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Forgot about this bit:


I’ve heard that you occasionally listen to rock music.


Oh sure. My favorite viewing, and this is the first time I have ever admitted it to anyone, but what I love to do, when I don’t watch evangelicals, when I can’t read or write and can’t go out walking, and don’t want to just tear my hair and destroy myself, I put on, here in New Haven, cable channel thirteen and I watch rock television endlessly. As a sheer revelation of the American religion it’s overwhelming. Yes, I like to watch the dancing girls too. The sex part of it is fine. Occasionally it’s musically interesting, but you know, ninety-nine out of a hundred groups are just bilge. And there hasn’t been any good American rock since, alas, The Band disbanded. I watch MTV endlessly, my dear, because what is going on there, not just in the lyrics but in its whole ambience, is the real vision of what the country needs and desires. It’s the image of reality that it sees, and it’s quite weird and wonderful. It confirms exactly these two points: first, that no matter how many are on the screen at once, not one of them feels free except in total self-exaltation. And second, it comes through again and again in the lyrics and the way one dances, the way one moves, that what is best and purest in one is just no part of the creation—that myth of an essential purity before and beyond experience never goes away. It’s quite fascinating. And notice how pervasive it is! I spent a month in Rome lecturing and I was so exhausted at the end of each day that my son David and I cheerfully watched the Italian mtv. I stared and I just couldn’t believe it. Italian MTV is a sheer parody of its American counterpart, with some amazing consequences—the American religion has made its way even into Rome! It is nothing but a religious phenomenon. Very weird to see it take place.

Circa 1991

Early '90s MTV made me, to a completely bizarre extent, but I can neither remember ever seeing its content in those terms nor deny what he's saying. This was right before the Irony Turn, which I guess was when belief in a beauty sure to come to one alone began to be doubted, or perhaps the possibility of its communication became doubtful.

The 1991 MTV best video award nominees:

C+C Music Factory — "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)"
Deee-Lite — "Groove Is in the Heart"
Divinyls — "I Touch Myself"
Chris Isaak — "Wicked Game (Concept)"
Queensrÿche — "Silent Lucidity"
R.E.M. — "Losing My Religion"

Can't say these aren't gnostic in the sense he means, though C&C Music Factory in perhaps a different mode (remember: the music takes control, your heart and soul unfold, your body is free and behold!). The dancing can take place on a crowded floor, but it's something happening to and for you, no one else being noticed as it takes hold. Divinyls is of course going for comedy but it's a gnostic comedy: I lose myself: I want you to find me; I forget myself: I want you to remind me. There's this knotty world and a light shining into it from outwhere, a you, that we access only alone.

I loved all those songs.
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The path becomes too clear, if anything. By establishing an increasingly efficient system of roads, phone and electrical lines, pipes, aqueducts and fountains, gas stations, giant roadside dinosaurs and inns the evil one long ago made success at the quest impossible. Every knight now dies in a hospital, on the second floor in the back, a room chosen because of its view over the sloping roofs of the final town between the last two of which a fine needle of green shimmers with promise of details withheld, motions of leaf fronting leaf fronting leaf before strange things now lost. Lost and yet everywhere around us, even here. But only to have been seen behind leaves behind leaves.

The branch with the first spray of sprays jogs up and back down, as to say, "like this? or like this?" Merely lenses through which you'd see themselves, were it not for how much of your own self slipped in sometime past.

The world is still a forest even now. So say the passing satellites that spit us football news.
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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:


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.


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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Continuing the pre-Housman post with meandering Fryelike observations on girls and/or friends and suddenly Chinatown:

Can't remember how close the Vineland plot is to that of Eddie and the Cruisers. I'd be astonished if this is an influence case, but Pynchon is an astonishing one.

Because we're talking gnosticism here.

Twin Peaks uses the lost girl but not the attrition element--until the rather nihilistic last episode, anyway.

The lost girl or woman--Sophia. Big in V. too. Roth, usually a myth-dodger, uses it very effectively in his most lauded '90s books. And Crowley multiple times, Calvino passim. It's probably an odd fit with the attrition method, since the girl is usually the Desired Other, not an Ego Double. Mulholland Drive fascinatingly combines the two (as compared to their being both present but rigidly separated in Lost Highway)--and perhaps the petering off of the labyrinthine, vestigial pilot elements fills something like the function attrition does? The less essential characters don't die or change deathlily, they just spill away.

Aguirre's a great attrition entry. The Seven Samurai and its imitations, too, but in the non-gnostic category--the adventure version, like in Cooper and Tolkien. Which sounds demeaning but I don't mean it that way. The number of survivors in Kurosawa's is pointed, and uses the film number magic I mentioned earlier to make that point--too much was lost, but an infinity remains. Gnosticism runs the risk of being all about Me, humanism insists on an Us. Not that they're incompatible, but they're not typically being emphasized equally.

The Great Escape must be one of those imitators, mustn't it. Never occurred to me.

Opposite to attrition, but just as ubiquitous in adventure stories, is the friend-gathering. Wizard of Oz is the iconic example, and there they don't drop away later, as they do in Samurai and Tolkien. Gnostic stories tend not to include that phase, since the atmosphere of loss becomes less absolute (or too intolerable?) if it hasn't tainted every present-tense moment of the story. One of the rarest things in narrative is the presentation of happy and of sad both in present tense. Mulholland Drive miraculously has it both ways here too, doesn't it.

Hence the importance of black and white, or labeling by words, or vaseline, or sepia or whatnot to differentiate time periods in movies. You gotta keep 'em separated.

Blood Meridian does have a gathering phase, but it's not terribly friendly. And it's probably important that there's a large group already together that the Kid joins. It's not his thing, though the Judge rejects this excuse when needling him near the end. And the group is continually renewed, since its own attrition is its ultimate reason for being--it rides on its own melting, like the ice in a frying pan, or was it butter, to which Frost analogized poetry.

(The Lost Girl is present in McCarthy too--in The Road, quite literally; but she's resonant in Cities of the Plain, and, strangely, at the other end of the Border Trilogy in the aggressively offstage mother. Grady's rejecting the mother, or the mother's having rejected Grady, starts everything off in some mysterious way, till the equally mysterious feminine calming in the arch-gnostic Cities coda.)

That Nicholson suddenly has comrades, who understand completely but know there's no helping, is very strong at the end of Chinatown because it's a sudden, retroactive attrition--they were once a band, but all fell, one by one in untold stories, from thinking anything could be done. And somehow their stories being untold is more convincing than if they'd been told--we don't see them weak or tempted, we just find out that all are disillusioned who approach the center of the night. That movie does want to convince us to give up, and that element is crucial for the astonishing, abrupt, perfect finish. The associates from Back Then--are there just two, making an infinite three with him?--go from being jackasses to comrades immediately. It's him that's been wrong for still trying, still fighting. Which of course the film can't possibly mean but nevertheless means, a contradictory overlapping that the sudden shift helps make possible: we're still with him in his mode with his goals, and the shock of sudden failure and then rolling credits haven't purged us of our investment in heroism. We have to try, we feel, and we could never have not failed, we suddenly know. Had we come to know more gradually it would have been ridiculous to try; and the tone of the final words informs us that there's no way we could have known without having tried. Not letting us have the time to accept the lesson means that the movie doesn't end, in a crucial sense. Thus projecting "Chinatown" out here, though I suppose also letting us fight the contaminating half-conclusion with whatever weapons we've got out here.

(I wonder what's been written about this sort of peer pressure in fiction--how the author creates and/or alters norms using accessory characters, characters who are 'foils' more to the reader than to the protagonist. Have I discussed this with someone here?)
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Lost is annoying me again. How can we kill time now, the writers think, then think, have him find and convince all the others in world B. Having someone go and convince X number of others of something--anyone not sick of this device by now?

Association of Ideas Theater: I saw a few minutes of Eddie and the Cruisers on Fuse the other day and realized it's not just a determining influence on Velvet Goldmine--past the point of plagiarism, thinly veiled by Haynes' attempts to reference Citizen Kane as cover (as I've mentioned before here)--but also quite a large one on The Watchmen, of all things. Conceptually, I mean; it's by no means a good film, but the premise had promise. Surely it and The Big Chill have some shared ancestor movie--one schematically closer than Kane? They're from the same year but awful similar.

Perhaps both owed something to The Man Who Fell to Earth, since in its bizarre way that movie, too, was a descendant of Citizen Kane--a debt alluded to and/or dodged in its overt Third Man obsession, I guess. There are only three failures there, but every good screenwriter knows three occurrences suggest infinity.

Looking for sparks among the scattered ember-members of something that once seemed real isn't unrelated to the falling away of a normal society or questing band, one by one (maybe inaugurated by "Childe Roland" and immediately echoed in Idylls of the King?), found in or varied on in The Grapes of Wrath, The Crying of Lot 49, Catch-22, Blood Meridian and elsewhere. The And Then There Were None tradition and the horror movie paradigm it spawned is another, less interesting cousin. Does Moby Dick predate "Roland"?

The last movement of The Last of the Mohicans movie is a striking example of cast attrition, though I don't know how closely it sticks to Cooper.

The broader attrition tradition must go back long before Cooper. Something's hovering near my consciousness. A Christmas Carol? Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Perhaps something in Shakespeare--progressive isolation is important in King Lear and Macbeth. Not insignificant in Julius Caesar and Richard III, either...

Oh, duh, The Odyssey.

I think I really must be forgetting some link or links in the Eddie part of the family tree though. I don't mean mere Kane imitations, like Lenny or whatever, but ones connecting the dead or missing Kane figure with a lost American innocence, the '60s, something like that.
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1. Same (convent school?) clothing in the Invocacion horn-blower and the girls of the triptych. Not found in any other Varo pictures I'm aware of, which might have led Pynchon to associate them.

2. In the one, you make the world - though you're not alone, and seem to have a curious taskmaster. The girls are a bit Deneuvian but have Remedios' face. The world is being spun, but out of the sort of gaseous potion in the hourglass apparatus. The dreamstuff is stirred by the faceless entity, who carries a book he isn't looking at. None of the girls are looking back at this, the true source of their world, except the one on the left, who glances back slyly. A revision of Plato's cave? Is the entity displaying the utter inability to care of Frost's Demiurge?

3. In the other, you're invoking something. The place seems half-cave, half-hall. What's evoked is coming out of the wall, seems to be covered with moss (?), seems to be a party of apathetic aristocratic party-goers. Apathy is a hard expression to decipher in Varo because almost everyone displays some version of it. The novice carries a golden ball or something, in addition to the horn. It's probable that she sees the wall-people - otherwise her eyes must be rolling back in her head. But they do come from behind her (reminding me, again, of "The Demiurge's Laugh" as does the moss).

4. At the end of Crying, "The men inside the auction room wore black mohair and had pale, cruel faces" (183). I haven't seen the original, but in the not so great reproduction below there are some dark regions by the moss? If Pynchon was trying to reference the painting, maybe mohair is the closest plausible garment to what Varo depicts.

5. Pynchon's image of Tristero, a dark order that may be integral to the world (or one of two or more warring orders), as compared to the other possibility Oedipa faces, a universe that is a patternless chaos one attempts to knit into order, is a bunch of guys dressed in black who come out and murder you. Presumably if you dare blow the horn this happens, or if you force Tristero into sending representatives by putting up horn stamps for public sale - being murdered is one of Oedipa's possible fates at the end, hence those guys.

6. The novel's last words are its title, as is the last line of "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning. There a 'childe' - knight aspirant - after long journeying suddenly comes upon the tower in a waste land where his predecessors were all killed by a giant (or by something). The last line is what his slughorn announces - that he has come to meet his fate too, whatever it is.

7. Bloom's most famous reading of the poem was that the predecessors, who actually mostly seem to have met their deaths disgracefully, hence not at the tower in any literal sense, are predecessor poets. Pretty much the Romantics, who many of Browning's other poems allude to sympathetically - Wordsworth in "The Lost Leader," Byron in a couple, Keats in that "murex" one, Shelley virtually everywhere but esp. "Pauline" and "Cenciaja" - and double esp. "Memorabilia." Browning is showing up where the Romantics failed, and presumably to fail with them though we don't actually see that happen. For Bloom this failure is one of complete individuation from the poetic past - the failure to become Milton or Shakespeare rather than their annotator.

8. Pynchon's making Browning's never-seen giant into a bunch of obscured assassins could be read as assimilating the giant and precursors into one entity. His famous eclecticism in his early books, tackling all of history and politics and music and art and literature at once, could be read Bloomiously as anxiety: a great talent greatly alarmed by how little was left for it to become not just famous but permanent, preeminent, by doing. Perhaps Pynchon's choice was between chaos and orders woven by others - a world seeable only through the visions of those others, never purely his own. The very substance of that world is theirs.

9. This doesn't cancel any of the meaning of the other problem, basically that of Frost's "Design" - our sucky life either has no intention behind it or a vile one, some mad or evil God (though here nature is not indicted, just society - so not a God, a conspiracy), and neither unhappy possibility is quite preferable. Artists know we don't care about their influence dramas, so they find ways to assimilate their own issues to broader ones.

10. Also doesn't cancel out Pynchon's later self-diagnosis, in the "Slow Learner" intro, that he wasn't ready for politics yet - not yet awake, like those around him, to the possibilities of change and of becoming part of that change.

11. The combination of the horn issue with the mails is where "Bartleby" comes in, as the representative of the other possibility, where you call the world and it never answers, either because you're too small to catch its eye or it has no eye at all. Hence the horn on the mailbox, which also seems to be a trashcan at one point. The possibility of dead letters. The irony of the "Bartleby" story is that the NARRATOR is the one Bartleby wants to listen to him. The narrator dodges his responsibility. Was it ironic of Pynchon to miss that, or did he not miss it? The night walk scene may be despairing or it may be a judgment, one aiming at productivity. It's easy to be hard on your past self, but in my limited experience almost every idea you have in later adulthood you had earlier, in some embryonic form.

I'd have to reread it to go into any more detail.
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Crying of Lot 49, pp. 20-22 in Perennial edition:

As things developed, she was to have all manner of revelations. Hardly about Pierce Inverarity, or herself; but about what remained yet had somehow, before this, stayed away. There had hung the sense of buffering, insulation, she had noticed the absence of an intensity, as if watching a movie, just perceptibly out of focus, that the projectionist refused to fix. And she had also gently conned herself into the curious, Rapunzel-like role of a pensive girl somehow, magically, prisoner among the pines and salt fogs of Kinneret, looking for somebody to say hey, let down your hair. When it turned out to be Pierce she'd happily pulled out the pins and curlers and down it tumbled in its whispering, dainty avalanche, only when Pierce had got maybe halfway up, her lovely hair turned, through some sinister sorcery, into a great unanchored wig, and down he fell, on his ass. But dauntless, perhaps using one of his many credit cards for a shim, he'd slipped the lock on her tower door and come up the conchlike stairs, which, had true guile come more naturally to him, he'd have done to begin with. But all that had then gone on between them had really never escaped the confinement of that tower. In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central painting of a triptych were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world.

Oedipa, perverse, had stood in front of the painting and cried. No one had noticed; she wore dark green bubble shades. For a moment she'd wondered if the seal around her sockets were tight enough to allow the tears simply to go on and fill up the entire lens space and never dry. She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry. She had looked down at her feet and known, then, because of a painting, that what she stood on had only been woven together a couple thousand miles away in her own tower, was only by accident known as Mexico, and so Pierce had taken her away from nothing, there'd been no escape. What did she so desire to escape from? Such a captive maiden, having plenty of time to think, soon realizes that her tower, its height and architecture, are like her ego only incidental: that what really keeps her where she is is magic, anonymous and malignant, visited on her from outside and for no reason at all. Having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of force, she may fall back on superstition, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disk jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else?
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This is "Invocacion" by Remedios Varo.

In my opinion, Pynchon consciously assimilated this to the conclusion of "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" - and, maybe later, added in the end of "Bartleby" - and that became the kernel of Crying of Lot 49.
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Unmoored allegories need noplaces (utopia's taken) or strangers.

Are there different types of noplace? There's the vision of the real world, usually one of flowing, shifting forces (Lucretian?) or of dark, settled presence, seen through the phenomenal one.

Flowing: Simplon Pass, Mont Blanc, Intellectual Beauty (?), Two Rivers, River of Rivers in CT, Plain Sense of Things, At the Fishhouses, maybe Cabin in the Clearing...perhaps the ocean in Coleridge? In Melville? Surely something in Frost, too - the world seen through the Apple-Picking ice-pane? The west-running brook? The decaying woodpile always struck me as allusive of "woods decaying, never to be decayed". Which makes me think the Garden of Adonis must belong here too.

Dark Presence: WW's boat-stealing episode...anything else? Maybe Mont Blanc counts here too.

And then there's the Command Center, some visionary location where the truth/falsehood of the world is confronted, or perhaps fails to show - named for the amusingly literal one in Matrix 2.

Command Center: the temple in Laon & Cythna, the vast hall in Fall of Hyperion, Demogorgon's cave, the Witch of Atlas' cave, the water Shelley sails out on in Adonais, the cave and valley (and then trampled Life-lit plain) in Triumph, the clearing in Goodman Brown, the prairie in Earth's Holocaust, the wasteland and tower in Childe Roland, its antithesis in Thamuris Marching, Eliot's Waste Land - esp. the chapel, the Cathedral in The Trial & even more the gate told of there, the falling palace of Housman's queen of air and shadows, the place underground in Strange Meeting, wherever the hell Cuchulain is in Cuchulain Comforted, the sea of death in Ship of Death, Underhill's House in LB (how frequently is this noplace just the approach to one?)...Perhaps in Lynch: The red room. The cabin on the lost highway. The Lost Highway Hotel. Club Silencio. Probably something or other in Inland Empire...the tv room?

Is Luke Havergal's western gate in this category, or is it more like a -

Dream House: the place we maybe lived or thought we lived and/or the place we yet might live or will never live but is nevertheless real to us, inseparable from the life and family we had or might have or will never have there. A Way You'll Never Be, but also How to Live, What to Do.

"My Kinsman, Major Molineux" - The golden home of prenatal memory, a shaft of whose light hits the bible in the closed church.
"Walking" - The house in the woods.
"Directive" - The house that is no more a house.
"The End of March" - The house they turn back before reaching, the dream house.
Engine Summer - Little Belair
Little, Big - Edgewood

The happy highways where I went, perhaps the house on the hill.

Not sure if the vision of the mountaintop in "Kilimanjaro" should count here, or the invisible home of the man and baby at the end of a path of flowers in "Cape Breton." Perhaps the sounds of home life in "The Moose"? And "One Art" may spell such a house across the losses of a lifetime - doesn't the use of (imperative) 2nd person reveal it as a child of "Directive"?

I need to reread Invisible Cities. And avoid turning into Northrop Frye.
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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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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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There are two ways.

Each of which, of course, is many millions of ways.

There are two ways.

Creatures of one thing at a time, we will always forget this.

No, not that: the creature's what sits on us, pushing the two apart.
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Charles Augustine Briggs, a 19th-century pioneer of modern biblical scholarship, declared that by sweeping away the “rubbish” of centuries of biblical interpretation, modern scholars would finally “recover the real Bible.” Professor Kugel admires the audacity and genius of scholars like Briggs, but he believes that in their contempt for the “rubbish” of ancient interpretation, modern scholars have let the “real Bible” elude them. They have been left, instead, with “the raw material that made up the Bible.”

Orthodox Judaism as existentialism? I have noticed that a surprising number of Christians back into Grand Inquisitor land, when their arguments get exhausted.

Although I guess it isn't necessarily existentialism. Perhaps he really thinks this specific group of interpreters, rather than their ancestors, read the right God through the wrong texts. But if you can do that, why not through any text? Through the world? Presumably that's the contradiction he doesn't want to face: if error->truth, why that error only? I sometimes think my Episcopalian upbringing must have been a nail through the shoe, not the foot; Gore Vidal says somewhere that Episcopalians find talk about God impolite. I guess that was my sense of it, on Sundays: here's where we say these particular things, then sing these other ones, and now there are some strange stories, and now we listen to the priest tell some wry anecdotes and exhort us to be a little nicer, and it's meaningful that we do all this but no one quite remembers why, and now there's coffee cake. Whereas with Catholic school, and what experience I've had with these new-style Christian cultists...

Kugel has got me wondering this: has a story been told where a Protestant type decides to seek truth, finds his way blocked by a greedy and powerful Catholic authority, defeats this authority, who, dying, reveals that he has told, guarded, exploited these lies only because he has seen the truth behind them, and it is [awful/nothing/not worth knowing], and his demiurgency was for the protection of others from this fatal discovery, and the Protestant listens but goes forward into _________? Because I feel this story has been told, I just can't think where. The handling of Ivan in general? The Wizard of Oz and Oedipus Rex wander close; Julie suggests Miss Lonelyhearts, though that's not quite what Shrike's up to, and also Wise Blood, which I've not finished. Maybe Shelley, actually, at least as viewed by De Quincey. Maybe Cities of the Plain, The Blood Oranges, "Old Mortality"? None quite exactly. Maybe history.
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What Shelley knew was that you don't give up the image of what you want based on your inability to get it. If you can only get aspects, portions, approaches you welcome that but stay alert for how you might get more. Adjustment of desire to what is presently attainable is a terrible and abiding loss; an initial limit is drawn, then further limits are drawn within that as possibilities ebb, boxes inside boxes, tinier and tinier--while opportunities, and all manner of other things, teem without. You gain, of course you gain, you wouldn't do it otherwise. You have something all round, close up, complete. It is a sight that eats your eyes.

Boxes. But multiple boxes at once, isn't that the exact problem? Compartmentalization of satisfiable desires, the choice addiction of middle age. The limits are drawn all over, the connections are lost, the push and poetry. There's your matrix for you. A picture of life as people in a place in a story, is what you relinquish.

Part of aging is finding how easy it is to not do things, or anyway just how little one needs to do. You don't need to succeed, you don't need to have integrity, you don't have to be happy. You don't have to help, think, fight, make sense, leave town, account for who you are, remember who you are.

Keeping your desires united is a terrible pain--in the exasperating sense, in the deadly serious sense. It's not like you have heaven in your head in some gold-lit snowglobe, and barter with the outer world to shut it up, so you can privately enjoy. The real thing is all about, scattered over and through everything. One hopes it is one side of everything. One hopes it is the only side to everything--and why not hope that? But meanwhile it's around, superimposed, underimposed, imposed. A wandering flavor, in some dark times. Something you actually are truly walking in and breathing in, some Sundays.

Agonizing, no? Undistributed pain is agony. Letting yourself feel how far you are from where you might be is agony.

Morality is simple or it isn't morality. I, who have such trouble explaining, at least know that. Our reason for curling in on things is simple, and good by its own lights. But those are dimmer lamps, and light the path to dimmer still. Daylight contains all unpleasant things there ever could be, but it's the only light from far enough away.
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If only there were a manual, we say sometimes. How suspicious we'd be if there were, though.

We wouldn't buy that any one person could have come up with these answers, and would be rightly alarmed if the guide were the product of an organization...downright paranoid, were it anonymous.

It would have to be disguised as a non-manual. How distributed? Not door-to-door, a la Planethood. It would have to lure us somehow, have the trappings of leisure reading. Some entertainment or compendium of colorful facts.

Until we're sucked in, it'll have to avoid making us think it's out to advise or improve us. Best to distract us entirely for a little while with novelties and flux, then lead us along some path, so slowly we think we're blazing it ourselves as we wander at some distant brightening thing.

Complications should be sudden, accidents, surprising us into thoughts of what we would do if they happened to us. These unguarded thoughts the book would have to know. It would have to know and answer these in their exact order, but each time as if by chance, in response to parallel musings of a voice in the book. It will need to be a story, then, to have both surprises and this voice of innocence.

At some point the pretense could be dropped. No announcement would be made that the book was now a guide to life, but life itself would gradually claim the focus. Time and thought invested in the journey there would render the reader tolerant of the wilds you're set to lose her in.

What you have to say you'd say here. If it could all be kept to one path, in sequential connection of whatever fashion, that might be best of all. Your clues would be left here and there at the sides, further accidents. Little staged path-losings, doublings-back and doubts and transformations would keep it tense, fast, important. Some other prize than home is offered, here. Fear and hope join lust, in full involvement.

If it could be kept to all one path...but life doesn't work that way. Our time alive is all one stream, but ours is not one motion, floating down it. Moods and modes make for different floors and rooms, in the life house. The half-selves we split into must each be appointed a voice and a path in the story. And the strange things that happen with us when those selves meet or recombine must be echoed here somehow. True others will be needed too, since others are so crucial in our lives. Characters, then, will have to be of several kinds. Some spread deck of not-quite-us to not-us is required.

Each path must have its end, once its weight, shape and color all feel right, and in that end the information must be finally, entirely imparted. Even here some subtlety will help. Have it be said, but not directly. Said by another, or said not quite, or in parts that the reader must combine. Or whispered by the reader to herself, as words somehow spelled by the events recorded: words from different words.

Deep enough in the forest other things become possible. I have heard of pools where things are told below exactly as they seem above. I'm told of fruits that, years after their ingestion, do something to the colors of the eyes.
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When you and your life are on the same page there's nothing better, it's like a magic that makes sense. But you don't know how to stay there, and never think it will ever be otherwise while there. Therefore when it's on or it's off you have practically the same goals, say do and think practically the same things.

Hence heaven and hell. Hence a lot of things.

How strange it all is. Any other way would be just as strange, some point out. Well, how strange that is too.
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Closed for Good [1st version], Frost

They come not back with steed
And chariot to chide
My slowness with their speed
And scare me to one side.
They have found other scenes
For haste and other means.

They leave the road to me
To walk in saying naught
Perhaps but to a tree
Inaudibly in thought,
"From you the road receives
A priming coat of leaves.

"And soon for lack of sun,
The prospects are in white
It will be further done,
But with a coat so light
The shape of leaves will show
Beneath the spread of snow."

And so on into winter
Till even I have ceased
To come as a foot printer,
And only some slight beast
So mousy or so foxy
Shall print there as my proxy.

Just to explain what this means to me--something I should probably start doing if I want anyone to read random quotes and poems: This is a weirdly overdetermined influence story, where the world is losing both speed and temperature. The charioteers came in Spring and Summer, Frost walks in the Autumn and perhaps predicts his own influence on those who come with the first snowfall, who will see his leaves but not the road, and after them the dwellers in Winter will see nothing but the snow, and wander without purpose or sense there ever was one. But the proxy conclusion, once you've winced at Frost's characteristically kicking sand back into whatever profundities he's just achieved, is interesting: the field mice and foxes are his brethren and continuation. Though perhaps he means actual animals rather than benighted visionaries, the poetry of the natural world going on though the human shop is closed. Was it vain of Frost to think something ended with him, or merely accurate? Frost added a stanza at both ends for a later version, good lines but softening the harsher core by further modesty and praise of the path-breaking questers. If you do accept the myth it's very moving, the Last Man theme added to those of the Birds and the Tower. Like steps down to the sea:

And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.

Not hear? When noise was everywhere! it tolled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers, my peers -
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.

They sang, but had nor human tunes nor words,
Though all was done in common as before;
They had changed their throats and had the throats of birds.

Though the great song return no more
There's keen delight in what we have:
The rattle of pebbles on the shore
Under the receding wave.

And so on into winter
Till even I have ceased...
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For some, a flood or shaking of the ground removes them from the floor of the maze to the hedgetops: where the exit is clear but unreachable, and the maze itself in plain view for commenting upon. The choice to reenter the maze would entail being lost. Such people tend to stay, and pace their hedgetop island, till the sun sets and every maze is moot.
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You start the way all of us start, doing what all of us do. The quest is a story rather than an activity, or rather it is the activity of finding and completing a certain story in what happens. Sometimes this means you are by the quest, rather than on it, as perplexed as any scientist or novelist at how to begin or extend an existing middle. This isn't all that's happening, the other journey's of course still going on, the mill of meals and errands, conversations and oblivia. But you're on a path to something else, while on this path to death.

The story needs a beginning, and now won't do. There's a lot of stuff lying around you'll want explained. Anything you miss will hurt the story. Better go deep down and far back behind it all for your beginning.

The end you get to also pick at the start, though of course it's a fake, QEDs being as unstable as they are. But still you need one, and for morale's sake pick out something quite marvelous. As you near it from the other end sane adjustments will be made.

The middle some dark whispers call the story told, itself. I'd say the middle's already provided. It's just that golden thread we'll call the middle of the middle that's elusive; that thread you just tripped over, the sight of which brought the beginning and end, the ideas beginning and end, into being. That thread's a tricky thread. I've known it to dive right underground, deeper than digging can free. I've seen it go silver then white and then brown, and then stop in a knot or dirty fan of fray (just because it's stopped does not ever mean it's ended). It's strung among branches of trees, at times; others it wanders downslope into caves. It's been known to split up into twos, threes and mazes. These are the least of the tricks, of the troubles. Many give up, many die in the search.

The dark whispers have it that no one has found either end.


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