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Showing posts from June 10, 2018

angels do dance on the heads of pins

Egon Friedell is perhaps less famous for his writing than for having committed suicide as the SS pushed in his door in Vienna in 1938. He was a feullitonist - which we now call "creative non-fiction", a term which sounds like it was made up by a bored bureaucrat - and a generalist, a flaneur philosopher, an amateur. How I love amateurs! He did take on a huge task – writing the history of the Neuzeit, of modernity itself - that makes him hard to, well, encompass. I confess I haven't read the five volumes of this. But he was also one of the Viennese wits – the greatest of whom was Karl Kraus - who understood that the secret of language was flair. Although Kraus would probably thrown heaps of scorn on that notion - for him, the secret of language was ethics. The flavor of that kind of wit is shown in this aphorism. “Materialism. I once wrote the following: Man is an eternal God-seeker. Whatever else one may say about him is secondary. Everything that he do

A Pisgah view of Marianne Moore

Elizabeth Bishop summed up a deal of poetry when she wrote this sentence in an essay about Marianne Moore: “It is annoying to have to keep saying that things are like other things, even though there seems to be no help for it.” Tapping into that annoyance – playing with it, exasperating it, flaunting it, exhausting it – seems like the modernist project. Or maybe it seems like the project of Marianne Moore, who was a modernist as well as an eccentric. Or perhaps she would claim she was centric, had a sense of centers in a world that was full of the cockeyed and the unbalanced, a world of people who would neither properly see what they made nor what they destroyed, but was given to interminable futzing around. I’ve been going through Marianne Moore’s Collected Poems, and, shamefully perhaps, I’m finding I like her first versions of her poems better than her second versions. She was a notorious suppressor and changer. It pleases me that Marianne Moore, in contrast with the bigots wh

Unamuno's nervous tic

Deleuze missed a trick in his book, The Fold.  Although ultra appreciative of the philosophical anecdote, Deleuze apparently did not know about Unamuno. Unamuno was an inveterate folder of paper. Here's an anecdote from one of his obituaries: In the course of a visit that Andre Corthis made to Unamuno in Salamanca, she saw, perched on the edge of the bottle of ink on his desk, a vulture made of paper that was so finely folded with such delicate art that she couldn't withh old her admiration.  "I made that," he said. And Miguel de Unamuno explained that he had a mania for folding things, it was his favorite distraction. While siting in his chair giving his courses, his fingers never ceased making little objects or animals out of paper. A science that he humorously called cocotology." I like to think that Unamuno, the committed anti-fascist, the man who was expelled from Spain in a military plane under one dictator and who denouced Franco at the