Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Article 58

It may not appear natural, but the first day of an offensive through The Gulag Archipelago, in concert with my friend Ed, should find its velocity on a day marred with physical discomfort. I awoke racked with a sprained knee, a fever and an earache, all of which found purchase yesterday at work. A blustery day, but not terribly so. The pain and swelling of the joint was one for trepidation, especially in my vocation. That said, i awoke much later feeling congested but able and began reading.


I had first addressed this trilogy almost a decade ago and abandoned my effort after 70 or so pages. That thesis was challenged, if not overturned, by my reading today. If perfect memory is frozen, unapproachable in mnemonic recall, then the majority of lingering attributes within myself are but grimy slush. For years I had attributed that "absolute truth is privilege of those warm and well fed" to A Day In The Life of Ivan Densiovich, which I must have read just before my abortive turn with the Gulag, this was likely 1994 or 1995. I have since discovered that in my 4 or 5 subsequent readings of Denisovich that such statement is not within its covers. I rediscovered a paraphrase only today, in the third chapter, on p. 101.


The text overall begins impressively in style that speeds along, like an express through dense copses of statistics and Slavic names, maintaining not only velocity but integrity. We arrive initially at the encounter:


That's what the arrest is: it's a blinding flash and a blow which shifts the presently into the past and the impossible into omnipotent actuality. (4)


The chapter ends with muscular prose about Solzhenitsyn's own arrest. A quiet sense of naive hope, spent squatting in the snow and the steaming shit being momentarily forgotten as the real stench of prison air is suddenly upon the protagonist and the reader.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Some Thoughts

The Vollamnn is winding down, the narrative (supplanted by lengthy citations from the Sagas) punctuated by travel descriptions from Vollmann's late 80s time in Iceland and Greenland have evolved into mythography of the origins of North America.

An interesting parallel was the exploration of the Inuit's origins through the parable of a pair of brothers (named Elder and Younger) they believe they were created through a seal hole in the ice until the White Goddess affords them an island and to establish procreation makes the younger brother female. Vollmann follows this parable with an anecdote about transvestites in San Francisco.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nary A Word Yet Today

Yesterday was lost, enveloped in the surreal scapes of the northern regions and the lore and the torrents of lore - both European and Indigenous -- that fostered forth to foment meaning and origin. Vollmann is the voice, presently. I hope to read tonight.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Towards bedtime, I simply grabbed what was at hand, parahrasing John Hershey, it was Too Far To Walk to Solzhenitsyn. I read Vollmann until my eyes burned, then I dreamt my brother Tim shot me in the stomach with shotgun, robbed me of ten grand and was heading to Germany. I don't have ten thousand dollars. New Albany doesn't have an international airport (though I was looking for it in my dream) and I am somewhat sure that after being gutshot one couldn't pedal a bicylce. alas --- jon

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Emmett Miller

I bought Nick Tosches tome about the above this afternoon. Harold was rather jovial, discussing Vollmann, Robert Penn Warren and the like. Craig Wagner came in, remembering me from my drunken appreciation years ago when the Java Men played the Public House. Such are the fond tesselations of this forward thrust.

Fit Closure

It begs uneasy questions that Foote concludes his second volume of the Civil War Narrative with Grant being elevated to command the Union forces and his friend Sherman beginning his scorched erath towards Atalnta. I read the remaining 300 pages during the latter part fo thsi holiday weekend and feel rewarded by its benefit, its narrative glance at something, still, so pertinant. I began this blog almost exactly a year ago, falling full-steam into the Foote phenomenon, much enkindled by a nation gone mad, there was cpmopfrt that people had always been reptile and immune to enlightenment and that illegal wars notwithstanding, there was at least the grace and loquacity of Mr Foote to steer the ride.

Since that time, Mr Foote has trundled off into the mist and I have only read the first two thirds of his Narrative, I have since discovered his novels and have enjoyed his interviews and correspondence withfriends and colleagues. I have also embraced Orwell, for despite my naive assertions, there is a demand for such honestly moreso than ever. Even fence-setters as Hitchems, for such, ultimately is his perch, have been of comfort and ammunition over the past year. It the behemoth of William Vollmann that I have shuddered if only to embrace. His piece in last Sunday's Times is remarkable, an even handed swath that captures us in all our folly, our avarice and our infrequent attempts at being generous. It is now time for colder climes.

Timely Citations

It was the most rational Thanksgiving he had ever spent, and he took a scred oath to spend every future Thanskgiving Day in the cloistered shelter of a hospital. He broke his sacred oath the very next year, when he spent the holiday in a hotel room instead in intellectual conversation with Lieutenant Scheisskoph's wife, who had Dori Duz's dog tags on for the occasion and who henpecked Yossarian sententiously for being cynical and callous about Thanksgiving, even though she didn't believe in God just as much as he didn't. -- Heller

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where I Want To Be

It has been evening of unexpected respite, a lacuna in a stew of of indistinct propositions. I read 13 pages of Shelby Foote, encountering the sacking, as it were, of Lawrence. No, when one consider the Russian Civil War, an atrocity in modern terms, but it was an abomination, a bloodlust. It was a slaughter over ideas, not bloodtypes or even uniforms. The recent quote from Heller lingers as does Vollmann speaking from Kursk: oh, how, we don't wish to extrapolate!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Will be heading out in a few hours, it a brilliant sunny day in Illinois, one that portends to erupt into something ugly, as snow is reputed near. The plan is to stop in Indianapolis for further book shopping. My haul at Powell's was considerably smaller than last time. I bought myself five novels, one for Ed and Natasa bought a spanish novel. My interest appear presently congested, stalled as it were currently, which may reflect an overloaded ambition. I think Foote first, followed by an attempt at a single volume of the Solzhenitsyn and then, perhaps, the first of the Vollman Seven Dream series, The Ice-Shirt. That should lead up to Christmas.

I don't believe I made it through 100 books this year. I'll have to compute. My progresson through the Heller on this trip was also less than desired. I will be able to read for two hours or so, until we switch places outside of Indianapolis.

P.S. I am now home it is near 11:30 and one couldn't ask for better weather. I did read 50 more pages in the Heller and am amazed by its riotous rhythmn. The haul in Half Price was meager, but i did find the latest Vargas Llosa for four bucks, I had been obstinate about not paying six for far too long. I also bought the Decca sessions from Louis Armstrong and it is an often neglected period in Pops' discography, and often, deservedly so, the Mills Bros records are a disaster, but there are some good sides recorded with both Ella and Lady Day.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Spirit of Corps(e)

These three men who hated him spoke his language and wore his uniform, but he saw their loveless faces set immutably into cramped, mean lines of hostility and understood instantly that nowhere in the world, not in all the fascist tanks or planes or submarines, not in the bunkers behind the machine guns or mortars or behind the blowingflame throwers, not even among all the expert gunners of the crack Hermann Goering Anti-Aircraft Division or among the grisly connivers in all the beer halls in Munich and everywhere else, were there men who hated him more. -- Heller

I spoke last week about Jarhead and Rememberence Day, about the corrosive form that such requires, the parabola of destruction that must always return home to roost.

I have read a great deal today, browsed articles about Vollmann, and pondered the merits of the lit blog. I read some russian femme fatale's blog the other day, as she and I both have a passion about steppe literature and so forth. She is also a xenophobe who beleieves that "pot-smoking Jihadists" should be shot dead in the streets of France, that such would be just desserts for the ingratitude to Europa's hospitality. I am writing these words in a strange time, when the CIA's policy is "unique, but legal", that again, we don't torture.

I wrote Roger that I plan on finishing Volume Two of the Foote by Sunday.That is indeed my plan. I don't know what right and rigor will ensue, however. Ed appears excited about the Solzhenitsyn and rightly so. I have also bought all of the existing Vollmann for his Seven Dreams project. I hesitate to browse the list I constructed last December about my plans for 2005.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On Holiday

It is cold here in Chicago,butluckily,thereis no snow.I haven't read much yet, only chased children and drank beer. I have reached p.100 of Catch-22 and am impressed by its rigid core,out of which seeps the layered humor that delineates and skews so effectively. Europe Central continues to haunt,it is a moribund text, one that affords Mitya Shostakovich as Virgil into a dreary zone of enforced official joy and a ruthless settling of accountability.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Enable, Enable

Much like techno from Cologne (Koln) Roger's bravado has achieved results. It has been a strange evening, small talk with the mayor at Rauch Center, err, I mean Fairmont Neighborhood Center, followed with more rational exposition with Tony Euler by the cooler outside. Pint appeared ripped and i had no one to give books to. what's a fellow to do?

I returned to listen to Diz and Shostakovich: two hours later, I have finished Europe Central: gushing response to follow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Get Some, Marine

I have made it past p. 610 in the Vollmann, will likely finish this epic Thursday.

Ed's comment about discipline and the USMC is unnerving, not that I resent it, not at all, but its this idea of commitment that is ultimately desctuctive, not as its function to others as such, but as a series of intrinsic principles -- this is what plagues me.

There is time for talk about Nietzsche and Pynchon; it will likely be Catch-22 in Chicago: not the situation but the novel

Monday, November 14, 2005

Here's Your Remembernce

"i'm not aware that there is such a thing as Southern art, at least not if you're defining it by technique. All southerners who try to express themselves through art (. . .) are very much aware that they are party to a defeat(. . .). - Shelby Foote

The essential thing about anti-guerrilla warfare -- one must hammer this home to everybody --is that what succeeds is right. -- Adolph Hitler

He was now undersuch great strain that he tried not to think of anything but the next attack, the next diminishment of Sixth Army's men, and just as we spend moments and years counting ourselves wise in the spending of themand hopeful almost to certainty that today's temporary difficulties will be stabilized tomorrow and then there will come no new misfortunes, not ever, so he believed, and avoided weighing that belief, that after he dispatched to their deaths a few thousand more of Sixth Army men,Stalingrad would be won. -- William T. Vollmann

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Post 150

There is no significance to that number, nor any other. there is as yet no routine, no integral aspect to this documentation. Yesterday was veteran's day or rememberence day, as it has held by the United. My friend Roger wrote an impressive piece about his father and tethered the affair to the holiday. that said, I have been incredibly engaged by Vollmann's tandem portraits of Vlasov and Paulus: weren't they brave veterans as well? Such appears to be relevant, if not mired in qualification. The efforts certainly don't pass through the moral customs house of the public at large. Why must proclamations about the holiday adorn churches? I saw Jarhead earlier today and I find the same maw of contradiction. There is much to write, though I fear that, as usual, most of it will never be posed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Stranger Still

The episode last week with the discovery of French Revolution book is more peculair to my own impatient imagination than I had suspected. evidently the original draft of the book was accidentially burned while being loaned to JS Mill for, Stuart's imput. Somehow those ashes and soggy cardboard share something: perhaps Marat understood, but only, when it was too late.

I finished King of the Jews yesterday.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Nick Tosches

I first became aware of the snarky stylist a few years ago after reading a review of The Devil and Sonny Liston in the CJ, of all places. Fortuna's Wheel spun me to discover a stack of the text, a short time later, in the remaindered section of the now-departed Hawley Cooke. I bought several and Samizdat appeared equally fascinated by the baroque narration as well as the haunting (and haunted) subject. Roger has been the pointman in all subsequent endeavor, which has been prolific, coursing through Hand of Dante (a generous gift from Roger, some time back), the Tosches Reader and, now, King of Jews.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Echoes of Eco

One week ago, before twisters returned with aplomb, our way was made, as hass become habit, to Harold's. As I noted he found me a copy of Royal Family. Before that I had browsed about hoping to find a copy of Carlysle's French Revolution. I was out of luck, but hardly perturbed. Tuesday afternoon I was out walking around Fairmont Park with a client, walking back up the alley to wards the Center, I saw a rain soaked cardboard box filled with books. Hardly excited by the prospect of wet copies of shitbooks, i nevertheless broached the cache. Words hardly express the wonky amazement that struck me as the second book I grabbed was damp, but intact, Modern Library copy of the Carlysle.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Suspicions and Treason

Vollmann continues to flow, it is unimaginable that such narrative verve will continue for 450 more pages. The chapter Breakout begins around p. 280 and it details the contradictions of all totalitarian thought, its static chains of command which inevitably lead to wartime confusion (as if the militaries of democratic nations were perfectly lucid!) and, often, defeat; the capitulation, then, is addressed to its constituents, which were obviously defeatist elements to begin with. The choice afforded to captured Soviet officers was defection and propaganda or Zyklon showers. The bullet or the noose, reverberates.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

This, For Now

It is a new month, my plate is ever-full. The NBA has tossed another jump and I have linked myself to Roger's Confidential, perhaps he'll Crowe me in the end. Bad humor will thusly be walled, allowed ample self-criticism, and vanquished in tow.

I have often railed against authors swinging out of their weight, their element, their vernacular. My disgust with Ken Kalfus and his stab at a Russian narrative has been trounced by the juggernaut which is William T. Vollmann. I spoke to Harold about the man being prolific; he winked retreated to his lair and returned with Royal Family, locking in at a modest 780 pages. Enough for now, I am hoping to add Ed's blog and B92 tonight, perhaps Bookslut as well.