Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kiss me, and you will see how important I am - Sylvia Plath

But everybody has exactly the same smiling frightened face, with the look that says: ‘I’m important. If you only get to know me you will see how important I am. Look into my eyes. Kiss me, and you will see how important I am.'

Sylvia Plath

Barkskins by Annie Proulx


Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Darling Detective by Howard Norman

Strange little book.  Pleasurable to read -- there are at least two noir paeans embedded in the book, one in the foreground (the narrator's pregnant detective wife on the case of his alleged real father's murder of twenty years earlier) and the radio serial they love about time-travelling tough guys and molls and detectives.  Not at all essential -- but pleasurable.  And I have a confession to make: I LIKE pleasure.

The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg

A great primer on the core Beat poets provided by the core of the core himself, Allen Ginsberg.  Oral transcripts of his freewheeling lectures over a 20 year period, the chapters are miniature paraphrases and riffs and memories of the poet and the poem/volume in question.  It's a great way to read the Beats.  Ginsberg's jazzy conversational tone is effective in explicating jazzy conversational poetry and prose.  The chapters on Kerouac (taking up much of the first half of the book) are good, even though at times he just quotes pages of Kerouac at length and lets Kerouac speak.  Kerouac is a fascinating figure -- and clearly enthralling to Ginsberg, who's more than half in love with him, this giant personality who in retrospect seems a sort of doper/speed freak Whitman: are all of his novels and poems really one long piece, like Leaves of Grass?  He certainly revisited and revised and reimagined and renamed and fiddled with his own autobiography again and again.

King Pleasure was interesting because he was one of the few people who took Charlie Parker music and simply took syllables and by following each note he made actual sentences, poetic sentences. (p. 32)

In a sense, what's happening with Burroughs and with Kerouac, the person has become a shaman, the body of the life has turned prophetic, and the message is coming through that body. (p. 191)

"O foot tired in climes so mysterious,
Don't go down the outside for nothing."
Kerouac, from Scattered Poems

"A lemon lot, and how's a man going to make a living with a gang like that?"
Kerouac

He [Kerouac]'s considered a naive or a primitive, but Kerouac had a better grasp on American manners and political manners than most writers..." p. 214

This [from On the Road] is quite smart about 42nd Street, because when you look deep into 42nd Street you realize there's water at both ends of the street, but when you're in the middle of 42nd Street you think you're in the middle of the continent with all the neon blinking and the tall buildings.  (p. 235)

In terms of the popular culture, Kerouac was preternaturally brilliant and penetrant.  I think that's why the whole Beat Generation, beginning in the mid-fifties, had so much power.  Not that Kerouac was that smart, or Burroughs, but that what they were looking at was very basic and common sense.  American cultural mentality, media consciousness, Hollywood, radio, TV, the news magazines that intellectuals nourished themselves on were so shallow in their spiritual ambition that any basic statement, even if couched in bohemian terms, was a revelation.  p. 239

"In the Morgue" poem by Gregory Corso

That [Dean Moriarty's description of a saxophone player in On The Road]'s a pretty accurate description of inspiration, which is to say breath.  I would now define it by hindsight as unobstructed breath, as a physiciological state of unobstructed breathing, which is known as inspiration, spiritus, breath.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

die by cobra, style

to die by cobra is not to die by bad pork - Gregory Corso, "Bomb"

the beginning of style is the start of an attack on realism
(something like that)
Norman Mailer



Friday, September 08, 2017

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

"men with cop-souls"

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion."

"The parties were enormous; there were at least one hundred people at a basement apartment in the West Nineties. People overflowed into the cellar compartments near the furnace. Something was going on in every corner, on every bed and couch-not an orgy but just a New Year's party with frantic screaming and wild radio music. There was even a Chinese girl. Dean ran like Groucho Marx from group to group, digging everybody. Periodically we rushed out to the car to pick up more people. Damion came. Damion is the hero of my New York gang, as Dean is the chief hero of the Western. They immediately took a dislike to each other. Damion's girl suddenly socked Damion on the jaw with a roundhouse right. He stood reeling. She carried him home. Some of our mad newspaper friends came in from the office with bottles. There was a tremendous and wonderful snow- storm going on outside. Ed Dunkel met Lucille's sister and disappeared with her; I forgot to say that Ed Dunkel is a very smooth man with the women. He's six foot four, mild, affable, agreeable, bland, and delightful. He helps women on with their coats. That's the way to do things. At five o'clock in the morning we were all rushing through the backyard of a tenement and climbing in through a window of an apartment where a huge party was going on. At dawn we were back at Tom Saybrook's. People were drawing pictures and drinking stale beer. I slept on a couch with a girl called Mona in my arms. Great groups filed in from the old Columbia Campus bar. Everything in life, all the faces of life, were piling into the same dank room. At Ian MacArthur's the party went on. Ian MacArthur is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight. He began to learn "Yes!" to everything, just like Dean at this time, and hasn't stopped since. Toilie wild sounds of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing "The Hunt," Dean and I played catch with Marylou over the couch; she was no small doll either. Dean went around with no under- shirt, just his pants, barefoot, till it was time to hit the car and fetch more people. Everything happened. We found the wild, ecstatic Rollo Greb and spent a night at his house on Long Island. Rollo lives in a nice house with his aunt; when she dies the house is all his. Meanwhile she refuses to comply with any of his wishes and hates his friends. He brought this ragged gang of Dean, Marylou, Ed, and me, and began a roaring party. The woman prowled upstairs; she threatened to call the police. "Oh, shut up, you old bag!" yelled Greb. I wondered how he could live with her like this. He had more books than I've ever seen in all my life-two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls, and such books as the Apocryphal Something- or-Other in ten volumes. He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn't give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life. Dean stood before him with head bowed, repeating over and over again, "Yes. ..Yes. .. Yes." He took me into a comer. "That Rollo Greb is the greatest, most wonderful of all. That's what I was trying to tell you-that's what I ~ant to be. I want to be like him. He's never hung-up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth. Man, he's the end! You see, if you go like him all the time you'll finally get it."

"The days of wrath are yet to come. The balloon won't sustain you much longer. And not only that, but it's an abstract balloon. You'll all go flying to the West Coast and come staggering back in search of your stone."

"You pin a dragon to your hats," he warned us; "you're up in the attic with your bats."

“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

"Port Allen -- Poor Allen -- where the river's all rain and roses in a misty pinpoint darkness and where we swung around a circular drive in yellow foglight and suddenly saw the great black body below a bridge and crossed eternity again. What is the Mississippi River -- a washed clod in the rainy night, a soft plopping from drooping Missouri banks, a dissolving, a riding of the tide down the eternal waterbed, a contribution to brown foams, a voyaging past endless vales and trees and levees down, down along, down along, by Memphis, Greenville, Eudora, Vicksburg, Natchez, Port Allen, and Port Orleans and Point of the Deltas, by Venice and the Night's Great Gulf out. So the stars shine warm in the Gulf of Mexico at night. From the soft and thunderous Carib comes electricity, and from the continental Divide where rain and rivers are decided come swirls, and the little raindrop that in Dakota fell and gathered mud and roses rises resurrected from the sea and flies on back to go and bloom again in waving mells of the Mississippi's bed, and lives again."

"In 1942 I was the star in one of the filthiest dramas of all time. I was a seaman, and went to the Imperial Café on Scollay Square in Boston to drink; I drank sixty glasses of beer and retired to the toilet, where I wrapped myself around the toilet bowl and went to sleep. During the night at least a hundred seamen and assorted civilians came in and cast their sentient debouchements on me till I was unrecognizably caked. What difference does it make after all? anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven for what's heaven? What's earth? All in the mind."

"I was getting ready to go to Mexico when suddenly Denver Doll called me one night and said, "Well, Sal, guess who’s coming to Denver?" I had no idea. "He’s on his way already, I got this news from my grapevine. Dean bought a car and is coming out to join you." Suddenly I had a vision of Dean, a burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain, bearing down on me. I saw his huge face over the plains with the mad, bony purpose and the gleaming eyes; I saw his wings; I saw his old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparking flames shooting out from it; I saw the path it burned over the road; it even made its own road and went over the corn, through cities, destroying bridges, drying rivers. It came like wrath to the West. I knew Dean had gone mad again. There was no chance to send money to either wife if he took all his savings out of the bank and bought a car. Everything was up, the jig and all. Behind him charred ruins smoked. He rushed westward over the groaning and awful continent again, and soon he would arrive. We made hasty preparations for Dean. News was that he was going to drive me to Mexico.
"Do you think he’ll let me come along?" asked Stan in awe.  "I’ll talk to him," I said grimly. We didn’t know what to expect. "Where will he sleep? What’s he going to eat? Are there any girls for him?" It was like the imminent arrival of Gargantuan preparations had to be made to widen the gutters of Denver and foreshorten certain laws to fit his suffering bulk and bursting ecstasies."

"Why not, man? Of course we will if we want to, and all that. There’s no harm ending that way. You spend a whole life of non-interference with the wishes of others, including politicians and the rich, and nobody bothers you and you cut along and make it your own way." I agreed with him. He was reaching his Tao decisions in the simplest direct way. "What’s your road, man? - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?" We nodded in the rain. "Sheeit, and you’ve got to look out for your boy. He ain’t a man ‘less he’s a jumpin man - do what the doctor say. I’ll tell you. Sal, straight, no matter where I live, my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out. I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands. You’ve seen me try and break my ass to make it and you know that it doesn’t matter and we know time - how to slow it up and walk and dig and just old-fashioned spade kicks, what other kicks are there? We know."

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The "Impossible Beatles Albums"




Genius idea this guy had -- create "Beatles" albums for each of the first five years after the band broke up, using selections from their solo releases to build a full 12-15-track album.

http://albumsthatneverwere.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-beatles-instant-karma-1970.html
http://albumsthatneverwere.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-beatles-imagine-clouds-dripping-1971.html
http://albumsthatneverwere.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-beatles-living-in-material-world.html
http://albumsthatneverwere.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-beatles-band-on-run-1973.html
http://albumsthatneverwere.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-beatles-good-night-vienna-1974.html

It's fascinating, and entertaining, for me, because although I'm a fan of many of those tracks individually, almost none of the solo albums from that period are compelling.  Why?  No one wanted them to be solo.  All the music they released was judged against the Beatles' recordings, an impossible standard to live up to.

On the impossible albums, though, hearing the band members next to each other song after song, is reassuring and creates a more favorable listening experience. Their four voices (or three and a half) in any order were a sublime chorus -- the whole was in fact more than the parts.

He even writes alt-histories of the band for the years covered, where they toured, how the band continued on, the conflicts and successes.

Their last couple of Beatles albums, they were already separating, but continued to play on each other's tracks.  Like a member of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears football team once said, "We were a dysfunctional family, but as long as we stayed together, we were fine."

Monday, August 28, 2017

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

...but it wasn't a good living, it was begging with paint on its face...

What is it this young man reminds me of? A piece of music composed for one instrument and played on another.

Have you ever stared stark failure in the face, young man? The trick is, to outstare it.

Another brilliant effort from Angela Carter from 1984.  A plot summary hardly helps:  in 1899 or thereabouts, a young American journalist journeys to London to interview the extraordinary Fevvers, a woman of prodigious physicality who sports two huge wings coming out of her back.  She is the star of an international circus, and the two continue on to Russia for a cosmopolitan tour, and then into Siberia. If that sounds good, it's about 2% of the story.  The depth at which Carter constructs her character, her effortless sparkling prose, her odd theme of feminist empowerment, the sheer Dickensian storytelling-within-storytelling:  she's amazing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks

Trouble with reading Charlotte Gray was that I expected it to be an extension of Birdsong, Faulk's exceptional First World War novel. It's not, clearly -- it's about the Second World War and there's almost no battlefield action (while large portions of Birdson are literally in the trenches).  It's about a love affair between a young Scottish woman and an RAF pilot who goes missing in France.  The young woman resolves to find him.  And it's hard to put down.  But didn't destroy me like Birdsong did.

Note to self:  what's a "sprung floor?" Faulks uses the phrase at least a half-dozen times. ANSWER: a floor with some shock absorption, used primarily for dance floors or sporting facilities.

Just looked up the 2001 movie which got mostly negative reviews:  they significantly changed the end of the book, which is annoying.