Archive for March, 2022

As far from one as the shores of Liberville

March 31, 2022

Read that Joyce was “complicated but superficial” while DH Lawrence was “simple but profound” — what does this mean. Looked up canular, a noun, meaning “hoax-like”, sometimes there were two n’s. Read of Samuel Beckett’s quietism (looked up quietism.) Could I lay serious claim to having sought — to having sought out personal understanding, or a more generally applicable kind of truth — wasn’t I just filling time, etc. “Nothing has changed.” “Categories”: failure to think in terms of categories is “the undoubted root of my failure in general.” To rear back one single light year from experience, at which distance it becomes a concept, and one becomes a poet, “to think” from a meere light year away. I look at this and think this; don’t look at this and see both it and its category. (Also don’t see its absence or its contrary, don’t see it through time, as unity or multiplicity, quite a lot I don’t see about it.) Common emotions while browsing the internet, excluding the most common: indignation, admiration, amusement, curiosity. What I seem most to be doing is akin to constantly flipping through stations, “looking for something good” where “good” equals “interesting or out of the ordinary” (but I’m supposed to be in the ordinary. Or I’m supposed to be out of the ordinary, if I’m to make some claim about having sought, but looking for the out of the ordinary only keeps me the more deeply wedged in it.) Clicking, typing, reading, listening. Looking up ao dai (traditional Vietnamese garment now mainly worn by women) I suddenly come upon an amusing Fellini quotation — you must live spherically, Fellini has apparently said. Which sounds like good advice and I shall attempt it when I get up…. it means in all directions at once, the translated quotation goes on to say. Joyce apparently liked maps as a youth: his Dublin, Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpa, Balzac’s Paris, that drive to make an imaginary world, one’s own Napoleonic empire. Meanwhile, one is so “adult” and so “serious” and so “literary” that one’s creative attempts resemble a child’s: one is forty and fifty and sixty years old and writing and drawing and speaking “like a kid.” One has been an “adult” — unspherical– and is consequently incapable of producing mature artworks or even a business letter. Looked up Amanda Gorman, Kay Ryan. Finished Finnigans Wake, ran eleven miles, found a driver’s license on the trail, picked it up, took it home, put it in an envelope with the address found on the license and mailed it, Couple weeks later got a note back with a gift card — and sat at the computer and looked up smol (internet spelling of small — small and cute.) Looked up Jacobin and Jacobite (always getting these confused). Looked up morgue (means disdain, arrogance, coldness, in French), looked up Liberville, capital of African nation of Gabon, which was once part of French Equatorial Africa. Brewing and shipbuilding industry there. Picture of its coast with worn colonial stonework near the snad and shore with green vine growths tumbling down to it. (It seems like I have written “snad” there, but most likely I’ve intended “sea.”) One wanted to write actually but it seemed “as far from one as the shores of Liberville.” I spend about twenty seconds then looking at an image of the moon Miranda, another twenty reading that poem Michelangelo made while he was painting the Sistine Chapel, another twenty forging comparisons that don’t work (was the computer a kind of Sistine ceiling to oneself, to which one was pressed, etc) Moon of Uranus, daughter of Prospero. Looking up Athenian Democracy and the “Kyklos” and “Mixed Government” it seemed like The Enlightenment had essentially changed the character of Democracy since Ancient days but had it? (The Republic’s portrait of the citizen of democracy continues to ring true, though perhaps that’s because it’s more generally a portrait of humanity. Citizens of all governments will have those attributes.)

March 31, 2022

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Same dream as Kafka?

March 29, 2022

I woke the other morning with a dream of being surrounded by women on stilts and thought this might be the same vision as Kafka entertained toward the conclusion of his early unpublished novel Amerika (which is not, I believe, the title he gave it himself.)

However, looking at the passage again, it seems I’ve misremembered: they were not on stilts but on platforms, hundreds of women dressed as angels, blowing trumpets (Muir translation):

“Before the entrance to the race-course a long low platform had been set up, on which hundreds of women dressed as angels in white robes with great wings on their shoulders were blowing on long trumpets that glittered like gold. They were not actually standing on the platform, but were mounted on separate pedestals, which could not however be seen, since they were completely hidden by the long flowing draperies of the robes. Now, as the pedestals were very high, some of them quite six feet high, these women looked gigantic, except that the smallness of their heads spoiled a little the impression of size, and their loose hair looked too short and almost absurd hanging between the great wings framing their faces.”

March 27, 2022

The right one (A1) moved forward then the left one (A2) moved forward and the right one (A1b) landed on a pebble that could not be felt (C, D) through the rubber shoe sole (E1) but the left one (E2) had struck nothing at all on this pass that it could feel…

On the very next pass however the left foot was observed to have stepped on the stem (I believe the technical term for this “stem” is the “rachis”) of a feather, which was not felt and could not have been felt, not through the thick rubber sole of the shoe (C,D2)

And on the very next pass after that also it was seen to fall on the stem of a dried leaf, which also could not have been felt through the shoe sole, or be discerned from the feeling of the concrete, of the resistance of the concrete to one’s step, through the shoe sole.

Then the heel hit again . The thick padded part was up. “Feet are accented on the penult and at the antepenult are ankles.” (thought) “Then the ten toes, which is a long arc.” (Imagining the feet as poetic or volt meter readers — No. Erased).

Q: you look on your writing through the lens of failure, now how would you see it through the lens of success (if everyone liked it?) Yes. (Writing at that point would probably need to be abandoned if it hadn’t already “floated off.” A person would need to do other things at that point most likely — a person, after all, already needs to be doing other things.) But would your writing look different if [CROSSTALK] Such as all those things one puts off by writing undoubtedly, as if [CROSSTALK] 

Interesting. Now a not quite related question comes to mind: what if the new testament had become the literary sensation of Rome? (Are you saying we are writing the New Testament?) No of course not  [CROSS TALK] (You think we’re writing the New Testament!) no! [CROSSTALK]

What I’m saying is, suppose the New Testament was a best seller in Rome when it came out, like Dyanetics or something, like a Tom Cruise figure was a prominent roman early adopter of Christianity, would that have blunted or neutralized its spiritual content? Would it have taken it away from the early Christians and given it to the educated Romans? And if so, would that tell us something about whether and how we consider “the bible as literature”? (What I think you’re driving at is that it would tell us that it is definitely not literature, except to the extent that literary devices are somewhat unavoidable in writing. Literature is Rome. Literature is The United States. Literature is William Faulkner being sent by the State Department to South America. Proper religion is apolitical, non-commercial.) You still there? How would the Apostle Paul have responded, to have received all that acclaim and status? How would Rome have reacted? Christianity would have been relegated to the literary fad of the season, wouldn’t it? Paul would be Tom Cruise, right? You still there? (I suppose the New Testament did become the literary sensation of Rome, in a sense, only it took a while. I am still here, but I’m fading.)

March 26, 2022

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March 25, 2022

What do you think you will gain by reading Spinoza? Spinoza smart man, you dumb man, so what do you think you will gain?

What do you think you will gain by reading Finnegans Wake? You dumb man. You not going to “realize something”, you not going to “understand something”, why you read this?

(Osmosis, says reader! Something may yet occur through osmosis!)

The idea that one could make of oneself a crossroads of ideas that hadn’t yet met — if only any of those roads could touch also that in oneself that is capable of action or articulation.

The idea that this moisture will ultimately reach the deep underground areas where my nature dwells, and with such an invigoration of dew, find myself well set-up for the performance of noble deeds.

March 24, 2022

Why was the attendant feeling happy, again? It was that grapefruit he ate — amazing how that always supercharged him.

Why was it, again, the attendant had this happy feeling? Oh right, it was that young gal from an while back who’d expressed an interest in history — “particularly the middle ages,” she’d said.

Quite amazing, really, the effect socializing could have on physical pain. People in pain talked to him and felt better. He, in pain, felt better having talked with them. (It could sometimes, of course, have the opposite effect. In fact, perhaps the opposite effect was the more dominant — and nevertheless.)

March 23, 2022

Education, said customer, is nothing more than training yourself to think a certain way to perform a certain job. That is all it is.

A Harvard man, said customer, you could expect to read something and have some kind of response to it, but these particular people seemed to have no response to what they read. They read it, and nothing. Then they read the thing they read after that, and nothing. So on.

Incapable of discerning which of two days it might be, for an uncomfortably long duration

March 23, 2022

This was that common feeling of not knowing quite what day it was, but one that persisted an unusually long time. Was it Wednesday morning, in which case I had two shifts in front of me before I had a day off, or was it Thursday morning, in which case I had only the one shift left and would have tomorrow free?

I searched my memory both forward and back, asked myself three and four times — and still I didn’t know. I could remember certain aspects of the preceding day, but nothing about those aspects identified the day on which they occurred. I gradually came to feel that not only did I not know whether it was Wednesday or Thursday, but did not know, on the basis of thinking alone, how I might come to know.

Ultimately I established it was indeed Thursday morning because I realized I only had one fresh work shirt left (If I’d had two it was likely to be wednesday, three tuesday, etc.) but I couldn’t confirm it independently through my memory until sometime much later.


March 22, 2022

Clerks captures this life very well — the drudgery, the unfulfilled promise, the “characters” . . . is this really what I’ve been doing for two decades? In fact, it is, in large part.

Kevin Smith used his work experience to propel himself into a creative enterprise, into a job he really liked, you might say, whereas I seem only to have made myself the more fiercely ensconced.

This is my first time seeing one of his movies and I intend to watch them all now. Mallrats should be coming soon.

Customers who hadn’t died

March 22, 2022

Customer whom I’d thought had died suddenly appeared. The last time I saw this customer I understood him to be undergoing cancer treatment, and the last time I saw his partner, somewhat later, he was alone and looking extremely sad — sort of communicatively sad — on which basis I made an assumption.

… I probably hadn’t seen him for ten years; would occasionally reprimand myself for having not been more concerned, taken more of a part — then he just suddenly walks in, in perfect health, for a coffee — ridiculous!

Customer whom I’d been telling people had died suddenly calls in. A customer told me that “The Professor” had died and since I knew only one person whom he might have called that, and since I had myself witnessed that person to be in quite ill health, I made mention of his demise to a few intimates around the store, though I hadn’t been able to find an obituary. Then to my surprise one day, not long after, that “professor” calls in — “still among the living, my friend,” he reports, “yes indeed”… which I found to be quite odd. Odd that he was living, of course. But odd also that there was almost no way this person could have learned I was telling people he was dead. “The professor” who had died, it turned out, was a semi-famous black scholar around here, whom I didn’t know, and whom the person who’d told me “the professor died” didn’t know; “the professor” who yet lived was another older blackman with a PHD, whom I considered a friend, and who was known to a number of the local businesses around here.