Thursday, July 23, 2009

On the Way to Work - Matins

Lovely Ameriaisan girl one foot off the curb poised in space

Older man head bowed grimacing walking fast arms pumping

Water a reflection of all above

The rabbit scurrying away, the ducks looking up from their grazing, a goose starting towards me, neck cocked back

Friday, July 17, 2009

Grapes of Wrath

I have come onto so many great lines in Grapes that like the emperor in the Borges story I would have to re-create the entire work to make a perfect map, but these are some that strike me on this glorious warm sunny breeze filled evening

"they walked about, stiff in clean clothes, miserable with carefulness."

"You know a vagrant is anyone a cop don't like.""

"An' she's gettin' prettier," said Tom.
The girl blushed more deeply and hung her head. "You stop it," she said softly.
"Course she is," said Ma. "Girl with a baby always gets prettier."

" An don' let anyone touch me."

"In a little while it ain't gonna be so bad." (I think this every day!)

"Pretty soon they're gonna make us pay to work."

"And in the distance the Jesus-lovers sat with hard condemning faces and watched the sin."

Viking 1967 ed.

Hope you got a nap Rob.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Ride In

Twenty geese in the pond this morning tipped like buoys, white
rumps in the air. Two deer on the trail -- a mother and fawn
who ran scared toward me, then heeled and into the woods.
Air crisp, fog below in the valley, and the Ocean Spray browning.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Nicholson Baker's novel Vox was both titillating and a disappointment. Vox is a 165 page telephone conversation between and man and woman who have called a sex number advertised in a magazine. The random connection of two lonely and distant people is a wonderful and imaginative set-up, but not this time. First off, Baker is in love with ironic distance, and reducing a character to a voice on a phone fuctions as a distancing mechanism for Baker (the way a voice in a confessional need not). Secondly, the characters, Jim and Abby are interested in masturbation, even when they actually share sexual experiences with physically present people. This renders their actual sexual experiences as once-removed, and the phone conversation twice-removed. Thirdly, and most importantly for me, the book fails to take advantage of what could be an immensely powerful and moving situation by dwelling on the mundane. But perhaps reading Vox so quickly after Koestler's Darkness at Noon was the problem. A book of enormous philosophical, political and self-examination, and yes, real soul. Something that is rare in pop culture, in which Baker seems to be a star.

On the other hand, and yes there are two, I'm fascinated by the device of a phone conversation to frame an entire novel. The only other one I know is Lily Tuck's Interviewing Matisse, or the Woman Who Died Standing Up.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Whatcom Falls Park and Other Ramblings

It is one of the true joys of these summer days that in my six mile bike to work (which I don't do every day, since it is also six miles home with steep hills at each end) that I bike almost four of those twelve miles through Whatcom Falls Park, a gem of an urban forest bisected by a salmon/steelhead stream, and criss-crossed with hiking and biking trails. The morning ride (largely downhill) is crisp and fragrant, and the other morning I saw two deer standing in the center of Whatcom Creek, one lowering its head to drink. Other wildlife spotted include opossums, racoons, beaver, squirrels, rabbits, and numerous birds, including a bald eagle family in and around a nest at the top of the park. This park is the site of Bellingham's infamous pipeline explosion in 1999 and I ended up riding through a tour commemorating the 10th anniversary several weeks ago. Returning in the afternoon is an uphill affair, replete with sweat and the shouts of kids swimming in the creek. This ride makes it worth going to work.

Lydia Davis had a lovely line in her recent book Varieties of Disturbance. The book is comprised of numerous short vignettes, and in some cases aphorisms, witticisms, and so forth. This particular line is from a short piece entitled "Kafka Cooks Dinner" and goes like this: "But at other times I sit here reading in the afternoon, a myrtle in my buttonhole, and there are such beautiful passages in the book that I think I have become beautiful myself."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Come on Gary

Every writer occasionally publishes work that later embarrasses them, but Gary Snyder recently published work in that esteemed of the esteemed journals "The American Poetry Review" that embarrasses me as a reader, and should have embarrassed him enough to keep it in a notebook. Snyder, riding his cache bareback, is featured on the cover with his de rigeur backdrop of craggy peaks. Just inside we meet his contribution, nine frags, of which I'll reprint three of the worst:

Don't Twist My Hair
"Don't twist my hair
old bear

Three inch teeth
good grief"

Out West
"There's all the time in the universe
and plenty of wide open space"

Country & Western
Loving, hurting

Cheating, flirting

Drinking, lying

Laughing, crying

It's not just that he is still capable of much better work (I hope), but that a journal with the stature and respect of APR would give him the space over other, lesser known but far more worthy writers. And it also attends to the lack of judgment on his part. Has
Gary reached a place where lack of discernment is celebrated as yet another demonstration of his Dharma achievement?