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Jan. 16th, 2015

January 20th 1841
Disappointment will make us conversent with the nobler part of our nature, it will chasten us, and prepare us to meet accident on higher ground the next time, as Hannibal taught the Romans the art of war. So is all misfortune only our stepping stone to fortune.
The desultory moments, which are the grimmest features of misfortune, are a step before me on which I should set foot, and not a stumbling blocks in the path. To extract its whole good I must be disappointed with the best fortune, and not be bribed by sunshine nor health.

Aug. 12th, 2014

The heavy cost of depression makes me think of Anne Sexton, who wrote

Wanting to Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don’t always die,
but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!—
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love whatever it was, an infection.

[reposted post] Charlie Haden & Carlos Paredes - Song For Che

Just heard about the death of Charlie Haden. Terrible news. It was Haden and his music that first got me listening to jazz, and Song For Che in particular. Put simply, it's the greatest piece of funeral music ever written, astonishing both in the breadth of its sorrow and the fact that the melody is entirely carried by the double bass.

I'm sure I've written about the Liberation Music Orchestra version before, so instead here's a recording of Haden with the Portuguese guitar player Carlos Paredes instead. If anything, this is even better. For more than half the track it's nothing but solo bass, with Haden pulling every personal note out of a tune he'd been playing for over 20 years at the time of recording. Paredes adds a little cultural framework. Although his contribution is only minor he evokes great pride with his playing.

Goodbye Charlie. I never knew you, but I knew what you believed in and I knew your music, and no-one played it like you did.

Charlie Haden & Carlos Paredes - Song For Che
If I were to take Faulkner at face value and say that these are the best American writers of the front end of the 20th century, take their output and sequence it, I would get a crazy ambitious reading list that looks like this:
Cather Alexander's Bridge  1912
Cather O Pioneers!  1913
Cather The Song of the Lark  1915
Cather My Ántonia  1918
Dos Passos One Man's Initiation: 1917 1920
Dos Passos Three Soldiers  1921
Cather One of Ours  1922
Dos Passos A Pushcart at the Curb 1922
Dos Passos Rosinante to the Road Again  1922
Cather A Lost Lady  1923
Dos Passos Streets of Night 1923
Hemingway  Three Stories and Ten Poems 1923
Cather The Professor's House  1925
Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer  1925
Hemingway  In Our Time 1925
Cather My Mortal Enemy  1926
Faulkner Soldiers Pay 1926
Hemingway  The Torrents of Spring 1926
Hemingway  The Sun Also Rises 1926
Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop  1927
Dos Passos Facing the Chair 1927
Dos Passos Orient Express 1927
Faulkner Mosquitos 1927
Hemingway  Men Without Women 1927
Faulkner Sartoris 1929
Faulkner The Sound and the Fury 1929
Hemingway  A Farewell to Arms 1929
Steinbeck Cup of Gold 1929
Wolfe O Lost 1929
Dos Passos The 42nd Parallel  1930
Faulkner As I Lay Dying 1930
Cather Shadows on the Rock  1931
Faulkner Sanctuary 1931
Dos Passos Nineteen Nineteen 1932
faulkner Light In August 1932
Steinbeck The Pastures of Heaven 1932
Hemingway  Winner Take Nothing 1933
Steinbeck The Red Pony 1933
Steinbeck To a God Unknown 1933
Wolfe No Door 1933
Cather Lucy Gayheart  1935
Faulkner Pylon 1935
Steinbeck Tortilla Flat 1935
Wolfe Of Time and the River 1935
Wolfe From Death to Morning 1935
Dos Passos The Big Money  1936
Faulkner Absalom Absalom 1936
Steinbeck In Dubious Battle 1936
Wolfe The Story of a Novel 1936
Hemingway  To Have and Have Not 1937
Steinbeck Of Mice and Men 1937
Wolfe The Lost Boy 1937
faulkner The Unvanquished 1938
Hemingway  The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories 1938
Steinbeck The Long Valley 1938
Dos Passos Adventures of a Young Man  1939
faulkner The Wild Palms 1939
Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath 1939
Cather Sapphira and the Slave Girl  1940
faulkner The Hamlet 1940
Hemingway  For Whom the Bell Tolls 1940
Wolfe You Can't Go Home Again 1940
Steinbeck The Forgotten Village 1941
Faulkner Go Down Moses 1942
Steinbeck The Moon Is Down 1942
Dos Passos Number One  1943
Steinbeck Cannery Row 1945
Dos Passos Tour of Duty  1946
Steinbeck The Wayward Bus 1947
Steinbeck The Pearl 1947
Faulkner Intruder in the Dust 1948
Dos Passos The Ground we Stand On  1949
Dos Passos The Grand Design  1949
Hemingway  Across the River and into the Trees 1950
Steinbeck Burning Bright 1950
Dos Passos Chosen Country 1951
Faulkner Requiem for a Nun 1951
Hemingway  The Old Man and the Sea 1952
Steinbeck East of Eden 1952
Dos Passos Most Likely to Succeed  1954
Dos Passos The Head and Heart of Thomas Jefferson  1954
Faulkner A Fable 1954
Steinbeck Sweet Thursday 1954
Dos Passos "The Theme Is Freedom" 1956
Dos Passos The Men Who Made the Nation  1957
Faulkner The Town 1957
Steinbeck The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication 1957
Dos Passos The Great Days  1958
Dos Passos Prospects of a Golden Age  1959
Faulkner The Mansion 1959
Dos Passos Midcentury  1961
Hemingway  The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories 1961
Steinbeck The Winter of Our Discontent 1961
Dos Passos Mr. Wilson's War  1962
Faulkner The Reivers 1962
Dos Passos Brazil on the Move  1963
Dos Passos The Best Times: An Informal Memoir  1966
Dos Passos The Shackles of Power  1966
Dos Passos World in a Glass - A View of Our Century From the Novels of John Dos Passos 1966
Dos Passos The Portugal Story  1966
Dos Passos Century's Ebb: The Thirteenth Chronicle  1970
Dos Passos Easter Island: Island of Enigmas  1970
Hemingway  Islands in the Stream 1970
Steinbeck Viva Zapata! 1975
Steinbeck The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights 1976
Hemingway  The Garden of Eden 1986
Hemingway  True at First Light 1999

I could make a few rules, about grabbing audiobooks where they exist, about giving up on works after 50 pages if they aren't doing much for me, about scrubbing posthumous works or anything after Faulkner dies.
It is abominable that I've read so little and enjoyed far less of this list already. The library has a generous amount of Hemingway and Steinbeck on CD. Cather is thoroughly covered by Librivox, where an early Dos Passos can also be found.


The heart wants what the heart wants. But the heart is also a pretty credulous cosignator to a lot of other crazy organs and their manifestos.





The Old Men

Under blue and gray - Gettysburg (LOC)
Originally uploaded by The Library of Congress

Old men who have studied
every leg show
in the city
Old men cut from touch
by the perfumed music—
polished or fleeced skulls
that stand before
the whole theater
in silent attitudes
of attention,—
old men who have taken precedence
over young men
and even over dark-faced
husbands whose minds
are a street with arc-lights.
Solitary old men for whom
we find no excuses—
I bow my head in shame
for those who malign you.
Old men
the peaceful beer of impotence
be yours!
-William Carlos Williams

out of the wrangle

Charles [Emerson] thinks if a superior being should look into families, he would find natural relations existing, and man a worthy being, but if he followed them into shops, senates, churches, and societies, they would appear wholly artificial and worthless. Society seems noxious. I believe that against these baleful influences Nature is the antidote. The man comes out of the wrangle of the shop and office, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. He not only quits the cabal, but he finds himself. But how few men see the sky and the woods!
R. W. Emerson, February 28, 1836.sunrise road

New Year Poem

The short afternoon ends, and the year is over;
Above trees at the end of the garden the sky is unchanged,
An endless sky; and the wet streets, as ever,
Between standing houses are empty and unchallenged.
From roads where men go home I walk apart
--The buses bearing their loads away from works,
Through the dusk the bicycles coming home from bricks--
There evening like a derelict lorry is alone and mute.

These houses are deserted, felt over smashed windows,
No milk on the step, a note pinned to the door
Telling of departure: only shadows
Move when in the day the sun is seen for an hour,
Yet to me this decaying landscape has its uses:
To make me remember, who am always inclined to forget,
That there is always a changing at the root,
And a real world in which time really passes.

For even together, outside this shattered city
And its obvious message, if we had lived in that peace
Where the enormous years pass over lightly
--Yes, even there, if I looked into your face
Expecting a word or a laugh on the old conditions,
It would not be a friend who met my eye,
Only a stranger would smile and turn away,
Not one of the two who first performed these actions.

For sometimes it is shown to me in dreams
The Eden that all wish to recreate
Out of their living, from their favourite times;
The miraculous play where all the dead take part,
Once more articulate; or the distant ones
They will never forget because of an autumn talk
By a railway, an occasional glimpse in a public park,
Any memory for the most part depending on chance.

And seeing this through that I know to be wrong,
Knowing by the flower the root that seemed so harmless
Dangerous; and all must take their warning
From those brief dreams of unsuccessful charms,
Their aloof visions of delight, where Desire
And Fear work hand-in-glove like medicals
To produce the same results. The bells
That we used to await will not be rung this year.

So it is better to sleep and leave the bottle unopened;
Tomorrow in the offices the year oon the stamps will be altered;
Tomorrow new diaries consulted, new calendars stand;
With such small adjustments life will again move forward
Implicating us all; and the voice of the living be heard:
"It is to us that you should turn your straying attention;
Us who need you, and are affected by your fortune;
Us you should love and to whom you should give your word."

Philip Larkin, 1940

Nov. 2nd, 2012

the most outrageous conceit of Google Play's playlist-building is the pathetic fallacy that bands sound like themselves. we make a "crumbling land" playlist not because we live Pink Floyd (though we do & always will) but because Pink Floyd never sounded like "Crumbling Land".


John Twosheds


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