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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR NOVEMBER 2011

November  30,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

But even in the society of the unimpeachable I was bored by the barrenness of the ever lasting discussions and the arbitrary pigeon-holing of radical, liberal, anarchist, bolshevik, and non-political; this was my first proper insight into the eternal type of the professional revolutionary who feels himself lifted out of his insignificance by the mere fact of being in opposition and who clings to his dogma for want of resources within himself.  To stick it out in this confusing babel meant to become confused myself, to cultivate unsafe associations and to jeopardize the ethical foundation of my convictions.  So I withdrew.  The truth is that no one of those café-conspirators ever dared a conspiracy, not one of those improvised cosmic thinkers ever was able to formulate a policy when the need was present. 

--The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig

[N.B.:  Hmmm, Zweig seems to be describing a very modern movement that just faded away.  It went by some kind of hard-to-remember acronym: OUCH? SOW? I recall it had something to do with percentages and a lack of outdoor toilets.]

November  29,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

At the café I met a man who ate fire for a living and also bent coins which he held in his toothless jaws with his thumb and forefinger.  His gums were sore but firm to the eye as he exhibited them and he said it was not a bad métier.  I asked him to have a drink and he was pleased.  He had a fine dark face that glowed and shone when he ate the fire.  He said there was no money in eating fire nor in feats of strength with fingers and jaws in Lyon.  False fire-eaters had ruined the métier and would continue to ruin it wherever they were allowed to practice.  He had been eating fire all evening, he said, and did not have enough money on him to eat anything else that night.  I asked him to have another drink, to wash away the petrol taste of the fire-eating, and said we could have dinner together if he knew a good place that was cheap enough.  He said he knew an excellent place.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

November  28,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

The last thing Ezra [Pound] said to me before he left the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs to go to Rapallo was, "Hem, I want you to keep this jar of opium and give it to Dunning only when he needs it."

It was a large cold-cream jar and when I unscrewed the top the content was dark and sticky and it had the smell of very raw opium.  Ezra had bought it from an Indian chief, he said, on the avenue de l'Opéra near the Boulevard des Italiens and it had been very expensive.  I thought it must have come from the old Hole in the Wall bar which was a hangout for deserters and for dope peddlers during and after the first war.  The Hole in the Wall was a very narrow bar with a red-painted façade, little more than a passageway, on the rue des Italiens.  At one time it had a rear exit into the sewers of Paris from which you were supposed to be able to reach the catacombs.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

November  27,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

I knew I must write a novel.  But it seemed an impossible thing to do when I had been trying with great difficulty to write paragraphs that would be the distillation of what made a novel.  It was necessary to write longer stories now as you would train for a longer race.  When I had written a novel before, the one that had been lost in the bag stolen at the Gare de Lyon, I still had the lyric facility of boyhood that was as perishable and as deceptive as youth was.  I knew it was probably a good thing that it was lost, but I knew too that I must write a novel.  I would put it off though until I could not help doing it.  I was damned if I would write one because it was what I should do if we were to eat regularly.  When I had to write it then it would be the only thing to do and there would be no choice.  Let the pressure build.  In the meantime I would write a long story about whatever I knew best.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

November  26,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was a very simple story called "Out of Season" and I had omitted the real end of it which was that the old man hanged himself.  this was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.

--A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

[N.B.:  This trick has been a favorite of second-rate artists ever since.  You see it employed by abstract expressionists whose gnomic patterns have great meaning for themselves but are mere splashes of paint for others.  You also see it in poetry and in songwriting (yes, I'm looking at you, the Two Dylans).  Hemingway has a lot to answer for.]

November  25,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Rhyme is an irrational, sensual link between two words.  It is chemical.  It is alchemical.

April, silver, orange, month.

--Presto Manifesto!  by A.E. Stallings from Eight Manifestos collected in Poetry (May 2009)

November  24,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Translators who translate poems that rhyme into poems that don't rhyme solely because they claim keeping the rhyme is impossible without doing violence to the poem have done violence to the poem.  They are also lazy.

--Presto Manifesto!  by A.E. Stallings from Eight Manifestos collected in Poetry (May 2009)

November  23,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

There are no tired rhymes.  There are no forbidden rhymes.  Rhymes are not predictable unless lines are.  Death and breath, womb and tomb, love and of, moon June, spoon, all still have great poems ahead of them.

--Presto Manifesto!  by A.E. Stallings from Eight Manifestos collected in Poetry (May 2009)

November  22,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Which reminds me of the story of the man who reports a wife-beating to a neighbor.  "Then stop beating her," the neighbor replies.  "But it's not my wife!" replies the good Samaritan, becoming agitated.  "That's even worse!" says his neighbor.

--Manifest Aversions, Conceptual Conundrums, & Implausibly Deniable Links  by Charles Bernstein from Eight Manifestos collected in Poetry (May 2009)

November  21,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Immature poets borrow.  Mature poets invest.

--Manifest Aversions, Conceptual Conundrums, & Implausibly Deniable Links  by Charles Bernstein from Eight Manifestos collected in Poetry (May 2009)

November  20,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

He played the accordion out of tune in a country

where the only musical instrument is the door.

 

--From "Deaf Republic" by Ilya Kaminsky collected in Poetry (May 2009)

November  19,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

In applying his drama-working methods to the novel he gave to his fiction the qualities of the play.  His protagonists would be shown at the crucial moments in their lives, face to face with their conflicts and decisions and in scenes as carefully set as if they were the work of the stage designer and the property man.  The theatre had taught him rigid economy and how to allow a situation to unfold without the intervention of the narrator; how to obtain intensity from a given situation by extracting all the elements of drama it contained.  It led him also into scenic economy; those experiments in which he heightens tension by leaving out certain awaited climactic scenes, as in The Wings of the Dove.

--Henry James: The Dramatic Years by Leon Edel collected in Guy Domville: A Play in Three Acts by Henry James with comments by Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett

November  18,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Forget not," [James] exploded one day to his publisher, William Heinemann, "that you write for the stupid--that is, that your maximum of refinement must meet the minimum of intelligence of the audience--the intelligence, in other words, of the biggest ass it may conceivably contain."  And he added:  "It is a most unholy trade!"

--Henry James: The Dramatic Years by Leon Edel collected in Guy Domville: A Play in Three Acts by Henry James with comments by Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett

November  17,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

When Gabriel Nash, in a long outburst, describes the problems of writing for the Victorian theatre--and it applies to the contemporary as well--he is speaking of Henry James:

. . . the omnium gatherum of the population of a big commercial city at the hour of the day when their taste is at its lowest, flocking out of hideous hotels and restaurants, gorged with food, stultified with buying and selling and with all the other sordid preoccupations of the age, squeezed together in a sweltering mass, disappointed in their seats, timing the author, timing the actor, wishing to get their money back on the spot--all before eleven o'clock.  Fancy putting the exquisite before such a tribunal as that!  There's not even a question of it.  The dramatist wouldn't if he could, and in nine cases out of ten he couldn't if he would.  He has to make the basest concessions.  One of the principal canons is that he must enable his spectators to catch the suburban trains, which stop at 11:30.  What would you think of any other artist--the painter or the novelist--whose governing forces should be the dinner and suburban train?

--Henry James: The Dramatic Years by Leon Edel collected in Guy Domville: A Play in Three Acts by Henry James with comments by Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett

November  16,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Dickens, next to Shakespeare, probably was the author who figured most frequently in Henry James's boyhood playgoing, although it is a question whether he figured more for him on the stage than in the book.  The familiar characters were emerging freshly from magazine and volume and they were thrown hastily upon the stage by play tinkers seeking to give bodily form to the Micawbers and Scrooges, Pickwicks and Copperfields, Oliver Twists and Paul Dombeys, whose very names assured a full house.  To Burton [of William Burton's Theatre], Henry James was indebted for the Captain Cuttle of Dombey and Son, and he recalled him as a "monstrous Micawber . . . with the entire baldness of a huge easter egg and collar-points like the sails of Mediterranean feluccas."  He must have seen him in that role, if not in 1850 when Burton gave David Copperfield at his theatre, then in the revivals of 1853 and 1855.  At Burton's too he saw Nicholas Nickleby with Lizzie Weston as Smike "all tearful melodrama."  In face of his recollection of these productions, the aged Henry mused, "who shall deny the immense authority of the theatre, or that the stage is the mightiest of modern engines?  Such at least was to be the force of Dickens imprint, however applied, in the soft clay of our generation; it was to resist so serenely the wash of the waves of time."

--Henry James: The Dramatic Years by Leon Edel collected in Guy Domville: A Play in Three Acts by Henry James with comments by Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett

November  15,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

For where works of non-fiction tend to begin with ideas, if not arguments, works of the imagination tend to begin with images.  You find yourself "haunted" by something you've seen, or believe you have seen; you begin to create, with varying degrees of consciousness and volition, an entire world around this image, a world or more precisely an atmospheric equivalent of a world, to contain it, nurture it, enhance it, "revel" it.  But the revelation is likely to be purely emotional, purely felt.

--On the Composition of I Lock My Door Upon Myself collected in Uncensored: Views & (Re)views by Joyce Carol Oates

November  14,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Of course, a literary work is a kind of nest: an elaborately and painstakingly woven nest of words incorporating chunks and fragments of the writer's life in an imagined structure, as a bird's nest incorporates all manner of items from the outside our windows, ingeniously woven together in an original design.

--A Garden of Earthly Delights Revisited collected in Uncensored: Views & (Re)views by Joyce Carol Oates

November  13,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was famously said that Henry James had a mind "too fine to be violated by an idea" but, in fact, James was supremely a writer of ideas; his works of fiction are highly conceptualized, like formal works of music.

--Amateurs collected in Uncensored: Views & (Re)views by Joyce Carol Oates

[N.B.:  Here JCO redefines the term "idea" to quibble with a sound criticism (in the positive sense of that term) of The Master.  Yes, James, just like Beethoven, very carefully constructed his works of art based on a master plan.  But, other than taking into account such aesthetic considerations, he did not construct his works in order to advance some political agenda or "idea"--unless one considers the simple dictate that one should never lie or, worse, commit an act of cruelty an "idea."  He was just James.  And that is why he has lasted because he did not subvert his art in favor of the passing notions of the day.]

November  12,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Evil as a force, individual or collective, simply doesn't exist in Tyler's universe; she has never created a character capable of violence or deliberate cruelty, let alone evil. 

--Amateurs collected in Uncensored: Views & (Re)views by Joyce Carol Oates

[N.B.:  Odd that JCO thinks evil is something other that "violence or deliberate cruelty"--non-violent unintended cruelty, perhaps?  But she does put her fingeron both why Anne Tyler is popular today and also why she won't last.  Evil is the great combustible engine of literature--just ask Dickens.]

November  11,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

If the term had not been coined to define an essentially surrealist/exotic mode of twentieth-century fiction, "magical realism" would most accurately describe the considerable emotional power that can be generated by a sudden illumination of meaning in ordinary, routine, and largely unobserved in our daily lives.  Realism is a mimicry of life in the quotidian, not the heroic or cataclysmic; at its core, the greatest of all dramas can be simply the passage of time.  Where the essential strategy of poetry is distillation, the strategy of the realistic novel is accumulation, which is why novels as diverse as Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale, James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy depend for their effect upon a painstaking if not obsessive recording of minutiae. 

--Amateurs collected in Uncensored: Views & (Re)views by Joyce Carol Oates

November  10,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Memoirs are not lives, but texts alluding to lives.  The technique of memoir resembles that of fiction: selection, distillation, dramatization.  Inevitably, much is omitted.  Inevitably, much is distorted.  Memories are notoriously unreliable, particularly in individuals prone to myth-making and the settling of old scores, which may by all of us.  

--Ghosts: Hilary Mantel collected in Uncensored: Views & (Re)views by Joyce Carol Oates

[N.B.:  Here's a good example of the type of intelligent insight that is Joyce Carol Oates' stock-in-trade.  It is intelligent, yes, but not brilliant.  She sees far, but not far enough to last.  The brilliant insight would have been that she is not just describing how memoirs resemble fiction but how all of what is referred to as non-fiction "history" suffers from the same defects.  But her scope is small and she has no time for such generalities as she is compelled to constantly scribble, scribble, scribble.]

November  9,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Ours is the age of what might be called the New Memoir: the memoir of sharply focused events, very often traumatic, in distinction to the traditional life-memoir.  the New Memoir is frequently written by the young or relatively young, the traditional memoir is usually the province of the older.  In this sub-genre, the motive isn't to write a memoir because one is an individual of stature or accomplishment, in whom presumably readers might be interested, but to set forth out of relative anonymity the terms of one's physical/psychological ordeal; in most cases, the ordeal is survived, so that the memoirist moves through trauma into coping and eventual recovery. 

--"New Memoir": Alice Sebold's Lucky collected in Uncensored: Views & (Re)views by Joyce Carol Oates

November  8,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

'You may be right: the money which other people earn for you is the money which pays you best.'

--Germinal by Émile Zola

November  1,  2011

Patrick: Lagniappe

Most of Poch's poems, though, aren't up to the standards set by these examples.  There are no out-and-out disasters; Poch's commitment to craft--to ensuring that his lines scan and rhyme--guarantees that the slightest of his works are always readable, even enjoyable (an advantage that  mediocre formal verse has over mediocre free verse).  However, it's this same commitment to craft, to satisfying a pre-imposed pattern, that can lead Poch's verse into subtle but costly contortions.

--Going Negative by Jason Guriel (Poetry, March 2009)