This little gem of a kindle edition is available now, but will also be free worldwide to anyone interested in owning one beginning on amazon.com FridaThis little gem of a kindle edition is available now, but will also be free worldwide to anyone interested in owning one beginning on amazon.com Friday, April 28, 2017 through Saturday, April 29, 2017. The U.S.A link is: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071H62L1L...more
Perhaps the most courageous attempt thus made in composing a significant fiction. A book for those who are sexually liberated, and for some who accept they are not.
Warning: Any individual not fully prepared to indulge in conventions of sex and marriage is herewith forewarned. This novella, and the accompanying additional source material, may in fact induce mutation in some sexual relationships....more
The accident of birth is just that. And so is everything that happens afterwards, or so it seems to me…
Cory Taylor died at age sixty in July of 2016, but not before finishing this important book that details her life beginning to end. The fact that new treatments and medicines now extend our dying to degrees unmanageable by some and put to good use by others serves the writer well. Cory Taylor deftly, and honestly, presents the history of herself as a child growing up, opening and expanding to the world around her, and then on to her contracting and retreat from it, resorting to living her final days contained within two small rooms.
…I have heard it said that modern dying means dying more, dying over longer periods, enduring more uncertainty, subjecting ourselves and our families to more disappointments and despair. As we are enabled to live longer, we are also condemned to die longer…
Early in her life, consciousness, and its opposite state of unconsciousness, made an indelible impression on her. From that moment on it was what Cory Taylor believed in, resisting all attempts by others to persuade her otherwise. Subjected as we all are to compounding religions and their accompanying faiths in eternal life she would, for a lifetime, remain indifferent.
…For what are we, if not a body taking a mind for a walk, just to see what’s there?
Learning and the sensual life, her love for words and her mother, two sons and a good husband, would sustain her. All would play an important role in her dying, and terrifying, finality. But Cory Taylor, in the face of it all, gracefully and gratefully composes a work bereft of pity, sentimentality, and remorse. Hers is a love story, pure and simple. And a complete joy to read.
The moments that stand out for me are the ones when I felt most alive....more
Having read this book two times I still find it daunting to write a review about it. During both occasions I was excited and totally engaged in my reading. Twice, I recorded segments of aphorisms I found to be exacting and poignant to my study. But I failed miserably in the arrangement of my thoughts regarding this fascinating book on monogamy. And not because there are disagreeable positions being furthered by the author Adam Phillips. His enlightened statements simply produce for me additional questions. What occurs to me however in each subsequent reading is a substantial confirmation of my own long-held beliefs centered on the most-significant relationship of my entire life.
I have known Beverly Lane now for over forty-five years, and have been married to her for thirty-three of them. Upon first meeting her at the foot of the pier at the age of seventeen I was smitten forever, and consequently any other romantic relationship I attempted to nurture in the twelve years following our initial introduction proved impossible. My most ardent attempts at denial proved futile. Any forced suppression of love for Beverly while being married to another worked for a time, but never could my denial sustain itself enough for me to ever remain happy. Even after the divorce from my first wife I still discovered myself unsatisfied in every new relationship, always harboring this haunting belief that I really did belong with this one person never made available to me. And the fact that Beverly, at this period of my life, was married and had two children, suggested nothing would ever change regarding my nagging misery. But how we found each other again still astounds me as I had virtually given up all hope of ever being with her. But life happens, and so did we.
Consequently, our life together the last thirty-three years, and counting, has been anything but routine. But it has been art. And rather than expound here on all the many difficulties we, as a couple, have had to overcome and endure in making our lives an art, perhaps it is best to highlight the passages in this book that confirm and acknowledge our methods for success. The rest of our story can be discovered in my published poetry and fiction, as well as a photographic history I have religiously presented in our blogs.
The words of Adam Phillips lifted from Monogamy:
Monogamy is just one of the wonders of nature. Nothing in nature is more natural than anything else.
We may believe in sharing as a virtue—we may teach it to our children—but we don’t seem to believe in sharing what we value most, our sexual partners. But if you really loved someone, wouldn’t you want to give them the best thing you’ve got, your partner? It would be a relief not to be puzzled by this.
A couple is a conspiracy in search of a crime. Sex is often the closest they can get.
To describe a couple is to write an autobiography.
At its best monogamy may be the wish to find someone to die with; at its worse it is a cure for the terrors of aliveness.
Why are we more impressed by the experience of falling in love than by the experience of falling out of love? After all, both are painful, both are utterly baffling, both are opportunities.
Perhaps we value monogamy because it lets us have it both ways. It includes falling out of love as part of the ritual—encourages it, even.
The best hideout—the cosiest one—is the one in which you can forget what you are hiding from; or that you are hiding at all. The secret the couple have to keep—mostly from each other—is what they are hiding from and that they are hiding. The belief they have to sustain is that their fears are the same.
We have couples because it is impossible to hide alone.
We only really value a relationship when it survives our best attempts to destroy it. As every sado-masochist knows, nothing is more seductive than resilience. It is the only aphrodisiac that continues to work the more you take it. So the only way we can test our infidelity is through monogamy. A lot of confusion is created by our belief that it is the other way around.
Two’s company, but three’s a couple.
The opposite of monogamy is not just promiscuity, but the absence or the impossibility of relationship itself.
The fact that jealousy sustains desire—or at least kindles it—suggests how precarious desire is. Not only do we need to find a partner, we also need to find a rival. And not only do we have to tell them apart, we also have to keep them apart. We need our rivals to tell us who our partners are. We need our partners to help us find rivals.
The questions for the couple are: do they want to use each other to sustain their desire, or to finish with it?
…Strangeness is exciting but it threatens to derange us; routine is comforting but it threatens to put us to sleep…
Monogamy and infidelity: the difference between making a promise and being promising....more
Out of the blue I have been exposed to the writing of another somewhat contemporary literary icon. Her name is Heidi Julavits, significant other to writer Ben Marcus who is an unconfirmed ex-student of infamous teacher, editor, and writer Gordon Lish. I seem to remember Gordon making some not-so-nice remarks about Ben Marcus and feeling slighted or unappreciated by him. Lish not feeling credited enough with helping him, or something or other to that affect. It happens a lot with The Teacher. But I am careful, always, to not let it happen with me. Or any perceived affronts to surface in any way. No, I am not afraid of Gordon, but I do respect his eccentricities with its plagues and bouts of insecurity.
Heidi Julavits is one of the co-editors of the acclaimed magazine The Believer originating in San Francisco. She is also the author of several works previously ignored or unknown to me. But no longer is she kept at arm’s length as I recently discovered her previously published diary The Folded Clock. What a delight to unearth this rare gem amidst these current days of our horrendous electorate deciding the outcome for president of these United States. Clearly a choice for POTUS between a highly qualified and rational woman and the unseemly, almost unbelievable, monstrous caricature going by the name of Donald Trump. Any literary diversion for me today is abundantly welcomed if it helps me escape my current nightmare in facing the truth about the worrisome state of our country. But note here as well that I have no fear of reprisal from any so-called Clinton deplorable as they are not of the stripe that reads my kind of drivel found on the sort of pages you are presently reading. I am also confidant I could publish anything I want and face no immediate jeopardy in being found out by my few friends, even by my parents, or almost any other family member to speak of, less those I still remain in contact with. Numbers I must confess are few, and routinely dwindling.
A woman whose private thoughts had been for years confined to her journal, Julavits has wantonly written upon me. And in this somewhat substantial work Heidi Julavits details the many facts and facets of her daily life, her foibles and her prejudices, fairly and in a properly-sounding honesty rarely witnessed on the page. And respectfully, in frank contrast, I have never been able to connect with anything her husband has to say. Though I believe Ben Marcus is of much greater literary fame, I am incapable of understanding him, or perhaps the coded-ness of his words excludes me and bars me from entering the locked gates of his elitist club. It seems to happen more often to me with men. It is why I prefer to hang out (at least virtually) with women. But it is possible that I have never really applied myself to exercise an appropriate try in my entering the world imagined for example in his first book The Age of Wire and String. But his wife Heidi is different. I get her. And I wish my own wife would read her book and get to know her as well as I think I do. Good writing does that. But these two women have to be so completely different from each other, and not surprisingly, so often the same. Except my wife is yet to know this herself. For years neither my wife nor I had any idea there were actually women in the world like Heidi Julavits. It is so refreshing to witness such honesty on the page. But of course Heidi might be lying and me, being the too-reclusive and naive dumb ass I have historically been, falling for Julavits like a delusional lonely patron visiting his first strip club. (Fact: No dancer is really in love with you. You just think she is. It is her job.)
Although her book is called a diary, in many ways it isn’t. The individual episodes feel more like short essays to me. Each entry certainly does have a date on them just as diaries do, but they just as well could have been called chapters with titles heading them. The subjects vary widely, and are vast and numerous, but they always circle back to the personal Heidi Julavits and where she locates herself in each event, predicament, example, or given date. Unfortunately for us she doesn’t drop important names, and that is understandable, and in good taste. But she does mention by name famous dead people. Few names, it seems, if they are still living. Sort of puts the whammy on getting the full picture unless the reader is as well-read and educated as Heidi obviously is. I believe her work fails in this respect. In my mind any celebrity, dead or alive, qualifies to have their name revealed for obvious reasons. Especially reclusive writers who have made a sizable income from their public works. And I noticed she even resisted mentioning the title of an Austrian Haneke movie she was using as prop in one of her chapters, and for me it seemed important enough to name the horrific Funny Games as substantive to her point. I do not get her reasoning behind making certain books and films a mystery the reader is required to already know of, or have need themselves to resort to Googling on the internet. But this is a small fault when measured against such a momentous and original example of fine writing.
Some critics of Heidi Julavits take issue with her perceived life of privilege. Having a successful husband and two young children, all of them living in New York City most of the year, the family spending three months of every glorious summer at their seasonal home in Maine, and traveling all over the world to places like Italy to attend artist’s colonies and such, is certainly enviable, but she has earned it. I can only imagine all the hard work of her humble beginnings, the demands of networking in a most competitive environment, her participation in literary readings and symposiums, teaching and publishing, and her attempts at maintaining some semblance of a normal life while raising a family. Julavits appears to have no pretensions over believing she should win an award for being the best wife or mother. Like many of us she does the best she can.
Julavits says she reads with a fountain pen in her hand so she can fool herself into thinking she is writing. I prefer reading near my computer, if possible, as I often record notes and ideas that come to me in bursts. Too many times I am not in the vicinity of my handy keyboard with no pen nor paper in sight, and by the time I make it to either one I have forgotten the supposedly brilliant line I had just composed in my erratically winsome mind. It happened again this morning on my patio. I was remembering the very start of my reading this book on November 7, 2016, the unnerving fright-filled day before our POTUS election. And as I write this entry today the date is now November 13, a Sunday, and I only have a depressing (for me) nine pages left to read of The Folded Clock and I really do hate for this experience to end. But I also have come to better grips with myself over my candidate’s loss. God, am I ever sick of politics, pundits, and tweets. Let’s face it, the wrong person won, but we must get over it. Let him have his cake! Maybe he will somehow try to be a better person than he promised his deplorables he would be. And though I am exhibiting a rare tolerance for certain things Trump, my parents will not be given the same courtesy. I have yet to forgive them for reelecting Little George and The Dick to a disastrous second term in 2004. And they will receive no congratulatory call from me regarding their winning-candidate.
Yesterday I received by post two of the next three books I plan to read by Heidi Julavits, all novels, and surely to be in some measure disappointments for me. I cannot imagine her fiction possibly equaling the breadth and interest I felt in reading her diary. But what am I to do? Julavits says she has always wanted to be a novelist. But what if Julavits really knew how good she was with prose? I, for one, want more personal missives from her. She has so much to say, and I love how she says it. Such an engaging and fascinating personality comes through in her writing. Julavits always leaves me wanting. And desire, in all its many elaborate aberrations, is really never such a bad thing, is it?...more
Listened to this book throughout the summer of 2016. Will probably revisit from time to time as Jerry offered many bits of wisdom regarding all sortsListened to this book throughout the summer of 2016. Will probably revisit from time to time as Jerry offered many bits of wisdom regarding all sorts of life's art and conditions....more
A guidebook certainly to find its lofty place within my other treasures. My good friend in Florida remarked yesterday, "Birds offer free entertainmentA guidebook certainly to find its lofty place within my other treasures. My good friend in Florida remarked yesterday, "Birds offer free entertainment", and I could not agree more. A little late in life for me to find a new interest in identifying birds, but owning a cabin in northern Michigan and a small house near the Indian River estuary here in Melbourne provides ample opportunities for a budding familiarity. Filled with detailed information and illustrations, this book should offer years of delight and even wonder, I suppose. ...more
In her short story Morning, 1908 Claire-Louise Bennett writes masterly of what it feels like to find oneself in a potentially compromising situation and then realize it may have been what she wanted in the first place. (view spoiler)[Wandering outside in a summer evening in only her nightgown with a coat thrown over, and meandering downgrade from her cottage door to the edge of a fence and gate containing several grazing cows, the narrator is startled to see a young man with a back pack making his way on her remote road towards her. She is immediately taken by the fear that it is she he has eyed and comes for. After considering the consequences of being possibly raped she decides it might not be the worst outcome for her, almost recreational, and something dogs do. And that it is possible that this young man is what she wants anyway, and she well-suited for the adventure just as she dreamily entered into her present situation dressed as well, in her eyes, naked. She knew her stupid overcoat would offer little protection for her. But every forward movement the young man proves to make, as a result, keeps himself a certain distance from her, and finally her imagination of a sexual fantasy is all that remains. (hide spoiler)]
Just for a moment everything gathered in dreadful suspension, my eyes gaped, cold and enormous — and then it all glided backwards into an atmosphere of broadening redundancy, intersected by a vertical and rather searing sense of abnegation. And then she adds, Remote sensations really, hardly mine at all — nothing to take personally....more
This was by far the best biography so far written on Emily Dickinson, the most interesting, informative, well-written, and entertaining. A joy to readThis was by far the best biography so far written on Emily Dickinson, the most interesting, informative, well-written, and entertaining. A joy to read. A total surprise....more
Even before I was finished, actually having more than just a few pages remaining of the second to last piece, and still waiting for me a two page story to read before I could completely say I was finished with this book, I already decided I was going to start right back in and read it all again. It is the rare book that challenges me so. I can only recall Robert Walser’s The Robber having a similar affect on me, but that was because I failed to understand his work enough, even though I loved it and thought it certainly a masterpiece, but felt in order to do it justice I needed to get right back on it while it remained still fresh in my mind. In the case of Pond there resulted in me a different sense of failure because of my own personal failing to lift a single word, or sentence, or paragraph from this writer’s book in which to share with important others in my life, those being, for the most part, the good citizens who actually read what I might say after I may have read a particular book of common interest. I still cannot believe I did not pilfer a word of hers for my own use until almost the very end. It was then that a phrase struck me, that being …no one can know what trip is going on and on in anyone else’s mind… and I abruptly stopped reading and immediately set to recording my own thoughts about my endless uphill struggle in regards to developing any intimacy with my father. Go figure, but that is what happened to me while I was reading. Not exactly a mind-bending phrase or a slice of sentence worthy of remembering, but from the moment it struck me I was impelled to put pen to paper, which is a good thing where I come from.
For whatever reason, that snippet from Pond led me to remember several snowstorms we had while growing up in northern Michigan. And it wasn’t my memory of the snow fights and forts we built among all the frozen white piles dumped in the vast acreage near our home where the city deposited loads of snow removed from the roads in and around our small town. What I did choose to remember instead was the weekly city garbage truck that a man named Tippy drove around with his son Benny riding on the back along with an ex-felon by the name of Eddie Birdy. Eddie was said to have raped a young girl several years prior and we were all instructed to keep a safe distance from him and not stare too closely as he was bound to expose himself at some future date. But then, my remembrance wasn’t even about Tippy Shanebeck, or Benny, or even Eddie Birdy either, but rather my older brother’s and my responsibility to keep the family’s driveway cleared of snow all winter, including the apron running out into the always-drifting road.
Keeping the driveway clear was, for the most part, doable because back then people just had driveways sized enough for one large car like my mother’s ’57 Pontiac which she kept in the garage, or my father’s company car which back then seemed to always be the latest model Chevrolet Impala. I looked back on the endless hard work and amount of time it took my brother and I to clear that apron, which according to our dad had to be shoveled out at an almost forty-five degree angle so our mother and he could both navigate their exits comfortably. The problem became for my brother and I the amount of snow that had fallen, or was yet to fall, or the storm that seemingly would never have any tapering off whatsoever. Our father taught us both to begin our work early and finish late so as to keep up with these great amounts in a more manageable exercise of endurance. There were days we shoveled for an entire day and the next one as well. And as much as we attempted to do a suitable job there was always the typical criticism that we could have applied ourselves better, and we were again ordered outside in our boots and gloves and hats to clean up our mess and widen more the angled apron to his satisfaction. The worst part always came, inevitably, when the city trucks would come through and plow another abundant load across the entire swath we had already made clean and presentable. Sometimes there was more dumped snow than ever before as neighbors often just shoveled their own snow out into the road and the plows deposited theirs into our clean path as well. And that became a metaphor for me about what I chose to remember about my dad and how our intimacy never developed into anything more than keeping our shovels handy in which to clear and pile more heaps of mounting snow.
So, basically, Pond is an amazing book seemingly about nothing but brimming with meaning. Every story feels as if you had been sitting there in the kitchen with Claire-Louise and she was relating perhaps insignificant details about her life to you but making them full and always clever, charming, and extremely interesting. The more I learned of her travails and proclivities the greater involved I became and thus grew more than enamored with her as a person of interest to me. The rhythm and lengths of her chapters (or stories, if you insist) flow well and ease into each other, offering up a gait easy and comfortable enough to keep pace with. I also particularly enjoyed her use of a sophisticated vocabulary. Never did I deem her choice of words as pretentious or out of place with what she was accounting. But it is obvious the woman is gifted and smart and knows what she is talking about. Claire-Louise Bennett has a voice that will be heard. She is much too talented not to be heard. Pond is so far my greatest find for 2016, and it feels quite wonderful to have met her so intimately. ...more
Few things have happened to me, and I have read a great many.___Jorge Luis Borges
It was uncanny upon my first reading of only a few pages that the mood and tone of this Borges work seemed surprisingly familiar to me. It was as if I was the one writing what I was reading, even though I understood so little of the text. But it felt so comfortable. I was blissfully content being involved so intimately with this music, and the words of Borges (or his translator) I found to be simply perfect everywhere on the page. There was not one word I ever wanted to change. My eyes were extremely pleased with the form, the shape, and the color of every phrase. Often as I read any book I look too hard for mistakes within each sentence or paragraph, but in this slim volume I never could find one. The entire book was such a joy for me to read. It was so beautiful, and it always felt important. I had also expected, due to unjust mediators, to find the poetry of Borges lacking, but instead I discovered in his brilliance another soul in which to develop a connection, a camaraderie, a fraternity of something far greater than myself. And, like me, alcoholics and drug addicts rarely feel they are a part of anything. And I imagine, for most everybody, this type of warm and delightful experience worthy of five stars. And for those of us who say dear Borges is no poet, they seriously have no clue for what poetry can do. ...more
There are far too many examples of Borges' genius presented in this book for somebody like me to comment on them. That is, other than to say that I loThere are far too many examples of Borges' genius presented in this book for somebody like me to comment on them. That is, other than to say that I loved this book and my introduction to Borges on a more personal note. He is definitely somebody worth reading and listening to....more
Another amazing book by Tomas Espedal. I love reading his truth, an honesty that holds no prisoners, that frees like few others have the power to releAnother amazing book by Tomas Espedal. I love reading his truth, an honesty that holds no prisoners, that frees like few others have the power to release. This is a wrenching love story that has no end, and figures to remain a spiritual part of me for the rest of my life. A beautiful man who has composed another wondrous title to behold. ...more
This book has been so informative and thought-provoking that I went on and purchased the other two (Paul Williams died before completing his fourth) aThis book has been so informative and thought-provoking that I went on and purchased the other two (Paul Williams died before completing his fourth) and I will read those in 2015. But to say this master-work is anything but amazing would be a travesty because of all the hard work, thought, and feeling that obviously went into the labor it took to produce these books on the greatest performer of all-time. Not to mention Bob Dylan being a pretty good singer/songwriter as well....more
This is the sort of writing that demands more of me than I am. It is obvious to me that Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most gifted and intelligent wriThis is the sort of writing that demands more of me than I am. It is obvious to me that Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most gifted and intelligent writers working today. She is a treasure and should be read if not listened to. Stop all the feminist connections as she is much more than that. There is not a suitable box to fit her in. So there. And Robert Walser fans, pseudo or otherwise, might want to prepare themselves some time for a reading of this fine little book....more
Of course, I do not at all agree with the above statement. My own writing instruction impressed upon me by a teacher infamously tyrannical in his editing, as well as with his friends, taught me to instead be hard. No matter what, you must be hard and stay hard. He said there would be no other chance in which to be heard unless the sentence was a strong one and unexampled in its feeling. But certainly Tomas Espedal has every right to speak his mind and relate his experience as a writer and as a friend. Except Espedal, and his friends, for the most part, remain hidden inside his head and between the pages of the books he has read and written. And he is not at all unlike myself except in matters of my own virtual online relationships nurtured within a select group of like-minded readers. And there is nothing wrong with this scenario either.
Against Art is a book I will most likely read again. There was much I lost in the opening pages and it took me most of the book to catch up and get the gist of what he was perhaps getting to. Because I have not been properly introduced to this Norwegian writer prior to my reading of this particular title, I have no frame of reference in which to judge this book beyond the words in it and the dust jacket cover. It seems he passes the Sarki audition. And I want to believe that Espedal is an important writer and one I will hear and read much more from in the near future. Until then I will have to wait to draw a more educated and informed conclusion. I do know he once agreed to dress up in a white wedding gown and pose for a young woman’s art project. Me thinks he must be comfortable in his skin or at least willing to manifest a fellow Hemingway proclivity. His mother supposedly read many books written by progressive women writers and Tomas gobbled them up as soon as she was finished reading them. He purportedly read so many of these so-called feminist writers that he at one time wanted to be a woman himself. If memory serves his fantasy lasted all of two months.
So how much of Espedal’s writing is fiction or some myth he might be perpetrating? And does it even matter in the long run what is and what isn’t? The sentences are either good or they are found lacking. The text either follows us after the end or it hides inside the countless other books that have already been written. Espedal claims in his journal here to want to write novels that are poetic. That is an admirable and lofty idea, and one that is harder to do I think than simply putting down a good story. But that is coming from a poet like myself who has his own lofty goals and has yet to achieve a final satisfaction on his page. Though a translation from the original Norwegian, Against Art came across to me as something quite outstanding on its own in a language well-written that surprisingly left me feeling satisfied. ...more
As I was reading these stories, these ficciones, I was wondering where I might have heard this Borges voice before. And as I read it seemed to me that each story was important in its own rank as if derived from a serious study of an ancient text or the pouring over of history books detailing in no small measure the accounts that made up the results of whatever was being set forth. Of course, because the original Ficciones were written in Spanish and then translated to English, the stories additionally allowed me to consider that some of the numerous facts and details presented were possibly “made-up” and mingled together with others which obviously were not. The entire practice of a Borges composition was basically lost to a reader like me who is not “up” on his ancient history and could no more in these given instances discern a truth from a bald-faced lie. Nonetheless, the stories were written and translated with such abundant grace and were so well-crafted their meaning mattered little to me as I was obviously in the presence of genius, which is such a joy to behold when it actually occurs to me. Still, it bothered me incessantly as each story ended with the same result of my not understanding what I had just read but enjoying it nonetheless. I am apt to want to quit on something I do not understand, but the words were too powerful and crafted for me to end our affair.
Throughout my reading there wasn’t one story that made more of an impact on me than another, but taken as whole it reminded me by the end that another writer, a contemporary, whose voice I realized sounds just like Borges, or at least sounds like the translation of Ficciones that I am reviewing here. It felt a bit uncanny for me to think of my writer-friend Jason in light of reading a book written so long ago. I know Borges died blind in 1986 and was born in 1899. I know he originally published the first edition of this book in 1944 or thereabouts. Besides this unique voice I heard on every page, what made me think of my contemporary as I read Borges was that confident, loving tone of a very good teacher, a scholar relating something he found so interesting that he wants to excite us with his discovery too. The tone comes from a very nice man, a gentle soul who is humble and totally unpretentious even though his gifted presentation flies way over my head and is so far out of my league of understanding. Perhaps, for some readers of this text, understanding is not so hard to come by. But for me it was nearly impossible. In order to not frustrate myself I began to read these stories much as I read Gilles Deleuze say, and of course Jason Schwartz, and attempt to glean what I might from their words and simply enjoy the rest. I doubt there will ever come a time when I know enough history to connect more to these short stories, but I do know I expect I will not derive more pleasure in my newfound understanding than was my first exposure and initiation into this world.
But lo and behold miracles do occur and the last story filled my void. The understanding that had been missing over the last days spent with all these Borges pages came headlong to me, and not delivered as I was present in my trance as I had been in while reading the stories prior to this last one titled The South. No, for this one, the last one, I was fully alive and awake for his scrumptious ending of the way life goes sometimes. But instead of topping my already generous day I was directed by a Borges order to press on, that silly, my time had not come, as neither the hero’s had nor his aggressor’s, and that a knife fight must and will ensue, and the results are not a given though perhaps it could be perceived as somewhat predictable. ...more
Gabriel Josipovici wrote an exquisite introduction to this slim volume. In his introduction Josipovici states that upon first reading Kristof’s most famous work titled The Notebook he understood immediately he was in the presence of greatness. I could not agree more with that statement as I can attest to it happening to me as well. It isn’t often enough that this phenomenon happens. Though I am amazed at how many talented writers there are, and have been, among us. Seems each week I am introduced to a writer I had not been aware of previously. But the label of greatness is kept for only the very few. Ágota Kristof is most definitely one of these specific icons we certainly must treasure and be so grateful for their willingness to write in the first place and work so diligently to perfect their craft.
I think it is also remarkable to discover later in this memoir that Kristof considers Thomas Bernhard the greatest of all examples for what it means to be a writer, especially for those persons claiming to be one. She also affirms that Bernhard never seized to criticize and denounce his country with both hate and love, but his humor in doing so remains to this day unequaled by any other, though I have to believe most of us who read Kristof are aware she can be quite funny at times herself. But it isn’t the humor that draws me so much to the writing of Ágota Kristof. Rather it is this adorableness, if you will excuse the pert term, that she maintains in the face of her story’s extremes. Though I cannot actually see her, she just feels so damn cute to me. And her personality is so to-the-point, piercingly direct in a manner that is very hard to explain. The violence in some of her scenes is so exact as to cause a shocking affect, and as I have mentioned in previous remarks I made due to Kristof, she writes a damn titillating sex scene, no less extreme in its provocation on the page.
Reading this slim, but still voluminous work was a treat just to get an inside look at the life of Ágota Kristof, in her own words, and to learn firsthand how she became a writer. Obviously, it is not enough to wish to be something or other. One must persevere, at times, and often, against great odds. But the important object to note here is that Kristof would have written no matter her success at finding, or not finding, a commercial publisher for her work. Writing was something she just had to do, of course, after she became literate enough to be coherent composing within a foreign language in a country so unlike her one of origin.
Ágota Kristof is a treasure just as Thomas Bernhard is a treasure, and it is with great gratitude and satisfaction that we have both their work to share among us and to have exampled a good bit of writing from. There are still a few books written by Ágota Kristof left to be translated from French into English. It is my hope that this occurs sooner rather than later as I am unfortunately running out of time. And I am confident in my solemn sadness that I am not alone, but rather inclusively stirring, in my sinking ship....more
First it is a fantasy, brutal but fun, about a couple of lies and a boy named Tobias Horvath who changes his name to Sandor Lestor because of something terrible he thinks he has done back in his country of origin. A couple noteworthy events for me early on were that Sandor does not much like babies period, and he is tired of sex for fun. He wants only the woman he loves named Line, who just so happens to also be his half sister. But unsurprisingly she is not available and hasn't anyway any idea of their familial relationship. Line simply remembers their time together as young students in the same class. Sandor also almost desperately wants to be a famous writer and upon his certain success return to his original name of Tobias Horvath. But, no doubt, this is a sad story about resorting to an un-resortful life. It is a fantasy about love and failure, of whether being rich or poor is remarkable enough, or even if acquiring an education really matters. So almost anything I might have to say about this book would spoil the already too-short read which I have to say I really loved. But allow me a different tack.
It is hard to know how near to death, or what scrapes the common lad has had with the grim reaper, but what I do know is the awful dread and sick feeling that comes with being in the face of it. Of course, my brush with darkness can easily be discounted by those having had a real consequence. But let me tell you, it was the very first time in sixty plus years of living that in a fitful dream I died, and I didn't like it. Not one bit. All the countless times I have come near to dying in my dreams I have awakened with a start, relieved that I escaped that finality, an ending for me that felt so real and certain one day to come. For years I have held to my theory that when that moment came in the dream, when I saw or experienced my own dying, the actual end would come for me as well. But here I am, still kicking, and none the worse perhaps for the wear. But all day this frightful dream has stuck with me, gnawing at me, needling me in dreadful ways. Not one moment has passed today that I am feeling both grateful to still be alive and somehow aghast at how quickly my end might actually arrive. But because my dream-death was due to an accident, a mistake on my part, of me not following my gut when I knew damn-well better, something that has become a sort of trend for me it seems these days, it is that I also feel guilty and ashamed. It has been the strangest experience for me living every minute today with the feeling of my own death as if it really happened. And it weighs heavily on me as well for all the many times throughout my life as a carpenter, traveler, drug and alcohol abuser, promiscuous adventurer, outdoorsman, and general sinner that I have escaped serious injury because of my carelessness or ignorance in my denying a dangerous situation. I imagine it must be that immature feeling for thinking one is immortal.
The dream began as a simple hike through the woods accompanied by my youngest adult son. If others were with us I do not recall. I remember hiking on what might resemble a wooded ski trail, sort of like the trails cut out of the woods for cross-country skiing, but it wasn't winter, and there was no snow this time of year, but I could see the approaching hill being such that we would be attempting a climb of stunning proportions. I also knew we were hiking backwards on the trail, as nobody would ever climb this particular hill on snow skis. It was definitely meant to ski down on and not climb. I even found it a bit unbelievable that anyone could actually successfully ski down it and not be killed. But here I was climbing this enormously steep hill with my almost thirty year-old son. The entire trail was loose, grainy sand and it was very difficult to get a proper footing and make any headway considered plausible. In this dream I was physically crippled a bit just as I am in real life due to a fall from my cabin roof three years ago. My knee was not surgically repaired for such athletic activity as this particular hike and climb, and it has not the strength other knees have, and in addition, no lateral movement at all. It is insane to think I would even have attempted a climb like this outside of a dream. And I remember thinking these thoughts in the course of events throughout my dream. Ultimately it became impossible for me to continue trudging uphill and I remember thinking, and perhaps saying aloud, that there would absolutely be no way to climb this hill in winter when ice or snow was covering it. We returned home, wherever that was, and consulted an acquaintance or friend there who suggested we take what amounted to a sled ride down the same steep hill for the reason I suppose to familiarize ourselves over what we may have missed from not conquering it from climbing up from the bottom.
Now it was winter, or the surface at least had been prepared to slide belly first along the track of ice. At first the downhill ride was enjoyable, slowly gaining speed and feeling the snow scraping against my clothes just as I did in the old days as a small child. But then the speed increased to such degrees that I began to get nervous and feel I was losing control of my sled. My son was also belly-first sliding ahead of me and seemed to be holding his own. I panicked a bit and for a moment froze in my thinking over what I might do to get myself back on track. Rounding another curve hell-bent for speed and preparing to head down what I thought to be the worst part, my body, almost spontaneously, left the track and flew off the side of a steep cliff. Next thing I knew I was preparing for another ride, realizing my previous mistake, more than confounded by how I did not die from the previous great fall, knowing this time that to successfully maneuver my way down I would have to wrap my arms around what now appeared in my dream as a track raised slightly above the surface of the snow. I held on for dear life as it reminded me of a roller coaster ride, which I hate, and successfully, almost naturally, I made my way to the bottom of the hill without incident. It was then, at the bottom of the hill, that I knew something was not right. All of our gathered crowd was looking at each other in a very strange way and my stomach knew something critical was missing and it felt like it might be me. Intuitively I was impelled to ask them if it were I who was really dead? They all nodded solemnly in agreement. My wife was present, standing there and looking at me lovingly. It was obvious my son could still see me clearly, but soon I noticed that for him my form was beginning to fade. My wife could still see me clearly but we both knew I would never be physically in our lives again. I had become a mere spectator of life. I remember having this dire sense of extreme responsibility to watch over and protect both my wife and son but I did not know how I would be able to do so without a body, with no hands, and a now-fading voice.
It seemed we all were gathered together in a room for some time. The group was conversing pretty much as nothing had happened, at least it was obvious to me that life had gone on without me. What struck me the most in my feeling of shock at being a dead man surrounded by the living was how much my wife actually did seem to love me. She wasn't sobbing or sad I was gone, but still she was treating me as if I was much a part of her life as I always had been, but with the knowledge that though she could still see me she would never know me again physically. Of course I began to wonder about the other men in the world who would find her attractive and begin flirting or courting her and offering her attentions that I no longer could provide. Almost immediately in my dream a certain man I cannot recall the name or what he looked like did indeed hit on her and she promptly refused his advances. But I knew in my heart while considering my dilemma as a harmless spirit that one day she would be vulnerable to an advance. At some point in her life she would need someone, and the right man might speak to her in the proper setting and win her heart that I knew would be lonely and aching for something besides her constant aloneness. I reasoned that at that point my spirit life would most likely end.
Within minutes of my realization that I was dead, and the acknowledgment of all present that indeed I was, I felt my son, unlike his mother, quickly losing his connection to me. He could not see me as clearly as I knew my wife still did. At the instant the stranger was hitting on my wife my son was beginning to leave with another group of men that I remember as having a very strong personality for a leader. The new gang leader reminded me of the actor Gary Oldman still playing the scary and dangerous character he has portrayed often in films such as True Romance. I wanted to warn my son that he was beginning to go down a very dangerous and slippery path by following this sick man and whatever scheme he had talked my son into participating in. This group was heading away on this mission when I left my wife and her persistent suitor to follow behind my son and somehow devise a way in which to protect him. Every step for me seemed to portend a bad ending for the adult child I had loved so much and cared so deeply for.
The attitude prevailed within this group of criminals that they were on a job that was supposedly a sure thing. A piece of cake. I watched them as they approached a very nice home and were preparing to enter it illegally. A break-in to steal valuables was all I could think of. I just knew this was a murderous setup, that something terrible was about to happen concerning guns and other violent weapons. Here my son, in his own way, was going to make a mistake similar to what his father had done and his life could very well end or certainly be altered in ways unimaginable to me. The dread of this portending danger was killing me again. It was then I awoke from the nightmare of my life.
There was much for me to consider in my dream. I cannot say I enjoyed myself. I am certain I would rather read about it happening to someone other than myself. ...more
First, this title came highly recommended. And the novel for me began with a bang but then quickly fizzled into something unexpected, like a personal fact-filled and chronological childhood memoir of sorts. Because of this unthinkable development my doubts rose and my spirits waned. I engaged again my reading friends and expressed to them my troubled mind. They assured me to continue on, that soon enough this author Jens would woo me in again with his hateful vitriol. The fact the author was Scandinavian did much to already insure my allegiance as I myself am perfectly a half-Finn. In addition, I knew already that Jens himself had committed suicide by hanging so for that event alone he most certainly had hops with me. All my favorite authors commit suicide, or will eventually, that is if an auto accident or some disease fails to get them first. But the novel seemed to have morphed into something more conventional and it just didn't feel right to me. The strong and vicious opening pages were comparable to the graphically violent work of one Josef Winkler whom I had been reading prolifically for the last few months and who was quickly, and violently, doing me in.
But almost as soon as I expressed to my friends the morbid concerns I had over the novel it turned course, and in its way, anecdotally investigated a neighbor's suicide which again got me consulting my own research texts that I am wont to do in such cases in which the writing moves me in ways that are hard otherwise to explain. It was his words a la fenestra that got my attention. The phrase means going to the seventh or eighth floor window for a resolute leap. And from the eighth floor a leap to one's death results in …remains gathered up with a putty knife and a sponge… People splash dreadfully.
From the subject of suicide the text then moved swiftly into all matter of concerns regarding the futility of life on earth. Bjørneboe hastened to demonstrate on the page how chaos abounds and our crust is certainly unstable, as is our fiery universe.
…at bottom all matter is explosive. We eat our sandwiches, pursue our love lives, are born and die on the lid of a powder keg journeying in the cosmos…Furthermore the cosmos itself is located in the middle of a gigantic explosion, with the galaxies fleeing from each other at a speed considerably greater than that of light… Without laughter you sit fast in the pool of excrement, and you will slowly go into decomposition, into autolysis, you will fall apart, and yourself turn into living excrement.
But in the meantime I suppose it to be Bjørneboe who also goes on to show how the great art works in the history of the world are certainly remarkable, and well worth preserving for as many generations as possible. And we all should know that great art is unexampled in its feeling.
The deeper the feeling, said Leonardo, the greater the pain.
The connection Jens Bjørneboe made to public executions and art is notable as well. The subject of public hangings directed me to another study of sorts in the course through the centuries that public hangings evolved to. The length of rope being the most important development due to mathematical calculations based on performing the most humane of executions possible. A shortened rope being the preferred method for the most extreme torture possible through suffocation and slow death of fifteen to twenty minutes. Whereas a rope too long, combined with a sudden drop, made for likely decapitation and a public outcry. Precise math was used to calculate the safe distance to fall based on the victim's weight and height, and an execution which would assure a quick death with little to no mess.
All the great great masters from Tuscany's ateliers took their sketchbooks along when they went to watch the public executions.
It is likely the period covered in this novel coincides to the author's own lifetime. World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. Over 60 million people were killed, which was over 2.5% of the world population. 26.6 million Soviets alone died during the period of 1939 through 1945. For me, both World War II and the holocaust weigh heavy on me, myself being born in 1953, the son of a U.S. Navy sailor who just happened to go to shore with his commanding officer in order to procure trophy memorabilia it seems for the commander after the atomic bomb named "Fat-Man" destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki. I know of nothing my father gained in his walking tour of the destruction except for a story to tell and the kudos he garnered for accompanying his boss on shore.
…The truth is also that we were tired, tired as people get after wars — we were so tired of it that we quite simply performed the necessary on what happened in Japan.
I've noticed the narrator performs the necessary on quite a few events throughout this book. It sounds a bit harsh, or extremely indifferent, but history had been hard on many who suffered through the periods covering both world wars. It has been reported that the author himself in 1943 escaped the Nazi Germans occupying Norway for neutral Sweden in order to not be sent to a forced labor camp. The narrator speaks of the time he spent in Stockholm often in this text. He is a hard drinker and composes much of his writing while under the influence just as the author did. Bjørneboe has been reported to have begun drinking at the age of twelve, suffering extreme bouts of depression and sickness. At thirteen he attempted suicide by hanging himself. Finally, in 1976, after finding no relief from his continued alcoholism and depression, Bjørneboe committed suicide at the end of a rope.
Many years ago, back in a time when I was an adolescent, there was a program on sixties television about the life and death of Abraham Lincoln. I remember being completely enamored with the man and upon viewing on TV his assassination in the Ford Theater I was devastated. My grief was unequaled at that time and rarely has it surfaced to that same degree as the subsequent years have gone by. After the program was over I remember going to my bedroom and sobbing in my bed for the longest time. The emotional pain involved in the dread of my own impending death was remarkable enough to me to have never forgotten that night in the course, at this writing, of over sixty years of them. There have been moments in the reading of this book similar to those same feelings that occurred for me so many years ago.
I was dying because I lived in unfreedom without knowing it, and because unfreedom is naturally more comfortable than freedom: it disperses, or even frees one from, the responsibility of having an existence. Only through the courage of despair can you grasp a handful of freedom. Freedom is not a thing you receive, it's something you take for yourself without asking anybody whether what you're doing is right or moral or harmful or good.
I am still not exactly sure why the narrator mentions the word lemurs so often. It is quite possible he was creatively labeling Teutons due to the cataclysmic shift in the world after WWII. Mythical accounts of the supposed ancient continent of Lemuria differ. It is also believed that man himself evolved somewhere in southern Asia, or possibly, still further south than the present boundary of Asia, in lands now drowned by the Indian Ocean due to some geological change. This supposed land was called Lemuria. He also uses the phrase little bears as well for a handle for all peoples of the world. The author Jens Bjørneboe himself was a center of unrest. He always ruthlessly followed his innermost intentions and knew no other guide than his personal conviction and his own impulses. His passion and concerns ultimately did him in.
For me, Jens Bjørneboe's personality certainly comes through while reading this novel, which now that I am over it I might deem a masterpiece, but not first without admitting to shedding some blood and sweat of my own before arriving at this assessment. The last six pages of the book are completely startling and upsetting given recent mass murders and shooting rampages in my own country today. I certainly subscribe now to the theory that it just might be best to beware the hard cider drinker or a seemingly rare foehn wind....more
Any of my friends here on goodreads who wish to have a copy of this book to read in pdf form please message me with your email address and I will be hAny of my friends here on goodreads who wish to have a copy of this book to read in pdf form please message me with your email address and I will be happy to send you a pdf file. The book is also available in both softcover and hardcover additions now at the url address in the listing. And sometimes the book is available on amazon.com
Stamped Against the Night was first conceived in northern Michigan one early morning in June of 2013. My wife and I have a cabin in which we spend the entire summer communing with nature and recharging our cells. Our cabin is what I call "glorified camping" as it is only six hundred square feet and has a toilet most women would certainly abhor. There is nothing fancy or convenient about our summer digs. We have no television and the internet is suspect at best in that part of the country. Wireless phone service is purported to be updated to the highest quality but I have yet to have enjoyed or made solid proof of that same experience. Each of our days are reserved for morning walks in the Huron National Forest, and on the very warmest afternoons we drive into the beaches of Lake Huron where my wife can swim in friendly fresh water that resembles an ocean to anyone who has ever visited this Great Lakes region. But every morning before taking off on one of our daily outdoor activities I sit in a chair I have had for the last eight years and read to my heart's content. I have to myself at least two hours each morning, quite early, and before anyone but the dog might bother me. It is after this morning's reading is complete that I prepare to compose whatever it is that I am inspired as a writer to produce that day on the page. I decided on this particular morning in June to attempt consecutively everyday to write one legal page of whatever impelled me to put my pen to paper. The text would be poetry, but narrative in scope if I could actually accomplish composing an entire page lyrically. I had no plan for subject, but would let whatever should come to me freely as something I felt no part in only as conduit. This method reminded me of the recently resurrected poet Jack Spicer who claimed the gods instructed him what to write. He even confessed he let the words on the page be exactly as they were received, and he never revised. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Jack Spicer was delusional as well as a mediocre poet.
In the process I was previously describing there were times I rejected a word or two that entered my consciousness as I felt I was projecting a bit of myself and getting in my own way. It was rather amazing how well the words came to me when I removed myself from the creative activity and just became its secretary. I operated like this for as many days as we were at the cabin which amounted to sixty-eight total due to two trips away involving about a week of not writing anything at all. But I never really knew what I was doing, only that it was a daily routine I trusted and never wavered from. The only changes in my day were in the books I was reading, completing, and newly beginning throughout the entire process. I am sure what I did read influenced what I wrote, but I was nonetheless open to whatever might come of it.
Upon my return to our home base in Louisville in September of 2013 I began the long and somewhat arduous task of transcribing the legal pages onto my computer while revising each poem in the process of my entering them. The most I could ever hope to file in a day would be three or four pieces, and most times I only got one or two poems entered into my machine. It was painfully boring work and something I did not want to do. I still had no idea what the body meant or what I was accomplishing except for the vow I had made to myself that I would complete the burdensome affair only when it became clear to me just what it was. I trusted in my process. I had complete faith and remained, in fact, this totally ignorant for months. On three consecutive occasions during the fall of 2013 as I was editing and revising I would report to my wife that I had made another complete pass through the entire work and surprisingly still had no idea what it was. I felt it might be a novel more than a book of poems, but I remained disconnected to anything that could clarify my uncanny position of willful servant to the work.
In the process of my first beginning the book and on to the present point, I now found myself having read already twice the brilliant new novel John the Posthumous by Jason Schwartz as well as another disturbing affair by Josef Winkler titled When the Time Comes. Among all the books I had recently been reading these two made the greatest impact on me. Subsequently it was again Josef Winkler in his Flowers for Jean Genet in which I finally had my breakthrough regarding my own laborious activity. Josef Winkler seems to always incorporate outsider's quotes he deems necessary to his text, and I found these quotes added much to my understanding of his work. These quotes also got me interested in more writers I had previously been unaware of and compelled me to purchase additional books by these unfamiliar authors. I decided then to go back through all of my own notes I had made since 1995 when I first began studying under Gordon Lish. Because of Lish I learned of specific philosophers and their work and was feverishly devouring everything I could of these great thinkers and taking notes throughout my fevered reading. My now independent study naturally progressed to countless others in the arts and I began to grow both as a reader and a writer. Throughout these many years I filled four spiral notebooks with heart-felt mind-exploding quotes I had lifted from their work.
But it had always troubled me over what I was to eventually do with all these notebooks and the knowledge and secrets they held. I thus began going through them all and painstakingly transcribing certain quotes applicable to the feeling involved within the body of narrative poems I had composed throughout the entire summer in Michigan. After compiling a good number of them I decided to begin choosing which quotes might go with which poems, and then realized early in the process that this was where these quotes truly belonged. It was at this point in the composition of Stamped Against the Night that I learned I had amassed a total of sixty-eight chapters that summer and needed that same number of quotes to complete my new-found mission. They were not at all hard to find as each quote chosen by feel fit in exactly as if I had planned the entire exhibition. It is my hope that you enjoy the book as much as I did in writing it.
Would you consider please for a moment at least that by the time Sombrero Fallout was composed Richard Brautigan was up to his neck in his own shit and desperate for relief? Alcohol only fueled his confusion over a life he was swiftly losing control over. The epoch of his fame provided a false security and nothing he attempted in his order to personally derail it could prove his life was finally off the tracks. Appearances aside, life for Dick was not that good. It is not surprising to me that life on the ranch in Montana was ghostly similar to this book and the mob's response downtown and the destruction being wrought on its citizens. It has been widely reported that Brautigan had a crazy love for guns and the shooting of them, disregarding the safety of even children in his drunken wild west escapades in blowing to smithereens all manner of objects, even those within the confines hanging on the walls of his house. It is obvious by this time that the man had almost lost his mind. But he could still write and this book certainly proved it.
It has been said that Sombrero Fallout was written in response to his breakup with his Chinese girlfriend Siew-Hwa Beh. The pain of separation from her and the now unrequited fantasy of having an Asian woman in his bed and at his side was something Brautigan was not equipped to cope with. Given his emotional instability due to his own escape after years living within the environment of a dysfunctional family of origin as well as dealing with it medicinally by the heavy use of alcohol and careless living Brautigan would be soon living on his own borrowed time. Though the pleasant memories described in this book regarding the narrator's so-called Japanese lover were warm and tender, anger and jealousy roared in the background through his use of humor and language so deft that my smiles broke out constantly throughout the first half of this book. Brautigan's one-liners were certainly a gift he mined well and often. He wrote out his similes and metaphors in long sentences instead of using one descriptive word or two. Even the parallel story regarding the ice-cold sombrero and the gathering mob of townsfolk was ridiculously funny until it morphed into insanity and chaos.
I have often read other reviewers descriptions of Brautigan's writing as being whimsical. There is certainly something very childish about Brautigan's text which makes him endearing even in light of his pathetic and expanding neurosis. Recently I completed my reading of the long and drawn out biography Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan by William Hjortsberg and one cannot walk away from this book and still deny the disease that was ravaging for years the mind and body of this poor man. Thank goodness Brautigan had his writing in which to save himself for the time being. And when his writing eventually ran out on him during the decade following this first major breakup there was nothing left of the man but a shadow of himself and the notoriety surrounding him because of his delinquent behaviors he had regularly and publicly displayed.
Sombrero Fallout is a sad tale, but an important one I think for anyone dealing, or having dealt with, a broken relationship. Often the writing made me look back at the important details regarding my own love lost and the still-obsessive object of my long accomplishment of over thirty years. It is easy to take those we love for granted and in this book Brautigan gives us numerous reasons for not doing so. The narrator, on his hands and knees searching for a lost black hair of his Japanese love, conjured for me the great love the recently deceased poet Jack Gilbert had for his only wife Michiko Nogami and the poem he wrote in her memory after she died of cancer in 1982.
I came back from the funeral and crawled around the apartment, crying hard, searching for my wife’s hair. For two months got them from the drain, from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator, and off the clothes in the closet. But after other Japanese women came, there was no way to be sure which were hers, and I stopped. A year later, repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find a long black hair tangled in the dirt.
For the last year I have been revisiting the work of Richard Brautigan. For some ill-equipped and perhaps unconscionable reason this was my first reading of this book. It may now very well be my favorite, and this surprised me as I had previously thought he had already been used up by the time he wrote this book. But I was wrong back then and foolish in my thinking. I obviously did not know Dick. Brautigan was a special talent who achieved much in his writing. Richard Brautigan was of a class and upbringing society often disrespects and fails to credit appropriately. But he was definitely an original in life and especially in his writing. There are five words regarding the writing of RB that I wish for you to consider. The following words express my evolving idea of his style, those being:
Just last week I was first introduced to the work of Josef Winkler in his brilliant title When the Time Comes. Until finishing this title today I had not ever had any exposure to Jean Genet. Flowers For Jean Genet provided a vehicle for my introduction to him and a further study of the work of Josef Winkler. What I was not aware of when first diving into this book was the construction behind it being a bit of a travelogue in the spirit of W.G. Sebald as well as a biographical piece on Jean Genet made up of consulted texts written by Genet himself and other of his biographers and critics. Interspersed throughout all this was Winkler's anecdotes of similar personal experiences or parallel lives having a proximity of sorts with Genet. There were times Winkler retold an anecdote regarding Genet who Winkler never met in the flesh but certainly has some spiritual connection to him. If this sounds confusing, it was, but only in the beginning as I left these pages from time to time to do some research on my own regarding both of these characters.
The basic premise behind Flowers For Jean Genet was Winkler's quest to find his grave in a Spanish cemetery in Larache about an hour-and-a-half from Tangiers. He took a trip from Austria in which to do this, and had a special notebook he kept and referred to from time to time in his travels. There was never any text within this book actually footnoted for its source, and it is highly doubtful the publishing editor "fact-checked" this information. As biographical and autobiographical as this entire book was in regards to both Jean Genet and Josef Winkler this reader must assume this work would be designated a fiction, much as Sebald and that Australian rapscallion Gerald Murnane enjoy marking their own quite personal work with the same brand as well. It is a classification I am noticing of late as getting more and more legs, and it encourages me to do more of the same in my own published pieces. All of the source books used in Flowers For Jean Genet were noted in the back of the book, but it is up to the reader to do her own footnoting and fact-checking if she deems it necessary and useful. I do not. But this fine piece of literature has gotten my interest curled for reading all of Winkler's work now and even delving a bit more into the already dead Jean Genet.
Each of the fifteen chapters in this book has a roman numeral and a significant title. I love great titles to poems and take exhaustive cumbrance in providing them in my own work. This great fiction is riddled with long and fascinating titles to each chapter and I am not particularly sure they actually have anything to do with the text that follows them. But my titles don't generally either, and I consider these types of titles separate artworks of their own and an added benefit to reading these books. It is again quite possible that Winkler did not "make up" his own titles but instead lifted each title from a text of Genet's, but I would be hard-pressed to prove it and really not willing to go the distance to do so. But then, what sort of lout would even care? Some sort of book police or Nazi-type I guess. Or somebody who might consider Winkler a bit to "rebarbative" as I have seen him described as such. But I see no such thing, but wouldn't mind at all if he was. If the titles actually are valued loot lifted from the bountiful Genet then take it as reverence for the man and the artist made. As for me, I cannot wait to receive the next paginated issuance of Winkler's in the mail and I look forward to reading it and learning more about this interesting man my age from Austria. ...more
It has been widely enough reported that Josef Winkler is scornful to a degree I think I can be enamored with. He despises the Catholic church, and I would think most religions because of it. He feels contempt toward the Germans, specifically Nazis, and any authority meant to restrain and contain its populace. He is definitely not a lover of hard labor, and farming he despises. He did not like his dad, and in one article written by translator Adrian West it was reported Winkler was only hugged once by him and that was for helping to exterminate all the rats in the cellar of their farmhouse. I have yet to discover if Winkler has had any children of his own in which to alter the family history into something a bit more palatable for those yet to come. Josef Winkler is well-versed in tragedy and his family and acquaintances are riddled with it. What he believes and remembers he feels important enough to keep repeating. And history, he shows, is his great reminder.
It is true that in this book When the Time Comes there is no clean plot and no readily identifiable characters in which to relate to. But I took notes. Three legal pages full of my scribbling. I began to construct a pattern and soon was amazed at the number of names Josef Winkler used to produce his gargantuan ossuary. Pleasantries within these lives escaped my reading of this vast collection of family, friends, and acquaintances who all would find their place among the other many dead with none no longer left near dying. In approaching the end of my reading it supposed on me the awful truth that none of us escape this final act, and the categorical reporting here was supersaturated to the extent that the reader should come to accept the same fate would happen, and specifically in my case, to me. And it did, and does for my time being on the page and for the remaining moments left for me to ponder this fate before getting back to the object for my living on this earth and developing in my own mind its meaning.
Josef Winkler regularly employs in his writing the use of repetition. He is not the first to do so and it is an effective way to make ones point clear even in the face of ambiguity of which there is none too little of in this book. Instead of naming names outright Winkler instead writes the person out by signifying them with phrases such as, "Lazarus with the fat earlobes" or "my fat and toothless grandmother". So these became my notes, and at some point along the text a name would occur to him and be applied mysteriously to one or another of his secret characters. There would be no possible result of my remembering or keeping these people straight without my taking thorough notes. And in the process of my taking them I wondered why and the reason for this seeming nonsensical behavior. It felt early on I had come too far to stop, and it wasn't until I neared the end of the book that I knew I no longer needed to take them. Which was my hope in the first place, and now the proof of my lost time and possibly useless labor.
The title When the Time Comes reveals the essence of the book as it applies to all of us the same. There will come a time and we, or others in our stead, should come prepared for it. I shan't bore you with all of the details, but I do believe the following information will be of use to you, the next reader, of this tale. In no way does what follow ruin anything for you, the reader, or act as a spoiler of sorts as there really is no rhyme nor reason for any plot or accounting except an almost complete listing of the dead and how they got that way. I am still not even sure of what I read.
The bone collector, Maxmilian Kirchheimer, is the main character. His youngest brother is Reinhard Kirchheimer. These boys are both still living, getting on in age, and almost everybody else isn't except for their dad whose name the best I can figure, given the abundant labyrinth of information, is Oswald Kirchheimer. The most seriously important details you need to know about Maxmilian is that he was an acolyte who took iron pills and read Karl May books. He also spit in his cousin Egon's face but also enjoyed playing football with him. There is nothing of note about his little brother Reinhard other than he is one of five children born to father Oswald and a mother who for some reason remained nameless and for the most part unmentioned throughout the text. Her parents were Paula and August Rosenfelder. August was an alcoholic and mean enough that his daughter-in-law bleached his throat. At some point old August discovered his wife Paula strangled by a calf halter up in the attic. Some time after this grave event August hung himself as well.
It wasn't clear to me in which order the children born to Florian and Elisabeth Kirchheimer came other than the first being a son Lazarus and the last also a son named Friedham. There were only two girls, those being Hildegard and Helene. Somewhere stuck in the middle of the lot were Maxmilian's father Oswald and another brother Eduard. Aunt Waltrid owned a pastry shop and was married to Eduard. She died two days before Christmas and Eduard was too drunk to attend her funeral. Friedham grew up to be a war correspondent and also at some point threatened to cut off Maximilian's genitals with a knife. Oswald's hunchback sister Hildegard was childless and married to Willibald Zitterer who smoked a pipe and died of lung cancer. Hildegard had arthritis and in her old age urine would constantly stream down her legs. Sister Helene was married to a carpenter who revered Hitler. The couple had a daughter named Karin who would run to her Aunt Hildegard and Uncle Willibald to escape her violent and fascist father. As a child, Oswald had a finger cut off while working in the hay fields and he also almost died in a nasty fall from high up in a hayloft. Oswald's uncle Ingo took a bullet in WWII and ended up in an insane asylum. Oswald's father Florian, brother to Ingo, commissioned the first power plant in Pulsnitz. He had cancer of the gallbladder and enjoyed dressing Maxmilian before school until the young boy complained of improprieties enough that his mother told her father-in-law to stop.
Maxmilian's father Oswald had many relationships that were southerly at best especially when he was chosen to take over the farm ahead of his older brother Lazarus who was described as having fat earlobes and who also drove a Mercedes. George Fuhrman pissed in some sausage meat and pushed Oswald's face in it. Otmar Hafner was Oswald's best friend who didn't walk until he was six years old. Otmar had a brother named Klaus who had a son Roman who hung himself in a hayloft with a calf halter which set off the rash of suicides in the first place. Klaus went on to try killing his own self twice before finally succeeding by being poisoned, trapped within his car's exhaust.
I am not sure what it was about the Hasslacher family but after young Leopold hung himself along with his friend Jonathan Stinehart by using the same rope, two of his other brothers decided to do likewise albeit separately it is assumed. Adam the Third Philippitsch was unlucky and found Leopold and Jonathan hanging from the rafters and was good enough to cut them down and notify their families. The mother of Jonathan, Katharina Stinehart, had her breasts removed as did Anita Felfernig who was the village's first television owner despite having seven hungry children and who also died of breast cancer despite her own actions taken to control the disease. It just dawned on me that Anita was most likely the mother of Ludmilla Felfernig who at fifteen years old started her first menstrual period and not knowing what it was began to run when the other schoolchildren teased her. She smeared the blood that was drifting down her legs on Calvary which was erected in the center of town by the pastor and painter Balthasar Kranabeter. Ludmilla then proceeded in her frantic despair to hurl herself off the Drava Bridge. She drowned caught in the grating far below. In addition, a friend of Katharina Stinehart's was struck by a truck while riding her bicycle to the Stineharts. Her name was Ms. Lakonig who was married to Mr. Lakonig who went by the name of Wilfried.
And there are just so many others to list and profile such as Miss Dorflinger who was a sorceress who refused to die, standing outside, being pelted by hail, and I would be remiss if I did not mention at least Leopoldine Felsberger, daughter of Paula and August Rosenfelder, married to Matthias Felsberger and mother to Maximilian's mother as well as brothers Kajetan and Michael who died in WWII as did so many others also worth mentioning but out of time to do so now.
One thing all of these fine people had in common was that religion did not save them. In fact, much was done in the name of religion to harm them. And keeping the family farms profitable and working was not always the best of ideas given the number of fingers and lives lost in the process. But my reading of this history was great fun, but hardly a laugh a minute. It was instead a piling up of bones. "In the clay vessel in which, from the bones of slaughtered animals, the putrid-smelling bone stock was distilled, to be painted on the horses with a crow's feather in the summer heat, around the eyes and nostrils, and on the belly, to protect them from the pricking and bloodsucking horseflies and mosquitoes...."
Perhaps not wrapped as tight as the text I read, it still feels as if the effort was justified, though not so convinced enough to bet another life on it. But I would certainly be interested in hearing what any others not willing to hide behind their mother's skirts might have to say about their reading of this too. The closest reading of late that I can compare this fine work to would be John the Posthumous by Jason Schwartz. Both writers seem to lyrically compile major lists and study their history in words that make it an awful lot for a body to consume. Even in light of several balanced servings....more
Though I skipped the last two sections for now, as I am not familiar with either artist nor am I interested at this time in learning about them, the bThough I skipped the last two sections for now, as I am not familiar with either artist nor am I interested at this time in learning about them, the bulk of the magazine, precisely all of it chronologically leading up to and ending at the music section, I still rate this work as five stars and a wonder. Anybody interested in Gerald Murnane would benefit from reading this issue and I cannot compliment or praise the editors of this periodical enough for the care in which their focus remains steadfast on the artists they are profiling for us. There does not seem at all to be an agenda such is found in most other litmags, especially those that vie for our attentions online.
In this issue the fan of Gerald Murnane may discover an interview of same, letters to and from, several critical reviews of most all of his oeuvre published thus far, a new work of Murnane's, and an old work never before published, as well as the announcement of two additional books of Murnane's forthcoming. I was enthralled throughout my entire reading and cannot recommend this issue strongly enough.
There is much to be said about this great Australian writer and I eagerly anticipate the oncoming traffic sure to be heading this way. ...more
Though a big fan of seriously lopsided proportions regarding the work of Gerald Murnane, I seem to be drawn more to the longer form of his short fiction and even more hooked into his longest long ones. Not that his essays are not good and interesting and full of helpful ideas in which I get to know Murnane even better, but the entire idea of having to stay with his object for the end result of a longer fiction gives me more to chew on and less he can get away with. That is, if you know what I mean. In his shorter work such as his so-called essays he has less rope in which to hang himself and less of a chance for making my head spin which is something I am extremely enamored with in my reading of him. Emily Dickinson wanted a poem to blow the top of her head off. I am satisfied with just a fast spin cycle. David Foster Wallace wore a bandana in order to keep his head from exploding, so you see, all of us have different ways in which we go about getting our needs met on the page.
So far in my reading there isn't any essay that stands out above the others, but they are all informative and important in understanding Murnane and his previous work. The piece on Kerouac, On the Road to Bendigo, offers another glimpse into the mind of Murnane and what makes him such a kindred spirit to such a moronic and misguided misogynist as Kerouac was. It seems they both had a marvelous penchant for making up complicated games as young boys they could play by themselves and keep detailed records of. In the case of Murnane he made a horse-racing game with marbles as did Kerouac as well. Murnane did not go in for the baseball card game that Kerouac developed but what is interesting to me is I did both. Of course, my games were not as elaborately detailed as either one of these two literary giants. I relied on the domestic makers of a board game titled The Kentucky Derby for my horse-racing pleasure and I also purchased a card game I think called simply Baseball developed by someone other than Jack Kerouac. I kept my own detailed baseball records and had a full league of teams. I had leaders in several baseball categories including best ERA, most strikeouts, wins, batting average, home runs, RBI's, hits, runs, not to mention the standings for each team in my single league and would spend hours at my desk shuffling and dealing, and learning how to cheat. As I look back I think of myself as compartmentalized in my soft-core cheating, but in a much less diabolical way than most of the rather obscene criminals we have heard gruesome tales of.
Through these collected essays I am also learning more about the books Murnane has read. Much of what he writes between these covers here are in some manner late book reviews, and there are authors mentioned I had never heard of and I am sent scampering to my source of all things literary for new answers on availability and their worthiness to others besides Murnane. And there are also criticisms galore regarding submitted fictions by others in which he plays the part of decider of whether to place the pieces in the magazine he was an integral part of called Meanjin. I liked his editorial style and the way he marked his comments on the margins of the pages he was in charge of filtering down to a final product.
The title essay of this collection, Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs, makes the reading of the entire book more than worthwhile. Anyone familiar with Marcel Proust and his masterwork will certainly enjoy this longish piece. The Proust name is mentioned often as is his text, and connections are made to Murnane's life that almost seem remarkable if you weren't already familiar with the way in which Gerald works. Landscapes and connections abound in this piece regarding the author's father and horse racing among many other things not needing to be mentioned here but certainly important to Murnane's story. One interesting example that should be made is Murnane's own lack of a sense of smell which is doubly a detriment one might think to relating to the words of Proust seeing as though taste and scent is so prevalent in his work and memory. I am not one to comment much on Marcel Proust as I have only owned the entire twelve volumes of his masterwork for a period of a couple years at most before selling it online for a very good profit. I had begun the first volume with every intention of finishing the entire masterwork but only ventured in far enough to realize perhaps I had not the gumption to ever finish such a book of several volumes though I immediately recognized a work of great genius and flair. My fear in reading Marcel Proust has always been at the risk of not reading all the other books and authors I have already, and will have, been attracted to in some way. To invest the period of time it would take to read the Proust entire masterwork is something I am unable at this point to do. Perhaps after I have significantly aged and my looks have evolved themselves into effects more resembling a prune, and I can find no other work that might purchase me to the extreme, then, and only then, will I be able to dive in to such a wondrously rich experience as reading Marcel Proust. A complete study of the work of Marcel Proust inevitably amounts to a scholarship escaping me but appears to be something required by others I respect for their reading prowess and discerning ideas of what that means to such a serious literary Bovidae.
Stream System was for me one of the most difficult pieces of Murnane fiction I have ever read. Of course, one may wonder why I use the word fiction here when this is obviously a collection of essays, so to speak. Well, the problem is with Gerald Murnane and not I. At the end of this Stream System he admits what he just related was all fiction and none of it really happened, and for every reason under the sun I still do not believe him. He sounds so truthful when he is speaking to me. And nothing ever sounds made-up. Especially the part about his younger brother being backwards and he avoiding him all his life and his little brother finally dying alone in a room with not one friend in the world including counting his older brother Gerald. And Murnane is only matter-of-fact about the entire occasion of his brother's death. There is no sentimentality at all, but true confessions as to how he hid from and avoided his younger brother all of his life and never was a friend to him. It was only on the day before his brother died at the age of forty-three that Gerald realized that his brother had no friends. For a moment I was a bit disturbed with Gerald Murnane and wondered if my strong affections for him had been too hasty and now felt a bit unseemly. But I may never know the truth about his brother or if Gerald really was as bad to him as his confession stated. He clearly disavowed everything when he claimed the entire piece had been written at a desk and he had never been where he said he had and for that I suppose he must be forgiven.
After struggling through that last so-called essay I sailed through the next two of the last three remaining for me to read. Not exactly all the way through however, as I still had at least half the second to last essay remaining to me when this compulsion came over me to express again my gratitude for Gerald Murnane on this page. These two essays before the last one are amazing in the sense that he is teaching anyone willing to listen and understand why and how it is that he does what he does on the page. He even performs a bit of a creative demonstration for us which is not only marvelous but extremely sensitive in its honesty and forthrightness. Either that or he is again somewhat pulling my leg with another bit of made-up fiction, but I highly doubt it. Murnane is a very humble man, and one who seems he cannot tell a lie even though he admits to writing fiction all of the time. For the sake of clarity the two pieces I am referring to are Secret Writing and The Breathing Author. Both are inside looks into the workings of the mind of Gerald Murnane and which are so fascinating to me I would think them scary for the uninitiated, of which those members would consist of those readers who have yet to read Murnane's long fiction The Plains or his collection of shorter fictions titled Landscape with Landscape. It would behoove anyone wanting to read and study Gerald Murnane to begin with these two above-mentioned books first to prepare oneself for the onslaught of images and ideas that come from everywhere it seems from the mind of Murnane and can cause a bit of consternation and confusion even if the reader is not perhaps fully prepared. It must also be noted that I have yet to read his very first two books as they were not readily available to me at the time when I chose to begin my study, and now my latest obsession, of which I have had too many prior to this new one to list here, and really is not pertinent to this page.
If Gerald Murnane was telling the truth in the second to last essay of this book, then those of us who do outlive him by several years will be the recipients of a multitude of private writings currently held in the personal files he keeps at his home that he says will be made public several years after his death and the deaths of certain others his words might harm or bring undue pain to. I probably won't make it long enough to learn all there is that Murnane wants to share, but I am sure it will be worthwhile and something I am likely to not want to have missed. But then, when that time comes, I will be like the eunuch castrated before puberty who knows nothing of what it might have been like to be a sexual being with all the feelings, good and bad, that sexual passion brings.
Murnane begins his last essay in this book with why he learned the Hungarian language at such an advanced age, if my memory serves, at fifty-six and generally an age too old to be learning a new foreign language. He related how he had become competent during the course of his life in six languages, but never had he become fluent in any to the degree of learning by hearing the languages except for his native English. But Murnane went on then to digress or segue his story into Catholicism, Latin prayers, hymns, The Nicene Creed, horse racing, and a few other examples somehow relating to this main subject, and finally branching off into his personal discovery of a book he read in English written by an Hungarian writer by the name of Gyula Illyes. The title of this English translation was People of the Puszta. He was so affected by the book his consecutive obsessive impulse was to write his next long fiction he titled Inland (which just so happens to be the next Murnane title in my queue) in order to "relieve him of his feelings". Because of being so impressed by this Hungarian novel he decided to learn the language so he could read the book in the original.
Gerald Murnane is such a special talent. It is a shame he is just now being discovered more widely. Many of his books are still hard to find in the USA and come at stiff prices even for those of us who might actually afford them. It is my hope that his Australian publisher Giramondo Publishing will bring all of his out-of-print titles back into circulation again and that Dalkey Archives or some other such publisher in the USA will deem fit to do so as well....more
Thank goodness for me I am courageous enough to break the rules. Even in the face of a serious suggestion to read the works of Gerald Murnane in the order in which they were written, still I refused and read them as the books came to me in the U.S. mail. First I read The Plains and that pleased me to no small degree and enough so that I could not wait to get my hands on another one. The next one available to me for reading was Barley Patch and that one was different, and a review of previous works, a sequel so to speak, but still I got the feel for Murnane and what he was up to in his so-called true fiction. This title Landscape with Landscape is so unlike either of the first two novels I read that initially I was spooked over what I had gotten myself into. But Murnane doesn't change too much in between the times it takes to write his books. He may, or may not, get better. This collection is a group of loosely connected short fictions which in some cases are basically novellas and rich as can be with all the themes of a full-length Murnane offering. I am flat-out amazed at this Aussie's talent.
It is one thing to write a review about a novel and quite another to remark on a collection of loosely connected stories. Given they are all fictions, this is the one thread they all have in common with each other. That and their impressive genius in their composition. Not to mention the complete engagement, even going into them highly doubtful of this development, but exceedingly pleased with the fabulous results. Of course, Gerald Murnane is not for everybody. And I am not here to shame anyone for not liking nor respecting him for being the great writer that he certainly is. His work is no different than songs by certain bands we like, or symphonies composed by artists the like we shall never see or ever hear from again. It is a matter of taste, and mine goes to something as my friend Gordon Lish describes as being "unexampled in its feeling".
The first story in this collection is titled Landscape with Freckled Woman. Stating from the very beginning that the speaker is the only man in a neighborhood committee that numbers nine women and himself, I was a bit skeptical that there would be much of interest for me here as I generally like to hide from these types of organizations, as does Murnane obviously as well. But almost immediately Murnane had me interested in his secret memory and how it affected his relationship with all these women at the table. His evolving ideas of who he once was and now is vastly alters the changing landscape that Murnane is always focused on. The one woman the speaker chooses to reveal to us besides a brief countenance regarding the president, is flawed in her appearance and has freckles, or marks on her skin, that makes her more real to him and worthy of conversation with as he is a writer and interested in these types of landscapes. But of course, he cannot reveal too much of himself to her as he is not gifted in the gab necessary to converse with members of the opposite sex so instead he tells us, the reader, everything he wishes he could intimately disclose to the freckled woman. It is an amazing story and I felt it to be a great beginning to this collection, but doubtful he could continue this thread of excellence in the remaining five entrees to come.
The second story in this collection is titled Sipping the Essence. In this story Murnane actually has names for his characters which is unusual based on the previous two books I have read thus far. But these characters are delicious and so are their names. Kelvin Durkin plays the lead character's best friend and really isn't much of a friend but somebody it seems the lead needs to talk to and bounce his ideas off or perhaps compare himself to. They are unlike each other in numerous ways except for their inexperience with women and that is the driving force in the story as they both are interested in the same girl. This story is so rich in its telling and one of the very best stories I have ever read. Kelvin Durkin ends up being a richly formed character of the first rank. The lead an awkward drunk who makes his own concoctions of liquors and juice or whatever he gets into his head as worth drinking. But his thinking is superb. He digresses enough to challenge the best of Sebald's adventures on the page. And Murnane is supremely clever and sadly funny about the true facts of life and we need to hear them coming from him and in the way in which he informs us. Unrequited love is the basis for the unfinished business between the three main characters. And the tale is rich and full of dreams and woe.
The third story is titled The Battle of Acosta Nu. Before reading this I did a bit of research as Murnane has admitted to only leaving his hometown of Melbourne once in all his life and this story takes place in Paraguay. His main character is a descendant of a small settlement of Australians. Though his story is fiction it is based on truth, as is all his fiction. In 1893 two thousand men and women led by William Lane left Australia for Paraguay where they established a utopian socialist colony called "New Australia". Paraguay offered the Australian settlers free land in order to help restore the population as just a few years earlier many of their youngest population was lost in a war on their country by serious invaders. The Battle of Acosta Ñu (or Campo Grande) was a battle where on August 16, 1869, 20,000 men of the Triple Alliance fought Paraguayan forces made up of 6,000 soldiers, many of them nine and ten year-old children. There is a national holiday to commemorate the memory of the children who lost their lives in the battle. In October 1957 the town changed its name to Nueva Londres, Spanish for New London. The colony was not a success, but over 2000 descendants can still be found today somewhat scattered into the surrounding area. Of these descendants, the main character in the Murnane story lives with his wife and two children. The manner in which Murnane weaves his tale is remarkable and is believable in very sense of the word. I cannot help but be reminded of Thomas Bernhard or W.G. Sebald in his writing although there isn't the blatant hatred and disgust present in the Murnane text that the above two gents so adroitly use to their advantage. But make no mistake, Murnane is definitely an Australian and proud of it, and wanting always to know more about his continent, country, and its land. Here, in Paraguay, he is again focused on the landscapes he lives in, the land that in his dreams he most loves, and his family which produces the tension needed for his truth to be told. A critically sick son provides the grist for thoughts on religion and spirituality, heaven and hell, nationality and a sense of home, racism, love, bravery, and honorable behavior among other digressions Murnane is so skilled at delivering. Murnane connects the story of The Battle of Acosta Ñu to the war his son is fighting in his hospital room. This, a poignant piece of literature, and of a quality I had no idea I was once again devouring. Will the Murnane brilliance never cease?
The fourth story is titled A Quieter Place than Clun. When I first started reading this after already being quite impressed with the first three works found inside this book, my mind was loosely wandering on its own instead of focusing on the words I was reading. It was immediately obvious to me that Murnane had always felt himself a bit different from others, as definitely not measuring up to the typical norms of the day regarding sports, and girls, and other activities such as the attendance of movies, games, and dancing. The Catholic religion was troubling to him but he was not yet ready to reject its teachings, just as most kids who never question, who are also afraid of rebelling too much against the powers that be. He was always more interested in his own mind, his learning and dreaming of wide expanses that the typical kid was not interested in. His idea of a girlfriend was somebody like himself who was more interested in talking than doing anything in a group or being socially vibrant and engaged. His fantasy held that this girl would find him one day, or he her, but his chances seemed to be slipping away as he observed the other happy couples busily moving through this life in Melbourne. I found it rather interesting how he then wove Thomas Merton and Kentucky into his dream expanse and a fantasy-girl at a North Carolina summer camp reading a book much as he did on an Outer Banks hillside surrounded by Spanish moss. I think in all his subtleties that Gerald Murnane is so very incredible, if you can please excuse me for repeating myself.
"…I decided that falling in love was nothing else than wanting urgently to see a woman's landscape."
The digressions run rampant in this tale of poetry he finds in books on the shelves of bookshops and exterior landscapes. Women, and the homosexuality of A.E. Housman, divide the latter half of this text and add a bit of confusion to the ensuing adventure. A character in the story by the great name of Warwick Whitbread, his wife and his friends, their women's breasts, thighs, and group picnics digressing into a Dylan Thomas idea of writing drunken poetry enough that a potentially-mounting sexual drive should save him from his own writing of it. After seeing enough of breast feedings and bare thighs he moseys down to an overgrown river bank to take care of his two-minute business in order to see if the women's breasts and thighs on his return to the group would still interest him enough to indeed possibly save him from this life of writing and make him be more inclined then to make his own children and raise a family. The problem, in a sense, was solved by his friend Warwick Whitbread by his not inviting our chief character to any more picnic excursions involving the Whitbread family and friends.
The continuing thread of the piece centers on his career as a teacher and his ongoing flight from the women in his building even though he was obviously obsessed with all of them. He moves into a spare room of another friend named the Danziger so he can write his novel that is to take the place of his writing poetry, which was not going much of anywhere of count. But still, our character spends a great deal of time alone holed up in his room or drinking heavily with the Danziger and his wife.
"Every Saturday night the Danziger and his wife went to a party somewhere in the suburbs. They urged me to go with them and bring back a woman to their house. Sometimes I did go, and sat drinking in a corner, hoping some preceptive young woman would notice about me the faint aureole from my fiery pattern of nerves. But always, in the early hours of Sunday, I would go home in a taxi with just the Danziger and his wife."
The story comes full circle to end up back in a solitary room with his book on A.E. Housman, looking onto another landscape in a place more quiet than any he had known. Though revisiting some of his themes of previous sentences I have read by him, he elaborates in ways not yet achieved and offers a different perspective of the same landscapes and self-imposed barriers he has already constructed. I believe this is what he sets out to do. Less dramatic than the previous three in this collection, this story nonetheless is completely satisfying and urges me on to the next installment.
In the beginning I was a bit concerned that I might be subjecting myself, and learning more about Murnane's sexual foibles, than I needed to. Charlie Alcock's Cock is the fifth story and it deals right from the beginning with his own young age, his older female cousins, his curiosity for secrets and sexuality, and all issues he has examined in prior fictions I have previously read. But there is nothing that feels old and worn or repetitive in an irritating manner. There is little doubt while reading the first few pages of this story that Murnane will be taking the reader again on another journey though he never leaves his writing table or his house. Murnane's perpetual dreams of landscapes are his only interest, and the intense focus of his gaze is his great drive resulting from his incessantly strong desire to be always somewhere else it seems. Perhaps it has been the unseasonably cool summer in northern Michigan this year and my own set of lifelong issues that has me a bit frustrated in the reading of this particular story. But I find myself equally ajar with the viewpoints of the world-at-large of the other young men in the story who are too worldly for their own good and the narrator's male cousin who is so comfortable in his skin and vocation for the priesthood. Meanwhile, our narrator struggles with finding a way into the heart and mind of a woman like himself as well as his constant need for sexual gratification which is handled exclusively by his own deft right hand. Nothing earth-shattering in this repetitive revealing of his ongoing neurosis for coming-to-age albeit his retarded time-table for doing so. But the title is making more sense the further on I go. And I am confident in the mastery of Murnane to get me where I need to be before he drops me off into another hidden suburb of the only town he knows. And he does, and it is a sadness that somehow comforts me. His honesty is refreshing, and though he has good reasons for his distaste for things Catholic, he loves their presbyteries and the solace they provide, their hidden arbors and vast lawns, private, and very good places to hide. Murnane is definitely an introspective and he almost kills me in this story of its proof. But he didn't and I am glad I forged on through the most difficult story so far in this collection.
Landscape with Artist completes this book. Australia's version of The Beats are called scrags and the narrator is interested in being one of them as he finally, after twenty years, leaves everything in the city and moves to Harp Gully. He will give up his job as a teacher, his wife and young family, and live the life of a writer living in a shack on a hill. But he believes all artists are pretentious and remembers thinking years ago he was Jack Kerouac ready for his own trip across the Great Divide. But all he can seem to muster most days is another drunken stupor, the entire day's drink spewing from his mouth as he regularly vomits behind another back veranda away from the house, staggering in misery before collapsing again as perhaps did Sal Paradise before him.
"I began one draft after another of the same story because I was too timid to leave Melbourne and to look for the place I belonged or the woman who would listen to the story of my travels."
Most everything in this story is imagined, as is his life, and even what he thinks of it as he looks back. Each memory another fiction he may have developed in his search for this elusive dream for the right woman and the place he might do his work. This, a constant theme in all Murnane's writing and one I never tire of as strange as it might seem. Gerald Murnane is a writer's author, somebody who is willing to go the distance to find what it is that makes himself tick. But in the process he is self-destructive to degrees apparently unhealthy and perhaps even unnecessary. The words keep coming and finding their place in sentences so well-developed they seem to fool. For as honest as they seem there is a lack of credulity in them. The frustrations are certainly real and believable, and in their process of becoming his writing flourishes under the weight of them. For some, I imagine there is no way out and their reading of this becomes unbearable. For me it is a supersaturation of all things good and true, and the journey through them not only inebriated, but invigorating, as if a shot glass could make the bigger difference in my shuddering.
"I have reached the degree of drunkenness at which things even a little odd or unfamiliar can seem strange and remarkable."
Lord knows the man drinks too much. And for somebody like me who hasn't had a drop of alcohol in over twenty-seven years it could begin to get a bit boring to continually read about his almost constant intoxication. But that is what my own reading and writing has become; a replacement for my addictions that caused my own undue suffering. It is important I think for Murnane to keep the pressure on and he does it with his drink. What strikes me most about his almost-constant inebriation is his mounting frustration in which the abuse of hard drink does nothing to curb it except for temporarily putting him out of his misery. And that is what the writing does as well. It is only good for in the doing, and the results matter little to abate the frustration a true artist must embrace. The brilliance in this story is in its obvious rancor for what is at stake. ...more
The "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before. The evidence contained decantThe "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before. The evidence contained decanters of hard liquor, stiff-backed uncomfortable chairs, tents staked in tall grasses on vistas of windowless walls, and little said or exampled but more of the same in a serious study never concluded in which libraries remain for all students and scholars to be seen and read of the vast and mounting compilations of a history regarding these interior plains. An exhausting review by me of this book so unnecessary, and even to seem, if exhibited, redundant in its praises. A Murnane language pure and sophisticated, transcribed in flowing terms, its manner appealing and appreciated by a person such as I who wishes he could have been instead the one to have written this book first.
The narrator wanting, it seems, to be seen as a film maker whose work truly matters, for years out of sight and hidden away in some corner behind drawn blinds of a silent library, who after all this time still remains dedicated to his project and long efforts to discover a fitting landscape in which to film, necessarily recognizing the meaning of what he saw, and would one day perhaps actually film the dark chamber beyond its visible darkness. The only comparison I have to Murnane's writing is the many scribblings of philosopher Gilles Deleuze who spoke almost endlessly of being and becoming, of rhizomes and their meanderings, and the difficulties of finally getting anywhere. This is a book I will definitely read again and it is likely to have led me on to a further study of the complete work of Gerald Murnane, which in my opinion, is the highest compliment to ones efforts of a lifetime. ...more