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General inability to see how things truly are, rendering life horrible.

Ability to see enough associated with ability to leave, go elsewhere.

Some of those able to see nevertheless at least initially unable or unwilling to leave.

Leaving them deciding whether or how to help the others see - or stop them from ever seeing.

This scheme connects Plato's Cave, The Triumph of Life, Walden, The Grand Inquisitor, its sequel In the Penal Colony, The Man-Moth. Probably Directive. Not far from Song of Myself, IIRC Snow in The Magic Mountain, the Border Trilogy Epilogue, Dream of a Ridiculous Man.

And in their fashion The Trial and The Castle, though there it is only those born outside who can see enough. When we wish to leave they seem to look away or actively stop us, when it doesn't occur to us that we could or should they seem to bother us incessantly but inarticulately, since there is a sort of language barrier, while at neither point quite betraying effort. It seems we do not deserve to leave, and yet have been coaxed to. Among other ambiguities created here is whether this life is even horrible, or merely becomes so for those awakened to what might be outside the bubble.

Do many more texts fit if we abandon the helping issue? Or does that become mere gnosticism? Discovering a tunnel up into the sky and not knowing quite what to do with it, or how far one can go before suffocating despite the fact that it would seem that feet could walk there, or whether something can be done by oneself or others to accomodate one's lungs if its air can't be breathed now.

And in versions where the tunnel can be ascended it leads to an identical-seeming earth.

The great tease that is poetry. The difference between Kierkegaard's poetic and religious natures being that the former recognizes that it's a deliberate tease, or an accident that looks like one. But recognizes also that there IS a tease. A system of caves exists, perhaps of passages. Whether it can be entered is arguable, since they're not physical caves. Whether one has ever left when one has entered becomes arguable. Whether they go somewhere else. Or are somewhere else. Or can become somewhere else with work. Or become here, with work, or part of here. Or prove that we were in caves all along. But just because something is, and remains, arguable, doesn't mean any particular argument is wrong. And since the caves may not be like real places we can't be sure two arguments, half the arguments, even all are not somehow right. And of course also can't be sure there's no way to be sure.

The crucial difference between this and Borges' library, Derrida's language: the second you know what the caves are there are no caves. And some part of us seems to remember knowing what they are. Maybe the same part that, for a while, seemed to remember knowing that the caves that no longer were had once been there.

It has even been suggested that each aspect of what we truly have and are, our immeasurable unnoticed amplitudes, was once a cave.
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Cities of the Plain:

What's being attempted is clearer on a second reading, though I'm still lost re. the many pages of dog killing.

So the things Billy says are startlingly similar to those Eduardo does, something Eduardo forces him to recognize in their two meetings. Billy's attached to John, and to good, brave people in general, but doesn't have a view of the world justifying this - for him the world cannot be understood, and the only thing left to do is cling to personal comfort and safety, which will prove temporary even when they can be found. To do otherwise is merely folly, never admirable. He can't live by this philosophy, but it's there; similarly Eduardo can't either, as he simultaneously thinks the world is unfathomable and that the takers will prevail. In an echo of the Judge he calls his attempt to kill John an act of "naming," and clearly prides himself on thoroughly understanding how confused non-takers think. His own realization that there is no justice has made him embrace its opposite. That you can't know anything, strictly speaking, would be a self-erasing proposition; accepting it, then, you make some pragmatic division between levels of knowledge, denying only one - Billy lets himself help his friend, change tires for strangers etc., follows an ethical code basically, but refuses to admit it in speech. He claims to never have known what he wanted, in fact, but we know he once wanted very much to save an animal, then another, then a person. He claims to believe in what's in front of him, but he can't operate without reference to justice. But he can't admit or logically justify this, and that's a sickness.

So the point of the book is not that John is a hero but who he's a hero to: he saves Billy. This is symbolized by the puppy. Remember Billy's momentary refusal of compassion for a dog (itself referring back to his increasing negligence of the dog who'd loyally followed him and his brother)? John can't reach the last puppy - grabs a dead one instead - but Billy's arm is longer. Billy grabs it for John, but ends up taking care of it. The fate of this final dog is one of the many things elided in the sudden passage of fifty years, but I think we're to understand it's key to there having been fifty years, since it was the only thing he had left to care about. John gave Billy an example of an approach to life that made life worth continuing - proved to be the second brother the shaman had prophesied Billy would meet. He could neither accept nor refuse John's view of life, but even that kept him going, prevented terminal moral sickness like Eduardo's, left him ready for some final reconciliation.

The last Mexican he meets (and gives his only food to) provides that reconciliation by making him understand John's state of mind when sacrificing himself for what he took to be the good. Truly accepting the unknowability of the world means grasping what it is about it that you do know - that others are more or less in your shoes. Your plans, including your whole future life, are mist and rumor next to this small but present fact. That cowardice prevents most, maybe pretty much everyone, from acting quite as John and the Mexican's dream-hero do doesn't erase our need to contemplate such people and use them as our moral standard, a la "WWJD" - McCarthy is basically using Stevens' "Notes" position against Shelley's (at least momentary) assumption that the only people capable of mastering life were the principled world-leavers, like the legends of Jesus and Socrates (as compared to historical counterparts where who even knows what happened). To know what we should do is to know enough to go on, to center our values, even if we're prevented by our fear and other limitations from following through in a principled way.

The book's ill-structured, but the various cowboy vignettes mostly feed into this message: no one's exactly religious, but most have a sort of worship for a lost loved one who would always do the brave, right thing, enabling them to be a little braver and righter themselves. McCarthy tries hard to underline that many of these heroes are female, though of course he's much better at the gaucho stuff so the women show up as cameos or in anecdotes. He's also uncomfortable with the notion of females sacrificing themselves - seems like there's a separate salvation standard for women, Marian rather than Christy, where direct exposure to violence isn't required to teach them what's right - e.g. the cook whose name translates to "Succor." (One thinks of his bewildered dismissals of Proust and James - maybe stand-ins for female authors, who he absolutely never alludes to or mentions.)

No Country continues on from this pretty directly: Bell speaks of his wife in pretty much the same terms Mac does, with I think one phrase exactly repeated, and the breakdown of law embodied by Chigurh causes one of the two kids who let him go to get to where Billy and Bell are. The other one not so much - McCarthy does admit that violence and lawlessness create dickheads and psychopaths as reliably as it makes genuinely good people (which explains his two kinds of Mexican), but holds that high civilization creates neither - Cole's mother is tellingly an actor. Even that judge guy from AtPH is a Bell-type figure, after all, vividly remembering when the Southwest was effectively as lawless as mid-century Sonora: McCarthy might agree with Cather that civilization only exists in the initial gulf-shoot of civilizing, of ordering some new world. In part McCarthy's settings are extreme because he's looking for test cases, mocking up a kind of lab, but there also seems to be a thick vein of only half polite, almost Flannery-worthy contempt for the Northern, Eastern, modern, prosperous, safe in the post Blood Meridian books. After a thousand pages of Border Trilogy that gets a little wearing, whereas with O'Connor you're mostly amused to be dismissed as Satanic, maybe even a little flattered, like Europeans surely are when reading James.
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The Mirror -> Tree of Life, aspects of Fanny and Alexander

Didn't love it despite that, but it was surprisingly watchable given how much life-saving equipment it threw overboard.

Eraserhead -> Upstream Color?

Don't want latter to be the case, but the isolated demiurge figure and parasitic hierarchy of economic exploiters both fit - and while these are around in later Lynch basic human (reproductive) identity is never again the topic. Can't think where else Carruth might have got them, though who knows, maybe there's a mutual ancestor. Or that fading stirrer of rumors coincidence, which nevertheless must be at work somewhere in the world even now. Though, y'know, worms.

Lynch's film, which I saw long enough ago to remember little about, is finally just a guilt/anxiety nightmare and its counter-gnosis of escape, relatable enough, impressively executed, and to the right sensibility pretty amusing, but not moving - because self-castigating? It's kind of amazing Mel Brooks saw in Lynch someone right for The Elephant Man. That's some deep seeing.

Maybe best to view Carruth's film as an answer. What you might tell Henry to help it make sense.
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I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

After so many years I found the music I lost.

It's Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, Op. 50. I still can't seem to find a version quite like the one I remember, though, which was very slow and sad. Flute and violin, I think--I always assumed it was Eastern European, maybe gypsy. Closest I've found is the Arcangelos version on iTunes.

There's a choral version with lyrics by the man Proust based Charlus on.

My hound and bay-horse are passages in Tolstoy and Proust that seem not to exist.
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Another passage I've lost: Tolstoy describing self-consciousness, late in the Childhood trilogy I'd thought. The youth feels superior yet inferior to all--his specialness sets him apart, his apartness makes him a freak, his freakishness makes him special. It's unclear if his gifts are great or if the conviction of great gifts is how you stand loneliness, or what. Tolstoy puts it infinitely better, and in the description you see Hitlers as well as benign things, Tolstoys.
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I heard it last perhaps a year ago in the strange, dirty Vancouver suburb New Westminster in a strange, dirty bookshop next to a etc. etc. strip club. It is the saddest piece of music I have ever heard, violin or led by a violin or violins. It sounds gypsy, Eastern European, shepherdy. It expresses millennia of pain and rain and night and hopelessness. And yet it is clean, it has that something at the heart of sorrow, that purest life. I have no idea how to locate it. The radio man had announced it ahead of time rather than after, so I hadn't been paying attention till the music started. I've heard it on radio many times, I feel. Perhaps it was someone's favorite at the station on my hometown. If I ever had it on CD that CD is long gone. I have no way of getting the name. In Vancouver there was a man in the glassed-off classical room at Virgin Megastore who they say knew everything about classical music. But before I ever got around to finding him and humming it to him it closed.

Maybe that part of Proust I apparently made up records its name.
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Awake despite fatigue, blankly contemplating personal problems, ignoring impendage of finals. I imagine I'll finish Little, Big today. From a few pages ago:

"[My husband] told me, once, about this place, in India or China, where ages ago when somebody got the death sentence, they used to give him this drug, like a sleeping drug, only it's a poison, but very slow-acting; and the person falls asleep first, deep asleep, and has these very vivid dreams. He dreams a long time, he forgets he's dreaming even; he dreams for days. He dreams that he's on a journey, or that some such thing has happened to him. And then, somewhere along, the drug is so gentle and he's so fast asleep that he never notices when, he dies. But he doesn't know it. The dream changes, maybe; but he doesn't even know it's a dream, so. He just goes on. He only thinks it's another country."

Compare Lost Highway:

"In the East, the Far East, when a person is sentenced to death they are sent to a place where they can't escape, never knowing when an executioner may step up behind them and fire a bullet into the back of their head."

But how different, especially considering contexts.

"In Another Country" was the one about Nick the soldier recuperating in an Italian hospital, I believe. Hemingway's story titles are so often perfect.

"But that was in another country, and besides the wench is dead" is Marlowe's Jew's great one-liner. Strange how sad it becomes, out of its own context. For some reason I was convinced Shakespeare appropriated it in one of his own plays, but textual searches say no.

We did see Mulholland. It was very beautiful but not quite as I remembered it. As with Highway (suggestion for portmanteau Lynch parody title: Lost Driveway) I begin to suspect I've been reading too much into a complex but essentially modest genre piece. I'll write my revised take when I'm less distracted.


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