Everything I Write is as Over-the-top as Richard Klein's Cigarettes are Sublime

Cigarettes are Sublime has emboldened me in my love of infusions of bitter aromatics in lemonade. I've often wondered why I add rose water or cloves to lemonade when essentially it makes the lemonade taste worse. The smell of roses or cloves may be pleasant (although whether they go with lemon is debatable), but they taste bitter. You may object that bitter is sometimes a good flavor, and I would agree, but I must first posit bitter as essentially an unwanted flavor to explain why it can become desirable. Klien is insistent upon the point that tobacco smoke has never been reputed to taste or even smell good, and that nicotine addiction is insufficient to explain the particular pleasures of smoking or its role in the production of 20th century art. He is insistent on this, he says, because of the pervasive witchhunt on smoking (it's no longer 1993, but this persists). The bitter taste of rose water doesn't carry the same stigma or the same genuine threats of poor health and death. It would be going a bit far to describe all bitter tastes as sublime, but Klein's account of the pleasures of the consumption of unpleasant things suggests an explanation of all the vile things I like or liked: coffee, the overconcentrated tea I used to drink as a teenager, chocolate, lemonade with rose water.

Being an academic, Klein has to explain, too, the hyperbole of his discussion of cigarettes, and he does so hyperbolically, in the wordplaying convolutions vagueness of someone who has waded deep into post-structuralist prose. There's something absurdly reverent about the way he writes about cigarettes. He paints portraits of modernists smoking to commune with the unrepresentable beyond that modernists reach for. Instead of the philosopher contemplating his chair, Klein gives us Sartre contemplating his cigarette. Cigarettes provide "little terrors in every puff", or an "intimation of mortality." He also terms the "negative pleasure" of smoking "a blockage", and it is in this sense that I enjoy bitter lemonade. On this point it becomes apparent that my pleasure in bitterness is as invested in a beyond as Klein is. Or is it? Is my pleasure in bitter things as simple as that, not because bitterness forces an encounter with a barrier I can't cross, but just because bitterness tastes good to me? Do I simply desire bitterness--something within reach--or do I desire an impossible infinity through bitterness?

I think I add far too much rose water. More overpowering than the scent is the causticness that lingers in the throat. It slows me; rather than gulping the lemonade, I sip it, savoring and at the same time keeping at bay the flavor. The cominbation of floral and bitter is much like chewing on a lavander spring, another of my habitual negative pleasures. The lavander-chewing dries out my mouth during precisely the hot weather in which I want to be quenched. During the summer, rose lemonade is at once refreshing and dehydrating. It pickles. There's a luxury in drinking something that does not taste entirely wet. I should be keeping myself hydrated, but I'm not doing much about it. Plain lemonade, on the other hand, may be drunk like gatorade. It disappears alarmingly quick; its passage is easy.

It's just this lack of blockage that makes this post so malformed. Not needing to write it all now, I keep deferring the difficult parts. I leave threads bare, promising to weave them in later. The whole thing becomes frayed and unfocused because I still think it can be better than it is, eventually. Not accepting the mediocrity it's bound to be, it becomes worse.

4 July 2012