List with No Name #44

  1. In Kyoto, in the hot summer rain, sweating in a poncho, fighting with my girlfriend in front of a golden temple.
  2. At 17, experiencing the most intense jealousy of my life, watching a classmate weep in front of The Pietà, thinking, feeling, Why can’t I feel that?
  3. On the way to work, sleepy, maybe a bit hungover, breaking down in tears at “Space Oddity,” concern for Major Tom, his family. Swearing off music in the early morning. News radio ever since.
  4. Religion is just a set of aesthetic possibilities, conditions, and experiences.
  5. In Cork, drinking beer on a roof in the summer sun, a wasp landed on my very eye.
  6. In the last year of college, writing and recording dozens of songs with friends, editing the songs into a cohesive thing, calling the thing an album, sharing it with friends, with never even once the intention of doing anything else with that music, with no dreams of anyone else hearing it, live or recorded. An album made entirely for ourselves.
  7. Listening to it a dozen years later, conceding that it was actually maybe very good.
  8. Vomiting in foreign cities.
  9. Wary of my own susceptibility to sentimentalism, to sentimentality, to my awful tendency to experience catharsis through a fast food commercial on television.
  10. Never able to feel transcendent peace in nature, despite Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman, etc.—because just at the moment that the affect of transcendent peace manifests (the verb is inadequate), my awareness of the affect and the process of the affect and my feeling of the feeling of the affect spoils it all.
  11. Crashing into a road sign on an off ramp, walking away from the wreck, lying down on the slanted concrete abutment in the shade of a roaring overpass, feeling the best feeling, unspoiled.
  12. My child born—that nothing was more original, real, terrifying, beautiful.
  13. In dreams, sometimes: A whole other life, full, brimming, rich, real. He who wakes me wounds me, I think Nietzsche wrote. Or was it Bernhard? Or am I imagining the phrase?
  14. Never not jealous of a hawk in flight.
  15. My mother falling asleep, I kept reading until I too fell asleep.
  16. Vomiting into the trashcan in my classroom.
  17. My brother, balling up wrapping paper, hurling at me. My explosive rage.
  18. The snakes, the rats, the roaches I’ve killed.
  19. Workshopping a story in class. How I hated everyone.
  20. Friends jumping on my bed the afternoon of my wedding. (How did they get in?). Vomiting in the bed.
  21. Reading a certain novel, its plot, its construction essentially destroying a hundred or more of my own pages, my own outline, my own idea.
  22. A Modigliani in the New Orleans Museum of Art: Her neck was everything I remembered of the visit.
  23. My electric guitar, literally rusty from salt air and disuse.
  24. Irony as an aesthetic experience—or a defense against aesthetic experience?
  25. Painting the same scene in watercolors, dozens of times, with my daughter—the loquat tree, the grass, the sky. Her paintings surpassed mine so quickly.
  26. The rat that scuttled over my feet by the river in Chiang Mai. My horror and laughter.
  27. Removing dead rats from a shed as an aesthetic experience.
  28. All experiences are aesthetic experiences.
  29. Does maturity necessitate that we turn down the volume on these aesthetic experiences? That we manage the affect? That we blunt the feeling of the feeling?
  30. Seeing The Pietà again at 27 and moved by the memory of the classmate’s aesthetic response a decade earlier.
  31. The tourists crowding out Mona Lisa, I shuffled into some other room full of heavy, dark, black paintings—Caravaggios?—the names didn’t matter, the authority didn’t matter, I was 15 I think, I relaxed, I could look, I was alone, or I felt alone, it was lovely.
  32. My office: Prints by Goya, Picasso, Tintoretto, Leonardo. A painting by my grandmother, a dog resting, a bird and a bone nearby. Students come by to look at the giant Bosch reproduction, which I wish were more giant, more real.
  33. At the Dali Museum. Shock at how small some of the paintings were.
  34. Is there an aesthetic experience outside of sharing?
  35. Endlessly copying figures from comic books.
  36. Photographing food and sharing it on social media as a kind of thanksgiving prayer.
  37. Seeing the Bacon collection at MoMA, feeling a feeling that I still don’t have a name for.
  38. Rising early on Saturday mornings to watch a show where a man (or was it a woman?) guided me (and others, I suppose) through the rudiments of sketching animals. My grandmother made me sausages.
  39. My daughter’s thorough indifference to a Dürer etching in our local museum I wanted her to see. Her pleading to go to the gardens to paint with watercolors, to paint the fountain, the flowers.
  40. Sometimes in my dreams I write something, or paint something, or create wonderful, strange music.
  41. At eleven years old, sitting for a friend’s mother, who painted my portrait in watercolor. She didn’t draft in pencil, she worked so quickly. I was jealous and grateful.
  42. One of the reasons I love the internet so much is that it allows me to look at paintings. But looking at a painting on a screen is not the same as looking at paintings in the real.
  43. As a teenager, attempting wax dripping paintings in the style of Pollock, starting small fires in my bedroom, covering the scorched carpet with books, clothes, my parents sometimes not discovering the marks for weeks. Trying to explain them, but unwilling to share the paintings.
  44. A wish for anything that disrupts the feeling of feeling the feeling.

15 thoughts on “List with No Name #44”

  1. that was fascinating, who are you? you’d think that your blog being the only one on my feed, i would have done some sleuthing. i have not. so far, my favorite list. thank you!


  2. Number 10 above reminded me (with a painful familiarity) of Mark Strand’s poem “Man and Camel,” which you may already know. It’s short enough, I hope, to post here:

    On the eve of my fortieth birthday
    I sat on the porch having a smoke
    when out of the blue a man and a camel
    happened by. Neither uttered a sound
    at first, but as they drifted up the street
    and out of town the two of them began to sing.
    Yet what they sang is still a mystery to me—
    the words were indistinct and the tune
    too ornamental to recall. Into the desert
    they went and as they went their voices
    rose as one above the sifting sound
    of windblown sand. The wonder of their singing,
    its elusive blend of man and camel, seemed
    an ideal image for all uncommon couples.
    Was this the night that I had waited for
    so long? I wanted to believe it was,
    but just as they were vanishing, the man
    and camel ceased to sing, and galloped
    back to town. They stood before my porch,
    staring up at me with beady eyes, and said:
    “You ruined it. You ruined it forever.”


  3. I like this list greatly. Your ‘personal’ writings seem as if we are having a conversation. About No. 10. Be aware that while you are contemplating the glory of creative nature, life is devouring life in front of your eyes. Not a single atom in the universe is still and hunger prevails. One Easter morning, after having survived recent family tragedies, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a rabbit hopping from the vegetable garden across the lawn. I thought of sunrise and hope. A few minutes later from the opposite direction here comes my wild and glorious cat, Poontang, carrying a struggling baby bunny in her jaws. Ah, well, maybe ‘somebody’ is trying to tell me some thing. It is unclear to me why your awareness of your self in the consciousness of ‘nature’ would spoil the transcendence. Unless you are just seeking mood or effect. Which is ok.


  4. randomkhaos: You say, “It is unclear to me why your awareness of your self in the consciousness of ‘nature’ would spoil the transcendence.”

    I posted Strand’s poem a few days ago to help bring clarity to this idea. I don’t want to speak for Edwin Turner, but I think it’s useful to think of “transcendent peace,” in this case, as a kind of gift. The speaker’s awareness of it turns too quickly toward interpretation, an attempt to understand what it means and perhaps–as in Strand’s poem–make of it an image (or idea). Perhaps it’s an exaggeration, but responding in this way (to the surreal occurance of a man and camel singing together, or a slain rabbit on Easter morning) does a kind of violence to the gift. In order to make use of it, the interpreter, in a sense, hijacks the gift for his own use. After the man and camel have walked off, Strand’s speaker immediately says, “the wonder of their singing/ …seemed/ an ideal image for all uncommon couples.” This instinctual move from surprise and awe and pleasure to interpretation is what ruins it. Not that there is no pleasure in the act (the art) of interpretation (or “the feeling of the feeling”), but something of the purity of the transcendent is also bruised in the act. I think this is what Turner was getting at, but I could be (am often) dead wrong.


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