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Month: June 2008

Still another writing table: Hemingway and Big Game

Still another writing table: Hemingway and Big Game

Papa Hemingway at his desk. 1939.
Papa Hemingway at his desk. 1939.

 It’s quite possible I couldn’t pick two writers further apart from one another to deal with back to back.

Temperamentally, artistically, biographically. Rilke and Hemingway. Yet both men were profoundly influenced by their days in Paris, and both men learned much about their art at the knee of an older woman. Perhaps it’s less than dime-store psychology to also suggest that both men had “issues” with their relationship to female sexuality. Issues that led to very different attempts to resolve that conflict — internally and externally. But, issues nonetheless. People really are complex.

Finished Humphrey Carpenter’s book about Americans in Paris, and was reminded that the core material for The Sun Also Rises was a rather banal little trip taken by Hemingway and a few friends to see the bulls in Pamplona. Years later, many of those friends looked back at that trip, having read the book, and saw it as an end of … Click to continue . . .

The Absence of a Writing Table and Other Bogus Complaints

The Absence of a Writing Table and Other Bogus Complaints

Vsevolod Garshin, by Ilya Repin. 1884.
Vsevolod Garshin, by Ilya Repin. 1884.

 No, this post won’t be about old Vsevolod. He’s already had more than enough great press lately, I imagine. Just thought his visage captured a certain weariness, bafflement and astonishment at the task of reading and writing, and that this was apropos of other things. The artist Repin was apparently good at that, too–good at painting moments like this, having tackled Tolstoy as well as the composer Rimsky-Korsakov in other portraits. And, of course, old Vsevolod looks like a 19th century Spiderman, lost in a Bohemian funk. But that’s another story altogether.

Wanted to follow up on yesterday’s post about Rilke, and elaborate a bit on my translation of The Panther, on what went into it, and how it came to be. In short, I did it in less than a half-hour, at the end of a long, long day, so it was hardly a work of endless preparation and seasoned depth. It … Click to continue . . .

Rilke: The Panther and the Writing Table

Rilke: The Panther and the Writing Table

Castle Duino, Italy. Photo by Johann Jaritz
Castle Duino, Italy. Photo by Johann Jaritz

 Castle Duino, Italy. Photo by Johann Jaritz.Rainer Maria Rilke was a sublime poet, one of the greatest lyric poets of the 20th century, and quite possibly a lousy human being. His Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus rank among the finest works of art in any language, taking us softly, profoundly to the nexus between life and death, pain and redemption, mourning and new hope. Through his poetry and other writings, he conveyed a level of empathy and understanding toward women that may surpass any poet in the last 100 years. Though it seemed he rarely showed that insight and understanding in real life, at least if we are to believe several recent accounts about Rilke’s life and loves.

If those portraits of the real Rilke are accurate, it wouldn’t be the first time such an apparent contradiction occurred. Not the first time a great artist, poet, novelist, musician, or philosopher led … Click to continue . . .

Paco De Lucia

Paco De Lucia

Paco de Lucia. Photo by Cornel Putan.
Paco de Lucia. Photo by Cornel Putan.

 Am still reading Geniuses Together, and it’s still excellent. Aside from the mention of bullfighting, another thing made me think about Spain and flamenco guitar music. Gertrude Stein once made the rather idiosyncratic observation (for the 20s) that America is the oldest country in the world, which is why so many of her best creative minds left for Europe. She said we were downright geriatric in our ways. This on the heels of a major study (Civilization in the United States, edited by Harold Stearns in 1921) complaining about our all too rapid industrialization and urbanization, which had cost us far too much in creative matters. Stein points out that we got there first, which is why we were so old. They both point out that the goal in the air was business development, not development of the soul. Harold Loeb added to the angst of that era by saying … Click to continue . . .

Geniuses Together: Paris in the 1920s

Geniuses Together: Paris in the 1920s

Paris, France. May, 2007. Photo by Douglas Pinson
Paris, France. May, 2007. Photo by Douglas Pinson

 Have been reading a wonderful book, Geniuses Together: American Writers in Paris in the 1920s, by Humphrey Carpenter (1988). It makes me smile again and again. Amusing, revealing anecdotes about Gertrude Stein, Natalie Barney, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Robert McAlmon so far. Many of the stories well-known. Others not so much.

The Left Bank. Montparnasse. Expat heaven. Dirt poor writers and wealthy socialites turned patronesses. Heavy drinking inside and outside bars, heavy talk in salons, insurgent antics by the Dadaists in theaters, fights, accidents, love affairs, and, finally, the publication of great literature. Often at great risk.

Sylvia Beach published Ulysses, risking fines and worse. The book was declared obscene in America prior to that. She loses typists when they read certain sections. One husband of one of those typists actually throws the manuscript in the fire. Luckily, Joyce found another copy. Hemingway wasn’t so lucky when … Click to continue . . .

Enumerations: (On Listening to Hendrix) by Tony Jones

Enumerations: (On Listening to Hendrix) by Tony Jones

Enumerations

 

I am sitting in a wooden upholstered chair built in the nineteen fifties (I know because the table it came with had the original sales receipt from 1957) at my computer desk listening to Jimi Hendrix performing with the Band of Gypsies on New Years 1970 at the Filmore East almost two years before I was born.

My cat Sibyl is sleeping behind me. She is almost 13. Hard to believe. She looks five and has the most beautiful black/orange tortoise-shell fur I have ever seen. She also has an incredibly sweet and talkative disposition. (I have known many cats and by far she is the most gregarious)

I am 36. Time is spinning a web around my head. I am thinking that the chronometric parsing of our small gasps of life may be the death of us, machinelike, or at least make our oxygen scarcer and sleep consequently less pleasant, but would we know the difference? But not … Click to continue . . .

The Sea and the Cliffs and the Edge

The Sea and the Cliffs and the Edge

The Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, Ireland.

 A music, an art, a philosophy, a religion that inspires us to look at nature and rejoice in our amazing luck. Being there. A literature, a poetry, a choir that lifts us above the smoggy everyday to hold that part of nature in our eyes that is wet, windy, and free.

Everything combined to form the song of the earth, the book of nature, the maxim of the sea. Everything pulled together to make us never forget our place here, our one and only home. Now and forever.

Henry David Thoreau said:

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

 

Katsushika Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa. 1829. Japan.
Katsushika Hokusai’s Great
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Imogen Heap: Ethereal Girl

Imogen Heap: Ethereal Girl

I first discovered Imogen Heap’s glorious sweet voice while watching Zack Braff’s film, “Garden State.” Bought the soundtrack. Followed the trail from there.

Heap’s music is like no other, with her surreal, ethereal, ghostly musical tones and sequences, crafted by a magically eccentric woman-child, waiting to be set free by that music. Electronica with a truly human face. Ethereality with the gaze of a beautiful child become beautiful woman who never forgot that child and can’t. Imogen Heap’s influences are said to include Kate Bush, Bjork and Annie Lennox, though she takes her music in decidedly different directions. Classically trained on the piano, cello and clarinet, she seems the natural polyphonic genius, adept at using new technology as well to heighten her command over her material, as this video shows:

Singers who also play woodwind instruments tend to have more control over their voices. It’s the breathing. It’s the manipulation of breath to change notes to half-notes and … Click to continue . . .