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.