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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Les Fleurs du Confort

Today's "major" poets collect steady paychecks, enjoy comprehensive healthcare insurance, receive pensions.

And the august and pretentious Wallace Stevens (who, granted, has written some good lines here and there) was a part-timer. Fortunately Hemingway (cf. his letters) was good enough to respond to his slander at a party in Key West by slugging him and knocking him down a flight of stairs, in an effort to bring him into contact with certain basic realities. Various are the ways one can acquire an education.

Baudelaire died with creditors hounding him day and night (once attempting suicide in a restaurant with a knife), often complaining about "my loathsome poverty, my humiliating situation," Jean Rhys' penury drove her into severe alcoholism, Wilde's was pauperized by a bigoted, irrational public morality, Joyce and Beckett lost all their teeth. Have I mentioned Wallace Stevens, the beloved of uncountable lemming academics, was a part-timer?

And Proust had caviar with every meal, his sole excursion into wage-labor a temporary, part-time job as a librarian that he lost as a result of not coming to work on a single occasion.

The conclusion to be drawn is um . . . why don't you pick up the latest copy of the worshipped Poetry and tell me?

Friday, April 13, 2018


Sign of the times from the Dark Ages:

"There was no appeal, as it were; he was imprisoned within the very freedom of his power, and she, though ready to  make  a  footstool of  her  head  for  his  feet, guarded her conquest inflexibly--as though he were hard to keep."

                                                                                                        --J. Conrad, Lord Jim

Sound familiar?

"I grow old, I grow old,
Submerged in the firelight's solemn gold
I sit, watching the restless shadows, red and brown,
Float there till I disturb them, then they drown."

                                                         --W. Faulkner


Alan Watts grew up in a house in rural England known as Rowan Cottage. Faulkner, once successful, purchased an estate in Mississippi known as Rowan Oak.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

One Hand Clapping

The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951, bearing the famed epigram about one hand clapping.

Alan Watt's The Spirit of Zen was published in 1935 and on page 69 of the third edition (Grove) one finds:

"A sound is made by the clapping of two hands. What is the sound of one hand?"

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Constitution of Reality?

A character in W. Gaddis's A Frolic of His Own is "haunted by the sense that 'reality may not exist at all except in the words in which it presents itself.' "

Not sure the humans or hominids of prehistory who communicated in grunts and gestures and lived like packs of wild dogs would agree with this.

New Yorker ad, artist uncredited.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Les Fleurs du Mal

M. LeClerc: "Baudelaire--Let us surrender to lust, defeatism, loneliness, occasional necrophilia, and willing slavery to beauty that stuns."

Not entirely sure this is the royal road to robust emotional health.