Tuesday, December 9, 2008

JAMES LIDDY, ERNST JUNGER, PIONEER CEMETERIES and KATHRIN STENGEL

preface

"Culture is based on the treatment of the dead; culture vanishes with the decay of graves--- or rather: this decay announces that the end is nigh." (from Ernst Junger's Aladdin's Problem, a meditation in the form of a novel on end matters but as in all of Junger's work there are other suggestive asides, "The state has become a multi-armed octopus, drawing blood in thousands of ways," and "Business is, after all, other people's money and that is what bankers live on."

Of course Junger is the author of STORM OF STEEL the single best book ever written about the experience of combat.

preface

From one of my favorite books of 2008--- since this is the season for such phrases, though this book is better than that---: PIONEER CEMETERIES Sculpture Gardens of the Old West by Annette Stott, University of Nebraska Press:::

Many cemeteries have been abandoned or gone through periods of total neglect. An article in the Denver Post in April 1967 noted that with its weeds huge ant hills and broken headstones a local nineteenth-century cemetery "actually more closely resembles a dump than a cemetery in this sector. The Helena, Montana, Independent Record ran photographs in May 1980 of hundreds of tombstones and bases "lying hither and thither" in the county gravel pit. The inscriptions dated from 1880 to 1905, and concerned citizens had been asking if road crews, were desecrating an old rural cemetery. Research by the sheriff's department and the Montana State Historical Society as well as letters to the editor gradually revealed the truth. The old Catholic Cemetery near St. Mary's Church in Helena had been turned into a park in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The Booster Club of the Catholic high school had volunteered to help clear the ground, and after obtaining releases from as many descendants as could be located, the tombstones and monuments had been hauled out to the pit, where they were expected to be used as landfill. Many of the oldest cemeteries in Rocky Mountain cities met a similar fate as cities expanded, but more often the monuments were transferred to newer cemeteries. Whether monuments were moved or discarded, all trace of the original cemetery was lost in the process of transforming it into a city park and the recipient cemeteries were also altered.

I trust the point is taken. RURAL CEMETERIES is a moving reminder of the sheer transitory nature of American life. We live in the eternal present and are permanent victims, always surprised, always astonished and if we have a linger memory it is taken as a sign of weakness unless it has been packaged up into expressing the self

preface

I had written of James Liddy in the present tense in a recent post and I received a note questioning my use of the present tense has he was now in the past tense according to google having died in early November.

I have known or rather I first met James Liddy in 1964in Dublin in O'Dwyer's pub at the corner of Lesson Street... and I would have gone on about--- but he did pay me four guineas for the following poem which appeared in the last issue of ARENA, (1965) the most important magazine published in Ireland in the 1960s.

SHORT THOUGHT ON DEATH

Bright white bird
COME
claim me
for black paradise.

I had to buy a round of drink for among others, James Liddy, Brian Higgins, Anthony Cronin and I think Pearse Hutchinson and Leland Bardwell...

James Liddy's best book is BAUDELAIRE'S BAR FLOWERS and the best poems were published in the three issues of ADRIFT that I published: "Glass of Oblivion, "Ossie Esmonde: The Blueshirt Goes to Heaven"

preface

I was going to go on about James Liddy and the what he had or had not done but on Saturday (Dec 6, 2008) at the Small Press Fair midst much rubbish I discovered NOVEMBER ROSE A Speech on Death by Kathrin Stengel... published by Upper West Side Philosophers (NY, 2007). Stengel has written on the death of the other and how to understand the fact of that death without resorting to feel good pyscho-babble or self-improvement moralizing...(though tinged with one little marring section on a need to explain the occasion for the book; this can easily be ignored) in a language as clear as reading Cioran or Unamuno...:

"Death turns the survivor's life into public property by virtue of the stigma that it bestows upon him, thereby subjecting his every move to particular scrutiny, and by virtue of the deceased's sudden, unrestrained availability.
As the deceased can no longer stand up for himself or protect his privacy, he enables the arrogation of his life. Everything can be said about him, everything can he ascribed to him, everybody's perspective on him is the only valid perspective." (p 65-66)

2 comments:

Edward said...

Tom, thank you for introducing me to James. It made a difference in my life knowing that I could write to him. I cherish his memory. I wish as a teacher I could instill in my students the spark I found in the students he sent to New York. Thank you, too, for Kathrin Stengel's observation on death.

Kevin T. McEneaney said...

Death eats us all and I'm sorry to hear of James Liddy's death. He was a witty earthquake of a man and I loved his irreverance. I thought his book Gold Set Dancing (2000) a remarkable book with its idolization of the Beat theme of the frustrated love triangle, though you are right about Baudelaire's Bar Flowers. All his writings displayed a wonderful humor. I was disapointed in his memoir, but it wasn't really awful like Richard Murphy's or John Montague's with their cannibalistic appetities for the souls of Kavanagh and Yeats, although it seemed to me Liddy's memoir reflected a longing for ordinary life from which he was excluded by virtue of his intellect. Characters of his multi-dimensional stature disappear and are replaced by well-mannered opportunists who think art is a craft rather than voodoo magic from the Otherworld. --Kevin T. McEneaney