. There can be little doubt that Lewis saw this technique as integral to his critique of modernism not just as a literary tendency but also as the unwitting reflection of political, philosophical, and ideological developments to which he was opposed.
One can, in fact, already begin to trace the shift in Lewis's attitude in his responses to criticisms that friends made of his first novel, Tarr . Politely answering criticisms by Harriet Shaw Weaver, Tarr's publisher, about the book's lack of proportion and weakness in the characterization, Lewis concedes:
The criticism you made I made myself to a friend of mine about those first chapters. I make Tarr too much my mouthpiece in his analysis of Humour etc.:= Only what you say does not apply to the fourth chapter, of Part I, in which there are, I think, no opinions, only an analysis of character and action. And you will find, in the rest of the book, that the story and the business of the story is stuck to almost entirely.=In the rest of the book the "opinions" of the principal English character do not exceed the proportion that only may be allowed, but, to be real, is necessary in describing a person like Frederick Tarr.
You must really consider the first three chapters as a sort of preface. But I will admit that Tarr has just a trifle too many of my ideas to be wholly himself, as I conceived him. (LWL , 76)
Lewis's response reflects the modernist editorial and critical standards of the day, even as he tries to defend his creation in places. Tarr and his "opinions" become a sort of paratext, a "preface" to the real story. Moreover, the fourth chapter is presented as superior because of its immanence, its purging of "opinion"—that is, theory, polemic, ideol-
ogy—and its essential (analytic) handling of character and action. At this point, prior to articulating his political critique of modernism, Lewis still believes that it is possible for a literary character to be "wholly himself," to "live" on the page, unaffected by the clamor of ideologies, even the author's own.
Raising a criticism similar to Weaver's, T. Sturge Moore wrote Lewis in September 1918 to say that he would have liked to have seen a cleaner separation between the author and the personae of the novel; unlike Kreisler, the German protagonist, the eponymic Tarr seemed to Moore little more than a mouthpiece of the author (LWL , 99). Moore goes on to focus on the most discursive sections of the book, the paratextual frame where Tarr and his opinions dominate: "! rather regret the preface and epilogue; they will distract reflection from the book itself to the doctrine it will be supposed to illustrate, which is far from being so sound or certain a thing" (99). For Moore, too, the Tarr sections seem extraneous: not part of the "book itself," its autonomous literary cosmos, but of the heteronomic world of ideologies and ideas. This time, Lewis is less yielding, choosing instead to brush off the whole matter: "All I can suppose is that I am really Tarr's hero" (100). Notably, however, far from moving to remedy this "defect" in his later novels, Lewis would accentuate this infection of character and author, and of action and ideology. The "prologue and epilogue" would swell to the boundary of the book and beyond, as Lewis incorporated whole passages from his copious critical writings and wrote criticism using dialogic and fictional forms, while the "book itself," the world of rounded characters with a life of their own, would largely disappear from view. As I have suggested, this development, already anticipated in the formal awkwardness and "flawed" narration of Tarr , at once reveals Lewis's departure from modernist conceptions of significant form and anticipates the rhetorical tools Lewis would use in his satirical and polemical sallies.
Perhaps the most extreme example of Lewis's destruction of formed character and significant form is his "theological science-fiction"The Childermass . In this book, no action or character is "real" or "autonomous," since both character and action emerge out of the demonic manipulation, in ideological and political debate, of the imperfectly manifest souls of the war dead. In the course of the book, Lewis offers a potpourri of parodies of modernist writers (especially Joyce and Stein) and satirizes a variety of typically modernist themes within the general frame of a utopian/dystopian fiction: a limbolike camp of the dead souls of fallen soldiers, waiting to be drawn into the "Magnetic City." Lewis's
"theoretical grammar," his "formalist syntax," and his polemical relation to context collide so violently in this work as to render parts of it nearly incomprehensible. He devotes some of his most difficult writing to satirically depicting a no-man's-land of relativistic time-space outside the city, a unique topography that serves several formal, rhetorical, and thematic purposes at once: to attack the contemporary obsession with time, to parody the recently popularized image of Einstein's "relafivity," to illustrate the penetration of spectacle into reality, and to satirically derange modernism's mediation of events through the perceptions of characters. Yet in so radically disjoining his own ideology, the discursive senses of the text, and its rhetorical address to specific contexts, Lewis cast his authorial voice into a limbolike, dimensionless space notably different from his modernist rivals. Whereas Woolf's choral voicings and Joyce's stylistic ventriloquisms had allowed a notable broadening of the field of "vocal" effects in the novel, precisely as authorial voice was dispersed among a variety of narrating minds or stylistic models, Lewis's techniques repeatedly result in a mocking mimicry that, for all the diversity, of his models, evacuates each of nuance and substance, rendering them one-dimensional and inane.
The Childermass's two main characters, the reconstituted shades of the old school chums and trench soldiers Pullman and Satters, wander outside the gates of the "Magnetic City," which exerts strange effects on the space around it. At first, Satters has difficulty adjusting to this technological-metaphysical space and takes comic pratfalls: "After a few steps he rears up before Pullman's shadow as it bars his path then trips and sits down abruptly. Pullman kneels beside the stricken Satters who sits stating and pointing while he blabs on blindly saluting all the lovely sights. He recognizes Pullman and crows at him as he notices any unusual movement on that object's part but he resists attempts to raise his person from the sitting position." Later, following Pullman's lead, he adapts himself to it, but becomes thereby a kind of grotesque machine: "He is obedient; a correct vitality is distributed throughout the machine; he gets back the dead accuracy required for walking flexibly from the hips and as though born a biped" (Ch , 20). Yet this equilibrium is tenuous, since the space can alter unpredictably: "The scene is steadily redistributed, vamped from position to position intermittently at its boundaries. It revolves upon itself in a slow material maelstrom. Satters sickly clings to his strapping little champion" (Ch , 42).
Lewis similarly creates abrupt discontinuities in the book's rhetorical and narrational positions. Even in the first section, before the incorpo-
ration of long stretches of dialogized philosophical argument and other non-narrative discourse, he employs several different speech-genres in rapid, unmediated succession. These include
Pseudo-neutral language for describing landscape: "The city lies in a plain, ornamented with mountains. . . . Beyond the oasis-plain is the desert. The sand-devils perform up to its northern and southern borders" (Ch , 9).
Parody of Leopold Bloom's jerky internal monologues in Ulysses , filtered through an odd sort of indirect discourse: "Speculations as to the habitat and sport-status of the celestial water-fowl.—Food (fish-fry, frogs?). Speculations as to fish-life in these waters, lifeless they seem: more speculations involving chemistry of waters" (Ch , 10).
Parody of Gertrude Stein: "Pulley has been most terribly helpful and kind there's no use excusing himself Pulley has been most terribly helpful and kind—most terribly helpful and he's been kind. He's been most terribly kind and helpful, there are two things, he's been most kind he's been terribly helpful, he's kind he can't help being—he's terribly" (Ch , 44).
Inane dialogue and its immediate echo in indirect discourse:
"Where did you spring from?"
"I thought I'd take a turn. I couldn't sleep."
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm damned if I know?"
They laugh. Damned if he knows if he's damned, and damned if he cares! So this is Heaven?
Here we are and that's that!
And let the devil take the hindmost! (Ch , 11)
Grotesque tableau: "reptilian heads of painted wood, filled-out tinfoil or alloy, that strike round beneath the gusts of wind, and pigs made of inflated skins, in flight, bumped and tossed by serpents, among the pennants and embossed banners" (Ch , 15).
Satiric comparison: "Fresh as a daisy, he reasserts their ordinary solid life-spell in common acts and great homeliness, of housewife-order" (Ch , 26).
It would be possible to extend this catalog much further, especially if one went beyond the relatively unified opening section into the disorderly pastiche that characterizes the latter two hundred pages of the
book. What is significant, however, is Lewis's implicit paralleling of the discontinuous hallucinatory spaces through which he hurries his characters and his text's discursive and rhetorical leaps from register to register. In representing a dissipating world in a veritable explosion of styles, Lewis tears to pieces the modernist text's organic unity of form and content and presents his own book as a tottering machine assembled out of the wreckage of modernist literature.
In The Apes of God , Lewis's episodic demolition of the upper-class bohemia of the Sitwell and Bloomsbury circles, he achieves a similar effect by making it difficult to attribute utterances to distinct speakers. He presents, for example, pseudodialogues in which each statement merely extends the inanity of the previous one, and each speaker becomes no more than an anonymous, perfectly interchangeable instrument of grammar's empty rehearsal of its forms:
"Do you know———!"
"! had exactly the same impression Sib!"
"It was identical!"
"! do think that was a coincidence!"
"Wasn't it! I thought my ear must be deceiving me! It
would not be the first time!"
"Don't talk to me about one's ears! But I believe we must—"
"I don't believe our ears have played us false!"
"In this matter—I believe they haven't!"
"I am not positive—but I should be surprised if they had deceived us!"
"For once I do believe that mine has proved trustworthy!"
"Not more so than With mine!" (AOG , 362)
These lines, spoken by the Finnian Shaw family, reveal them to be a chattering collective machine. Lewis comically presents a discourse functioning in the absence of any reference (it is elided in the initial question) while dramatizing the way that the fiction of a referent can allow this hollow mechanism to grind on, simulating life.
This faux speech is not, however, confined to the ostensible objects of satire, the "apes" among whom Horace Zagreus sends the young naif Dan to familiarize him with their ways. It equally characterizes the speech of the figure in the book representing the satirist's perspective, the anatomist of the apes, Zagreus himself. Zagreus incessantly stages prerehearsed discourses—"broadcasts," as they are often called—learned from his master, Pierpoint, whose words dominate the book but
who never himself appears. Thus after an exchange about satire, Horace breaks off:
"What did you think of it?" Horace asked suddenly, in almost a timid voice.
Horace saw that his duettist was cross.
"The scene Julius—what we have just done together Julius."
"I thought it was good! Was it all Pierpoint this time
"Very striking!" (AOG , 453)
Even Zagreus's laugh is borrowed from Pierpoint: "A loud peal of super-pierpointian laughter stormed the ears of the assembly. The swaying figure of Zagreus become the focus for all eyes whatever" (AOG , 506). This laughter is wholly feigned, as Pierpoint's secretary, Starr-Smith, explains to Dan: " 'Zagreus has no sense of humour at all—although he laughs so much!' " (AOG , 508).
By continually underscoring that Zagreus's utterances are not his own, but only a recitation and a repetition of something already said by Pierpoint, Lewis foregrounds the radical loss of autonomy in his character's eclipse behind a preconstituted discourse. In this respect, Lewis gives a political explanation for that voiding of the subject which Beck-ett would later take up in Watt as a free-floating, contextless condition: "Watt spoke as one speaking to dictation, or reciting, parrot-like, a text, by long repetition become familiar."
Starr-Smith, who attends the Finnian Shaw party dressed as a Black-shirt and who is referred to as "Blackshirt" or "the Fascist," also represents Pierpoint's perspective, defending him against Zagreus's too-free use of his words and doctrine. Some readers might assume that Lewis represents fascism as an alternative to the farcical decay of the ruling class that finds its exemplary image in the Finnian Shaws. Yet two objections make problematic the view of Starr-Smith as the fascist "fix" to an otherwise all-encompassing spectacle of decay. In the first place, Starr-Smith is as much compromised by the "broadcasting" of Pierpoint's words as Zagreus; he moreover engages in gratuitous acts of violence and closes ranks with Zagreus again at the end, sure signs of Lewis's unwillingness to stake his claims on this character. As Geoffrey Wagner writes of Starr-Smith and of the related fascist figure in The Childermass , Hyperides: "In his satire, Lewis often shows himself ready to poke fun at stupid traits by no means ridiculed in his criticism; it is true that the Fascist Starr-Smith of The Apes is almost the only man of good will in
the work, but Starr-Smith is frequently found 'broadcasting' in an obvious skit of Fascist oratory, while in The Childermass the Followers of Hyperides give what may be intended as a parody of similar rhetoric." Still more important, Starr-Smith is not a fascist, but is only dressed as a fascist for the Finnian Shaw costume party. He apes a different master, but apes all the same. The slippage from the costumed Blackshirt to "the Fascist Starr-Smith" in Geoffrey Wagner's argument above is symptomatic, for Lewis goes out of his way to tempt the reader to identify "the Fascist Starr-Smith" as fascist and therefore as the locus in the text of Lewis's own fascistic leanings. Yet Lewis carefully bars this identification as well. Starr-Smith, he underscores, has only donned fascist drag, just as the Blackshirt only mouths the absent Pierpoint's ideas:
Why do you suppose I am here with two more, who are volunteers, as 'fascists' of all things, to-night? Nothing to do with Fascismo —the last thing—can you guess? It's because I picked up three khaki shirts for a few pence and dyed them black—the whole outfit for the three of us did not cost fifteen bob! That is the reason." (AOG , 509)
This disavowal, however, does not put an end to the vertiginous problems of the "fascist's" identity. Starr-Smith is only dressed as a fascist; yet on what authority does he thereby claim that he is no fascist? What is the difference between "playing a fascist" and "being a fascist," especially since fascism is a doctrine of action and "propaganda of the deed"? Lewis sets this costumed play at being a fascist at a party in apposition with the costumed spectacle of a black- or brown-shirted political party of fascists. Fascism for Lewis here, like femininity for loan Riviere, appears as a masquerade—a costume, a set of signs to be deployed, an aesthetic construct extending theatricality into the political sphere. The apparent antipode of the decadence of the upper classes, fascism's revolutionary gestures are no less a misappropriation of the artist's mimetic privilege than is the fashionable "aping" of the upper-class bohemia. The aristocratic class origins of Starr-Smith's model, Oswald Mosley, would have reinforced Lewis's depiction of fascist spectacle as the extension of aping by other means.
No character's point of view provides the reader with a perspective from which to judge the other characters and their actions. Each of the various perspectives taken up—the naif Dan, the practical joker Zagreus, the cynical "split-man" Ratner, the homosexual gold digger Margolin, the faux fascist Starr-Smith—offer positions from which other characters appear in a satiric light. The idiotic innocence of Dan and the puff-
tanical rigidity of Starr-Smith play off against the cynical amorality, the giddy childishness, and the mannered hedonism of others. Yet every position that is provisionally adopted only exposes the stupidity and degradation of every other one.
Lewis does, however, hold out the possibility of an Archimedean point outside the represented action, one akin to the author's own relation to his created characters: the mysterious Pierpoint. Lewis coyly puns on Pierpoint's name: he is, Lewis hints, the "peer point," the anthropomorphic point of view from which the spectacle as a whole might be surveyed. His would be a god's-eye view that could measure how far this creation has fallen. Pierpoint's orchestration of the various characters' broadcasts and skits, his metafictional puppoteering, reflects the satiric machinations of Lewis as author of The Apes of God . With the absconded deity Pierpoint, the reader is led to hope for a margin of authenticity nowhere else available.
Lewis's rhetorical intention, however, is far more complex than that of persuading readers to accept Pierpoint's philosophy, a doctrine markedly similar to that advanced by Lewis in his polemical works of the late twenties, The Art of Being Ruled, Time and Western Man, The Dithyrambic Spectator, The Diabolical Principle , and Paleface . In fact, even Lewis's critical prose does not so much aim to persuade as to foreground the act and technical apparatus of persuasion, to reveal the forms of power, the "art" by which one is ruled. As Dasenbrock suggests (discussing The Art of Being Ruled ):
What Lewis wants to do . . . is to create a theater in which his readers come to be suspicious of all ideologies and to question all fixed points of view. He wants us not to think the puppets are real and we are fighting over something important but to ask who is the puppet master and how is he trying to dupe us through the show. Lewis is, of course, the puppet master of his world, so he would be being inconsistent and untrue to what he hopes to accomplish if he were to deliver a fixed position and set ideology in the world of the text.
Lewis's late modernism differs from the classical satire of the eighteenth century, Daniel Schenker suggests, insofar as Lewis lacks definite stylistic and doctrinal means for persuasion. In fact, one could legitimately argue that Lewis was altogether suspicious of persuasion, of any use of the word in and as action. But this posture of total suspicion is, of course, an aporetic one, given that he aggressively aims to persuade readers of this view in work after work.
Lewis's rhetorical attack on rhetoric accounts for the contradiction that Julian Symons identifies in Lewis's novels of the thirties (though I would disagree with Symons that the contradiction is mainly confined to these novels): "All of them are essentially critiques of meaningless mindless 'action.' . . . We are confronted, however by the inescapable fact that the novels are the work of a man fascinated by the violence they condemn. . . . It could even be said that Lewis's style, ejaculatory, assertive, loaded with images and jokes, is an embodiment of action, and certainly it is active rather than passive like the styles of most novelists." Actually, both Lewis's fiction and his critical works (which in the late twenties emerged from the same original matrix of prose, The Man of the World ) share this contradictory or aporetic antirhetorical rhetoric, this evasive ideology of ideological suspicion. It leads Lewis into the intellectual contortions and inconsistencies in his critical works and the narrative discontinuities and reversals in his fiction. Lewis's texts, insofar as they represent a world in which spectacle and reality have become indistinguishable, are caught in this same bind, dramatizing their own status as diversionary spectacle from another scene, as decoys and props of an absent power, as persuasions made fatal by persuasiveness. Paradoxically, they say to the reader, buffeted and dazed by Lewis's bellicose prose, "Do not have read this book."
These reflections should help to reveal the aporetic aspects of Pier-point, the internal (but absented) puppet-master figure of The Apes of God . Zagreus, Starr-Smith, and others in the book are compromised not by their divergence from Pierpoint's critical views but by their apish imitation of them, their inability to express any true individuality of speech and thought. The reader's acceptance of Pierpoint's statements as maxims to be adopted and reused would, it follows, put him or her in the very same position as the apes. Lewis establishes these rhetorical antinomies as a spur to independence from persuasion, not excluding from this universal suspicion his own pet themes. If the reader fails to attend to Pierpoint's doctrine, satirically enacted in the book, s/he becomes (or is already) an ape. Yet ifs/he takes Pierpoint's doctrine as anything more than a thorn for hidebound thought, then s/he is all the more ape for thinking that autonomy may be had from another's critical discourse.
In Time and Western Man , Lewis formulated this problem in an enigmatic theological reflection: "Only with a transcendent God is it possible to secure a true individualism" (TWM, 434)- The guilt of the char-
acters in The Apes of God is that they fail to detach themselves from their creator, of whom they are the mere apes and puppets. Correlatively, however, the godlike Pierpoint is diminished through his "metafictional" presence in his created world. He appears constantly, but through his apish, puppetlike representatives: through Zagreus, his propagandist; through Starr-Smith, his strong-arm man; through Ratner, his publisher. He is in this sense secondary to them, even as they imitate his model. They "interpret" him, both as a musician interprets a score and as an explicator interprets a text. In turn, the interpretations begin to eclipse the original altogether. If the modernist author organized his/her works through an ironic distance from the characters, while revealing the traces of a rich awareness in the symbolic unity of style and invented form, then Pierpoint is the modernist author no longer able to perform the difficult balancing act modernist writing demands. His avatars have taken on a largely spurious but destructive freedom from his authority, forcing him to show his controlling hand too openly to maintain a consistent posture of ironic distance.
Pierpoint's figure shuttles back and forth between political and aesthetic critique. Politically, he represents the ruling hand increasingly forced to show itself behind the culturalized politics of liberal democracy. Through Pierpoint, Lewis dramatizes the mobilization of bodies by disembodied voices and ideas ("broadcasts") and the concomitant loss of authentic individuality in contemporary society. His interventions, including the dispatch of his "fascist" agent Starr-Smith to the Finnian Shaw party, reflect the more open exercise of power that will follow on the disintegration of liberalism. In political-critical works like The Lion and the Fox and The Art of Being Ruled , Lewis suggests that for the "ruled," himself among them, the open exercise of power in fascist and communist countries might be preferable to liberal democracy's production of consensus through culture. Yet while in no way himself an advocate of feminism, homosexuality, youth cult, and other cultural-ized forms of revolt against traditional authority, Lewis was not being disingenuous when he expressed his provisional approval of them. For these tendencies, as such representative of all Lewis hated in liberalism, were also in his view the forces leading it most forcefully into crisis and hopefully to its death. The key issue for Lewis at this time was not to oppose the inexorably advancing destruction of democratic consensus but to negotiate the blighted period of transition and to survive. Pier-point represents not so much a solution to the crisis of liberalism, a new
authority principle emerging behind the spectacle of its decay, as the ambiguity of the crisis itself, holding the potential for either catastrophe or renewal.
Aesthetically, Pierpoint's figure satirizes a particular social situation of the modernist writer in the late twenties: the reappropriation of radically innovative art within an economy of discourse (journalistic, commercial, critical, academic, connoisseurial) that had taken on a life of its own. The encroachments of the broader economy on art's relatively circumscribed domain and art's compromises with extra-artistic trends remained a consistent theme in Lewis's work after 1926: in his analytical opposition of creative and interpretive activity in Time and Western Man ; in his satirical depiction in Snooty Baronet of publicity in the publishing industry; his unflattering presentation of Rend Harding's vulgarizer "Rotter" in Self-Condemned ; even in his rueful autobiographical reflections in Rude Assignments about the dissipation of his talents on polemics to the detriment of his fiction. By compromising even the detached author figure and semblable Pierpoint, Lewis creates a fictional cosmos reflecting his dismay with the real one. He offers his readers only an unstable space of words in which every place from which to speak is already, from the beginning, dislocated; and in which modernism's unique authorial voice endures, but degraded to the tinny broadcasts of a stereotyped discourse.