Thursday, December 20, 2012



 BEFORE, BEFORE  never... or well, really, continuing within a belief that has been part of my life for more than 50 years: the printed word allows one to overcome the sureness of the grave, for a while or possibly this idea of...  allows me to keep on but now closer to the inevitable end as I am and I was even then, back there in Patchogue though if Dalkey Archive keeps on they are to publish ST. PATRICK'S DAY Dublin 1974 possibly in time for that saint's day in 2014 and while JUST LIKE THAT, a book from a beginning and from an end to the so-called 60s, has also been finished as has NOTHING DOING, a book about a man looking for his own grave in the extreme southwest of the United States as he carries on his back a self-exiled Bulgarian psychoanalyst, a defrocked Catholic priest, a man living in Paris who woke up one morning to hear his wife saying she was planning to kill their child and ruin your life, and lastly a man in a wheelchair in the Gadsden Hotel lobby in Douglas Arizona who one day had left New York City...


And at the moment from EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS:

Thank you
                         and good morning. добро утро!  G naydin.  Dra dhuit ar maidin. 
At first there was to be the possibility:  Welcome… but that word is even more ominous as there is the silent completion  of the command:  and be gone with you.

My review of 

By Roberto Calasso
Translated from the Italian by Alastair McEwen
Farrar Straus and Giroux
339pp., $35.00
   Reviewed by Thomas McGonigle
Charles Baudelaire is more scandalous today than he was over one hundred and fifty years ago.  Then, he was an obscure poet with one partially suppressed book, Flowers of Evil, an art critic when there didn’t seem to be any major artists and the translator/promoter of a marginal foreign writer Edgar Allan Poe.  Today, the scandal is more evident in sentences such as:   “One should always be drunk… Drunk with what?  With wine, with poetry, or with virtue as you please.  But get drunk.”(Paris Spleen) or There are no great men save the poet, the priest, and the soldier.  The man who sings, the man who offers up sacrifice, and the man who sacrifices himself.” (Intimate Journals) or “Every newspaper, from the first line to the last, is nothing but a tissue of horrors.”  (Intimate Journals)
And now there is the folly of Baudelaire in La Folie Baudelaire, the latest book from Roberto Calasso, the most riveting and demandingly suggestive critic in the world today , who established this commanding position with:  The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, The Ruins of Kasch, Literature and the Gods, Ka, The Forty-Nine Steps, K  and most recently, Tiepolo Pink. 
The La Folie Baudelaire is no narrow study of the poet’s work or even worse, a birth-to-death biography, but, rather by associating the poet with the prominent writers and artists that he came into contact with, Calasso has created what he calls, “analogical history… an ever-more-urgent desideratum in an intellectually debilitated epoch such as the present.”
                The reader is launched into this mysteriously obscure time, just before the so-called conquest of the  art world by Impressionism, “Baudelaire used to suggest to his mother, Caroline, that they meet surreptitiously at the Louvre:  ‘There isn’t a place in Paris where you can have a better chat, it’s heated you can wait for someone without getting bored and what’s more it’s the most respectable meeting place for a woman,’  the fear of the cold, the terror of boredom, the mother treated like a lover, surreptitiousness and decency conjoined in a the place of art: only Baudelaire could combine these elements…” 
From this clearly audacious beginning Calasso will anchor everything upon what he calls “Baudelaire’s  supreme prose work, The Painter of Modern Life marking it as the single most important article on art ever written for its suggestiveness and courage and for centering it upon, “an unknown, devoid of an academic protection, a reporter of images who could not bear to see his name in print: Constantin Guys. In one stroke, this move… led to the threshold of the new day in the form of a desire forever unfulfilled: a desire for futility, eros, lightness and a life that might be adventurous and even a little shady.”
Baudelaire’s folly was in expecting to be admitted to the French academy and Calasso quotes Sainte-Beuve putting the knife into Baudelaire’s back, ”This singular folly with its marquetry inlays of a planned and composite originality which for some time has drawn the eye toward the extreme point of the Romantic Kamchatka I call Baudelaire’s folly.  The author is content to have done something impossible in a place where it was thought that no one could go.”    However, Calasso’s gloss is prescient:  “this self-sufficient sovereign place, [where] little by little like successive waves of nomads who made their camps in it, there grew up around that folly the essence of that which was to appear since under the name of literature.”
All the well-known artists and writers of the “brothel  museum” are here:  Ingres, Delacroix, Manet, Mallarme, Flaubert , even the maybe too familiar Degas nudes appear.  Bbut something startling happens when we consider the allusive implications of Calasso’s description of an early historical painting by  Degas , "These women are things that can be disposed of. We don't know why, and no justification is required. There is no trace of war's fury. The air is frozen, motionless. No one will witness this; no one will ask why. What is being experienced here is a new way of killing for which a certain calm is necessary. The victims form a group but not yet a mass--- and they can make no appeal for help, in the silence of the countryside. An image that is like a new kind of subject for meditation. We do not know if the horsemen are soldiers, criminals or executioners.”
With such glancing hints the deeper purpose of the whole of Calasso’s project can be glimpsed: a subtle enquiry into how a century of startling liberatory artistic promise and vast industrial progress, could give birth to the next century  defined by:  Auschwitz, the Gulag and Hiroshima.

Thomas McGonigle is the author of The Corpse Dream of N. Petkov and Going to Patchogue and the forthcoming ST. PATRICK’S DAY Dublin 1974
The version that saw itself into print recently and is likely to be my last published review as there is always the question of money for such and the editor who has read what I have written, as I have worked my way through hinmdreds of reviews for the LATimes, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and the Village Voice and Bookforum... but who knows though I do know one sure thinks like all thinking people

'La Folie Baudelaire's' scandalous subject

The poet is studied by inquisitive literary critic Roberto Calasso, and the result is a questioning assault on received wisdom.

By Thomas McGonigle, Special to the Los Angeles Times
2:00 PM PST, December 6, 2012

La Folie Baudelaire
By Roberto Calasso
Translated from the Italian by Alastair McEwen
Farrar Straus and Giroux: 339 pp., $35

Charles Baudelaire is more scandalous today than he was more than 150 years ago. Then, he was an obscure poet with one partly suppressed book, "Flowers of Evil"; an art critic when there didn't seem to be any major artists; and the translator-promoter of a marginal foreign writer named Edgar Allan Poe. Today, the scandal is evident in sentences such as this one from "Paris Spleen": "One should always be drunk…. Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue as you please. But get drunk."
And now there is yet further proof in "La Folie Baudelaire," the latest book from Roberto Calasso, the most inquisitively suggestive literary critic in the world today, who established this commanding position with "The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony," "The Ruin of Kasch" and, most recently, "Tiepolo Pink."
"The La Folie Baudelaire" is no narrow study of the poet's work or, even worse, a birth-to-death biography. Rather, by associating the poet with the prominent writers and artists with whom he came into contact, Calasso has created what he calls "analogical history … an ever-more-urgent desideratum in an intellectually debilitated epoch such as the present." A questioning assault upon the received wisdom, it exposes the hollow triumph of Impressionism and its artists, Renoir, Manet, Monet and Degas, over an implacable academy.
Calasso anchors much upon Baudelaire's prose work "The Painter of Modern Life," marking it as the single most important article on art ever written for its suggestiveness and courage, even though it is not centered on the legendary artists one would expect to find — Renoir et al. — but rather an artist named Constantin Guys: "an unknown, devoid of an academic protection, a reporter of images who could not bear to see his name in print."
All the well-known artists and writers of the "brothel museum" are here in "La Folie Baudelaire": Ingres, Delacroix, Manet, Mallarmé, Flaubert, even the maybe too familiar Degas of the nudes appear. But their work, their actual claim upon our attention is always seen from an inquisitorial point of view rather than a podium.
Calasso is not interested in explanations — he has become tired of having things explained to him, exquisitely displayed in the allusive implications of Calasso's description of an early historical painting ("Medieval War Scene") by Degas: "These women are things that can be disposed of. We don't know why, and no justification is required. There is no trace of war's fury. The air is frozen, motionless. No one will witness this; no one will ask why. What is being experienced here is a new way of killing for which a certain calm is necessary. The victims form a group but not yet a mass — and they can make no appeal for help, in the silence of the countryside. An image that is like a new kind of subject for meditation. We do not know if the horsemen are soldiers, criminals or executioners."
With this and many similar descriptive interrogations, the deeper purpose of Calasso's project can be glimpsed: a subtle inquiry into how the 19th century, and the popular description of it as a century of startling liberatory artistic promise and vast industrial progress, could give birth to a next century defined by Auschwitz, the gulag and Hiroshima.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I have been remiss.  I wrote about LA FOLIE BAUDELAIRE by Roberto Calasso for the Los Angeles Times but it has not been published.  I have been reading and reading as… but until this have not been able to over-come the enervating feeling of why…
The INNOCENCE OF OBJECTS (Şeylerin Masumiyeti)  by Orhan Pamuk… (Abrams, NY) I had begun to write this in longhand and as I was now typing I realized innocence is not an aspect of an object--- one assumes a physical aspect--- as innocence and its partner guilty can only be applied to the actions of a human being possessed of the ability to tell right from wrong, good from evil. 
How is that for traditional theology and I assume even philosophy?  Probably something or other…
THE INNOCENCE OF OBJECTS Is a picture book with text describing the establishing and the contents of a museum that was derived from Pamuk’s novel of good recent memory: THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE.. and of course he has done what I can well imagine is the desire of every novelist… to physically incarnate his mental, his dream creations… even Nabokov composed as we all know the screenplay for LOLITA
The book is beautifully produced and is quite faithful to the Turkish original that I purchased on Istiklal Cd. in Istanbul this summer when I was there with my son… however the great cemetery near Eyűp was more enticing than this new museum for this visitor and I prefer to turn the pages of the book then to have visited it…  museums have to age, have to fall apart a little to be really interesting and that is what I liked about the archeology museum near Topkapi…  it had the just right amount of abandonment to invoke past.
The most perfect tour of torment for a soul sent to Purgatory for wanting to be modern and up to date would be to find him or herself condemned to endless have to talk through MOMA, the Whitney and the Guggenheim museums in NYC…looking at each and every object over and over again.

Of course Pamuk’s museum has two competitors that I can think of the Watt’s Towers and Howard Finster’s PARADISE GARDEN… and they both have the advantage of actually being built by their creators whereas poor Pamuk had to pay and pay and pay to have his museum built, though since he was spending his own money…
He mentions Sir John Soane’s museum in London but that museum is free.  Mr. Pamuk’s museum charges an admission fee.  Howard Finister’s Paradise is also free as is the Watts Towers.  However if you bring along a copy of THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE you are admitted as if only right and proper.  I do hope there is a gift shop with the necessary t-shirt which I hope is free of a portrait of the author. 
But a book like this finally only works if it recalls memory within the reader or viewer.  Exhibit 24 worked best for me.  “The Engagement Party” and on the opposite page postcards of the Istanbul Hilton…  there on Cumhuriyet Cad…  of fond memory in 1967  when I went to visit Peace Corps friends… no…not that path, right now.  I do remember how Turks dressed up to go there while the Americans went casually as if going home…  we took it all for granted and… now of course there are books about how the international style architecture was a form of cultural imperialism etc… etc...  when I went there in 1985 we only looked it as if had become a little shabby while today  it is where lower ranked salesman are stored when visiting… and beyond whole new developments of the present and the grim future.
                                     NEWS FROM THE FUTURE
“The narrative of modern so-called Irish fiction in English is:  James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Flann O’Brien, Aidan Higgins, Desmond Hogan while slightly in-shore reside three joyfully sullen islands:  Francis Stuart, Ralph Cusack and Thomas McGonigle”
From Frederick von Saar.
'Kaasaegne nunda nimetatud Iiri Ilukirjandus inglise keeles narratiiv on: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Flann O'Brien, Aidan Higgins, Desmond Hogan, kuigi veidi-kaldal elavad kolm rõõmsalt laubal saared: Francis Stuart, Ralph Cusack ja Thomas McGonigle'

Friday, August 24, 2012


The reason for opening with these two photographs is that I am reading Yves Bonnefoy's THE ARRIERE-PAYS, published by Seagull Books.  A beautiful book of prose and full colour illustrations.    

A book of meditations for want of a better word  on a place, a place where one discovers the self, the place not known, probably unknowable, yet we receive hints and these hints disappear, a book to go back to and back to and to read and to read...unlike the books that accumulate in beach houses never to be re-read.  But more than that, of course

        Here is Bonnefoy:  "...that is what I dream of, at these crossroads, or a little way beyond them--- and I am haunted by everything that gives credence to the existence of this place, which is and remains other, and yet which suggests itself with some insistence even.  When a road climbs upwards, revealing, in the distance, other paths among the stones, and other villages; when the train travels into a narrow valley, at twilight, passing in front of houses where a window happens to light up; when the boat comes in fairly close to the shore-line, where the sun has caught a distant windowpane (and once it was Caraco where I was told that the paths were long since impassable, smothered by brambles), this very specific emotion seizes hold of me--- I feel I'm getting close, and something tells me to be on the alert.  What are the names of those villages over there?  Why is there a light on that terrace, and who is greeting us, or calling us, as we come alongside.  Of course, the moment I set foot in one of these places, this sense of 'getting warm' fades away.  But not without it intensifying, sometimes for as much as an hour, because the sound of footsteps or a voice rose to my hotel room, reaching me through the closed shutters..."


Bonnefoy is on a journey, Italy, France, Greece, eventually in memory to Armenia... but the place first took shape in a book read in childhood, long remembered, but now lost... don't we all have these books?


The whole of Bonnefoy’s book is summed up, “I sought my true place, on this strange earth of ours, so prompt to satisfy my desires and yet so mysteriously disappointing.”

But where?: “it is the context of these undisciplined speculations that Italy became a part of the arriere-pays, and the place where I most abandoned myself to the dream.

In truth, I did find it hard going when he takes us into a discussion of dream.  I do not read about dreams.  Someone said once about dreams: that is why a shrink charges so much, nothing more boring than listening to a dream…

However Bonnefoy is aware of this and backs away all the time from dream, “I have resolved nothing , which can explain why I have remained a writer, writing being the wood that piles up as the fire starts to catch, in the smoke.  But one or two things I have understood… it consists in not forgetting the here and now in the dream of elsewhere, in not forgetting time, humble time as it is lived through here among the illusions of the other place, that shade existing out of time.

Yet always mentioning great artist ending in his listing Caravaggio…”and next to these, who have lifted off the tombstone from the imagination, there are others, crreators of great art also, divided within themselves, discouraged but still tenacious, not without the suffering which Baudelaire knew to be the illustre compagne, the noble companion, of the beauty be most prized.."


Bonnefoy ends his book with an evocation of Armenia based upon black and white photos of Armenian churches he remembered  seeing as a child and this thought about black and white photographs:  "I had the impression I had already  visited these churches, among their mountains, because the black and white  established a continuity with other memories from those ‘profound years’, reminiscences that seem to spring from ‘before we were ourselves.”…


The reason, by now you might be asking for those two photographs: taken in Deddington, near Oxford, Sunday afternoon in August, while taking a walk, while visiting the Oldfields... just stopped as Bonnefoy before certain paintings in Italy... a place, not the Mascot Dock in Patchogue, n
not, not, late night  walking across the Galata Bridge in Istanbul... or in Kyoto or in Dublin...  in Dublin...

a picture saturated with memory of after the pubs eating on the way home... now forlorn only because of memory


When John O'Brien discovered that I was heading to Cape May, NJ for a week with extended family he sent this message:  


I suspect O'Brien is echoing Sorrentino... but I know when my son was talking about his 20 and 20 and 20 plan...20 years in industry, 20 years in a university and then 20 years teaching in a school like the school he went to Groton...I knew I would be there possibly only for the start of his first 20 year plan...
as when  we were at the beach  in the late afternoon...  that time around four when people are beginning to leave the beach...


I have with deliberation said nothing about those pictures from Deddington.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Another beginning.  I was writing to the publicity guy who does the Library of America that he had better get ready for a shit storm when the Library of America publishes the COLLECTED POEMS OF JACK KEROUAC.  There will be great squeals of disgust, accusations of pandering, the question of standards, how could you when you have not published… all the rest of it.

2- My first question why did the Library only do one volume of Kerouac’s prose focused upon ON THE ROAD  THE DHARMA BUMS< THE SUBTERRANEANS, TRISTESSA, LONESOME TRAVELER  when  to be complete there is an immediate need for all the other prose books:  BIG SUR, MAGGIE CASSIDY, SATORI IN PARIS (the most under-rated of K’s books and the saddest) PIC (the most daring) and all the rest.

7- It is my firm belief that ON THE ROAD is the equivalent to Melville’s MOBY DICK.  ON THE ROAD is the singular American novel of the 20th Century as is MOBY DICK of the 19th Century.  Tim Hunt has begun the intellectual and academic job of building the case though readers in every country of the world have done the job for him in the sense that it is the one novel read in nearly every language of the world by those who read in those individual languages who really read.  No other American novel can make that claim.

4- So, the real scandal of the Library of America is why have they not published Melville’s collected poetry?  Of course as Geoffrey O’Brien--- Editor in Chief of LOA--- has told me,  That book will be published but  just not in our lifetimes.  A reason, I would think,  to live on into…

67- So, while we wait for the remaining prose book of Kerouac from LOA we have the Collected Poetry… and down here on East First Street that is cause for celebration.

9- After T.S. Eliot’s opening line to The Waste Land, April is the cruelest month… and Ezra Pound’s opening  line to Hugh Selwyn Mauberly, For three years, out of key with his time…  I have quoted Jack Kerouac’s  TO EDWARD DAHLBERG.  Don’t use the telephone/People are never ready to answer it./Use poetry.  (Sadly there has to be a note as to why EDWARD DAHLBERG is/was)

78- And  I carried for years as a bookmark a card with Kerouac’s  WOMAN.  A woman is beautiful/but/you have to swing/and swing and swing/and swing like/a handkerchief in the/wind.

85- I turn the page in the collected poetry:  GOOFBALL BLUES:  I’m just a human being with a lot of/shit on my heart.

6- Or:::: OLD ANGEL MIDNIGHT::::  Friday Afternoon In the Universe, in all directions in & out you got your men women dogs children horses pones tics perts parts pans pools palls pails parturiences and petty Thieveries tat turn into heavenly Buddha--- I know boy what’s I talkin about case I made the world & when I made it I no lie & had Old Angel Midnight for my name and concocted up a world so nothing… 
39- From Uncollected Haikus  The sound of silence/is all the instruction/you’ll get

43- Years and years ago I remember in embarrassed naivety NOW  talking with Julian Green in Paris who had envied my being an altar boy as we sat In his elegant rue Vaneau apartment and him in the French Academy and me a little drunk—that special academy---  and me talking about Jack Kerouac who Green had heard of but who thought that the mixing of Buddhism with Catholicism un-necessary and yet I thought it important enough to mention to Green, about who Kerouac was and is still the most important American writer who happened also to be a Catholic who believed with the necessary belief of Green’s Idealized  Italian painter who never asks why: what’s the point, since only belief matters… and years later Green finally told me the real truly, finally something and which scandalized the pathetic agnostic, atheist  Guardian readers where I published this profile/interview with Green---  something Kerouac knew: when  I asked Green in his 90s what he had to look forward to, replied:  Purgatory and I know JK was seeking that in the final stupidity of his alcoholism, though …

44- The story of man/Makes me sick/Inside,outside,/I don’t know why/Something so conditional/And all talk/Should hurt me so./ 
I am hurt/I am scared/I want to live/I want to die/I don’t know/Where to turn/in the Void/and when/to cut/Out

45- My only problem with the LOA editon:  they disgraced the cover with a quote from the consummate fake Anne Waldman who has made a huge living by parading about with the mere rotten flesh of Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs hanging off her skirt.

57-  from MEXICO CITY BLUES:   1, A home for unmarried fathers.
                                                                2. Well, that about does me in./I've packed my bags and time /Has come to start to heaven.
                                                                3.  Love’s multitudinous boneyard/of decay.

Another beginning .  The other day for fifty cents I bought the April 1966 mass market paperback of Jack Kerouac’s DESOLATION ANGELS published by Bantam for 95 cents.  FROM THE INTERNATIONAL UNDERGROUND OF THE BEAT GENERATION.  On the cover stark black and white figures of six humans, centered upon a bare-chested man and a woman seen from behind wearing only a bra, positioned on top of what might be the Washington Square Arch...

I mention this because there are no longer mass market paperback that are actually literary and readable.  I was forced to live in exile that early Fall of 1966 in my parents’ exile in Menasha, Wisconsin.  In  the city next to Menasha, Neenah was a large smoke shop and bookstore with many racks of paper backs and it was likely that this book would have been there. 

All of that has been wiped away.  The Signet and Bantam Classics, the Avon Books, books that would introduce South American literature to a mass audience… and make no mistake about it these pocketbooks, were published for a mass audience.  

At one moment, now long gone, some people thought that the masses wanted to read literature.  That has changed and now those people, those masses  talk about liking the books that I like to read, my books, my library and they are talking in reality about a range of books from James Patterson to Jonathan Franzen… and if you think there is a difference between Franzen and Patterson you are not really reading these words… and it could be Franzen is a pen-name for James Patterson…

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


From the shelf,   TRIPTYCH  by Max Frisch.  I had read it when it first came out in 1981 as a partial commentary on the death of Ingeborg  Bachmann and so focused on the third section.  This time it was the opening part that caught me.  A man is talking to a widow in a cemetery chapel.  He says, “He had a good death. Today not many people nowadays have the good fortune to die at home, and seventy is a good age, after all.
The widow sobs as the funeral guest stands helplessly beside her; it takes her some time to get a grip on herself again.  WIDOW: I can’t really take it in.  I still see him. Sitting there is his chair.  I can see him. All the time I can hear what Matthis is thinking.
There is no protection against feeling something when reading such sentences… with a birthday two years shy of 70 arriving in October.  That was Sunday afternoon.  But Sunday night I happened upon a criitical book I had forgotten  I had on the Russian writer Andrei Bitov:  ANDREI BITOV THE ECOLOGY OF INSPIRATION by ELLEN CHANCES  I am sure you know his great novel PUSHKIN HOUSE, the one Russian novel that might compete with Bely’s ST PETERSBURG, with Bulgakov’s THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, a book belonging to literature and not to publicity--- as I am told Russians say to distinguish such books from the equivalent of the rubbish written by, in the American context,  Jonathan Franzen or Toni Morrison---  books not  of the passing season… but in the critical book I was reminded of  Bitov’s travel books and in particular the ones devoted to Armenia and Georgia. Published as one book by FSG,  A CAPTIVE OF THE CAUCASUS  containing :  LESSONS OF ARMENIA  Journey out of Russia   and  CHOOSING A LOCATION  Georgia Album.
                I had been given the book back in 1992 but had not read it.  I didn’t get the first sentences of each of these books within A CAPTIVE  OF THE CAUCASUS:  FROM THE AUTHOR:  LESSONS OF ARMENIA  Journey out of Russia TRANSLATING PAST TO PRESENT  On the first page of this book:::::: I was thirty years old, the entire Soviet regime was preparing for its fiftieth anniversary, Russian Christianity had not yet reached its millennium and the Armenian Christianity had already celebrated a millennium and a half.    From the second book within A CAPTIVE OF THE CAUCASUS:   CHOOSING A LOCATION  Georgian Album.  There is a quote from Lermontov and then THE PHENOMENON OF THE NORM   When you try to prove that something is something, you lose it completely. The plot of a book possesses the peculiarity that it must be concluded.  Having entered into it you cannot exit via some other labyrinth.  Do a thing once, and you’ve gained experience; gain experience and it immediately proves unusable.. .
I had totally forgotten these other books by Bitov and in particular the one about Georgia   from which in that cliché, in fact I had   I came back from on 22 June 2012.. now, so far into the past it might as well have been a century ago… but I am well aware of the slippage and  had found a way to restart  the book I have been writing about going about Bulgaria two years ago:  the new version begins:
to quote: and if it is to be another seventeen years before my next visit:  the place was Istanbul but I am tempted to think of other cities I might have  named, as if the actual city mattered--- a change of mood you will notice, a hint of optimism, seventeen years, another visit, I will be 57, my life nearly at its end--- if my parents are to serve as a model--- possibly dragging along some awful child, who will not want to be here, I could probably sell him or her if there is still a market for white children, would anyone be the wiser, when back in New York City--- though the irony is I will have come back here only a year later with the woman who would be the mother of the now 21 year old son I was traveling with and now I am on my way to 68 and to think—in another 17 years: 85 years old…the prefatory paragraph done and now the warning.
A reader, and there is never a reason to write unless one expects to be read… I could find an ear, for sure, any ear and pour all of these words into that receptacle and have done so but that ear will surely die and then… a reader, should know, what follows is concerned with work and with a journey around Bulgaria and with why a few people were not with me and Piret as we made our way in June two years ago as we went from Sofia to Strazhitsa, to Veliko Tarnovo to Varna to Plovdiv to Sofia.
But this was written before I picked up Bitov, picked up the Frisch…  to be given such a book as Bitov’s to now read in competition with my memories of Georgia and Istanbul and indeed in Istanbul the appearance of a museum devoted to depicting the contents of a novel--- a fiction!!!--- by Orhan Pamuk…. And a museum with an illustrated guide book in which many of the exhibits are carefully and romantically photographed…  photographs of something made up…
But reading books do add, the very best do not take away…only rubbish diminishes a person…I am not thinking of those simple books a person receives when he asks for the latest mysteries or she asks for the latest sci-fi books… or even the latest romance or cowboy books.. there is another class of books, far larger and more insidious that can only diminish a reader and you will know them if you read on the back of as I did the  galleys for Craig Nova’s THE CONSTANT HEART, to be published by a rather good publisher, this quote from the New York Times, “[Nova’s fiction] is so powerful, so alive, it is a wonder that turning its pages doesn’t somehow burn one’s hands.” 
For an author to take pride in such a reaction… and to allow it to appear on a book cover. 
Or,  a publicist wrote this about TRIBURBIA by Karl Taro Greenfield, “  Triburbia is an enveloping look at the lives and yearnings of a particular breed that will speak to anyone plugged into the contemporary zeitgeist.  An impressive, wholly original debut, it introduces a remarkable new voice…”  Greenfield has seen five other books published.
Why bother remarking on any of this?   
The first of August begins the silly season as the English say. Colonels in Somerset go into conspiracy mode and I added just after EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS a quote from a song by Zeki Müren:         
 seni gormem imkansiz imkansiz imkansiz
                                                                      ruyalarim olmasa