Saturday, July 30, 2005

Props to my Pepys

I've been dipping into Pepys's diary online for about a month now—here's the entry keyed to yesterday's date, with one word bolded:

Tuesday 29 July 1662

Early up, and brought all my money, which is near 300l., out of my house into this chamber; and so to the office, and there we sat all the morning, Sir George Carteret and Mr. Coventry being come from sea. This morning among other things I broached the business of our being abused about flags, which I know doth trouble Sir W. Batten, but I care not. At noon being invited I went with Sir George and Mr. Coventry to Sir W. Batten’s to dinner, and there merry, and very friendly to Sir Wm. and he to me, and complies much with me, but I know he envies me, and I do not value him. To the office again, and in the evening walked to Deptford (Cooper with me talking of mathematiques), to send a fellow to prison for cutting of buoy ropes, and to see the difference between the flags sent in now-a-days, and I find the old ones, which were much cheaper, to be wholly as good. So I took one of a sort with me, and Mr. Wayth accompanying of me a good way, talking of the faults of the Navy, I walked to Redriffe back, and so home by water, and after having done, late, at the office, I went to my chamber and to bed.

He mentions "mathematiques" often; could it be an early version of "sudoku"?

Separated-at-birth pensées, week ending 7/30/05

Lance Armstrong and . . . Lyle Lovett?
Miranda July and . . . Carrie Brownstein?
I had another but I forgot.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Nothing with you

I'm very fond of the Descendents—I never saw them play, though I did see (and enjoy) All perform way back when (on a bill in Buffalo with the Doughboys—who?—and the now humongous Goo Goo Dolls). This song, found via Salon, is very exciting!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Anguish turnips conjunctions

I've blogged about it before—now one of my favorite little books, Edward Gorey's The Unstrung Harp, can be enjoyed online. (Discovered via Maud Newton.)

Randomly related: John Bellairs's The House With a Clock in Its Walls was a memorable book for me, not least for its Gorey drawings. Yesterday I chanced upon a blog called Bellairsia, devoted to this enjoyable author.

"Be quiet! ... Some of us are trying to write masterpieces!"

The above quote comes from B.S. Johnson's final novel, See The Old Lady Decently, part of what he conceived of as the "Matrix Trilogy." The two subsequent volumes were to have been titled Buried Although and Amongst Those Left Are You; the idea was that a sentence could be read across the spines, provided you put the volumes next to each other. Actually, I suppose you'd have to stack them, with the first volume on top, to read the whole thing in a normal left-right pattern. (John Barth joked about his novel The Sot-Weed Factor that he wanted to write a book "fat enough to wear its title right-side up across its spine")

I've just reviewed Jonathan Coe's biography of Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant. I hope I've given the impression that Johnson himself is worth reading; it bugs me when eccentrics aren't taken seriously for their work, only for their lives. (This sometimes happens in discussions of my two favorite Windy City artists, Harry Stephen Keeler and Henry Darger.)

I'm weirdly chatty this morning.

I thought I'd include two extracts from See the Old Lady Decently, for those who are interested. The first is a bit of concrete poetry (the book is about, among other things, his mother). The second is an example of the "BB"—for Bigger Britain—chapters (the book is about, among other things, England's decay), which reads like an encyclopedia entry in which proper nouns have been erased or mostly obliterated. (The long gap between the sentences is typical of much of BSJ's work—lacunae represented pauses in thought.) STOLD is probably not the Johnson book to start with—I'd recommend Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry or Albert Angelo.

OK. Here they are:



(p. 59 in the U.S. edition)


The first F travellers, using I waterways and trading with I, usually identified themselves with I interests; they looked upon the I as a fellow-man. The British when they came were independent of the I and regarded them as obstacles, and so it came that there was not a whose friendship the F did not win and retain long after their power had passed away.

The A, moreover, are not everywhere the same.
(pp. 102–5)


A final note: The holes cut into two of Albert Angelo's later pages prefigure a hole in Salvador Plascencia's new book, The People of Paper; and The Unfortunates' (mostly) fungible pamphlets perhaps inspired Robert Coover's Heart Suit in the latest McSweeney's—a story told on large, shufflable playing cards.

Really finally: Johnson would always pick up a paper clip, if he saw one on the ground. I don't know why I love this but I do.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Oh Yeh!

My pal (and former Voice colleague) Jane Yeh's upcoming debut poetry collection, Marabou, has been shortlisted for the Forward prize, as reported in today's Guardian.
I hope she wins! She's like no one else—by turns elegant and intense, rarefied and funny.

To the left we have the cover image, courtesy of Amazon. The person pictured does not really resemble Jane, unless she's had her hair done since we last met.

Those of you who can't wait can hunt down her chapbook, Teen Spies; those of you who really can't wait can sample the wonderful title poem from that book.

Want more? Try the excellent "Correspondence."

My favorite poem of hers might be "Monster," which I think of as her "Mama Said Knock You Out." It's not available online. If I quoted even a few lines, I'd have to type out the whole thing—it's unstoppable.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Big Wiesy

Won't some enterprising athlete-scholar start a website devoted to 15-year-old Korean American golf phenom Michelle Wie (see front of today's NYT sports page) and Charles Brockden Brown's 1798 novel Wieland?

Author, author—character?

[Here's a picture I took on Kaua'i.]

I just watched Stage Door (1937) on DVD, which I mostly enjoyed. Ginger Rogers briefly plays the ukulele for no particular reason, and when some other bit of business breaks in, she says, "You're interfering with my art!" I also like her description of the patently smarmy producer, played by Adolphe Menjou: "He makes you feel like you ought to run home and put on a tin overcoat."

The producer's name is..."Anthony Powell"! The character is not in the original Ferber/Kaufmann play.

Q: Do you think the name-choice was deliberate?
A: By 1937, the novelist Anthony Powell (b. 1905) had published most of his early comic work*—Afternoon Men, Venusberg, From a View to a Death (which for some reason I haven't read), and Agents and Patients, but his profile wasn't high in the U.S., and his name's appearance in the film is probably coincidence. Though if any Dizzyheads know otherwise, fill me in!

Which made me wonder (imagine me saying that in a Carrie Bradshaw voice): What other films (or plays or books) have characters who unintentionally share names with flesh-and-blood authors? (Close call: Protag of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is "John Ames.") Postscript (7/16): I always do a double-take when I see a review (in, say, the LRB) by "Nicholas Jenkins" — a professor at Stanford who bears the name of Powell's Dance to the Music of Time narrator.

*Speaking of comic novels: I heartily recommend Amanda Filipacchi's Love Creeps.

View My Stats