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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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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 think Bloom still hasn't mentioned it, despite his obsession with both poems, but doesn't he imply - and isn't it likely - that Browning had "Tom o'Bedlam" in mind when he wrote "Childe Roland"?

In Edgar's song in King Lear, Childe Roland comes to an apparently already identified dark tower and is noticed by some kind of apparently already identified male, one assumes a giant or some other monster with power of speech, who (mis?)identifies him as English by the smell of his blood, and then seems to repeat this as a kind of threatening mantra; we're to understand they're probably going to fight, and as Roland is our countryman but isn't yet a knight we're worried about him. Giants who can smell your blood are bad news. But this may be how Roland will become a knight, by overcoming a high profile challenge. So we're rooting for him too. We hope and fear.

Wouldn't be worth any of this attention except that Browning develops these verses into his most, maybe only, enigmatic poem.

"Tom o'Bedlam" is unfortunately towerless, but it's another freaky song with quest elements that Edgar puts all of us in mind of because Tom o'Bedlam, to what extent influenced by that particular anonymous song we'll never know, is exactly who Edgar's pretending to be when he sings the Roland fragment. The unequivocal quest language is all in the last stanza of "Tom o'Bedlam":

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wild world's end.
Methinks it is no journey.


A visionary quest, thus more like Browning's Roland's than Shakespeare's Edgar's Roland's. We don't see who or what the later Roland eventually confronts, though strangely we do see a bunch of ghosts of defeated knights at the very end. Roland apparently has been summoned to fight the denizen of the Dark Tower, the tower does seem to exist somewhere outside reality as the landscape magically shifts on Roland at least twice on his way there, and the fact that it does so twice in what may be rapid succession means that in terms of distance it really might not have been much of a journey.

The first four lines are an iffier fit, beyond the obvious fact that he's wandered into the wilderness: Browning's Roland doesn't have a horse of air, though he does have no horse, and does wander by a very skinny one he isn't fond of. I don't think we're told anything about his weapon, unless the horn thing he blows at the end counts. Whether he has a host of furious fancies depends on how you interpret the poem - for example, the poem itself may be such a host if he's hallucinating, or the childe may be a poet approaching a fight with some force obstacular to the furious fancies of poetry.

Some earlier lines in "Tom o'Bedlam" may also be relevant:

I know more than Apollo,
For oft, when he lies sleeping
I see the stars at bloody wars
In the wounded welkin weeping
[...]

A sky weeping at its stars shedding one another's blood, rhetoric curiously Lear-like (Bloom wants Shakespeare to have written this but agrees there's no proof), reflects the waste Browning's Roland passes through, where the mud seems made from the blood shed in some vast and pointless ancient battle. A cosmos that has itself been wounded is presumably a projection, hence something we might expect from mad Tom, not knight-caste Roland, but it's a vision they've both experienced. "Tom o'Bedlam" is largely a moving account of the terrible life lived by someone mentally ill four hundred years ago, but the flashes of prophetic vision and intensity of the verses do make one think of the lot of poets (who Shakespeare's Theseus considered at one with madmen and lovers), who maybe see what the rest of us can't but also were generally social outcasts who ended up starving in garrets.

Tom may know more than Apollo, but it's not clear even he thinks he's going to win this fight with a knight of ghosts and shadows, no matter how hot his spear is burning. Can such entities be fought, assuming they quite exist? Can they be defeated? The poem doesn't say, it just ends. Like Edgar's, like Browning's. A fight you were doomed to fight but whose outcome is unknowable and pushed past the margin of observation, maybe of imagination, inevitably makes us think of the Big Question Mark that's death, but of course the fate of a poet's poems, one point of which may be to carry the poet forward into some kind of life beyond death, are as much of a question mark - who will read them, and with what understanding, and for how long? The second death of not being read, or not read correctly, or not staying somehow alive in what's read and understood, has to be a big worry. But that's a fight you come to armed, with talent and tricks and fancies or whatever might suffice, unlike your bout with natural death, which you're going to ultimately lose.

And the bout with death is fought in this world. Beyond the world - could this be beyond one's death?

Like I said, it's a story you can't not dimly make out after reading enough Bloom, though he's of course usually more interested in the Influence angle when looking at "Childe Roland," but I don't remember him flat out telling it.
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31. Our Town

Takes a huge risk with its horribly boring first act - maybe more tolerable in performance, where moving your eyes isn't required to make time pass? Then the triviality starts to mean something, or anyway to indict less trivial somethings as less real. An interesting move, parallel to some by Frost - whose "Cabin in the Clearing" is especially close to the third act. As is Hamlet's richest sentence, "Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is't to leave betimes?"
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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 October 1921:

It had been impossible for him to enter the house, for he had heard a voice saying to him: 'Wait till I lead you in!' And so he continued to lie in the dust in front of the house, although by now, probably, everything was hopeless...


One page and two days after "This ending of the Pentateuch bears a resemblance to the final scene of L'Education sentimentale." Is the necessary context here - this rewrites "Before the Law" in light of that resemblance.

Maybe it isn't only Borges who hides la femme - that beard and pointed nose always seemed fake, no? But here the mask perhaps falls. Maybe perhaps falls. God is God but the gods are a woman.

The invisible house-obsessed are often emphatically single, aren't they? Thoreau, Robinson, Crowley at the time. Or like Frost (and maybe Shelley - and in a sense Stevens) contemplating a failed household - can't remember what Bishop's status would have been when she wrote "End of March" or finished "The Moose." Neglected to mention that most crucial aspect of the house, didn't I, that you not be alone in it. Alone, even a mansion is just an apartment. Though "End of March" is funny about that - the dream house seems to involve aloneness, where on the beach one of the few things she does have is her companions. "Five Flights Up" is living alone.

And then the next passage, from the same day, fades us into the other house, the tower, the Command Center:

All is imaginary - family, office, friends, the street, all imaginary, far away or close at hand, the woman; the truth that lies closest, however, is only this, that you are beating your head against the wall of a windowless and doorless cell.
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Oh dear:

I dwell in Possibility -
A fairer House than Prose -
More numerous of Windows -
Superior - for Doors -

Of Chambers as the Cedars -
Impregnable of Eye -
and for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky -

Of Visitors - the fairest -
For Occupation - This -
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise -



And "One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted" ... and there's plenty of bits of imaginary architecture in others - planks giving way, floorboards in brains, households under graves.
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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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Invisible houses are lives.

Attackers of utopia say it can never be that way, that it's there in the very word. There is no place where we can stay safe and happy.

But there must be a place where we can stay safest, happiest, logically, though not necessarily a way to identify it. And probably not one place, what with boredom, what with love of the new, what with strokes of ill fortune, but a movement among places. A way. The home we seek - because how can you not seek where you're happiest and safest? - must not be bound by walls. It can't be described as a building, quite. But presumably it will involve places where we sleep, eat, shelter, work. Our dream home will include houses. Being what we are it would have to.

Hence the (unintended?) resonance of "in my house are many mansions" I imagine. We'd need a few, surely. Or at least a shack and a beach and a bar and the house of another.

We have modes of life that drift away then back. Hence the resonance (intended) of "love has pitched his mansion in the place of excrement" - one of our many.

But there are things that are like a house: like that day when young when you looked out at the rain and understood, registered why you were in with the chairs and rugs and dryness. Like that time you went into her house or into his and found that you were welcome there. A house is where needs are met, where life becomes what life can be where they're finally met. A thing for you, not on you or past you.

And I hardly need to mention the other kind. The invisible house where a house, a way you once walked, is no longer there. Hence you can no longer see it. It is there in the sentence 'A house is no longer there.' The invisible house is there in these words, scraps and signs.

It's not quite a metaphor, either, the way a road can be just a metaphor (not always - sometimes a road is a wallless, a ceilingless hallway).

There's something about where you are, where you were that truly is physical. Hence I would never call these houses intangible. Your memories never fall through the floor, however they decay. Therefore they have one. Your memories are chambered.

As are your expectations, made of memories. Nobody wants the world, and nobody ever had it. We had houses. We want houses. The present house is the intangible one, the one where the feel can change, where it's hard to feel what it feels like or where it quite ends.

Calvino's cities, Carson's towns, Hawthorne's towns and forests - these are nearby, of course. Maybe cities and forests are where you go to find or escape from a house. Melville's boats and islands? I don't want to emphasize the boundaries here.

And the other other invisible house, the chapel or tower? What if we're in someone else's house, is I guess the idea. Someone who lives and intends and is not us. The Ring Girl's barn or chainsaw massacrer's abattoir - or sudden castle where something's expected of us. Here we are at something else's expectation. Or trapped in someone else's planned-out life.

"What would be neat is if there were a hatch." Where will our home be? Where is our tomb?
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Another bricknote through my window from the obvious: that "Walking" passage is behind "Directive"!

Which makes the "Directive" house-no-more-a-house and Edgewood cousins. Which of course they are.
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1. There are fewer books than you think.

2. A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Witch of Atlas, so often dismissed as trifles, are as profound as anything written down.

3. I read "Walking" right after waking from that dream - a 2nd reading, & one putting it firmly in my personal canon - but aspects of it now seem part of that dream. Perhaps above all else because there's this:

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.


How strong is this in Little, Big? Passim, but especially the house, more especially the later house of the conclusion (which I won't quote as some haven't gotten to it, but hope others will look up)? (Can't remember if Crowley's ever mentioned Thoreau, but it's difficult to imagine the author of Engine Summer and Solitudes could have not read him often and deeply once.)

4. The latter's also the noplace of Robinson's hill house, Kipling's path through the woods, and Housman's shire of lost content - scenes hollowed by nostalgia out of the decay of dark, thick-layered memories, but still/ambiguously also that of Thoreau (though there too there is a strange melancholy), a peopled version (see "Dream", see "Witch") of the hydraulic motion-scapes over, under or in the real found in various sublime moments in Anglamerican poetry: e.g. Simplon Pass, the Arve, "2 Rivers", "The River of Rivers in CT", the cold dark water at the Fish-houses.

5. Melville's most frequent metaphor, that of the sea being somehow the same as a field of wheat or wild grass in the wind (on land vice-versa), is a kind of chime to remind you to doubt whether a scene is occurring in an anchored place or this other kind. Which, since you don't know where it is, might be right here.

6. "The House of Asterion" makes such a place of the mind (Theseus is the death that will come to us - c.f. "in the East in the Far East" in Lynch and the analogous passage late in L,B) - which is amazing but not quite what those others were after. They mean it, it's outside us, or anyway in the outside part of us. "Asterion"'s more of a shaping of self-pity. (Which happens to be an emotion I honor, and am irritated when others don't. I guess the logic is that it can become an addiction or contagious or something - can, sure, but must? and like others can't?)

What can we say about the house in the forest, and its inhabitants who haven't been called on? What call it? Something ever more about to be? But that's not quite what Wordsworth saw at the pass. Maybe something more like Shelley's Demogorgon, a vision of unstable ubiquitous overlap so comprehensive that it might contain that too, that better, future us. A more-than-aleph - Garden of Adonis? - allthatmightbe.

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