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, April 30, 2014

From Gombrowicz's "Trans-Atlantyk": Lots of Giggles

Really, you could open it up to any e-page and get some laughs (I'm already at 47%). But I'll put down some of the beginning:

     I feel the need to convey to my Family, to my kin and friends, this the beginning of my adventures, now ten years long, in the Argentinean capital. I'm not inviting anyone to eat these old noodles of mine, the turnips that may even be raw, because they're in a common pewter bowl, Lean, Paltry, even Embarrassing withal, cooked in the oil of my Sins, of my Embarrassments, these my heavy grits, Dark, together with this black gruel of mine, oh, you better not put them in your mouth, unless 'tis for my eternal damnation and degradation, on my Life's unending road and up this arduous and wearisome Mountain of mine.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Witold Gombrowicz (1904 - 1969)

Witold Marian Gombrowicz (August 4, 1904 – July 24, 1969) was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterised by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes: the problems of immaturity and youth, the creation of identity in interactions with others, and an ironic, critical examination of class roles in Polish society and culture. He gained fame only during the last years of his life, but is now considered one of the foremost figures of Polish literature.

A Few More "Clips" from Walser's "Jakob von Gunten"

Definitely a "lighter" version of Kafka. Fewer stings and more smiles. Apparently Kafka knew and liked his work.

I've been busy lately, otherwise I would've posted more (lots of "electronic" dog-ears). Am almost to the end of Jakob and am already looking ahead to revisiting Gombrowicz -- a new read: Trans-Atlantyk and an old friend: Gombrowicz's Diary.


A few "clips" from Jakob von Gunten:

  • They're kind out of Weltschmerz and pleasant out of fear.
  • Can anyone console a Jakob von Gunten? As long as I have a healthy body, there can be no question of it.
  • If I want to, if I tell myself to, I can revere everything, even bad behavior, but it must have the color of money.
  • To be robust means not spending time on thought but quickly and quietly entering into what has to be done.
  • Oh, you little world-conqueror, out in a profession, endeavoring, achieving things, whole seas of boredom, emptiness, loneliness will yawn at you.
  • Is Herr Benjamenta a gale? It's quite conceivable, for I've often had occasion to feel the roarings and rages and dark explosions of this gale. And also he's so omnipotent, and I, a pupil, how tiny I am. Quiet now, not a word about omnipotence. One is always wrong when one takes up with big words.
  • -- sometimes I say and think things that surpass my own understanding. Perhaps, therefore, I should have been a parson, the founder of a religious sect or movement.

Magnolia Grandiflora

Seems to be the type they plant here in CA. Never really "experienced" the south or southeast much (Florida as a kid, Virginia in the winter), where they are probably more spectacular.


Magnolia grandiflora, commonly known as the southern magnolia or bull bay, is a tree of the family Magnoliaceae native to the southeastern United States, from Virginia south to central Florida, and west to eastern Texas and Oklahoma. Reaching 27.5 m (90 ft) in height, it is a large striking evergreen tree with large dark green leaves up to 20 cm (8 in) long and 12 cm (4.5 in) wide and large white fragrant flowers up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter. Widely cultivated around the world, over a hundred cultivars have been bred and marketed commercially. The timber is hard and heavy, and has been used commercially to make furniture, pallets, and veneer.

[From Wikipedia:]




Sunday, April 20, 2014

From Walser's "Jakob von Gunten"

I have sold my watch, so as to buy tobacco for cigarettes. I can live without a watch, but not without cigarettes, that is shameful, but a necessity. Somehow I must get some money or I shan't have any clean clothes to wear. Clean collars are things I can't do without. A person's happiness depends, yet does not depend, on such things. Happiness? No. But one should be proper. Cleanliness alone is a joy. I'm just talking. How I hate all the right words!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Heron Who Thought He Was a Stork, etc.




Descano Gardens

Beautiful. Haven't seen so many camellias in one place before. I was enjoying a walk with my friends, so only took one shot: from the Boddy House (just the patio, some oaks, and the skittish mountain top in the distance), where we made a RR stop.


Manchester Boddy (1891 - 1967)

Elias Manchester Boddy (pronounced "Boady"[1]) (1891–1967) rose from poverty to become the publisher of a major California newspaper and a candidate for Congress. His estate, Descanso Gardens, was bequeathed to the County of Los Angeles as a floral park.

[From Wikipedia:]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Robert Walser (1878 - 1956)

Robert Walser (15 April 1878 – 25 December 1956), was a German-speaking Swiss writer.

Walser is understood to be the missing link between Kleist and Kafka. “Indeed,” writes Susan Sontag, “At the time [of Walser’s writing], it was more likely to be Kafka [who was understood by posterity] through the prism of Walser. Robert Musil, another admirer among Walser’s contemporaries, when he first read Kafka pronounced [Kafka’s work] as, 'a peculiar case of the Walser type.'"[1] Walser was admired early on by artists such as Robert Musil, Hermann Hesse, Stefan Zweig,Walter Benjamin and Franz Kafka,[2] and was--in fact--better known in his lifetime than Franz Kafka or Walter Benjamin, for example.[3]

Nevertheless, Walser was never able to support himself based on the meager income he made from his writings and he worked as a copyist, an inventor's assistant, as a butler and in various other low-paying trades. Furthermore, despite marginal early success in his literary career, the popularity of his work gradually diminished over the second and third decades of the 20th century, he remained financially unstable and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown, spending the remainder of his life in sanatoriums, taking frequent long walks. A revival of interest in his works arose when, in the late-twentieth century and the early 2000's his work from the Pencil Zone, also known as Bleistiftgebiet or "the Microscripts"--works he had written in a microscopically tiny hand, in a coded alphabet while in the sanatorium--were finally deciphered, translated and published.[4][5] [6]

[From Wikipedia:]

Robert Walser's "Jakob von Gunten"

Will get back to Krzhizhanovsky when NYRB "kindlizes" Memories of the Future. In the meantime I'm dipping back into Robert Walser: Jakob von Gunten. It's another NYRB output and it is on Kindle.

Here's a couple big names and blurbs from Amazon's Review:

The moral core of Walser's art is the refusal of power; of domination.... Walser's virtues are of the most mature, most civilized art. He is a truly wonderful, heartbreaking writer.
-- Susan Sontag

If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place.
-- Hermann Hesse

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Asinaria: Feast of the Ass

Not as taken with The Letters Killer Club as I was with Corpse, but still highly inventive and readable.

Learned about at least one interesting thing (I'm about half way through his novella): an Asinaria (not to be confused with Plautus' play of the same name).


The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum or asinaria festa, French: Fête de l'âne) was a medieval, Christian feast observed on January 14, celebrating the Flight into Egypt. It was celebrated primarily in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating the donkey-related stories in the Bible, in particular the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus's birth.[1]

[From Wikipedia:]

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Crab Cooker

Been going for years. Prices are up, no one could tell me where the old bank sign was (seems they covered it up with paint), but the food was as good as ever. I always get the scallop skewer, potatoes, and tomatoes.



Krzhizhanovsky's "Postmark: Moscow"

Though it's "all good" (I'll need to do a reread before I settle on a fave), I'm very much enjoying "Postmark: Moscow" (the last lap of the Corpse) because it's like time-traveling with Siggy as your guide.

From Letter Seven (just happens to be the one I'm on):

At the moment I'm very busy looking for Moscow on library shelves. I couldn't have done without the mysterious drawer of the extremely kind and learned Pyotr Nikolaevich Miller; this drawer is stuffed with little square cards: No matter which one you pull out, it is marked "Moscow." This is my third week sitting in the airy reading room on the top floor of the History Museum flicking the dust off old books about Moscow. You may ask: What did I find under the dust? Ashes.
     Yes, on forty layers of ashes we all abide, over forty layers of ashes we walk and ride.

Shadow Birds on Palm Sunday


Thursday, April 10, 2014

From Krzhizhanovsky's "The Unbitten Elbow"

     It began like this: The fashionable speaker Eustace Kint, who rose to fame through the ears of elderly but wealthy ladies, was taken by friends after a birthday lunch -- by chance, on a lark -- to the circus. A professional philosopher, Kint caught the elbow-eater's metaphysical meaning right off the bat. The very next morning he sat down to write an article on "The Principles of Unbitability."
     Kint, who only a few years before had trumped the tired motto "Back to Kant" with his new and now wildly popular "Forward to Kint," wrote with elegant ease and rhetorical flourishes. (He once remarked, to thunderous applause, that "philosophers, when speaking to people about the world, see the world, but they do not see that their listeners, located in that same world, five steps away from them, are bored to tears.") After a vivid description of the man-verus-elbow contest, Kint generalized the fact and, hypostatizing it, dubbed this act "metaphysics in action."
     The philosopher's thinking went like this: Any concept (Begriff, in the language of the great German metaphysicians) comes lexically and logically from greifen (to grasp, grip, bite). But any Begriff, when thought through to the end, turns into Grenzbegriff, or boundary concept, that eludes comprehension and cannot be grasped by the mind, just as one's elbow cannot be grasped by one's teeth. "Furthermore," Kint's article continued, "in objectifying the unbitable outside, we arrive at the idea of the transcendent: Kant understood this too, but he did not understand that the transcendent is also immanent (manus -- 'hand,' hence, also 'elbow'); the immanent-transcendent is always in the 'here,' extremely close to the comprehending and almost part of the apperceiving apparatus, just as one's elbow is almost within reach of one's grasping jaws. But the elbow is 'so near and yet so far,' and the 'thing-in-itself' is in every self, yet ungraspable. Here we have an impassable almost," Kint concluded, "an 'almost' personified by the man in the sideshow trying very hard to bite his own elbow. Alas, each new round inevitably ends in victory for the elbow: The man is defeated -- the transcendent triumphs. Again and again -- to bellows and whistles from the boorish crowd -- we are treated to a crude but vividly modeled version of the age-old gnoseological drama. Go one, go all, hurry to the tragic sideshow and consider this most remarkable phenomenon; for a few coins you can have what cost the flower of humanity lives."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tubal-cain (AKA The Forger) Gets on Board and . . .

The Watchers = hybrids of Ent and rock biter must've been the Nephilim.


All I got to say about Noah. We had nothing else to do (though it wasn't a hot afternoon) and it was there.

Could've been worse: They could've persecuted me with more previews. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Guess Women Could Play Too (Kottabos)

[From Wikimedia Commons]

Kottabos (Cottabus)

An interesting game mentioned in the "Corpse."


Kottabos (Ancient Greek: κότταβος) was a game of skill played at ancient Greek and Etruscan symposia (drinking parties), especially in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The game is played by flinging wine lees at targets. The player would utter the name of the object of his affection.[1]

The game appears to have been of Sicilian origin, but it spread through Greece from Thessaly to Rhodes, and was especially fashionable at Athens. Dionysius Chalcus, Alcaeus, Anacreon, Pindar, Bacchylides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Antiphanes[disambiguation needed] make frequent and familiar allusion to the cottabus – and it appears on vases from the era; but in the writers of the Roman and Alexandrian period such reference as occurs shows that the fashion had died out. In Latin literature it is almost entirely unknown.

[From Wikipedia:]

From Krzhizhanovsky's "Autobiography of a Corpse"

Not that everything NYRB dishes up is to my taste, but I have discovered many jewels there. Was googling and amazoning about yesterday, thinking What next. Hit on a new author that sounded interesting, even if I've no clue re pronouncing his name: Krzhizhanosky. I've already read the title story, "Autobiography of a Corpse" (I think it good enough to deserve a second reading), and moved on to the second short story in my slender e-volume: "In the Pupil."

This tidbit comes from "Corpse":

     It was then that my excruciating insomnias began. I gave up my late-night strolls about the streets. They no longer helped. I never could and cannot drink. People's society to me is worse than insomnia. But I had to fill my long, empty vigils with something. I bought thirty-two black and white carved figures and began playing chess: myself against myself. The utter futility of chess thinking appealed to me. After long struggles between thoughts and counter-thoughts, pitched battles between whole tiny world, wooden and dead, back into its box, and not a trace of the dynasties of its black and white kings, or the devastating wars they had waged, remained -- within me, or without.
     Still, my games of "myself against myself" did have one peculiarity that at first intrigued me: Black almost always won. 

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887 - 1950)

Sigizmund Dominikovich Krzhizhanovsky (Russian: Сигизму́нд Домини́кович Кржижано́вский, IPA: [sʲɪɡʲɪzˈmunt dəmʲɪˈnʲikəvʲɪt͡ɕ krʐɨʐɐˈnofskʲɪj], Polish: Zygmunt Krzyżanowski; 11 February [O.S. 30 January] 1887  – 28 December 1950) was a Russian and Soviet short-story writer who described himself as being "known for being unknown"; the bulk of his writings were published posthumously.


Krzhizhanovsky was born in Kiev to a Polish family on 11 February 1887.[1]
Judging from his works, major influences on his style were Robert Louis Stevenson, G. K. Chesterton, Edgar Allan Poe, Nikolai Gogol, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and H. G. Wells. Krzhizhanovsky was active among Moscow's literati in the 1920s, while working for Alexander Tairov's Chamber Theater. Several of Krzhizhanovsky's stories became known through private readings, and a couple of them even found their way to print. In 1929 he penned a screenplay for Yakov Protazanov's acclaimed film The Feast of St Jorgen, yet his name did not appear in the credits. One of his last novellas, "Dymchaty bokal" (The smoky beaker, 1939), tells the story of a goblet miraculously never running out of wine, sometimes interpreted as a wry allusion to the author's fondness for alcohol. He died in Moscow, but his burial place is not known.

In 1976, scholar Vadim Perelmuter discovered Krzhizhanovsky's archive and in 1989 published one of his short stories. As the five volumes of his collected works followed, Krzhizhanovsky emerged from obscurity as a remarkable Soviet writer, who polished his prose to the verge of poetry. His short parables, written with an abundance of poetic detail and wonderful fertility of invention – though occasionally bordering on the whimsical – are sometimes compared to the ficciones of Jorge Luis Borges. Quadraturin (1926), the best known of such phantasmagoric stories, is a Kafkaesque novella in which allegory meets existentialism.

[From Wikipedia:]

Down at the Jetty












April Is the Cruellest Month

A friend of mine has reminded me that it's National Poetry Month. How would I know? For me ("to me") it's always "in the cracks and seams."

She also pointed me to a link:

Two New Poems up at Burningword

The titles are "Green Lion Devouring Sun" and "Rage, Rage." You can find them here.