Posts in: 2003s

Lew Welch reminds us that while doing something utterly necessary and ordinary, we should pause for a moment and say aloud, So it has all come to this!

If, in so doing, you find yourself feeling a bit like the battle-weary Theoden on the walls of Helm’s Deep, and not just someone boiling water or folding laundry, this is not entirely a bad thing. The greatest battles of our lives are often fought in the trivial and quotidian muck.

And not in passivity, but in careful observance. We are both architect and resident. We are perp and victim. Attend! So it has come to this.


Drive My Car

Excuse me for a moment. I need to meet my monthly quota in order to remain a Cantankerous Misanthrope in Good Standing. So let me say just this. I am in Salt Lake City. I drove here in two days by myself. I left Minneapolis last Tuesday morning at about nine, heading south on I-35. At Des Moines, I turned west on I-80. I passed through Omaha and Lincoln, and had a dinner of sorts in Kearney (pronounced, it turns out, not as keernie but karnie) around seven in the evening.

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The Style of Their Epoch

Helen Vendler in The Breaking of Style: Poets are often praised for insight or wisdom, and they may, as persons or writers, exhibit those qualities; but Pope came nearer to the truth in his clear-eyed remark that what we find in poetry is “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.” Neither poets nor their readers like to admit that poems enunciate “what oft was thought.” Yet poets are not primarily original thinkers; they, like other intellectuals, generally think with (and against) the available intellectual categories of their epoch.

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This Way to the Egress!

Some time ago, I saw a documentary about casinos on one of those cable channels that show documentaries about things like casinos. The founder of one of the big famous old casinos in Vegas treated his customers lavishly: limousines from the airport, free drinks for all the gamblers. He said his philosophy was to make little people feel like big people. Sure, but it requires you to assume that your customers are little people to begin with.

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The Tracery of a Pattern

I am crawling slowly through Invisible Cities. It reads like so many prose poems, with each subchapter devoted to describing a different city. I am moving through it more like a collection of poetry than a novel. An odd, and uncommon, experience. What’s more odd, though, is that I keep thinking of Richard Brautigan. A somnolence enshrouds Invisible Cities that reminds me of In Watermelon Sugar. What would this world be like if Brautigan had fallen in with the Oulipians rather than the Beats?

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Walter Ong, Orality & Literacy:

The personal diary is a very late literary form, in effect unknown until the seventeenth century… The kind of verbalized solipsistic reveries it implies are a product of consciousness as shaped by print culture. And for which self am I writing? Myself today? As I think I will be ten years from now? As I hope I will be? For myself as I imagine myself or hope others may imagine me? Questions such as this can and do fill diary writers with anxieties and often enough lead to discontinuation of diaries. The diarist can no longer live with his or her fiction.