Wednesday, July 30, 2008

au revoir arrivaderci chow

Well, that’s it. I’ve done all the editing and reviewing I can stand. So now, off to Chicago for four days with the family. A wedding, see my old friend Janet, try to find the very spot where Nelson Algren hoisted Simone de Beauvoir up so she could peer through the bars of one of Chicago’s jails – what could go wrong? Although I have this premonition of doom. Of course, I have a premonition of doom when I buy breakfast cereal...

In the meantime, some more linkies for y’all.

First, Zoe’s tout va bien, a song that is all about LI – the problem with happiness! as per this instructive video, it leads inevitably to slaughtering your neighbors, your parents and your dog.

Then, a nice piece about Penelope Fitzgerald by Julian Barnes. Barnes makes a play with the phrase “amateur writer.” I first heard that phrase years ago, having dinner with Alfredo Bryce Echinique – a name which, alas, means nothing to Americans, but take my word for it, Bryce is the Peruvian novelist you should read, not Vargas Llosa.

And then, there is this, from At Swim Two Birds – the new Everyman Flann O’Brien will be at my side in the several bars and restaurants in the several airports that I will honor with my presence (while they pay no attention, silly fools!) on the way up to Chicago:

“It was stated that while the novel and the play were both pleasing intellectual exercises, the novel was inferior to the play inasmuch as it lacked the outward accidents of illusion, frequently inducing the reader to be outwitted in a shabby fashion and caused to experience a real concern for the fortunes of illusory characters. The play was consumed in wholesome fashion by large masses in places of public resort; the novel was self-administered in private. The novel, in the hands of an unscrupulous writer, could be despotic. In reply to an inquiry, it was explained that a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham to which the reader could regulate at will the degree of his credulity. It was undemocratic to compel characters to be uniformly good or bad or poor or rich. Each should be allowed a private life, self-determination and a decent standard of living. This would make for self-respect, contentment and better service. It would be incorrect to say that it would lead to chaos. Characters should be interchangeable as between one book and another. The entire corpus of existing literature should be regarded as a limbo from which discerning authors could draw their characters as required, creating only when they failed to find a suitable existing puppet. The modern novel should be largely a work of reference. Most authors spend their time saying what has been said before—usually said much better. A wealth of references to existing works would acquaint the reader instantaneously with the nature of each character, would obviate tiresome explanations and would effectively preclude mountebanks, upstarts, thimbleriggers and persons of inferior education from an understanding of contemporary literature.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

links and a plea

Deviens ma proie

As per my last post, LI is not going to be posting too much this week. However, I would like to point our readers to the Wax works video mentioned by the mysterious Azazel616 in a comment to the Insects post. I love this sequence of vids.

Further, for those of you yearning and burning for the latest in French folky goth music with that saving touch of Peau d'Âne, you should hurry to see Claire Ditzeri’s Tableau de Chasse. It is the eternal story of man, woman, and huntin’, which ends with the lights out and Cupid turning back into the primal essence.

And hey, those of my readers who know or live in Chicago, could you help a guy out with opinions re the finer bars and diners? You know what I mean - the kind of places where a man can get his head knocked in for emitting incautious opinions about the, uh, political incompetence of Pilsudski.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

hypochondria of the deskbound

All the neighborhood dogs/lickin at her feet

“Benvenuto Cellini made the brilliant observation: wounds do not make us clever, because new ones always announce themselves under a different form. This I know well from my own experience.”

Lichtenberg’s experience – his orientation, if you will – derived, as everybody likes to point out, from the childhood accident that crippled him – bent his spine, that is (although the Lichtenberg society has demystified this beautiful story with a more plausible one about rickets – no matter! the myth probably arises from Lichtenberg’s own understanding of his wound ). It left him with a lifetime’s share of hypochondria – in one letter after another, his whole life long, Lichtenberg was dying. He felt bad about the fact that, feeling bad all the time, he didn’t know if he was feeling bad or good at any one particular time. The hypochondriac’s dilemma, as he well knew, was that hypochondria, in which one always suspects something bad, might disguise the advent of something worse.

Lichtenberg was an enlightenment savant, the professor of “universal philosophy” in Göttingen, an astronomer, mathematician, and general spreader of light. Ah, these savants in their cities – Smith in Glasgow, Montesquieu in Bordeaux, Kant in Konigsberg, and Lichtenberg in Göttingen. Like any enlightenment savant, he liked sex – and this part of Lichtenberg’s life, since Gert Hoffman’s novel, has now become the most famous part of his life. This would not really surprise Lichtenberg, with his satiric sense of the unexpected reputation, the perversity of fame, that checkers history.

Like all the German savants, Lichtenberg was an inveterate contributor to or founder of journals. For a long time, he contributed little essays to the Göttingen Tachenkalender. In 1783, he contributed Specimens of curious superstitions. I don’t believe this essay has been translated into English. Lichtenberg is, in general, not very translated into English. NYRB books published a translation of the Waste Books for which he is most known, by the most successful translator of Nietzsche, R.J. Hollingdale. I must say, I find Hollingdale’s preface pretty bad, since it isn’t true that Lichtenberg’s other writings are terrible. True, the Hogarthian essay is, uh, tedious ... but it was preparatory to the great anti-physiological writings. Lichtenberg’s epigrammatic style is evident in these writings – for instance, his mock learned work on the physiognomy of dog’s tails and what they tell us about the character of dogs. There is something very Twain like about that essay.
Well, LI is pressed by business right now, and we have to go to Chicago for a wedding on Wednesday – we will be back on Monday, August 4. So our readers might not fill themselves with the usual cornucopia of trivial fact and bombastic speculation that we try to give them each and every day. Damn! So our plan to translate Lichtenberg in bits, then the remarks about superstition by Goethe in his essay on Justus Moser, then the bit about astrology in Goethe’s letter to Schiller - these will all have to be put off.

Southern California Death Trip

    “He was kind but he changed and I killed him,” reads the caption of the photo of a woman in an old tabloid. She was headed to ...