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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Barbaric or Insightful?

An ardent believer in the institution of marriage--Hadley, Pauline, Martha, Mary--with a noticeable taste for the grape and the grain--"He had begun with absinthe, continued at dinner with a bottle of good red wine, shifted to vodka before the jai alai games, and then settled down to whiskey and soda for the rest of the evening," Ernest Hemingway is a role model for writers fiercely uninterested in the "evolution" of contemporary literary theory, one who in his early career was distinctly apolitical, believing the only way a novelist could "do good" was "to show things as they really were," (the narrator of his autobiographical novel True at First Light referring to novelists as "congenital liars"), this attitude changing after his involvement in the Spanish Civil War, his love of hunting and fishing--over one period of a hundred days he hooked and killed over fifty marlin in the waters off Cuba--justified, in a passage in TaFL one can't find at the moment, by the logic that compared to the nightly killing among the animals themselves, his victims constituted a tiny fraction, and there was no denying they would all die anyway at some point, death by gunshot causing less suffering than a slow death resulting from disease or a lethal attack from another animal. Reportedly drinking three scotches before dinner as a matter of routine, he relied on sleeping pills to turn off his interior light at night, not the first writer to fall into this trap.



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Crossing the Water

Peculiar, arresting phrasing throughout, but not adaptable to the screen.


Shoot To Kill

Hemingway is a wonderful writer, of a kind, in many ways, but he wasted so much time with all the stupid hunting. "There are no subjects I would not jest about if the jest was funny enough, just as, liking wing shooting, I would shoot my own mother if she went in coveys and had a good strong flight." (Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, Carlos Baker, [7-year undertaking, Scribner's, 1969, p. 234.)

But he's given us so much. And it's a small man who throws stones at a dead giant.

Courtesy Fogg Art Museum.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Henry Miller

One cannot say his wide-armed embrace of the sordid and vulgar much appeals, or his kneejerk contempt for most of the people in the shabby circles his narrators move
through in New York and Paris, but his general enthusiasm for moment to moment living is not intolerable, though the texts are overgrown with the poison ivy of exaggeration and "poetic" flights of fancy; one drop of LeCarré's blood in his veins would kill him instantly.


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

Uh-oh

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


Coincidence?

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.

Estelle.

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.



Beckett vs. Joyce


M. LeClerc: "Joyce was obviously highly allusive (Beckett’s early character Murphy being “one of the elect who require everything to remind them of something”), so, to maintain his integrity, to keep from suffocating as a result of having  Joyce’s bathrobe over his head, it would appear Beckett decided to become, with a passion, not to say fanaticism, non-allusive, to adopt feigned ignorance as his strong suit, face in the mud and tasting it, before and after Ping, as he indicates, or seems to indicate, in Krapp’s Last Tape.”


Photographer unidentified.