Monday, March 23, 2009

yo bro

is that you that made the blonde flog?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Yes," I said, "Yes. They are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!"

When I first read Lolita - at the beginning of high school (quel convenable!) - I read it for its shock value. I read it to make a statement about who I was (or how I wanted to be perceived), not necessarily for a literary experience. I remember being charmed by it. I remember the book had me in its thrall for a weekend during which I lounged on the hammock or on the couch or in my bed and did little else than read it.

I remember how happy I was that some of the text was in untranslated Latin (a sign, I thought - surely, that I was an appropriate reader of this text!).

I may have missed some of the finer points.

This time around I had a fuller literary context on which I could draw. It struck me, decidedly as a love note to the novel in English. I had just finished reading Moll Flanders when I turned to Lolita and the two books work well together, with their flagrant claims to authenticity and their sometimes confessional mode. 

Nabokov touches on Austen (especially in one moment of the dissolution of his marriage): "'I'm leaving tonight. This is all yours. Only you'll never, never see that miserable brat again. Get out of this room.' Reader, I did" (89). 

He appropriates Ulysses (see the quote in the title of this post) and something of their wanderings reminds me of the book as well. 

And I'm sure there are hundreds of other references that I haven't yet identified.

Humbert Humbert is quite concerned, as a narrator, with getting the narrative right (he expects people to act like characters; he doesn't want to tempt fate because he feels the delicate balance of a narrative structure keenly). He wants readers to read the right way - and he tells them so: "Please, reader: no matter your exasperation with the tenderhearted, morbidly sensitive, infinitely circumspect hero of my book, do not skip these essential pages!" (119).

It is easy to suggest that HH is a character oriented toward his lust for an adolescent, but I think that claim ignores a large component of the book—one that is in love, line after line, allusion after allusion with the novel.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kamehameha I

Nothing really to spill here I just wanted to add a pic of the King.
His full Hawaiian name is Kalani Paiea Wohi o Kaleikini Keali`ikui Kamehameha o `Iolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho Kunuiakea

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"When a bird breaks the line of the window it surprises me almost as much as a word."

In the acknowledgments for his latest novel, Zoli, Colum McCann suggests that it is "the novelist's privilege to play the fool, rushing in where others might not tread" (331). And so he does: the novel takes as its subject a Romani singer and poet, Zoli, who negotiates the tensions among tradition, self-expression, cultural heritage, and activism. Zoli breaks tradition by learning to read, by writing out her poems (a taboo in a culture that values transience and orality over fixedness and documentation) and this conflict is at the heart of McCann's project.

The book, in a similar fashion to McCann's earlier works, updates the genre of the historical novel. Romani culture during the mid- to late-twentieth century is a deftly selected topic for such an update. Allow me to explain. In his seminal definition of historical novels, the Marxist theorist György Lukács discusses the social and economic contexts that give rise to any given text. He insists that successful historical fiction exhibits an understanding of the "specifically historical," in other words, "the derivation of the individuality of the characters from the historical peculiarity of their age" (19). He points out that historical novels developed in part thanks to the paradigmatic shift that occurred during the revolutionary (and successive) wars of the Enlightenment: hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of soldiers from all backgrounds were exposed (suddenly and en masse) to vastly different cultures (think of those French peasants fighting in Egypt, in Russia). This exposure gave rise to a popular ability to comprehend ones own condition as specifically, culturally and economically situated (24). It makes obsolete the intellectual laziness of taking ones own condition for granted. Given his position, Lukács is a staunch supporter of realist historical novels insofar as they expose historical conditions as varied and particular. What I see in McCann is a shift in the notion of what a realist representation of an individual's historical condition might be.

Consider: Zoli is Romani. She is a marginalized member (since she breaks taboos) of a marginalized group, a group that (significantly) wanders. In the context of Lukács' observations, wandering can take on a political significance. In wandering, in maintaining a strictly marginal existence, Zoli achieves a broadened sense of her own historical positionality. The specificity and peculiarity of the spacio-temporal representations McCann makes, then, are never the product of an automatic assumption that his own historical position is the default.

McCann, himself, is a wanderer as well. Born and educated in Ireland, he now teaches and lives in New York. As a practicing (and prolific) writer, he travels to various countries on book tours, which is itself another form of wandering. I also think it's significant that McCann is something of an academic "wanderer." He teaches in the academic nether-world of creative writing. Situated not quite in the realm of the humanities, nor firmly in the world of the Fine Arts (a monicker usually reserved for Visual, Dramatic, and Musical Arts), creative writers are marginalized academics who, often, exist on the edges of fairly insular disciplines.

What I observe in Zoli (and in other novels by McCann, as well) is a kind of blending of genre: the historical novel meets memoir, prose meets the structural imperative of contemporary epic poetry. This blending, as I see it, demands a certain broadened perspective in the reader; one begins to understand that her expectations for what it is that a historical novel does are themselves historically situated (within academe, within a canon of endorsed literary endeavors).

• • •

I'm going to stop here, I think. This is, by far, the most scholarly thing I have written since I finished graduate school (in 2006) and, I must say, it took me by surprise as it was flowing from my fingertips. I did not sit down this morning—sun shining on the hardwood floors, Bon Iver on the record player, omelet ingredients just waiting for me to assemble them (goodness me, I'm hungry!)—intending to write what amounts to a kind of lazy and whimsical, yet academic, essay. And yet, here I am. Old habits die hard.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Indulge me, a moment."

So starts the book - The Business of Memory: The Art of Remembering in an Age of Forgetting - that I started reading this week.

Magritte's Mnemosyne

I had bought the book thinking it sounded kind of dry, but that it would help me with research for my next book of poems. Well, it's positively captivating. The book is a collection of essays, all written by poets, that were given as talks at a Graywolf Forum. The poets are writing about memory and how they see it functioning in life, in perception, in cognition, in writing, in lots of things. What I love, though, is that each of these essays function like a keyhole through which you can spy these vibrant vignettes.

I love how poets write prose. They go about their essays, applying the structure they would to a long poem, so that connections between observations or episodes are not always apparent or easy. What this does for me, at least, is give my imagination a chance to get really invested in the text—I end up meandering over these instances and theories and musings that the poets have represented. Lovely!

Here's an excerpt from Sylvia Watanabe:
Nostalgia is memory looking off to one side. Any minute that thing you're not looking at might slide into view. Remember, my father says, or I say—but there is a place between now and before where we do not go. This is what we want to forget: Grandmother in the ambulance, Uncle empty of names.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

orange and yellow (1956)

"i am not an abstract painter. i am not interested in the relationship between form and color. the only thing i care about is the expression of man's basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny." -mark rothko

i saw my first rothko at moma, nyc in 1987. transfixed ever after i wondered what it was that, seemingly so simple, held my attention, kept it and had me imagining it with eyes closed hours (and days) later... or maybe i was just staring at the sun.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Gabriel García Márquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude

"many years later, as he faced the firing squad, colonel aureliano buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

along with camus' "maman died today." from the stranger, this is up there with some of modern lit's best first lines.
judge a book by its cover, leaf through it scrutinizingly, check the illustrations, but only if the first sentence intrigues, engrosses, disturbs, disgusts...piques my curiousity...i'll keep reading.
with solitude's invitation i know that i'm in for:
bombast and sensation - firing squad
an epic narrative - back to when he was a kid
bizzare connections - speaks for itself
as i keep reading i'm sure i'll discover what this magical realism is all about.

favourite first lines...???

i'll start off with:
"as gregor samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. " - franz kafka, the metamorphosis