Finale: courtesy of Fellini and Shakespeare

Two endings to choose from:

A


B

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-27)
Happy New Year to all of you!

Finale: courtesy of Fellini and Shakespeare

Two endings to choose from:

A


B

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-27)
Happy New Year to all of you!

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

[Credit to this site]

In response to this tag by the very kind Tom Roper (an authentic librarian), I am happy to present the following:

Five [Astounding, Invigorating, and Swoon-Inducing] Things You Did Not Know About Clavdia Chauchat


1) Clavdia Chauchat is not my real name.

2) I have been known to spend ludicrous amounts of time in the pursuit of completing the newest Link/Zelda game; forgoing food, exercise, and normal human interaction. [This shameful, wonderful tendency has also manifested itself in reaction to Warcraft (PC), The Sims, (PC), and Fable (XBOX)].

3) I am not always alone. In fact, the people I never mention in my blog are actually quite present in my life. They also have names and are very nice, interesting folks. Sorry for not mentioning you earlier!

4) For 10+ years I was a bona fide athlete: field hockey and track for fun, swimming in earnest. I competed at a the NCAA D1 level and was not too shabby. It was the most formative and difficult thing I ever committed myself to. I gave it up to go to London for a few months and then returned to become a professional student/ student-in-waiting.

5) I have a cross-shaped scar on my right ankle; a trio of stars tattooed on my right hipbone, a seated mermaid tattooed on my lower left back, and a flying owl tattooed on my right shoulder blade. I faint when my blood is taken and cannot stand the smell of rubbing alcohol or baby powder.

Ahem, and with that, I tag the following people (my apologies!)

David
Maitresse
Olivia
Francesca
Estella

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

[Credit to this site]

In response to this tag by the very kind Tom Roper (an authentic librarian), I am happy to present the following:

Five [Astounding, Invigorating, and Swoon-Inducing] Things You Did Not Know About Clavdia Chauchat


1) Clavdia Chauchat is not my real name.

2) I have been known to spend ludicrous amounts of time in the pursuit of completing the newest Link/Zelda game; forgoing food, exercise, and normal human interaction. [This shameful, wonderful tendency has also manifested itself in reaction to Warcraft (PC), The Sims, (PC), and Fable (XBOX)].

3) I am not always alone. In fact, the people I never mention in my blog are actually quite present in my life. They also have names and are very nice, interesting folks. Sorry for not mentioning you earlier!

4) For 10+ years I was a bona fide athlete: field hockey and track for fun, swimming in earnest. I competed at a the NCAA D1 level and was not too shabby. It was the most formative and difficult thing I ever committed myself to. I gave it up to go to London for a few months and then returned to become a professional student/ student-in-waiting.

5) I have a cross-shaped scar on my right ankle; a trio of stars tattooed on my right hipbone, a seated mermaid tattooed on my lower left back, and a flying owl tattooed on my right shoulder blade. I faint when my blood is taken and cannot stand the smell of rubbing alcohol or baby powder.

Ahem, and with that, I tag the following people (my apologies!)

David
Maitresse
Olivia
Francesca
Estella

Profondissima quiete

[Sunrise with Sea Monsters - JMW Turner]

It's grey and brown here. The branches of the trees and the vines interlaced between them recede into a tangled blanket of drab. It's raining also, with the slow mist-rain that forms more a veil of water than a sprinkle or shower.

I brought Magic Mountain home with me, as well as Mallarme and Leopardi, and I am ensorcelled. There is a black cat sitting in my windowsill, (and now precariously close to the keyboard), Emily Haines is playing in the background, and it's quiet elsewhere.

I found this yesterday, I wish I could know it in Italian:

Infinitive

I've always loved this lonesome hill
And this hedge that hides
The entire horizon, almost, from sight.
But sitting here in a daydream, I picture
The boundless spaces away out there, silences
Deeper than human silence, an unfathomable hush
In which my heart is hardly a beat
From fear. And hearing the wind
Rush rustling through these bushes,
I pit its speech against infinite silence--
And a notion of eternity floats to mind,
And the dead seasons, and the season
Beating here and now, and the sound of it. So,
In this immensity my thoughts all drown;
And it's easeful to be wrecked in seas like these.

Leopardi (trans. Eamon Grennan)

So many times have I been there, so many times have I been obliterated by space and by time, standing in awe in front of the sea, a gust of wind, a great vista, a perfect phrase of poetry or music. And afterwards? The sediment of experience settles back on the soul/spirit/mind, and the mantle of "I" is resumed.

Profondissima quiete

[Sunrise with Sea Monsters - JMW Turner]

It's grey and brown here. The branches of the trees and the vines interlaced between them recede into a tangled blanket of drab. It's raining also, with the slow mist-rain that forms more a veil of water than a sprinkle or shower.

I brought Magic Mountain home with me, as well as Mallarme and Leopardi, and I am ensorcelled. There is a black cat sitting in my windowsill, (and now precariously close to the keyboard), Emily Haines is playing in the background, and it's quiet elsewhere.

I found this yesterday, I wish I could know it in Italian:

Infinitive

I've always loved this lonesome hill
And this hedge that hides
The entire horizon, almost, from sight.
But sitting here in a daydream, I picture
The boundless spaces away out there, silences
Deeper than human silence, an unfathomable hush
In which my heart is hardly a beat
From fear. And hearing the wind
Rush rustling through these bushes,
I pit its speech against infinite silence--
And a notion of eternity floats to mind,
And the dead seasons, and the season
Beating here and now, and the sound of it. So,
In this immensity my thoughts all drown;
And it's easeful to be wrecked in seas like these.

Leopardi (trans. Eamon Grennan)

So many times have I been there, so many times have I been obliterated by space and by time, standing in awe in front of the sea, a gust of wind, a great vista, a perfect phrase of poetry or music. And afterwards? The sediment of experience settles back on the soul/spirit/mind, and the mantle of "I" is resumed.

Scribble

[Marcel Dzama's Last Winter Here]

Lately, there have been too many days when I wade through the minutes with a mind either numb or in chaos. Not enough space and too much crammed into the tiny corners. I have been devouring stories and novels, movies, pictures, and people...but nothing persists. I'll catch myself thinking lazily, meandering through a few moments of free time, and alighting upon scraps of dialogue or a vivid mental image, only to find that it is an orphan, cut loose from its original place and wandering aimlessly through my head.

The truth is that I am stuffing myself with art and literature as if I were dining at a final feast of glory, never to taste such delicacies or well-loved flavors again. I hate it. I will be left with nothing but a nightmarish sequence of disembodied voices and hollow mannequin-characters if I keep this up.

And yet-- there is a stack of books beckoning me, some have been opened and explored already, some wait, fresh from print-on-demand, from the Strand and from the backorder lists in cyber-publishing world. I see Beyond the Visible: the Art of Odilon Redon; Phaidon's Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing; I see a volume of Baudelaire; A Rebours by J. K. Huysmans; the poems of Leopardi; Essays on Literature by Eco; a post-it-ridden copy of Eco's Baudolino, and looking at these, the pieces start to fall together.


Just as I can predict what my weekend will be like if I begin re-reading the Bell Jar or Villette, I can see the source of my mood in these works. I cannot read without feeling my entire environs shift around me, and my own way of interacting with the world change.


[Redon's Smiling Spider]

If I am reading Charlotte Bronte, the shadows in the streets become pearl-grey, the trees whisper in hushed voices, and I assume a mantle of quiet to conceal tumultuous thoughts and passions that bubble out of some chamber in my heart.

If I have dipped into a novel of A. S. Byatt's I become ambitious, vociferous, empowered. My world has vivid colors, sharp dialogue and I feel fantastic. If it's Eco's novels that I am reading I hush my ambition and wonder at the wealth of knowledge in the world, at the fantastic quality of reality and I stand humbled in front of history.

If it's Virginia Woolf I am reading, I feel most like a strong, swift river, rushing toward a goal that I know, in tune to my moments, aware of the power within me, of the calm I must maintain, and of the rich, variegated world existing around me.

And so, as I look again at a stack of books that will keep me warm through the next few weeks, I am preparing the me-that-is-now for the me-that-will-be: she will be a little dark, quite pessimistic, enthralled by luxury gentle dissipation; she will be drawn to rich, soaked hues, to deep shadows of sepia, to sinister images. She will laugh less and believe again in the irresistible power of malaise, of solitude, of silence.



[Marcel Dzama: Untitled]

And when that spell is over, it will perhaps be time for some Chaucer, Donne, and Maria Edgeworth!

Scribble

[Marcel Dzama's Last Winter Here]

Lately, there have been too many days when I wade through the minutes with a mind either numb or in chaos. Not enough space and too much crammed into the tiny corners. I have been devouring stories and novels, movies, pictures, and people...but nothing persists. I'll catch myself thinking lazily, meandering through a few moments of free time, and alighting upon scraps of dialogue or a vivid mental image, only to find that it is an orphan, cut loose from its original place and wandering aimlessly through my head.

The truth is that I am stuffing myself with art and literature as if I were dining at a final feast of glory, never to taste such delicacies or well-loved flavors again. I hate it. I will be left with nothing but a nightmarish sequence of disembodied voices and hollow mannequin-characters if I keep this up.

And yet-- there is a stack of books beckoning me, some have been opened and explored already, some wait, fresh from print-on-demand, from the Strand and from the backorder lists in cyber-publishing world. I see Beyond the Visible: the Art of Odilon Redon; Phaidon's Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing; I see a volume of Baudelaire; A Rebours by J. K. Huysmans; the poems of Leopardi; Essays on Literature by Eco; a post-it-ridden copy of Eco's Baudolino, and looking at these, the pieces start to fall together.


Just as I can predict what my weekend will be like if I begin re-reading the Bell Jar or Villette, I can see the source of my mood in these works. I cannot read without feeling my entire environs shift around me, and my own way of interacting with the world change.


[Redon's Smiling Spider]

If I am reading Charlotte Bronte, the shadows in the streets become pearl-grey, the trees whisper in hushed voices, and I assume a mantle of quiet to conceal tumultuous thoughts and passions that bubble out of some chamber in my heart.

If I have dipped into a novel of A. S. Byatt's I become ambitious, vociferous, empowered. My world has vivid colors, sharp dialogue and I feel fantastic. If it's Eco's novels that I am reading I hush my ambition and wonder at the wealth of knowledge in the world, at the fantastic quality of reality and I stand humbled in front of history.

If it's Virginia Woolf I am reading, I feel most like a strong, swift river, rushing toward a goal that I know, in tune to my moments, aware of the power within me, of the calm I must maintain, and of the rich, variegated world existing around me.

And so, as I look again at a stack of books that will keep me warm through the next few weeks, I am preparing the me-that-is-now for the me-that-will-be: she will be a little dark, quite pessimistic, enthralled by luxury gentle dissipation; she will be drawn to rich, soaked hues, to deep shadows of sepia, to sinister images. She will laugh less and believe again in the irresistible power of malaise, of solitude, of silence.



[Marcel Dzama: Untitled]

And when that spell is over, it will perhaps be time for some Chaucer, Donne, and Maria Edgeworth!

Merry-go-round

amelie-of-montmartre-6

(Amelie)

It's the season for parties, and I've danced, nibbled, and sipped with the best of them. Tonight is for gift-finding, tomorrow for parties and family, and I'm hoping to have Sunday free.

The Christmas cards (hand-sewn this year, thankyouverymuch!), the wrapping (scraps of paper collaged onto brown paper), and the seasonal movies (A Man For All Seasons and The Lion in Winter) will all be attempted on Sunday.

And in the meantime, what better time of year to reflect on oneself? I have kept, over the years, a number of journals (paper and electronic), and I am quite often amused and/or saddened by what I read.

I found this entry on my old LiveJournal; it captures the spirit of my hamster-wheel thoughts a few years ago:

I've been thinking a lot about the necessary incorporation of imperfection into our ideas of beauty and love...that was what my thoughts on Ruskin were about. But Rousseau says something that seems very different. His image of true love is basically an adoration of the illusions of perfection. True love is the fastidious maintenance of chimeras.

Is that true? Reality means intimacy, intimacy means revealing flaws...and thats where my questions about inperfection enter. And I think that's why I love Rousseau...perhaps erroneously...because he seems to say that it is possible, no, necessary, to maintain the illusory veil of love. That love will naturally and inherently obscure imperfection from the eyes of the beholder.But how does one do that, how does one maintain the veil? or is it up to the beloved to maintain the illusion for the lover?

I'm tired of corrupting the people I encounter with my imperfections and my darkness. I'd rather co-mingle darknesses than try to bring in the light. I guess I'm looking for a companion in solitude (is that possible?) But someone to make the darkness at least a bit more acute...so its not that muffling, shroud-like, numb darkness, but the kind of darkness that splinters and shatters and breathes and wails. A rainbow of darkness...I feel like I've said that before.

I was very devoted to Rousseau for a couple of months, he seemed to me to believe that the attainment of serenity and nobility was actually possible in life.

I hope everyone is having a joyous holiday season!

Merry-go-round

amelie-of-montmartre-6

(Amelie)

It's the season for parties, and I've danced, nibbled, and sipped with the best of them. Tonight is for gift-finding, tomorrow for parties and family, and I'm hoping to have Sunday free.

The Christmas cards (hand-sewn this year, thankyouverymuch!), the wrapping (scraps of paper collaged onto brown paper), and the seasonal movies (A Man For All Seasons and The Lion in Winter) will all be attempted on Sunday.

And in the meantime, what better time of year to reflect on oneself? I have kept, over the years, a number of journals (paper and electronic), and I am quite often amused and/or saddened by what I read.

I found this entry on my old LiveJournal; it captures the spirit of my hamster-wheel thoughts a few years ago:

I've been thinking a lot about the necessary incorporation of imperfection into our ideas of beauty and love...that was what my thoughts on Ruskin were about. But Rousseau says something that seems very different. His image of true love is basically an adoration of the illusions of perfection. True love is the fastidious maintenance of chimeras.

Is that true? Reality means intimacy, intimacy means revealing flaws...and thats where my questions about inperfection enter. And I think that's why I love Rousseau...perhaps erroneously...because he seems to say that it is possible, no, necessary, to maintain the illusory veil of love. That love will naturally and inherently obscure imperfection from the eyes of the beholder.But how does one do that, how does one maintain the veil? or is it up to the beloved to maintain the illusion for the lover?

I'm tired of corrupting the people I encounter with my imperfections and my darkness. I'd rather co-mingle darknesses than try to bring in the light. I guess I'm looking for a companion in solitude (is that possible?) But someone to make the darkness at least a bit more acute...so its not that muffling, shroud-like, numb darkness, but the kind of darkness that splinters and shatters and breathes and wails. A rainbow of darkness...I feel like I've said that before.

I was very devoted to Rousseau for a couple of months, he seemed to me to believe that the attainment of serenity and nobility was actually possible in life.

I hope everyone is having a joyous holiday season!

Laughter and Forgetting

[Statue in Opatija, Croatia (from Google image search)]


I read Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting for the first time two years ago. I think about it now and then, especially a passage (which I won't be able to excerpt now), wherein the narrator speaks of the glut of publication in our world. He attributes it to the lack of listeners--to the lack of people willing to sit at someone's feet and hear a story told. Children do not want to remember with their parents and their grandparents any longer, they want to read someone else's stories, or act out their own on the television screen.

And with no one nearby to listen, people have taken to pen and paper, hoping that they are visited by some muse of good writing who will help translate their stories from memory to prose.
But there is a great power in the spoken story, in the memory weaving together a tale instantly and without the benefit of editing or revision. This power is something disappearing from our quotidien lives, and from our basic abilities to tell and to listen.

My grandmother passed away last Wednesday, after 91 years of life. She was my only remaining grandparent and a woman who I had only recently begun to know. All of my grandparents were formidable people. I never knew my mother's father and her mother, my Nonie, remains in my memory as a woman who always had a story to tell, and a delicious meal for us to eat. She had a lilac tree in her garden which we loved and a treasure chest full of trinkets which I still wear. We visited her hometown, in Italy, a number of years ago; when she came to America with her family her name was Ophelia Grace Muraro, the officials at Ellis Island changed it to Ethel.

My father's father was a true old world patriarch. He emigrated from Croatia and brought with him a way of life I will never truly understand. His name was Mirko and during the same trip we took to Italy, we also swung around the adriatic to visit Kukuljanevo, the small town where some of my family still live. What does it feel like to visit places where you have history? History you never knew, would never have known until going there?

I think it was actually going to Italy and Croatia, walking the streets through towns that could have been my own, hearing languages that I could be thinking in, that's what made me realize the power of memory and listening. This small realization happened in 2003; I had already lost my mother's mother and my father's father, but Anna, my father's mother was still alive and well, though with her share of health problems.

I can't say that we became much closer, or that I made an enormous effort to get to know her, but I did start listening. Really, truly listening. And she had stories to tell. She had a fantastic memory and clear image of the past. She came from a very different world, lived a very different life, but we shared a heritage. Learning about her life and about the country from which she came (the Istrian peninsula, which has been Croatian as often as it has been Italian), has made me realize that there is much forgotten in my life. There are dusty tracks that I never knew existed, there are tendencies and affinities and affections which may stem from a past that does not exist in America, but rather on the coast of the Adriatic, immersed in the dust of centuries and underlined by violent pasts, difficult life, pungent flavor, and the poetry and music of those particular hills.

The ability to hear the stories of those people who are closest to you is a gift. It is the gift of an entire world, of an enormous, living book, and it is most of all the gift of a deeper past and a richer history.

Both of my grandmothers were wonderful people; I can only hope that in my tiring, ceaseless quest to discover something about life that I reach something close to their innate understanding of what everything is about.

Laughter and Forgetting

[Statue in Opatija, Croatia (from Google image search)]


I read Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting for the first time two years ago. I think about it now and then, especially a passage (which I won't be able to excerpt now), wherein the narrator speaks of the glut of publication in our world. He attributes it to the lack of listeners--to the lack of people willing to sit at someone's feet and hear a story told. Children do not want to remember with their parents and their grandparents any longer, they want to read someone else's stories, or act out their own on the television screen.

And with no one nearby to listen, people have taken to pen and paper, hoping that they are visited by some muse of good writing who will help translate their stories from memory to prose.
But there is a great power in the spoken story, in the memory weaving together a tale instantly and without the benefit of editing or revision. This power is something disappearing from our quotidien lives, and from our basic abilities to tell and to listen.

My grandmother passed away last Wednesday, after 91 years of life. She was my only remaining grandparent and a woman who I had only recently begun to know. All of my grandparents were formidable people. I never knew my mother's father and her mother, my Nonie, remains in my memory as a woman who always had a story to tell, and a delicious meal for us to eat. She had a lilac tree in her garden which we loved and a treasure chest full of trinkets which I still wear. We visited her hometown, in Italy, a number of years ago; when she came to America with her family her name was Ophelia Grace Muraro, the officials at Ellis Island changed it to Ethel.

My father's father was a true old world patriarch. He emigrated from Croatia and brought with him a way of life I will never truly understand. His name was Mirko and during the same trip we took to Italy, we also swung around the adriatic to visit Kukuljanevo, the small town where some of my family still live. What does it feel like to visit places where you have history? History you never knew, would never have known until going there?

I think it was actually going to Italy and Croatia, walking the streets through towns that could have been my own, hearing languages that I could be thinking in, that's what made me realize the power of memory and listening. This small realization happened in 2003; I had already lost my mother's mother and my father's father, but Anna, my father's mother was still alive and well, though with her share of health problems.

I can't say that we became much closer, or that I made an enormous effort to get to know her, but I did start listening. Really, truly listening. And she had stories to tell. She had a fantastic memory and clear image of the past. She came from a very different world, lived a very different life, but we shared a heritage. Learning about her life and about the country from which she came (the Istrian peninsula, which has been Croatian as often as it has been Italian), has made me realize that there is much forgotten in my life. There are dusty tracks that I never knew existed, there are tendencies and affinities and affections which may stem from a past that does not exist in America, but rather on the coast of the Adriatic, immersed in the dust of centuries and underlined by violent pasts, difficult life, pungent flavor, and the poetry and music of those particular hills.

The ability to hear the stories of those people who are closest to you is a gift. It is the gift of an entire world, of an enormous, living book, and it is most of all the gift of a deeper past and a richer history.

Both of my grandmothers were wonderful people; I can only hope that in my tiring, ceaseless quest to discover something about life that I reach something close to their innate understanding of what everything is about.

Camera Obscura

Schiele's Autumn Trees

Pardon me while I unfurl two weeks' worth of collected thoughts.

I spent this afternoon in the park, walking from the Met up to the 110th street barrier. It's much quieter in the north end of the park. The runners are still out and there are certainly groups of people wandering, but nothing at all like the procession of faces further down. I found myself atop a rocky hill, actually hearing the few remaining leaves rustle as little birds danced about in the bushes and the wind continued on its way. I sat for a while above the Conservatory Gardens, high up on the hill, and closed my eyes.

I need that sort of quiet, to feel something else sweep by me, to feel the sensation of expanding outward and diffusing a little. The paradox is that once I lose myself a little, relax my grip on the now, everything sharpens and my mind starts to move again. I wonder if this is the feeling that accompanies meditation (which I am rarely successful at). After recharging a little and feeling my senses sharpen and become more responsive, I hurried down the hills to the almost bare garden.

I had never been there before and felt, much like I had at Fort Tryon Park, a sense of astonishment that there weren't more people here. It was beautiful in its cold, grey austerity. There were some tenacious, bright flowers still blooming, but the majority of the garden had settled into its winter garb: dark, snaking boughs, heavy green foliage, and a plethora of seeds. There were grass seeds, the fuzzy-feathered tufts meant to be carried by gusts, there were hard shells, opened up into hollow chambers from which seeds had been plucked by birds, and there were my favorites, the wisteria pods. These, if you are not familiar with them, have a velvety case and an elongated shape. They hang straight down from the twisted grey vines of the wisteria plant, alongside the remaining leaves which, at this time of the year, turn a brilliant yellow color. The effect was spectacular, especially with the late afternoon sun lending a fuzzy aura to each dangling seed case.

Schiele's Fuschias


There are cats in these gardens as well, at least that's what one of the caretakers told me as he placed a fresh tin of cat food beneath a hedge of yew.

Wandering as I did this afternoon brought something into clear focus for me; I wrote a little (finally) on Murakami last night. And in doing so, I found the following passage and realized the true effect that this book had on me.

Murakami is trying to show what it means to lose the physical; he does this by a variety of methods (important, as the way one loses the physical is accomplished in a variety of ways), two of which are through graphic descriptions of sexual and violent encounters. And while I'm normally not very good with either sort of graphic descriptions, his had the effect of making me very aware of the physical, and of how unaware, or numb, I had been before the scene.

So in a sense, he plays with the reader, lulling with a myriad of stories from incredible characters, and a twisty, fantastic plot, and then throwing these passages which are like those firecrackers that explode and leave a film of color spiderwebbing across your eyes.

All the while, he is writing about the necessity of detachment. In order for Toru to find his cat and then Kumiku, he must step outside of himself, outside of the action of his life, and peer closely at the workings of it, the wind-up mechanics of fate and action. Toru does this by climbing down into the well and shutting himself off from all distraction. He brings everything to focus on himself, on the sensation which, with nothing else to engage him, becomes overwheming. The feel of a soggy shoe, or of a scrape on the cheek, the smell of earth and his own body--these become his world. He places himself in a context where the boundary between "reality" and [what to call the opposition? illusion/ truth/ magic?], where that boundary fuzzes out until it can be permeated.

Another character describes a different method, something I think I'm more familiar with. Where Toru's method of separating from the physical can be seen as a concentration of sensation until the sheer pressure of sensation causes the mind to pull itself back from the physical, the Lieutenant's description is of the diffusion of the mind until the physical no longer feels so close:

Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the
physical self. That is what I experienced in the midst of Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to separate from the physical. Its the path to a greater, richer sense of the physical.

And I'm stopping here, I have quite a few things wanted to speak about but they'll have to wait.

Camera Obscura

Schiele's Autumn Trees

Pardon me while I unfurl two weeks' worth of collected thoughts.

I spent this afternoon in the park, walking from the Met up to the 110th street barrier. It's much quieter in the north end of the park. The runners are still out and there are certainly groups of people wandering, but nothing at all like the procession of faces further down. I found myself atop a rocky hill, actually hearing the few remaining leaves rustle as little birds danced about in the bushes and the wind continued on its way. I sat for a while above the Conservatory Gardens, high up on the hill, and closed my eyes.

I need that sort of quiet, to feel something else sweep by me, to feel the sensation of expanding outward and diffusing a little. The paradox is that once I lose myself a little, relax my grip on the now, everything sharpens and my mind starts to move again. I wonder if this is the feeling that accompanies meditation (which I am rarely successful at). After recharging a little and feeling my senses sharpen and become more responsive, I hurried down the hills to the almost bare garden.

I had never been there before and felt, much like I had at Fort Tryon Park, a sense of astonishment that there weren't more people here. It was beautiful in its cold, grey austerity. There were some tenacious, bright flowers still blooming, but the majority of the garden had settled into its winter garb: dark, snaking boughs, heavy green foliage, and a plethora of seeds. There were grass seeds, the fuzzy-feathered tufts meant to be carried by gusts, there were hard shells, opened up into hollow chambers from which seeds had been plucked by birds, and there were my favorites, the wisteria pods. These, if you are not familiar with them, have a velvety case and an elongated shape. They hang straight down from the twisted grey vines of the wisteria plant, alongside the remaining leaves which, at this time of the year, turn a brilliant yellow color. The effect was spectacular, especially with the late afternoon sun lending a fuzzy aura to each dangling seed case.

Schiele's Fuschias


There are cats in these gardens as well, at least that's what one of the caretakers told me as he placed a fresh tin of cat food beneath a hedge of yew.

Wandering as I did this afternoon brought something into clear focus for me; I wrote a little (finally) on Murakami last night. And in doing so, I found the following passage and realized the true effect that this book had on me.

Murakami is trying to show what it means to lose the physical; he does this by a variety of methods (important, as the way one loses the physical is accomplished in a variety of ways), two of which are through graphic descriptions of sexual and violent encounters. And while I'm normally not very good with either sort of graphic descriptions, his had the effect of making me very aware of the physical, and of how unaware, or numb, I had been before the scene.

So in a sense, he plays with the reader, lulling with a myriad of stories from incredible characters, and a twisty, fantastic plot, and then throwing these passages which are like those firecrackers that explode and leave a film of color spiderwebbing across your eyes.

All the while, he is writing about the necessity of detachment. In order for Toru to find his cat and then Kumiku, he must step outside of himself, outside of the action of his life, and peer closely at the workings of it, the wind-up mechanics of fate and action. Toru does this by climbing down into the well and shutting himself off from all distraction. He brings everything to focus on himself, on the sensation which, with nothing else to engage him, becomes overwheming. The feel of a soggy shoe, or of a scrape on the cheek, the smell of earth and his own body--these become his world. He places himself in a context where the boundary between "reality" and [what to call the opposition? illusion/ truth/ magic?], where that boundary fuzzes out until it can be permeated.

Another character describes a different method, something I think I'm more familiar with. Where Toru's method of separating from the physical can be seen as a concentration of sensation until the sheer pressure of sensation causes the mind to pull itself back from the physical, the Lieutenant's description is of the diffusion of the mind until the physical no longer feels so close:

Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the
physical self. That is what I experienced in the midst of Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to separate from the physical. Its the path to a greater, richer sense of the physical.

And I'm stopping here, I have quite a few things wanted to speak about but they'll have to wait.

Why do you think I have this Outrrrageous accent?!

Ahem.

I've been reading a lot of quest-type books lately: The Volsunga Saga; Lord of the Rings; the King Arthur legends. And since I'm in that sort of mood, and because of the coming holiday season, I thought I'd share one of my family's favorite traditions: the recitation of Monty Python.
"your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!"






I found the English peasant scene ... it may be our favorite, simply for the multiple descriptions of the excalibur moment.

Why do you think I have this Outrrrageous accent?!

Ahem.

I've been reading a lot of quest-type books lately: The Volsunga Saga; Lord of the Rings; the King Arthur legends. And since I'm in that sort of mood, and because of the coming holiday season, I thought I'd share one of my family's favorite traditions: the recitation of Monty Python.
"your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!"






I found the English peasant scene ... it may be our favorite, simply for the multiple descriptions of the excalibur moment.

Lacunae

(Amy Cutler)

It's been a lovely week since my last post, mainly because five of those days were spent back in MD for some serious leisure and family time. I got myself back in the kitchen, visited my grandmother, cleaned out my closet, played canasta and scrabble, watched a little too much TV, just enough movies, and enjoyed having family, pets, quiet, stars, grass, and flights of stairs at my immediate access.

I also found the time to read a strange trio of books: Dostoevsky's The Double, Macbeth, and Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Macbeth was perfect for the grey, misty days we started off the holiday with. A little sinister, cold and silent.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has been sitting on my "to-be-read" pile for a few months now. I read A Wild Sheep's Chase at some point last year and loved it--mainly because I love being lead on a fast-paced tear through a book, only to be utterly surprised at the end. I have to say, this is one of the strangest, most mesmerizing books I've read yet. I don't understand how he can pack such a twisty plot full of crazy, vivid, memorable characters, and then make it a zip to read. I think I clocked a day and a half for the book, that's a fast read, even by my standards.

He writes beautifully about our tenuous grip on reality--how we try so intensely to make it a reliable, definable thing--closing our eyes to all of the inconsistincies and wonders we are confronted with. It's so much simpler to live only in the world of tasks and things and opinions, ignoring or refusing to see the mysteries and paradoxes and spots of darkness which make life interesting.

I'll have more to write about this once I sit down with an authentic pen and some authentic paper.

Lacunae

(Amy Cutler)

It's been a lovely week since my last post, mainly because five of those days were spent back in MD for some serious leisure and family time. I got myself back in the kitchen, visited my grandmother, cleaned out my closet, played canasta and scrabble, watched a little too much TV, just enough movies, and enjoyed having family, pets, quiet, stars, grass, and flights of stairs at my immediate access.

I also found the time to read a strange trio of books: Dostoevsky's The Double, Macbeth, and Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Macbeth was perfect for the grey, misty days we started off the holiday with. A little sinister, cold and silent.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has been sitting on my "to-be-read" pile for a few months now. I read A Wild Sheep's Chase at some point last year and loved it--mainly because I love being lead on a fast-paced tear through a book, only to be utterly surprised at the end. I have to say, this is one of the strangest, most mesmerizing books I've read yet. I don't understand how he can pack such a twisty plot full of crazy, vivid, memorable characters, and then make it a zip to read. I think I clocked a day and a half for the book, that's a fast read, even by my standards.

He writes beautifully about our tenuous grip on reality--how we try so intensely to make it a reliable, definable thing--closing our eyes to all of the inconsistincies and wonders we are confronted with. It's so much simpler to live only in the world of tasks and things and opinions, ignoring or refusing to see the mysteries and paradoxes and spots of darkness which make life interesting.

I'll have more to write about this once I sit down with an authentic pen and some authentic paper.

Je ne vois pas la femme cachee dans la foret

[Anouk Aimee - all images from a Google Images search]


I've been dreaming of cheekbones. Of the women I wish I resembled.

Ever since seeing Anouk Aimee in La Dolce Vita, she has risen to the top of my "style icons" list. It's an illustrious list, Audrey and Grace Kelly are at the top comfortably and irrevocably, but there are other, sometimes nameless faces that have earned spots on that list. There's the art student who had the most covetable wardrobe of black sweaters and beat up boots; Irina Lazareneu, the girl I passed in the street who wore bright orange with panache and subtlety; a handful of chanteuses who exude the coolness I'll never have; and then there are a string of beauties who I admire for their cheekbones and the way they can wear short hair with a touch of the gamine and a dash of the tomboy (Jean Seberg may be at the top of this list).






Catherine Deneuve and Nico

I love Anouk in both La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2; her sadness and frustration; her glamour even in nonchalance; her untouchable quality. There's a silence about her, as if much is kept bottled up but that the bottling is infinitely preferable to some maelstrom of hysteria.

[Marina Perez - Sartorialist ]

The woman-child myth is one that must have some truth to it, as it has proven so infernally hard to shake. It's a topic of much interest to me, and not one that can be easily addressed in a medium such as this. But why is there such a glamorization of women who are less human and more fairy? I'm thinking of Breton's Nadja; of the Surrealists' Gradiva; of Cortazar's La Maga; even of Holly Golightly; that unattainable, magnetic muse figure. But who is that woman? She can't be more than an ideal, can she? Or is that some some too-secular cynicism speaking from my own failings and insecurities?

She was to be the hysteric, unchained spirit; hysteria, the ultimate feminine unveiling. Hysteria removed all of the trappings of law and society, the restrictions that separated the female from her "natural state." Women were/are thought to inspire, to be some sort of bridge to a world where creativity flows and the word elemental takes on meaning.

[Magritte: Je ne vois pas la femme cachee dans le foret]

Again, I do not know this woman. I cannot imagine what it must be to be her. I have no bond with her, no similarity. This of course does not prevent the possibility of her existence, but it does help to explain my fascination with the idea of her existence. Is she simply insane? A half-human? More sylph/sprite than person? Does she question her existence?

I have no way of knowing. I imagine that such a creature wouldn't spend time writing circles around the thoughts she wished she had; she wouldn't turn her back on sentimentality or emotion or passion; she wouldn't shrink from an audience for fear of disapproval. But she would be too much.


Even the Surrealists, so interested in finding her, had to give up: For artists/writers like Breton, the Nadjas in his life were altogther too human: not enough of the ‘free spirit’, the femme-enfant close to the realm of the unconscious, and too much a part of this world, subject to its strife and sadness. He, with many, seem content to continue failing in the pursuit of some ideal muse, the Gradiva who led the artist forward on a never-ending path of inspiration.

I prefer a bit of silence I think. Discipline or temperance. Moderation in decision and action. And I think that all those real women who are billed as "muses" etc. are admirable and beautiful and much more complicated than the interviewers would have them be.

Je ne vois pas la femme cachee dans la foret

[Anouk Aimee - all images from a Google Images search]


I've been dreaming of cheekbones. Of the women I wish I resembled.

Ever since seeing Anouk Aimee in La Dolce Vita, she has risen to the top of my "style icons" list. It's an illustrious list, Audrey and Grace Kelly are at the top comfortably and irrevocably, but there are other, sometimes nameless faces that have earned spots on that list. There's the art student who had the most covetable wardrobe of black sweaters and beat up boots; Irina Lazareneu, the girl I passed in the street who wore bright orange with panache and subtlety; a handful of chanteuses who exude the coolness I'll never have; and then there are a string of beauties who I admire for their cheekbones and the way they can wear short hair with a touch of the gamine and a dash of the tomboy (Jean Seberg may be at the top of this list).






Catherine Deneuve and Nico

I love Anouk in both La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2; her sadness and frustration; her glamour even in nonchalance; her untouchable quality. There's a silence about her, as if much is kept bottled up but that the bottling is infinitely preferable to some maelstrom of hysteria.

[Marina Perez - Sartorialist ]

The woman-child myth is one that must have some truth to it, as it has proven so infernally hard to shake. It's a topic of much interest to me, and not one that can be easily addressed in a medium such as this. But why is there such a glamorization of women who are less human and more fairy? I'm thinking of Breton's Nadja; of the Surrealists' Gradiva; of Cortazar's La Maga; even of Holly Golightly; that unattainable, magnetic muse figure. But who is that woman? She can't be more than an ideal, can she? Or is that some some too-secular cynicism speaking from my own failings and insecurities?

She was to be the hysteric, unchained spirit; hysteria, the ultimate feminine unveiling. Hysteria removed all of the trappings of law and society, the restrictions that separated the female from her "natural state." Women were/are thought to inspire, to be some sort of bridge to a world where creativity flows and the word elemental takes on meaning.

[Magritte: Je ne vois pas la femme cachee dans le foret]

Again, I do not know this woman. I cannot imagine what it must be to be her. I have no bond with her, no similarity. This of course does not prevent the possibility of her existence, but it does help to explain my fascination with the idea of her existence. Is she simply insane? A half-human? More sylph/sprite than person? Does she question her existence?

I have no way of knowing. I imagine that such a creature wouldn't spend time writing circles around the thoughts she wished she had; she wouldn't turn her back on sentimentality or emotion or passion; she wouldn't shrink from an audience for fear of disapproval. But she would be too much.


Even the Surrealists, so interested in finding her, had to give up: For artists/writers like Breton, the Nadjas in his life were altogther too human: not enough of the ‘free spirit’, the femme-enfant close to the realm of the unconscious, and too much a part of this world, subject to its strife and sadness. He, with many, seem content to continue failing in the pursuit of some ideal muse, the Gradiva who led the artist forward on a never-ending path of inspiration.

I prefer a bit of silence I think. Discipline or temperance. Moderation in decision and action. And I think that all those real women who are billed as "muses" etc. are admirable and beautiful and much more complicated than the interviewers would have them be.

Incidentally...

[William Dyce: Pegwell Bay, a Recollection of October 5th 1858]

I had a French teacher in high school who would often begin many sentences with "Incidentally, ..." He would then launch into a disparate range of topics, rarely ones which could accurately be called "incidents." But the phrase stuck with me. (This was never in French of course, which would explain why 7 years of studying that language has left me capable of unraveling little more than bistro menus and Paris Vogue).

I was able to leave my place of employment at the "early" hour of 9:00 PM last night and, forgoing the swim I should have had, went straight home. I packed an incredible amount of reading, writing, listening, and leaping about into the hours before I finally tired myself out and retired (around 1 AM I should say). I felt, melodramatically, as if I had been uncaged for an evening, and in my freedom darted about between notes on the diary of Virginia Woolf; Rimbaud's Illuminations, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, and memory after memory.

I remembered my family's love of fires (both the sort contained by a hearth, and those that were a bit more dangerous and out-of-doors--incidentally, we once decided to destroy a large box which had served as a container for some sort of an appliance, and then as a sort of cat-chambers by burning it. Unfortunately, the wind picked up and we were sent running for pails of water by great burning chunks of cardboard. We all found this quite funny if I remember correctly...). I wished for a roaring fire like the sort we used to build, which I would lay in front of all through the winter. Cheek pressed against the scratchy rug, book tilted in front of my eyes and lit by warm, flickering light; turning from side to side as the fire would slowly warm until burning. Always on the side, thigh and one arm cool against the marble tiles, nose cold and then burnt and then cold again.

The cats would always lay perilously close to the fire, as if soaking up as much heat as felinely possible.

The smell of wood in all its forms: the sawed wood as one of the umpteenth home projects were occurring, the smell of damp bark and mulch in the woods, the smell of the burning firewood, slowly becoming cinders and ash.

As I thought these things last night, I would either be writing or reading; lying prone on the floor, supine on the bed, pacing about, stretching, taking breaks to switch albums (the CD sort).

Then I was sideswiped by a memory most vivid. It was from my weekend spent in Haworth, utterly alone, under a self-imposed vow of silence, re-tracing the steps of my beloved Brontes. I was transported back to the hike I made out to Top Withens, the chilly picnic I enjoyed out there, the sheep, the silver-green grass against well-worn and much-photographed stone. I walked the four miles back to town that night along a different road, briefly lost my way, worked up an enormous appetite, and arrived back to town for a supper of rosemary-currant chicken with roasted potatoes and a glass of shandy.

It was a wonderful evening.

A couple of passages from Hemingway--they seem to me to be the truest, simplest descriptions of hunger and cold.

I closed up the story in the notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen portugaises and a half-carafe of the dry white wine they had there. After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

s I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

~~~

We burned boulets which were molded, egg-shaped lumps of coal dust, on the wood fire, and on the streets the winter light was beautiful. Now you were accustomed to see the bare trees against the sky and you walked on the fresh-washed gravel paths through the Luxembourg gardens in the clear sharp wind. The trees were sculpture without their leaves when you were
reconciled to them, and the winter winds blew across the surfaces of the ponds and the fountains blew in the bright light.

Incidentally...

[William Dyce: Pegwell Bay, a Recollection of October 5th 1858]

I had a French teacher in high school who would often begin many sentences with "Incidentally, ..." He would then launch into a disparate range of topics, rarely ones which could accurately be called "incidents." But the phrase stuck with me. (This was never in French of course, which would explain why 7 years of studying that language has left me capable of unraveling little more than bistro menus and Paris Vogue).

I was able to leave my place of employment at the "early" hour of 9:00 PM last night and, forgoing the swim I should have had, went straight home. I packed an incredible amount of reading, writing, listening, and leaping about into the hours before I finally tired myself out and retired (around 1 AM I should say). I felt, melodramatically, as if I had been uncaged for an evening, and in my freedom darted about between notes on the diary of Virginia Woolf; Rimbaud's Illuminations, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, and memory after memory.

I remembered my family's love of fires (both the sort contained by a hearth, and those that were a bit more dangerous and out-of-doors--incidentally, we once decided to destroy a large box which had served as a container for some sort of an appliance, and then as a sort of cat-chambers by burning it. Unfortunately, the wind picked up and we were sent running for pails of water by great burning chunks of cardboard. We all found this quite funny if I remember correctly...). I wished for a roaring fire like the sort we used to build, which I would lay in front of all through the winter. Cheek pressed against the scratchy rug, book tilted in front of my eyes and lit by warm, flickering light; turning from side to side as the fire would slowly warm until burning. Always on the side, thigh and one arm cool against the marble tiles, nose cold and then burnt and then cold again.

The cats would always lay perilously close to the fire, as if soaking up as much heat as felinely possible.

The smell of wood in all its forms: the sawed wood as one of the umpteenth home projects were occurring, the smell of damp bark and mulch in the woods, the smell of the burning firewood, slowly becoming cinders and ash.

As I thought these things last night, I would either be writing or reading; lying prone on the floor, supine on the bed, pacing about, stretching, taking breaks to switch albums (the CD sort).

Then I was sideswiped by a memory most vivid. It was from my weekend spent in Haworth, utterly alone, under a self-imposed vow of silence, re-tracing the steps of my beloved Brontes. I was transported back to the hike I made out to Top Withens, the chilly picnic I enjoyed out there, the sheep, the silver-green grass against well-worn and much-photographed stone. I walked the four miles back to town that night along a different road, briefly lost my way, worked up an enormous appetite, and arrived back to town for a supper of rosemary-currant chicken with roasted potatoes and a glass of shandy.

It was a wonderful evening.

A couple of passages from Hemingway--they seem to me to be the truest, simplest descriptions of hunger and cold.

I closed up the story in the notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen portugaises and a half-carafe of the dry white wine they had there. After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

s I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

~~~

We burned boulets which were molded, egg-shaped lumps of coal dust, on the wood fire, and on the streets the winter light was beautiful. Now you were accustomed to see the bare trees against the sky and you walked on the fresh-washed gravel paths through the Luxembourg gardens in the clear sharp wind. The trees were sculpture without their leaves when you were
reconciled to them, and the winter winds blew across the surfaces of the ponds and the fountains blew in the bright light.

The Fourth Humour

Odilon Redon: Woman's Profile Under a Gothic Arch

Virginia Woolf wrote an essay (which I have not read) entitled "On Being Ill;" I'd like to do one "On Being Lazy."

I have a definite streak of lay-about in me--though it generally only manifests itself on rainy days or when a book is involved. When I used to work part-time at the espresso bar/bookshop, waking up at 5 am to open the shop on a Saturday, I would spend the rest of the day lounging and wandering from lunch to nap to sudoku to vintage clothes browsing. I would sometimes put on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Amelie and doze off to the sound of French voices.

This past weekend was happily expansive, quiet, and infinitely comfortable. I had tentatively planned to visit the Cervantes Institute with a friend (closed for the holiday); to purchase art supplies to begin my massive collaging project; and to take notes on the books that have made a colorful pile on my kitchen table. Instead, I found myself Connecticut-bound to visit friends and spend the weekend at house that was basically my surrogate home during college.

There were cocktails and wine (too much); dogs (just enough), gourmet brownies and homemade macaroons; Mystic Pizza; comfortable couches, a lot of rain, and a few pages of a few books.

I'm re-reading A Moveable Feast, and have turned to The Berlin Stories, but Christopher Isherwood (after
this post remedied an unfortunate gap in my reading). I've also recently completed William Trevor's Two Lives, three plays by August Strindberg, and quite a few essays out of Leopardi's Moral Tales. I'm finding them all delightful: Hemingway's and Isherwood's stories are just real enough for me to skim through the words, laughing lightly, imagining scenes and characters and encounters, but not becoming too caught up in making sense.

I love Hemingway's cold garret where the little skins of mandarines curl up on the frozen fire, popping a crackling and sending a charred-citrus-sugar scent into the air. Or his numbed fingers on cafe terraces; the white wine and oysters; the exhilaration of hunger in front of the Cezannes.

Isherwood's streets are grimier, the people more fantastic, less bright and shiny, but they're mesmerizing: kohl-rimmed eyes, emerald fingernails, screwed-on monocles. Their lies and deceptions are different, their vices lugubrious and half-accepted. I can finally see the world of Otto Dix and Georg Grosz and Kirchner. I can start to know those grotesque puffed-up faces, their contortions and their poses.

And there are just enough references to sanatoriums and cures, to winter sports and temperature charts for me to long for Hans and Settembrini and Naphta. In short; I will be embarking on a trip to the Magic Mountain once again; to the world of the ensorcelled, the seven-years-sleepers; the dissipated, irresponsible ill. Hunched shoulders and consumptive lungs; empty speeches and silenced passions. But the lovely music, the great, heavy book propped on my stomach as I recline; the visions of humanity and beauty and wonder; the slow awakening and return to vigor and strength and thought--its a powerful book, and my only copy is much too underlined!

The Fourth Humour

Odilon Redon: Woman's Profile Under a Gothic Arch

Virginia Woolf wrote an essay (which I have not read) entitled "On Being Ill;" I'd like to do one "On Being Lazy."

I have a definite streak of lay-about in me--though it generally only manifests itself on rainy days or when a book is involved. When I used to work part-time at the espresso bar/bookshop, waking up at 5 am to open the shop on a Saturday, I would spend the rest of the day lounging and wandering from lunch to nap to sudoku to vintage clothes browsing. I would sometimes put on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Amelie and doze off to the sound of French voices.

This past weekend was happily expansive, quiet, and infinitely comfortable. I had tentatively planned to visit the Cervantes Institute with a friend (closed for the holiday); to purchase art supplies to begin my massive collaging project; and to take notes on the books that have made a colorful pile on my kitchen table. Instead, I found myself Connecticut-bound to visit friends and spend the weekend at house that was basically my surrogate home during college.

There were cocktails and wine (too much); dogs (just enough), gourmet brownies and homemade macaroons; Mystic Pizza; comfortable couches, a lot of rain, and a few pages of a few books.

I'm re-reading A Moveable Feast, and have turned to The Berlin Stories, but Christopher Isherwood (after
this post remedied an unfortunate gap in my reading). I've also recently completed William Trevor's Two Lives, three plays by August Strindberg, and quite a few essays out of Leopardi's Moral Tales. I'm finding them all delightful: Hemingway's and Isherwood's stories are just real enough for me to skim through the words, laughing lightly, imagining scenes and characters and encounters, but not becoming too caught up in making sense.

I love Hemingway's cold garret where the little skins of mandarines curl up on the frozen fire, popping a crackling and sending a charred-citrus-sugar scent into the air. Or his numbed fingers on cafe terraces; the white wine and oysters; the exhilaration of hunger in front of the Cezannes.

Isherwood's streets are grimier, the people more fantastic, less bright and shiny, but they're mesmerizing: kohl-rimmed eyes, emerald fingernails, screwed-on monocles. Their lies and deceptions are different, their vices lugubrious and half-accepted. I can finally see the world of Otto Dix and Georg Grosz and Kirchner. I can start to know those grotesque puffed-up faces, their contortions and their poses.

And there are just enough references to sanatoriums and cures, to winter sports and temperature charts for me to long for Hans and Settembrini and Naphta. In short; I will be embarking on a trip to the Magic Mountain once again; to the world of the ensorcelled, the seven-years-sleepers; the dissipated, irresponsible ill. Hunched shoulders and consumptive lungs; empty speeches and silenced passions. But the lovely music, the great, heavy book propped on my stomach as I recline; the visions of humanity and beauty and wonder; the slow awakening and return to vigor and strength and thought--its a powerful book, and my only copy is much too underlined!

Pull My Daisy

(Robert Frank 1959)(Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso)


I promise this isn't turning into a "post a video and call it a day" sort of blog. If you like the Beat generation, even a little bit, you should watch this.

It's by Robert Frank, voiceover by Jack Kerouac. It's long for a video clip, but quite worth it. Enjoy the (ahem) Italian subtitles.

Pull My Daisy

(Robert Frank 1959)(Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso)


I promise this isn't turning into a "post a video and call it a day" sort of blog. If you like the Beat generation, even a little bit, you should watch this.

It's by Robert Frank, voiceover by Jack Kerouac. It's long for a video clip, but quite worth it. Enjoy the (ahem) Italian subtitles.

Help!

It has to be Hopscotch...I can't think of any other recently-read book where the scenario could be possible...

______________________________

Anyone know the title of the book wherein a male character, arguing with a female character steps on the duck that she had been preparing for them to eat?

All I can remember is that they eat duck only once a week, that when he steps on it, he crushes the ribcage and that the female character remarks upon this to a friend, and that the argument turns to laughter.

Help!

It has to be Hopscotch...I can't think of any other recently-read book where the scenario could be possible...

______________________________

Anyone know the title of the book wherein a male character, arguing with a female character steps on the duck that she had been preparing for them to eat?

All I can remember is that they eat duck only once a week, that when he steps on it, he crushes the ribcage and that the female character remarks upon this to a friend, and that the argument turns to laughter.

On Music (A Modern Epistle)


An embedded clip from Bob Dylan's Don't Look Back
(I very much love figuring out new tricks!)


We took a brief tour of the Morgan Library's Bob Dylan exhibit on Saturday and I found myself with a new fixation. Their showing of Bob Dylan: The American Journey 1956-1966 could be seen as simply a collection of (often uninteresting) memorabilia, but they had some truly excellent objects and experiences interspersed.
Many listening booths, an impressive assortment of hand-printed concert advertisements, and enough video clips of Dylan to make me fall in love.

My favorite was not the one above, but rather a short clip that was playing just as we walked through the entrance: Dylan as vibrant, eccentric, jumpy, and doing some sort of madlibs-esque nonsensical recitation. He was wearing a velvet blazer, drainpipes, boots, and had his "shock" of hair. It was fantastic. I need to find this clip and watch it again and again. I love his sarcasm, the hauteur, the unapologetic strumming, smoking, speaking.

I'm also now going to be tracking down a copy of Don't Look Back and Eat the Document so I can continue to watch and puzzle over why I am so drawn to his face. He radiates style and character and persona; such a complicated man--so clearly making an effort to craft himself as well as his music, but never coming off as false. I am puzzled how someone so conscious of his movements, words, and audience can still seem so original.

A few years ago I picked up a book called Flowers in the Dustbin by James Miller. I had always wished I were more musical, capable of writing songs, putting them to music, singing them with grit and sincerity and melancholy. I loved the rockstars, the poets, the innovators. I read through Miller's description of the foundations of American music, of the deep-rooted music that grew out of so many cultures, ideas, and traditions. And I read of the innovators, the people who shook us up, who made the ear recognize a new sound and the body respond to new rhythms.

Music started to mean a lot more to me, perhaps I was just learning the narrative power of song, or the incredibly natural feeling of playing an instrument and singing, but I picked up my father's 70s Alvarez and started to take guitar lessons. I didn't get very far (though I like to think that if I took some time to practice and learn, I would be pretty decent), but I did realize that playing a song, any song, even strumming the same chords in different patterns while thinking up words in your head, it lets something loosen up. The character Maude (in one of the best movies ever: Harold & Maude) says to Harold that everyone should be able to play a little music!

I agree with her (and with an awful lot of what Maude says in that movie). Music and dance are one of the greatest gifts we have

On Music (A Modern Epistle)


An embedded clip from Bob Dylan's Don't Look Back
(I very much love figuring out new tricks!)


We took a brief tour of the Morgan Library's Bob Dylan exhibit on Saturday and I found myself with a new fixation. Their showing of Bob Dylan: The American Journey 1956-1966 could be seen as simply a collection of (often uninteresting) memorabilia, but they had some truly excellent objects and experiences interspersed.
Many listening booths, an impressive assortment of hand-printed concert advertisements, and enough video clips of Dylan to make me fall in love.

My favorite was not the one above, but rather a short clip that was playing just as we walked through the entrance: Dylan as vibrant, eccentric, jumpy, and doing some sort of madlibs-esque nonsensical recitation. He was wearing a velvet blazer, drainpipes, boots, and had his "shock" of hair. It was fantastic. I need to find this clip and watch it again and again. I love his sarcasm, the hauteur, the unapologetic strumming, smoking, speaking.

I'm also now going to be tracking down a copy of Don't Look Back and Eat the Document so I can continue to watch and puzzle over why I am so drawn to his face. He radiates style and character and persona; such a complicated man--so clearly making an effort to craft himself as well as his music, but never coming off as false. I am puzzled how someone so conscious of his movements, words, and audience can still seem so original.

A few years ago I picked up a book called Flowers in the Dustbin by James Miller. I had always wished I were more musical, capable of writing songs, putting them to music, singing them with grit and sincerity and melancholy. I loved the rockstars, the poets, the innovators. I read through Miller's description of the foundations of American music, of the deep-rooted music that grew out of so many cultures, ideas, and traditions. And I read of the innovators, the people who shook us up, who made the ear recognize a new sound and the body respond to new rhythms.

Music started to mean a lot more to me, perhaps I was just learning the narrative power of song, or the incredibly natural feeling of playing an instrument and singing, but I picked up my father's 70s Alvarez and started to take guitar lessons. I didn't get very far (though I like to think that if I took some time to practice and learn, I would be pretty decent), but I did realize that playing a song, any song, even strumming the same chords in different patterns while thinking up words in your head, it lets something loosen up. The character Maude (in one of the best movies ever: Harold & Maude) says to Harold that everyone should be able to play a little music!

I agree with her (and with an awful lot of what Maude says in that movie). Music and dance are one of the greatest gifts we have

Wait! There's More

Kirchner

Well, I am certainly not one to post more than once in a single day, but these are interesting circumstances.

Earlier today I had a fantastic friend on the phone and happened to ask if he thought I were too strange...affectedly strange (I completely support authentic strange-ness). I had lately been wondering if my new comfort amongst my own quirks was really just a well-disguised offshoot of vanity, or whether it was a constructive, fertile thing. And I have had other moments this week where I have had to stop and wonder if I weren't perhaps becoming a bore...a true bore.

There's nothing more abhorrent to my mind than falsity, boorishness and general obliviousness.

And then I watched Grey Gardens.
(pause to thoroughly enjoy Regina Spektor's Samson...playing right now).

And I saw the essential problem.

When one lives too much alone, one runs the risk of becoming too much of an individual. Too sclerotic. I have lately realized that living alone has been my great liberator--but that the thing I have to watch for most is the complacency that comes with having the power to arrange entirely one's own life. Complacency is the greatest danger facing someone who has the freedom to stretch and breathe deep and indulge a little. It is much too easy to cease all challenges, all questioning, to accept oneself as the rule and measure. And there is ABSOLUTELY nothing interesting about that.

There is a strange line between the developing individual and the sclerotic individual. (Taking the idea of a sclerotic character from my before-quoted Julio Cortazar).

I don't quite know what I'm looking for, but I know that it is often found in that hiccup of emotion in my throat, in that exploration of entirely new ground, in the poignant recognition of a face/name/view/experience that has passed me by before. I know that human beings are largely (and necessarily) made of vanity (self-love). I know that it is the fault I should watch for most. But I also know that there is nothing more stimulating than meeting someone who has taken their own life in both hands--to mold, to watch, to flow freely.

What to do with life? What to make of it? What to think of it? It must be more than a collage. It must be more than a perfect composition. It must be more than individual and general.

And when ever I think of an individual thrown into the middle of a great massy society, the image of Kirchner's little girl always come to my mind. The frenzy surrounding, the immense loneliness of her figure, the inward-pressing tone of the compostion. It feels like that sometimes, like the boundaries are caving in a little, like the world is becoming altogether unbearable, unfathomable.

A Concerto helps (Its Mendelssohn's Viloin Concerto in E Minor at the moment), a glass of a new pinot grigio helps, the thought of browsing at the Strand helps, and thought of meeting new people, of working out my own ridges and inconsistencies and surrendering more and more of my vanities helps.