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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Sad(e) Mistake

Academic C. Paglia tells readers of Sexual Personae, a revelatory book in multiple ways, that Sade "must" be encountered. Yes, by all means, especially by individuals who enjoy reading about characters eating copious servings of human excrement, in more than one instance directly from the source.

"Must" be encountered?

Regret that in a moment of idle curiosity I succumbed to this misdirection.

When Whitman said nothing human was alien to him, he may have overlooked something.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Clothes Make the Man

Joyce, if you haven't heard, 😊, was 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 with 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.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Art & Negativity

When O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra opened in New York in 1931 to critical and popular raves, ultimately delivering the highest acclaim of his career, one reviewer was not delighted:

"The dead, the dying, the insane, the abnormal, filled the stage before us. To a cheery start-off of two murders, [O'Neill] added two suicides and tossed in a heavy seasoning of vengeance, insanity, adultery and incest."

Friday, October 20, 2017

R.I.P. Sebastian

Remarkable the extent to which one was blind to the imposing array of narratological strategies deployed in this when one first read it, what, thirty years ago?

"Sebastian groping on the floor for the drawer, dragging it with a chair out of the room [Miss Frost's]. Had the light been on I would have been mortified. The naked are defenseless. I think night is my best friend. And death an obstacle to overcome till the good ripe years of lust, gluttony and sloth."

O the kidding never stopped.

Cover art (c) Victor Juhasz, 2017. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Le Carré

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold wonderfully suspenseful, clever.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is essentially 70 to 90 percent non-fiction, insofar as I can tell, meaning slightly dull in places, but the masses of information about the objective reality of espionage convey a breathtaking authenticity. Highly educational.

Obsolete "omniscent" narrator, or central consciousness, but that's okay because there are no "musts" in art, or so one is told. The narrator is serious if not solemn, protag Leamas (not the most appealing name, actually kind of annoying to read over and over) grouchy, cynical, highly skilled in the tradecraft of spying; author lives in the past stylistically.

Le Carré a nom de plume for John Cornwell, carré meaning (1) square (2) straighforward, frank.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


When Robert Duncan writes in Faust Foutu (1960, 1985):

"Protect us from those who play with dolls,"

he puts men in the position of being those who play with those who play with dolls.

And when he writes:

"Modesty means nothing to the sea," and:

"I'll fill myself with trouble until I resemble the universe," and:

"The moon upon the water is country enough for me," and:

"For all the hell of history, we have been feeding ourselves into mankind. For Nothing! Nothing!," and:

"I have no extravagant pride in sin. I know it's place," and:

"Everything is truth," (Cf. G.W.F. Hegel: "The truth is the whole," and Sartre's call for a "totalizing" analytic),

one wonders . . . .


Despicably pedantic (though not as bad as Echo's Bones) but not without an air of eccentric, too often lame merriment. I can see now why this was suggested reading for the summer before going off to the nest of tweedy (as in "twee") mediocrities who attempted to teach one the meaning of literature. Classic case of a writer with little to say trying too hard. Clear why it wasn't published in the U$ till after Godot, though it first appeared in London, surprisingly, before, in 1938.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Echo's Bones (Narrative)

Can language be more stilted, pretentious, pompous?

A perfect text to hate-read. And the contrast it presents to the famed trilogy, particularly to The Unnamable, is remarkable, leading to an unavoidable question, The same dude wrote both of these?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Those Brits

class = clahss
past = pahst
figure = figga
schedule = sheh-jewl
job = jub
top = tawp
are = ah
together = togethuh
first = fust
been = bean
what = whot
there = thaaai
yehz = years
wuhld = world


Lying on serious matters is a classic sign of moral depravity.

Five minutes ago NPR broadcast that the Washington Post has recently reported President Pinocchio is on the record as having told more than six hundred lies, in public, since his inauguration.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"A Love Story"

 Dear Ms. Hunt,

Touching “A Love Story” in the May 22, 2017 Nwyrkr (“Yes, the Nwyrkr”):

Profound insights as to gender and motherhood, and the struggle to maintain personal identity in general, repeated laugh-aloud humor, virtually unique situations, what more could a reader want?

You’re good.

With kind regards,

Trite, tired, morose, hopeless,

Tra la,

ASPIRING WRITER (subunderground)

Samantha Hunt, c/o The New Yorker, 1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Further Into the Nightmare

Depraved Donnie's preferred modus operandi is to make snap decisions on the fly.

Umm,  a slightly inappropriate methodology for a president, one would think.

Courtesy: Instagram.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Morning Ritual

Hemingway says, like a longtime journalist, Start with one true sentence.

I say: Start with one imagined sentence, the more unanticipated and incomprehensible the better.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beckett on Jack Yeats

Interesting comment from Beckett in a tribute to painter Jack Yeats (brother of the poet) on the occasion of an exhibition of his works in Paris, 1954:

L'artiste qui joue son être est de nulle part. Et il n'a pas de frères. [The artist who risks his being does not belong anywhere. And he has no brothers.] (Tr. George Craig; modified R.McN.)

This may or may not be a rearticulation of a concept he may have encountered in Baudelaire, that he, SB, imitated consciously or unconsciously; it's said that when writers lift materially unconsciously that they plagiarize, unwittingly, like thieves in the night and congratulate themselves on their originality, Baudelaire's comment having been:

"To be great is to be unique."

Photographer unknown.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Flaubert's Brilliance

On venomous literary critics:

"As long as they don't say it to my face, there's no real problem."

Photo uncredited.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Extraordinary Republican Delusions & the Madness of Speaker Ryan

The incoherence of Republican Party thinking as the misguided House Speaker Paul Ryan and colleagues attempted unsuccessfully to repeal the Affordable Care Act last month is nicely illustrated by this quote from one of the Republicans' worshipped thinkers, F.A. Hayek:

"[T]here can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody. ... Where, as in the case of sickness [italics supplied] and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance, where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks, the case for the state to organise a comprehensive system  of social insurance is very strong." The Road to Serfdom (UK: Routledge, 1944; repr. 1976), p. 90.

So not only were the Republicans spitting in the face of their sister and fellow Americans in their malicious effort to undo Obama Care, which the non-partisan Office of Management & Budget stated would result in millions of citizens losing their health insurance, they were also spitting in the face of their twentieth-century equivalent of Adam Smith.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Times Reporter Shows Openness to a Suggestion

Dear Kristoff,

Read! (When you can.)

I’m not sure if you had a chance to read them, but I made a series of comments in support of your actions touching the intruder who slipped into your wife’s hotel room a few weeks ago, congratulating you on your courage.

Today I write regarding your practice of using the expression 'Read!' in the promotional bulletins for your columns.

I was listening to BBC radio the other day, and the presenter said at one point, ‘Stay tuned, if you can.” This struck me as a wonderful way to show respect for the listener, to avoid the usual fascistic command, ‘Stay tuned!’ No one likes to be bossed around. To say, ‘Stay tuned, if you can,’ shows respect for listener, recognizes that many of us these days are under unrelenting pressure, from minute to minute, to maintain our position in a competitive, not to say dog-eat-dog, workplace, and do not need to have more pressure gratuitously applied via a radio presenter. Or a leading journalist.

Whenever I read your exhortation Read!," it strikes my ear as a sour note, the kind of aggressive act one associates with the archetypal Ugly American—imperialist, domineering, disrespectful, insensitive, ‘superior.’ The content of your columns of course justifies use of ‘Read!,’ no question. However, as Oscar Wilde said, ‘The most important thing in life is style,’ which is an exaggeration, but one that makes a point worth considering. Your ethics are beyond criticism, your writing lucid, your choice of subject matter deeply human, and the tag ‘Read!,’ while politically and rationally justified, is aesthetically, temperamentally, in its implications, out of sync with your good qualities, in my humble opinion.

You have a powerful intellect and you have a heart. I respect both, and offer this suggestion merely as something to think about.

Ponder! (When you can.)

R.McN., ‘69

Mr. Nicholas Kristof, Columnist, New York Times, 620 Eighth Ave., New York NY 10018


April 19, 2017 @ 5:07 PM

Cordial and interesting reply from Mr. Kristof received today in which he exhibits an admirable openness to considering an idea mailed in from out of the blue. 

Sur la Même Page?

Genet writes:

"Unhappiness is the enchanted potion...."

and Beckett:

"Nothing is funnier than unhappiness."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hemingway: Corrigendum

"Courage is grace under pressure."

Intriguing idea and worth considering, but a more accurate definition would be:

"Talent--grace under pressure."

As to courage, cf. M.LeClerc:

"Courage means hanging on long beyond the point at which it is rational--or possible!--to do so."

Of course only a literary near-nobody chips away at greatness. As Joyce has righty said:

"Criticism is a chump's game."

Monday, February 20, 2017

War: Then & Now

In the introduction to the 1948 edition of A Farewell To Arms, Hemingway wrote:

"It is the considered belief of the writer of this book that wars are fought by the finest people there are, or just say, people; although the closer you are to where they are fighting, the finer people you meet; but they are made, provoked and initiated by straight economic rivalries and by swine who stand to profit from them. I believe that all the people who stand to profit by war and who helped provoke it should be shot on the first day it starts by accredited representatives of the loyal citizens of their country who will fight it."

Sadly, yet another instance of the "utopia of language."

As to Hemingway's suicide, I wish the hordes of pettifogging critics and schoolteachers who condemn him for being "self-indulgent" would for once admit that to do something like that, with his Father's shotgun, or anyone else's, constitutes an act of ultimate courage, and that when you're old and sick, with no way out, and almost every bone in your body has been broken at least once, and you have survived two plane crashes, and longtime insomnia is leaving you chronically sleep-deprived, and what sleep you do get is regularly ruined by nightmares, and you are weary of fighting off the self-judgment that you are a functional alcoholic almost as bad off as Scott, and you've seen it all, or most of it, all the triumph and despair and prayer and boredom that constitute the absurdity of the living, why not? Cut the guy some slack, will you? It's not as if he was a teenager caught in the web of the U$ opioid epidemic, caused, incidentally, by the sorry state of public education in this country, a gift from the Repugnant Party, in combination with the blind and pitiful greed of Big Pharma. Who the hell cares when a used-up, worn-out, off-and-on-miserable old man dies? He didn't. He wanted out, and through an act of supreme boldness, got out.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Depraved Donnie IV

Intuition tells me President Pinocchio, who appears to this writer to be a clear and president danger to the well being of the United States, is going, or may have already begun, to self-destruct, go down in flames, be impeached by the House, convicted by the Senate. And what's galling to consider is that it is likely he will take the disgrace in stride, condemn everyone who has played a role in ending his presidency, shrug it off, go about his business of enriching himself and his family by building hotels and golf courses, write a book or two categorizing the rest of us as delusional and vulgar. You just can't win with someone like this. Once he's gone, we'll just have to learn, somehow, not to think about him, that's the best that can be hoped for.

And do what we can to prevent a future freak, pariah, embarrassment, from getting into the White House.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Puzzled Gravedigger

So many, if not most, of one's literary heroes were dead and gone, some long gone, at this age. Not sure how to deal with this.

Perhaps turn to the words of the Eastern sage, or wag, who said: "Free thyself from the future, free thyself from the past, free thyself from the present."

Theater of the Absurd

Having completed the full length drama In the Act some years ago (which I also gave to three friends, none of whom bothered to comment on it, or acknowledged receiving it), I clicked the site of Central Square Theater here in the "Athens of America" to find out the submission requirements.

The theater indicated the submission should comprise the first ten pages of the script and a biographical note, so I printed them out, wrote the standard "charming" cover letter, printed out a bio, and put the submission in the mail. A few weeks, or months, later, I received a letter of rejection from the artistic director (whose name I honestly can't recall, and do not wish to, as my association with this eminent institution was brought to a screeching and definitive halt by this experience), pointing out that the theater specialized in plays that explored the female experience of, and perspective on, the world.

In the first ten pages, there are two characters.

Both females.

I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Word for the Day from N. O. Ting

"Be wild! Without prehistory, we would have no history!"

Bizarre Thinking

The intermittently absurd Bloch:

"No woman ever thought about anything but love and there is not one whose resistance cannot be overcome."

Tr. Lydia Davis (Penguin, 2000); slight edit, R.McN.

Poet in the Academy III

Tennessee Williams at University of Iowa in 1938 on the benefits of a playwriting workshop with one's 'peers':

"Yes, I was horribly shocked, felt like going off the deep end. Feared that I might lose my mind."

Poet in the Academy II

Tennessee Williams grade in Stage and Technical Practice course at University of Iowa in 1938--


Poet In the Academy

A professor at University of Iowa on student Tennessee Williams in 1938:

"If anyone had bet on who would be a successful playwright, I would have bet on anyone but Tom. In fact, I would have bet all I owned, as little as it was, on his failure."

Lyle Leverish, Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams (Crown, 1995).

Photographer uncredited.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Depraved Donnie III

The chief and fundamental fact of Depraved Donnie's (aka President Pinocchio) existence is, in one word--belligerence.

Perfect choice to lead America the Irrational.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Oak Park Ex Pat

"The deeper we go into writing, the more we become alone."

Photo credit A.E. Hotchner

To which M. LeClerc might add: "Writing--the euphoria of absolute freedom, the agony of absolute alienation."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Depraved Donnie II

Silliman writes in In the American Tree (National Poetry Foundation, 1986 ... 2007):

"The sentence, well-formed and complete, was and still is an index of class in society."

This would place Donnie--where?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Depraved Donnie

Two views of today's inauguration:

“In the end, the primary actor is always the people.” 

N.O. Ting: "As horrible as the inauguration of Trump is, it is indisputable that there is a sense of excitement, even enjoyment, in the air over the novelty of what is happening, which is why paying attention to politics is a waste of time.” 

And the taijitu keeps turning.

The Garden of Eden / Hemingway

This posthumously published novel starts off with puppy love on a beach and soon thereafter, unexpectedly, a discussion of kinky sex; probably gonna drop it. One turns to Hemingway for heroism, not hedonism.  Might have been better to leave it in the drawer in which it was found. Rave  quote on the cover from Updike, no surprise there. Maybe I will pick it up again.
Can't complain about the cover art. Photo: Barnaby Hall. Design: Mary Schuck.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Farewell to Arms

A subtle, almost unnoticeable technique in this work (1929, Scribners) is his practice of describing mundane objects with great precision and intensity--a block of cheese, a bottle of wine, the wine's tastes exhaustively reflected upon--and then describing events of maximum importance in a curt, non-dramatic, matter-of-fact manner--for instance the moment when Signor Tenente, justifiably, shoots the deserter in the back, the verisimilitude rising from the fact that shocking, life-shattering events, in the moment, are almost always non-verbal in nature. After saying "Halt" to the backs of two soldiers under his command going AWOL:

"I order you to halt," I called. They went a little faster. I opened up my holster, took the pistol, aimed at the one who had talked the most, and fired. I missed and they both started to run. I shot three times and dropped one. The other went through the hedge and was out of sight.

But the simplicity of the language sometimes goes too far. Consider the following descriptive sentence:

It was a clean little town and there was a fountain in the square.

Sounds like a second-grader wrote it, no?

Here's another contra-Proustian observation, of another town:

It was a nice-looking little town. There were many fishing boats along the quay and nets were spread on racks.

(Cf. Krapp's Last Tape for a memorable incident occurring in a boat along a quay, most def.)

Or this painfully generic description of nurse:

I heard the door open and looked and it was a nurse. She looked young and pretty.

But this is abominable nitpicking. This is a wonderful book and to die without having read it is unthinkable for anyone who loves to read.

It is said books matter because they can change a life. This would be awesome power, and it is wholly unregulated.

Cover illustration by Cathie Bleck. Cover design by Mary Schuck.