Potent Selections from Vacation Reading

“I wondered what indeed it meant about me that I was so set against the notion of convention that I should attack it.  So, I replaced the dream with the novel, stripping the stories of my dreams of any real meaning, but causing the form of them to mean everything.”

“…the gap between the subject of enunciation and the subject of enunciating not only failed to appear to me as a place of entry, but also failed to register as something I might elide.  For me, there was no gap, as there is no gap for anyone.”

P Everett 1

“…generally, people are only inclined to speak of the past with those they believe will somehow not only share some commonality, but who will also be disposed to exhibiting sympathy.”

“Is a photograph always present tense?  I described them so…better, let the question be, is what is in the photograph always in the present, without a before, without an after?  Of course, it is.  And isn’t that actually you in the picture?”

ennuyeux

“On Ludwig Boltzman’s tombstone is carved: S=k. LogW.  S is the entropy of a system, k represents Boltzman’s Constant, and W is a measure of the chaos of a system, essentially the extent to which energy is dispersed in the world.  This equation meant little to me as I read of it the first time, but as I considered it I grew excited.  The space between S and W is the space between the living thing in front of me and stuff hidden inside beyond my observation and comprehension.  It raises the question:  How many ways can the parts of a thing be rearranged before I can see a difference?  How many ways can the atoms and molecules of my hand move and recombine before I realize that something is wrong?  Thinking about it scared me.  Certainly, I understood that natural events symbolize collapse into chaos and that events are motivated by dissolution, but the idea of such subversive and invisible change moved me.  I likened it to observing the minds of others.”

P Everett 2

ootheca

“Ezra Pound said, ‘Every word must be charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.’  Let it be the case then.  But words need no help from anyone.  Bet thew ords kneeknow hellip freeum heinywon.  Context, story, time, place – don’t these work like Bekins men, packing the words like so many trunks?  But finally, words are not cases to be packed at all, but solid bricks (and, of course, like a brick, even a word’s atoms are not motionless).”

“We do not give the creature reality enough credit, choosing to see it sitting out there as either a construct of ours or an infinitely regressing cause for the trickery of our senses.  But I claim here that the most important thing I have learned is that reality has a soul, reality is conscious of itself and of us, and further is not impressed by us or our attempts to see it.  In fact, we see it all the time and don’t know it, perhaps can’t.  It is like love in that way.”

-all quotes by Percival Everett

from his novel, Glyph

Glyph - Everett

a la Sympatico

This week marks (for me) an exciting new release from Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo – they’ve composed the soundtrack for the recent film Prince Avalanche (I’m also a fan of Paul Rudd).

PAMuralalthough I haven’t viewed the film yet (I fully intend to) – I was unable to wait to acquire the soundtrack, in fact it was a primary plus in returning to Kansas from the Rockies of Colorado (after the books – see prior post).

Beyond that – it would appear the film offers a sympathetic example of quest in another mode – and the soundtrack definitely does… So, entering a new semester, a season of changes and re-established routines – finding our way forward – quest – here is a sampling of the soundtrack: Prince Avalanche by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo:

 

The Return – the Quest continues

Pikes Peak

After a glorious week smushed together in an old log cabin without running water and an outhouse on the slopes of Pikes Peak Colorado, we have returned.  It was wonderful family time – hiking, kayaking, playing, reading, climbing and performing the necessary tasks of cabin-living.  Irreplacable.  One of our sons was reading “How to Read Literature like a Professor” for his summer reading assignments in the wee hours and pointed out that this type of vacation shared many qualifications of the Quest in literary themes.  That feels so right.  Life lived in relation to others always seems a quest – to know one another better, love one another better, hear one another better, express and differentiate and develop as persons-in-relation.  I have been immensely blessed with a mixed and quirky collective of children from whom I learn so much, and a spouse who cracks and opens me.  It is a particular pleasure when the world around us is also so splendid and obviously large as it is in the Rockies of Colorado, and when so many distractions are replaced with shared attentions – mushrooms, critters, rock formations, streams, decrepit mines, wild donkeys, and so on.  Priceless time.

Upon return it is easy to see how the quest goes on…kiddos heading back to school…classes starting again…and these packages opened in the pile of mail:

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the quest always beginning…

(The First Good Novel)

Meaning

In any breaks in necessity – between semesters, breaks at work, children otherwise occupied, no “required” readings or commissioned work, etc… – with each passing season, I gradually discover what matters most to me (literarily speaking, which, for me, involves much of my lived life) – perhaps I might refer to it as my meaning-making-factory-resources (Blanchot says of Borges that he is “an essentially literary man – which means that he is always ready to understand according to the manner of comprehension that literature authorizes).”  At this point in my living, over four decades along, and a large percentage of the pie devoted to reading, those voices I turn to, their messages and efforts, have become quite consistent.  Each year there are new ones, new threads and concepts, theories and expressions that very significantly impact my living – but they tend to find their place as commentaries, extensions, additives and queries to what (I suppose) now forms my central “canon” of sorts.

This struck me, following my return to Bakhtin and Blanchot, and as we prepare for vacation how I immediately reached for Soulstorms by Clarice Lispector and The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) by Macedonio Fernandez.  In searching for this image of Fernandez:

Macedonioa host of Google’s “related images” arose – including Borges, Lispector, David Foster Wallace – and I got that vision of how pantheons develop and connect and gradually form a kind of woven semiotic pattern – a “worldview” or “Innenwelt” I guess – it begins to make sense what’s connected to what and whom to whom throughout time and space of world-being.  Beckett, Blanchot, Dostoevsky, Pessoa, Rilke, Cixous, Kafka, Bakhtin, Jabes, these visions and verbals I return to again and again and again and again – inexhaustibly – and although my copies are nearly glutted with markings and underlinings – and they feel intimate and familiar (on the one hand) – that I also feel I am always learning them anew, freshly, with EVERY read.

These things astound me.

Museum of Eterna's Novel

Of this particular book (which I often say is the very best novel I have ever read, repeatedly), Adam Thirlwell writes “It is a novel which does not want to begin.  Or, perhaps, it is really a novel which does not want to end…The aim of Macedonio Fernandez’s novels is to convert all reality into fiction (or the other way around).”  “The real subjects of this lightly playful novel are the grave ones of death and love.”

“In his novel, Fernandez tests the possibility that all philosophical questions are only meaningful in relation to human relations: that all questions of infinity are really questions about love.”

and so on.

Macedonio 2

Macedonio is, for me, a hero the likes of Bakhtin, Blanchot, Beckett – those writings and writers I will never “get over,” never “get around.”  Writings I can only ever “go through.”

Perhaps these writings are characterized by the question – “What is it to be real?”  I recently discovered in one of those “shock of recognition” moments that although I’ve studied theology, philosophy, classical music, art and literature and now information sciences and systems theories – that none of the CONTENTS of these fields sustain my passions – it is the relationships between them – the ligaments and synchronous reverberations they emit – the MEANING-making effects of their pursuit and inquiry that is REALLY what drives me toward, into and through them.  I’m not looking for truth or necessarily facts or any answers – but for PROCESSES and PRACTICES that enrich, enhance and extend my biological life in relation to the world I’m “thrown into.”

Borges wrote of Fernandez: “Macedonio is metaphysics, he is literature” and that “writing was no trouble for Macedonio Fernandez. He lived (more than any other person I have ever known) to think.  Every day he abandoned himself to the vicissitudes and surprises of thoughts as a swimmer is borne along by the current of a great river.”  The novel’s translator writes: “The method is madcap; the intent is desperately human.”

Perhaps that is what I’m after – to be “desperately human.”

and now we’re heading off to the wilds – to be desperately human with-world with-family – replete with above-mentioned authors and without wi-fi or internet services!

P.S. (also from current reading – The Waste Books by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg):

“Be attentive, feel nothing in vain, measure and compare:  this is the whole law of philosophy.”

and

“To grow wiser means to learn to know better and better the faults to which this instrument with which we feel and judge can be subject.”

All the best!