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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reading: Szymborska's "Brueghel's Two Monkeys"

Brueghel's Two Monkeys
This is what I see in my dreams about final exams:
two monkeys, chained to the floor, sit on the windowsill,
the sky behind them flutters,
the sea is taking a bath.

The exam is History of Mankind. 
I stammer and hedge.

One monkey stares and listens with mocking disdain,
the other seems to be dreaming away --
but when it's clear I don't know what to say
he prompts me with a gentle
clinking of his chain.

Two Monkeys by Brueghel
[From Wikipedia]

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Knight-Errants: Time to Fly

More "Clips" from Zagajewski

Re the painter/writer Jozef Czapski:
He had many friends, who loved and admired him unreservedly to the end. He was in essence, though, a solitary man. He was my friend and master.

The master of my not-knowing. And what is not-knowing but thought?
Re an "inner life":
Contemporary mass culture, entertaining and at times harmless as it may be, is marked by its complete ignorance of the inner life. Not only can it not create this life; it drains it, corrodes it, undermines it. Science, caught up in other problems, likewise neglects it. Thus only a few artists, philosophers, and theologians are left to defend this fragile, besieged fortress.

Defending the spiritual life is not merely a sop thrown to the radical aesthetes. I see the spiritual life, the inner voice that speaks to us, or perhaps only whispers, in Polish, English, Russian, or Greek, as the mainstay and foundation of our freedom, the indispensable territory of reflection and independence shielding us from the mighty blows and temptations of modern life.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Reading: Zagajewski Essays

Two "clips":

Our great reality obviously contains many other elements as well. Can we count them all? Should we?  
They include not only darkness, tragedy, and madness but also joy. Not long ago I was rereading the essays of Jerzy Stempowski, a major Polish essayist who spent the second half of his life as a humble √©migr√© in Switzerland, in Berne, where he died in 1969. And I came upon a surprising quotation from Maupassant—surprising, since you don’t expect metaphysical gifts from naturalists! I must have come across it earlier, but its force struck me this time.

From time to time I experience strange, intense, short-lived visions of beauty, an unfamiliar, elusive, barely perceptible beauty that surfaces in certain words or landscapes, certain colorations of the world, certain moments … I’m not able to describe or communicate it, I can’t express it or portray it. I save these moments for myself … I have no other reason for continuing, no other cause for keeping on …

“Strange, intense, short-lived visions of beauty”—how could we live without them! “I can’t describe it,” Maupassant says. And we discover in his account something very familiar that is also very difficult to convey. In such moments one experiences something incomprehensible and piercing, both extravagant and absolutely fundamental.


My first readings of Nietzsche endure in my memory as a festival of freedom; there was something liberating in their message. After all, who’s better equipped than a young poet to respond to the young Nietzsche, whose strongest defense was his intoxicating solitude, his sense of his own genius, his inner freedom, and finally—perhaps most important—his sense that the essential energy of any human creation, cultural or otherwise, escapes the notice of the age’s learned authorities. These great scholars, who seem to know everything, who’ve counted the disks of the vertebrates and the syllables in Archilochus’ poems, can’t manage to identify whatever it is that catalyzes human minds and creativity. They analyze the outcome, but are blind to its essence; they study the fire but can describe only its ashes. And as we know, Nietzsche gleefully calls this principle that the scholars overlook none other than life itself.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Knight-Errant's Return


The New Bridge

Clip from Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer"

Bits and pieces stand out, but thus far: not the whole. Trying to reserve judgment until the end (am at maybe 45%). And I'm 99% certain my reading pleasure is being dampened by the rigmarole at semester's end.



After the lunch conference I run into my cousin Nell Lovell on the steps of the library—where I go occasionally to read liberal and conservative periodicals. Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upside-down: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Colorado Lagoon: Re-Opening

Of late, something the lagoon loves to do: close and reopen. Was there early yesterday (saw the band setting up but didn't stay, or return, for the ribbon-cutting); and again early today. A. & C. just returned a bit ago: said they preferred the lagoon's older self. They remember it when it was really wild. Oh, well: changes.









Saturday, May 20, 2017

Walker Percy (1916 - 1990)

Walker Percy, Obl.S.B. (May 28, 1916 – May 10, 1990) was an American author from Covington, Louisiana, whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.[1] He devoted his literary life to the exploration of "the dislocation of man in the modern age."[2] His work displays a combination of existential questioning, Southern sensibility, and deep Catholic faith.

[From Wikipedia:]


Handke suggested the read (via an interview). A friend agreed. Reread Short Letter, Long Farewell (Handke), and have now moved on to The Moviegoer (Percy). Will give it some time.

Peter Handke


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Another Moravian "Clip"

The woman remained seated and was now looking at him, in her turn, without curiosity. The agent crossed the room quickly to retrieve the hat from a distant divan. Suddenly, then, Marcello understood why the sight of the woman had inspired that painful sense of regret in him: actually, he realized, he didn’t want her to do the agent’s bidding, and seeing her submit to his embrace had made Marcello suffer as if confronted with an intolerable profanity. Surely she knew nothing about the light radiating from her forehead, which did not belong to her anyway, as beauty does not generally belong to the beautiful.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Contrail and Palm


"Clip" from Moravia's "The Conformist"

It was an indifference that denoted not only familiarity, but careless familiarity. In truth she had no name for normality, since she was in it up to her eyes, the way we believe that animals, if they talked, would give no name to nature, being an integral and undivided part of it. But he remained outside, and for him normality was called normality precisely because he was excluded from it and because he felt it to be in such contrast to his own abnormality. To be like Giulia, you had to be born that way, or.…

The door behind him opened and he turned around. Giulia stood before him in a wedding dress of white silk, holding the full veil falling from her head in both hands so that he could admire it.

She said exultantly, “Isn’t it beautiful? Look!”

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Reading: Moravia, Milton, Fred, & Some Parables

Always batting around this and that, looking for new inspiration.

Have been reading mostly Moravia: The Woman of Rome and now The Conformist. Have also dabbled in "side readings" via Fred (where does Trump fit into Fred's primary text: The Apocalypse?), Milton (see below), Jesus Christ (Did Kafka read JC?), and D R Griffin.

Milton (through Lucifer):

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

Day in Santa Barbara (4.14.17)










Morning in Seal Beach (4.13.17)



Friday, March 31, 2017

More Clips (+ a possible "to read") from "Jacob's Room"

"Life is wicked—life is detestable," cried Rose Shaw.

     The strange thing about life is that though the nature of it must have been apparent to every one for hundreds of years, no one has left any adequate account of it. The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted. What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?


Possible "to read": Tom Jones. Fielding.


It is a strange reflection that by travelling two days and nights you are in the heart of Italy. Accidental villas among olive trees appear; and men-servants watering the cactuses. Black victorias drive in between pompous pillars with plaster shields stuck to them. It is at once momentary and astonishingly intimate—to be displayed before the eyes of a foreigner. And there is a lonely hill-top where no one ever comes, and yet it is seen by me who was lately driving down Piccadilly on an omnibus. And what I should like would be to get out among the fields, sit down and hear the grasshoppers, and take up a handful of earth— Italian earth, as this is Italian dust upon my shoes.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

To Old Standbys: Virginia Woolf

Fishing around for something that'll grab me. Nothing much does lately. Have resorted to an old standby: Virginia Woolf. Though I've not yet swallowed her whole, I've read a lot of her. Started rereading Jacob's Room. Seems like I saw the movie too.

Anyway, the impressionistic, water-colored beginning has pulled me in. Let's see if Virginia can keep my interest up. I've forgotten so much about the story: It'll be like reading her anew.

     "I saw your brother -- I saw your brother," he said, nodding his head, as Archer lagged past him, trailing his spade, and scowling at the old gentleman in spectacles.
     "Over there -- by the rock," Steele muttered, with his brush between his teeth, squeezing our raw sienna, and keeping his eyes fixed on Betty Flanders's back.
     "Ja -- cob! Ja -- cob!" shouted Archer, lagging on after a second.
     The voice had an extra-ordinary sadness. Pure from all body, pure from all passion, going out into the world, solitary, unanswered, breaking against rocks -- so it sounded.
     Steele frowned; but was pleased by the effect of the black -- it was just THAT note which brought the rest together. "Ah, one may learn to paint at fifty! There's Titian ..." and so, having found the right tint, up he looked and saw to his horror a cloud over the bay. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Baudelairian "Clips"

From Paris Spleen:

Life is a hospital, in which every patient is possessed by the desire of changing his bed. One would prefer to suffer near the fire, and another is certain that he would get well if he were by the window.

It seems to me that I should always be happy if I were somewhere else, and this question of moving house is one that I am continually talking over with my soul.


Two poems (from Knopf's Everyman's -- my breaks):

Flesh is willing, but the Soul requires
Sisyphean patience for its song.
Time, Hippocrates remarked, is short
and Art is long.
No illustrious tombstones ornament
the lonely churchyard where I often go
to hear my heart, a muffled drum,
parade incognito.
‘Many a gem,’ the poet mourns, abides
forgotten in the dust,
unnoticed there;
‘many a rose’ regretfully confides
the secret of its scent
to empty air.

I have not forgotten the house we lived in then,  
it was just outside of town, a little white house
in a skimpy grove that hid the naked limbs  
of plaster goddesses – the Venus was chipped!  
Nor those seemingly endless evenings when the sun 
(whose rays ignited every windowpane) seemed,  
like a wide eye in the wondering sky, 
to contemplate our long silent meals,  
kindling more richly than any candlelight 
the cheap curtains and the much-laundered cloth.



Sunday, March 5, 2017