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Showing posts from August 6, 2023

The drive in experience

  Like many another whelp of the golden age of the American car, I remember drive in movies. In that toddlerhood which comes back to me in bits, a kind of primeval soup of dreamlike images, I remember suffering the passion of Ole Yeller at some drive in probably located, at the time, in the York Pennsylvania metro area, and now no doubt a parking lot or dump. There the dog faithfully defended its owners, there the dog, in a drizzle of images (sound via a gizmo one attached to the car door – and how my father, psychorigid about all things appertaining to paint scratches and fingerprints on windows, approved this I do not know), lived out the last of his, alas, one dog life, and there we cried. It is an incident, the popcorn, outdoor screen, car, that comes together as a hieroglyph of a certain kind of life, dead now as an Egyptian mummy. I also remember a certain erotic feeling aroused by another film from about the same time, a Disney film called, improbably, The Love Bug – could it h

on the Des Moines glacial lobe

  13,000 years ago, the Lake I look at from the dining room window would have been embodied in an ice sheet, around 1300 feet thick, the 'Des Moines Glacial Ice Lobe'. A mere millenium later, the ice wall had retreated north – glaciers have the attributes of troops on a battlefield, they are always advancing or retreating – leaving the depression into which water found its way. The Ice Age! I love that term, and associate it with the American contribution to geology – via Agassiz. Who actually hypothesized the ice age in Switzerland. ‘On July 24, 1837, the Societe Helvetique des Sciences Naturelles ha its annual meeting in Neuchatel and Agassiz gave his opening addres known as the Discours de Neuchatel, which is the starting point of that has been written on the Ice-Age.” This I break off from Albert Carozzi’s “Agassiz’s Amazing Geological Speculation: the Ice-Age.” Like many a European scientist, Louis Agassiz eventually came to the United States – in search of proof for

The drunken boat on vacation

  Leon Edel makes a shrewd juxtaposition between the fate of Charlotte Verver in the Golden Bowl and the consequent voyage to America of the hero of his biographical trifecta,   Henry James, quoting Fanny Assingham: “I see the long miles of ocean and the dreadful great country. State after State – which have never seemed to me so big or so terrible.” Henry James’s travels in the U.S. in 1904, 21 years after he’d been there last, make up that bundle of impressions, The American Scene. James is the Silenus of expatriates – we all bow down to his altar, sooner of later. State after State – this was the great “subject” he was after, another writer – like Kerouac or Whitman, Mailer or, why not, Jane Smiley – in search of the real American thing, a story to pull out of the terrible vastness. On his first day, disembarked in New Jersey, James could already feel it: Nothing was left, for the rest of the episode, but a kind of fluidity of appreciation a mild, warm wave that broke over the s