Thursday, August 30, 2012
The sequence began last night not long before dark.
We were walking Blue when Lyn pointed up at the mountain to the east and said WHAT'S THAT!
Between some trees there was an enormous spotlight.
Seconds later we realized it wasn't a UFO but the moon rising quickly from behind the mountain. It soon floated there in all its gibbous (swollen, humped) glory.
It will be a blue moon tomorrow, when it's full, Lyn said to our own Blue Moon -- Once in a Blue Moon -- more interested in the scent trails left by other animals who had passed our way than in an arbitrary calendar.
I didn't sleep much during the night, listening to the silence that is one of our little mountainside town's best features. Crickets insistent in the silence. A distant dog barking for a minute. A little breeze in the oak brush.
And then about 5 a.m. a car driving up the hill, pulling into our neighbors' driveway, the sound of a newspaper hitting the driveway, the car backing out and then accellerating on up the hill.
The big moon was now on the western horizon. To the east, a burning Jupiter had risen and just south of it Orion's belt stood vertical and bright. Dark skies are another fine feature of our little town.
I remembered the morning, about the same time -- between 4 and 5 a.m. -- maybe 1966, in Farmington, New Mexico, when I was driving a car full of newspapers down dark roads and the black sky lit up with a fuselage of meteors, hundreds of them over an hour's time, thrilling extra-terrestrial manifestations for a boy out doing a job.
The job was courtesy of my father, a junior-high-school teacher who for a second income had taken on the distributorship of the Albuquerque Journal in our town. Two mornings a week I drove at 4 a.m. to a warehouse where a truck dropped off bundles of papers and loaded them into our family car. I drove through town, stopping at every cafe and restaurant, at hotels and motels, taking unsold papers and emptying coins out of locked tubes and filling the racks with new papers, driving through empty streets to houses where paperboys still slept, counting out bundles of papers to match their routes, slipping, finally, at about 6 a.m. back into bed for a half hour before being woken for breakfast and 7 a.m. seminary at the church, after which it was time for school.
Max Weber would understand this semi-Protestant work ethic perfectly.
One morning I woke up just after 6, horrified that I had overslept, raced to the car, drove to the warehouse, found no papers, drove to the first cafe and found the rack already full of the day's paper. Same with the next rack and the next. I drove to a paperboy's house and found his bundle of papers on the sidewalk. I had already delivered all the papers—in a half-sleep.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The novels are an elaboration on Philip Larkin's famous "They fuck you up, your mum and dad . . . They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you."
Patrick Melrose is 5 years old in the first novel, 22 in the second, 30 in the third, and a married barrister in the fourth. A fifth novel has appeared, At Last, but it's not included in this volume.
If a reader needed an excuse to despise wealthy Englishmen and women, this novel is the excuse in spades. The satire is venemous, as vicious as anything I've ever read. I was glad to be an American and not an Englishman until Patrick brings his family to American and the satire is aimed at us—obese and stupid are only the pale beginnings of the justified attack.
These are psychological novels, introspective and merciless and insightful and despairing and even funny. A couple of quick examples:
Patrick wakes up in the third novel "desperate to escape the self-subversion of irony and say what he really meant, but really meaning what only irony could convey" (302).
Patrick and his wife Mary and their sons Robert and Thomas (a baby) are visiting Patrick's mother who has destroyed herself and her family and her fortune with alcohol and earnest but silly philantropy. She tries to speak but can't find words.
"They were all lost for words, except for Thomas who had none to lose" (502).
And, of course, for a tireless collector of references to standing as metaphor, this was a gem:
"All sex was prostitution for both participants, not always in the commercial sense, but in the deeper etymological sense that they stood in for something else" (543).
Finally, the book was a pleasure to hold. As you can see in the photo, the pages are uncut, reminding me of what I expect in a new hardback novel from Knopf, for instance. Toni Morrison's Home is the most recent example on my shelf.
I was uncertain about the word "uncut," since it can also mean those fine old books that must be read with a paper knife in hand (I've only had that pleasure once, with an East German book of variant texts for Brecht plays performed at the theater at Schiffbauerdamm in East Berlin).
I looked it up on the American Booksellers' site and "uncut" is indeed the right word, as is "deckle edge." Investigating just a little more, I found that paper was once made in a mold called a "deckle." When the paper dried out the deckle was removed, leaving an uneven deckle edge.
Finally, I went looking for uncut edges. I've got eighteenth-century books that have cut edges, nineteenth-century books with cut edges, and most of my twentieth-century books have cut edges. Clean and efficient.
But then this discovery: a set of Kipling's works with uncut edges on the bottom and side both! and cut, gilded edges on the top.
None of this, of course, would be possible with an E-book.
|corner posts (the artist Bruce Nauman, by the way, made|
a film of himself setting a good corner)
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Friday, August 17, 2012
|good looking fellow|
|the two bucks had done a little light jousting, then returned to browsing. the photo catches a moment when the buck|
on the right decide to butt his buddy (pun intended), who then took a surprised jump
|smoke from california fires is the lens here|
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Jean Fremon's novel (novel?) The Botanical Garden, translated by Brian Evenson and published this year by Green Integer (the French original was published in 1988) answers the question: very little, if we're talking plot.
What happens in the book? The narrator gathers thoughts, his own and others', into little groups. The narrator proposes catalogues—of penises, for example—and admits to a fondness for taxonimies. The narrator relates details from the lives of an old woman, of a feared and beloved thinker, of his lover, of a camel, of a playwrite. The narrator thinks about narration:
"He said: to tell stories is to ratify the social. To take part in its game. Since childhood we have been constituted by stories that we have to believe in, take part in, that we have to reproduce, mimic. A cunning joining of stories fabricates the temporality into which we are thrown and gives to the arbitrary or sleight of hand the semblance of natural causes.
"To shatter narration is to kick against this, he said"
There is change over time, as befits a novel. The narrator's lover leaves him for the playwrite. The narrator's friend Karl falls ill and can communicate only by writing on a slate (the book is like a series of notes on a slate):
"Karl is doing better. He had them bringing him chalk and slate and that's how he communicates with his visitors now. It suits him well: he retains the initiative. No general conversation, useless to clarify.
"The slate is serene but absent. Far from everything. Today it told me: 'Values dislodge facts.'"
The camel, who has been acting in a play, gets pregnant.
There are conundrums:
"A rat eats of a consecrated wafer. Does he ingest the Real Body?
"If yes, what is to be done with the rat?
"If no, what has become of it?"
There are—and this is the fragmentary essence of the fragmentary book—lots and lots of interesting thoughts:
"It's as if the sentence were capable of extracting what happiness there is in unhappiness and filling our heart with this extract, just like how a very pure, very beautiful, very profound and very sad melody fills us at the same time with happiness and sadness, and the more profound the sadness is, the more the happiness flares up. . . ."
The narration, finally, puts us in the mind of the narrator and the plot is the sequence of the narrator's thoughts. There are lots of commas.
I read the book slowly, a few pages each morning over the course of a couple of months. The reading matched the writing—fragmentary, unconcerned, tenuous, patient, surprised, concerned, amused, uncertain, bored, delighted.
The Austrian playwrite is named Thomas Narr. Narr means fool in German. Narr is the beginning of narr-ation.
What does a story require? A kind of sly foolishness.
p.s. Thomas Narr reminded me, in a couple of places, of Peter Handke. His attitude towards literary awards given by people who misread his work for their own purposes, for instance, or his play "composed principally of insults directed at the spectators."
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Monday, August 13, 2012
Mormon readers of The New York Review of Books may have been surprised by the recent cover that promised an essay on "The True Moroni." Evidently, there are other Moronis besides the golden one blowing his trumpet on the spires of Mormon temples -- including the hot Moronis sold on Austrian streets (roasted chesnuts).
Sunday, August 12, 2012
|Mujo and Hasso story|
|Foca, bridge destroyed by a bomb from a NATO jet -- photo by Thomas Deichmann|
|Who bombed that bridge? the man asks me. We did, I say.|
|A visa allowing me to enter the Republika Srpska for "humanitarian reasons."|
Thursday, August 9, 2012
This drawing brought back memories (see below). We had tea that day in 1998 in one of the low buildings to the left of the wide opening just before the bridge.
In less than five minutes we have passed through the town. We’ll come back this way tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
|sky like paper|
Alex gave me an early birthday present, one of eight copies of his book NINETEENSEVENTYSEVEN, handmade and with a warning: "this may not be your cup of tea."
I answered: "Your tea is my coffee. Your mystery is my metaphor." I put the book up to my cheek and brushed the rough paper. I put my eyes to the dappled, thick paper inside. I put my mind to the images and felt it warp.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Friday, August 3, 2012
Besides the passage that initially attracted our interest (the ecstatic whipping with barbed wire under the influence of the Holy Spirit), the wire is also used in more mundane situations, as in this early scene:
|Photo by Eugene Richards, from The Blue Room|
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Ec-stasy is the subject of this big novel. Standing outside. Standing outside of time, of one's own consciousness, of life itself.
When Rachel, for instance, is giving birth: “she stood roaring into the forest” (326). Pain = ecstasy.
One extraordinary scene puts a reader with the last people on top of the last mountain as the flood rises and kills them while Noah's ark nudges the last bit of earth. Noah's sister Anna stands among them and watches.
They were now standing on an island and were surrounded by sea on all sides. . . . Was it strange that all they did was stand and stare and stare? . . . (320)
The experience is beyond any he has known since he was eleven, and it is deadly. If it weren't deadly, it would not be ecstatic.
But who is writing about Bellori and his findings? Who is making up the Bible stories? It's a modern Norwegian narrator who himself is looking for ecstatic experience, conditioned to do so, at least in part, by his father's own extremities.