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Month: December 2008

House of the Rising Sun

House of the Rising Sun

 Caught an archived addition of On Point today. Fascinating. A discussion of the roots of an American classic, The House of the Rising Sun. Far more to it than I had previously ever thought about. And our old friend, Alan Lomax, plays a major part in the story. It wasn’t just The Animals involved. In fact, far from it. They just made the most famous version in 1964. But so many others covered the tune and it originated, most likely, in the Kentucky hills. Though it’s possible that it goes back even further, well into the 18th century. At least part of the song.

 Sung by men and women, the song takes on completely different meaning. With the former, it sounds like a young man who has fallen into dissolution, and can’t escape from it. Perhaps he’s killed someone, and has to go back to New Orleans to do jail time for that or for debts incurred while … Click to continue . . .

Again With the Yevgeny

Again With the Yevgeny

We have a new essay on Zamyatin, and new poetry on tap as well. Robert Mueller and Tony Jones return with more lyrical and creative writing.


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Paul Henreid and Ingrid Bergman, in Casablanca.
Paul Henreid and Ingrid Bergman, in Casablanca.


My own writing and reading has slowed a bit as we move to the end of 2008. The holidays have seen me sinking into movies primarily. Nothing of stunning note, though I did enjoy watching the classic, Casablanca, again. My guess is, however, that my own thoughts would not add anything new to the libraries of critical assessments regarding that great story of Rick and Ilsa and the madness in Morocco.

On an entirely personal note, Ingrid Bergman always reminds me of a former girlfriend. Their faces and voices connect for me. Though my ex was originally from Puerto Rico, far, far from Sweden, and generally of a much sunnier disposition than the star of Gaslight, Joan of Click to continue . . .

Blind Spot: Two Poems by Tony Jones

Blind Spot: Two Poems by Tony Jones

Blind Spot

The scam: the scene in Punch Drunk Love
where the heroine is bleeding and
Adam Sandler takes a tire iron to
the toughs that just wrecked his
car and his life.

What I find disturbing is the concept that
inevitably someone with issues like Sandler’s
must of necessity find true love. I am the age
of his character with neurological issues
of my own, and I haven’t seen its ananke.
A sweet film, but false advertising.

Will the comet shearing a rut through
the heart of the sky, so beautiful
and seeming benificent now on the horizon,
destroy us or is that law of physics
going to be suspended as well?

My life went up in smoke, but the vapors
concretized and reassembled themselves into
a castle of limestone which is where I live
now, with an empty heart that magically generates
enough fire to power cities, to the amusement of
blackbirds that flock in the willows.… Click to continue . . .

Robert Mueller: In the Shadow of Yevgeny

Robert Mueller: In the Shadow of Yevgeny

Scene by Scene

There is this furnace of the pounding,
and then there is this and more
and delicately the surrounding
of white flakes.

There is a brush-up in the waiting
where the birds paly greyed
in slanting pike charge, and lately
the crinkles clasp.

And then there is more, much more
than this, like heaps by the forest
meant to be lumbered o’er, hungered
as if a straight.

And as if the likelihoods of streams
relenting this, that and everywhere,
there is snow and its channels, its lockets,
its tricks and its light.

There is this measurement a-galing
of whole world and its wrongs
and right, swollen in the swales of snow
their very burden

tight and soundly bound, safely
and copiously unfoiled in polters
and in touchturns, the spilled
bathing bright cuff.

There is then the radiance of lounging
around in the homing with stuffing
in the eyes in flight, assured
gurgling prayer-beam’s kite.

— by Robert Mueller… Click to continue . . .

Robert Mueller: Zamyatin’s Garden

Robert Mueller: Zamyatin’s Garden

by Robert Mueller


Reading Evgeny Zamyatin’s A Godforsaken Hole (Na kulichkakh, 1914), what is the novel like?

First of all, it is very funny. And familiar. And yet the strange thing is that those other novels and texts that it can remind you of would seem to come after; and it would not be any particular writer or book, but merely the feeling of its being so familiar.

What is funny about this book?  Here we feel in Walker Foard’s translation (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1988) the full effect of its capricious humor.  The magic of caprice does in fact lead to something different, some indication of Zamyatin’s genius and personality.  But the novel is known for its biting satire, and it got on people’s nerves once they noticed it, and so they burned and banned it: “By decree of the Supreme Commissariat of the Committee of Culture under Special Arrangements of His Most Esteemed the Tsar Nicholas … Click to continue . . .

The Genuine Article

The Genuine Article

Autumn Woods, by Albert Bierstadt. 1886
Autumn Woods, by Albert Bierstadt. 1886

 Reading a very interesting collection of essays, The Genuine Article, by Edmund S. Morgan. It’s an historical look at early American life, taken primarily from his articles for the New York Review of Books.

Lots of food for thought. He tells us (indirectly) that historians of that early period have spent most of their time with New England, not because of bias, but because of available records. We are blessed with a huge amount and variety of journals, letters, public records, and assorted written indications of life for the early settlers in the north, but very little for those in Virginia and south of that colony. There was also a difference in family life, ratio of male to female and life expectancy that favored New England. More families settled in the north initially. Virginia and other southern colonies seemed to get far more indentured servants, and then slaves, and far fewer intact families. … Click to continue . . .

Library Cards, by Sean Howard

Library Cards, by Sean Howard

(taken from cape breton university)

i. the technique of oil painting

colors mixing
in the square. straw-

board fields. the buckram
coat. saucepan; stirring

sand to sun. corner-
ed: students pain-



the canvas
leaves. distant verid-

ian. the ochre stage. the
touched sky. (picasso: blue

tumblers.) the
wind, flak-


ii. testing: its place in education today

ism. learning

to score. strange fruit; pre-
pared minds. (the Ameri-

cannery…) waste pro-
ducts; fresh out of


The Dalkey Archive

The Dalkey Archive

Flann O'Brien
Flann O’Brien

 The Third Policeman finds his way to At Swim-Two-Birds and lives to write about it, writes to live within it. Riding his bloody bike, he feels his molecules changing, becoming something other, something cyclical. Along the way, he meets Saint Augustine and James Joyce, both of whom are really dead, but only one of whom is an apparition.

The other is a bartender who doesn’t know about Finnegans Wake.

Well, actually, that’s only part of the story and the wrong part. The real Dalkey Archive is nothing like the above. I like the novel, but it’s just not up to the same standard as O’Brien’s (or O’Nolan’s) best two works, The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two-Birds, which just happen to be among the very best novels of the 20th century in English.

The novel does start out with great promise, and is funny, well-written and nicely paced. Its construction is solid and balanced. Something, though, is missing. … Click to continue . . .