Archive for 2008
There was something about her good friend T. S. Eliot that seemed to amuse Marianne [Moore]. On Eliot’s first visit to Brooklyn after his marriage to Valerie, his young wife asked them to pose together for her for a snapshot. Valerie said, ‘Tom, put your arm around Marianne.’ I asked if he had. Marianne gave […]
But memory’s sudden release of the genie held captive inside matter, like a spirit bottled by an evil witch, is much more often for me both generator and principle of a happy feverish fugue than the quietism of a Proustian illumination. Resparked, the precious images kept so long in darkness – all of them – […]
all the baggage
So I was reading Paul Fussell’s book about travel, Abroad. Of course it’s not just about travel, though he does spend some thirty-odd (or more or less, I’ve returned it to the library and cannot refer to it now) pages lamenting the impossibility of true travel1 in this degraded age of tourism, it’s about literary […]
A book, June 2002. There is the fear of exposure (as if one would be exposed as, really, nothing), or the general theme of exposing (the debutante ritual, or the pretense of initiating someone into ‘something’ that isn’t really ‘there’). There is the anxiety of being out of place (an ‘American in Europe’) especially and […]
hold my coat and snicker
I remember being told by a teacher not to read Jane Eyre, because I would be reading it in her class in the fall. Of course I read it that summer. Propped in bed, or curled in a corner, but finally finishing peripatetic. That’s how I remember it, anyway. I walked the three miles from […]
Our ancestors wrote prose in long, beautiful sentences, convoluted like curls; although we still learn to do it that way in school, we write in short sentences that cut more quickly to the heart of the matter; and no one in the world can free his thinking from the manner in which his time wears […]
I’m holding the envelope in my hand, the envelope which says where I’m going to spend the next few years. It feels like I’m holding my future, that it’s fragile and if I look at it incorrectly it will spontaneously combust or dissolve into dust. I know this is not true. I know that it […]
in the workplace
We bicycled four miles through the strange weather of a Portland spring (snow, hail, rain, and sunshine, all in the span of two or three blocks) to see a movie about torture.1 As a movie, I don’t have much to say about it; if the topic interests you, or if the current state of America […]
A view (21)
On the evening of my last day of work.
Ho yuss! Vurry true.
Properly, we shd. read for power. Man reading shd. be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one’s hand (55).1 Reading Pound’s Guide to Kulcher, I was perplexed; partially because it is an odd book, aimed at those who don’t mind attending the university of the brain of Ezra Pound […]
In 1938 let us say, a bloke with small means wants the best of Europe. Once he cd. have done a great deal on foot. I dare say he still can. In 1911 there was an international currency (20 franc pieces) twenty such in jug-purse and no god-damned passports. (Hell rot Wilson AND the emperor, […]
A view (22)
This I will miss.
ἀρχαιολογία δέ τίς ἐστι περὶ τοῦ ἔθνους τοῦδε τοιαύτη· Ἄρμενος ἐξ Ἀρμενίου πόλεως Θετταλικῆς, ἣ κεῖται μεταξὺ Φερῶν καὶ Λαρίσης ἐπὶ τῇ Βοίβῃ, καθάπερ εἴρηται, συνεστράτευσεν Ἰάσονι εἰς τὴν Ἀρμενίαν· τούτου φασὶν ἐπώνυμον τὴν Ἀρμενίαν οἱ περὶ Κυρσίλον τὸν Φαρσάλιον καὶ Μήδιον τὸν Λαρισαῖον, ἄνδρες συνεστρατευκότες Ἀλεξάνδρῳ· τῶν δὲ μετὰ τοῦ Ἀρμένου τοὺς μὲν τὴν […]
Looking out the window of the coffee shop onto the overcast concrete, it seemed to have already become a picture, flat and filtered and filmy and flimsy. The sense of proportion was unmarred, but judging depth was a matter of relative position rather than perception, and a careless move might have scratched the surface, leaving […]
Another man speaks satirically of those people who out of restlessness or curiosity embark on long journeys, who keep no diaries and write no descriptions, who carry no notebooks; who go to see things, and who either don’t see them or forget what they have seen; who are only anxious to look at unfamiliar towers […]
moments of lethargy
We move slowly in the fading shadows of the morning, with a lazy, ritual weight of action.
at the mercy of confusion
In Jerusalem, I had spent much of my time among the books of Gulbenkian library, following the loose threads of Armenian history. But the massacres, I put off until the end. What I’d been reluctant to start absorbed me at once; it was that that I had been afraid of. Everything else seemed meaningless when […]
the kind of day
Started the new job today, the sort of thing that sounds interesting and civic-minded, but is merely ordinary: the good manager gone, no one understands the new equipment, the ‘we’ll muddle through somehow’ approach to training. A passage of time, of limited duration. Come evening I tumble down to a local favored restaurant and grab […]
Getting tickets for The Apartment Unable to concentrate on anything more than a few feet in front of my face. Reading fine, computer okay, walking definitely out; sleeping only semi-recumbent; but better than yesterday, or the day before.
How the body when ill sweetens the taste – of water, for instance, or broth, or tea – even as the appetite falters. All other food seems noxious. Except waffles. This is a paradox.
Ain’t nobody here.
A view (23)
Around 10:30 – f8/30 seconds.
Offerings to the deity in the University of PennsylvaniaMuseum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
a window to walk away in – Aram Saroyan, from Aram Saroyan (1968)
at a loss
There is something outrageous in a person’s misdirecting a traveller who has lost his way and then leaving him to himself in error, yet what is that compared with causing someone to go astray in himself? The lost traveller, after all, has a consolation that the country around him is constantly changing, and with every […]
The rooster runs across the bare uneven ground towards the barn like a samurai from some black and white film you can half remember seeing, sunlight pooling on his rusty black feathers. In the kitchen there is hope for another cup of coffee, thick with sugar, and lavash with a hard-boiled egg, yolk apricot-colored, and […]
The family cow ate some noxious weeds and fell and was butchered. The neighbor’s dog ate five of the youngest chicks and was thereafter executed. One chicken wandered into the latrine and drowned. Ten chicks mysteriously died in their box. For the anniversary of a death in the family, they slaughtered a sheep, slitting its […]
a cross bearing
We had mock language proficiency interviews the other day, just so our instructors could get a better sense of where we were in our language interview and whether they need to panic about our chances of passing the actual language proficiency interview at the end of training.1 The format was simple, the first part being […]
This people lives on the smell of wild apples that grow there; and if they go far from home, they take some of these apples with them, for as soon as they lose the smell of them they die. – Travels of Sir John Mandeville (p. 181)
When you reached your goal, you were locked in again, each having first been handed a small piece of paper, the size of two railway tickets. (At the Lubyanka this was not particularly interesting. The paper was blank and white. But there were enticing prisons where they gave you pages of books – and what […]
Though ethnie and nationality might be distinguished in any number of ways – size, attachment to territory, secular versus religious identity, ‘soft’ versus ‘hard’ boundaries – the most fundamental difference is not some ‘objective’ characteristic internal to the group, but rather the discursive universe in which it operates and realizes itself. A modern nationality, with […]
A view (24)
From the balcony.
You reach a point in learning a language – usually sometime shortly after you can successfully ask and understand the way to the lavatory – when one word, usually a little word, will trip you up in supposed subtleties, tumble you into an ecstasy of confusion out of all proportion to its importance in actual […]
We always associate the word ‘book’ with printing, and think of it in terms of format and typographical convenience, but such mechanical criteria do not apply to notebooks, whose beginning and end are determined only by the unity of the poetic impulse which gives birth to a given series of poems. In other words, a […]
Upon a Sunday morning, then, my father was walking round the lake which he had caused to be created, regretting that he had not moved the old river bed further back, and thinking out possible fantasies in stone, torrents to fall through the hanging woods above, pavilions upon islands and decorative effects generally (a few […]
the ugly byzantine
Byzantine diplomacy was very expensive. Dowries, gifts, subsidies to whole nations, all involved the treasury in enormous sums. Even economic blockades, sometimes effectively employed towards the Saracens, were costly for the Empire also. The Government was moreover perfectly willing to pay its enemies direct not to invade its territory. Lawless princes across the frontier thus […]
In the morning we wake to the sound of the neighbor’s two cows walking up the road to pasture. They walk slowly, as though their feet hurt. That’s at about quarter after six. The temptation to stay in bed, rather than venturing into the dismal cold of the room (especially shocking after a night of […]
And a fog settled over the village.
Even today, the majority of people in poor countries learn all their language skills without any paid tutorship, without any attempt whatsoever to teach them how to speak. And they learn to speak in a way that nowhere compares with the self-conscious, self-important, colorless mumbling that, after a long stay in villages in South America […]
Crambe repetita (14)
Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus.
There was once a rich king who had three daughters. The eldest was the most beautiful of the three, while the youngest was the most clever. The middle child was neither beautiful nor clever and had nothing in particular to recommend her except that she could make the best bread in all the world. She […]
The room is warm and smells of expatriates, a peculiar blend of locally unavailable spices and foreign laundry detergent. There is a pile of completed books by the door, dwarfed by the stacks still unread beneath the window in the opposite wall. I am finishing up a few things I’ve been meaning to do for […]
A short story I like: They have a small bedroom. The bed is small, but they are not fat and they love each other. She sleeps with her knees neatly inside his knees and when they get up they do not get in each other’s way. She says, ‘Put on the shirt with the blue […]