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Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Best Minds?

I saw the best minds of my generation . . . .

The "best"? Seriously? So who are we talking about here? Can it be the case we are talking about a surly crowd of shiftless low-life psychos, drunks, random drug addicts, grifters, graphomaniacs, sex addicts, and burglars, like Herbert Huncke, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Neal Cassady, Kerouac, Burroughs, and any number of nameless human rats living in or near Times Square? Perhaps it can. Though Ginsberg's accomplishments and travels cannot be sneezed at. The man kept his shoulder to the wheel. And who hasn't exaggerated at one time or another?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The View From Mt. Conservative

Katherine Mansfield on first reading Ulysses:

"This is obviously the wave of the future. I'm glad I'm dying of tuberculosis."

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tennessee Williams on Papa

"Hemingway usually kicks people like me in the crotch."

His fears were misplaced. When they were introduced in 1959 at the Floridita by Kenneth Tynan, they got on like blood brothers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Unauthorized Edit

Pat Benatar is an incomparable rock vocalist and Hit Me With Your Best Shot one of my all-time favorite songs. But every time she sings:

"You've a long history / of breaking little hearts / like the one in me," I wince.

The line should obviously be:

"You've a long history / of breaking lovers' hearts / like the one in me." Why didn't she have me look the lyric over before she released the tune, one of the greatest ever recorded?

Oh well  . . . .

Next time, Pat. For you I'm available 24/7. Call me, any old time you can call me.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Blue Eyes, Black Hair: The Ultimate Weeper

The most pathetic novel I've ever read, pathos pouring out of every pore, the two main characters weeping alone or together, profusely and in a deep agony (resulting from their mutual absence of social skills and anything remotely resembling decent mental health) so many times one loses track, creating a wave of hilarity that one can't help surfing right to the end of this skinny work that one bought as a hardcover remainder, having been born to buy remainders, Hemingway couldn't have stood more than two or three pages of this profoundly unrealistic, unintentionally comic pity-party, though it is not without some characteristically striking, despairing yet oddly sustaining, Duras lines:

"I wanted to die with you. I thought, Let me put my body close to him and wait for death."; "You're my lover because of what you just said--that you don't want anything."; "Knowing, with you, is knowing nothing at all."; "He extracts his pleasure from himself. At his request she watches him."; "He gets extreme pleasure from her desire for another man."; "The kiss has brought their bodies closer together than nakedness.";  "The kiss of their lips has spread through all of his body. It's held inside him completely, like an untold secret, a happiness that must be given up out of fear, fear that it might have a future."; "He'll turn over, cover her body with his . . . and slowly sink into the hot slime of the center." Lusty hyenas, mon amour.

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. And he didn't believe in living as a fountain pen. During World War II, he was away from his writing desk for four years.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Crossing the Water

Peculiar, arresting phrasing throughout, an abundance of metaphor treats, and high stakes, assuredly, but lacking a beginning, middle and end, and a single overriding problem or challenge to clarify and unify the action, and build, not adaptable to the screen--unless von Trier takes it on.

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. And it rubbed off on him. "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 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 not 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.

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.