The attractions: solitude and secrecy—the orchard in the hills like a kingdom, the forbidden manufacture of liquor a prowess all my own, blessed with the contemplation of fir and beech, wild plum and cherry, and the company of the shy marten and jay as well as of cocky wrens and wagtails; the challenges of hiking, labor, and barter; the relief of exhaustion; the reassurance of a smartly contracted horizon; the refuge of my dwelling, small, neat, and warm, with its pots of flowering wallpepper and thyme, my pet dormouse staring around the thyme, and the new ikon over my writing stool whose wood shines in the clear frame of stenchless fresh oil; soft if short hours in the lamplight, pen in hand, showered with the random amber of phantasmal summers, abundances, triumphs of art; visits from the widow.The title section of the late Harry Mathews's Armenian Papers: Poems 1954-1984 purports to be an adaptation of an Italian translation of a lost Armenian original, "a manuscript of medieval poems that had mysteriously and irrevocably disappeared during the decade preceding the First World War," whose existence was revealed to Mathews, Marie Chaix, and David Kalstone in 1979 during a visit to the Armenian monastery of San Lazzaro in Venice by a certain Father Gomidas. San Lazzaro does in fact exist, and the three writers may well have made such a visit; the rest is made up out of whole cloth, perhaps inspired by a package of papier d'Arménie.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Sunday, February 05, 2017
This morning I crossed paths with a foraging possum. I'm not sure which of us was the more startled (the trail was otherwise deserted), but I took my pictures and went on my way.
Elsewhere, I found the decaying skeleton of a great horned wood-beast.
Saturday, February 04, 2017
Monday, January 30, 2017
Cartoonist Chris Ware, in the New York Review of Books, on Krazy Kat's banjo:
I may be in the minority here, but I really think that most if not all readers of Krazy Kat during Herriman's lifetime would have had a hard time thinking of Krazy as anything but African-American... one detail in Herriman's strip that would have absolutely cemented this identity in the minds of contemporary readers has since passed into obscurity: Krazy Kat's banjo. Through received clichés and shifts of poverty and culture in America, the banjo has come to be thought of as an instrument of poor whites, but at the turn of the century, it was as emblematic as a watermelon as part of the African-American stereotype. In fact, the banjo has a solemn origin: descended from the West African akonting, xalam, and ngoni instruments, played as an accompaniment to storytelling by Wolof griots in Senegal or the Jola in Gambia, early instruments like what became the American banjo were recreated by American slaves from whatever plantation materials were at hand — gourds, turtle shells, coconuts, animal skins — to try to hold on to a memory of life and culture torn from their grasp.Chris Ware, "To Walk in Beauty."
To the modern reader, the banjo in Krazy Kat might seem a lighthearted accessory, but when Krazy picks it up to sing "There is a Heppy Land Fur, Fur Away," the meaning, to thoughtful readers of the 1920s to the 1940s, would have been clear. Even more astonishingly, Krazy never plays a "proper" banjo, but plays the gourd or coconut banjo, the origins of which by the time of the strip's appearance would indeed have been obscure. Herriman knew what he was doing, and it's not insignificant that the very last strip he left unfinished on his drawing table showed Krazy playing a gourd banjo.
Related post: From the Archives: Krazy Kat
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Washington Irving's drowsy little village is now a busy multi-ethnic town, and today some 500 people from Sleepy Hollow and neighboring areas turned out on a beautiful winter afternoon for a march against the current administration's anti-immigrant policies. As the march passed street signs bearing names of immigrants dating back as far as Dutch times, the atmosphere was festive, friendly, and inclusive. The mayor joined the speakers in a park overlooking the Hudson, and there were plenty of dogs, strollers, and families.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
"Succeeding for me is how I can get my revenge. I want to break the stereotype of us being here taking jobs away and not helping the economy. I want Trump to see we're the total opposite of what he thinks." — Indira Islas, quoted in Dale Russakoff's article, "The Only Way We Can Fight Back Is to Excel," from the New York Times, January 29, 2017.
Also, from The Nation: "How to Fight Trump's Racist Immigration Policies."
"It was a real neighborhood, and a black experience no one talks about, because it wasn't filled with drugs and it wasn't filled with poverty. It was public schools, it was playing ball, it was playing music." — Arthur Bates, quoted in Anne Correal's account of how she recovered a discarded family photo album and traced the lives it recorded, from the New York Times, January 27, 2017.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
The writer Harry Mathews died yesterday. Weirdly, I found out because I looked him up to see what he was up to, well knowing that he was getting up there in years. I don't have anything particularly profound to say at the moment except what I would have said to Harry if I ever had the opportunity (we never met): "Thanks for writing those books." The obituary notices so far are mostly in French, but the Paris Review has a brief note and provides the one piece of good news: he completed a forthcoming new novel before he died.
My post from a few years back is here: Permutations of Mathews. Worth a listen is Isaiah Sheffer's hilarious reading of Mathews's story "Country Cooking from Central France: Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double)" (you can skip ahead to 1:10 or so).