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Showing posts from September, 2011

"An Editorial Life" by Peter Weissman

(***Prefatory Note:  I've read every word Peter Weissman has published.  Well, at least every word of the two books he's published and some of the material he's generously allowed me to present here in my blog, further stand-alone pieces to be included in his novel-in-progress, True Stories: A Nonfiction Novel.  "An Editorial Life" is unlike any story of Weissman's I've read.  From my perspective, it's the starkest and most powerfully poignant piece he's authored.  So much of "An Editorial Life" strikes close to home for me, and I think it will for many.  Weissman knows exactly what to leave in his true stories, and what to leave out -- an intuitive talent that can't be taught.  That's why his stories, regardless whether you identify strongly with them -- as I do with this one -- stay with you.  They resonate with universal fictive truths.  I look forward to being haunted by Peter Weissman's true fictions for a long time to c…

On Leaving LibraryThing (and why that's a GoodThing)

There's no better book cataloging resource on the planet than LibraryThing.  For the rabid aficionado of books; for the pathologically obsessed bibliophile, such as yours truly (and thousands of others, many of them my virtual friends), LibraryThing offers the finest system anywhere online I've ever located.

LibraryThing may not be the largest or most popular book cataloging site or community out there, but it's by far the most hardcore.  If you've been to Goodreads, LibraryThing's largest competitor, you can see right away that LibraryThing is like walking through the doors of the finest university library in existence, like Columbia say, and Goodreads, well, isn't.  That's not to say Goodreads isn't good, it just isn't good like LibraryThing is good, a company too good to be called good.  I've decided, nevertheless, that Goodreads is going to be good enough for me.

Having been intimately involved with one of the most active and perhaps more…

The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus

"Dog, Mode of Heat Transfer in Barking"


"DOG, mode of heat transfer in fluids (hair and gases).  Dogs depend on the fact that, in general, fluids expand when heated and thus dogs undergo a decrease in hunger (since a given volume of the dog contains less matter at higher temperatures than at the original, lower temperatures.)  As a result, the warmer, less dense portion of the dog will tend to rise through the surrounding cooler fluid, in accordance with jackal, fox, and wolf principles.  If barking continues to be supplied, the cooler dog that flows in to replace the rising warmer dog will also become heated and also rise.  Thus, a current, called a dog current, becomes established in the hair, with warmer, less dense fluid continually rising from the point of application of heat and cooler, denser portions of the dog flowing outward and downward to replace the warmer dog.  In this manner, barking may be transferred to the entire dog."

Easily the oddest, most other…

As Taught by Paul Frizler; or, Swan and Shadow by John Hollander

I discovered this masterful poem for the eyes and soul back in the autumn of 1989.  I was an undergrad at Chapman University, when I took a course that altered my life's course inexorably, "Introduction to Poetry, 101".  The poem above was featured in Poems, Fourth Edition: Wadsworth Handbook And Anthology, a textbook I still own and reference regularly.  "Swan andShadow" by John Hollander was used as an introductory illustration of what was then commonly called "concrete poetry," but today is better known as "visual poetry".

The class was taught by the mosteccentric and engaging genius of a professor I ever had, the late great, Dr. Paul Frizler, B.A. at the ripe old age of nineteen, Ph.D. in English by twenty-six.  Frizler personified lightning.  He was eclectic and sincerely outrageous.  I remember his regaling us of his encounter with Jim Morrison at UCLA.  Unlike Morrison, however, Frizler's eccentricity was neither for shock or sho…

Topos

the night before departure
there's talk of trails
our topos rolled out on an oak table

colorful quadrants published by the USGS
constantly curl at the map's edges
and re-roll like they resent being seen

we're too buzzed on scotch and anticipation to go to sleep
or do what's sensible and weigh the map's ends down
with a phone book or our drizzling drinks

so we knead the topo again till its almost flat like pizza
and stubbornly press its edges down w/our clumsy forearms and elbows
the heck with GPS coordinated gadgetry we agree

and plot our own traverse here from earth
with our own eyes
not satellites

just like our archaic fathers taught us to
and their ancient dads showed them too
because we're backpackers not weightless astronauts

and so begin translating eighty-foot-interval contour lines
slim and squiggly as plucked strands of hair dyed red
into precipitous cliffs, canyons, and vast panoramas

possible campsites under pines on plateaus
or near butterfly meado…

The Voice in the Closet by Raymond Federman

There was that inevitable knock announcing doom at their door.  Raymond Federman's mother swept up her boy in her arms, the youngest of her three children, and told him to be quiet no matter what he heard -- no matter what -- to just trust her and do as he was told, and then secreted him inside a third story closet. Raymond was fourteen years old:  Small enough to fit inside that cramped closet, but big enough to understand too well the horror, to know the fear and feel the impending loss he'd never forget.

From the pitch black confines of his impromptu hideout, he listened without a sound as the Nazis stormed his parent's house, and as they forced his family out, Federman forced himself not to cry, to obey the directive of his dear mother, and fought back his tears.  A year later, Federman was the only surviving member of his family, an orphan among millions of other orphans, thanks to the Holocaust. But he lived to tell a story, thanks to his resourceful, quick-thinking…

She Said He Said About Ulysses

"Nothing but old fags and cabbage-stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest, stewed in the juice of the deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness".
~ D.H. Lawrence

What comedy, dear D.H., poo-poo'ing Ulysses for its "old fags" and "dirty-mindedness," when his novels are repressively replete with both, the naughty (perhaps unconsciously) hippo critter extraordinaire!

~~~~~

"A dead end."
~ H.G. Wells 

From the Sci-fi Guy that created one of the earliest and most thoroughly dead end scenarios in the speculative history of human civilization, War of the Worlds!

~~~~~

"An illiterate, underbred book . . . the book of a self-taught working man."
~ Virginia Woolf

So he was an autodidactic man with callouses on his hands from so much ... so much working, Virginia.  At least the book wasn't overbred like Dickey'sDeliverance.

~~~~~

"An absence of meaning, an emptiness of philosophic content, a poverty of new and disturbing…

Some Second Thoughts on Ulysses

I've lambasted Ulysses mercilessly over the years.  Much of my mockery has been for schtick, for show, playing the obnoxious devil's advocate in an online reading group in LibraryThing many full moons ago that was on a mythic quest for its last mysterious page.  Did the last page of Ulysses for the reader beginning at page one and looking to read page one followed by page two followed by page three one page after another all the way to the last page truly exist, or was it just a legend, the Holy Grail among last pages of Classic Literature?


Well, I never found out for myself if the last page of Ulysses existed or not, since around page 375, I got swept away from the book in a metaphorical avalanche of Joycean proportions, and my head spun faster than Regan's in The Exorcist, and in a fit of pique I chucked every copy I had of that beast, that gargantuan gargoyle, Ulysses, down the nearest storm drain.  The truth is, I felt stoo-pid reading that book, Ulysses, whether or not…

The Voice in the Closet by Raymond Federman (part I)

(***to read my complete piece on The Voice in the Closet, go here***)

There was that inevitable knock announcing doom at their door.  Raymond Federman's mother, Marguerite, swept up her little boy in her arms, the youngest of her three children, and told him to be quiet no matter what he heard, to just trust her and do what he was told, and secreted him inside a third story closet.  He was twelve years old:  Small enough to fit inside that cramped closet, but big enough to understand too well the horror, to know the fear and feel the loss he'd never forget. From the pitch black confines of his impromptu hideout, he listened without a sound as the nazis stormed his parent's house, and as they forced his family out, Federman forced himself not to cry, to obey his dear mother, and fought back his tears.  A year later, Federman was the only surviving member of his family, an orphan among millions of other orphans, thanks to the Holocaust.  But he lived to tell a story, thanks …

The Orangery by Gilbert Sorrentino

Orange you glad there was a writer named Gilbert Sorrentino, and that he left us so many innovative novels and books of poetry too?

Sorry about that cheesy orange opening, but since every poem of the seventy-eight collected here in 1978 for the Texas Press Poetry Series and published as TheOrangery, purposely (and cleverly) contains a variation or adjective on "orange" -- coronas, coronets, carillons, crèmes, burnt-orange, blossoms, bustiers, roses, glare, gold, fruit, flavor, flowers, tangelos, juice, ice, orangeades, sponges, sunsets, suns, light, love, stars, moon, Florida, slacks, conflagration, flames, gifts, gaudiness, wallpaper, glitter, groves, orchards, Orange Julius, disingenuousness, drinks, trees, glamour, togas, poppies, poseurs, hair, sombreros, guava, lava, Java, jelly, underbellies, duck's feet, sherbet, wax, marmalade, and perhaps a few other words I've neglected to itemize -- understand that my apology is truly insincere!

Gilbert Sorrentino obvious…

Four Experts on Secrets

On page twenty four (lines 170-172) of the Gabler edition of Ulysses,


You'll find the following diamond nugget of poetic prose:
"Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants, willing to be dethroned".

~~~

Upon reading the Joyce quote above, my memory free associates to a Robert Frost poem I memorized from obsessively reading it so much (trying to figure out each thread of its infinitude of possible meanings) rather than from memorizing it intentionally, back in college, called, "The Secret Sits" -- terse two liner of a freight-train-impacting poem -- laden with tomes of plausible contexts and interpretations:


We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows. 

First published in A Witness Tree, in 1942.




~~~


Paul Valery once said (I forget the source), "A man's true secrets are more secret to himself than they are to others."  In other words, don't know th…

"Naples Aglow"