a certain Slant of light

Redon (again): The Dream is Finished By Death
(from his illustrations of The Juror, on the MOMA website)

I wrote yesterday that I had recently discovered a new Emily Dickinson poem--it was actually my brother who introduced me to it, in the process of the two of us working together on a paper of his.

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--
That opresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the meanings are--

None may teach it--Any--
'Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air--

When it comes, the Landscape listens--
Shadows--hold their breath--
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death--

I love this. The images are beautiful and majestic and solemn. There are ideas interleaved and a great paradox at the center. What does it mean that in the moments of illumination, we find deep recesses of darkness? Why do we find despair at the interstices of the happy heart?

I think that it is the solemn tone of this poem that I love most of all. From that first stanza I am sitting on a forgotten bench in a ruined cathedral. There are great trees overhead, intertwining with the crumbling arches and pedestals. It is quiet, but the sort of quiet that one hears during a snowfall--that heavy hush that is utterly unique to late winter afternoons. A hush that has "the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes."

Her phrase, "the Landscape listens--/ Shadows--hold their breath" reminds me, for unclear reasons, of Grendel waiting outside of Beowulf's hall, and of the thoughts of the Venerable Bede on man's life:

The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.

a certain Slant of light

Redon (again): The Dream is Finished By Death
(from his illustrations of The Juror, on the MOMA website)

I wrote yesterday that I had recently discovered a new Emily Dickinson poem--it was actually my brother who introduced me to it, in the process of the two of us working together on a paper of his.

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--
That opresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the meanings are--

None may teach it--Any--
'Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air--

When it comes, the Landscape listens--
Shadows--hold their breath--
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death--

I love this. The images are beautiful and majestic and solemn. There are ideas interleaved and a great paradox at the center. What does it mean that in the moments of illumination, we find deep recesses of darkness? Why do we find despair at the interstices of the happy heart?

I think that it is the solemn tone of this poem that I love most of all. From that first stanza I am sitting on a forgotten bench in a ruined cathedral. There are great trees overhead, intertwining with the crumbling arches and pedestals. It is quiet, but the sort of quiet that one hears during a snowfall--that heavy hush that is utterly unique to late winter afternoons. A hush that has "the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes."

Her phrase, "the Landscape listens--/ Shadows--hold their breath" reminds me, for unclear reasons, of Grendel waiting outside of Beowulf's hall, and of the thoughts of the Venerable Bede on man's life:

The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.

The Path of a Woodworm

[Redon: The Lost Angel Opened Black Wings (from MOMA website)]


Although most recommended books are read after about a year of lag time (time spent finding the book, purchasing the book, and then having the book sit on the little shelf that holds my books-in-waiting), Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities was found, purchased, and cracked open in about a week.

If you stack all three volumes up in a neat pile, you have about six inches of paper to work through, or 2400 pages. And so, while I don't think I'll be finishing this endeavor anytime soon, I am quite certain that it won't take me as long as Proust has taken me (V. 6 of Proust is still sitting on my books-in-waiting shelf, dusted occasionally).

This book is funny! At times, very funny. And it is also beautifully written, filled with intriguing characters and bursting with interesting, slightly befuddling metaphors. For example, his description of soul:

In her sufferings she read a great deal and discovered that she had lost something, the possession of which she had previously not been much aware of: a soul.

What is that? It is easily defined negatively: it is simply what curls up and hides when there is any mention of algebraic series.

But positively? It seems successfully to elude every effort to pin it down.

But he doesn't end there, and in light of the fact that the next passage in which this is addressed is really, really good, I will reproduce it here:

The most peculiar of all the peculiarities of the word "soul," however, is that young people cannot pronounce it without laughig. Even Diotima and Arnheim were shy of using it without a modifier, for it is still possible to speak of having a great, noble, craven, daring, or debased soul, but to come right out with "my soul" is something one simply cannot bring oneself to do. It is distinctly an older person's word, and this can only be understood by assuming that in the course of life people become more and more aware of somethiing for which they urgently need a name they cannot find until they finally resort, reluctantly, to the name they had originally despised.

How to describe it then? Whether one is at rest or in motion, what matters is not what lies ahead, what one sees, hears, wants, takes, masters. It forms a horizon, a semicircle before one, but the ends of this semiciricle are joined by a string, and the plane of this string goes right through the middle of the world. In front, the face and hands look out of it; sensations and strivings run ahead of it, and no one doubts that whatever one does is always resonable, or at least passionate. In other words, outer circumstances call for us to act in a way everyone can understand; and if, in the toils of passion, we do something incomprehensible, that too is, in its own way, understandable. Yet however understandable and self-contained everything seems, this is accompanied by an obscure feeling that it is only half the story. Something is not quite in balance, and a person presses forward, like a tightrope walker, in order not to sway and fall. And as he presses on through life and leaves life lived behind, the life ahead and the life already lived form a wall, and his path in the end resembles the path of a woodworm: no matter how it corkscrews forward or even backward, it always leaves an empty space behind it. And this horrible feeling of blind, cutoff space behind the fullness of everything, this half that is always missing when everything is a whole, this is what eventually makes one perceive what one calls the soul.
[emphasis mine]

This week should be a good week--I'm in DC on business and actually have a lot of time to read and think. I found a poem (by way of helping my brother with a paper) that I had never known before: "There's a certain Slant of light" by E. Dickinson. That will be next.

The Path of a Woodworm

[Redon: The Lost Angel Opened Black Wings (from MOMA website)]


Although most recommended books are read after about a year of lag time (time spent finding the book, purchasing the book, and then having the book sit on the little shelf that holds my books-in-waiting), Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities was found, purchased, and cracked open in about a week.

If you stack all three volumes up in a neat pile, you have about six inches of paper to work through, or 2400 pages. And so, while I don't think I'll be finishing this endeavor anytime soon, I am quite certain that it won't take me as long as Proust has taken me (V. 6 of Proust is still sitting on my books-in-waiting shelf, dusted occasionally).

This book is funny! At times, very funny. And it is also beautifully written, filled with intriguing characters and bursting with interesting, slightly befuddling metaphors. For example, his description of soul:

In her sufferings she read a great deal and discovered that she had lost something, the possession of which she had previously not been much aware of: a soul.

What is that? It is easily defined negatively: it is simply what curls up and hides when there is any mention of algebraic series.

But positively? It seems successfully to elude every effort to pin it down.

But he doesn't end there, and in light of the fact that the next passage in which this is addressed is really, really good, I will reproduce it here:

The most peculiar of all the peculiarities of the word "soul," however, is that young people cannot pronounce it without laughig. Even Diotima and Arnheim were shy of using it without a modifier, for it is still possible to speak of having a great, noble, craven, daring, or debased soul, but to come right out with "my soul" is something one simply cannot bring oneself to do. It is distinctly an older person's word, and this can only be understood by assuming that in the course of life people become more and more aware of somethiing for which they urgently need a name they cannot find until they finally resort, reluctantly, to the name they had originally despised.

How to describe it then? Whether one is at rest or in motion, what matters is not what lies ahead, what one sees, hears, wants, takes, masters. It forms a horizon, a semicircle before one, but the ends of this semiciricle are joined by a string, and the plane of this string goes right through the middle of the world. In front, the face and hands look out of it; sensations and strivings run ahead of it, and no one doubts that whatever one does is always resonable, or at least passionate. In other words, outer circumstances call for us to act in a way everyone can understand; and if, in the toils of passion, we do something incomprehensible, that too is, in its own way, understandable. Yet however understandable and self-contained everything seems, this is accompanied by an obscure feeling that it is only half the story. Something is not quite in balance, and a person presses forward, like a tightrope walker, in order not to sway and fall. And as he presses on through life and leaves life lived behind, the life ahead and the life already lived form a wall, and his path in the end resembles the path of a woodworm: no matter how it corkscrews forward or even backward, it always leaves an empty space behind it. And this horrible feeling of blind, cutoff space behind the fullness of everything, this half that is always missing when everything is a whole, this is what eventually makes one perceive what one calls the soul.
[emphasis mine]

This week should be a good week--I'm in DC on business and actually have a lot of time to read and think. I found a poem (by way of helping my brother with a paper) that I had never known before: "There's a certain Slant of light" by E. Dickinson. That will be next.

Wispy statements on genius, etc.

[Caravaggio's Conversion on the Way to Damascus (from Web Gallery of Art)]


Genius--it's a concept that terrifies me, as well as inspiring in me the most wistful, starry-eyed longing. It seems to have a similar effect on others, when it has any effect at all. I imagine that terror and longing are not the stuff genius is actually made of, and so I smile an inward smile whenever I find it discussed or mentioned or admired. It's sort of a private joke with myself-- that the thing I revere most of all is no more than the phantom occasionally found on the tip of some stranger's tongue.

(I should mention that I often find skepticism and pessimism to be the preferred methods for coping with the frustration one feels for one's own lethargy/superficiality/defeat -- more painless than any real effort or challenge)

With that preamble, imagine my inward smile when I read the following passage in Musil's The Man Without Qualities

So what has been lost?

Something imponderable. An omen.
An illusion. As when a magnet releases iron filings and they fall in confusion again. As when a ball of string comes undone. As when a tension slackens. As when an orchestra begins to play out of tune. No details could be adduced that would not also have been possible before, but all the relationships had shifted a little. Ideas whose currency had once been lean grew fat. Persons who would never before have been taken seriously became famous. Harshness mellowed, separations fused, intransigents made concessions to popularity, tastes already formed relapsed into uncertainties. Sharp boundaries everywhere became blurred and some new, indefinable ability to form alliances brought new people and new ideas to the top. Not that these people and ideas were bad, not at all; it was only that a little too much of the bad was mixed with the good, of error with truth, of accommodation with meaning. There even seemed to be a privileged proportion of this mixture that got furthest on in the world; just the right pinch of makeshift to bring out the genius in genius and make talent look like a white hope, as a pinch of chicory, according to some people, brings out the right coffee flavor in coffee. Suddenly all the prominent and important positions in the intellectual world were filled by such people, and all decisions went their way. There is nothing one can hold responsible for this, nor can one say how it all came about. There are no persons or ideas or specific phenomena that one can fight against. There is no lack of talent or goodwill or even of strong personalities. There is just something missing in everything, though you can't put your finger on it, as if there had been a change in the blood or in the air; a mysterious disease had eaten away the previous period's seeds of genius, but everything sparkles with novelty, and finally one has no way of knowing whether the world has really grown worse or oneself merely older. At this point a new era has definitively arrived.

A long passage, but if you read with me to the end of it, you may be thinking a thought similar to the one I'm thinking: "why, then we must be arriving at a new era!"

Because I am most certainly disillusioned by the admixture I find around me, and within my own self--to put it in Musil's terms, it seems as though things taste more of chicory than coffee.

Strangely enough, I have recently been offered a few answers to the problematic situation described above.
One is a sort of half-brewed concoction of fable, romanticism, Phantastes, and my own observations of the rise of myth and fancy in popular culture. I've been wondering if it's easier to deal with a disappointing world by indulging in the creation of other, fantastic worlds (this is a huge, massy question which I cannot even stretch my mind around).

A second comes from watching A Man For All Seasons last night. Is that sort of unwavering devotion to God and Truth even possible anymore? How many of us would feel uncomfortable if asked to talk about personal conscience?

And a third answer, or at least angle from which to approach the problematic situation is an ultimatum posed firstly to Baudelaire, and secondly to Huysmans, by Barbey d'Aurevilly: "You have only to choose between the muzzle of a pistol and the foot of the cross." Baudelaire chose the cross, as did Huysmans.

So, we probe the folds of man's conscious and his conscience. We study his actions, behaviors, tendencies. We find darkness and confusion, some shining spots of light, and we move on. We write and paint and sing and talk. We talk and talk and talk--figuring things out, establishing concepts, communities, precepts, politics. And then what? It tumbles down. The individual voices who were so content to talk each fall silent at some point, look inward, and feel something massive and bleak.

These are grounds that have been explored before, I know this, but I don't really know the explorations that happened, nor do I know their results. In fact, I'm finally starting to come to terms with how little I actually know--and I'm talking in terms of what are called facts, nothing larger. So if you were to ask me, a small voice in a great wilderness of cacophony, what I thought about steadfastness, or truth, or reality, or endurance, I should probably feel uncomfortable, and then respond with some wispy statement about trees and fog and connections and the knowledge of something infinitely greater than me. I just hope that one day I'll have the words to express the belief that lies behind that wispy statement, and the courage to say it loudly and fully.

Wispy statements on genius, etc.

[Caravaggio's Conversion on the Way to Damascus (from Web Gallery of Art)]


Genius--it's a concept that terrifies me, as well as inspiring in me the most wistful, starry-eyed longing. It seems to have a similar effect on others, when it has any effect at all. I imagine that terror and longing are not the stuff genius is actually made of, and so I smile an inward smile whenever I find it discussed or mentioned or admired. It's sort of a private joke with myself-- that the thing I revere most of all is no more than the phantom occasionally found on the tip of some stranger's tongue.

(I should mention that I often find skepticism and pessimism to be the preferred methods for coping with the frustration one feels for one's own lethargy/superficiality/defeat -- more painless than any real effort or challenge)

With that preamble, imagine my inward smile when I read the following passage in Musil's The Man Without Qualities

So what has been lost?

Something imponderable. An omen.
An illusion. As when a magnet releases iron filings and they fall in confusion again. As when a ball of string comes undone. As when a tension slackens. As when an orchestra begins to play out of tune. No details could be adduced that would not also have been possible before, but all the relationships had shifted a little. Ideas whose currency had once been lean grew fat. Persons who would never before have been taken seriously became famous. Harshness mellowed, separations fused, intransigents made concessions to popularity, tastes already formed relapsed into uncertainties. Sharp boundaries everywhere became blurred and some new, indefinable ability to form alliances brought new people and new ideas to the top. Not that these people and ideas were bad, not at all; it was only that a little too much of the bad was mixed with the good, of error with truth, of accommodation with meaning. There even seemed to be a privileged proportion of this mixture that got furthest on in the world; just the right pinch of makeshift to bring out the genius in genius and make talent look like a white hope, as a pinch of chicory, according to some people, brings out the right coffee flavor in coffee. Suddenly all the prominent and important positions in the intellectual world were filled by such people, and all decisions went their way. There is nothing one can hold responsible for this, nor can one say how it all came about. There are no persons or ideas or specific phenomena that one can fight against. There is no lack of talent or goodwill or even of strong personalities. There is just something missing in everything, though you can't put your finger on it, as if there had been a change in the blood or in the air; a mysterious disease had eaten away the previous period's seeds of genius, but everything sparkles with novelty, and finally one has no way of knowing whether the world has really grown worse or oneself merely older. At this point a new era has definitively arrived.

A long passage, but if you read with me to the end of it, you may be thinking a thought similar to the one I'm thinking: "why, then we must be arriving at a new era!"

Because I am most certainly disillusioned by the admixture I find around me, and within my own self--to put it in Musil's terms, it seems as though things taste more of chicory than coffee.

Strangely enough, I have recently been offered a few answers to the problematic situation described above.
One is a sort of half-brewed concoction of fable, romanticism, Phantastes, and my own observations of the rise of myth and fancy in popular culture. I've been wondering if it's easier to deal with a disappointing world by indulging in the creation of other, fantastic worlds (this is a huge, massy question which I cannot even stretch my mind around).

A second comes from watching A Man For All Seasons last night. Is that sort of unwavering devotion to God and Truth even possible anymore? How many of us would feel uncomfortable if asked to talk about personal conscience?

And a third answer, or at least angle from which to approach the problematic situation is an ultimatum posed firstly to Baudelaire, and secondly to Huysmans, by Barbey d'Aurevilly: "You have only to choose between the muzzle of a pistol and the foot of the cross." Baudelaire chose the cross, as did Huysmans.

So, we probe the folds of man's conscious and his conscience. We study his actions, behaviors, tendencies. We find darkness and confusion, some shining spots of light, and we move on. We write and paint and sing and talk. We talk and talk and talk--figuring things out, establishing concepts, communities, precepts, politics. And then what? It tumbles down. The individual voices who were so content to talk each fall silent at some point, look inward, and feel something massive and bleak.

These are grounds that have been explored before, I know this, but I don't really know the explorations that happened, nor do I know their results. In fact, I'm finally starting to come to terms with how little I actually know--and I'm talking in terms of what are called facts, nothing larger. So if you were to ask me, a small voice in a great wilderness of cacophony, what I thought about steadfastness, or truth, or reality, or endurance, I should probably feel uncomfortable, and then respond with some wispy statement about trees and fog and connections and the knowledge of something infinitely greater than me. I just hope that one day I'll have the words to express the belief that lies behind that wispy statement, and the courage to say it loudly and fully.

Abstract

Detail from Velazquez's Queen Doña Mariana of Austria (from Web Gallery of Art


I apologize for the erratic nature of this blog of late, but in my defense, I seem to have gotten quite ill. Nothing serious of course, but persistent. A month-long cold is not a fun thing and does horrid things to the powers of concentration and motivation.

So this will be more of an abstract than a post.

I finished Magic Mountain the other day and am still reeling in its immensity. I feel like I know it more fully though-- I can feel the pulse of this book now, or at least I'm closer to it. I need to write it out by hand first though--collect the thoughts or something like that.

I'm also re-reading George MacDonald's Phantastes (did I mention that already?) More as a balm for my brain than anything else. Who else? I have an Amy Cutler book which I'm trying to read, but finding myself more interested in peering at the images with a magnifying glass and an invigorated imagination.

I picked up a copy of Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities (as recommended by
Waggish), and am trying to work up the courage to begin.

I have also started researching the PhD thing in earnest: browsing faculty profiles, checking rankings, admission requirements, etc. In
the past, this whole massive process has felt quite disillusioning and tedious, but I'm keeping myself excited about the end goal. I think.

Tomorrow will be about going to the Guggenheim bright and early to catch the
Spanish exhibit they've had up for a while. Then hopefully down to the library to work on some notes on Magic Mountain, as well as some fun time with two issues of FMR that I just picked up at the Strand. Otherwise, I plan to do little--perhaps make the soup Maud Newton recommended the other day, catch on sleep, and learn the two new albums that just came in the mail: Laura Gibson's If You Come to Greet Me and Call It Sleep by The Places.

C'est tout.

Abstract

Detail from Velazquez's Queen Doña Mariana of Austria (from Web Gallery of Art


I apologize for the erratic nature of this blog of late, but in my defense, I seem to have gotten quite ill. Nothing serious of course, but persistent. A month-long cold is not a fun thing and does horrid things to the powers of concentration and motivation.

So this will be more of an abstract than a post.

I finished Magic Mountain the other day and am still reeling in its immensity. I feel like I know it more fully though-- I can feel the pulse of this book now, or at least I'm closer to it. I need to write it out by hand first though--collect the thoughts or something like that.

I'm also re-reading George MacDonald's Phantastes (did I mention that already?) More as a balm for my brain than anything else. Who else? I have an Amy Cutler book which I'm trying to read, but finding myself more interested in peering at the images with a magnifying glass and an invigorated imagination.

I picked up a copy of Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities (as recommended by
Waggish), and am trying to work up the courage to begin.

I have also started researching the PhD thing in earnest: browsing faculty profiles, checking rankings, admission requirements, etc. In
the past, this whole massive process has felt quite disillusioning and tedious, but I'm keeping myself excited about the end goal. I think.

Tomorrow will be about going to the Guggenheim bright and early to catch the
Spanish exhibit they've had up for a while. Then hopefully down to the library to work on some notes on Magic Mountain, as well as some fun time with two issues of FMR that I just picked up at the Strand. Otherwise, I plan to do little--perhaps make the soup Maud Newton recommended the other day, catch on sleep, and learn the two new albums that just came in the mail: Laura Gibson's If You Come to Greet Me and Call It Sleep by The Places.

C'est tout.

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, Tall Firs

Emily Haines & Soft Skeleton - Doctor Blind


Those are the individuals I spent last evening with, and what an evening it was!

David and I have been going to see Emily whenever we can, which has included two Metric shows in DC, and now two Soft Skeleton shows here in NY (we were lucky enough to get into the first show at Joe's Pub back in the autumn). Both have been wonderful and exciting, but last night's felt even more special. Tall Firs had a similarly haunting sound, but rambled much more than Emily--and I love rambling music. Under the influence of the name of their band perhaps, I felt as if I were walking through some elemental wilderness--and remembered this momentous walk of mine last year.

The drummer had a wonderful Mary Poppins-esque bag full of tricks that delighted me. Emily read from one of her father's books of poetry-- introducing me (and probably many others in the audience) to Paul Haines' interesting little fragments of jazz-poetry, as well as to his and Carla Bley's
Escalator Over A Hill. I found this site, which links to many of his songs.

But it's her music that's so beautiful. It's quiet music, but it seethes with images and mysteries and ideas. There are little shocks throughout, an errant vernacular phrase, a whispery high note, an undecipherable line (or two). She had brought a long a string quartet which made the performance of Reading in Bed (my favorite off the album), so rich and intense (Emily threw in a few bars of House of the Rising Sun at the end of this song).

Unlike the first show, there was an encore. Emily and the string quartet did a Buffalo Springfield song and then joined Tall Firs and Soft Skeleton in a freshly scored and lush piece which was (I think) called The Woods.

I watched an interview with her following the release of this album, and in it, she speaks about how happy she is to have produced music which could end with solitude and quiet contentment, but which has instead brought out a new aspect of "the universal qualities of people."
It was a wonderful evening.

UPDATE:

Something I forgot to mention: at both shows, Emily has shown an montage-esque thing of Guy Maddin films, which are fantastic and creepy and perfect for her music. But I noticed something extra this time around: Maddin takes images from Odilon Redon who I've mentioned here and here

A pleasant surprise

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, Tall Firs

Emily Haines & Soft Skeleton - Doctor Blind


Those are the individuals I spent last evening with, and what an evening it was!

David and I have been going to see Emily whenever we can, which has included two Metric shows in DC, and now two Soft Skeleton shows here in NY (we were lucky enough to get into the first show at Joe's Pub back in the autumn). Both have been wonderful and exciting, but last night's felt even more special. Tall Firs had a similarly haunting sound, but rambled much more than Emily--and I love rambling music. Under the influence of the name of their band perhaps, I felt as if I were walking through some elemental wilderness--and remembered this momentous walk of mine last year.

The drummer had a wonderful Mary Poppins-esque bag full of tricks that delighted me. Emily read from one of her father's books of poetry-- introducing me (and probably many others in the audience) to Paul Haines' interesting little fragments of jazz-poetry, as well as to his and Carla Bley's
Escalator Over A Hill. I found this site, which links to many of his songs.

But it's her music that's so beautiful. It's quiet music, but it seethes with images and mysteries and ideas. There are little shocks throughout, an errant vernacular phrase, a whispery high note, an undecipherable line (or two). She had brought a long a string quartet which made the performance of Reading in Bed (my favorite off the album), so rich and intense (Emily threw in a few bars of House of the Rising Sun at the end of this song).

Unlike the first show, there was an encore. Emily and the string quartet did a Buffalo Springfield song and then joined Tall Firs and Soft Skeleton in a freshly scored and lush piece which was (I think) called The Woods.

I watched an interview with her following the release of this album, and in it, she speaks about how happy she is to have produced music which could end with solitude and quiet contentment, but which has instead brought out a new aspect of "the universal qualities of people."
It was a wonderful evening.

UPDATE:

Something I forgot to mention: at both shows, Emily has shown an montage-esque thing of Guy Maddin films, which are fantastic and creepy and perfect for her music. But I noticed something extra this time around: Maddin takes images from Odilon Redon who I've mentioned here and here

A pleasant surprise

Oh, Hans

(An editorial out of Flair, found at jedroot.com)


I couldn't have said it any better:

I'm talking nonsense, I know, but I would rather babble away and at least partially express something difficult than reproduce impeccable cliches.

~Hans Castorp

Oh, Hans

(An editorial out of Flair, found at jedroot.com)


I couldn't have said it any better:

I'm talking nonsense, I know, but I would rather babble away and at least partially express something difficult than reproduce impeccable cliches.

~Hans Castorp

A Stroll By The Shore

[William Blake: Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind
(from Web Gallery of Art)]



This book has truly cast a spell on me. The words keep fluttering through my mind, bombarding me with images and sounds and the deepest, most intricate, most tantalizing half-grasped questions. There's just SO MUCH to be interested in and to want to untangle. I am speaking, of course, of The Magic Mountain, which is simply one of the greatest novels ever written.

But it is a frightening experience to read this book. When I studied it for the first time, with a group of memorable, wonderful people, we spoke of the strange ability of the book to effect one's sense of time. Even though the narrator speaks to the reader directly and explicitly about time-- about its slipperiness, its vague, spellbinding quality-- even though the reader is fully conscious that some trickery of time is afoot, the spell is still amazingly powerful. A 40-page chapter will fly by and make an hour disappear into nothingness, or 10 pages of dialogue may be the most bewildering, painstaking read of the entire book. I will read through the dialogues of Naphta and Settembrini twice, three times, trying to glean some meaning from the dichotomies they present and with each reading, tangle myself into a mess of minutes and even hours

[There is little to be gleaned. I am convinced that these two "windbags," as Hans calls them, are merely increasing the noise in my head, making me look sideways at every idea I am presented with, and turning any conviction into a misbegotten fancy].

The spell of this book works in many ways. The story is so large and mythic, so personal, so tragic and exciting and mesmerizing. But it is the words which hold a special magic. I am reading a translation, the John E. Woods version, supplemented and occasionally corrected by notes supplied by the tutor who first lead a group of us up to the summit of this mountain. And because of this, I know that there will have been valuable nuances, inflections, and idiosyncrasies lost. Nevertheless, the words echo in my head all day long. I find myself with "Man Alive!" on the tip of my tongue, or wanting to call someone "my handsome bourgeois with the little moist spot." I use the descriptors "dusky," " higgeldy-piggeldy," and "half-dreamy, half-scary." I find myself feeling confused and excited at the same time, or wanting to describe basic things in complicated medical terms.

In short, the many voices of this book have cluttered up my brain. Behrens, the "polyglot of the idiomatic phrase," Settembrini with his words that remind Hans of "fresh hot buns," so "round and appetizing." Naphta with his malicious, starry-eyed erudition, or Peeperkorn with his lance-like fingernails forever tracing the points of his never-ending, blurry statements. Even Hans, good, ordinary Hans, with his prosaic soul, his love for experimentation, for dreamy music, for pedagogues, for the Homo Dei, for anonymous and communal dreaming, and for a certain slant-eyed, slinking woman.

I read this narrative of time, death, life, illness, love, education, and language, and I become one of the "seven-years-sleepers." I am under the mountain with the rest of them, my heart beating dizzyingly quick at times, my lungs a little moist, my head a bit fogged. Perhaps I have a fever, perhaps I am dreaming, bearing a song in my heart, giving myself up to "dissolute sweetness."

This book also makes me regret that a) there is no snow, and b) that I am not obliged to take rest cures throughout the day

A Stroll By The Shore

[William Blake: Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind
(from Web Gallery of Art)]



This book has truly cast a spell on me. The words keep fluttering through my mind, bombarding me with images and sounds and the deepest, most intricate, most tantalizing half-grasped questions. There's just SO MUCH to be interested in and to want to untangle. I am speaking, of course, of The Magic Mountain, which is simply one of the greatest novels ever written.

But it is a frightening experience to read this book. When I studied it for the first time, with a group of memorable, wonderful people, we spoke of the strange ability of the book to effect one's sense of time. Even though the narrator speaks to the reader directly and explicitly about time-- about its slipperiness, its vague, spellbinding quality-- even though the reader is fully conscious that some trickery of time is afoot, the spell is still amazingly powerful. A 40-page chapter will fly by and make an hour disappear into nothingness, or 10 pages of dialogue may be the most bewildering, painstaking read of the entire book. I will read through the dialogues of Naphta and Settembrini twice, three times, trying to glean some meaning from the dichotomies they present and with each reading, tangle myself into a mess of minutes and even hours

[There is little to be gleaned. I am convinced that these two "windbags," as Hans calls them, are merely increasing the noise in my head, making me look sideways at every idea I am presented with, and turning any conviction into a misbegotten fancy].

The spell of this book works in many ways. The story is so large and mythic, so personal, so tragic and exciting and mesmerizing. But it is the words which hold a special magic. I am reading a translation, the John E. Woods version, supplemented and occasionally corrected by notes supplied by the tutor who first lead a group of us up to the summit of this mountain. And because of this, I know that there will have been valuable nuances, inflections, and idiosyncrasies lost. Nevertheless, the words echo in my head all day long. I find myself with "Man Alive!" on the tip of my tongue, or wanting to call someone "my handsome bourgeois with the little moist spot." I use the descriptors "dusky," " higgeldy-piggeldy," and "half-dreamy, half-scary." I find myself feeling confused and excited at the same time, or wanting to describe basic things in complicated medical terms.

In short, the many voices of this book have cluttered up my brain. Behrens, the "polyglot of the idiomatic phrase," Settembrini with his words that remind Hans of "fresh hot buns," so "round and appetizing." Naphta with his malicious, starry-eyed erudition, or Peeperkorn with his lance-like fingernails forever tracing the points of his never-ending, blurry statements. Even Hans, good, ordinary Hans, with his prosaic soul, his love for experimentation, for dreamy music, for pedagogues, for the Homo Dei, for anonymous and communal dreaming, and for a certain slant-eyed, slinking woman.

I read this narrative of time, death, life, illness, love, education, and language, and I become one of the "seven-years-sleepers." I am under the mountain with the rest of them, my heart beating dizzyingly quick at times, my lungs a little moist, my head a bit fogged. Perhaps I have a fever, perhaps I am dreaming, bearing a song in my heart, giving myself up to "dissolute sweetness."

This book also makes me regret that a) there is no snow, and b) that I am not obliged to take rest cures throughout the day