One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bergotte's Death

From Proust's In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu):

[Translated by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff]

Vermeer's "View of Delft"

Dear Reader, You find the patch of yellow wall

[From Wikimedia Commons:

Proust's (Bergotte's) "Petit pan de mur jaune"

As I vaguely recalled (It's been a year or so since I drifted from beginning to end of The Novel), the patch of yellow wall is somewhat contentious:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wilhelm Raabe (1831 - 1910)

Wilhelm Raabe (September 8, 1831 – November 15, 1910), German novelist, whose early works were published under the pseudonym of Jakob Corvinus, was born in Eschershausen (then in the Duchy of Brunswick, now in the Holzminden District).

He served an apprenticeship at a bookseller's in Magdeburg for four years (1849–1854); but tiring of the routine of business, studied philosophy at Berlin (1855–1857). While a student at that university he published his first work, Die Chronik der Sperlingsgasse (1857), which at once attained to great popularity.

Raabe next returned to Wolfenbüttel, and then lived (1862–1870) in Stuttgart, where he devoted himself entirely to authorship and wrote a number of novels and short stories; notably Unseres Herrgotts Kanzlei (1862); Der Hungerpastor (1864); Abu Telfan (1867) and Der Schüdderump (1870).

In 1870 Raabe removed to Brunswick and published the narratives Horacker (1876); Pfisters Mühle (1884) Das Odfeld (1889); Stopfkuchen (1891) – perhaps his masterpiece, Kloster Lugau (1894) and numerous other stories. Moving away from the idealized depictions of faith and family in his earlier, fairly typical Biedermeier period works to sometimes gritty social realism, his later works were much less popular than the earlier ones, which Raabe now came to regard as cheesy nonsense.

The distinguishing characteristic of Raabe's work is a genial humour reminiscent of Dickens; but often combined with realistic pessimism. His works, many of which double as fairy tales, have a recurrent theme of homecoming to the place of birth.

Raabe's 40th anniversary as a writer in 1894 was a matter of national celebration.
The critical edition of Raabe's complete works was published as Sämtliche Werke (Braunschweiger Ausgabe) Im Auftrage der Braunschweigischen Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft hrsg. von Karl Hoppe, beginning in 1965.

[From Wikipedia: ]

Wilhelm Raabe in The German Library (Continuum): "Horacker"

Started reading Horacker (the volume also has Tubby Schaumann in it) over the holiday weekend. Good stuff, even if the style is a bit "old fashioned" (I liked ascending the local mountain and I liked how the author pushed back the hazel branch for me on the way back down). It's also larded with a few difficult allusions, but there's a pretty good set of "notes" in the back.

Anyway, I underlined this passage (from Ch. 6):
The old man grinned and put his best talents of imitation in tone and mime to work. With peevish pathos he said, "You're not mistaken there, Herr Eckerbusch! In centuries past, anyone who wished to be intellectually a part of his times had to go out and mix in with the world's tumult. Today it is otherwise. Today, gentlemen, one sits quietly, one ought to sit quietly, and let the great waves with all their wealth of ideas ebb and flow right over one's head! What does it mean nowadays for someone to measure the pyramids or stand in the thick of battle? Gentlemen, the discovery of the sources of the Nile, the searching out of the North Pole, or even personally firing a rifle in war means, I would maintain, but little anymore when compared to what the ruminative thinker accomplishes by quiet, meaningful sitting-still. When compared to the electric telegraph, all personal experience, all personal participation is curiously insignificant--
[Translated by John E. Woods

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Flaubert's "Dictionary of Received Ideas"

The Dictionary of Received Ideas (in French, Le Dictionnaire des idées reçues) is a short satirical work collected and published in 1911-3 from notes compiled by Gustave Flaubert during the 1870s, lampooning the clichés endemic to French society under the Second French Empire. It takes the form of a dictionary of automatic thoughts and platitudes, self-contradictory and insipid. It is often paired with the Sottisier (a collection of stupid quotations taken from the books of famous writers).

At the time of Flaubert's death, it was unclear whether he intended eventually to publish it separately, or as an appendix to his unfinished novel, Bouvard et Pécuchet. In some of his notes, it seems that Flaubert intended the dictionary to be taken as the final creation of the two protagonists. In other notes, it seems the Sottisier is intended as their final work.

The idea of a spoof encyclopedia had fascinated him all his life. As a child, he had amused himself by writing down the absurd utterances of a friend of his mother's, and over the course of his career he speculated as to the best format for a compilation of stupidities. In a letter to Louis Bouilhet from 1850, Flaubert wrote: "Such a book, with a good preface in which the motive would be stated to be the desire to bring the nation back to Tradition, Order and Sound Conventions—all this so phrased that the reader would not know whether or not his leg was being pulled—such a book would certainly be unusual, even likely to succeed, because it would be entirely up to the minute." He wrote to Louise Colet in 1852: "No law could attack me, though I should attack everything. It would be the justification of Whatever is, is right. I should sacrifice the great men to all the nitwits, the martyrs to all the executioners, and do it in a style carried to the wildest pitch—fireworks.... After reading the book, one would be afraid to talk, for fear of using one of the phrases in it."

The dictionary is comparable in many respects to Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, but takes the opposite tack by affirming all the commonplace notions.

[From Wikipedia: ]


The Illustrated Dictionary of Received Ideas (an interesting idea I stumbled on) is an ongoing project (from 2009 to the present) by Gareth Long & Derek Sullivan:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès, 1902)

Saw "Hugo" tonight with the girls. I thought the film a bit slow (I caught the Scorsese cameo but not the Depp or maybe-Depp), but overall an entertaining family film. Especially liked the intro to Georges Melies. I didn't know "A Trip to the Moon," but my wife did (or at least she'd seen the "famous" moon shot).

Alfred Andersch (1914 - 1980)

Alfred Hellmuth Andersch (4 February 1914 – 21 February 1980) was a German writer, publisher, and radio editor. The son of a conservative East Prussian army officer, he was born in Munich, Germany and died in Berzona, Ticino, Switzerland. Martin Andersch, his brother, was also a writer.

[From Wikipedia: ]

Golo Mann (1909 - 1994)

Golo Mann (27 March 1909 – 7 April 1994), born Angelus Gottfried Thomas Mann, was a popular German historian, essayist and writer. He was the third child of the novelist Thomas Mann and his wife Katia Mann.

[From Wikipedia: ]


Berzona by Treeshie
Berzona, a photo by Treeshie on Flickr.

Berzona (Onsernone)

Berzona (Onsernone) by lèmiavuncia
Berzona (Onsernone), a photo by lèmiavuncia on Flickr.

Berzona (in Ticino, Switzerland)

Berzona is a village and former municipality in the canton of Ticino, Switzerland.
In 2001 the municipality was merged with the other, neighboring municipalities Auressio and Loco to form a new and larger municipality Isorno.[1]

Berzona is first mentioned in 1265 as Berzona.[2]

The village section of Seghelina is located directly on the main road, while the main village is above the road. During the Middle Ages it was part of the Squadra of Onsernone.

The church of S. Defendente was built in 1564 and became a parish church when it separated from Loco in 1777. The section of Seghelina has the chapels of Santa Maria (1682) and S. Maria Lauretana (1766). The political municipality was created at the same time as the Canton of Ticino in 1803.[2]

After World War II, much of the village population emigrated and sold their properties to outsiders. Many people who bought houses in Berzona were well known personalities from the arts and culture, such as Alfred Andersch, Golo Mann and Max Frisch. Today, the village is shrinking as few jobs in farming and grazing remain and most of the working population have moved to Locarno.

[From Wikipedia: ]

Friday, November 25, 2011

I Guess It's Official: Black Friday is Light Friday





Max-Frisch-Gedenktafel by Treeshie
Max-Frisch-Gedenktafel, a photo by Treeshie on Flickr.
Apparently Berzona (town in Switzerland's Ticino) is part of what inspired Frisch's Man in the Holocene.

Max Frisch's "Man in the Holocene"

Finally re-read it in its entirety (finished it this morning). A quick read: minus the "clippings" it's less than a hundred pages.

Parts I'd forgotten, e.g., the salamander, the minestrone; parts I loved reading again, e.g., the pagoda of crispbread, Geiser's hike into the mountains.

Places I have to go because of Frisch: the Ticino, Montauk (I know, another Frisch). Been to Switzerland but not the Ticino; Long Island but not Montauk.

A great quote from Man:

Now and again Geiser finds himself wondering what he really wants to know, what he hopes to gain from all this knowledge.

Morning in Long Beach: Near PCH and 2nd




Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mise en abyme

Mise en abyme (French pronunciation: [miz‿ɑ̃n‿abim]; also mise en abîme) is a term originally from the French and means "placed into abyss".

The commonplace usage of this phrase is describing the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, seeing an infinite reproduction of one's image, but it has several other meanings in the realm of the creative arts and literary theory. In Western art history, "mise en abyme" is a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, the sequence appearing to recur infinitely.



Diego Velasquez, Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor) (1656) Pictures, Images and Photos

Velasquez's "The Maids of Honor" (1656)
[From Photobucket]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bric-a-brac from "Bouvard and Pecuchet": Astronomy

   Pecuchet went on:
   "The swiftness of light is eighty thousand leagues a second; one ray of the Milky Way takes six centuries to reach us; so that a star at the moment we observe it may have disappeared. Several are intermittent;  others never come back; and they change positions. Every one of them is in motion; every one of them is passing on."
   "However, the sun is motionless."
   "It was believed to be so formerly. But to-day men of science declare that it rushes towards the constellation of Hercules!"


[From Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 18th Century
by Jonathan Shectman]

Bric-a-brac from "Bouvard and Pecuchet": Francois Raspail

   One day, as he was making his way to the forge, he was accosted by a man carrying a canvas bag on his back, who offered to sell him almanacs, pious books, holy medals, and lastly, the Health Manual of Francois Raspail.
   This little book pleased him so much that he wrote to Barberou to send him the large work. Barberou sent it on, and in his letter mentioned an apothecary's shop for the prescriptions given in the work.
   The simplicity of the doctrine charmed them. All diseases proceed from worms. They spoil the teeth, make the lungs hollow, enlarge the liver, ravage the intestines, and cause noises therein. The best thing for getting rid of them is camphor. Bouvard and Pecuchet adopted it. They took it in snuff, they chewed it and distributed it in cigarettes, in bottles of sedative water and pills of aloes.


François-Vincent Raspail (25 January 1794 – 7 January 1878) was a French chemist, naturalist, physiologist, and socialist politician.


Raspail was born in Carpentras, Vaucluse. A member of the republican Carbonari society, Raspail was imprisoned during Louis Philippe's reign (1830-1848) and was a candidate for presidency of the Second Republic in December 1848. However, he was then involved in the attempted revolt of 15 May 1848 and in March 1849 was again imprisoned as a result. After Louis Napoleon's 2 December 1851 coup his sentence was commuted to exile, from which he returned to France only in 1862. In 1869, during the liberal phase of the Second Empire (1851-1870), he was elected deputy from Lyons. He remained a popular republican during the French Third Republic, after the short-term Paris Commune in 1871.

His sons, Benjamin (eldest), François, Xavier (youngest) and Émile, were also all notable figures in the Third Republic.


[edit] Scientific achievements

Raspail was one of the founders of the cell theory in biology. He coined the phrase omnis cellula e cellula ("every cell is derived from a [preexisting] cell") later attributed to Rudolf Karl Virchow. He was an early proponent of the use of the microscope in the study of plants. He was also an early advocate of the use of antisepsis and better sanitation and diet.


[edit] Entry into politics

After the revolution of 1830, Raspail became involved in politics. He was President of the Human Rights Society, and was imprisoned for that role. While in prison, he tended sick inmates, and studied their diseases. He became convinced of the value of camphor, which he believed worked by killing extremely small parasites -- a version of the germ theory of disease.

[From Wikipedia: ]

Bric-a-brac from "Bouvard and Pecuchet": Sanctorius

Is it true that the surface of our bodies are always letting out a subtle vapour? The proof of it is that the weight of a man is decreasing every minute. If each day what is wanting is added and what is excessive subtracted, the health would be kept in perfect equilibrium. Sanctorius, the discoverer of this law, spent half a century weighing his food every day together with its excretions, and took the weights himself, giving himself no rest, save for the purpose of writing down his computations.

Santorio Santorio (March 29, 1561 Capodistria (today Koper) –February 22, 1636 Venice), also called Santorio Santorii, Sanctorius of Padua, and various combinations of these names, was an Italian physiologist, physician, and professor. From 1611 to 1624 he was a professor at Padua where he performed experiments in temperature, respiration and weight. Sanctorius studied what he termed insensible perspiration and originated the study of metabolism.

For a period of thirty years Sanctorius weighed himself, everything he ate and drank, as well as his urine and feces. He compared the weight of what he had eaten to that of his waste products, the latter being considerably smaller. He produced his theory of insensible perspiration as an attempt to account for this difference. His findings had little scientific value, but he is still celebrated for his empirical methodology. The "weighing chair", which he constructed and employed during this experiment, is also famous.

He is credited with the design of the clinical thermometer, which he introduced in his Sanctorii Sanctorii Commentaria in primam fen primi libri Canonis Avicennae, a commentary on Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine. He invented a device which he called the pulsilogium for measuring the pulse which was the first machine system in medical history. A century later another physician, de la Croix, used the pulsilogium to test cardiac function. Sanctorius also invented an early waterbed. In 1614, he wrote De statica medicina, a medical text that saw five publications through 1737.

[From Wikipedia:]

Marcel Duchamp, Trebuchet (Trap), 1917 / 1963

Since We're Spending Some Time With the Duchamp's: R. Mutt

Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain"

[From Wikimedia Commons]

Jimmy's Fish & Grill: No Longer Here

I didn't know it was gone until I went there last Xmas Eve (I bought the Xmas chowder there for years--good stuff).

A sign will have to play memento:


Long Beach--"Horses of Industry"



Raymond Duchamp-Villon 'Horse' 1914, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

Long Beach has a whole herd of these "horses of industry"--sometimes grazing in unusual places.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flaubert's "Bouvard and Pecuchet": Literary Chaplin

Perhaps not what I have come to expect from Flaubert, but very entertaining and--from what I've caught in glimpses elsewhere--it'll probably evolve into "something more" than just two Chaplinesque male Parisians--i.e., B. & P.--who retire together, buy a farm, and encounter nothing but bad luck.

And, too, simply because it's Flaubert writing about another place and time, there are various bits and pieces that excite the "collector." Here are a few that I've underlined in my Kindle:

#1. "the eucalyptus, then in the beginning of its fame"

[From Eucalyptus: Its History, Growth, and Utilization by C.H. Sellers]

#2. "the great swing-plough of Mathieu de Dombasle"

[From A History of World Agriculture by Marcel Mazoyer and Laurence Roudart] 

#3. "Tetons de Venus"

[From a newspaper article by Tom Harte in The Southeast Missourian, July 9, 2003]

#4. "Fortunately, they discovered amongst their collection of books Boitard's work entitled L'Architecte des Jardins." 

This book--apparently a landscaping book by Pierre Boitard from 1834 (a copy has recently sold on eBay for over $1000)--gives, via Flaubert's allusions and quotes, some interesting glances on the history of French landscaping.

E.g., from B & P: 
First there is the melancholy and romantic style, which is distinguished by immortelles, ruins, tombs, and "a votive offering to the Virgin, indicating the place where a lord has fallen under the blade of an assassin."


Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reading-wise I've Been Kicking Around a Bit

Something old, something new: some "selected prose" by Ingeborg Bachmann: "Among Murderers and Madmen" and now "Word for Word" (re-reads from 2001); and, via Kindle, Flaubert's unfinished novel Bouvard and Pecuchet (a first).


Also, don't know what it means (probably nada), but these near-twins are pulling on me:

cocoon Pictures, Images and Photos


Houdini This Pictures, Images and Photos

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"To the Finland Station": Lenin

V.I. Lenin (in wig and cap), Finland, August 11, 1917
[From Wikimedia Commons]

[Winston Churchill--from The Definitive Wit of Winston Churchill, edited by  Richard Langworth]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"To the Finland Station": Trotsky Identifies History with Himself

Wilson re Trotsky:
History, then, with its dialectical Trinity, had chosen Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky to disillusion the middle class, had propounded revolutionary conclusions which it had compelled Father Gapon to bless, and will cruelly discredit and destroy certain Pharisees and Sadducees of Marxism before it summons the boiling lava of the Judgment. These statements make no sense whatever unless one substitutes for the words history and the dialectic of history the words Providence and God. And this providential power of history is present in all the writing of Trotsky. John Jay Chapman said of Browning that God did duty in his work as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, interjection and preposition, and the same is true of History with Trotsky. Of late, in his solitude and exile, this History, as austere spirit, has seemed actually to stand behind his chair as he writes, encouraging, admonishing, approving, giving him the courage to confound his accusers, who have never seen History's face.

And Wilson quoting Trotsky:
. . . Trotsky, with the contempt and indignation of a prophet, read Martov and his followers out of meeting. "You are pitiful isolated individuals," he cried at this height of the Bolshevik triumph. "You are bankrupt; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on--into the rubbish-can of history!"

Trotsky Pictures, Images and Photos

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tomas Transtomer's "From the Thaw of 1966"

From the Thaw of 1966

Headlong headlong waters; roaring; old hypnosis.
The river swamps the car cemetery, glitters
behind the masks.
I hold tight to the bridge railing.
The bridge: a big iron bird sailing past death.

[translated by robin fulton]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Klee's "Angelus Novus" & Walter Benjamin

angelus novus Pictures, Images and Photos

A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

[Walter Benjamin in Theses on the Philosophy of History]

Monday, November 7, 2011

A New Poem in 1110, Issue 2, September 2011

Very cool design (a print journal out of Nottingham, England) and title: 1110 = One Photograph One Story Ten Poems. I have just one "quirky" little poem in the 10: "Full of Time and Still Hungry."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lenin's Birthplace in Simbirsk/Ulyanovsk

P1100475 by
P1100475, a photo by on Flickr.
Lenin's Birthplace (now a museum)

"To the Finland Station": Wilson and Lenin's Birthplace

Just started the third and final section (I know, it's taking me forever). Wilson writes very sympathetically--almost to the point of Nabokov's take on "poshlust"--re Lenin's childhood. He also writes as though he'd actually been to Lenin's birthplace (turned into a museum) in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk).

Apparently he had:

[From "'Edmund Wilson': American Critic" by Colm Toibin,



Apparently the birthplace/museum is still in operation:

Though, perhaps, the museum is no longer getting its former respect:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More on Mucha

alphonse mucha Pictures, Images and Photos

Mucha Pictures, Images and Photos

Alfons Mucha

I picked Alfons (Alphonse) up in Prague a few summers back: his work was all over note- and post-cards in a souvenir shop off the Old Square. I haven't been to his museum yet (, but that will give me something to hope and plan for on my next visit.


Alfons Maria Mucha[1][2] (Czech pronunciation: [ˈalfons ˈmuxa]; 24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939), known in English as Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist,[3] known best for his distinct style. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs.


Alfons Mucha
George R. Lawrence Co., Chicago
[From the Wikimedia Commons]

Re Old Trunks and the Artwork Inside

Wasn't enthralled when I first got it: Mom and sis picked it out for a birthday (what do you buy the guy with everything, right?). It was large and heavy and I had to ship it all the way from Michigan to California. Luckily the wife had a discount on FedEx.

Then a couple summers ago I got tired of looking at its shabby face so I spruced it up a bit (took weeks and I sucked up some nasty chemicals).

The lady in side ain't so bad either (one site says flat trunks rarely have art inside, but apparently this one did).




Merzbild by Kurt Schwitters-c.1919

Another example.

Kurt Schwitters, Merzbild 46 A. Das Kegelbild, 1921

Love the name: Schwitters; love the word: Merzbild; love the concept.

Flaubert's "A Simple Soul"

Much of my reading lately has been fragmentary and unenthused: the thraldom of school, I suppose.

Started Flaubert's "A Simple Soul" (from his late Three Tales; also called "A Simple Heart") last night (via Kindle). Didn't get far but it kept my attention. Another female protagonist. I underlined only the phrase "she would bury the log under the ashes," because for some reason it intrigued me.

Fantova Kavárna

I caught only a glimpse of this the last time I was in Prague. Rushing to get my tickets--and then get back to the girls--I saw it from below. Beautiful.

[From Wikimedia Commons. Photographer: Brunswyk. Will have to get my own version the next time I'm in Prague.]