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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Molloy": Sucking Stones and the Principle of Trim

[From Samuel Beckett's Hidden Drives: Structural Uses of Depth Psychology
by J. D. O'Hara]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Geulincx in Beckett's "Molloy"

From Molloy:

I who had loved the image of old Geulincx, dead young, who left me free, on the black boat of Ulysses, to crawl towards the East, along the deck.


Arnold Geulincx (31 January 1624 – November 1669) was a Flemish philosopher. He was one of the followers of René Descartes who tried to work out more detailed versions of a generally Cartesian philosophy. Samuel Beckett cited Geulincx as a key influence and interlocutor because of Geulincx's emphasis on the powerlessness and ignorance of the human condition.[1]

He is cited by Samuel Beckett, whose character Murphy remembers the "beautiful Belgo-Latin of Arnold Geulincx", and in particular the gloomy nostrum (frequently repeated by Beckett to inquisitive critics) Ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis (roughly, 'Where you are worth nothing, there you should want nothing.') In the novel Molloy (1950), Beckett's eponymous character describes himself as "I who had loved the image of old Geulincx, dead young, who left me free, on the black boat of Ulysses, to crawl towards the East, along the deck". [14]

[Excerpts from Wikipedia:]

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Few Fave Licks from Beckett's "Molloy"

  • you would do better, at least no worse, to obliterate texts than to blacken margins
  • To restore silence is the role of objects
  • and the arctic radiance comes pissing on our midnights
  • I took a pebble from my pocket and sucked it. It was smooth, from having been sucked so long, by me, and beaten by the storm
  • and soon through that mist too which rises in me every day and veils the world from me and veils me from myself
  • Yes, even then, when already all was fading, waves and particles, there could be no things but nameless things, no names but thingless names
  • Saying is inventing. Wrong, very rightly wrong
  • Watch wound and buried by the watchmaker, before he died, whose ruined works will one day speak of God, to the worms

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finished Daudet's "Windmill"; Have Started Re-reading Beckett's Trilogy

I enjoyed Daudet much more than I thought I would. His forays into Algeria--and away from his windmill--even got me thinking about Morocco, Bowles, and The Sheltering Sky. Though I read his "Windmill" with "uneven interest," as a whole I found the text simple (in a good way) and simply wonderful.


Still working on Herbert's collected prose.


With some intrepidation (what can I say: Beckett is intense and demands your complete attention) I started re-reading Beckett's trilogy (via Kindle): Molloy, Mallone Dies, and The Unnamable.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Sheltering Sky

The Sheltering Sky by Rainer ❏
The Sheltering Sky, a photo by Rainer ❏ on Flickr.

More on Paul Bowles, Bertolucci, & "The Sheltering Sky"

A couple interesting excerpts I've cut from the book "Conversations with Paul Bowles," edited by Gena Dagel Caponi:


Paul Bowles' "The Sheltering Sky" (Through the Filter of Bertolucci)

Though the ardor has lessened (last book I read was Unwelcome Words--a little gem I picked up in a Santa Barbara used bookstore a few years back), I still like Paul Bowles. Certainly--once upon a time--I liked him for where he could take me (a big reason I finally went to Morocco was Bowles) more than style.

Anyway, I've had "The Sheltering Sky" staring at me from the bookcase for some while. I've still not re-read it (keep staring and I might yield) but last night I chose ($2.99 via Fios) to revisit Bertolucci's cinematic version (did roughly 100 of the 138 minutes; will finish it tonight).

A few things:

1.) Bertolucci was making love to the desert.

2.) I liked Debra Winger more than I remembered; and I believe this was the first role I ever saw Peter Pettigrew in (he's better here).

3.) I'd forgotten how many times Bowles himself appears (I only remembered the bit--must be near the end because I've not gotten there yet--about full moons).


Paul Bowles Pictures, Images and Photos

What Is a Country House Poem?

[From "The Country House Poem of the Seventeenth Century" by G R Hibbard (1956),
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes]

Andrew Marvell (1621 - 1678)

Andrew Marvell (31 March 1621 – 16 August 1678) was an English metaphysical poet, Parliamentarian, and the son of a Church of England clergyman (also named Andrew Marvell). As a metaphysical poet, he is associated with John Donne and George Herbert. He was a colleague and friend of John Milton.

Marvell was born in Winestead-in-Holderness, East Riding of Yorkshire, near the city of Kingston upon Hull. The family moved to Hull when his father was appointed Lecturer at Holy Trinity Church there, and Marvell was educated at Hull Grammar School. A secondary school in the city is now named after him.

His most famous poems include To His Coy Mistress, The Garden, An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland, The Mower's Song and the country house poem Upon Appleton House.

[From Wikipedia:]


Andrew Marvell (1621 - 1678)
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Marvell's "Coy Mistress"

Stumbled on this poem researching something else. Wonderful. Apparently echoes of it are in both Eliot's "Prufrock" and The Waste Land.

I've done Donne (and occasionally return); but, I confess, I've imbibed very little of Marvell (will try to remedy this sin in the near future).


To His Coy Mistress

By Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Jaroslav Róna: Dítě z Marsu

Jaroslav Róna: Dítě z Marsu by Pitel
Jaroslav Róna: Dítě z Marsu, a photo by Pitel on Flickr.
This one seems to be many places at once. Curious little creature.

Jaroslav Róna: Muž s rybou

Jaroslav Róna: Muž s rybou by Pitel
Jaroslav Róna: Muž s rybou, a photo by Pitel on Flickr.
Not sure where this one is located. Presumably somewhere in the Czech Republic.

Parable with a Skull

Parable with a Skull by mrs tulis
Parable with a Skull, a photo by mrs tulis on Flickr.
Couldn't pass this fantastic photo up. Cool, huh.

Kafka Memorial

Kafka Memorial by jonnybcivics
Kafka Memorial, a photo by jonnybcivics on Flickr.
Another famous Rona (I've shot it and included it in my blog--long long ago). Again: not my photo, not my angle. I like the lighting too.

Parable with Skull - Sculpture by Jaroslaw Rona - Prague Castle -Prague, Czech Republic

Another angle: not mine. I've probably seen only a fraction of Rona's work, but everything I've seen I love.

Coffee, Maple Scone, & Daudet's Meeting with Mistral (All to the Patter of Rain)

Frederic Mistral (1830-1914) won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1904. He wrote in the language of Oc [French: Langue d'oc].

Apparently he and Daudet were good friends. From Daudet's story telling of a visit to Mistral in the small village of Maillane ("The Poet, Frederic Mistral"):

Ah, the brave poet. Montaigne must have had someone like Mistral in mind when he wrote, Think of those, who, when asked what is the point of spending so much time and trouble on a work of art that can only be seen by a few people, replied, "A few is enough. One is enough. None is enough."


Frederic Mistral
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Friday, January 20, 2012

Herbert's "The King of the Ants"

Not as excited about his mythological essays as the others--but still plenty of good bits.

Here's one: the beginning of the essay titled "Triptolemos":

Here is a myth for those weary of the world's cruelty (the thoughtless cruelty of humans and the calculated cruelty of gods), a myth flat as a plain, a soothing myth, which is why narrators thirsty for blood and intrigue tend to avoid it.

Someone Somewhere Had a Birthday

Isn't that notch in the middle Two Harbors, Catalina?

2012.01.20, 2012.01.20

Isn't that the famous Ruby's (end of the pier in Huntington Beach)?

2012.01.20, 2012.01.20

Monday, January 16, 2012

Herbert's Poem: "I Would Like to Describe"

I Would Like to Describe

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water

to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin

but apparently this is not possible

and just to say–I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face
and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me
what white-haired gentlemen
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object

we fall asleep
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

[Translation by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott]

Zbigniew Herbert (1924 - 1998)

Zbigniew Herbert Pictures, Images and Photos

Zbigniew Herbert Pictures, Images and Photos

The Apocryphal Letter: Vermeer to Leeuwenhoek

The apocryphal letter--from Vermeer to Leeuwenhoek (commonly considered to be the first microbiologist)--is posited in Herbert's essay "Letter." It is largely meant to address the differences between Art and Science. Here is an excerpt:

    I am afraid that you and others like you are setting out on a dangerous journey that might bring humanity not only advantages but also great, irreparable harm. Haven't you noticed that the more the means and tools of observation are perfected, the more distant and elusive become the goals? With each new discovery a new abyss opens. We are more and more lonely in the mysterious void of the universe.

Death of Seneca by Peter Paul Rubens

This painting is mentioned by Herbert in his essay "Spinoza's Bed":

It is an amazing thing that our memory best retains images of great philosophers when their lives were coming to an end. Socrates raising the chalice with hemlock to his mouth, Seneca whose veins were opened by a slave (there is a painting of this by Rubens), Descartes roaming cold palace rooms with a foreboding that his role of teacher of the Swedish queen would be his last, old Kant smelling a grated horse-radish before his daily walk (the cane preceding him, sinking deeper and deeper into the sand), Spinoza consumed by tuberculosis and patiently polishing lenses, so weak he is unable to finish his Treatise on the Rainbow. . . A gallery of noble moribunds, pale masks, plaster casts.

Witold Gombrowicz's "Cosmos"

Perhaps one of my favorite novels. This is just an early excerpt from the frenetic beginning of Chapter 1:

[Translation by Eric Mosbacher]

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Witold Gombrowicz

Witold Gombrowicz by xmattxyzx
Witold Gombrowicz, a photo by xmattxyzx on Flickr.

Zbigniew Herbert vs. Witold Gombrowicz

Herbert reminiscing about his love for art (and his attempts to write about it) and Witold Gombrowicz in "Still Life":

There were no longer stained-glass windows or columns, vaults or stone floors; only the skin of the architecture remained, as if hanging in the air. Inside the nave, fat pagan grass.
    I remember this image better than the face of my interlocutor, Witold Gombrowicz, who was mocking my fondness for art. I did not even defend myself but only mumbled some nonsense, aware that I was only an object, a gymnast's bar upon which the writer was exercising his dialectical muscles. If I were an innocent stamp collector Gombrowicz would have made fun of my albums, classifiers, and sets of stamps; he would have proved that stamps are the lowest rungs of the ladder of existence, morally suspect.
    "But it has absolutely no sense. How can one describe a cathedral, a sculpture, or some sort of painting," he asked me, quietly and pitilessly. "Leave this amusement to the historians of art. They don't understand anything either, but they have persuaded people they are cultivating a science."


witold gombrowicz Pictures, Images and Photos
Witold Gombrowicz

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Torrentius = Jan Simon van de Beeck's "Still Life With A Bridle"

From Herbert's essay:

   Here is an inventory of the objects represented in the painting: on the right side a potbellied pitcher of burnt clay in a warm, saturated brown;  in the middle a massive glass goblet, called a roemer, half-filled with liquid; and on the left side a silver-gray pewter pitcher with a lid and spout. In addition two porcelain pipes, a piece of paper with music, and a text on the shelf where the utensils were standing. At the top, metal objects I could not at first identify.
   The background was the most fascinating of all: black, deep as a precipice and at the same time flat as a mirror, palpable and disappearing in perspectives of infinity. A transparent cover over the abyss.



Car je est un autre: For I is another (Rimbaud)

Herbert's title essay, "Still Life With A Bridle," starts with a nod to the Polish artist/author Jozef Czapski: For Jozef Czapski, and a quote from Arthur Rimbaud: Car je est un autre (For I is another). A brief footnote says it is from a letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871. It does not give the context.

Luckily I have Rimbaud's "Selected Letters," and fortunately this one made the cut (I give below only the paragraph which this declaration begins; I give only Wallace Fowlie's translation):

    For I is someone else. If brass wakes up a trumpet, it is not its fault. This is obvious to me: I am present at this birth of my thought: I watch it and listen to it: I draw a stroke of the bow: the symphony makes its stir in the depths, or comes on to the stage in a leap.

Initially my eyes jumped to the fragment of a letter just before this one (written to Georges Izambard, May 13, 1871), because a very similar phrase was there (minus the car = for):
    I is someone else. It is too bad for the wood which finds itself a violin and scorn for the heedless who argue over what they are totally ignorant of!


Gerard ter Borch (II) - Procession of Flagellants - c. 1638

Gerard ter Borch (II) - Procession of flagellants - c. 1638


From Herbert's essay:

The "Procession of Flagellants" from the Rotterdam Museum Boymans van Beuningen I took without hesitation to be an error of an absentminded curator who hung a Spaniard among the Dutch. The "Procession" is a scene of violent, sharp contrasts of chiaroscuro. The atmosphere of menace and mysteriousness oscillates between a rending shout and deadly silence. Light falls from the lit torches, creating puddles of brightness amid thick, almost fleshlike darkness. On the left, something like an altar or a tribune. In the center, three exorcists in white frocks and white conical hoods recall predatory animals in an atlas of nightmarish hallucinations. We also see a man tied to a fence or wall with stretched-out arms, bare to his waist, on whom a storm of whiplashes will fall in a moment.  

Herbert's "Gerard Terborch: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"

The "Fatherly Admonition" in Berlin's Dahlem Museum is my favorite Terborch, one might say the fullest Terborch at the peak of his painterly potentiality: the enclosed fragment of an elegant room (its box conception of space brings to mind the dramas of Ibsen and nineteenth century naturalists). Against deep browns the screen of a bed with a baldachin and a curtain falling perpendicularly like a backdrop with a matte red shade. The same color, only gradually more intensive and saturated with light, is repeated in the coverlet on the table and upholstery of a chair. Three persons are in the room. . . .
"Fatherly (Paternal) Admonition"
By Gerard Terborch

Friday, January 13, 2012

KAFKA*Prjct, Mohawk Juggernaut

Saw one of these on the 405 this week (not the Juggernaut but the simpler KAFKA*). Sure it's KAFKA but i wasn't sure what it was. I'm closer to knowing now. Not sure the master (il miglior fabbro) would approve.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Final Note: "The Bitter Smell of Tulips"

It should be honestly confessed we have a strange liking for presenting follies in the sanctuaries of reason, and we also like to study catastrophes against a gentle landscape. There are reasons more important than frivolous personal or aesthetic inclinations, however. For doesn't the affair we have described remind us of other, more dangerous follies of humanity that consist in the irrational attachment to a single idea, a single symbol, or a single formula for happiness?
   This is why we cannot put a large period after the date 1637 and consider the matter definitively closed. It is not reasonable to erase it from memory, or count it among the inconceivable fads of the past. If tulipomania was a kind of psychological epidemic, and this is what we believe, the probability exists--bordering on certainty--that one day it will afflict us again in this or another form.
   In some Far Eastern port it is getting ready for the journey.

Herbert's "The Bitter Smell of Tulips"

  Henry Pot, a painter of collective portraits, religious and genre pictures, represented the mania afflicting his country under a veil of transparent allegory in his work "The Cart of Madmen." On this cart we recognize Flora holding in her hand three of the most precious varieties of tulip: "Semper Augustus," "General Bol," and "Admiral Hoorn." Behind the patron of nature there are five symbolic figures: Good-for-Nothing, Wealth-Craver, the Drunkard, and two ladies, Vain Hope and Poverty. A huge crowd of people runs after the cart calling,"We too want to sell our tulips."

[From Wikimedia Commons]

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Daudet's "Monsieur Seguin's Last Kid Goat"

Have been reading Daudet's Letters from My Windmill (Lettres de mon moulin), intermittently, between bigger bites of Herbert's prose, ever since I discovered him in Flaubert's Parrot and downloaded his Mill from Project Gutenberg.

IMHO "Monsieur Seguin's Last Kid Goat" has an interesting beginning:

   To Pierre Gringoire, lyrical poet, Paris.
   You'll never get anywhere, Gringoire!
   I can't believe it! A good newspaper in Paris offers you a job as a critic and you have the brass neck to turn it down. Look at yourself, old friend. Look at the holes in your doublet, your worn-out stockings, and your pinched face which betrays your hunger. Look where your passion for poetry has got you! See how much you have been valued for your ten years writing for the gods. What price pride, after all?
   Take the job, you idiot, become a critic! You'll get money, you'll have your reserved table in Brebant's, you will be seen at premieres, and it will secure your reputation....
   No? You don't want to? You prefer to stay free as the air to the end of your days. Very well then, listen to the story of Monsieur Seguin's last kid goat. You'll see where hankering after your freedom gets you.


banksy by mr. eightyse7en
banksy, a photo by mr. eightyse7en on Flickr.

Unknown Polish Art Student Inspired by Banksy

Of course until now I didn't even know who Banksy was. And now I've learned two new names: Banksy and Andrzej Sobiepan. Scroll down and watch the video (the "hang job" is done to the Pink Panther Theme):

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tahoe Pics II

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

Tahoe Pics I

We were there for three nights (a short walk to the lake). Stayed on the California side (South Lake Tahoe) but occasionally crossed the line (casinos hold little allure for us). Though the town wasn't holiday white (we took the gondola up to Heavenly and saw a little snow), it was still beautiful and, for the most part, we had a great time.

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

2012.01.07, 2012.01.07

Gothic Architecture

Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture.

Originating in 12th century France and lasting into the 16th century, Gothic architecture was known during the period as "the French Style," (Opus Francigenum), with the term Gothic first appearing during the latter part of the Renaissance. Its characteristic features include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress.

[From Wikipedia:]

The Gothic Style: The Cathedral of Saint-Denis

Paris suburbs : The Basilica of Saint-Denis - 1/3 - EXPLORE by Pantchoa
From Herbert:
This was the first use of ogive and cross-ribbed vaulting, which for some scholars is the essence of the Gothic style.


Abbot Suger

Abbot Suger, friend and confidante of the French Kings, Louis VI and Louis VII, decided in about 1137, to rebuild the great Church of Saint-Denis, attached to an abbey which was also a royal residence.

Suger began with the West front, reconstructing the original Carolingian façade with its single door. He designed the façade of Saint-Denis to be an echo of the Roman Arch of Constantine with its three-part division and three large portals to ease the problem of congestion. The rose window is the earliest-known example above the West portal in France.

At the completion of the west front in 1140, Abbot Suger moved on to the reconstruction of the eastern end, leaving the Carolingian nave in use. He designed a choir (chancel) that would be suffused with light.[15] To achieve his aims, his masons drew on the several new features which evolved or had been introduced to Romanesque architecture, the pointed arch, the ribbed vault, the ambulatory with radiating chapels, the clustered columns supporting ribs springing in different directions and the flying buttresses which enabled the insertion of large clerestory windows.

The new structure was finished and dedicated on 11 June 1144, in the presence of the King. The Abbey of Saint-Denis thus became the prototype for further building in the royal domain of northern France. It is often cited as the first building in the Gothic style. A hundred years later, the old nave of Saint-Denis was rebuilt in the Gothic style, gaining, in its transepts, two spectacular rose windows.[16]
Through the rule of the Angevin dynasty, the style was introduced to England and spread throughout France, the Low Countries, Germany, Spain, northern Italy and Sicily.[6][8]      

[From Wikipedia:]


Saint-Denis: Ambulatory Built by Abbot Suger
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Piero della Francesca, The Flagellation of Christ, c. 1455-1460

Piero della Francesca

From Herbert's essay "Piero Della Francesca":

Friends say: Well, so you were there and saw a lot; you liked Duccio, and the Dorian columns, and the stained glass at Chartes, and the Lascaux bulls--but tell us what you chose for yourself, who is the painter closest to your heart, the one you'd never give up for any other. A reasonable question since love, if true, should destroy the previous one, should enter, overwhelm your whole being, and demand exclusiveness. So I pause to think and reply: Piero della Francesca.

There is a finality in the leaves cast like cards upon the sky--a moment transformed into eternity.

--here the Renaissance master makes a direct reference to the tradition of Giotto. The figures of two monks in a desert landscape on cracked earth brushed with ashes, with a Byzantine bird overhead--Christ.

The time of day is as in other works by Piero: indeterminate, a pink-blue dawn or perhaps noon.

In their journey through the ages, the fresco's angels lost their sandals, and some clumsy restorer tried to replace them.

The dimmed, ash-gray landscape only brightens at the infinite horizon's line--an evocation of death, no doubt.

Venturi has observed that Piero's composition, his forms, aspire to geometry without entering Plato's paradise of cones, spheres, and cubes. He is, if one may use such an anachronism, like a figurative painter who has passed through a cubist phase.

Knowing that geometry devours passion, Piero never placed important events in perspective (unlike the ironist Breughel, vide The Death of Icarus).

But whatever key we may use, The Flagellation will remain one of the world's most uninterpretable paintings. We view it through a thin pane of ice--chained, fascinated, and helpless as in a dream.

Duccio: From the Maesta

Duccio 02 by alaindevisme
Duccio 02, a photo by alaindevisme on Flickr.
Still reading (re-reading) essays by Zbigniew Herbert.

Duccio really was, the mysterious painter whose date of birth is uncertain and of whom little is known other than that he died famous and in debt. His magnum opus, the Maesta, is just being renovated. I stand as if before golden stained glass in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, facing a panel of thirty-six small paintings that constitute the Maesta in verso. The room is small and dark, yet it contains a source of light. The radiance of the work is so extraordinary that even in a cellar it would shine like a star.