A Year in Retrospect
Early May inspires nostalgia and hope in equal measure; for those of us still on the academic calendar, trees start to uncurl in the sun and flowers blossom just as everything comes to an end. The blood fizzes, rebels. People disappear suddenly. Everything is in flux. We throw out stacks of paper, pack up boxes, we move to other apartments, other cities, we leave the country.
End something in Spring and you feel the death/rebirth jazz in tripletime, the fecund: ends begetting beginnings, decay and growth intertwined, the snake eating its own tail. End a school year and you're connected to the phases of the moon, illiterate astronomers, pre-Hellenistic Greece, the dawn of agriculture.
It all leads to a certain amount of naval-gazing. I'm no different. I don't take notes in any coherent or helpful sense, but after a year of class and jottings and writing workshops I somehow end with two or three full volumes, filled with cryptic epigrams. I'd forgotten writing most of them, or why I'd written them in the first place. Quotations are marked, but not cited.
I'll ask you to consider what these fragments, stripped of explication or context, suggest to you; in the coming months, among other things, I'll be using them as seeds for future work, some of which will appear here. So you might think of this also as a kind of map, or a preview. Below the fold:
Writing is a tomb.
Blindness as revelation /
Gloucester's heart 'burst smilingly.'
A junkyard in an endless forest. A crabapple tree to steal from, whipping the apples a hundred yards away using green branches.
Her uncle the doctor goes to the gym every afternoon; when business is slow, he goes spear-fishing instead. He tells a new dirty joke each time she visits. His receptionist's husband used to be a painter; she did not know this until one day, when she found a charcoal sketch on brown paper rolled up in a desk drawer. It was a young, very pretty woman; she stood in front of a blue window. The window was the only color in the drawing. The receptionist has never discovered who the woman was. Today, her husband spends months refurbishing antique toys. This month, he has provided a Dracula with a real red silk cape. He has carved a tiny spiral staircase, and a small marble column. He has taped Dracula's line from the Bram Stoker movie and rigged a pen cap to trigger a speaker, so that when pressed, the toy will say his line. It has taken him weeks of work.
Is Richard human enough?
Emphasis by development /
The enemy was coming soon. Past the heap, with the sinister, gaping/grappling, the junk run and bicycles, the rusted meadow whoknows what - the enemy was moving, invisible and silent. We had little time.
Outrage us into idealism.
secondhand hardcover, heavily annotated
a street on the Lower East Side
I wore a very sincere tie. /
A nice blue suit.
Nonfiction a way to wrestle parse digest reality, which is more and more incoherent, strange, and variable.
Milan Airport: cigarette butts drown en masse in each urinal. A sign in English and Italian that requests objects not be placed there has been creatively defaced.
You must take care to write nonfiction as carefully as if you're lying.
The Carlyle Group
'Ysreal,' by Diaz
He told me later, dead drunk in a stateside bar. They'd ridden in, camel-mounted & carrying government guns, and he & the rest had watched it like a Western from the tent flaps until one the locals realized and the screaming started. He told me he'd carried a .45 but had only ever thought to use it on himself, and that he had pictures of the aftermath in his jacket pocket if I wanted to see.
'We feel it sweet to behold
sailors in distress - the vexéd sea -
not out of pleasure in the distress
of others, but because their distress
is the measure of our security.
Police procedurals provide a feeling of security that life itself cannot offer.
'a battery of men and machines /
conclusions based on fact.'
Taxi drivers stopped to salute him. When he entered highway restaurants, people stood up.
O false Cressid,
Let all untruths stand by thy stainéd name, & they'll seem glorious.
& Chaos is come.
Editing dictates meaning in the cinema.
- How can millions of people, their homes & streets, be unreal?
- Very easily. A big city must be like a dream.
Allegory: To speak openly in public otherwise.
French lends itself to abstraction.
Speak Memory, Nabokov
Hear color; orange popping
why we like our artificial flavors colored.
'this tastes red.'
Carpeting everywhere; big plastic crates in the living room; the furnace hissing in the laundry; a lambskin rug; Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow" on the turntable; somebody practicing piano; model sailboats; bleach stains; china dolls; an old television with rabbit ears; a blue Volvo station wagon; a brown refrigerator.
Ideology = the imaginary relationship I have to my real condition.
Romeo & Juliet, unlike its source, is not an admonition, nor is it a warning.
'The white race stood upon this undeveloped continent ready and willing to execute the Divine injunction, to replenish the earth and SUBDUE it. The savage race in possession either refused or imperfectly obeyed this first law of the Creator. On the one side stood the white race in the command of God, armed with his law; on the other, the savage resisted the execution of that law.'
We find ourselves in the eye of the Other.
'For that which is unclean by nature thou canst entertain no
hope: no washing will turn the Gipsy white.'
Nondescript: Animal not yet classified or described by science.
Hearst company mining town, biggest claim in the Western Hemisphere: Lead, Dakota - nothing gold can stay.
There is no gap that prose cannot bridge.
Today I saw a man sitting in Boylston station pouring Colt .45 into a gatorade bottle while he did whiskey shots from a turkey baster.
a matter of emphasis: Goddammit v. God-damn it. Thoughts?
'Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus!'