Sunday, January 27, 2008


Back from Los Angeles and Tombstone.

Part One.

The emotional and intellectual high point of my West journey--- for want of a better word--- came when Jim Kari showed me an obituary in the on-line version of the Anchorage Daily News: LAST NATIVE SPEAKER OF EYAK LANGUAGE IS DEAD AT 89. Next to the obituary was a chart listing the native tribes of Alaska, the number of each and the number of remaining native speakers.

Jim was furious at the appearance of the chart. It is part of the death watch on the these languages, Jim was shouting. This came as a shock as he is usually a very even tempered, easy going guy who I have known for now more than 40 years. His voice was angry, as if he had been slapped hard in the face. That chart serves no purpose, it is depressing and an invasion of the privacy of the native peoples of Alaska, he said.

For a long time that day and the next I really did not understand the anger that Jim was expressing. I understood that this was part of a long standing argument with another academic in Alaska who had made a name for himself by endlessly talking about the dying languages of Alaska and without doing very much to encourage their growth and survival. This other fellow seems to get a perverse sort of pleasure from harping on the disappearance of these languages: thus Jim's comment on the near pornographic delight this fellow took in elaborating his language death watch.

Jim objected to the whole tone of the obituary of Chief Marie Smith Jones, this 89 year old woman who had lived an extraordinarily hard, yet typical Native person's life yet was able to work for the repatriation of bones from the Smithsonian and in spite of only having a fourth grade education--- having quit school when she was mis-told that women could not be pilots--- had been a speaker at a United Nations conferences on indigenous peoples... and many other details which underlined both the ordinariness of this woman's life and the simple fact of her being the last speaker of Eyak.

In no way did Jim begrudge this woman the obituary but he did object to the fact that her life had come down to that simple factual headline: she was a last speaker--- and the implication that there would be no more speakers of Eyak.

Part Two.

For more than 30 years Jim has done the hard emotionally draining work of preserving native languages in Alaska: he has done the recording, transcribing and the translating of poems, stories and tales of the Dena'ina people. He has compiled the various dictionaries, grammars and as a result he has produced a written version of that language.

But I would come back to my failure to understand his anger by trying to rescue the obituary as being of the order of one I had seen in Le Figaro where there had been an article about the recent death of the second to last surviving veteran of World War One... no, it is not like that, Jim would say. You do not understand that such charts, such obituaries are very discouraging to native peoples, very depressing in the sense of how would you feel if you were constantly being told that you were at the end of the line?... it is this foreclosure of possibility that I object to and most native peoples object to. These articles and these charts have only the affect of depressing people and they are a incredible invasion of privacy.

Part Three.

Back in the city I told my wife Anna about the above conversation. Anna's first language is Estonian. Yes, Jim is right. Whenever I think of Estonia, of the Estonian language I realize how small we are. Between and among all those Russians, Germans, Poles... I know what he is talking about. Anna and I had both recently seen the film THE SINGING REVOLUTION which while being an optimistic film did underline just how close Estonia and the Estonians had come to being made extinct.

Part Four.

Back in the city in the room on East First Street: what had all that been about in that child house of Jim in Hermosa Beach, where he was visiting from his home in Fairbanks... here in Hermosa Beach where he had grown up, been and was still a surfer, from where he had gone to UCLA, to the Peace Corps in Turkey and then via studies of the Athabascam languages at the University of New Mexico and then for all those years at the University of Alaska and still today in a few days going back to Alaska to work on transcribing and translating stories of work and spiritual matters with an aging Native informant... never doing it for the money or fame but solely for the purposes of providing as a result of his vocation the possibility of these languages continuing...

Part Five.

Back in the city, the nagging question why be interested in such obscure peoples? I realized the problem was in that word obscure and I guess I should wonder why I should even use such a word or even think in such terms as my own life has been devoted to what could easily be described as being obscure:::::: having published (Dalkey Archive Press) obscure well reviewed things: the execution of Nikola Petkov in Sofia, Bulgaria in THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PEKOV, traveling to, being in and coming back from the village of Patchogue in GOING TO PATCHOGUE

==while at the same time the unpublished work: focused on James Thomson BV in TO FORGET THE FUTURE, my life as a messenger in EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS, a life and lives in Dublin in ST. PATRICK'S DAY, DUBLIN 1974... the beginning and the end of the so-called 60s in JUST LIKE THAT and A BEGINNING OF AN END

==and other books, piles of them, which will only most likely be stuff the kids will have to throw away when they come to clean out this room to dispose of the evidence of my obscure life. A familiar (what?) though no less painful for it, because of this familiarity.

Part Five.

The only way out was to embrace the idea of Max Stirner: out of the creative nothingness of our selves is everything possible, the possibility of art: real art, the work of art that seeks to overcome the sure mortality of its maker--- and the ONLY reason to do such art: to rescue from forgetfulness, to rescue from the nothingness that is ever present in the form of the always temporary addictive acclaim of the masses, who always get it wrong.

A little act of faith, a little hint to always mis-trust the well known, the well known bad writers, bad movies even if they are desscribed as they always are as being the latest great and wonderful...

Part Six.

from a review by Russell Desmond. A quote from Louis de Bonald:
All things beautiful are severe.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Hermosa Beach cont.


in the town of Claremont after looking in at Pomona College I bought in Second Story Books--- a very good second hand bookshop owned by a young man who says he did not go to any college but who from his conversation seemed more literate, more involved with the reality of books than 90% of college and university English professors and who having read all the previous books of Alexander Theroux, especially taken by DARCONVILLE'S CAT--- was pleased to be stocking Theroux's new novel LAURA WARHOLA... which is already in the top three best books of all of 2008--- something you would not know from the stupid second rate review in the NYTimes by a fellow who was many months ahead of time bragging in the basement of the Strand Bookstore in NYC that he had panned the book and who by his conversation revealed that he simply was unaware of AT's work and being possessed of a pedestrian mind was incapable of reviewing such a novel: in fact if he even read the novel is probably a question that might be worth perusing.

The TLS gave AT's novel a full page review and there the reviewer revealed a close understanding of Theroux work and easily grasped the delicious difficulty of the novel and how because of the shadow it casts...

easily distracted by these irritations that sliver from the NYTimes... and like so many other infiltrations from the East--- driving to Pomona College you have to cross Yale and Harvard Streets--- reminding one of the terrible power these colleges have in spite of the fact that they are mere training schools for the most part and to try to imagine them in PAUL GOODMAN'S phrase, as COMMUNITY OF SCHOLARS--- you get my point: Pomona seems the ideal size for a college: 900 some students... orange trees growing outside the dorm rooms... a many million volume library...

yes, at SECOND STORY i bought three books: THE CALIFORNIA DESERTS by Edmund C. Jaeger
PARIS PEASANT by Louis Aragon in the Exact Change Press edition ( Aragon's only real book as afterwards he gave himself over to the worship of Stalin)
THE DIAMONDS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA AND OTHER STORIES by Desmond Hogan (to replace an earlier copy that had become water damaged)


before going to Claremont I was at the Nixon Library and Presidential museum... thoughtful people know that Nixon is the only American president of the Twentieth Century who would have interested Shakespeare...

again, i was reminded of how trivial Kennedy seemed when placed side by side with Nixon in those famous debates: the smirking, hair caressing Kennedy was again in evidence on a television screen, complete with that aura of demanding unearned entitlement

but it is what one sees at the end of the tour that interested me: a re-creation of the last study of Nixon's in his residence in New Jersey on April 18, 1994. Books are arranged on his desk that one can only assume--- unless it is all a sad charade--- were being read, looked into, what-have-you: Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt, Flaubert by Henri Troyat, Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche (in the Penguin paperback edition)... on a shelf to the right a book on Carl Schmitt by Paul Gottfried...


i was reminded: Nixon established the EPA in the face of--- as they say in the street--- fierce Democratic opposition---

i did buy a t-shirt celebrating Nixon's bowling ability...

the Nixon grave site is very close to the actual modest house he was born in midst what was once an orange grove...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Hermosa Beach.


i will miss next week's

Hermosa Beach Historical Society presents a night of "beat" poetry at the HBHS Museum, 710 Pier Avenue, celebrating the Beatnik movement in So Cal with Dr. Colin Campbell. 4:30 p.m.; Bob Hare, founder of the Insomniac, at 6:30, followed by poetry readings, live music, exhibits, refreshments and more.

I wonder about: "and more."


at the house here we watched SUNSET BOULEVARD.
I hope everyone has seen the movie.
One detail, Norma Desmond is fifty years old.
Her career is over and done with.
Made in 1950 it is still the best movie about the reality of Hollywood.


on the side of the Hermosa Beach Community Center,the former junior high school,



in Vons supermarket Liza made me a California Dreamin' sandwich. She had to follow the directions from a posted sign as she had forgotten how to make it since she had been off work for some time recuperating from breaking her Achilles tendon. She had come to California from West 112th Street in Manhattan because her brother and father were body builders.


we went to visit at her studio in a reclaimed former hangar at the Santa Monica Airport a Patchogian artist long resident in California. Patti M(then. She gave me a hardcover version of a recent gallery show---done with Minx B--- RIPE, A Collection of Passionate Poetry and Pears:

Dedicated to the Creative Force in each and ever one of us sourcing
our infinite capacity for passionate self-expression.

On the back of the book:

Ripe, a collection of Passionate Poetry and Pears is a compilation of recent poems and paintings by these two artists. Their decision to collaborate on this book was born from their deep friendship and mutual admiration. They have found both the process and the result satisfying and feel honored to be able to share themselves on the world through these pages.

Patti M told us she is now working on a series of "water lily" paintings.


after our visit to the Patchogian artist Patti M we drove up to the Getty Villa in Malibu. Rain had threatened earlier in the day. A sign was posted near the parking lot telling visitors they need not bring an umbrella. We discovered the museum had thoughtfully placed umbrella stands at convenient places through out the museum so any visitor could use one of the museum's own grand umbrellas.

Never in my life have I been in a museum more solicitous of the pleasure of its visitors.
Never have I been in a museum that so genuinely treated each and every visitor adult and child simply as being the most important person in the museum.
The level of thinking that had gone into the construction, the layout, the selection of the art and the careful full sized reproduction of a great Roman villa is a model that I know has no equal in the world.
Of course here is no admission charge.
The restaurant is modestly priced and the quality of the food is simply excellent.

It has long been maintained as we walked in the long formal gardens of the outer peristyle that there is really no value in looking at modern art, which in a real sense is non-existent and invisible.
When the French murdered their king during the so-called French Revolution... there was no longer any point to art. Art is the total slave of mere subjective fashion. It is no longer in service to something more than itself. Everything is now allowed so nothing is of...why say anymore about...

The Villa had a small exhibition devoted to Piranesi. On display was his Column of Trajan.


again, from my travel reading, from CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA by Camilo Jose Cela.

::::what's bad is when a man wants to put his thoughts into another person's head, that's a sign that death is lurking nearby and feeling brave

::::what's bad is being a stranger, all strangers go around dragging a dirty, bloody history that they don't want to tell anyone, silence ends up making the bones ache, but anything is better than the gallows, strangers don't have any traditions and that's why they rob banks, and trains, they cheat at cards, they steal cows and horses and they shoot you in the back, tradition doesn't forbid robbing banks and trains or cheating at cards or stealing horses and cows but it does forbid killing a man from behind

(how a woman can keep a man from wandering)

::::and my mother knows a special caress, it's something exquisite, something that's pleasurable and that send a shiver right through you, she charges a bit more but it's worth the money, it's wonderful, she gets her mouth on your asshole, puts in her tongue a little and sucks hard, like a vacuum, it's called the "black kiss" and it was invented by Bonne Mere Mauricette, a madam from Napoleonville, near New Orleans, my mother does it to anyone who pays for it, I'm exempt, she doesn't charge me for it, afterwards she smiles, my mother always smiles sweetly


a letter is being sent from Glendale protesting the I HAVE A DREAM MATTRESS SALE, advertised in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, because it violates the spirit of the holiday being celebrated on Monday

Tuesday, January 15, 2008



Where I am.

Hermosa Beach. Two streets from:

Alive & Well. Fish World. Flower World. California Sushi Teriyaki. Nancy Nails & Spa. South Bay Soccer. Skooby's. Amigos Tacos. Maui Rose. Rosa's Mexican Restaurant. Town & Country Pizza. Oki Doki Sushi. Just Massage Studio. Skate Surf Smoke. The Gym. South Bat Jiu-Jitsu. The Roth Group Real Estate. Bow Wow Boutique. Discount Cigarettes & Liquors. Triangle Hardware. A & M Auto Repair. Boxing Works. Asian Art Furniture. Nails & Waxing. Fluff and Fold. 7 11. Hermosa Design Center Futones Waterbeds. Poulet de Jour. Domino's Beach Cities Cycle. Hair's the Place. Westside Rentals Where Quality Tenants find a place to live. Cleanrite Cleaners. Royal Nails. Hermosa Saloon. Pacer Darts.


I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway to Dana Point and beyond to San Clemente. In a 7 11 I asked the clerk: is this where Richard Nixon lived? While the guy was giving me my change and saying he didn't know who I was talking about another guy had come in and was standing near me. Long time no see, he said. He gestured to the highway, Down there a little bit is Nixon's favorite Mexican restaurant.

When I drove passed it: Dave's Mexican.... though when I asked at the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce the girl said Nixon's house was inside a gated community and could not be seen from the road. She thought his favorite Mexican restuarant was El Mundo in San Juan Capistrano.


I had an address: 22401 Antonio Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita. I was looking for Coto Insurance Services which is owned by one of the Real Wives of Orange County.
I am sure everyone knows this show on Bravo. Now in its third season--- doesn't that sound like I can speak TV talk?

22401 Antonio Parkway is in the middle of a shopping center. Well, the name over the door says: REALTY EXECUTIVES. Two blond women came to the door of an office off the little lobby: Can we help you? Is this where the woman from Real Wives of Orange County has her office? They rent space from us.

I picked up two local newspapers from the lobby. The Cota de Caza News and the Trabuco Canyon News. The latter newspaper serves communities from Coto de Caza to Walden. Many houses for sale with prices well into the seven figures. Being from Manhattan--- or at least living in Manhattan--- one is really unaware of what wealth looks like when packaged up as a home. All those tall apartment buildings look alike. Of course even on East First Street in Manhattan there is a small building going up in which a small one bedroom condo will sell for more than one million dollars... but who lives around 22401 Antonio Parkway

I must quote 8 lines by Lana Chandler, Society Editor and author of Society Scene Exclusively for the Coto de Caza News:

The 34th annual Candlelight Concert was an amazing, electrifying evening that the guests will always remember. This upscale event, attended by the society elite, was orchestrated by event chair Pat Poss, honorary co-chairs Sally Crockett and Carol Wilken, and devoted committee members. Their efforts raised the bar and stunned the highbrow guests with transforming the Orange County Performing Artscenter Segerstrom Hall into a New York Nightclub Studio 34. The ambiance was perfect for the special performance by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons...
(at a future date I might be forced to quote more of Lana Chandler, Society Editor and author of Society Scene.)


Driving through Long Beach. Jeffrey MacDonald once was a doctor here. For the last 27 years he has been in prison for killing his wife and children. Do I have to say the Green Beret doctor? Fatal Vision?... the most famous son of Patchogue.

We were in Boy Scout together. He is a year older. I remember our father's because of the rain sitting in a car drinking and smoking all night during an overnight camping trip in Yaphank. All the boys were in sleeping bags in tents. The Dads...

I have often thought that he is innocent and though his case has been appealed up and down the ladder and here have been films even by the BBC suggesting serious doubts about the case he will never get out of jail. And now on the internet you can see the autopsy photos of all the parties...


Traveling slows reading down-- which might be a mistake--- for so much of what is written is not designed to be read:

I am sure you have heard the name Karl Kraus, the Austrian writer who wrote savage investigations of the mis-use of language in the Austrian press before, during and after WWI.
Like Ezra Pound, Kraus well knew that the debasement of the language is always necessary to further the bad aims... you might know Kraus for writing that psychoanalysis is a disease that proposes itself as its cure.

Some sentences or phrases that I do not understand:

one of the strongest early stories

powerful, precise and startlingly modern qualities

pushes his characters.

And from Kathryn Harrison: -there's the writing, clean and stark
-sentences feel less written than rendered
-I've fled into a novel
-he friable boundary between fiction and nonfiction.

And it was a pleasure to read the journalist Joe Conason putting on a funny hat for his look into the fortune teller's crystal ball: In the years that follow the second Bush presidency many of us will no doubt continue to ask ourselves...

Sunday, January 13, 2008


a: Claiming places

b: I was going to write about the battle of books in Tombstone, Arizona--- how unsettled every single historical fact remains--- but as I was driving across and between the Sonora and Mojave deserts I thought of a historical marker in the Tohono O'odham Nation near QUIJOTOA: a Papago word for mountain shaped like a carrying basket--- Near there in 1883, a gold rush and camps grew up: Logan, New Virginia, Virginia City, Brooklyn and eventually formed this city with the name that reminds me of the Spanish knight and at first I did think it was an approximation of it....

c: Nothing at all remains of that city. The desert has done its...

d: Of course one sees all the new housing developments, "communities for active adults" all over the land about Phoenix, Tuscon and every other place... the huge caravan city of Quartzsite where thousands upon thousands of RVs converge and disperse during the year... squatters in Desert Center

e: walked into the desert near Tombstone to see the remaining propped up buildings of Fairbank which had once been the rail station for Tombstone complete with oyster serving terminal hotel...

f: the old people all about, wrung wrung out from their years of hard labor up North or where ever...

g: when they move here have they already made the arrangements as I am reminded of hearing John Montague talking about his last meeting with Samuel Beckett in Paris and saying as if often does, the mind turns and I asked: and the arrangements and Beckett replied: in the ground...

h: do the arrangements come with the new houses?...

i: in AJO by the now abandoned vast open copper mine I met a man who had just come back from Belize to look at where he had come many years before to be a geologist and when he got there--- so many years before when he was young and just out of college--- but they did not then need a geologist so he went away to tend to other businesses but he had now come back here because his daughter had an autistic child and no husband... and Arizona is a good place to raise an autistic child...

j: in the Wal Mart in Indio they keep all the dvd's under lock and key... the freight trains go by all night--- many broken down cars being driven...

k: in LUCERNE VALLEY a guy gets out of a car goes into this combination grocery/liquor store and I hear him say, give me a double... I do not see what he is drinking but I watch him get back into the car and the argument on the wife's face and the sleeping child strapped into a seat in the back...

l: local color,as the say, both the distortion and the accuracy...

m: in a Days Inn on Cool Water Lane, Barstow where the rug looks like it has absorbed lots of blood and vomit

n: in Twentynine Palms three kids dressed up in Statue of Liberty costumes try to attract customers to the Liberty Tax preparing shop... in Barstow one kid is dressed up in a Statue of Liberty costume...

n: in the video store in Twentynine Palms the clerk says there were two movies with the title Twentynine Palms. He hasn't seen either one of them. One of them has subtitles.

0: Twentynine Palms by BRUNO DUMONT is, while fictional, a documentary... there are not a lot of words to read... a film about what can happen... and about the words that are not available

p: in 1994 murals began to appear on the walls of Twentynine Palms buildings as a way to " boost community pride and make out city more inviting." The murals have begun to fade... and the fading is a delight to the eye...


Monday, January 7, 2008



If the planes work I should be in Tombstone tomorrow evening.


Tonight I walked around down to Soho and then to St. Marks Bookshop. I was talking to a guy who works there about tomorrow. He publishes tiny letters occasionally in the TLS. He said, the day after you go to Tombstone I am going to Venice.

Two tomb cities, I replied.


ON THE EVE by Ivan TURGENEV was not sadly on the shelf. The guy in the shop did not know that Ezra Pound is buried in Venice. He is taking Ruskin as a guide. I suggested THE CANTOS as the best guide.


I regretted, I said, I could not travel with the necessary large library as Lamartine had done when he went to Bulgaria for the first time.

Books are so heavy, the guy said... and I could hear the understanding of the necessity of reading when traveling.


JAMES LIDDY sent me to read as I journey his little book of translations from MANDELSTAM... and I thought I won't be able to take with me THE COMPLETE CRITICAL PROSE AND LETTERS by Mandelstam: containing the absolutely essential essay on the addressee in poetry but the thought of Mandelstam lead me to remember that he had interviewed Ho Chi Minh in Moscow in 1923---"(he) breathes culture, not European culture, but perhaps the culture of the future."


And then on to my friend Al Willis who was fighting Ho Chi Minh's soldiers in Vietnam 42 years later as a young U.S. Marine from Patchogue... more thought... while in Tombstone where my guide will be CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA by CAMILO JOSE CELA... and I will be thinking of George who is dead and who was from Bulgaria, so it is no accident that I know that ON THE EVE has a Bulgarian as a central character and how the novel ends up in Venice as I did both on the way to and on the way back from Bulgaria in 1967-68 and how to make sense of all of this will be through the example of THE APOCRYPHA by ROBERT PINGET which provides a model for the movement of time through words.


I have one errand while I travel: to finish a short notice of THE SINGING REVOLUTION, an Estonian documentary I am doing for Anna which now is crossed in my mind with the news that JAAN KROSS is dead: you might remember that tiny bit in his book of short fictions where he remembers seeing Russian soldiers standing in the National Lbrary in Estonian with axes in hand and chopping up-ended ancient Estonian books as if they were so many logs... in their effort to remove history from Estonia.


And two books which I don't know if I will get to them: the new Library of America edition of Elizabeth Bishop and KNOWLEDGE OF HELL by ANTONIO LOBO ANTUNES. I hope the title of Antunes's novel does not turn out to be an ironic commentary on this journey.