Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Gogol Daydream

Life ebbs and flows, lost songs from Waylon echo and my thoughts teeter in the doldrums of bureaucracy, the newspeak of the human services would be funny if wasn't so damn sickening. I was thinking that Thomas Bernhard was the bastard child of Proust and Faulkner, conceived while listening to Richard Strauss in an opium daze punctuated with a furtive shit staining, implacably, the daybed. Cretinism, epilepsy, incest and the primacy of the noose. Dividends remain on the table along with our Bible thump, gold teeth, green cards and a snort of Martel.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Men, in the main, are strangely made. they can never strike the happy mean: the bounds for reason seem to narrow for them: they must needs overact whatever part they play and often ruin the noblest things because they go to extremes and push them too far. -- Tartuffe, Act I

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunshine Trotsky

I finished the play Friday afternoon, enjoying the afternoon, the windows rollwe down, the parade of Friday rush hour reliable but distant. The play is remarkable in its juxtapositions of time and popular attitudes. There is a scene where Lenin bemoans the density of bureaucracy and decides that a commission should be formed on attenuating such.

Yesterday I began reading the final volume of Foote's Narrative, interesting that it ebgins with Grant adjusting to the "show business" of the nascent beltway, the corridors of power rife with gladhanders and office seekers. I read late into the night, listening to Mozart's 25th and 29th Symphonies.

I hope to read Tartuffe today (read the Preface yesterday a.m. at macy's - what tableau) and resume the Archipelago tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Critical Theory Slipping in the Pumpkin Patch

Weiss continues to confound. His finalization in Aesthetics of Resistance that the autodidact is always/already being overlooked (tossed aside) by the currents of history. The toil of modern life keeps the inversion of Kafka away from proletarian imaginations.

I have started the second tome of the Gulag Archipelago, am 20 pages in and very appreciative of his acknowledgement of Shalimov, as Ed noted - some suffered more than others.

I have also nearly completed Trotsky In Exile, a play by Weiss and it is worth anyone's time, it details in a couple of acts the contradictions and tensions that stoked his meteoric ascent and fall.

Kluge Completed

Such a delightful albeit disquieting book, a necessary sojourn where Kant, Benjamin and Adorno are not only revisited but required for a thread through millenia, an effort to achieve probity while avoiding the Tempter inside.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Response to Section Two

"The murder of a crown prince in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, was the start of the First World War. Suddenly none of the military powers in old Europe could trust the other any more. Today such a Sarajevo may just be called Baghdad."
-Alexander Kluge, in his preface to Section Three

Monday, January 23, 2006

Love, or a last gasp

Sometime in the late 90s Joel and I were sitting on my porch in the small hours of morning after a night all across creation. The focus shifted back and forth from his dissertation to the books I wanted to read in the near future. I found a pocket of eloquence and discoursed, or babbled, briefly on the virtue of hefty tomes, the sum of a writer's bile and joy; conversely, I noted my suspicion towards those novels between 300-400 pages in length, for such endeavors inevitably saddled up to speak of Love.

Fast forward to this past week and while the opening section of Kluge's masterwork is devoted to the Devil's hand in our daily meandering, the second has focused itself on that questionable subject highlighted in the above paragraph. It does end with the observation, "it is easiest to apprehend happiness in others." Hope has not been extinguished.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thundering Futility

It has been a weekend spent with Kluge as well as further enroads into drama. I have felt that my reading of the latter will develop, becoming more aware of space and detection.

The Weiss continues to linger, the hopeless stare of the protagonist at the events of the 1937. The montage of doom from Spain, Austria and Czechslovakia. The allusions to Celine and the paintings of Delacroix: the utter density of history crashing down.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Even Briefer (post 200)

I finished the Weiss late last night. It demands a level of analysis that I can't provide as I dash about this afternoon. Will attempt on the morrow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In Brief

Despite my meandering attentions and ambitions, the reading of Weiss has focused a desire to reread Kafka. It has been more than ten years and I have a curious desire to measure my memories against a present reading.

Near Matches

My quotidian digestion of Aesthetics Of Resistance is being matched by nocturnal hints. My thumbing of Kluge's Devil Blind Spot reminds me of 2002. I had rewturned from abroad, married, overwhelmed at how i was going to complete all of the Immigration paperwork (thanks to Mark Prather) and how i was going to restore my home to being fit for another human being (thanks to Roger and Diana amongst others). I was reading Too Far Afield by Gunter grass, which I had bought months before in Berkeley. I was struggling through the text and a box arrived from Amazon. My wife had bought me three books, notably Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. Very soon thereafter, I would come home from work, hopefully having read 30 pages or so of the Grass throughout the day, I would ponder the maestro's latest reference to Fontaine and the Stasi and then just before bed I would glide into the delicious horror that is Houellebecq.

Kluge's stylistic jaunts are much the same antidote to the plodding Weiss. I understand the significance of Resistance yet it can be near painful to examine (again) the splintering in theory which dissolved the possibility of the Popular Front.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Celebrating the Sigh

It was a soaking, often bleak, Tuesday. My spirits were soon to crash when I had to have my brakes repaired. This morning did manage a flicker of joy. I was walking a client through a thrift store and just managed to compute a title from an otherwise unassuming ocher harbound text: A Hero On A Donkey. This another novel by Bulatovic, a novelsit from Montenegro that I discovered last fall. This was the same shop where I found a copy of Vasily Grossman's Forver Falling just about a year ago on rain-swept Saturday. This find was made more plausible by the text being a discarded book from the Jeffersonville library.
As I noted, my resolution this year is to read at least 12 plays. I will also attempt a broader scheme of literature, avoiding , as much as possible, authors form the US, Russia and Germany. That said. My next two major books will be by authors from Germany and Russia. I will also hope to read the remaining two volumes of the Gulag trilogy and the final Civil War Narrative. My literary interest afterwards will likely cling to the Balkans and Africa for a time. I was thinking of reading George Eliot or Boswell's Life With Johnson when I travel this summer/autumn. I am also VERY interested in film theory, which will likely surface in the confines of Samizdat.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Averse as I am to the concept of Resolutions, I did want to consider reading a different strain of literature this year. Acting in accord, my wife asked if I wanted to read dramatic works with her. Given my discomfort towards plays, this sounded to be a reasonable resolution, one suggestive of growth. The first selection for January was Waiting For Godot, which I finished this evening at the riverfront, the the muffled warmth competing witha dour wind, it was deemed appropriate. I tend to think the Beckett would've been life changing had I read it ten years ago; whereas a decade past I only acted as I had read it. It strikes me as a physical play, one where the actions (or dearth thereof) state the implacable, not the jingling dialogue which leads nowhere. I think I will investigate whether Wild and Wooly have a film version.

Friday, January 13, 2006


I am presently Weiss-bound, struggling through the dense paragrpahs which extend for pages, littered with marxist thought and grim images of the surrounding Berlinscape.
It recalls Nadas and all that such entailed, I hope to perform better this time. I am only 130 pages in. I may read his play Trotsky in Exile this weekend as a diversion.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


There was a lengthy article in the november Believer about materials found in books, the random that folks use as bookmarks, or the objects that find themselves lodged or stored, by accident or design, within the shelter of a books pages and cover. Last weekend I picked up my copy of Suskind's Perfume, moreso from boredom than anything else, I thought of Jakob, the Austrian teenager who endured god knows what as an exchange student to some friends of mine. I found in the back of the book, an English Penguin Edition, boarding passes from Heathrow to Louisville via Dulles. How odd, I thought, what attracted this soul to the book? Was it the reproduction of the 18th Century nude on the cover? Did the fellow have a bent for literary whodunnits? Was he trying to impress anyone? Did he actually finish the book? The flight across the Atlantic should have been sufficient time for such, but who knows, and more importantly, does it really matter? I am not normally neurotic in this bent. Other bounds, almost assuredly, but not this exact stripe of questioning. I didn't wind up reading more than 25 pages before shelving Perfume and electing, instead, for my present course of action.

Yesterday I arrived at the Goodwill with diminished optimism, a resignation not bound to realiy, as such, but just of tempering my excesses of imagination. Perhaps the Presidential visit to Louisville had a hand in this delimiting. Very quickly I found two texts that I hope to read, Gangs of New York w/ a foreward by Borges and Armageddon by Max Hastings, one of the latest trend of "why did the war drag on midway through 1945?" The latter text caught my attention as it had a sticker ont he back with the price in Euros. How odd, i thought, holding this well worn copy of a text only released in paperback this past October. I can't say I submitted to more pathological speculation about the book being purchased in Brussels by a layman historian with a learning disability. No I didn't but as I type these words I ponder whether the unknown person finished the book.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Salted Sturgeon

I have decided that I will wait until next weekend to resume Volume Two of the Gulag. Until then I will burden myself with german literature, Peter Weiss and Alexander Huge. I also found an advanced readers copy of Vasily Grossman's writings from his time with the Red Army in WWII.

Friday, January 06, 2006


The "stumble and fall of Russia" was completed last night, at least the first volume, encompasing Parts I and II. There is much to say but it is late.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

No Photos

Perhaps the allure of image-driven narrative was becoming a distraction. Perhaps its was simply an odd discovery during the long holiday. Last night also witnessed a return to the Gulag Archipelago after a two week hiatus. No regrets are harbored after that four book sojourn, yet I have to concede that upon reopening the Solzhenitsyn I felt tethered by the sardonic wit and unblinking accounting.

As becomes AS's goal, the excesses of 1937 were anticipated by the constitutional adjustments that occured from 1919-1922. The idea that "terror is persuasive" and that the lists of offenses that warrented execution should be steadily enlarged; none of this happened without cause, a pause to solidify power.

The section on the plight of engineers is especially enlightening. Perhaps AS felt the blade's whisper and reacted in kind. Just as the persecution of the Orthodox Church angered his moral sensibilities, the policy of targeting of the brightest must have felt a peculiar injustice or abomination.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back to the Cold

Have returned to the Gulag. Hopefully my progress will continue through the evening. Solzhenitsyn notes with a queer curiosity how judicial reform manifested itself into further coercive forms, eroding the possbilities of appeal and soldifying the omnipotence of the Security Organs.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Flora Tristan

I finished the novel this afternoon and was impressed by the sinewy strides the author made to situate Gauguin in a relation of resistance with his grandmother, the above noted proto-socialist. I was previously unaware of Tristan but am impressed by her efforts.

Vargas Llosa

It must be credited to J Barry that I discovered not only Vargas Llosa but the entire Boom at his house sometime in late 1993. He had recently been enraptured, as it were, and allowed me to take home a copy of Time of The Hero. Still being a novice, it was shocking, the language crackled with emotion and there is a scene where the cadets take tunrs fucking a chicken. It would be a lie to say that I don't think about that at least once a year. I then bagna spending money like a lunatic, buying as much of the boom as possible. Despite his creeping shift rightward, I always felt Vargas Llosa had the most to say, emulating Flaubert more than frolicking in the reeds of magial realism, or attempting the great synthesis between Old and New a la Don Carlo Fuentes. I find War At The End of the World and Conversations in The Cathederal among the greatest novels of the 20th Century.