Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Preface:  HERE EXACTLY IS WHY 95% of what passes for good writing in the United States is simply impersonal fake something or other: "The Philosophical prison we all carry within us has unleashed an assault onto our memories, decreeing unto them the fiction of chronology. And yet they continue, obstinately, to be our only freedom."--Juan Jose Saer from THE ONE BEFORE (Open Letter books)
Start of summer.  (21 June)…though it is now 26 July when there are no longer any children in the house, when one is no longer a child such a moment no longer matters…on Long Island if one is a city person  the summer begins with Memorial Day as that is when summer rentals begin running until Labor Day…
But but
My wife’s mother grows sad always as the day reaches its greatest length as her father was arrested on that day in 1941 by the Russians in Estonia to be sent to the Gulag where he would be murdered… so for her daughter Anna the start of summer was always shadowed by this both spoken and unspoken fact and while it has dimmed for me over the years I am aware that the summer brought the fact of my sister getting polio back in 1950 and I not getting polio… on a summer day when we came back from the beach near the house on Furman Lane in Patchogue…
At the moment I am engaged in the melancholy business of packing up my books and papers in the house in New Jersey in the getting ready to move as Anna is selling the house she was born into it… there are a surfeit of these essays some well known, by Walter Benjamin for instance and while we also continue to live in the city--- where another collection of books has been established--- but to the vast majority of the population such a concern is so esoteric as to be almost inconceivable… packing the books?  What books? Most would simply say.  What is the big deal?...  Or increasingly you just find shopping bags with books on the sidewalk that have been discarded when people move or when people decide to tidy up their lives, in other words live in the prison of the current moment.
But being of a certain age books have filled up my life and I have been surrounded by books as living in New York City books are very cheap indeed and easily collected… in spite of access to libraries both academic and public… and then there is the writing of books… Edward Dahlberg always maintained that before he ventured a line of his own he had to look at a…I forget the word he used… but his hand would sweep about the shelved books in their many cases… and I have always known that when the French writer Lamartine went to the Balkans he traveled with a library in excess of 500 books… of course that is now easily possible with the various electronic devises at one’s disposal…but for a person of my age, the electronic does not have the authority of the word printed on the page… but this is now probably a quaint idea in the light of the current political warfare both foreign and domestic which is primarily via electronic devices…for  better or worse…
So that a writing like this---ironically to be read on an electronic device and being composed on an electronic device though I can imagine it only as a small stone on a highway which will only be of consequence if by some accident it is propelled by another vehicle’s wheel into hitting the windshield of the car which I am driving and the driver’s reaction: what bad luck.
In the moving I moved the three books of BillHolm which I have:  COMING HOME CRAZY--- based on a time teaching English in China--- THE HEART CAN BE FILLED ANYWHERE ON EARTH and THE DEAD GET BY WITH EVERYTHING. 
According to a search Holm is now dead… so is there any reason to hold on to his books, to read his books, has he marked the culture of the Unites States…  some of the books are still in print and others have moved to two cents plus postage.  I had been interested in his work because of my own GOING TO PATCHOGUE  and I guess we both have read Thomas Wolfe and in particular William Carlos Williams’s PATERSON….the power of the local  and Holms has an essay “Iceland”  which concerns itself with his always identifying himself as Icelandic and that is another reason I was interested in him as Iceland was the first foreign country I had visited and the first foreign woman I ever talked to was Icelandic, Silja Adalsteinsdottir… but for Holm being Icelandic because of his Icelandic grandparent gave him a way to avoid being part of the United Sates,  avoid being an ordinary American, whatever that might mean…
Yet, Holm did not write an essential book… maybe in Minnesota his book exists but beyond these paragraphs I am writing… will he ever be taken up?
Of course none of this matters to him, now, dead. 
And the same for another book long cared for perimeters a book of poetry by Charles Levendosky which came out from Wesleyan in that distinctive series they had back then which also gave me James Dickey’s Drowning With Others which I see was autographed by Dickey in February,1964 but it is the Levendosky book that concerns me as he tries within the space of a thin book the whole of the United States.  One might compare it to Michel Butor’s MOBILE which also tried to do the same…  but Butor was doing prose while Levendosky was doing poetry as in these lines from near Yuma:  he always talked about/the dunes as if they were/naked pregnant women/called those wind ripples/stretch marks/they have been waiting a long time/to birth/unless the reptiles are theirs.
         Amazon provided what came after and it is mere verse, and Levendosky is dead according to the internet except for me for this book which will never be reprinted…
But I shall save both the Holms and the Levendosky books, though I doubt I will consult them as I do Hannah Green’s THE DEAD OF THE HOUSE because they do not possess what she calls vision, a vague word to be sure but let me be accurate:  I got the idea from life, but I have proceeded from vision.  And in that I link her with Celine, Proust, Faulkner, Joyce, Beckett, Onetti, Saer, Gombrowicz, Kertesz, Nadas… those writers I constantly go back to:  Glenway Wescott, Julian Green, Claude Simon, Thomas Bernhard…
I will not make a listing of the characteristics of that vision,  A reader who has read these authors knows what I am writing about and if I included the poets: Eliot, Pound, David Jones, Lorine Neidecker would this vision be clearer… and possibly adding Thomas Kinsella, and Georgy Ivanov…
But so many others and that is why one must have a library. 
And for thinking I go to Cioran, to Shestov, to Valery, to Unamuno, to Ernst Junger.
Is there a difference between vision and thinking?...
Probably not though these two words are the twin touchstone one  hauls out when a new book…
Which allows for should this be the summer of Juan Carlos Onetti--- he of A BRIEF LIFE is there anyone worth the time of a summer of course he is for the few as nothing is positive, nothing is exhilarating, nothing is enlightening, all of his work is imaginative in all the ways of shutting down the possibility of changing the looking at the world with anything but a turning aside not out disgust but out of recounting with a knowing that it can only get worse… even with the last sentence read we know that the next will re-iterate what you  have read  the pleasures of insistence, the sole virtue of genius … 

        To be continued at some future… or in the past

Friday, July 1, 2016


for now a few years I have been writing a novel or a book  that as is said revolves around an actual--whatever that might be-- artist: JOHN WESLEY, not to be confused with the founder of Methodism ...  in this section hats are talked about and their connection to atomic testing in Western deserts...  
(another prepared slide appeared in a recent NOTRE DAME REVIEW                              
         Wesley has talked of discovering his dead father and the hat on the hook near the door not to be put on his head ever again and Jack never wore a hat as far as I know… a lifetime summed up in one article… that is how we thought  back then I am telling Jack, I think it was an old Esquire magazine where there was an article how to be successful in college and one of the key points was to put something on the wall and not explain it--- like a dented Maserati hubcap--- but you were allowed to hint as to the nature of the article, the associations of the article with some intimate activity or display of such activity while the weight of these words seem to drive us into a hole, for a moment or three, Jack is saying, as a way to wake the dead from their graves--- but I am not thinking of zombie movies as I never believed in them and maybe you can’t believe in them in Southern California since creatures coming out of the desert seem to have more authenticity and we tried not to think that the atom bomb tests were going off closer than anyone dare think about, always avoiding looking at maps of the western part of the United States as they made it all too clear how close these tests were in Nevada or New Mexico... this was before people went to Las Vegas though they went to Reno for a divorce so Reno didn’t seem to be in Nevada but I knew it was in Nevada and I knew what was going on there… those creatures came out of the desert and we had plenty of desert in California… when I came to New York people talked about getting under your school desk during those air-raid drills as they were called and I guess we worried about Japs as we called them during the war coming into America by way of the ocean but the atom bomb was much closer and then it wasn’t close anymore once I was in New York City and being in France took the atom bomb even further away, if I can say something like that, though the French man who told me the joke about why Chinese people have those narrow eyes was always telling Hannah the weather had changed because of the tests the Americans and Russians had been making with their atom bombs… I don’t think anyone worries about atom bomb tests anymore.
         There is a pause, Jack drinks from the glass of water and is saying, maybe hats went away when people no longer worried about atomic tests… hats were always some sort or protection from as they say the elements and people were always hearing about atomic elements but then people are no longer hearing about atomic elements so hats just went away I guess to be replaced by all the bad stuff people put into their stomachs and how they are supposed to avoid this or that but what I don’t understand: why do people seem to get fatter and fatter when there’s all this talk about the junk you eat and junk inside even the food that is not junk?
                             PART ELEVEN

THE TRADITIONAL NOVEL                                          WHILE EXPECTING                                                        CONSISTENCY AND ORDER IS                                  SOMETIMES AS IT WERE                                             INVADED BY AN ILLUSIVE                                        SECTION THAT IS SKIPPED BY                                 THE NODDING EDITORIAL EYE                                 AND PEN.

         The room behind the room where Wesley sits in his chair is the scene of the food preparation.  He is not provided a menu with pencil to check off his desires.  He is presented with bowls and expected to empty them.  The food seems to be prepared in such a way that either a fork or a  spoon are the only eating instruments Wesley needs when moving the food from bowl to mouth.  Gradually the spoon is likely to come to be the sole instrument of movement and the observer should not be jumping ahead of the inevitable narrative.