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Gonna bite my tongue and stay clear of Crowley's Krauss grousing. This side the great watershed our differences make little difference. And a lot of that little comes down to a sort of allegiance to the terminology you're accustomed to.

The person you might be can't speak to you, but you're ready to hear the unspoken words. In what isn't words you hear them, including what within words isn't word. In your own, too: the best thought is active sonar.

I'm liking all this novel-reading. Certain great stylists talk to your life less stupidly than you do. You hear your life talk back, are amazed that it can, then that you can understand it, then that life's been speaking to you. You start to say something back.

The air is dense with what we might fill it with. Not the surface of the air but the middle. That great weight in the middle of emptiness. All on us. Too much. That much on you you run crabwise seeking an end to the burden, hoping the pressure will fall on the place you just were.

The air united us just as much cold. But the warm air we're happy to share. Cold breaths are cones to outer space, seem like just you and all nothing. In the warm you're in something smaller and greater, where you don't know where it starts, what else it might encompass, where it's taking us.

Past a point you age more than a day per day, more than that each tomorrow. Life's a leap where you find you were only a handful of sand right as you start to come down, getting a faceful of you in the face. You know that you're you now - now it's you you leap from.

I've never told women to smile but the smiles of some are all of my memories. I hang from them, fall from their absence. Maybe I want them rare because I need them real. This is the value of blushing, how it's earnest as agony. A blushing woman's smile comes always just in time.

Sleep melts the world but the world's already melted - it's us that recongeal it on our waking way. Sleep knows better, so any sleep that makes it into waking instructs us effortlessly. The melt isn't pell-mell, but currents. Long, tangled weeds that share a tending.

I never know whether to knock barriers of sympathy down, what they might be holding up, out or in. I know I was once unaware how many are there. I don't think they're any weaker now I've mapped so many. They're just as electric to contact. But now, even joined up, they seem shorter. Perhaps it's me, that I've drifted above and a bit to the side.

What unifies us is weak, they say, what drives us apart violent, decisive. And they're right, they're always right. But who can remember decisions, and who stays with violence when something else offers. The weak thing pulls on, rain or shine. And what if instead we said gentle?
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71. Ivanov, Stoppard's adaptation
72. Andromache, tr. Wilbur
73. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I'd never read the latter before - can you believe that? I think because I assumed I already knew the story. I've been reading Julie to sleep with it, though, and it occurs to me that if someone were to read it aloud but with the two names changed to something else (and dropping the lawyer's pun about being Mr. Seek) it would take quite a while for someone who hadn't read it to realize what story it was. I mean, maybe they'd have it by halfway through, but it would restore a large dose of what it once must have been. As it is, it's a strange sort of reading experience, reminding me of Denzel Washington driving in two time periods in Deja Vu, where you at once can't help knowing and seeing what the knowing see, while trying to reconstruct what the unknowing would have, since it's primarily, and ingeniously, made for them.

And I'd only ever read Stevenson's poems before this - can you believe that either? So this was my first experience of, well, Stevenson, deep favorite of Borges, Calvino, Crowley. And D.H. Lawrence, for that matter. He is a damn fine writer, is my first impression; a lot of those 19th century people astonish with their sensitive way with prose - poetry has a reputation for sensitivity but it's really for doing one intense thing at a time, then perhaps intensely switching to another intensity. But prose of this kind somehow takes on several spins, several flavors all at once, then enters subtly into new ones.

A couple examples; the first anticipating Kafka on the Devil and devils:

With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point. Others will follow, others will outstrip me on the same lines; and I hazard the guess that man will be ultimately known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous and independent denizens.

Which also anticipates Little, Big, especially combined with this:

He had now seen the full deformity of that creature that shared with him some of the phenomena of consciousness, and was co-heir with him to death: and beyond these links of community, which in themselves made the most poignant part of his distress, he thought of Hyde, for all his energy of life, as of something not only hellish but inorganic. This was the shocking thing; that the slime of the pit seemed to utter cries and voices; that the amorphous dust gesticulated and sinned; that what was dead, and had no shape, should usurp the offices of life. And this again, that that insurgent horror was knit to him closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his flesh, where he heard it mutter and felt it struggle to be born; and at every hour of weakness, and in the confidence of slumber, prevailed against him, and deposed him out of life.

Excluding the element of pure evil; but including that of a secret little man.
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Two passages I posted earlier, separately, (and near as I can tell the respective culminations of these two authors) now strike me as closer than I suspected:

Emerson:

Every god is there sitting in his sphere. The young mortal enters the hall of the firmament: there is he alone with them alone, they pouring on him benedictions and gifts, and beckoning him up to their thrones. On the instant, and incessantly, fall snow-storms of illusions. He fancies himself in a vast crowd which sways this way and that, and whose movement and doings he must obey: he fancies himself poor, orphaned, insignificant. The mad crowd drives hither and thither, now furiously commanding this thing to be done, now that. What is he that he should resist their will, and think or act for himself? Every moment, new changes, and new showers of deceptions, to baffle and distract him. And when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears, and the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting around him on their thrones, - they alone with him alone.

Thoreau:

I took a walk on Spaulding's Farm the other afternoon. I saw the setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble hall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to me - to whom the sun was servant - who had not gone into society in the village - who had not been called on. I saw their park, their pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding's cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; the trees grew through it. I do not know whether I heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The farmer's cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in the least put them out, as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not know that he is their neighbor - notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat-of-arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks. Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics. There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum - as of a distant hive in May - which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry was not as in knots and excrescences embayed.

But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocably out of my mind even now while I speak, and endeavor to recall them and recollect myself. It is only after a long and serious effort to recollect my best thoughts that I become again aware of their cohabitancy. If it were not for such families as this, I think I should move out of Concord.


Thoreau's is halfway to the Little, Big coda, "Once Upon a Time." The hall of the firmament one was born to walk and the gods one is charged to surpass are a little more past, hypothetical, fabular - and then more so with Crowley, at the end anyway.

The ruined house in Suttree, on the other hand, is pretty much a nihilistic version of "Directive" - or like Robinson's "House on the Hill" or Kipling's "Way Through the Woods" extended into intolerably detailed, almost masochistic probing of the rot of loss.

Need to reread Melville's "Piazza" and "I and My Chimney" I think.
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from Epipsychidion, Shelley

But the chief marvel of the wilderness
Is a lone dwelling, built by whom or how
None of the rustic island-people know:
'Tis not a tower of strength, though with its height
It overtops the woods; but, for delight,
Some wise and tender Ocean-King, ere crime
Had been invented, in the world's young prime,
Reared it, a wonder of that simple time,
An envy of the isles, a pleasure-house
Made sacred to his sister and his spouse.
It scarce seems now a wreck of human art,
But, as it were Titanic; in the heart
Of Earth having assumed its form, then grown
Out of the mountains, from the living stone,
Lifting itself in caverns light and high:
For all the antique and learned imagery
Has been erased, and in the place of it
The ivy and the wild-vine interknit
The volumes of their many-twining stems;
Parasite flowers illume with dewy gems
The lampless halls, and when they fade, the sky
Peeps through their winter-woof of tracery
With moonlight patches, or star atoms keen,
Or fragments of the day's intense serene;--
Working mosaic on their Parian floors.
And, day and night, aloof, from the high towers
And terraces, the Earth and Ocean seem
To sleep in one another's arms, and dream
Of waves, flowers, clouds, woods, rocks, and all that we
Read in their smiles, and call reality.


Just belatedly remembered this while trying to think of anticipations of Thoreau's nature house, in turn anticipating Crowley's Little Bel Aire, Edgewood and to some extent Blackberry Jams. But of course Crowley wrote a play about Shelley and Byron around the time Engine Summer was germinating - someday need to go break into wherever one can read that.

Shelley wrote a few of these - the one in his prose fragment "The Assassins" may vie with this one as his best. Though the backwards boat in Prometheus Bound, one of his absolute moments, isn't so different.

An outdoors that is itself your home, Thoreau's most wistful dream. A non-stepmother nature. A place where matter and consciousness (Earth, Ocean?) don't even know they're two.
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I'd unaccountably never read Socrates' second oration in Phaedrus till now. Past gratitude and amazement and love and disturbance and quickened pulse and the conviction I'll be going back to this within days, I have these observations:

1. I am tickled pinker than pink that Christianity owes more than half of itself to a dialogue about the proper conduct and uses of pederastic cruising. Seriously, I'm going to be howling over this on my deathbed. What fact could be more fun? Not even the Clement letter suggesting Jesus may have himself been leader of a homosexual mystical cult--very, very distant runner-up.

2. It's astonishing how many paragraphs in a row I could agree with completely as an atheist. A Shelleyan atheist, anyway--Shelley's reading of Plato was ingenious but possibly not very inaccurate, and it comes from exactly here much more than even the Symposium. So much else comes from this: the Garden of Adonis, via Virgil, Wordsworth's children by the shore. Obviously all of Dante and Danteism, Petrarch and Petrarchism. Much in Little, Big (the synthesis of this with A Midsummer Night's Dream in which = also ingenious, beautiful, crucial) and Aegypt. Shakespeare satirized it, every aspect, with the greatest sympathy, didn't he? We escape the trap into a worse one.

3. This is also the source, or a major one, of McCarthy's view of the world: specifically, what he exactly reverses for his take on the war between earth and sky (in one of his modes: in another, all you can do to live is evade this war, by whatever evasive means present themselves). It additionally strikes me as the generic source of his Cities epilogue, and perhaps various other Border Trilogy recitations ("The Grand Inquisitor" and "Before the Law" chapters in D. and K. were their more direct models): the absolute explosion of some literary work in progress by another voice speaking a story deeper than and prior to both the work interrupted and the mind of the reader reading, which the literary work, when resuming, can only discuss.

4. The quest tradition itself is a sort of a parody. The progression seen as episodes and extent, all through ambiguous, in place of a possible inward and upward enhancement.
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Back to Borges. Genealogical observations:

The lottery in babylon -> Crying of Lot 49

The circular ruins -> Little, Big

Also is Ashbery completely obsessed with Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came or what? Probably assimilated to Before the Law and Kafka's imperial messenger parable. And to Bishop's progress-of-life poems, like The End of March, Five Flights Up and The Moose. With a little of Hymn to Intellectual Beauty cropping up here and there.

And of course all that Stevens and middle period Whitman. I wonder what people make of him who aren't familiar with at least some of those. Maybe he reads the better for it? Julie finds him fun and she's usually suspicious of poetry.
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Hadn't thought of that before, how the end of the Border Trilogy is like that of Peer Gynt--itself following Faust 2 & followed by Joyce's "Ithaca" (rather ruined by the commaless Mollylogue, I still insist). All three of the latter being ripped off--and Catholicized? couldn't tell--in the film Pickpocket.

Can a circle be drawn around this kind of literature--what, speculative visionary autobiography (often male? always male?), w/ all three of those terms properly blurred or qualified?

I ask because it seems to encompass pretty neatly most of what I truly value. Shelley's right there in the center of that, and in some respects is its inaugurator. Spenser kept it too general, Milton's Satan was caged, Shakespeare's Hamlet lived upstairs; they're doing slightly different things. Wordsworth came to berry. Goethe often seems a tourist in his own life. But why quibble, they're all members.

Melville lives there with his chimney. Beckett too, but I'm still not comfortable with how he rearranges the furniture. Crane, can't deny it, annoyingly drunk. Frost visible from the window, out past the garden. Browning visits so often they gave him a key.

Crowley and McCarthy have their shops set up there as we speak, back to back unacquainted.

Tolstoy, Roth and Proust somehow keep vision alive in the recognized real. I love Tolstoy's dreams though. Somehow I think of Hazlitt along with these. Mann too. Woolf?

Dickinson? Bishop definitely, beautifully--& Carson! so not always male.

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"Directive"...Zork, Hopper...Crowley

You are going to imagine you are going up the front path to a house. Not this house or somebody you know's house or any particular house. Tell me first what sort of path.

A sand path climbing up a stone embankment from a canal, changing directions exactly once, ending in stairs to the house. I wonder why we're not supposed to describe the house?

Now you're going into the house. You find a key. What sort of key? Where is it? What does it open?

It's a little copper Yale key, dark with age, half covered by the carpet in a room to the right of the front hall. I notice it right as I walk in. It opens something that doesn't exist anymore.

You find a cup. What cup? Where is it?

It's part of a wooden carving on the wall, something ornate where there are all kinds of twists and faces and objects, but the cup is right in the middle and set off from the rest. The carver left a depression in the middle just large enough for a penny to be slid in between the cup and the wall.

***

The path to the house was your past life. Was it crooked or straight, muddy or tidy? The key was knowledge, how you felt about it, how you would use it...The cup was love.

--Test from Love and Sleep.

I picked Pierce's exact key, but I think I would have chosen it anyway.

I wonder how to interpret my cup. The path and key turned out much sadder than I'd have liked.
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Noticing some parallel career aspects among McCarthy, Crowley, Roth and wondering if there's anything to them (dates from my memory and/or ass):

1. Early, very personal novel they work on for a decade or two, while publishing other books that mean less to them. Suttree c. 1959-1979; Engine Summer c. 1966-1979; My Life As a Man c. 1962-1974

2. Subsequent dense, mature masterpiece. Blood Meridian 1985; Little, Big 1981; Sabbath's Theater 1994

3. Late-career series of long, connected books almost but not quite as good, to some degree retreading and ramifying material of that central work. The Border Trilogy to 1998; Aegypt to 2007; The American Trilogy to 2000 or 2001

There's problems, of course: some of us prefer the first four Zuckerman books (late 70s-early 80s) to the Faulknerian '90s trilogy, and all these guys were publishing other books throughout. But I wonder if there's something to that format: breakthrough, masterpiece, paradigmatical cleanup. Maybe we can see two such cycles in Roth: Portnoy/My Life (reassigning it)/Zuckerman, then Shylock/Sabbath/Am. Trilogy. And the Everyman/The Road parallels may speak of a fourth, "coda" phase.

How true is this for other novelists' careers? And does the series phase inevitably involve dealing more closely with the history of one's times? A youth, maturity, rumination model--then maybe the fourth, facing down death.

I don't think many match it neatly. Many do start autobiographical, though, and it's often this phase of their work that they find most problematic themselves, delaying publication for years while revising, or writing on and on and publishing just to be done with it. The A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or V. phase. What else can we shove into this? Sons and Lovers--but wasn't that written rather hurriedly? Early Tolstoy squishes together into one autobiographical novel well enough, and The Cossacks fits the delayed/multistage publication model. War and Peace can be seen as a series I suppose (as can perhaps Underworld?--an American Trilogy all blended up). Anna Karenina is clearly on a fault line, maybe between stages 3 and 4, though it's more of a central statement about people, and W&P was both that and a meditation on history. None of this is clean.

Shakespeare doesn't fit it very well either. He didn't have much of a chance to be autobiographical, of course, and the history genre's heyday was the '90s.

Autobiography to vision to history to death.

Another characteristic of careers at their onset is parody, of course. Titus, The Torrents of Spring, Northanger Abbey.

Poetry? Paradise Lost is 2 and 3, The Prelude is 1 going on 2. The Faerie Queene entirely refuses conformity here and everywhere. 1 through 4 seem simultaneously present in Shelley at every point, sometimes all in the same work.
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I feel like talking about Endless Things but there's no one to do it with, downside of jumping the gun. I want to at least say it was no disappointment, in terms of awesomeness or in terms of how you'd have broadly expected it to go--though it's surprises all through, inspired ones, especially toward the end. My fears about the novel's having maybe broken from its own origins sometime in Love and Sleep are half-assuaged: some things are reconciled with Solitudes, but mostly he completes and strengthens his Daemonomania vision to the point where you're about ready to accept it as the logical place for that earlier one to have gone, whether it knew where it was headed or not. I regret not having time or patience to reread the other volumes first, though few books have burnt themselves into my memory so completely. This last one has some pointed comments about the whole, and Little, Big as well--which it also reclaims some of the voice and manner of, more and more as it goes, and for which Aegypt has felt to me, increasingly since late-L&S, like a "Making Of" volume as much as it's anything else--: Crowley does not feel very well understood. And I see his point, not even Clute and Hand and his other friends seem to quite get him most of the time, much less the leading magazines and papers. He usually doesn't directly explain here either, but he nudges.

(Reminds me of David Lynch's list of clues for Mulholland Drive, which are actually quite good except I think one of them--can't remember if it was the ashtray?--which I'm clueless about; you want to lead people through mysteries, not into them.)

I'll have to reread Little, Big soon. I can now concede that it is slightly more wonderful. Well, probably.
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Leaving John Crowley behind with the summer. Some last words about his books, all of which are good, all of which I recommend:

The Deep: His first published book, apparently science-fictionalized from a historical novel he started as a teenager. Good writing in a plain (almost young adult fiction) style supports a rather ingenious plot, leading to a genuinely stirring ending. Only real flaw is a certain narrative bareness. Also, though some notions and images from his later books are here in ovo, if his name weren't on the cover you might never guess this is Crowley's.

Beasts: Like The Deep this masquerades as '70s action sci-fi but is actually a low-key gnostic apocalypse, where the false world is thrown off and we're left facing each other for the first time in the first present moment. I think the central conceit--genetically engineered man/animal hybrids--represents individual differences. False conforming pressures removed, we're all slightly alien to each other, and that's all to the good. Less interesting structurally than its predecessor, though Crowley's voice starts to become recognizable.

Engine Summer: Incalculable leap forward, his best after Little, Big and perhaps Aegypt. Apparently written in his mid-twenties then cut down for publication a decade later, this is the best science fiction (and hippie/drug culture) book I've ever been exposed to. Too short to meander (though there are snake's-hands), this may also be Crowley's most perfect novel-as-novel, unless that's The Translator. Best to just praise and praise this and leave its story a surprise.

The Deep, Beasts, and Engine Summer are in print together under the title Otherwise. The old pocket paperbacks aren't too hard to find, in my experience.

Little, Big: How good is it? Of the thousand or so novels I've read I can think of a handful I liked better. Not sure any of those are as wise or important. An attempt of mine to describe or explain it could go on forever and never quite get it right.

Aegypt (Part 1--The Solitudes): First installment of a vast novel started in the '70s and still in progress. Quite wonderful, quite hard to describe. Even hard to place generically, as supernatural elements in it may all be imaginary--the need for them, the secret story told through such lies is part of the subject.

Love and Sleep (Part 2 of Aegypt): I discussed this before I think; first third a strange but excellent departure, rest of the book seemingly as lost as its characters. The metaphors that remind you into your larger self have a way of going stale, of being taken literally and becoming mere insanity. This must be absurdly hard to write about. A thing I'm proud of in my own life is a car I drew in high school art class: we were to copy a magazine ad. Everyone picked a car at an angle, I picked a horizontal view. Took about a month to make it look properly three dimensional, I had to add all kinds of shines and shades that hadn't existed in the photograph. Reminds me of his challenge here, keeping interesting a tale of people whose own stories have gone bad or missing.

Daemonomania (Part 3 of Aegypt): Much more assured than Part 2, which takes place more or less simultaneously. Still all over the place, but the tourguide is in fine form. Most of the supernovel's plot is wrapped up by the end, Part 4 will apparently be a new departure.

The Translator: Russia and America during the Cold War. A very fine, very likeable "general fiction" work. Start with this if you're allergic to fairies, werewolves or the future. It will give you confidence in Crowley's importance and powers.

Lord Byron's Novel: Almost as good, marred slightly by a tacked-on feeling expositronic "present day" narrative. Basically a novel Byron might have written, cynical and poignant and fun, voiced perfectly.

Novelties & Souvenirs: A collection of stories contemporaneous with the writing of Aegypt, some of them close to it in message or tone; others close to Little, Big: "The Nightingale Sings at Night" could have been included as one of Alice's father's stories, "Novelty" documents its moment of birth. "In Blue" is set in the Beasts world (and maybe Engine Summer's also). The cornerpiece of the book is the time-travel novella "The Great Work of Time", which is impressive if confusing. My favorite story is the hilarious "Gone", other highlights are "The War Between the Objects and Subjects" and "Exogamy". Very readable book, though Crowley's stronger in novels.

"The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines" (available in Conjunctions 39, also published separately): Forty page story. Baconians as Gnostics. Heartbreaking.
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Coming to the end of Daemonomania and hence of Crowley's published work to date. Earlier I compared the weirdest Love and Sleep moment to the weirdest Cerebus moment and have now noticed a genuinely uncanny parellel: at about the same point in their absurdly long projects (started around the same time, ending around the same time) both Crowley and Dave Sim send themselves into their works to tell their respective main characters to, like, do something. Crowley's effigy even admits to having trouble pulling the book together--I don't think Sim did that but it was pretty clear at the time. In hindsight there's broadly similar concepts, movements in the first Aegypt volume and the Mothers and Daughters sequence preceding dread #186. Both are astonishing buildups, probably aesthetically superior to the regions they debouch into (a mad sky indeed, in Sim's case). I have something to tell you, something is coming, see as things become unglued before it, find it chase it fly into it until it flies into you: they have it, or think they do which is the same thing. And then lose it.

Crowley at least planned to lose it, but puts an awful lot on the shoulders of his future (current) self by promising to show how to bring and keep it back--in Endless Things. References to Little, Big--nostalgic?--usually wordplayings on its title, have been frequent in these two middle volumes; at times he seems to be almost rewriting sections, then shies away. Little, Big ended rather crazily, it took me a while to make full sense of where it had gone. I have a hunch it will reread quite well. But I'm not sure if that sort of ending will work here, assuming he still knows how to get back to that part of the forest. He knows so much, maybe more than any of the rest of us, certainly more than Sim, but it seems like he knew even more once.

I wonder how Cerebus ended? I dropped off for good around 225/300, Sim's barely tolerable mirror-image Andrea Dworkin phase was dovetailing into his entirely intolerable OT prophet one.
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The Solitudes, the first Aegypt installment, was scarcely inferior to Little, Big itself. Exquisitely written and thought-out all through; and happy, the happiest book I've read since Operation Shylock. Something about the subject of breaking out does this, maybe, authors following their characters into rejuvenation, freed space? Maybe the converse is what made Love and Sleep uneven, the author dropping back into confused contingency along with his characters (the theme being intrication, the Hermetic version of the Fall). Many sections are still great, but the ornament, finish and sustained exhilaration are gone--and feel long gone. The first third is particularly excellent, but such a departure, like we're in a new novel entirely by some other John Crowley. He seems to be getting back on track toward the end, but I thought so too at various points in the middle, little marches of felicity quickly lost among strangenesses or mere goings-on. Actually, a development two thirds of the way in shocked me like nothing I can remember reading ever has. I got used to it eventually, it wasn't entirely out of step for Crowley, but I'm not sure it worked the way he wanted it to. Hard to know in cases like this whether the book failed you or you failed the book. Anyway, still mostly a success, but I'm taking a little break before getting into Daemonomania, and not just because of eye trouble.
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John Crowley answering questions about his Byron book at Readerville (with some answers perhaps still to come, as he was having computer troubles):
http://www.readerville.com/webx?50@946.VmQ7atTax7U.0@.f3215aa
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from Aegypt, John Crowley

There had been a story in the beginning--in his own childhood and the human race's--that a child could inhabit, an account that could be taken literally, about Adamuneve and Christopher Clumbus and a sun with a face and a moon with one too, a stock of stories never discarded but only outgrown, gratefully, name by face, like an old sunsuit. Stories, outgrown just as grownups had always hinted he would outgrow them when with fierce literalness he would try to get one or another outlandish detail certified or explained; stories, their aging fabric giving under his fingers. On a certain Christmas Eve, when an argument had been raging in the children's quarters, Sam Oliphant had taken him and his cousin Hildy, a girl just older than he, upstairs into his big bedroom, and explained carefully about Santa Claus, and the explanation seemed not only true but a sort of relief, like breaking out of an egg; he and Hildy were being admitted into a larger circle of the world. Only don't tell the little kids, Sam said, because they're still young, and it would spoil it for them.

And then further on he had come forth again, from a larger story, about God and Heaven and Hell, the Four Cardinal Virtues and the Seven Glorious Mysteries and the nine choirs of the angels. All in a day, it seemed on looking back: all in a day he had stepped outside it all, with a sigh of relief and a twinge of loss and a nod of resolution that he would not turn back that way now even if he could, and he could not, it was too small to go back into, an intricate clockwork sphere that he would carry within him then like an old-fashioned turnip watch, that he could draw out and look at, in perfect working order, only stopped forever.

And on: passing outward through vast realms of meaning, through the circles of history, not only Christopher Columbus who found out the world was round, not only the Founding Fathers and their awful wisdom, but outward through whole universes of thought, each growing somehow smaller the more he learned about it, until it was too small to live within, and he passed on outward, closing the door behind him.

And came then at last to the furthest outside of all, the limitless one, the real world. About which nothing could be said, beause in order to reach it he, he and the human race, whose progress he was joining just at this point, had had to pass through every universe that could be talked about. He had them all within him; he had outgrown them all; naked, he looked outward toward silence and random stars.

He had got something fearfully wrong.


from Moby-Dick, Melville

There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause:--through infancy's unconscious spell, boyhood's thoughtless faith, adolescence' doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood's pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling's father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.


from Prometheus Unbound, Shelley

We have past Age’s icy caves,
And Manhood’s dark and tossing waves,
And Youth’s smooth ocean, smiling to betray:
Beyond the glassy gulfs we flee
Of shadow-peopled Infancy,
Through Death and Birth, to a diviner day;
A paradise of vaulted bowers,
Lit by downward-gazing flowers,
And watery paths that wind between
Wildernesses calm and green,
Peopled by shapes too bright to see,
And rest, having beheld...
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The Times reviewer says he gets Byron's voice all wrong, the Post thinks it's a resurrection. The book's being shipped so this Journal is holding its tongue. I read three or four thousand pages of Byron back in the day, poems letters etc., he was one of my gateway authors, so I feel qualified to settle the conscience of the continent on this.

Revisited Manfred in February and was happy to find he still had something. His doubts about what he was doing kept him small but also reminded him of his readers; he keeps things clear and on track, draws within the lines, something of a Samson Agonistes quality. His compeers mostly drew lines to cross, erase or forget them. I don't mean his "plots" are particularly composed, obviously Childe Harold meanders and Don Juan is self-delightingly insane. But when he's saying something he says it, in paragraphs fitting the reader's attention margins, gusts pleasantly compressing the skullpads. When you squint through the Romantics to try to glimpse the perfect poet none of them quite was (to the extent that wasn't Milton or a slab of him) she has this quality. Where necessary.
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Halfway through Crowley's The Translator, at a section where there's lots of Russian words and phrases dropped, and the language is flooding back into my memory from shelves and forest shadows. What I'm finding is that all the words I can't remember are replaced by French, which I've dabbled with since. Seriously, they're written right over the Russian words, and not just for cognates. What a strange phenomenon, like my mind has a single English to Foreign dictionary. With a lot of blind spots, I'm basically thinking trilingually, in an Ada-esque grotesquerie. Thankfully Latin is long gone.

Great book by the way. Very Crowley, but successfully invades what you'd think of as Roth territory, nostalgia and Eastern Europe. Unwrapping all kinds of packets of both inside me as well.

I need to pick up Resurrection again. And The Idiot. And reread Akhmatova.

The volume of Elizabeth Bishop fragments and discards has been pushed to February, looks like. There's a new Joseph and His Brothers translation out. I like Lowe-Porter but the new guy's a clearer and faster read, probably indispensable for a book so long and dense.

I'm officially engaged.
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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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Turned 29, got the Longman v.2, am loving Little, Big though no longer sure where it's going. Haven't wanted a book to go on forever like this since Moby-Dick in 2003. Strange, lovely state of ultimate trust between author and reader. I've resolved to buy all cheap copies I run across hereforward, for distribution among the deserving.
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As the book proceeds I find Crowley is completing several years worth of my own unfinished thoughts, and is amazingly deft at embodying everything in event, image or aphorism. It's crucial in this area to not overname.

The conceit of his I admire most so far is the only one I found entirely strange, that of a plural nature to the force in question: its being represented as fairies rather than a god or devil or other singularity. Nicknames I've used in my private musings have been things like the memory monster, Mama Evolution, The Plan, the underyou. I wonder what gave him the idea, genotypes? Probably just his angle of approach, religion's roots in family mysteries and pressures. There are distinctions, competitions, irresolutions within the half-system, the ununanimous uninanimus.

Simultaneously excited and worried by the subtitle, "The Fairies' Parliament". Gathering them in the flesh, or anyway as characters, will diminish them and their significance if not handled just right. But he's made no mistakes so far.

Word at a Yahoo fan group is that he's rewriting Endless Things, the conclusion to his 25-years-in-the-making Aegypt series, because no publisher will take it on. Lord Byron's Novel comes out in a couple months, and sounds fascinating.

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