Chaos More Durable Than Regret

In the story “Alice” by Donald Barthelme, the narrator wishes “to fornicate with Alice” and reports a conversation with her, which may be taking place only in the narrator’s imagination:

that’s chaos can you produce chaos? Alice asked certainly I can produce chaos I said I produced chaos she regarded the chaos chaos is handsome and attractive she said and more durable than regret I said and more nourishing than regret she said

The exchange reminded me of a passage in Geoffrey Miller’s The Mating Mind, a book about sexual selection and the arts, among other things, where he discusses “protean behavior.” According to Miller, a good example of protean behavior is a moth dodging a bat by flying in a pattern too random for the bat to predict. The mental skill behind protean behavior Miller calls “proteanism” (400), and he posits that artistic creativity might be a way of displaying proteanism to prospective mates outside of a threat situation (i.e., a hungry Siberian tiger needn’t be chasing you in order for you to show it off). “Individuals who showed better social proteanism abiltiies should have been favored as sexual partners,” Miller writes (406). Which seems to be the outcome, at least in fantasy, of the mutual auditioning for proteanism between Barthelme’s narrator and Alice.