27 July 2007

In the meantime

After a while her tears only reflected light but did not flow, and she dropped into silences, and then these, too, gradually lost their resentful edges. [...]

They lived for different futures, but they were each other's unrecognized halves, and what fascination between them did come to pass was lit up, beyond question, with grace.

Still here, still traveling with Pynchon...

23 July 2007


Juan Valdez announces a special coffee in honor of Colombian poet Aurelio Arturo. Just another excuse to discover one more writer (if there must be gimmicks, make them more like this). And so...


Cabelleras y sueños confundidos
cubren los cuerpos como sordos musgos
en la noche, en la sombra bordadora
de terciopelos hondos y olvidos.

Oros rielan el cielo como picos
de aves que se abatieran en bandadas,
negra comba incrustada de oros vivos,
sobre aquel gran silencio de cadáveres.

Y así solo, salvado de la sombra,
junto a la biblioteca donde vaga
rumor de añosos troncos, oigo alzarse
como el clamor ilímite de un valle.

Ronco tambor entre la noche suena
cuando están todos muertos, cuando todos,
en el sueño, en la muerte, callan llenos
de un silencio tan hondo como un grito.

Róndeme el sueño de sedosas alas,
róndeme cual laurel de oscuras hojas
mas oh el gran huracán de los silencios
hondos, de los silencios clamorosos.

Y junto a aquel vivac de viejos libros,
mientras sombra y silencio mueve, sorda
la noche que simula una arboleda,
te busco en las honduras prodigiosas,
ígnea, voraz, palabra encadenada.

(English translation)

06 July 2007

The metaphor of what we've always been

Lo que importa es el rito
La metáfora de lo que siempre hemos sido
La memoria del primer sonido vocal
“el lenguaje secreto de los pájaros
del primer día”

Destemplado es el hombre de hoy
Ha olvidado las palabras.
Alguien balbuce algo
Y todos llegan, es el ritual
La transición
El recuerdo,
la sustitución,
La metáfora en fin
¿Qué extraña analogía es el hombre?

Nada dice el poeta,
Pero de su garganta sale un ser vivo
Invisible, que sólo tiene sonido
Y una música antigua.
Recordamos entonces el sonido original
El primer ruido del mundo
Cuando la palabra se hizo sangre
Y alimento colectivo.

~ Álvaro Marín, de "El primer ruido"

(English translation)

Dreaming of thought

Treena at Sleek Clouds on "A Letter from Li Po":
Aiken expresses that time exists in a place "such as imagination dreams of thought." This is how we see things, isn't it? At least, it's how we see those elusive things that come to mean so much to us: inklings, epiphanies, limits. And it is, perhaps, the only way we can express those thoughts of which our imaginations can only dream: by expressing meaning in images directed at the sub-conscious, perhaps even by-passing the brain's logic. [...]

Here, constrained by (or in) the bottleneck of Time, we as lovers of literature must seek something divine in all this--and Aiken helps us when he declares, "all is text, is holy text." It passes into poet after poet...

Gertrude Stein's work is memorable, and gives off a similar vibe: text into text, text out of text... But Aiken hides meaning "individually" in every single line--and we find it. Whereas, with Stein meaning is a general impression we have of the text. Yet both make literature an event worth attending because we know that these writers will probe the questions worth asking. They are like the calligrapher Chang Hsu who "needed to put but his three cupfuls down to tip his brush with lightning," and on whose scroll "wreaths of cloud rolled left and right, [till] the sky opened upon Forever."
I'm well into the 200s in Against the Day--behind schedule, but enjoying it (which is, after all, the point). Today has been quiet. Reading these entries have helped fill the day with meaning. I learn to keep these windows open and expect more from the sky.

05 July 2007

Tori and the Light Princess

I've loved George MacDonald's books since childhood and The Light Princess, a very funny and moving little story about a gravity-deficient princess, is my favorite fairy tale of all time. Someone is forgotten (inevitably) at the christening, resulting in a curse of weightlessness and an irreverant lack of inner gravity (she has never cried).

And so it was with great delight that I read Undented's report of a recent development:
In the Daily Mail (a UK newspaper) this morning (Friday 22nd June) there was a small but intriguing piece about Tori:

“Watch out for… Tori Amos, the singer, who is collaborating with dramatist Samuel Adamson on a hoped-for production of The Light Princess, George McDonald’s story (which was illustrated by Maurice Sendak) about a princess cursed by a witch. The National Theatre has commissioned Ms Amos and Mr Adamson to see what they come up with.

“Adamson, by the way, has also adapted Pedro Almodovar’s great film All About My Mother for the Old Vic, and Diana Rigg has joined the company, along with Lesley Manville, Joanne Froggart, Colin Morgan and Charlotte Randle. Performances begin on August 25.”
I actually squealed. This is going to be good.

03 July 2007


Bright and shiny things on the Internets:
  • Bud has revamped Chekhov's Mistress, and it not only looks good, but the new direction he's taken will help to broaden the scope of what litblogs can do.
  • My dear friend Treena has set up shop in her own little corner of cyberspace. She's tackled Annie Dillard's enigmatic Holy the Firm and Ezra Pound's ABC of Reading (and this in only her first two posts!). Another great litblog to keep an eye on.
  • Over the Rhine has overhauled their own site--japanese lanterns and all. Lovely.

Life's for the free and fearless-- / Death's for the bought and sold!

I've thrown myself headlong into Against the Day and am thoroughly enjoying myself. Why did I ever let myself forget how wonderful Pynchon is? (Note to self: Never again let anything you hear intimidate you out of reading something for yourself. It's the only way of really knowing anything.)

From the first page's mention of the World's Columbian Exposition, I'm thrown back to my old fascination with Henry Adams' "The Dynamo and the Virgin". Rereading it seems to be great groundwork for the discussion of the theories and forces that come into play with the Chums of Chance, et al--"physics stark mad in metaphysics" indeed:
Historians undertake to arrange sequences,--called stories, or histories,--assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect. These assumptions, hidden in the depths of dusty libraries, have been astounding, but commonly unconscious and childlike; so much so, that if any captious critic were to drag them to light, historians would probably reply, with one voice, that they had never supposed themselves required to know what they were talking about. [...]

Satisfied that the sequence of men led to nothing and that the sequence of their society could lead no further, while the mere sequence of time was artificial, and the sequence of thought was chaos, he turned at last to the sequence of force; and thus it happened that, after ten years’ pursuit, he found himself lying in the Gallery of Machines at the Great Exposition of 1900, his historical neck broken by the sudden irruption of forces totally new.
And then there is light, sound, the luminiferous Æther, and Miles' admission of "peculiar feelings" that sometimes surround him...
"...like the electricity coming on--as if I can see everything just as clear as day, how...how everything fits together, connects. It doesn't last long, though. Pretty soon I'm just back to tripping over my feet again."
Then there are invocations of the great Edison vs. Tesla "war," William Blake's "Jerusalem," and my suspicion that Lew's storyline will get tangled up with Vanderjuice's out in Colorado. Merle's affinity with the Ætherists resembles Lew's inexplicable feeling for the "Anarchists"--and the fact that Pynchon uses comparisons of "church" for both perhaps alludes to what will take place further along. The tug of community on the alienated and displaced individual resonates strongly. Throw in "a keen sympathy for the invisible" and the vanishing of the American frontier, and you have a remarkable novel that pinpoints the American condition in the uncannily accurate way that Pynchon does so well. And all this in only the first 70 pages!

Meanwhile, this is what happens when Archduke Franz Ferdinand is set loose in "the heart of the vaudeville and black entertainment district" in ca. 1893 Chicago:
"What here are you looking at, you wish to steal eine...Wassermelone, perhaps?"

"Ooooo," went several folks in earshot. The insultee, a large and dangerous-looking individual, could not believe he was hearing this. His mouth began to open slowly as the Austrian prince continued--

"Something about...your...wait...deine Mutti, as you would say, your...your mamma, she plays third base for the Chicago White Stockings, nicht wahr?" as customers begin tentatively to move toward the egresses, "a quite unappealing woman, indeed she is so fat, that to get from her tits to her ass, one has to take the 'El'! Tried once to get into the Exposition, they say, no, no, lady, this is the World's Fair, not the World's Ugly!"

"Whatchyou doin, you fool, you can get y'ass killed talking like that, what are you, from England or some shit?"

"Um, Your Royal Highness? Lew murmured, "if we could just have a word--"

"It is all right! I know how to talk to these people! I have studied their culture!"