<= 2006.09

2006.11 =>

[OCTOBER 2006.]

What I Learned From Nabokov

How to take a genre and write against it from the inside. He wasn't the first or the only one, of course, but what an example Lolita is! Humbert Humbert’s moral code is basically the same as Henry Miller’s, only Miller would have given his prepuce to write as well as Humbert does; and after the ritual apologies he would have gone on to write his fable of individualism through sexual transgression without it ever occuring to him that something was wrong with it.

Approaching Zero was an anti-Orientalist novel inside an Orientalist novel. Almost nobody who read it understood that; they couldn’t see why I was serving up their Orientalism with these sour side dishes. Right now I’m trying to write an anti-apocalyptic novel inside an apocalyptic novel. Is there something belated in this kind of gesture, as so much of modernism can seem belated in its inventory of techniques that have outlasted their world? With modernism pushing 100, the question seems all the more pertinent, and I don’t have a ready answer. What I do know is that I’m hardly alone in preferring the morality of fissures to the morality of systems. And that this stance is nothing new.


We are too tired and lame for a Halloween party but the couch has lost its appeal.

We could watch a movie!

“What do you have?”
“Umm... The Color of Pomengranates, the Shostakovich documentary, and Tarkovsky’s Mirror.”


“Film Favorites With Paul!”


¡Ay, qué larga es esta vida!
¡Qué duros estos destierros,
esta cárcel, estos hierros
en que el alma está metida!
Sólo esperar la salida
me causa dolor tan fiero,
que muero porque no muero.


September 10, 2011

I will either have gotten an academic job or abandoned the search. I will have finished a dissertation, The Coffin Texts, the untitled novel whose 1500-word beginning is on the hard drive. I will turn thirty-three. So it will not be too late to change everything, if everything needs to change.

But I should write about life as it is. But its fibers are too near, and in the moments of reflection I want only to dodge them. For your sake I wish this were something else; but these days I make everything in secret, and I can’t tell you whether it’s good enough.


Administered a midterm exam, handed back graded papers, so have the weekend to fasten a few more bricks into the wall that will keep out the rising sea. And everyone evaluating themselves loudly in public, themselves and their peers—

That’s the thing about fortifications: you hate to see other people building them. From the outside it always looks petty and hateful. Why can’t you breathe our common air?

I am TAKING a mid-term this week. Wanna trade?



Class was much better yesterday. Apparently it helps when I’m teaching things I know about. And then went down to the ship, / Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea—


The Death Wish in American Publicity Material

following an occasional series elsewhere, while our usual provider enjoys a well-earned respite

I. It was Bryan A. Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage that clued me in to Reebok’s Incubus running shoe. “It became very apparent to us yesterday why no one else was using the name.”

II. If you engage the services of this consulting company, what wisdom do they impart?


Also the Anabasis is reasonably heavy, and if I repeatedly bang its pointy hardcover edges against my shoulders and back it seems to relieve some stress.


"You remember how at the end of 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' the narrator is creeping in circles around the room? Right. So I think it was Walter Benn Michaels who argued that this was an example of economic circulation, in the capitalist world-system in which we’re all inscribed, or something.”


“These people actually make quite a lot of money.”


I'm trying to take the formal constraints of "publishable in the United States" and work within them, the way people enjoy working within the constraints of the villanelle or whatever. Only my idea of "publishable" appears to be consistently my own. Some interview with Stephen Malkmus about the songs he picked for singles of Wowee Zowee!—”Yeah, I’d been smoking a lot of grass, and they sounded like hits.”


Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει, panta rhei kai ouden menei, says Heraclitus: everything flows, nothing stands still. Which is lovely, but I have to keep pushing away the English suffix -rrhea, because it makes me imagine a disgusting universe.


Found in Pound's Canto LXXIV (first Pisan Canto):

all of which leads to the death-cells
each in the name of its god
or longevity because as says Aristotle
philosophy is not for young men
their Katholou can not be sufficiently derived from their hekasta
their generalities cannot be born from a sufficient phalanx of particulars

So I looked up:

A further proof of what has been said is, that although the young may be experts in geometry and mathematics and similar branches of knowledge, we do not consider that a young man can have Prudence. The reason is that Prudence includes a knowledge of particular facts, and this is derived from experience, which a young man does not a possess; for experience is the fruit of years. One might indeed further enquire why it is that, though a boy may be a mathematician, he cannot be a metaphysician or a natural philosopher. Perhaps the answer is that Mathematics deals with abstractions, whereas the first principles of Metaphysics and Natural Philosophy are derived from experience: the young can only repeat them without conviction of their truth, whereas the formal concepts of Mathematics are easily understood.

σημει̂ον δ’ ἐστὶ του̂ εἰρημένου καὶ διότι γεωμετρικοὶ μὲν νέοι καὶ μαθηματικοὶ γίνονται καὶ σοφοὶ τὰ τοιαυ̂τα, φρόνιμος δ’ οὐ δοκει̂ γίνεσθαι. αἴτιον δ’ ὅτι καὶ τω̂ν καθ’ ἕκαστά ἐστιν ἡ φρόνησις, ἃ γίνεται γνώριμα ἐξ ἐμπειρίας, νέος δ’ ἔμπειρος οὐκ ἔστιν: πλη̂θος γὰρ χρόνου ποιει̂ τὴν ἐμπειρίαν: ἐπεὶ καὶ του̂τ’ ἄν τις σκέψαιτο, διὰ τί δὴ μαθηματικὸς μὲν παι̂ς γένοιτ’ ἄν, σοφὸς δ’ ἢ φυσικὸς οὔ. ἢ ὅτι τὰ μὲν δι’ ἀφαιρέσεώς ἐστιν, τω̂ν δ’ αἱ ἀρχαὶ ἐξ ἐμπειρίας: καὶ τὰ μὲν οὐ πιστεύουσιν οἱ νέοι ἀλλὰ λέγουσιν, τω̂ν δὲ τὸ τί ἐστιν οὐκ ἄδηλον;

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book VI

(Does that Greek text [from Perseus] work in your browser? Hekaston is in there; he talks about katholou in a different passage. I still can’t read much of it, but ah—)


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