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[JUNE 2006.]

This Lapwing Runs Away With the Shell on His Head

We saw Radiohead in concert last night, and while the fog blew off the hills and veiled the stage lights I was marveling that anyone could keep making music for so long, carrying the same sensibility through different styles with absolute surefootedness—I don’t know if there’s been a comparable winning streak since Miles Davis. I had very highfalutin thoughts, as with the Shostakovich concerts last year, about a life’s work, the progressive manipulation of forms, the careful laying down of flagstones until a road is built, so that even if the road leads to your grave it remains for others to walk on. Those were the feelings; but the whole point is that the feelings are ephemeral and can only be justified by written expression, if you can do it in time, if your drafter’s eye is true enough.

Pica wanted me to explain why 90 percent of the posts these days are hers, and of course it’s nothing to do with her and everything with me. I haven’t quite finished shopping Approaching Zero around, but it’s gone past fifty-something agents by now and the odds of its publication are looking very long. (I haven’t yet tried the small presses, on the assumption that they have even less capital to happily flush down the toilet, although one never knows.) At any rate, that book—whether flawed, whether overreaching, whether cloying or pedantic in part—was the principal thing I had to say, and without that centerpiece there seems less and less point in continuing to serve up side dishes here.

There are many, many websites out there written by people more dedicated than me to literary criticism and its ancillary pursuits—that stuff is my job now, more or less, and when I get home from campus it’s the last thing I want to do in my spare time. My own life might feel epic or tragic at points, but most often it’s neither, and on my rare excursions through old entries I flinch at my own attempts to make it so. I know that some people did enjoy those entries, but I guess I’m aspect-blind to that quality just now. So I don’t know. Pica has more of an intellectual project than I do, in the sense of some definite questions that she’s trying to answer through monologue and dialogue; I’ve got Hamburger Helper without the beef. I always pictured this website as a prolegomenon to the thing I was really going to write. I’m not taking a poll here or anything, I’ve just lost the thread.

 

The Continued Relevance of Literary Study

I recently found out about the AhDorno! Hair Studio north of campus. I guess they can duke it out with Frege in L.A. Pica points out that it would make more sense if their locations were reversed. I’m thinking that Derrida Hair (better styled than Frege or Adorno) is wide open.

 

Not Ready for Hungary

I always regret the things I post, never regret those I don't. So I read War & War and I said, “America is ready for War & War!” and Pica said, “No it isn’t,” and she’s probably right.

My favorite works by György Ligeti (1923-2006):
Piano etudes
String quartets
Nonsense madrigals
Trio for Violin, Horn & Piano, Sonata for Solo Viola
Adaptations for Barrel Organ

I don’t know the orchestral works on Teldec’s Ligeti Project that Alex Ross singles out, so I can’t say. To hear a new Ligeti piece is always a surprise; where American composers like Feldman or Reich were known for finding a trademark sound and sticking to it, Ligeti never stopped moving. It’s an admirable strategy, even if it has the side effect of producing a lot of music that I never got into. The full-length opera The Grand Macabre tries way too hard to shock; the phoneme sequences making up “Aventures” and “Nouvelles Aventures” mystify me; the tone clusters in the Bagatelles for Wind Quintet make my head want to explode. The compensatory gain is that when beauty does appear, it is always surprising and novel beauty. I think that is the right thing to aim for.

 

La Condition Humaine

The cat has fleas. We asked the web about it and the web said How to Bathe a Cat, with the notation “Difficulty level: average.” Which makes one ask: average compared to what? All that is or could be done? If the difficulty of our entire lives were averaged out, would it in fact be equal to the difficulty of constantly bathing the cat? Because that does make intuitive sense.

 

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