Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Red Cape

Jumpstart the work: I am writing a book called A Legal Pencil. It is allowing me to wallow in Gertrude Stein, a wallowable sort surely. For my titles, I am selecting words out of each paragraph of a Stein piece titled “Americans” in a yellowing book called Geography and Plays printed by the Four Seas Company, in Boston, in 1922. In that era when the turning of pulp to slurry at the paper mills got hurried along by hydrolysis (and the addition of aluminum sulfate) leader to papers besodden’d with sulfuric acid. The upshot: a chemically unstable paper, molecularly weak cellulose. Brittle book. A book that is liable to explode into fragments at the merest glance. I knew girls like that in my “younger” years. I doubt anyone ever looked at Gertrude Stein and fancy’d her liable to burst into fragments. The “Americans” paragraphs, short. If I continue with my book (see, I am besodden with doubts), it’ll be a long book. Book or opus? Obus is what the French called German artillery shells (“les obus boches commencent à pleuvoir”). Or, Apollinaire did. He was sort of Polish, sort of “laddish.” Read Lettres à Lou. Lou, a solid sort. I think Guillaume mentioned her thighs, cuisses monstrueuses. Though that’s not the word. Croupe? Like whooping cough? Poor Guillaume. Poor me. I detest the kind of faux-idiot-savant voice that’s inhabited me here. Mostly I find writing that hangs off a spectacle of voice rather annoying. (“A simple matter of ventriloquism” is what a novelist-friend said about a Paddy Doyle novel, and I never forgot it.)

Javier Marías (Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear), on the life of a laugh, and its funeral: “Laughter creates a kind of disinterested bond between men, and between women, and the bond it establishes between women and men can prove an even stronger, tighter link, a profounder, more complex, more dangerous and more lasting link, or one, at least, with more hope of enduring. Such lasting, disinterested bonds can become strained after awhile, they can sometimes become ugly and difficult to bear, in the long term, some one has to be the debtor, that’s the only way things can work, one person must always be slightly more indebted to the other, and commitment and abnegation and worthiness can provide a sure way of making off with the position of creditor . . . The quality of that laughter, its spontaneity (its simultaneity with mine perhaps) has led me, on occasions, to meet a woman and approach her or even to dismiss her at once, and with some women it’s as if I’ve seen them in their entirety before even meeting them, without even talking, without them having looked at me and with me barely having looked at them. On the other hand, even a slight delay or the faintest suspicion of mimetism, of an indulgent response to my stimulus or my lead, the merest suggestion of a polite or sycophantic laugh—a laugh that is not entirely disinterested, but is egged on by the will, the laugh that does not laugh as much as it would like to or as much as it allows itself or yearns or even condescends to laugh—is enough for me promptly to remove myself from its presence or to relegate it immediately to second place, to that of mere accompaniment, or even, in times of weakness and a consequent slide in standards, to that of cortège.”

Notes (titles) to myself out of Attention Span, in two categories.

To locate a (library) copy of (and read):

Douglas Oliver, Whisper ‘Louise’: A Double Historical Memoir and Meditation, Reality Street, 2005
Robin Blaser, The Fire: Collected Essays, California, 2006
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, A Novel, Vintage Canada, 2004
John Yau, Paradiso Diaspora, Penguin, 2006
Stephen Cope, ed., George Oppen: Selected Prose, Daybooks, and Papers, California, forthcoming, 2007
Anne Carson, trans., Grief Lessons: Four Plays of Euripides, New York Review, 2006
On the Passage of a few people through a rather brief moment in time: THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL:1957-1972, MIT, 1991
Adam Phillips
Richard Wollheim, Germs, Black Swan, 2005
Marina Tsvetaeva, Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917-1922, Yale, 2002
Rob Halpern, Rumored Place, Krupskaya, 2004
Charles Altieri, The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Blackwell, 2006
Anna Moschovakis, I Have Not Been Able To Get Through To Everyone, Turtle Point, 2006
Nathaniel Mackey, Splay Anthem, New Directions, 2006
Morton Feldman, Morton Feldman Says: Selected Interviews and Lectures 1964-1987, ed. Chris Villars, Hyphen, 2006
Carrie Noland, Poetry at Stake: Lyric Aesthetics and the Challenge of Technology, Princeton, 1999
John Press, The Chequer’d Shade, Oxford, 1963
Elias Khoury, Gate of the Sun, Archipelago, 2005
Arkadii Dragomoschenko, Chinese Sun, Ugly Duckling
Franklin Lewis, Rumi Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi, Oneworld, 2000
Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Knopf, 2005

To plunk down the money for (and read):

Guy Davenport & Jonathan Williams, A Garden Carried in a Pocket: Letters 1964-1968, ed. Thomas Meyer, Green Shade, 2004
Eugene Ostashevsky, Oberiu: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism, Northwestern, 2006
Elizabeth Willis, Meteoric Flowers, Wesleyan, 2006
Peter Gizzi, A panic that can still come upon me, Ugly Duckling, 2006
Anselm Berrigan, Some Notes on My Programming, Edge, 2006
Jeni Olin, Blue Collar Holiday & A Valentine to Frank O’Hara, Hanging Loose, 2005
Geraldine Monk, Escafeld Hangings, West House, 2005
Bill Berkson & Bernadette Mayer, What's Your Idea of a Good Time?, Tuumba, 2006
James Schuyler, The Letters of James Schuyler to Frank O’Hara, ed. William Corbett, Turtle Point, 2006

“Bolero style waistcoat in red flower-patterned brocade cloth with gold rim and two-button closure,” in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas papers, 1837-1961)