Biographies of writers, artists, musicians and the like fill our libraries to the brim. But in recent years, a new kind of bio has emerged: the “life” of a particular work of art. One very fine example of this sub-genre is Alice Kaplan’s Looking for The Stranger.
The book gives us a brief (but continuous) bio of Camus, his birth and early years in Algeria, providing the North African as well as Parisian contexts for his literary output before, during and after WWII. She takes us through the process of his writing, beginning with several early missteps and rejections along the way, and then follows him almost chapter by chapter through the completion of his short but seminal novel of the Absurd. Along the way, we’re introduced to key people in the life of the novel, its gestation and the road to its publication in 1942. Perhaps the most important of these are Jean Grenier, Pascal … Click to continue . . .
When I was very young, I didn’t see this. I didn’t see the heroism of color, or the way we make colors ourselves, in our eyes, in our mind’s eye, or the bravery of Nature’s way, or its tremendous courage in painting as it does.
Yes, Nature paints, and that’s not just a Romantic notion. It’s not some pseudo-poetic way of describing the ineffable. It just paints. Nothing comes close to the skill set of Nature in regard to — well, everything, really. Especially shadows, colors, light, polarities of darkness and light. And nothing can reach its sublime power in making opposites cohere, mesh, harmonize, complement. In a sense, wash away. In Nature, they become one with the All. But for humans, they mean war.
For us, they mean conflict, battles and war. For Spinoza’s god, they meant the universal orchestra, the mother of all choirs, the pallet of the cosmos. And we don’t even know how many … Click to continue . . .
It’s almost inevitable that the conversation continues. About Art. About the way we humans structure things, because our brains were built that way. About the way we choose to structure poems, plays, novels and such. The rocks we use to get to something else. The fire inside that rock. The spirit of stone the best sculptors find and exploit. It was there all along, they say. And the best don’t just say that, they feel it with every fiber of their Being in the World.
The best art is inexorable, inevitable. I first bumped into that idea, at least in that form, in William Barrett’s Irrational Man, a book I’ve discussed in Spinozablue now and then. There are, of course, many ways to think about the inevitable — in life and art, within our brains, outside them, the connections we invent and those we miss. And we miss so many.
Mixed feelings. Images clash. I don’t always or sometimes or never believe in phases, set eras, concrete life-steps that group themselves in any rational order. I don’t think we pass through these things on our way to wherever we find ourselves. It’s random. And this belief I feel at times, no times, as if it were always and never, is something that clashes with my art, what I think and feel about art, how it must happen and be.
Order. Order the chaos. Organize the disparate, random elements of our lives and our worlds in such a way that they, for a moment at least, make a certain kind of sense or anti-sense. The opposite of that sense is still a kind of order.
And so we make stories, songs, paint pictures, sculpt the indifferent rock. We infuse meaning and subtext and point to connections that are only there because we say so, and this is beautiful. The best make it sublime. But beneath the … Click to continue . . .
The poem I sent into the aether yesterday,Probably the Last Dawn Poem, was an old one. It was already a slightly belated look homeward (angel) to a time of some social and romantic turmoil, when my life was at one of its all too frequent “crossroads.” I had written a series of poems ab0ut a young woman with the perfect name for all of this, whom I had fallen for, hard, but who was still entangled with someone else in our little, mostly work-based social circle at the time — and I had come to the conclusion that it was all for naught. I don’t think she ever knew she was my Beatrice for a few months or so, though she must have sensed some edge, some silent pleading in my eyes, my gait, my inconsistent confidence.
Wicca. She was beautiful, pagan, highly literate, a lover of poetry and novels and all the things that fired my imagination too. Calm, more than kind, … Click to continue . . .
Did I bring them closer
Together in this soap opera chain-
Did I care once about her
And her high looks soft
Threat of a voice
Long drink of eyes waiting
It’s strange no it isn’t
Now I’m old and they’re young
And even though I must be above putting things
In nice boxes
I have to start doubting my level of Reason
And my need to find my age
Wherever it may have gone
They say that no one is
Over Thirty without at least
One or more of the following . . .
— But let’s not mourn for dead things material issues
Bound to upset and suffocate us the social
Phenomena are not worth a lousy poem
If she and I had met first if
It had been on the strand
In the moonlight
Headphones playing Mozart quadraphonically
I take her phones off she
Takes mine off and the night
Follows the music… Click to continue . . .