The Eternal City — Peter Blume

The Eternal City, 1937 by Peter Blume (1906–1992)

Vaughan died yesterday in his last car crash | J.G. Ballard’s typescript, hand-revised draft of the opening page of Crash

Via/more.

Spring and the Student — Norman Blamey

Spring and the Student, 1975 by Norman Blamey (1914 – 2000)

Under the Volcano and elsewhere (Books acquired, week of 10 March 2023)

My family and I had a wonderful time vacationing in Mexico City last week. We rented an apartment in Condesa, a friendly, walkable neighborhood marked by shade trees, lush gardens, and robust parks. And dogs. Lots of lovely dogs. Over eight days, we took in as much of the city as we could (as well as some excellent day trips to Grutas Tolantongo in Hidalgo and Teotihuacán in Edomex). The city is huge, with more than 150 museums, and the food is excellent. While the four members of our family share common interests (including a love of art), making sightseeing somewhat streamlined, I left Mexico City feeling like I had barely scratched the surface. It reminded me in disparate ways of New York City, Bangkok, and New Orleans. Like those cities, there’s not a single aspect that intrigues me, but rather a vibe. But this is not a travel blog, it is a book blog, so:

The first thing I noticed is that the selection of titles in the several bookstores I visited (a few just very briefly) was generally excellent. Shops tended to feature big-ell Literature titles in lieu of bestsellers and airport novels, with new releases like Mircea Cartarescu’s Solenoid and Yuri Herrera’s La estación del pantano getting prominent displays.

I visited both locations of Cafebrería El Péndulo, and picked up an inexpensive Debolsillo edition of Roberto Bolaño’s La literatura nazi en America, resisting the urge to grab one of the big novels. I’ve read Chris Andrews’ translation of Nazi Literature in the Americas a few times, and I figured that it would be better for me to attempt reading and comparing the shorter sketches here than to jump into 2666 in Spanish. Although I practiced my Spanish for a year in preparation for the trip (it helps to have a Spanish professor friend whose office is down the hall from mine), my vocabulary is still limited and my conjugations are a mess.

Also Bolaño-related: We lunched at Café la Habana, a charming restaurant boasting a history as a salon for poets, politicians, theorists and other bullshitters. In Bolaño’s Mexican opus The Savage Detectives, Café la Habana appears as Café Quito.

I also visited Under the Volcano, a tiny and charming bookstore in Condesa that carries English-language books–mostly literature. The store is named for Malcolm Lowry’s excellent novel, but there didn’t appear to be any of his books there the day I visited. There was a first-edition hardback copy of Robert Coover’s Pricksongs and Descants, but it was jacketless and out of my price range. There was also a standalone magazine-sized Dalkey Archive edition of William H. Gass’s story Willie Master’s Lonesome Wife, which, based on its price, the owner seemed to believe the most valuable item in the store. I also spied a copy of Jay McInerney’s 1984 novel Ransom, notable because it’s the first and so-far only hardcover of a Vintage Contemporaries edition I’ve ever seen.

I wound up with two books from Under the Volcano: a Europa Editions of Steven Erickson’s Zeroville and Vintage edition of Aldous Huxley’s Beyond the Mexique Bay. I listened to the audiobook of Zeroville a few years ago, loved it, and have kept an eye out for a reasonably-priced copy ever since. I admit that I picked up Huxley’s essay collection in large part because of its title and its cover design (by Bradbury Thompson). I only found it because I was looking for a copy of Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun. I’ve been falling asleep to an audiobook version of Devils for about three weeks now.

I stopped into a La Increíble Librería at random while walking through Condesa. It’s a charming store that specializes in art books and arty children’s books. They also sell a small but excellent selection of Latin American titles in English translation. I picked up a coffee table book there called 50 íconos de la Ciudad de México. The book is in both Spanish and English, and features lovely illustrations of iconic Mexico City locations by ten different artists. Here’s a detail from Diego Huacuja’s illustration of the Auditorio Nacional:

As we looked through this book this morning, my wife remarked on just how few of the fifty icons presented we missed seeing on this trip. And although we saw a lot that’s not in the book, it nevertheless confirmed my feeling that we need to visit Mexico City again.

St. Patrick and the Druid, an episode from Finnegans Wake (with explication from Joseph Campbell)

On pages 611-613 of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, St. Patrick meets the archdruid Balkelly:

Tunc. Bymeby, bullocky vampas tappany bobs topside joss pidgin fella Balkelly, archdruid of islish chinchinjoss in the his heptachromatic sevenhued septicoloured roranyellgreenlindigan mantle finish he show along the his mister guest Patholic with alb belongahim the whose throat hum with of sametime all the his cassock groaner fellas of greysfriaryfamily he fast all time what time all him monkafellas with Same Patholic, quoniam, speeching, yeh not speeching noh man liberty is, he drink up words, scilicet, tomorrow till recover will not, all too many much illusiones through photoprismic velamina of hueful panepiphanal world spectacurum of Lord Joss, the of which zoantholitic furniture, from mineral through vegetal to animal, not appear to full up to-gether fallen man than under but one photoreflection of the several iridals gradationes of solar light, that one which that part of it (furnit of heupanepi world) had shown itself (part of fur of huepanwor) unable to absorbere, whereas for numpa one pura —— duxed seer in seventh degree of wisdom of Entis–Onton he savvy inside true inwardness of reality, the Ding hvad in idself id est, all objects (of panepiwor) allside showed themselves in trues coloribus resplendent with sextuple gloria of light actually re-tained, untisintus, inside them (obs of epiwo). Rumnant Patholic, stareotypopticus, no catch all that preachybook, utpiam, tomorrow recover thing even is not, bymeby vampsybobsy tap — panasbullocks topside joss pidginfella Bilkilly–Belkelly say pat — fella, ontesantes, twotime hemhaltshealing, with other words verbigratiagrading from murmurulentous till stridulocelerious in a hunghoranghoangoly tsinglontseng while his comprehen-durient, with diminishing claractinism, augumentationed himself in caloripeia to vision so throughsighty, you anxioust melan-cholic, High Thats Hight Uberking Leary his fiery grassbelong- head all show colour of sorrelwood herbgreen, again, nigger- blonker, of the his essixcoloured holmgrewnworsteds costume the his fellow saffron pettikilt look same hue of boiled spinasses,other thing, voluntary mutismuser, he not compyhandy the his golden twobreasttorc look justsamelike curlicabbis, moreafter, to pace negativisticists, verdant readyrainroof belongahim Exuber High Ober King Leary very dead, what he wish to say, spit of superexuberabundancy plenty laurel leaves, after that com-mander bulopent eyes of Most Highest Ardreetsar King same thing like thyme choppy upon parsley, alongsidethat, if please-sir, nos displace tauttung, sowlofabishospastored, enamel Indian gem in maledictive fingerfondler of High High Siresultan Em-peror all same like one fellow olive lentil, onthelongsidethat, by undesendas, kirikirikiring, violaceous warwon contusiones of facebuts of Highup Big Cockywocky Sublissimime Autocrat, for that with pure hueglut intensely saturated one, tinged uniformly, allaroundside upinandoutdown, very like you seecut chowchow of plentymuch sennacassia Hump cumps Ebblybally! Sukkot?

Punc. Bigseer, refrects the petty padre, whackling it out, a tumble to take, tripeness to call thing and to call if say is good while, you pore shiroskuro blackinwhitepaddynger, by thiswis aposterioprismically apatstrophied and paralogically periparo-lysed, celestial from principalest of Iro’s Irismans ruinboon pot before, (for beingtime monkblinkers timeblinged completamen-tarily murkblankered in their neutrolysis between the possible viriditude of the sager and the probable eruberuption of the saint), as My tappropinquish to Me wipenmeselps gnosegates a handcaughtscheaf of synthetic shammyrag to hims hers, seeming-such four three two agreement cause heart to be might, saving to Balenoarch (he kneeleths), to Great Balenoarch (he kneeleths down) to Greatest Great Balenoarch (he kneeleths down quite-somely), the sound salse sympol in a weedwayedwold of the firethere the sun in his halo cast. Onmen.

That was thing, bygotter, the thing, bogcotton, the very thing, begad! Even to uptoputty Bilkilly–Belkelly-Balkally. Who was for shouting down the shatton on the lamp of Jeeshees. Sweating on to stonker and throw his seven. As he shuck his thumping fore features apt the hoyhop of His Ards.

Thud.

Good safe firelamp! hailed the heliots. Goldselforelump! Halled they. Awed. Where thereon the skyfold high, trampa-trampatramp. Adie. Per ye comdoom doominoom noonstroom. Yeasome priestomes. Fullyhum toowhoom.

 

Continue reading “St. Patrick and the Druid, an episode from Finnegans Wake (with explication from Joseph Campbell)”

Read “Old Mr. Marblehall,” a short story by Eudora Welty

“Old Mr. Marblehall”

by

Eudora Welty


Old Mr. Marblehall never did anything, never got married until he was sixty. You can see him out taking a walk. Watch and you’ll see how preciously old people come to think they are made—the way they walk, like conspirators, bent over a little, filled with protection. The
y stand long on the corners but more impatiently than anyone, as if they expect traffic to take notice of them, rear up the horses and throw on the brakes, so they can go where they want to go. That’s Mr. Marblehall. He has short white bangs, and a bit of snapdragon in his lapel. He walks with a big polished stick, a present. That’s what people think of him. Everybody says to his face, “So well preserved!” Behind his back they say cheerfully, “One foot in the grave.” He has on his thick, beautiful, glowing coat—tweed, but he looks as gratified as an animal in its own tingling fur. You see, even in summer he wears it, because he is cold all the time. He looks quaintly secretive and prepared for anything, out walking very luxuriously on Catherine Street.

His wife, back at home in the parlor standing up to think, is a large, elongated old woman with electric-looking hair and curly lips. She has spent her life trying to escape from the parlor-like jaws of self-consciousness. Her late marriage has set in upon her nerves like a retriever nosing and puffing through old dead leaves out in the woods. When she walks around the room she looks remote and nebulous, out on the fringe of habitation, and rather as if she must have been cruelly trained—otherwise she couldn’t do actual, immediate things, like answering the telephone or putting on a hat. But she has gone further than you’d think: into club work. Surrounded by other more suitably exclaiming women, she belongs to the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, attending teas. Her long, disquieted figure towering in the candlelight of other women’s houses looks like something accidental. Any occasion, and she dresses her hair like a unicorn horn. She even sings, and is requested to sing. She even writes some of the songs she sings (“O Trees in the Evening”). She has a voice that dizzies other ladies like an organ note, and amuses men like a halloo down the well. It’s full of a hollow wind and echo, winding out through the wavery hope of her mouth. Do people know of her perpetual amazement? Back in safety she wonders, her untidy head trembles in the domestic dark. She remembers how everyone in Natchez will suddenly grow quiet around her. Old Mrs. Marblehall, Mr. Marblehall’s wife: she even goes out in the rain, which Southern women despise above everything, in big neat biscuit-colored galoshes, for which she “ordered off.” She is only looking around—servile, undelighted, sleepy, expensive, tortured Mrs. Marblehall, pinning her mind with a pin to her husband’s diet. She wants to tempt him, she tells him. What would he like best, that he can have?

There is Mr. Marblehall’s ancestral home. It’s not so wonderfully large—it has only four columns—but you always look toward it, the way you always glance into tunnels and see nothing. The river is after it now, and the little back garden has assuredly crumbled away, but the box maze is there on the edge like a trap, to confound the Mississippi River. Deep in the red wall waits the front door—it weighs such a lot, it is perfectly solid, all one piece, black mahogany…. And you see—one of them is always going in it. There is a knocker shaped like a gasping fish on the door. You have every reason in the world to imagine the inside is dark, with old things about. There’s many a big, deathly-looking tapestry, wrinkling and thin, many a sofa shaped like an S. Brocades as tall as the wicked queens in Italian tales stand gathered before the windows. Everything is draped and hooded and shaded, of course, unaffectionate but close. Such rosy lamps! The only sound would be a breath against the prisms, a stirring of the chandelier. It’s like old eye-lids, the house with one of its shutters, in careful working order, slowly opening outward. Then the little son softly comes and stares out like a kitten, with button nose and pointed ears and little fuzz of silky hair running along the top of his head. Continue reading “Read “Old Mr. Marblehall,” a short story by Eudora Welty”

Sleeping — Paula Rego

Sleeping, 1986 by Paula Rego (1935–2022)

“The Unruly Child” — Bob Perelman

“The Unruly Child”

by

Bob Perelman


There is a company called Marathon Oil, mother,
Very far away and very big and, again, very
Desirable. Who isn’t? Back connecting pure dots,
Fleecy intelligence lapped in explanatory sound
The faces make difficult.
Learn the language.
That beautiful tongue-in-cheek hostage situation:
My mind, up close, in pjs, and I use it.
Wanting to fuck an abstraction nine times in a row,
Continuous melismata, don’t stop, don’t stop, no name, no picture.
There is a series of solids, mother,
Called people, who rise to the transparent obtainable
Solo windows, mornings, afternoons,
And there are military operations called
Operation Patio, Operation Menu.
It is the individuals who finally get the feel of the tenses.
So that it may snow, has to snow on the muddy corpse.
There is a boundary, mother, very far away and very
Continuous, broken, to interrogate civilians, the self,
The text, networks of viewers found wanting a new way
To cook chicken, why not?, to kill while falling asleep.
There is the one language not called money, and the other not called explosions.

“There was upon the sill a pencil mark” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

“There was upon the sill a pencil mark”

by

Edna St. Vincent Millay


There was upon the sill a pencil mark,
Vital with shadow when the sun stood still
At noon, but now, because the day was dark,
It was a pencil mark upon the sill.
And the mute clock, maintaining ever the same
Dead moment, blank and vacant of itself,
Was a pink shepherdess, a picture frame,
A shell marked Souvenir, there on the shelf.
Whence it occurred to her that he might be,
The mainspring being broken in his mind,
A clock himself, if one were so inclined,
That stood at twenty minutes after three -
The reason being for this, it might be said,
That things in death were neither clocks nor people, 
    but only dead.

“Actually” — Joy Williams

“Actually”

by

Joy Williams

from 99 Stories of God


The child wanted to name the rabbit Actually, and could not be dissuaded from this.

It was the first time one of our pets was named after an adverb.

It made us uncomfortable. We thought it to be bad luck.

But no ill befell any of us nor did any ill befall the people who visited our home.

Everything proceeded beautifully, in fact, until Actually died.

ACTUALLY

Self-Portrait with Root Skirt — Julie Heffernan

Self-Portrait with Root Skirt, 2022 by Julie Heffernan (b. 1956)

“This Condition” — Lydia Davis

“This Condition”

by

Lydia Davis


In this condition: stirred not only by men but by women, fat and thin, naked and clothed; by teenagers and children in latency; by animals such as horses and dogs; by certain vegetables such as carrots, zucchinis, eggplants, and cucumbers; by fruits such as melons, grapefruits, and kiwis; by certain plant parts such as petals, sepals, stamens, and pistils; by the bare arm of a wooden chair, a round vase holding flowers, a little hot sunlight, a plate of pudding, a person entering a tunnel in the distance, a puddle of water, a hand alighting on a smooth stone, a hand alighting on a bare shoulder, a naked tree limb; by anything curved, bare, and shining, as the limb or bole of a tree; by any touch, as the touch of a stranger handling money; by anything round and freely hanging, as tassels on a curtain, chestnut burrs on a twig in spring, a wet tea bag on its string; by anything glowing, as a hot coal; anything soft or slow, as a cat rising from a chair; anything smooth and dry, as a stone, or warm and glistening; anything sliding, anything sliding back and forth; anything sliding in and out with an oiled surface, as certain machine parts; anything of a certain shape, like the state of Florida; anything pounding, anything stroking; anything bolt upright, anything horizontal and gaping, as a certain sea anemone; anything warm, anything wet, anything wet and red, anything turning red, as the sun at evening; anything wet and pink; anything long and straight with a blunt end, as a pestle; anything coming out of anything else, as a snail from its shell, as a snail’s horns from its head; anything opening; any stream of water running, any stream running, any stream spurting, any stream spouting; any cry, any soft cry, any grunt; anything going into anything else, as a hand searching in a purse; anything clutching, anything grasping; anything rising, anything tightening or filling, as a sail; anything dripping, anything hardening, anything softening.

Angel — Paula Rego

Angel, 1998 by Paula Rego (1935–2022)

Self-Portrait — Sofonisba Anguissola

Self-Portrait, 1554 by Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532-1625)

Minerva Dressing — Lavinia Fontana

Minerva Dressing, 1613 by Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614)

There is no universal Poetry | Adrienne Rich

I hope never to idealize poetry—it has suffered enough from that. Poetry is not a healing lotion, an emotional massage, a kind of linguistic aromatherapy. Neither is it a blueprint, nor an instruction manual, nor a billboard. There is no universal Poetry anyway, only poetries and poetics, and the streaming, intertwining histories to which they belong. There is room, indeed necessity, for both Neruda and César Vallejo, for Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alfonsina Storni, for Audre Lorde and Aimé Césaire, for both Ezra Pound and Nelly Sachs. Poetries are no more pure and simple than human histories are pure and simple. Poetry, like silk or coffee or oil or human flesh, has had its trade routes. And there are colonized poetics and resilient poetics, transmissions across frontiers not easily traced.

From Adrienne Rich’s Plenary Lecture at the Conference on Poetry and Politics, University of Stirling, Scotland, 13 July 2006. Collected in Essential Essays.

Minerva — Artemisia Gentileschi

Minerva, c. 1640–1651 by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653)