Monday, January 23, 2017

André Aciman

Main event otherwise is Aciman has arrived.  Reading his book Enigma Variations.  Had I vaguely heard of his Harvard Square or some other title?  How did I decide to look into his book?  He’s been famous for about ten years.  Has the 5ooo limit friends on facebook.  etc.  but I’m glad I am reading this book and will read all the others.  I think.  Love his writing and the way he focuses on interior flow of consciousness, thought and feeling. 

email from the kindle iphone to myself---

Hi - I'm reading "Enigma Variations: A Novel" by André Aciman and wanted to share this quote with you.

"You and I don’t love the way others do—we run on empty.” She touched my face, my forehead. “I could tell you to be happy that you have him, but it won’t help. I could tell you to be happy we’ve got two days, but that won’t help either. You’re alone, as I’m alone, and the cruelest thing is that finding each other and saying let us be alone together won’t solve a thing.””  no page number though  Loc 3201  so weird

8:40pm  Finished Enigma Variations.  Final section, Abingdon Square, felt like a let-down.  Felt forced and unnecessary. 

quotes  “I’d grown to love serving two masters.”  “and the unspoken tinge of indecency in every avowal--that thrilled and stirred me . . . .”  “I was like an ellipse, with two competing foci but no center.”  "We were neither friends, nor strangers, nor lovers, just wavering, as I wavered, as I wished to think she wavered, each grateful for the other’s silence as we watched the evening drift into night on this tiny park that was neither on Hudson, nor on Bleecker, nor on Eighth Avenue, but a tangent to all three, as we ourselves were, perhaps, nothing more than tangents in each other’s life. In a blizzard, we’d be the first to go, we’d have nowhere to go. Ours, I began to fear, was a script without parts.”

-------
still I will keep reading in the other books.  do feel some duty to finish the others I’d started last fall. 

Thurs morning 20th  Aciman has me again after all.  Call Me By Your Name.  The narrator talks of envy and similitude and the hunger for acceptance, recognition.  The eternal teenager in us, Aciman seems to have a talent for recapturing that over and over.  Tempted to troll through Goodreads to see what others say about the books.  Later perhaps.  Enough still to have found them.  Being Jewish is a topic and for me it satisfies enough for curiosity and I can easily replace it for being Catholic, strangely enough. 


Aciman’s writing reminds me of reading Brideshead Revisited, listening to Leonard Cohen, or, even, reading Pessoa?  No, Pessoa feels different even if akin. 



Hadn’t realized until looking at Goodreads that Enigma Variations is listed as being published this year, 2017.  Call Me  ten years earlier, 2007. 

“They had always said I got too easily attached to people.” 60
“Here was someone who lacked for nothing.  I couldn’t understand this feeling.  I envied him.” 26

“How could anyone intuit the manner of someone’s thinking unless he himself was already familiar with this same mode of thinking?”  22

Being and having “in  the twisted skein of desire” are one and the same thing. 68

A minute of grace.  Between always and never.  Celan.  70

Finishing Aciman more slowly to make it last.  Plans to declare him on twitter the greatest INFP writer ever, Enneagram 4, and bisexuality realist. 

Monday  23 Jan 

Aciman’s novel incredibly beautiful.  And perfect.  Having the father give his knowing blessing to the relationship part of that rather amazing perfection.  Having it be situated perfectly on the Mediterranean also.  Is it in fact too perfect?  Could that be so?  No, it is a wonder.  Like a Keats ode.  Now it is a movie at Sundance, review posted just 8 hours ago.  ! 

Peter Debruge’s review for Variety is exceptionally well done and has this paragraph about the father: “No matter how intellectually progressive the Perlman family is, no father has ever said something so open-minded and eloquent to his son, and yet, the film offers this conversation as a gift to audiences who might have desperately needed to hear it in their own lives. Such liberties are permissible given the story’s 1983 setting, which suggests that this isn’t a literal rendering of Elio’s experience, but a bittersweet embellishment of his memory. These were the days that shaped him, marked by the intense tastes, textures, and odors which Guadagnino so effectively amplifies for our benefit.”

Sounds like the movie is successful. 

The reviewer of the book for the Times, D’Erasmo, quotes this passage from Aciman on nostalgia:  “In his essay “Pensione Eolo,” Aciman writes, “Ultimately, the real site of nostalgia is not the place that was lost or the place that was never quite had in the first place; it is the text that must record that loss.” In other words, Elio and Oliver might give each other up, but the book that conjures them doesn’t give up either one. In fact, it brings them back together, reunites them, for a glorious endless summer. In the book, the river can be revisited. The closing words echo the title: a phrase simultaneously of elegy and of invitation.”

I like the line from the Post---In The Washington Post, Charles Kaiser said, "If you have ever been the willing victim of obsessive love--a force greater than yourself that pulls you inextricably toward the object of your desire--you will recognize every nuance of André Aciman's superb new novel, 'Call Me by Your Name.’”  Obsessive is a better frame than “gay” and the wikipedia article where I found this uses “bisexual” somewhere in it.  At least it shows up on search under that term but of course the main press hails the movie and book as a gay story.  Aciman makes clear that it is not so easily boxed. 

Message from student gave me line from Beckett---“It is suicide to be abroad”, grumbles Mrs Rooney in Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall, “but what is it to be at home . . . what is it to be at home? A lingering dissolution.”

passages from “Call Me” to bring up the subtexts I focused on.

Marzia says this so am in doubt as to whether to post it:  “People who read are hiders.  They hide who they are.  People who hide don’t always like who they are.” 115  

Could be just an inside joke between writer and reader.  One of the oldest complaints about reading. 

“I envied him.”  the author of If Love.  113

I like how often envy is mentioned.  More than any other book in recent memory. 

“the inflections of desire . . . could only be conveyed in play.” 186

“I want you as intermezzo . . . as both, or as in between.”  196

Here is Aciman’s genius, and few reviewers see it clearly enough.  The obsessiveness of the experience serves this desire for the transit into the middle of the bridge.  The hovering in the middle, that is the experience beyond every other. 

“I had never envied him the past, nor felt threatened by it.  . . . I didn’t envy life before me, nor did I ache to travel back to the time when he had been my age.”   201

“Rehearse the pain to dull the pain.  Homeopathically.” 210

Because he was himself, he was myself.  Montaigne  “he’s more myself than I am.”  Bronte  223

“No reader of Montaigne can forget that stunning moment when, after probing why he loved his deceased friend Etienne de La Boétie so much, the author of the essays, this master-stylist of baroque prose, breaks down and scrawls out one of the most beautiful sentences penned in French: “You ask me why I loved him,” Montaigne says. “I don’t know. All I can say is parce que c’était lui, parce que c’était moi.” Because it was he, because it was I. Proust too knows how to “  PEN America 2007

Father says to Elio “You had a beautiful friendship.  Maybe more than a friendship.  And I envy you.” . . . . “But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything--what a waste!”  224

“‘The truth is I’m not sure I can feel nothing.  And if I am to meet your family, I would prefer not to feel anything.”  235

“God, the way they envied us from across the dinner table that first night in Rome,” 239

“And we’ll want to call it envy, because to call it regret would break our hearts.”  239

“it would finally dawn on us both that he was more me that I had ever been myself, because when he became me and I became him in bed so many years ago, he was and would forever remain, long after every forked road in life had done its work, my brother, my friend, my father, my son, my husband, my lover, myself.” 243

Jeff P Jones on The Millions gets everything right about Enigma Variations.  Especially the dominance of feeling.

“But this section also reveals something at the heart of Paul’s character: he’s happiest in the throes of yearning after new love because he knows that acquisition never leads to contentment. Obsessing over his feelings for Manfred, Paul thinks, “The circuit is always the same: from attraction to tenderness to obsessive longing, and then to surrender, desuetude, apathy, fatigue, and finally scorn.” Familiarity is the come-down; Paul’s drug is feeling itself, the more intense the better.”

Except feeling is not the “drug.”  It is the way of being, the primary process of living itself. 

Jones adds “Love, infatuation, desire — these most powerful of feelings, this novel says — reduce and enlarge us in ways that are wonderfully juvenescent, at once simplifying and magnifying the world.”

Jones also gets exactly the “P” nature of the way Aciman describes desire.  “P” as in INFP.  “Paul’s focus isn’t on the repercussions from leaving an old lover as much as it is on savoring the possibilities of new love.

“Intriguingly, as we witness Paul repeatedly rearrange his life around a new magnetic north, it becomes clear that his bisexuality abets his serial monogamy. “I’d grown to love serving two masters,” he thinks, “perhaps so as never truly to answer to either one.” Yet Paul’s state isn’t a dilemma in search of an answer. We go with him the way we go with Anton Chekhov’s characters, enmeshed in the humanness of the drama. When Chloe, an on-again, off-again lover since college, confronts Paul, asking about his new lover, “Did you tell her you’ll always want something else and something more?”, we see it for the tender inquiry it is.”


























Sunday, November 06, 2016

November 2

Yesterday  Nov 2  Va went to Larson’s for the EEG test.  We did that about two years ago?  Same young woman who likes riding motorcycles.  Larson has a new haircut, beard even bigger and fuller, comb-over still there but much diminished and the rest almost shaved off completely.   Looks better, really, even sort of hip by today’s fashions.  He said he thought Va looks better than ever and that this last event was nothing even though it was good to go to the hospital and take the cautious route. 
On the way to Concord I stopped here to drop off a package for UPS and learned that poor Mark has died that morning.  Talked with Barbara T about it, she was in shock, her business next door. 

We’ve been drinking “golden milk” each evening to encourage good sleeping, a recipe Va found on Facebook.  Basically a sort of Indian coconut-tumeric chai, heated.  I made some last night that was too strong.   All day yesterday and this morning I’ve had the urge to fast so am doing so today.  Is it a seasonal thing?  In November do we want to eat less, hibernate more?  Brad Pilon had a tweet on twitter and that reminded me of what he urges. 

Phil explains his use of the Whitman quotation---I must say that phrase is famous and I had never thought of using it in the way Phil does---“contain” as a defensive stance, against, it seems exploding from within. 

“I included the quote from Whitman's Leaves of Grass at the start of "Damaged Lives."  "It's usually quoted as "I am large.  I contain multitudes."  I included just the latter because my story was going to be about people who weren't the childlike victims of events that today's psychology insists people are, but, rather, were adults who could contain many disturbing thoughts and experiences within themselves.   Tim and Libby weren't children.  If they occasionally suffered PTSD, it didn't overwhelm them.  They contained it.”

Whitman’s sense I thought was expansive.  He turns it into a contractive sense of meaning.  Containing the damage, limiting the effects.   Hmmm
No response to my Schaumann anecdote.  Maybe I had told it to him before?

Maybe also I read Edmund White’s novel before.  I suspect so but cannot recall for sure.  Bugs me.  Few more pages in and I think not. 
Sped through the letters between Porter and Schaumann.  She certainly led him on, or they both deluded themselves and each other, perhaps because the war had just ended and everyone was wounded and needy and confused.  Not many of his letters.  He was only thirty-five.  Affair with an older woman, a famous writer now out in Hollywood.  Starstruck and in denial.  She was sympathetic to a young soldier with ambitions to write.  The letter-writing itself was the vehicle of romance. 

Friday am  Phil explains what I didn’t know about K A Porter---that she was a tough, hard-drinking broad.  Guess it does make the tale all the more sad.
his reply this morning---
My big scabs are slowly healing yet  last week got VERY itchy.  I tried several kinds of lotion but found that aloe vera was the only one that really relieved the itch.


Professor Schaumann sounds like a very sad, lonely man even if he knew Hamilton and K. A. Porter.  The latter, according to what I know, was a tough, hard-drinking broad.   Not exactly the kind to render some lonely guy some emotional support.  I also think he considered you a smart, sensitive kid and was looking for some positive feedback from you.   Did you really just say "thank you" and walk out?  On the other hand, I admit it must have felt more than a little uncomfortable.  Was the guy gay?  Married or single?  


This story comes across as rather sad.  



--------------
The inner experience of that whole tale is, I guess, what I don’t want to try to explain to anyone, try to tell.  I experienced it as another sort of illumination, an immersion in a bright warm glow of comforting light and a dropping down into it, into its bottomless depths, much like the experience of the yoga lesson had been in Ammendale.  Linked to my time in the hospital, linked to my whole spiritual autobiography as I suppose we would have to phrase it were it to be spun out as a more full narrative. 

While swimming---Schaumann’s relationship with Porter fits perfectly as patterns go with our own Hans and Mary M.  He must have been about 45 when he had a flirtatious romance with her, even lived with her for a while, until, Va says, she asked him if he really preferred men.  She might have been 5-7 or more years older?  So younger gay man romances older, tougher woman, a complete Jungian archetype counter-transfer going on, I suppose.  The anima in the gay man responding to the animus in the tough, hard-drinking older woman.  Son-mother, but moreso, romancing knight to the unavailable queen.  Courtly love.  And as the letters show, the delusion and then disillusionment for each. 

Sunday  Nov 6  Nicaragua club ladies came and planted the bulbs.  Starting to clear up.  Maybe if I write non-stop for three days, Hillary will vanquish Lump.  Maybe if I fast.  Maybe if I praise the surge in Latino women voters. 
“It has often seemed to me in England that the purest enjoyment of architecture was to be had among the ruins of great buildings.”—H. James
from Levi Stahl on twitter 
“The mind makes something out of nothing or turns something into nothing.  It adds to and subtracts from the sum of things.  What it find harder is to refrain from doing so. “   Paul Valery, Analects

Over my crush on Van Dusen.  Like most his late book, Returning to the Source because in there he is relaxed, warm, embracing all and everything and urging us to enjoy the mystical or contemplative life without worry about special techniques or special devotions or this or that practice.  It’s all good, all natural, and all leads to the same One.  Yet you can see how he and Swedenborg fit perfectly as exemplars of Jung’s or Myers-Briggs’ INTJ.  Clear demarcatiions and strict hierarchical structures.  Feeling gets its place but as the origin of Thought and Thought is superior and dominant.  Amazing how clearly they demonstrate the theory. 
So we’re still looking for a VanDusen of the opposite type.  Blake, of course, for the P and perhaps for FP.  But I’d like to find a contemporary or 20th C FP version of Van Dusen.  His work was a great reminder to me and woke me back up a bit.  Gary Lachman’s work is still the most vibrant and interesting I’ve got in tow now.  Kripal has faded as well although I must still look at the closing pages of Impossible. 
Sent Gary Lachman my three dumb questions.  Wonder if he will reply at all and how. 

Something strange about Kripal’s conclusions after all of his investigations into the paranormal, the roads of excess, the experiences of religion reported by the various writers he studies.  He decides hermeneutics, interpretation of texts, of narrative, is the key figure for the nature of the cosmos and our place in it.  “writing can become a paranormal practice.”  “An author of the impossible is someone who knows that the Human is Two and One.” 270
Ok, yes.  But isn’t this making of writing and reading something akin to the oversimplifications of any thinker---and can’t any human activity become a paranormal practice?  Why privilege writing? 

    “I sat at a sidewalk table of one of the cafés facing the Charléty stadium.  I constructed all the hypotheses concerning Philippe de Pacheco, whose face I didn’t even know.  I took notes.  Without fully realizing it, I began writing my first book.  It was neither a vocation nor a particular gift that pushed me to write, but quite simply the enigma posed by a man I had no chance of finding again, and by all those questions that would never have an answer.  . . .  A girl was walking under the leaves of the treese along Boulevard Jourdan.  Her blond bangs, cheekbones, and green dress were the only note of freshness on that early August afternoon.  Why bother chasing ghosts and trying to solve insoluble mysteries, when life was there in all its simplicity, beneath the sun?”  --Patrick Modiano, Suspended Sentences 180

Monday, May 09, 2016

Woman in Turquoise

It seemed a harmless exercise and after I looked it over I thought it was all the more fitting as a play on the tip to the detective.  I had no idea if the tip had any value.  It was much as if I had made up a short story, or the start of a novel.  As if I had found a novel in the lobby, reworked it a bit, and then given it to the police and said here, here is what I think is a key in the crime you are solving. 

After three or fours months I had carried out about six deliveries.  By then I had established by custom, word-of-mouth and I suppose instructions by the hotel staffers exactly how to request my courier service.  Today a woman approached and she executed the situation with perfection that showed she had done her homework.  I appreciated that and told herself.  She smiled knowingly.  She might have been fifty.  Understated elegance, a dark turquoise suit, blonde hair styled into a flattering curve around her face.  She sat down in the chair next to mine in the lobby.  I would like to engage your service she said, sure that the usual introductory exchanges were not to be used.  Find, I said, explain the details.  Not a hint of her story, of anyone’s story.  No appeals, no explanations or background.  She opened her large leather purse, a fine piece of workmanship, perhaps Portuguese or Moroccan workmanship, I couldn’t be sure.  She handed me a medium sized, soft leather pouch, light gray colored leather, trimmed in burgundy welting.  For Thursday, she said simply, between 2 and 4, to room 57 at the Phoenix Copenhagen.  I nodded my approval and acceptance of the task.  She began to rise, paused and seated again, and said, perhaps I will say hello again to you on Friday or during the week after.  This is a bit unusual, I did not welcome or expect clients to check in with me after the job had completed or to seek any further information or approval.  Fine, I said, it won’t be necessay but it could be fine to chat a bit.  With that she rose and walked away. 

I like the Phoenix and had even considered using it as one of my three bases.  But it is too grand and showy for my taste these days.  I knocked on the door of room 57 at 3:12 Thursday afternoon.  An aide of some sort opened the door and took the pouch.  I thanked him for delivering it properly, I was sure he would.  This was the modus operandi I had worked out over the first six months in the city and it was what I wanted to use fore the remainder of my enterprise while I was there.  “Enterprise” is of course the wrong word.  No money was involved.  I had too much of that now and I simply wanted to “be of service” as the cliché has it.  I wanted some slight activity for this late phase of my life.  I enjoyed imagining what value it might have rather than knowing or want to know if it did or not.  What was in the soft gray pouch could have been anything.  I enjoyed making the judgment in an instant, as soon as I saw the person asking, much as a jury is said to make its mind up as to guilt or innocence as soon as it lays eyes on the defendant for the first time. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Jacobsen's Spoon

Fourth day in a row of solid rain and gray.  I am trying not to note such things.  Late in the afternoon Inspector Gronquist spoke to me where I was reading in the lobby of the Nyhaven.  He had another man with him.  This is Detective Bergen, he said.  This man looked like he was in his late forties.  Some experience but not yet enough.  Short-cropped brown hair, tall, an expressionon his face of startled alertness.  I could not tell if he is Danish or Swedish or from somewhere else.  He will be handling this from now on, said Gronquist.  This? I asked.  That body you happened to see a few weeks ago being carried out.  I didn’t know it was a “this” I had anything more to do with.  He smiled tightly and turned to go.  Bergen will fill you in, perhaps you can help him.  I nodded to Bergen and he sat in the big chair to my left.  He opened a case and took out some papers, shuffling them in a way that made me wonder if he was looking for a way to open his topic to me in the most favorable way.  He was, it turned out.  Gronquist suggested, we wondered, oh, I’m now in charge of this incident.  Gronquist passed it to me.  We wondered if you could offer some suggestions?  I told Gronquist weeks ago I had no interest in being involved in such things, I said.  Yes, but it turns out to be out of the ordinary.  Even for Copenhagen?  Yes, even for Copenhagen.  It was a welcome distraction on this dark gray late afternoon.  Bergen said the body was not that of a Brazilian diplomat afterall but that of a powerful Brazilian family who of course wanted every detail to be guarded as much as possible.  Drugs, sex, money, the usual items?  Jewels?  No, he nodded steadily, none of the above.  This is why we thought, Gronquist thought, you might think of something.  For you?  Well, for us, perhaps, perhaps with us.  How long had he been here?  It seems he had been traveling for a few months, Europe mainly, in and out of Denmark and Sweden during that time, a few days at a time.  How old was he?  Forties.  You’re age?  Yes, probably, my age.  Fashionably dressed of course, good looking, not married, but not involved so far as anyone has found out.  Right, Bergen said.  I took my Arne Jacobsen spoon out of my pocket.  Do you recognize this?  No, Bergen said.  This will seem too easy to me, but for you it might be a surprise then.  Seems so.  Was your Brazilian entangled in Design counterintelligence?  Computers, software, that sort of thing? Begen asked, looking a bit skeptical.  No, no, I said, look at this spoon, see how it angles, the shallow bowl turned to the left of the shaft?  Design as in Danish design for houses, furniture, dinnerware, crystal, cutlery, this spoon and others in its set.  Bergen tried to stifle a smile.  My parents talked about such things but I confess I don’t know about it.  Would this Brazilian have been killed because of something like this?  No, not exactly.  Since the rise of Scandinavian design as a “world power” as it were in the mid 1950s, Copenhagen, Oslo, these cities have become scenes of intense competition and a good deal of secrecy in the whole gobal world of high design.  Tremendous fear of new ideas being stolen, knocked-off, leaked, traded.  But the magazines are full of these things, photos, glossy spreads, ads, Bergen objected.  Yes, but as with all such worlds, what you see there is what has been secured, managed, branded they call it, made public.  But behind all of that stage-setting, power and its discontents make for more intrigue than any magazine browser could ever guess.  Much like the Paris fashion world.  The Paris, New York, Tokyo, Moscow etc worlds.  But how could we try to find out if this Brazilian fellow was involved in such things?  I don’t have much to offer you, Mr Bergen, and I had made clear to Inspector Gronquist that I wanted to offer you people nothing at all for your work.  He looked disappointed and went quiet for a few minutes, looking back through a sheaf of papers on his lap.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Friday night  13th November 2015

Michel Tournier’s novel The Ogre arrived earlier today.  Looking up stuff about him.  On a site called Books and Writers by Bamber Gascoigne this passage about one of Tournier’s novels---

 “In 1975 there appeared Les Météores (Gemini), a baroque treatment of the myth of Castor and Pollux, which could be read as a contemporary version of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. Beginning from Crusoe, Tournier's men are often solitary characters; he sees that the the natural antagonism of male and female is the major source of problems for human beings. In Gemini Thomas Koussek argues that "the heterosexual wants to lead the free, unattached life of the homosexual nobility. But the more he breaks out, the more firmly he is recalled to his proletarian condition." “  This
alignment of sexual identity with class structure is something no one would make in this country but it is pretty interesting, especially if male-female is the source of all human problems.  Again, these days, no one dare make that claim. 

Weds Dec 23  first day of winter, the solstice turn was last night
and tonight at 9:28 pm I have just read this in Tournier’s novel The Ogre:  They are celebrating the Sun Child, “risen from his ashes at the winter solstice.  The sun’s trajectory had reached its lowest level and the day was the shortest of the year: the death of the sun god was therefore lamented as an impending cosmic fatality.  Funeral chants celebrating the woe of the earth and the inhospitableness of the sky praised the dead luminary’s virtues and begged him to return among men.  And the lament was answered, for from then on every day would gain on the night, at first imperceptibly but soon with triumphant ease.”  page 264


Christmas Day

Finished The Ogre, 9:40 pm.  rushed to get it over with, distracted and not much interested in the last five pages. 

from The Complete Review

"Tournier ever longs to entrap in the single event, in the single thought or word, both the elemental and cultured, historical and perverse, anarchic and fascistic. So it is with The Mirror of Ideas" - James Sallis, Review of Contemporary Fiction

"The Mirror of Ideas is hardly a skeleton key to Tournier's fiction or biography. Only occasionally do we guess that Tournier may be talking about himself." - Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

"This volume displays Tournier at his finest, which is to say his most outrageous. The style is as fluent as ever, but the content, depending upon whether one is a feminist, a philosopher, an atheist or a cat-lover, will either annoy, exasperate, provoke or amuse." - William Cloonan, South Atlantic Review


“will either annoy, exasperate, provoke or amuse." - William Cloonan, South Atlantic Review

liked this comment about Tournier on Complete Review.  Seems that’s what he does in all of his novels, so that was The Ogre.  A stew of interesting stuff, a deconstruction of the male war machines, the Nazis as well as today’s Isis, although strangely missing is adult homoeroticism, replaced by the pedaphilia, all of it drawn from Goethe’s Erl-King, which I think our American reader of myths, Robert Bly, must have used in his work.  It seems that in his next novel, Gemini, he treats that topic. 

Since I was so fascinated by twins years back (is it something one likes in one’s fifties?, I might read this Gemini--my star sign after all, too.  Tournier is irritating and yet I guess he provides a unique sort of entertainment, reading experience. 


Tuesday  29th  Snow this morning.  Slushy though.


Tournier’s work intrigues, alas.  Someone commented that his work deals only with men and what’s that about?  The Gemini did indeed occupy my imagination a while back so why not investigate.  Have to calculate but that was twenty years ago.  So how old was Tournier when he wrote his novels?  He has a memoir too and I’ll look up sites today, snow day, for more info.  Am afraid The King of Alders, the Erl-King, The Ogre, has stayed with me more than I would have wanted it to as I read it.  I thought I was irritated by it but of course irritation a fine line away from fascination.  And I realize his place in the late 20thC geist about deconstructin and multiple-voicing everything.  So wouldn’t I had I been in his career.  Plus his re-writing of Crusoe is perfect for my Copenhagen.  Crusoe in Copenhagen I could even call it.  The man alone after a shipwreck.  I’ve never read Crusoe and the Tom Hanks movie, not seen, put me off ever wanting to.  But it is the model for the philosophical novel in English. 

Found the put-down of the day, an anonymous Kirkus reviewer from 1984  “And the best stories here are, in fact, the most straightforward, conventional dramatizations of Tournier's mythic preoccupations: ""The Lily of the Valley Rest Area"" reveals the epicureanism of two French long-haul truck drivers; and ""The Fetishist"" is the expected monologue about women's frilly underwear. Inventive, tingly curosities at best, then--but far too often Tournier seems like no more than a cerebral Joyce Carol Oates, lazily toying with dark urges and forbidden pleasures.
Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1984

ouch, that hurts.  Can only hope the reviewer is wrong. 

Dreary day.  Wet snow, rainy, short excursion to the dump and that was it.  Day off tomorrow.  Or half a day.  Kathie will do pool work with Willow in the morning.  No appointment with Feeney.  Nothing from Paquin.  Or Scott or anybody else.  Doug came in for a glass of wine while Ben plowed the driveway.  Invited himself in and asked for a wine.  ! 

A better article by John Yargo appeared this year on The Rumpus.
A good line from it is “The ultimate destination of a spiritual journey, Tournier reminds us, has to be obscure.”

That’s good.  So Tournier liked Bachelard and studied philosophy. 

3 Dec

For now I am a Tournier-o-phile.  Very much a school days memory book, so far.  Blustery rainy day.  Furnace guy called to clarify the water problem in the basement.  Paula here. 
Va proposed we plot a day in Cambridge tomorrow while the weather is good

27 Dec Sunday

Finished reading a very strange novel called The Ogre by Michel Tournier.  Turns out it was a John Malkovich movie in 1996.  Analysis of Nazisim through use of German mythology about St Chrisopher (the Erl King) and pedophilia. !  Some brainy stuff throughout but "not recommended" is my review.  Shoulda been an essay, a book, i.e. dissertation. 


31 Dec

40 pages into Gemini and Tournier has me hooked.  Delicious and pointed and sharply intelligent and more.  Me and Genet agree here.  Or will do. 

10 January 2016

Tournier’s Gemini  The bloom is off that rose.  At least a bit.  No matter what Genet says on the back cover.  In fact that blurb itself might now do more to damn the book and the career to the remembered past more than keep it alive.  How far removed the headlines about gender and sexuality are from the world Genet wrote about and, it seems, Tournier took his turn with.  I’ll finish Gemini when I get back.  I’m 173 page in out of 452.  I could cut the book down the spine and take it with me but that doesn’t seem that essential or necessary.  It will wait.  It might still surprise me, but at the moment the voice of Alexandre feels less intriguing and interesting than I had at first thought.  And his gender politics feel antiquated, as I noted above.  Could just as well cut up Lurid & Cute, but that too seems extreme.  India beckons on this stormy night.

Thurs Jan 21

Tournier’s twins book is better.  His portrait of Alexandre could be Donato and could sum up the views of generations of members of their caste.  Wish the tour guide would have talked about the caste system in Indian history.  Will we try to go back to India?  At this point, hard to say.  Just to visit with Kenna?  Somehow I don’t think so.  To visit Mumbai and Kerala and the greatest of Hindu temples?  Maybe.  Waiting for more prompts on this question.  For now still getting over the exhaustion.  And yet “news” of Lachman’s book via Nicholas seems somehow a result of the trip.  As well as all of our own interior spiritual processing of what just happened. 

Remembered I have Tournier’s autobiography now too.  Earlier I’d wondered if Alexandre was autobio but further on into the book I think he’s making it up and is more interested in his binary conceptualism as imaged by the twins.  The twinification syndrome. 

Sunday  Jan 24  2016

Reading around in Tournier’s “autobiography.”  Which it hardly is.  More like essays on my great novels and explications of them.  Still, he gives helpful tips about Gemini and what he was trying to do in it.  He even mentions Modiano in reference to how dangerous it is to a novel when the author introduces a vivid homosexual character who can take over and direct the work in ways the writer had not intended. 

Tournier loses me fast and now that I’m midway in Gemini I wonder if I will ever finish it.  He explains exactly what he’s after and this turns out to be what turns me off.  “As I state previously, my novels are all attempts to render certain metaphysical ideas in the form of images and stories.”  Ok, but that interests me less than he wants it to.  Burke would love his next sentence (he’s defending his interest in his characters’ chamber pots): “Well, it’s a simple fact that ontology when tossed into the crucible of fiction undergoes a partial metamorphosis into scatology.  The most interesting part of the material on Gemini is a letter from a twin who says Tournier captures the essence of twinness as a perfection of incestuousness.  The twin and his brother slept with their mother and more or less with one another until about the age of twenty when they finally separated out from the family triangle and developed separate lives.   Why does the reader (moi) suspect that Tournier might be making this up?  Burke does that every so often in his books.  Whether he did or not, it confirms the fact that for me Tournier is less a novelist-poet than an essayist, a fabulist in Sheldon Sacks’ terms, writing parables and teaching stories, philosophy in narrative forms.  Too cerebral, too left brain, too mentalistic.  Alpha too.  Where’s the feeling?  His characters are puppets of his notions, his monadology.  He hates mathmatics or had no talent for it in school and yet his books seem like rubics cubes, like Kehlmann’s novel, F, that I read on the plane.  Puzzle constructs or ontological game-codes.  Kehlmann’s touch with it all is much lighter and more playful than Tournier’s.  He is too pleased with himself, the self-absorbed bachelor ontological puppet-master. 

Hope shifted back now to Gebser.  And more likely to go back to Modiano than Tournier. 

Monday  Jan 25

Swimming this morning.  Back to routines.  And now I’m reading more of Tournier after all, the chapter 2 entitled The Ogre (the novel I read first) in which he describes the Nazi occupation of France as he experienced it and what followed in his life.  He was 19 when the war ended and the Germans retreated.  And his family knew German  language, literature and culture very deeply. 

Bach’s Art of the Fugue a big inspiration, model. 

He has an amazing tale to tell about being twenty and living in Germany right after the war.  I suspect others wondered out loud--why didn’t you write all of this instead of writing it in the form of those bloody novels?  In the chapter on The Ogre he says “I never had any intention of writing fantasy.  My aim was to achieve a realism that became fantastic only through an extreme of precision and tationalism: hyperrrealism plus hyperrationalism.”  93  Wind Spirit

“Bachelard taught me not only the versatility of dialectic but also that hallmark of all genuine philosophical investigation, laughter. . . No, the truth is simply that laughter is the sign of man’s approach to the absolute.”  124-125

January 27, 2016  I skim the few pages left in Chapter 11 of Gemini page 250 of 452 pages total.  Unconvincing pages about the Germans arriving in Paris and Hitler having his photo taken at the Eiffel tower.  No interest in reading further.  So now we bid Tournier adieu. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book and life converge

Weds Dec 23  first day of winter, the solstice turn was last night and tonight at 9:28 pm I have just read this in Tournier’s novel The Ogre:  They are celebrating the Sun Child, “risen from his ashes at the winter solstice.  The sun’s trajectory had reached its lowest level and the day was the shortest of the year: the death of the sun god was therefore lamented as an impending cosmic fatality.  Funeral chants celebrating the woe of the earth and the inhospitableness of the sky praised the dead luminary’s virtues and begged him to return among men.  And the lament was answered, for from then on every day would gain on the night, at first imperceptibly but soon with triumphant ease.”  page 264

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lines from Chris Kraus

Schizophrenics aren’t sunk into themselves.  Associatively, they’re hyperactive.  The world gets creamy like a library. 231

Anyone who feels too much or radiates extremity gets very lonely.  227

“Schizophrenia,” Géza Róhreim wrote, “is the magical psychosis.”  A search for proof.  An orgy of coincidences.) 226

Capitalism’s ethics are completely schizophrenic; i.e., they’re contradictory and duplicitous.  Buy Cheap, Sell Dear.  Psychiatry tries its hardest to conceal this, tracing all disturbances back to the Holy Triangle of Mommy-Daddy-Me.  “ The unconscious needs to be created,” Félix wrote in Mary Barnes’ Trip. A brilliant model.  226

If art’s a seismographic project, when that project meets with failure, failure must become a subject too.  217

How I like to dip into other people’s books, to catch the rhythm of their thinking, as I try to write my own.  Writing around the edges of Philip K. Dick, Ann Rower, Marcel Proust, Eileen Myles and Alice Notley.  It’s better than sex. Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill--getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind.  207

the ideal reader is one who is in love with the writer & combs the text for clues about that person & how they think--- 132

The rest was history, or, Chris had gotten one thing right: beneath his reputation at the Mudd Club as the philosopher of kinky sex, Sylvère was a closet humanist.  Guilt and duty more than S&M propelled his life.  109

To initiate something is to play the fool. I really came off the fool with you, sending the fax, etcetera.  Oh well.   I feel so sorry we were never able to communicate, Dick.  Signals through the flames.  Not waving but drowning.  91

Accepting contradictions means not believing anymore in the primacy of “true feelings.”  Everything is true and simultaneously.  87

The Bataille Boys saw beatitude in the victim’s agonized expression as the executioner sawed off his last remaining limb.  33


Chris Kraus, I Love Dick.  Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1997, 2006.

Who Loves Me not by Chris Kraus

Half-way into Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick.  Noticed that former student Robbie B, now librarian at New Hampton, had read it (Goodreads notification? which I never look at) and then it turned up on the back shelves as I was rearranging back there in the alcove.  Book first published in 1997.  Way back then.  From now (Paris attacks, Daesh, etc) doesn’t it feel even more dated.  Those heady days of Deleuze and Bataille.  Even refers to the Bataille Boys a couple of times.  I thought I could tell Scott (and Paul H) to read it, that it would plug onto his disseration as perfectly as a Lego.  And since it is from that far back, how did I manage to miss it?  And would anyone who didn’t know much about all that theory be that interested in it?  Would Paul read it?  I don’t think so---as removed from his world as possible and far too self-enclosed, like a hothouse, a small academic coffee house gossipy closet drama.  

Friday Nov 20  

After Kraus I should change my character’s name from Andrew to Andrea Campéon, or Angela.  Would that do anything of value to it?  

Kraus just praised my method---reading lots of books and writing around the edges of them.  Quote coming.  In spite of that I’m really ready for this book to end and really tired of it, tired of her brilliant, brainy and clever whining about all of it, her love for Dick just isn’t as wonderful and she wants it to be and the rest is, finally, pretty tiresome.  I’ll give the New Yorker writer from this past April, Leslie Jamison, the public and last word and then privately I’ll disagree.  I guess my disagreement will be proof positive of Kraus’s great success.  

“How I like to dip into other people’s books, to catch the rhythm of their thinking, as I try to write my own.  Writing around the edges of Philip K. Dick, Ann Rower, Marcel Proust, Eileen Myles and Alice Notley.  It’s better than sex. Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill--getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind.”  207  You’d think Goodreads or somewhere would inscribe that over their lintel.  

Now at 227 & heck, Kraus has turned it all up and around and I love the book again, can’t stop reading it, don’t want it to end.  The best.  What a book.  

“You said: ‘I’m sick of your emotional blackmail.’” 232

whole book is that.  A cabinet of curiosities.   

After Kraus instead of making Andrew into Andrea, better to just take that character out all together.  

Maybe I am mildly schizophrenic?  Have I ever wondered that?  see page 232 ff  Now I am really really tired of the book, so ready to have it over, trying not to rush it.  Too much.  But enough already, let’s put this unexquisite corpse into the grave.  

Finished the book around 1 pm.  Sigh of relief, impatient relief.  Lunch.  After lunch, in the mail, issue of Parabola, Winter issue on Free Will and Destiny.  Kraus’s book has a Foreward and an Afterword.  Isn’t that some sort of warning?  I liked it in the Foreward where Eileen Myles pays Kraus a huge compliment: “Chris knows (like Bruce Chatwin knew) how to edit.”  15.  I wonder.  Maybe in a line-by-line way, maybe, as Myles explains, in a drummer’s pacing way, knowing how to go everywhere and “make it move.”  But maybe not so much in a don’t tire the reader too much way.  Chatwin would have, I’m absolutely positive, shortened Kraus’s 260 page book by at least thirty to fifty pages.  Minimum.  Now that Parabola is here, like a godsend, I can read it cover-to-cover as the perfect antidote to having spent the past week on Kraus’s Dick.  I mean Kraus’s Love.  Well, Kraus’s I.  There it is:  what if she had called the book, from the first, Dick Loves Me.  Would it have been a better book, a better feminist book, much less a period frozen in amber-time and much more of a timeless work?  Or is my very suggestion a sure backslide on my part into the leaden sludge of patriarchist helpfulness?  It is a fascinating cabinet of curiosities, a narrative collection of odd people, trendy oddities, topical themes and obsessions from the 90s, as these floated around in various currents and eddies of the academic and artsy worlds Kraus herself floated around in.  
It seems so dated now.  This is what some parts of those worlds really did feel like back then.  A fragile time-capsule. 


I do like the way Leslie Jamison ends her terrific essay on Kraus.  

"A story that flashes “back and sideways” keeps its emotional pulse live: “To organize events sequentially is to take away their power,” Kraus writes. “Emotion’s not at all like that. Better to hold onto memories in fragments, better to stop and circle back each time you feel the lump rise in your throat.” Taken together, Kraus’s books summon these “contradictory, multiple perspectives” on an even broader level: they approach a recurring consciousness from different angles, dip into the trajectory of a life at different moments. They preserve a certain electricity by refusing to resolve these life materials into a single, coherent narrative. They are all windows to the same exhibit, all doorways to the same club under the same full moon, all promising and winking and opening their legs at once. They are all committed to the live wire of feeling (Ahhh, feelings), committed to circling back to what makes the lump rise in the throat, what makes the heart beat faster; committed to keeping emotions forceful by refusing to slot their evocations neatly into any genre, refusing the divide between authenticity and artifice, refusing to distinguish between reality and performance. It’s all lumpy. It’s all performed. It’s all real. "  "This Female Consciousness"