Studio — Benny Andrews

Studio, 1967 by Benny Andrews (1930-2006)

The ecological crisis cannot be resolved by politics | Joy Williams

The ecological crisis cannot be resolved by politics. It cannot be resolved by science or technology. It is a crisis caused by culture and character, and a deep change in personal consciousness is needed. Your fundamental attitudes toward the earth have become twisted. You have made only brutal contact with Nature; you cannot comprehend its grace. You must change. Have few desires and simple pleasures. Honor nonhuman life. Control yourself, become more authentic. Live lightly upon the earth and treat it with respect. Redefine the word progress and dismiss the managers and masters. Grow inwardly and with knowledge become truly wiser. Think differently, behave differently. For this is essentially a moral issue we face, and moral decisions must be made.

From Joy Williams’ essay “Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp.” Collected in Ill Nature.

Front Yard Things — Peter Uka 

Front Yard Things, 2020 by Peter Uka (b. 1975)

Life Wants to Live — Phil Hale

Life Wants to Live, 2014 by Phil Hale (b. 1963)

The Uncollected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick (Book acquired, 25 April 2022)

NYRB has collected the uncollected essays of Elizabeth Hardwick and published it as The Uncollected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick. Thirty-five essays, out in late May. NYRB’s blurb:

The Uncollected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick is a companion collection to The Collected Essays, a book that proved a revelation of what, for many, had been an open secret: that Elizabeth Hardwick was one of the great American literary critics, and an extraordinary stylist in her own right. The thirty-five pieces that Alex Andriesse has gathered here—none previously featured in volumes of Hardwick’s work—make it clear that her powers extended far beyond literary criticism, encompassing a vast range of subjects, from New York City to Faye Dunaway, from Wagner’s Parsifal to Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, and from the pleasures of summertime to grits soufflé. In these often surprising, always well-wrought essays, we see Hardwick’s passion for people and places, her politics, her thoughts on feminism, and her ability, especially from the 1970s on, to write well about seemingly anything.

Carmencita Playing — Antonio López García

Carmencita Playing, 1960, by Antonio López García (b. 1936)

“Noah’s Raven” — W.S. Merwin

“Noah’s Raven”

by

W.S. Merwin


Why should I have returned?
My knowledge would not fit into theirs.
I found untouched the desert of the unknown,
Big enough for my feet. It is my home.
It is always beyond them. The future
Splits the present with the echo of my voice.
Hoarse with fulfillment, I never made promises.

Bisclavret — Walton Ford

Bisclavret, 2022 by Walton Ford (b. 1960)

Kou Machida’s Rip It Up (Book acquired, 15 April 2022)

So I got into Kou Machida’s short novel Rip It Up last night. This Japanese novel (original title, きれぎれ [Kiregire]) gets its first English translation, via Daniel Joseph and Mercurial Editions, a new translation imprint from Inpatient Press. This is how the publisher describes Rip It Up:

Set in a kaleidoscopic hyperreal Japan circa Y2K, Rip It Up catalogues the misdeeds and misgivings of a down-and-out wannabe debonair who ekes out a meager living at the fringes of the art world, wracked by jealousy at his friend’s success and despondency of his own creative (and moral) bankruptcy. In turn hilarious and also horrifying, Machida’s pyrotechnic prose plumbs the discursive depths of the creative spirit, a head-spinning survey of degeneration and self-sabotage.

Machida’s psychedelic punk prose takes a few pages to tune into. The (as-yet?) unnamed narrator’s voice is tinged with madness and soaked with vitriol for the conformist society he can’t seem to get out of. He’s a rich kid, a lout, and a bum, obsessed with Satoe the horse-headed girl. Her head isn’t really a horse’s head; rather, it’s a mask she’s wearing when he first runs into her at a drunken Setsubun party at the “panty bar” where she works. He’s stumbled in after getting drunk at his friend’s funeral. The scene Machida conjures is simultaneously vile, hallucinatory, and hilarious, with salarymen and “little people gotten up to look like Fukusuke dolls” crashing about the place in a bizarre karaoke showdown. The narrator takes the mic, belting out malapropisms that synthesize and parody the lyrics of Western pop songs:

It’s not unusual to hi-de hi-de hi-de-hi

You’re as chaste as ice

And baby we were born to nun

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on Moon River

Any way the lunch grows, doesn’t really matter

A few pages later, the narrator still pines for the horse-headed girl, spending all his money at the panty bar. He has to go visit his rich mother for a “loan,” but she makes him embark on a stolid omiai, a marriage interview, which he torpedoes by declaring to the prospective partner and her dour mother “exactly what kind of person I am”:

That I spend all my free time at the panty bar. That I dropped out of high school. That I’m a spendthrift. That I’ve got my head in the clouds and I’ve never done an honest days work in my life because I despise hard work. That’s all.

I’m digging Rip It Up so far; it’s alienating, self-indulgent stuff. Daniel Joseph’s translation conveys a desperate, stuffy world, and shows how linguistic resistance might puncture stifling conformity. More thoughts to come. Check out Kou Machida’s seminal punk band Inu,

 

Life is an entanglement of lies to hide its basic mechanisms | William S. Burroughs

From The Place of Dead Roads

by

William S. Burroughs


Kim is a slimy, morbid youth of unwholesome proclivities with an insatiable appetite for the extreme and the sensational. His mother had been into table-tapping and Kim adores ectoplasms, crystal balls, spirit guides and auras. He wallows in abominations, unspeakable rites, diseased demon lovers, loathsome secrets imparted in a thick slimy whisper, ancient ruined cities under a purple sky, the smell of unknown excrements, the musky sweet rotten reek of the terrible Red Fever, erogenous sores suppurating in the idiot giggling flesh. In short, Kim is everything a normal American boy is taught to detest. He is evil and slimy and insidious. Perhaps his vices could be forgiven him, but he was also given to the subversive practice of thinking. He was in fact incurably intelligent.

Later, when he becomes an important player, he will learn that people are not bribed to shut up about what they know. They are bribed not to find it out. And if you are as intelligent as Kim, it’s hard not to find things out. Now, American boys are told they should think. But just wait until your thinking is basically different from the thinking of a boss or a teacher…You will find out that you aren’t supposed to think.

Life is an entanglement of lies to hide its basic mechanisms.

Kim remembers a teacher who quoted to the class: “If a thing is worth doing at all it is worth doing well…”

“Well sir, I mean the contrary is certainly true. If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing, even badly,” said Kim pertly, hoping to impress the teacher with his agile intelligence. “I mean, we can’t all become Annie Oakleys doesn’t mean we can’t get some fun and benefit from shooting…”

The teacher didn’t like that at all, and for the rest of the school year singled Kim out for heavy-handed sarcasm, addressing him as “our esteemed woodsman and scout.” When Kim couldn’t answer a history question, the teacher asked, “Are you one of these strong, silent men?” And he wrote snippy little comments in the margins of Kim’s compositions: “Not quite as badly as that,” viciously underlining the offending passage. At the end of the term the teacher gave him a Β — for the course, though Kim knew fucking well he deserved an A.

To be sure, Kim was rotten clear through and he looked like a sheep-killing dog and smelled like a polecat, but he was also the most ingenious, curious, resourceful, inventive little snot that ever rose from the pages of Boy’s Life, thinking up ways of doing things better than other folks. Kim would get to the basic root of what a device is designed to do and ask himself, Is it doing it in the simplest and most efficient way possible? He knew that once an article goes into mass production, the last thing a manufacturer wants to hear about is a better and simpler article that is basically different. And they are not interested in a more efficient, simpler or better product. They are interested in making money.

When Kim was fifteen his father allowed him to withdraw from the school because he was so unhappy there and so much disliked by the other boys and their parents.

“I don’t want that boy in the house again,” said Colonel Greenfield. “He looks like a sheep-killing dog.”

“It is a walking corpse,” said a Saint Louis matron poisonously.

“The boy is rotten clear through and he stinks like a polecat,” Judge Farris pontificated.

This was true. When angered or aroused or excited Kim flushed bright red and steamed off a rank ruttish animal smell.

And sometimes he lost control over his natural functions. He took comfort from learning that partially domesticated wolves suffer from the same difficulty.

“The child in not wholesome,” said Mr. Kindhart, with his usual restraint. Kim was the most unpopular boy in the school, if not in the town of Saint Louis.

“They have nothing to teach you anyway,” his father said. “Why, the headmaster is a fucking priest.”

“Long, Too Long America” — Walt Whitman

Creator — Neo Rauch

Schöpfer (Creator), 2011 by Neo Rauch (b. 1960)

ABC No Rio — Dan Witz

ABC No Rio, 2011 by Dan Witz (b. 1957)

Double Self-Portrait — Egon Schiele

Double Self-Portrait, 1915 by Egon Schiele (1890–1918)

Four Books (Barthelme, Burroughs, and Barry [Hannah])

If you follow this blog even semi-regularly, you may know that I frequently frequent Chamblin Bookmine. This sprawling bookstore, with an inventory of close to three million books (mostly used, and often very weird), is about a mile from my house, and in some small ways might constitute a mute coauthor of this blog. I don’t get to their second location, Chamblin Uptown (in downtown Jacksonville) that often, and even less during the last few years (for obvious reasons), but I went downtown to watch my nephew wrestle last Sunday, and stopped by. In addition to a pair of Ishmael Reed massmarket 1970s paperbacks, I fetched a small stack of first-edition hardbacks by Donald Barthelme, William Burroughs, and Barry Hannah.

I was thrilled to find a first-edition of Donald Barthelme’s first novel Snow White (Atheneum, 1970), with a jacket by Lawrence Ratzkin. The cover sans jacket is also nice:

Overnight to Many Distant Cities isn’t Barthelme’s best collection, but I couldn’t pass up a first edition (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983). The cover features a photograph by Russell Munson.

So far this year, William S. Burroughs’ late novel Cities of the Red Night has been a reading highlight for me: apocalyptic, utopian, discursive, funny, and more poignant than I had remembered when I first read it two decades ago. I couldn’t pass up on a first-edition of its sequel, The Place of Dead Roads (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983) with a jacket by Robert Reed (working from an old uncredited photograph). I found an audiobook of Dead Roads at my local library, so I might give that a shot.

 

I also grabbed a signed copy of Barry Hannah’s semi-autobiography, Boomerang (Houghton Mifflin, 1989), with a cover by one of my favorite designers, Fred Marcellino. Here’s the autograph:

Marcellino also did the cover for another signed Hannah I have, Captain Maximus (wait, is this Five Books?):

img_9605

Feliz Pacuas (Happy Easter) — Lee Lippman

Feliz Pacuas (Happy Easter), 1989 by Lee Lippman (b. 1949)

Read “Love on the Bon-Dieu,” an Easter story by Kate Chopin

“Love on the Bon-Dieu”

by

Kate Chopin

from Bayou Folk (1894)


 

Upon the pleasant veranda of Père Antoine’s cottage, that adjoined the church, a young girl had long been seated, awaiting his return. It was the eve of Easter Sunday, and since early afternoon the priest had been engaged in hearing the confessions of those who wished to make their Easters the following day. The girl did not seem impatient at his delay; on the contrary, it was very restful to her to lie back in the big chair she had found there, and peep through the thick curtain of vines at the people who occasionally passed along the village street.

She was slender, with a frailness that indicated lack of wholesome and plentiful nourishment. A pathetic, uneasy look was in her gray eyes, and even faintly stamped her features, which were fine and delicate. In lieu of a hat, a barege veil covered her light brown and abundant hair. She wore a coarse white cotton “josie,” and a blue calico skirt that only half concealed her tattered shoes.

As she sat there, she held carefully in her lap a parcel of eggs securely fastened in a red bandana handkerchief.

Twice already a handsome, stalwart young man in quest of the priest had entered the yard, and penetrated to where she sat. At first they had exchanged the uncompromising “howdy” of strangers, and nothing more. The second time, finding the priest still absent, he hesitated to go at once. Instead, he stood upon the step, and narrowing his brown eyes, gazed beyond the river, off towards the west, where a murky streak of mist was spreading across the sun.

“It look like mo’ rain,” he remarked, slowly and carelessly.

“We done had ’bout ‘nough,” she replied, in much the same tone.

“It’s no chance to thin out the cotton,” he went on.

“An’ the Bon-Dieu,” she resumed, “it’s on’y to-day you can cross him on foot.”

“You live yonda on the Bon-Dieu, donc?” he asked, looking at her for the first time since he had spoken.

“Yas, by Nid d’Hibout, m’sieur.” Continue reading “Read “Love on the Bon-Dieu,” an Easter story by Kate Chopin”