What I’m Reading

Mostly just lots of short stories these days. They’re all considered classic literature. One book is a set of French short stories by writers who are considered to write classic literature.

The French book was published in 1960, so we are dealing with dated material here, all over 60 years old:

Charles Baudelaire: Paris Spleen (1869). “Prose poems or proems,” an odd literary form. Very nice. I have read The Flowers of Evil (both are books of poetry), and I cannot recommend them highly enough, especially Le Fleurs du Mal. French Symbolist literature, or more properly, Decadent literature, from the late 1800’s. He hung out with Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé, all of them haunting Parisian bars in drunken ecstasy.

He as actually straight, unlike some of those other guys who were homosexuals. He was sickly, nuts, erratic, a drug-addict, flake, dilettante, gambler, spendthrift, and heavy drinker who lived his whole life in poverty. He attempted suicide once. Dead at 46. Marcel Proust said Baudelaire was the greatest poet of the 19th Century. He was also praised by Edmund Wilson and T. S. Eliot, who actually referred to himself as a “Baudelarian.” He  was claimed by both conservatives and liberals. On the left, Walter Benjamin praised him.

Francois Mauriac: The Grand-Lebrun (1933). First thing I ever read by this guy. Has a James Joyce feel about it, especially Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.


In the other book, published in 1968, so these stories are all over 50 years old:

Anton Chekhov: Misery (1885) and Rothschild’s Fiddle (1894). These are better than either of the French stories. This is the first Chekhov I have read. He’s 19th Century Russia, so I warn you, these stories, like most Russian lit from that time, are depressing and gloomy as Hell. Someone either dies, has just died, or will soon die, or all three at once. Nevertheless, his style is truly amazing and heartrendingly beautiful and sad. He is said to be one of the masters of the short story.

Ernest Hemingway: Big Two-Hearted River (1925). This one also is almost perfect. Classic Hemingway understated yet perfect prose. He doesn’t waste a sentence or probably a word. His writing is based on the Iceberg Theory. I’ve also read a number of his novels A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Sun Also Rises. I also read Death in the Afternoon (nonfiction) along with In Our Time and Men without Women, short story collections.

William Faulkner: Dry September (1930). Nice little story, terrible subject matter. He catches the South in all of its casual brutality. I also read Light in August, and it is excellent. Can’t recommend it enough. It’s written a lot in stream of consciousness, so you have to pay attention to whose mind he is in and who’s talking at the time. Also a lot of it is in dialect.

Vladimir Nabokov: First Love (1943). This story is just gorgeous, but it’s not an easy read at all. He’s one of my favorite writers ever, truly one of the greats. However, he is not an easy read at all. Like Hemingway, his work is full of hidden details, references, clues, puns, on and on. I’m not sure if it’s possible for the non-intellectual to read his stuff on an entertainment level.

I’ve also read Lolita and Bend Sinister. Both are good, but Lolita, the story of a pedophile (or hebephile) child molester and relationship with the extremely precocious, gum-smacking 12 year old sexpot Lolita, is out of this world, one of the greatest books of the 20th Century. I do know that it can be read on different levels though, and even at a basic level, it is incredible. If you wish to go hunting for the endless Easter eggs peppered all through this symbolism-shot book, you can do that too. If you haven’t read it, do so. Don’t worry about the disturbing subject matter. It’s something we talk about all the time anyway. We just don’t talk about it like this.

Richard Wright: The Man Who Lived Underground (1944). This is the first I have read of this author, the famous Black writer of the classic Native Son, which I probably need to read sometime. He’s very angry and all of his writing is about racism and Whites’ unjust treatment of Blacks. His writing is cold, vicious, cruel, and often horribly violent. But if you can handle him, he’s quite good. And to be fair, Blacks were treated terribly back when he was writing.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: EPICAC (1950) and Next Door (1955). Both of these were great! Both of them are as good as a Chekhov or Borges short story, and that’s the gold standard. There’s often a wild twist at the end.

I’ve read quite a few books of his. I’ve read Breakfast of Champions or Goodbye Blue Monday!; Cat’s Cradle; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine; Happy Birthday, Wanda June; Mother Night; Player Piano; Sirens of Titan; Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, all novels. I’ve also read Welcome to the Monkey House, a book of short stories (now rereading it). In addition, I read Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons (Opinions), nonfiction.

Vonnegut is very nice. He’s quite simple and anyone can read him. But his work is nevertheless absolutely brilliant. Because it’s so simplistic, there’s a tendency to see him as overrated, until you read him again and you realize just how brilliant he really is. If you like easy reading, I’d recommend any of the books above. They’re entertaining and funny, too, often in a self-deprecatory way. As a person, he was a huge asshole to just about everyone, but again, that’s not unusual with these genius types. They’re out to lunch in a lot of ways, and socially can be one of them.

Carson McCullers: The Sojourner and The Jockey (both 1955). First I have read of her too. Interesting writer. Sort of Hemingway-like, understated stuff. Overtones of melancholy.

James Allen McPherson: On Trains (1961). I had never even heard of this author before and at first I thought it was just the author trying to be antiracist by throwing in some Black (or other designated oppressed minority) author to get woke points. I was shocked. He’s excellent. If you like Black writers, check this guy out.

He writes about race a lot, but in a subtle, understated, matter of fact way, sort of like Faulkner. But he also deals with the reality of Black-White sexual relationships, which was probably controversial in his day. When he went to Yale, he had already experienced quite a bit of racism, but he seemed more philosophical and “I’m going to show those White boys how good I am” about it. He’s not nearly as militant and angry as Wright.

John Updike: A & P (1962) and The Doctor’s Wife (1962). A & P is one of the all-time greats. Then again, not much happens. But that’s true of the best short stories of all.

Consider For Esme, with Love and Squalor by J. D. Salinger. What happens? Not a whole lot. But it’s one of the best short stories of its time. And Updike is rather like Salinger in that way. His writing is very subtle and to figure it out properly, you need to get down below the basic writing to figure out what he’s really getting at. He shows. He doesn’t tell.

And dialogue is very important. He deals well with shades of emotion, feeling, and mental states that are often pretty hard  for us to put our fingers on, and we would probably deny them even if we could. There can be a sense of lost opportunity or hypocrisy. His male characters are often gross sexists.

Misogyny is often apparent. I’m reading a recent novel of his, Towards the End of Time, and the same thing is going on. In many cases, this has to do with the author’s relationships with his ex-wives. But the lyrical Melvillean prose dancing off the pages of of this much later novel is joyous to read just for style alone..

I also read Hugging The Shore, a book of his book reviews and literary criticism. It was very good.

Donald Barthelme: Margins (1961) and See the Moon? (1966). This is literally some of the strangest and weirdest fiction I’ve ever read. It’s like this new fiction style called Weird. That’s about the only way to describe it. However, as an author, he is absolutely brilliant in a lot of different ways. You wonder how one man carried all this knowledge and insight in his 10 pound brain. I liked these stories, but they sure were weird all right. Plus which not much happens, but apparently that’s the idea.

I’ve read Amateurs; Come Back, Dr. Caligari; Forty Stories; Great Days; Sadness; Sixty Stories; Snow White; and Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts, all short story collections. There was a time in the 80’s when I was binging on that stuff.

Jorge Luis Borges: The Secret Miracle (1962) and Funes the Memorious (1967). Borges is the great Argentine writer, one of the best writers of the last century. Nevertheless, he’s not for everyone and he’s a bit hard to get into. This writing is similar to Barthelme’s, but it is on a whole different level. It has been called magical realism. It has been called a lot of things. But there is no writing quite like it anywhere else.

It’s a bit like Gabriel Garcia Marquez of 100 Years of Solitude fame. After all, they are both South Americans and magical realism was birthed on the continent. He’s also rather like Ray Bradbury in terms of showing us fantastic and otherworldly visions of our world which are at once our own world and then again, something else entirely. I’ve always felt there was a bit of Franz Kafka in there too. There’s often a sense of tragedy in his writing, and usually someone dies. Death is always waiting around the corner. I’ve Ficciones and Labyrinths, both short story collections, during my time at university from 1978-1981.

John Barth: Life-Story (1968). John Barth wrote in The Literature of Exhaustion in 1967 that the novel form was used up and there was not much to do anymore as it had all already been done. It caused quite a stir on the lit scene. It appeared around the time that Roland Barthes, a literary critic, wrote The Death of the Author. Both are considered to be seminal texts in the emerging movement of postmodernism. Much literary criticism now continues to echo Barthes in positioning “author” and “reader” as completely different battling entities. It spends a lot of time mining the interplay between the two.

In 1980, he wrote The Literature of Replenishment in which he singled out Borges and Nabokov (see above) as two writers who were indeed doing new things with the novel instead of the same old same old.

Barth’s writing is self-consciously postmodern. After The Floating Opera and The End of the Road, things started getting weird. He became known for metafiction, that is fiction about the writing of fiction. The “writer” of whatever piece you are reading will often make an appearance, say a few things, and disappear.

Perhaps he will remind you that you’re only reading a book. Perhaps he will say that the story you are reading is really a story about an author writing a story. Which is about an author writing a story. And on and on. Get the picture? He was the first professor of Creative Writing in the US in 1953, although that is hard to believe. Now these departments are everywhere and all of their graduates are churning out at least a novel or two. To say we are swamped is an understatement.

His writing is full of a lot of self-conscious talk about novel-writing, how to write a novel, the components of a novel, the various ways one can choose in which to write a novel, the levels on which you can write them, characterization, plot, background, conflict, on and on. He often starts talking about this right in the middle of your reading, so you are reading along and then this “author” guy pops up and tells you there’s going to be a big plot change coming up ahead, so get ready for it. It’s weird and jarring but it’s very interesting.

This stuff is very hard to read and can be quite confusing at times. It’s also frustrating. But if you like to bend your mind a bit, this is a good place to do it.

I have read The Sot Weed Factor. That’s considered to be his best book.

You either like this writer or you don’t. I assure you that he is absolutely brilliant. But he’s not for everyone and some may find him a bore or end up throwing the book at the wall. Caveat emptor.

Saul Bellow: “A Father to Be” (1953): Interesting little story. In his early novels and short stories, the wild goings-on in the heads of his characters, who all have very rich and complex fantasy and emotional lives, is matched by the world, which is about as strange and active as the material in their heads. This can be seen in Dangling Man, The Victim, and even in The Adventures of Augie March and Seize the Day. After that, things start getting really weird and the outside world or the plots start veering way off course from the character’s inner lives. The mismatch between the two offers a lot of the conflict.

I have read Humbolt’s Gift at university, but I found it a bit of a chore honestly, and it was also rather boring. But then, I was 22, so hey. Maybe if I read it again at my age, I might get a lot more out of it.

It’s about the poet Delmore Schwartz, whose live was as wild as his poems. He wrote Under Milkwood, a Play for Voices. I’d never read it but maybe it’s not supposed to be read with your eyes. Maybe as the title implies, it’s supposed to be heard with your ears. I heard it on the radio one and the genius and brilliance of it was almost impossible to fathom. It was as good as Ulysses. Really. I don’t even know how he did it? How can one man do such a thing.

He drank himself to death at an early age like so many of these guys do. The story is he went to a bar and asked how many drinks he would have to drink to die and people at the bar estimated 17. So he proceeded to then drink precisely 18 drinks of alcohol. You know how this story ends, right? He died. Call it a suicide. Or a parasuicide. Anyway, it’s a typical way for this types, men as well as women, to take their final sleep.

I think the most common cause of death in poets must be suicide. And so many of them are depressives or manic-depressives. But it’s a fine line between creativity and mental illness and that’s why so many of us artistic types are so nutty. Yeah, I consider myself an artsy type. If I’m not, sue me. Anyway, it’s a great excuse for being crazy!

Also, an unbelievable number of poets are more or less gay. A lot of the women are lesbian or bi and often dykey or mannish. Gay male poets are almost a stereotype. But then the link between the Arts and Homosexuality was noted as far back as Antiquity. Some have even suggested that should a cure for homosexuality or genetic testing show up, we might want to keep gays around just for their creativity. As with so many questions of some but not great importance, I’m inclined to leave that up in the air or for the Gods to work out, which is basically the same thing.

A while back I was going through a bunch of poets because I had nothing better to do with my time and I kept running into this Gay-Suicide-Poet thing. A lot of the women’s dykeyness was turning me off, and I was terribly sad to find out that some of my favorite male authors were batting for the other team.

Then I achieved an epiphany. I don’t really if so many of these poets are faggots, dykes, and suicides or some combination of first two and the third, their lives were worth it and glorious and beautiful and perfect just for leaving us that sublime silver prose that sings off the pages as we read it. They did not die in vain. And perhaps there’s a place in the world for folks  like that. It takes all types to fill the freeways.

How Art Creates Beauty of the Most Horrible Things

Art is capable, perhaps uniquely so, in finding beauty or maybe better yet “perfection” in the sense of “excellence” in most horrible things. The ending of Moby Dick and Gravity’s Rainbow (two of the greatest books of the last 200 years) both come to mind. Both end with a terrible death, in the former of an entire crew of a whale-hunting ship and in the latter of a hapless boy strapped into a V-2 missile to be shot by the Germans at Pennemunde at London in 1944.

In a more modern sense, we can see this in Tarentino’s movies, where he portrays a stylized form of aestheticized violence that is both beautiful, terrible and “perfect.” I mean perfect or “excellent” in its “beauty” in a Platonic sense of the Greek word arete.

Aesthetics, the Philosophy or Art, Beauty, and Taste

The section of philosophy that deals with beauty, what it is, what it means, how to define it, its purpose, etc. is called Aesthetics. This school of thought was probably started by Plato. The actual study of Aesthetics itself dates from Hegel.

In the 19th Century, John Rusk made some great contributions to the genre in his works on art or art criticism. Kant, Nietzsche, Confucius and the Buddha all had important things to say on this subject, so you can see that the philosophical discussion of beauty extends to theology too, as Buddhism and Confucianism are seen as marriages of philosophy and religion or, I would argue, using Heideggerian language, “philosophy-as-religion.” Hume and Kant both linked art to the ability to produce pleasure in its consumer.

John Keats argued in Ode on a Grecian Urn that truth was beauty and vice versa, so here Tarantino’s hyper-realized violence is beautiful in part in its sheer graphic nature. In Hinduism, Satyam Shivam Sundaram makes the same statement – “Truth is God and God is Beautiful.” This sense of art as truth + beauty could be called a “mathematical conception of art” as we see in concepts like complexity, simplicity, and symmetry (symmetry in particular seems linked to art and beauty both) that mathematics itself can be both artistic and beautiful.

In the modern era, Freud  (the “Uncanny”, John Dewey (connection between art and ethics), Theodore Adorno (the Culture Industry), Marshall McLuhan (making the invisible visible), and in particular Arthur Danto (modern art as kalliphobia or anti-beauty), Andre Malraux and Walter Benjamin (the Renaissance and recent definition of art and beauty).

Modern Philosophy as the “Progression” from the Intelligible to the Unintelligible

Lyotard, Merle-Ponty, and Lacan are as usual much less intelligible. If we can see philosophy as the development of a social science, it seems to be “developing” from intelligibility towards unintelligibility. Kant and Nietzsche started it, Sartre turned it into an art form, and in the modern era, philosophy has ceased to have much of any meaning at all. See the French School starting in the 1970’s. The object here is apparently to make as little sense as possible.

Books I Am Currently Reading

Believe it or not, this is how I read. It works out just fine except for the novels. You really can’t read much more than one novel at once. Maybe two. I’m not sure. But more than that and things really start to bog down hard. Everything else is fine to read concurrently – essays, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, social sciences, etc.

Looks like I’m currently reading 47 books. Actually it’s more than that because there are a lot of others that I just dip into and put away without even getting 10-15 pages into them. Anyway, if any of you have read any of these books or have heard of them or their authors, feel free to discuss!

Fiction – 20

Novels – 11

Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim, 90 pages, classic.

Pat Conroy: Beach Music, 18 pages; The Death of Santini, 16 pages.

Joanne Harris: Coastliners, 18 pages.

Franz Kafka: The Trial, 48 pages, classic.

Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land, 38 pages, classic.

Khaled Husseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns, 134 pages, half-finished.

Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea, 15 pages, classic.

Tom Robbins: Still Life with Woodpecker: A Sort of a Love Story, 48 pages.

Richard Russo: Empire Falls, 20 pages.

Robert Stone: A Flag for Sunrise, 54 pages.

John Updike: Toward the End of Time, 66 pages.

Poetry – 2

John Milton: Paradise Lost, 156 pages, half-finished, classic. Hard to read.

Steven St. Vincent Millay: The Western Star, 17 pages.

Short Stories – 7

Ernest Hemingway: Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, 420 pages, 2/3 finished, classic.

Daniel F. Howard: The Modern Tradition: Short Stories, 180 pages, classics.

Alice Munro: Runaway: Stories, 48 pages.; Too Much Happiness: Stories, 34 pages.

Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, 22 pages, classic.

Joyce Carol Oates: Night-Side, 34 pages.

John Steinbeck: The Long Valley, 19 pages, classic.

Kurt Vonnegut: Welcome to the Monkey House, 21 pages (reread).

General Readers: Fiction and Nonfiction – 1

George Murphy: The Key West Reader: The Best of Key West’s Writers, 1830-1990, 28 pages.

Nonfiction -27

Biography – 1

Isaiah Berlin: Karl Marx, 20 pages. Hard to read.

Environmentalism – 2

Edward Abbey: Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, 142 pages, half-finished, classic; Down the River, 130 pages, half-finished.

Essays – 3

Loren Eisley: The Night Country: Confessions of a Bone-Hunting Man, 15 pages.

Adam Gopnik: Paris to the Moon, 19 pages.

Barbara Kingsolver: High Tide in Tuscon: Essays from Now or Never, 150 pages, half-finished.

General Nonfiction – 3

John Colapinto: As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, 14 pages.

Malcolm Gladwell: Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, 156 pages, half-finished.

David Halberstam: The Powers That Be, p. 22.

History – 1

Tom Reiss: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, 32 pages.

Humor – 1

James Thurber: Is Sex Necessary?, 35 pages.

Law – 1

Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith: No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America, 46 pages.

Linguistics – 1

Derek Bickerton: Language and Species, 122 pages, half-finished. Hard to read.

Philosophy – 2

Soren Kierkegaard: Either/Or, 26 pages, classic. Hard to read.

Frederich Nietzsche: The Twilight of the Idols, 24 pages, classic. Hard to read.

Political Science – 7

Cicero: Select Political Speeches, 48 pages, classic.

Joe Conason: Big Lies: The Rightwing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, 14 pages.

Alexis de Tocqueville: Memoir on Pauperism, 37 pages, classic.

William Grieder: Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy, 38 pages.

Showan Khurshid: Knowledge Processing, Creativity, and Politics: A Political Theory Based on Evolutionary Theory, 10 pages. Hard to read.

Eric Walberg: Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games, p. 32.

David Woodward and Carl Bernstein: The Final Days, p. 22.

Psychology – 1

Julian Barnes: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 22 pages.

Science – 1

John C. Greene: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought: The Death of Adam, 19 pages.

Sociology – 2

Carolina Maria de Jesus: Children of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus, 17 pages, classic.

Emile Durkheim: Suicide: A Study in Sociology, 58 pages, classic. Hard to read.

Travelogue – 1

Anthony Daniels: Coups and Cocaine: Travels in South America, 34 pages.

Wildlife – 1

Doug Peacock: Grizzly Years: In Search of American Wilderness, 158 pages.

“Sleeping It Off in Rapid City,” by August Kleinzahler

This is a really nice poem, plus you can understand everything in it for a change. This guy is a modern poet, but he’s also quite a good one.He’s a bit of an enfant terrible, hates all the other poets. Spends his time in San Francisco and New Jersey where he grew up.

He was a good friend of Thom Gunn’s in San Francisco. He also knew Allen Ginsberg pretty well. And yep, Peter Orlovksy is just as nuts as everyone says he is. I saw Ginsberg read once and Orlovsky was with him. He looked pretty crazy even back then in 1982. Met Ginsburg too. Didn’t like him. He refused to talk to me. Just glared at me with contempt while some self-hating gay in my English Department kept trying to worm his way into Ginsburg’s lap. Ginsburg refused to talk to anyone in the bar except his one fat guy who everyone hated and was called “The Bore of Long Beach.” They talked about astronomy. That’s all the bore liked to talk about.

Ginsberg, Orlovsky, and Gunn were all gay. Ginsberg is gay and I think Gunn died of AIDS. Gunn was a very good poet. He wrote a nice book about having AIDS, brutal stuff. Ginsberg was great of courser, but he was also a huge asshole in my opinion, but a lot of artists are pretty insufferable.

I assume Orlovsky is dead too or locked in an asylum somewhere. It’s hard to put into words how gay the beatniks were. At least the hippies and punks who came afterwards weren’t a bunch of homosexuals, for God’s sake!

The Italian lines below are from Dante, in case you were wondering.

“Sleeping It off in Rapid City”

On a 700-foot-thick shelf of Cretaceous pink sandstone Nel mezzo … Sixth floor, turn right at the elevator ‘The hotel of the century’ Elegant dining, dancing, solarium Around the block from the Black Hills School of Beauty And campaign headquarters of one Jack Billion (‘Together we can move forward’) The exact centre of the Oglala known universe Cante wamakoguake Or only 30 miles or so away, south-west, off Highway 87 I waken to the sound of the DM&E Rattling through this sleeping town Sounding its horn as it snakes its way through Hauling coal from nowhere, through nowhere, and then some Old rocks and distance, a few hawks overhead 4 a.m. – per una selva oscura – Kwok, kwok, kwok, shrieks the Velociraptor In the closed dinosaur shop – Vroooom Roars the Triceratops, like Texas thunder They keep the tape-loop going through the night Always have done, no one knows why The Bible Store respires in its sanctum As if in an outsize black glass humidor This is a sacred ground, a holy place 4 a.m. in a sacred place I can tell this is a sacred place, I needn’t be told It’s in the air I feel it This old heritage hotel, this is a sacred place The tour buses are lined up outside it Awaiting the countless pilgrims On the floor, my shoe, under the bed Even my shoe is blessed The Lord’s blessing is everywhere to be found The Lambs of Christ are among us You can tell by the billboards The billboards with foetuses out there on the highway Through the buzzing, sodium-lit night Semis grind it out on the Interstate Hauling toothpaste, wheels of Muenster, rapeseed oil Blessed is the abundance, blessed the commerce Across the Cretaceous hogback Hundred-million-year-old Lakota sandstone, clays, shale, gypsum And down through the basins of ancient seabeds Past the souvenir shops and empty missile silos The ghosts of 98-foot-long Titans and Minutemen 150,000 pounds of thrust Stainless steel, nickel-alloy coated warheads Quartz ceramic warheads, webbed in metal honeycomb Eight-megaton payloads Range 6300 miles Noli me tangere God bless America We’re right on top of it, baby This is why you’re here Close enough, anyhow, just 11 miles west of Castle Rock In a pasture, right off 79 The middle of the middle of the heart of this great land There’s a sign This is a sacred place Up there in the hills, the vast, ponderosa-feathered batholith You can see it from space Two-billion-year-old exposed rock, rising from the prairie A faint blue shape on the horizon When approaching from a distance But seen close at hand ‘grim and black’ Paha sapa ‘Savage cliffs and precipices … fantastic forms Sometimes resembling towns, some castellated fortresses …’ A sacred place Custer once came through, in the summer of ’74 With that moustache and golden hair And espied here the multitude of flowers 17 varieties in a space of 20 feet One could pick seven different kinds at dinner Without ever leaving one’s seat – It was a strange sight, he wrote To glance back at the advancing columns of cavalry And behold the men with beautiful bouquets in their hands A sacred place The Great White Fathers dwell in these hills Noses and foreheads blasted out of granite Crazy Horse, too, 30 stories high An enormous pod of migmatite glowering east Big chiefs everywhere On every street corner in town Life-size bronze likenesses See the chicana brushing President Van Buren, bless her Bless the chicana in pink rayon, the dutiful city worker Brushing the statue with a toothbrush in the night There’s Nixon at St Joseph and 5th Seated, hands folded on his lap, the way he did In the midst of ‘delicate negotiations with Mao’ This is what it says at the base Bless them, Nixon and Mao both Men of peace, soldiers of God The bronze is cold in the High Plains night The eyes they gaze out of are holes Here, at the exact dead centre of America Or close enough, just north of here, off Highway 79 The buffalo roam in these hills Paha sapa The bison graze in the shadow of these hills One angry bull tosses a Harley 30 feet in the air A big fat biker, attached to it, 30 feet as well The sacred bison He would have ridden among the sacred bison, the biker Ridden as if he were one of their own – Tatanka, Tatanka, cries Kevin Costner – Tatanka, concurs Kicking Bird – Tatanka, agrees Wind In His Hair Bless Kevin Costner I saw that one on the wide screen, in Dolby Surround Sound Kevin Costner stayed in this hotel Babe Ruth and Calvin Coolidge, too This is a sacred place I have come here from far away After many years of wandering Disillusion And found surcease here from all my cares Surcease here from doubt Here, at the centre of it all On a great slab of Mesozoic rock This sanctified ground Here, yes, here The dead solid centre of the universe At the heart of the heart of America

Television, “See No Evil”

Very, very good music. Early punk rock out of New York. Television, “See No Evil,” from Marquee Moon, 1979. The lyrics are poetic, reminiscent of symbolist poetry like Baudelaire and Verlaine. In fact, the lead singer took his stage name, Tom Verlaine, from the famous French poet. Truly fine music from a beautiful era that was defined by its very special and timeless music. Damn this takes me back.

Black Admixture and Presence in North Africa

James Schipper: Many people believe that the Moors, that is Northern Africans, are black. Of course, the Moors are the Berbers and Arabs, who are definitely not black. Before the Arab conquest of all of Northern Africa, there were various people white peoples there and they were all Christianized.

The Romans possessed all of Northern Africa. They didn’t refer to that part of their Empire as black. Were the inhabitants of Carthage black? Was Cleopatra black?

If we look at the inhabitants of the 5 Northern African countries today, we will find that they vary between white and brown. Anwar Sadat could be described as brown, and el-Sisi could easily be Italian or Portuguese. This is surprising since the Arabs imported so many slaves from black Africa.

I believe moor just meant “dark.” And the Berbers were quite probably darker than the average Spaniard. They average 13

Egypt has quite a bit of Black blood. 30

Libya also has a lot of Black blood, especially in the south. The south of Algeria is very Black, as is the south of Morocco. Most of those countries get a lot Blacker as you get into their southern regions.

The Sheltering Sky is an excellent movie by Bernardo Bertolucci, adopted from a novel by the great Paul Bowles.

In the movie, a European couple go to Tangier. The husband gets sick of some disease, maybe cholera, and dies. The wife becomes lost and takes up with a camel caravan heading south. They head down into lower Morocco, Algeria, and Niger. In the movie, that area is very Black. It’s also deeply Islamic. The photography and the movie in general is spectacular. Highly recommended.

Anyone here read Paul Bowles?

I read a book of his short stories. They’re too much! He was basically gay and his wife Jane Bowles was basically lesbian. Nonetheless they stayed married for a long time. Jane Bowles only wrote one novel and a book of short stories, but they are both said to be excellent. He spent his time picking up teenage Moroccan boys to have sex with.

William S. Burroughs lived in Tangier too for quite some time. In fact, that was where he wrote the famous Naked Lunch. Anybody read it? It’s bad, man!

Burroughs also spent his time smoking hashish and picking up teenage Moroccan boys to have sex with. This behavior is somewhat tolerated in Morocco because women are not accessible to most men, hence there is a lot of situational homosexuality. Nevertheless, the neighbors didn’t take kindly to Burroughs having sex with all those teenage boys, and they used to yell and throw things at him when he was out in the street.

There’s a lot of situational homosexuality in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Syria. Homosexuality is very much proscribed in the region, especially in the Shia parts of the Middle East. Nevertheless, in many Sunni countries, if you keep it on the “down low,” people look the other way.

Bowles spent a lot of time smoking hashish, or kif, as it is called. I had some kif for a while and I was selling it, of course. What else does a drug dealer do with any dope he gets? It was a light green powder, unlike most hashish which comes in blocks that have the consistency of extremely hard chocolate. You carve off pieces of the stuff with a knife and put it in a  “hash pipe.” I had a special hash pipe like the kind they use in Morocco.

The stuff’s practically legal in Morocco. If you go to the Atlas Mountains in the north where the Berbers grow the stuff, you will find it everywhere. Photos of Berbers in that part of Morocco show that they are very White.

The  Bowles’ both lived in Morocco, mostly in Tangier. This was during a time when Tangier was an “international city” under some sort of “international administration.” As such, there was not much police presence, and it was a haven for drug users and addicts, smugglers, and other low level criminals, street people, beatniks, fugitives, etc. It was a pretty shady place!

The Beats, including Ian Summerville, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Burroughs, used to go to Tangier in the 1950’s to visit Paul Bowles. Most of those men were either gay or bisexual. Burroughs and Ginsberg were gay, Kerouac was definitely bisexual, and Ian Summerville looks suspect to me. The Beats were gay as Hell! Far gayer than the hippies, most of whom looked down on homosexuality.

139 Great Difficult Books to Crack Your Brain

The original list was derived from a very interesting topic in reading group on the Goodreads site called Brain Pain. It looked so fascinating that I wrote all the authors and books down because really these are same of the greatest books out there. If you read anything on this list, you’re reading a great book. A lot of them are absolutely classics. It’s not a list of easy reading books though, as the books were specifically chosen for their difficulty. Looking down at the 16 books I’ve read on the list, most of them weren’t that hard, and some were downright easy reads.

Have you ready of the books below? Have you heard of any of them? Heard of any of the authors? Which books would you like to read below, assuming you had the time. Are there any errors in my list below. Gimme some feedback, you slackers.

139 Great Difficult Books to Crack Your Brain

  1. Renata Adler, Speedboat, novel.
  2. Renata Adler, Pitch Dark, novel.
  3. Theodor W. Adorno, “The Culture Industry:  Selected Essays on Mass Culture,” book chapter.
  4. Aeschylus, The Oresteia, play.
  5. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon,” short story.
  6. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, “In a Grove,” short story.
  7. Isabel Allende*, Eva Luna, novel.
  8. Apuleius, The Golden Ass, play.
  9. Aristotle, Poetics, non-fiction.
  10. Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, non-fiction.
  11. Aristophanes, Lysistrata, play.
  12. Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye, novel.
  13. Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, non-fiction.
  14. Jane Austen, Emma, novel.
  15. Gaston Bachelard, Air and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Movement, non-fiction.
  16. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, non-fiction.
  17. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, novel.
  18. John Barth*, Giles Goat-Boy, novel.
  19. Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal Read
  20. Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen
  21. Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, non-fiction.
  22. Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, non-fiction.
  23. Jorge Luis Borges*, “The Cult of the Phoenix,” short story.
  24. Jorge Luis Borges, “The South,” short story.
  25. Richard Brautigan*, In Watermelon Sugar, novel.
  26. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, novel.
  27. Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, non-fiction.
  28. Mighail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, novel.
  29. Dino Buzzati, The Tartar Steppe, novel.
  30. James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce, novel.
  31. Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, novel.
  32. Albert Camus*, The Plague, novel.
  33. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, short stories.
  34. Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel, novel.
  35. Robert Coover*, The Public Burning, novel.
  36. Julio Cortazar*, Hopscotch, novel, Read.
  37. Mark Z. Danielewski, House Of Leaves, novel.
  38. Marie Darrieussecq, Pig Tales: A Novel of Lust and Transformation, novel.
  39. Marie Darrieussecq, My Phantom Husband, novel.
  40. Don DeLillo, The Body Artist, novel.
  41. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From Underground, novel.
  42. Rikki Ducornet, The Stain, novel.
  43. T.S. Eliot*, The Waste Land Read
  44. Euripides, The Trojan Women (The Women of Troy), play.
  45. Euripides, Medea, play.
  46. William Faulkner*, Absalom, Absalom!, novel.
  47. William Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury, novel.
  48. Juan Filloy, Op Oloop, novel.
  49. Charles Fourier, The Social Destiny of Man, or Theory of the Four Movements, non-fiction.
  50. Paula Fox, Desperate Characters, novel.
  51. Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny, non-fiction.
  52. William Gaddis, J R, novel.
  53. William Gaddis, The Recognitions, novel.
  54. Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude, novel, Read
  55. William Gass*, Middle C, novel.
  56. William Gass, Omensetter’s Luck, novel.
  57. William Gass, The Tunnel , novel.
  58. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust I & II, play.
  59. Gunter Grass*, The Flounder, novel.
  60. H. D., Helen in Egypt
  61. John Hawkes, The Lime Twig, novel.
  62. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, A Romance, novel. Read.
  63. E. T. A. Hoffman, The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, novel.
  64. Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World, novel.
  65. James Joyce*, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, novel, Read.
  66. James Joyce, Ulysses, novel.
  67. Franz Kafka, Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk, short story.
  68. Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis, novella, Read.
  69. Anna Kavan, Asylum Piece, novel.
  70. Anna Kavan, Ice, novel.
  71. Yasunari Kawabata, Beauty and Sadness, novel.
  72. Comte de Lautréamont, The Songs of Maldoror, novel.
  73. Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook, novel. Read
  74. Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, novel.
  75. Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart, novel.
  76. Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano, novel.
  77. David Mamet, Faustus, play.
  78. Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, Told by a Friend, novel.
  79. Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, play.
  80. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto , non-fiction, Read.
  81. Colman McCarthy, Blood Meridian, novel.
  82. Joseph McElroy, A Smuggler’s Bible, novel.
  83. James Michener*, The Novel, novel.
  84. Toni Morrison*, The Bluest Eye, novel.
  85. Nicholas Mosley, Impossible Object, novel.
  86. Harumi Murakami, 1Q84, novel.
  87. Harumi Murakami, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, novel.
  88. Vladimir Nabakov*, Ada, or Ardor, novel.
  89. Vladimir Nabakov, Invitation to a Beheading, novel.
  90. Vladimir Nabakov, Lectures on Literature, non-fiction.
  91. Vladimir Nabakov, Lolita, novel Read
  92. Vladimir Nabakov, Pale Fire, novel.
  93. Vladimir Nabakov, Pnin, novel.
  94. Vladimir Nabakov, Speak, Memory, novel.
  95. Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds, novel.
  96. George Perec, Life, a User’s Manual, novel.
  97. Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquietude, novel.
  98. Robert Pirsig, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, non-fiction, Read
  99. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, novel.
  100. Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, novel.
  101. Thomas Pynchon*, Against The Day, novel.
  102. Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, novel, Read
  103. Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon, novel.
  104. François Rabelais, Gargantua & Pantagruel, novel.
  105. Dorothy Richardson, Pilgrimage, Vol. 1: Pointed Roofs, novel.
  106. Alain Robbe-Grillet*, The Erasers, novel.
  107. Philip Roth*, The Breast, novel.
  108. Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo, novel, Read
  109. Salman Rushdie*, Midnight’s Children, novel.
  110. Ernesto Sabato, The Tunnel, novel.
  111. William Shakespeare*, Hamlet, play,  Read
  112. William Shakespeare, Macbeth, play,  Read
  113. Susan Sontag, Death Kit, novel.
  114. Susan Sontag, On Photography
  115. Susan Sontag, The Benefactor, novel.
  116. Sophocles, Antigone, play.
  117. Sophocles, Oedipus the King, play.
  118. Sophocles, Electra, play.
  119. Gilbert Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew, novel.
  120. Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, novel.
  121. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, novel. Read
  122. Enrique Vila-Matas, Dublinesque, novel.
  123. William Vollman*, Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, novel.
  124. William Vollman, Europe Central, novel.
  125. William Vollman, Fathers and Crows, novel.
  126. William Vollman, The Ice-Shirt, novel.
  127. William Vollman, The Dying Grass, novel.
  128. William Vollman, The Rainbow People, non-fiction.
  129. William Vollman, The Rifles, novel.
  130. William Vollman, The Royal Family, non-fiction.
  131. David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, novel.
  132. David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System, novel.
  133. Edmund White, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris, novel.
  134. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, novel.
  135. Virginia Woolf, Orlando, novel.
  136. Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out, novel.
  137. Virginia Woolf, The Waves, novel.
  138. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, novel.
  139. Marguerite Young, Miss Macintosh, My Darling, novel.

I’ve read 16 out of 139. That works out to 12

Other Works by the Authors Above That I’ve Read Which Were Not on the List

The entries with an asterisk mean that I’ve read other works by them. This list includes 21 of the authors above, and adds 38 more works to the list, this time of works by one of the authors above that I have read that are not listed in the main list.

  1. Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits
  2. John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor and “Life-Story”
  3. Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones and Labyrinths
  4. Richard Brautigan, A Confederate General in Big Sur and Trout Fishing in America
  5. Albert Camus, The Stranger
  6. Robert Coover, “A Pedestrian Accident”
  7. Julio Cortazar, “Blow Up”
  8. T.S. Eliot, All poetry
  9. William Faulkner, Light in August
  10. William Gass, “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country”
  11. Gunter Grass, The Dog Years
  12. James Joyce, Dubliners
  13. James Michener, The Bridges at Toko-Ri
  14. Toni Morrison, Beloved, Jazz, and The Sound of Solomon
  15. Vladimir Nabakov, Bend Sinister and “…If in Aleppo Once”
  16. Thomas Pynchon, “A Journey into the Mind of Watts”, Slow Learner, The Crying of Lot 49, V, and Vineland
  17. Alain Robbe-Grillet, Pour un Nouveau Roman (For a New Novel), Dans le Labyrinthe (In the Labyrinth), La Jalousie (Jealousy), Projet pour une Révolution à New York (Project for a Revolution in New York); Souvenirs du Triangle d’Or (Souvenirs of the Golden Triangle), Topologie d’une Cité Fantôme (Topology of a Phantom City), and Le Voyeur (The Voyeur)
  18. Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint
  19. Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Voices
  20. William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
  21. William Vollman, Poor People

Books I Want to Read by the Authors in the First List

Both lists combined gives us 160 authors and 176 books. I’ve now read 54 out of the combined 176 books, which gives us 34

Here are the books listed above that I would possibly like to read at some point. I left out books that I just don’t want to read right now, and no, I don’t care about Greek playwrights or Aristotle or all the Fausts, sorry.

Notes say how I feel about possibly reading it, whether I am familiar with the author or not and if so how much, a bit about the book or author, it’s status as a classic or not, the country of the author and the period or year when the book was written,  whether I’ve read anything else by the author, and finally, length was noted and tallied for very long books, more as a warning than anything else. If there’s no page length after the entry, the book has less than 500 pages and can at least be read by the average human in a reasonable length, unlike the doorstops, which violate that principle.

  1. Theodor W. Adorno, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”: Sounds heavy duty. German expat in the US, 1947. Never read him.
  2. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon”: Yes, classic, Japan, 1915. I know little about this writer. Never read him.
  3. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, “In a Grove”: Maybe, Japan, 1922.
  4. Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature: Maybe, supposedly a classic of type, but sounds heavy duty. 625 pages. I don’t know much about him, just hear his name in passing. German expat in Turkey, 1946. Never read him.
  5. Jane Austen, Emma: Yes, a classic from 1847 UK. Never read her.
  6. Gaston Bachelard, Air and Dreams: Maybe, sounds intense. I know very little about this author, France, 1943. Sigh. Never read him.
  7. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: Same as above, France, 1958.
  8. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood: Absolutely! A classic from an American expat in the UK, 1936. Never read her.
  9. John Barth, Giles Goat-Boy: Quite possibly! I love Barth. But 700 pages! US, 1966.
  10. Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen: Oh yes. France, 1869.
  11. Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays: Maybe so, I love Baudelaire. France, 1863.
  12. Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project: Maybe sounds deep. German expat in Spain, 1940. 1,100 pages! I’m not real familiar with this man or his work. Never read him.
  13. Jorge Luis Borges, “The Cult of the Phoenix”: Probably, Argentina, 1952. I love Borges.
  14. Jorge Luis Borges, “The South”: Same, Argentina, 1953.
  15. Richard Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar: Maybe, US, 1968. I love Brautigan.
  16. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre: Yes, another classic from 1816 UK. Never read her.
  17. Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project: I dunno, sounds so intense. 550 pages. US, 1991. Never read her.
  18. Mighail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita: Absolutely, all-time classic, USSR, 1936. Never read him.
  19. Dino Buzzati, The Tartar Steppe: For sure, a little known (in the US) classic from Italy 1940. I know almost nothing about this author, but you sure hear a lot about this book. Never read him.
  20. James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce: Probably, it’s a classic noir from the US 1941. Never read him.
  21. Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller: Oh yes, a classic for sure, Italy, 1981. Never read him.
  22. Albert Camus, The Plague: Definitely, famous classic from France 1946.
  23. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories: Maybe. I don’t know much about this writer. US, 1979. Never read her.
  24. Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel: Definitely, classic from Argentina 1940, friend of Borges. Never read him.
  25. Robert Coover, The Public Burning: Absolutely, another classic from the US, 1977. 550 pages. Read a short story.
  26. Mark Z. Danielewski, House Of Leaves: Certainly, a recent US classic from 2000. Bizarre, baffling, and innovative. 700 pages! Never read him.
  27. Marie Darrieussecq, Pig Tales: A Novel of Lust and Transformation:  France, 1996. Never read her.
  28. Comte de Lautréamont, The Songs of Maldoror: Definitely, classic from 1869 France. Don’t know much about him, though. Never read him.
  29. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From Underground: A classic of course from Russia 1864. When I finish Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. The only Dostoevsky I’ve read was 15 pages of The Brothers Karamazov. But those were some fine 15 pages!
  30. William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!: Sure, a classic, US, South 1931.
  31. William Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury: I should as it’s one of the greatest books ever, but it’s so intimidating, US South, 1929. Read the first page.
  32. Juan Filloy, Op Oloop: I really ought to, it’s a classic, out of Argentina 2009. Don’t know much about him other than being associated with the Oulipo School. Never read him.
  33. William Gaddis, J R: One of the greatest books ever, US, 1955. I need to but it’s so difficult! And 750 pages! Never read him.
  34. William Gaddis, The Recognitions: Another of the greatest books ever and just as hard as J R, US, 1975. 950 pages! See above.
  35. William Gass, Middle C: I really need to start reading him, but I hear he’s difficult. The short story I read by him (see above) was out of this world! US, 2013.
  36. William Gass, Omensetter’s Luck: Same. US, 1966.
  37. William Gass, The Tunnel: Same, except this one is one of his best. 650 pages! Supposed to be a classic, US, 1995.
  38. Gunter Grass, The Flounder: I should, his most famous work. 700 pages! Germany, 1977.
  39. H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), Helen in Egypt: A classic, US expat in Switzerland, 1961. I should but I’ve heard she’s hard as Hell to understand. Never read her.
  40. John Hawkes, The Lime Twig: Another classic, UK, 1961. Never read him, would be a good place to start.
  41. James Joyce, Ulysses: One of the top 10 greatest books of the last 200 years, Irish expat in Paris, 1921. Been meaning to forever, got 10-15 pages into it over a period of 40 years. Maybe it’s that 1,000 pages part? Need to get off my ass.
  42. Yasunari Kawabata, Beauty and Sadness: Possibly, Japan, 1975. I know nothing at all about this writer. Never read him.
  43. Clarice Lispector, Água Viva: I’ve never read her but I should, Brazil, 1973. I know almost nothing about her. Never read her and might be a good place to start.
  44. Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild: Heart: See above, Brazil, 1943.
  45. Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano: Yes, classic story of alcoholism. US expat in Mexico, 1947! Never read him.
  46. Colman McCarthy, Blood Meridian: For sure! Terrifying but classic. US, 1985. Never read him.
  47. Joseph McElroy, A Smuggler’s Bible: He’s great but I’ve never read him and this might be a nice place to start. US, 1966.
  48. Nicholas Mosley, Impossible Object: He’s supposed to be great but I’ve never read him, and this might be a nice beginning. I don’t know him real well. UK, 1968.
  49. Harumi Murakami, 1Q84: Yes, it’s a classic, Japan, 2010! But 950 pages! Never read him.
  50. Harumi Murakami, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Definitely, another of his great books. 600 pages. Japan, 1995.
  51. Vladimir Nabakov, Ada, or Ardor: Of course, I love Nabokov, especially this, one of his finest. It’s hard to understand though! 625 pages! A major classic, Russian expat in US, 1969.
  52. Vladimir Nabakov, Invitation to a Beheading: Yes. Russian expat in France, 1936.
  53. Vladimir Nabakov, Lectures on Literature: Sure. Russian expat in US, 1980.
  54. Vladimir Nabakov, Pale Fire: For sure, once again, one of his most famous, but it’s supposed to be hard to figure out. A serious classic, Russian expat in US, 1959.
  55. Vladimir Nabakov, Pnin: Yes. Russian expat in US, 1955.
  56. Vladimir Nabakov, Speak, Memory: Yes. Various places, Russian expat in 1966.
  57. Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds: Oh, yes, a little known classic, Ireland, 1939! He’s difficult, but he sounds fun, like Joyce. Never read him.
  58. George Perec, Life, a User’s Manual: A little known but great book, France, 1978. I know almost nothing about him except the association with the Oulipo Movement out of France. 650 pages! Never read him.
  59. Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet: One of the greatest books ever, 1935, Lisbon. Read bits and pieces, it’s intense! 550 pages. Never read him.
  60. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar: Really should, classic about mental illness, US, 1963. I’ve read some of her poetry, and it is out of this world!
  61. Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time: One of the top 10 books of the last 200 years, France, 1927. Why haven’t I read this yet? It’s only 3,200 pages. Slacker! Never read him.
  62. Thomas Pynchon, Against The Day: Absolutely, one of his best, US, 2006. But it’s 1,100 pages! I’ve read bits and pieces.
  63. Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon: Of course, another of his finest, US, 1997. 875 pages! I’ve read a few bits of it.
  64. François Rabelais, Gargantua & Pantagruel: Definitely, it’s an old classic from 1556 France, sounds like a blast, but 1,100 pages! Never read him.
  65. Alain Robbe-Grillet, The Erasers: I should, as I am almost a Robbe-Grillet completist, France, 1950.
  66. Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children: A modern classic, Indian expat in the UK, 1981. It’s about his best so I really need to.
  67. Ernesto Sabato, The Tunnel: Little-known classic. Hear great things about it. Argentina, 1948. Never read him.
  68. Susan Sontag, Death Kit: Novel, sounds intense, US, 1967. Never read her.
  69. Susan Sontag, On Photography: Said to be a classic work, US, 1977. Maybe more interesting then the above.
  70. Susan Sontag, The Benefactor: This one is a novel, so it might be more accessible, US, 1963.
  71. Gilbert Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew: This is an absolute must, an obscure recent classic, US, 1979. Never read him.
  72. Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy: A classic from UK 1759 but one of the greatest books of all time. Mandatory reading. 750 pages! Never read him.
  73. William Vollman, Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith: I probably should read any or all of these. He’s a bit difficult but not real hard, US, 2001. Part of the Seven Dreams series. Very good book, 750 pages!
  74. William Vollman, Europe Central: See above, US, 2005. Part of the Seven Dreams series. Won the National Book Award. But 850 pages!
  75. William Vollman, Fathers and Crows: See above, US, 1992. Part of the Seven Dreams series. Said to be excellent. 1,000 pages, though!
  76. William Vollman, Ice-Shirt: See above, US, 1990. Part of the Seven Dreams series. Good book.
  77. William Vollman, The Dying Grass: See above, US, 2015. Part of the Seven Dreams series. Excellent book, 1,400 pages, though!
  78. William Vollman, The Rainbow Stories: See above, US, 1989. Book about prostitutes. Good book.
  79. William Vollman, The Rifles: See above, US, 1994. Part of the Seven Dreams series. Very good book.
  80. William Vollman, The Royal Family: See above, US, 2000. Another book about prostitutes. Good book, but 800 pages!
  81. David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest: I so need to do this, this is one of the top books of the modern era in the last 30 years, US, 2006. He’s hard but I can handle him. And then there’s the part about the book being 1,100 pages. Never read him.
  82. David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System: Another modern classic, US, 1987. This one might be easier going.
  83. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway: One of the greatest books of the last 200 years by one of the top ten greatest authors of the period and the only one that is a woman. But George Eliot might get on a list like that for Middlemarch. The all time classic, UK, 1925. Never read her.
  84. Virginia Woolf, Orlando: Classic, UK, 1928. Another mind-blower.
  85. Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out: Another classic, UK, 1915. More great literature.
  86. Virginia Woolf, The Waves: Yet another classic, UK, 1931. Incredible writing.
  87. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse: Another super-classic, UK, 1927.
  88. Marguerite Young, Miss Macintosh, My Darling: Modern classic, US, 1965, rather obscure, I have heard this is out of this world, except for the 1,200 pages! Never read her.

This is a list of another three of the books in the first list, but I have no particular interest in reading any of these at the moment. Since I made a point above about marking long books, these were three of those books that were particularly long.

Books From the List Above I Don’t  Particularly Want to Read and Why, Along with Background Information about Them

    1. Renata Adler, Pitch Dark: I know nothing whatsoever about this author or any of her books.
    2. Renata Adler, Speedboat
    3. Aeschylus, The Oresteia: No Greek plays. Why? I dunno!
    4. Apuleius, The Golden Ass See above.
    5. Aristotle, Poetics: No Greek philosophers, at least at the moment.
    6. Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric: See above.
    7. Aristophanes, Lysistrata :No Greek  plays, though this one is a bit tempting.
    8. Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye: I like her prose and per poetry in small doses. She’s an incredible writer. Unfortunately, she’s also an typical feminist lunatic and typical feminist silliness and nonsense, a long with a dollop of the usual man-hating and evil male characters, mar her novels. Canada, 2000’s
    9. Marie Darrieussecq, My Phantom Husband: Well, I researched this author and I plan to break down and read Pig Tales, which sounds like quite a handful right there. First things first.
    10. Don DeLillo, The Body Artist: This is one his very early novels, I believe the 2nd. His early novels are generally considered to be inferior work to his later awesome novels like The Underground. Wow! US, 1980’s
    11. Rikki Ducornet, The Stain: She’s up my alley but I don’t know much about her or her books. Give me some time.
    12. Euripides, The Trojan Women (The Women of Troy): No Greek plays, except this one sounds tempting with the babes in the title. I’ll read any play if it’s about chicks!
    13. Euripides, Medea: Greek play. Not sure about this one.
    14. Fourier, Charles: The Social Destiny of Man: Or, Theory of the Four Movements. Frenchman, political scientist and philosopher, maybe an early socialist. France, 1840’s. I know next to nothing about the author and nothing about the book. 700 pages!
    15. Paula Fox, Desperate Characters: I know nothing whatsoever about this woman or her work.
    16. Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny: I’ve read a fair amount of his stuff and have some of his books lying around. He’s a much better writer than people think and he’s also a sort of universal genius or Renaissance Man. I’ve never heard of this essay though.
    17. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust I & II: The universal genius, but I’m tired of Faust stories. Germany, early 1800’s, 500 pages. I have an affinity for Elective Affinities though. Also the bildingsroman, Sorrows of Young Werther, and while we are at it, how about The Theory of Colors?
    18. E. T. A. Hoffman, The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr: On the back burner with Richardson, DeFoe, Fielding. I do like Sterne and  Swift though – see above, so it’s not an anti-novelists of the  1700’s thing. But Sterne and Swift are wickedly, almost diabolicaly funny. The other three can be too, but another issue is their books are extremely long. Richardson’s Clarissa is one of the longest books ever written.
    19. Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World: A modern writer. I have heard a bit about her, but know little about her or her work. Never heard of the book.
    20. Franz Kafka, Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk: Let’s say I finish The Trial first, ok?
    21. Anna Kavan, Asylum Piece: I know nothing of this woman or her work. Never heard of the book.
    22. Anna Kavan, Ice: See above, never heard of this book either.
    23. David Mamet, Faustus: I’ve had enough of Faustus overload for the time being. You might say I have devil fatigue. I plan to spend a lot of time with the fucker later on though, so why add to me mystery by hanging out with him when I’m above ground?
    24. Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus, or The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, Told by a Friend: Germany, 1920’s. Once again, tired of Faust stories. Death in Venice does beckon over yonder hill though. Has for 40 years now. 550 pages.
    25. James Michener*, The Novel: Apparently a novel about writing a novel. Metafiction. Gets tiresome after a while, Barth is bad enough this way.
    26. Toni Morrison*, The Bluest Eye: I’m just sick and tired of her! I’ve already read three of her books. Yes they’re good but no, she’s not James Joyce or even Virginia Woolf. Hell, she’s not even Nora Zeale Thurston! Want a Black woman on the greatest list? Throw Houston on there! She’s as good as Eliot or Woolf. Their Eyes Were Watching God is truly out of this damned world! One of the greatest books ever written and it was written by a Black woman! The endless accolades about Morrison? Guess why? She’s Black! And she’s a woman! She’s an oppressed class times two, poor lass! I’m seeing a lot of 10 greatest books ever with her next to Tolstoy, Melville, Joyce, Eliot, Dostoevsky, and even Virginia Woolf, whose To the Lighthouse barely makes it to 10th place. Now we throw Morrison in with these illustrious gods? I don’t think so. Just get out. I guess affirmative action has come for the great book lists too. Sigh.
    27. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar: A book about a nutty woman thrown into a mental hospital because she’s crazy and suicidal. Written by a crazy and suicidal woman who eventually killed herself. I guess the book was a premonition. Hard pass. But her poetry though! Read her poetry! Some of the best ever written!
    28. Dorothy Richardson, Pilgrimage, Vol. 1: Pointed Roofs: I don’t know much about her or her famous series of books, The Pilgrimage.
    29. Sophocles, Antigone: Greek play. Nuff said.
    30. Sophocles, Oedipus the King: This one is a bit tempting though. I’m a total sick fuck and all the Mommy fucking and Daddy murdering has got me real interested, I must say!
    31. Sophocles, Electra: Greek play again. Yawn. This one’s about a babe though, so my other head says yes, read it.
    32. Enrique Vila-Matas, Dublinesque: Know nothing about the writer and never heard of the book.
    33. Edmund White, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris: Book is set in Paris. Author is an American gay man. And he’s gay with a capital G. Gay as a rainbow. Times 1,000. A coterie of young gay men are all fucking each other and falling in love with each other. They’re all Adonises (obviously). All young gay men in gay fiction are named Adonis. Anyway, that’s the plot. Gross.  Now get ready because I’m about to become a total asshole here. This is a fag book! Well, it is. His books are about gay men, often young ones, who are falling in love with other hot young gay men, with lots of jolly buttfucking to pass the time. He is said to be an awesome writer though. And I did plow through William S. Burroughs’ books, and they’re practically out and out gay pornography, dudes fucking dudes all the way through his books. Thinking back, I don’t know I do this. Hey gay writers! Pro tip! Quit writing about male homosexuality and maybe some of us straight guys will read your stuff. In the meantime, you’ve all locked yourself into a ghetto, or better yet, a prison. But there’s plenty of hot sex when you’re behind gay bars in the prison system, so don’t fret!

A Comparison of Artistic Styles of the Three Great Major Races: Blacks, Whites, and Asians

Black art is often spare and primitive yet still quite good, an African mask for example. Whites take art to the ultimate heights – compare the development of Perspective with an African mask – not the same thing, is it?

To Whites, Asians seem so flat and non-creative that even their art seems to Whites to be odd, spare, trite, and even boring. See classical Japanese and Chinese simple landscapes with birds, water, and low light for example. It’s literally Zen art. On the other hand, my artist friends have told me that it’s fantastic for what it is trying to do.

Black literature can be good, but it tends towards the heavily verbal sort that is so loud and musical that it almost demands to be read aloud for affect.

Whites strive for the heights.

Asians can reduce literature to its utter basics – see the haiku for example. Haikus are often beautiful, but Whites find the spareness and simplicity of these forms to be almost unsettling and odd. However, Asians also stretch art to its ultimate limits – see the great Chinese classics with ~2,300 pages. It’s as if they either try for the perfect bare minimum or the ultimate definition of infinity.

Asians strip art down to the utter basics, Zen-like. There’s a logic to that, but Whites think it’s excessively simplistic.

Whites once again go for the heights.

Great Works of Literature by Whites

Great books by Whites? How bout we look at the Top 50? Oh well, call it Top 54. I couldn’t help but toss a few more in there. Tolstoy (Anna Karenina and War and Peace), Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment), Joyce (Ulysses and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man), Melville (Moby Dick), Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow), Nabokov (Lolita), Shakespeare (Hamlet) George Eliot (Middlemarch), Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby), Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), Anonymous (1001 Nights), Forster (A Passage to India), Cervantes (Don Quixote), the Brontes (Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre), Austen (Pride and Prejudice), T. S. Eliot (The Wasteland), Pound (The Cantos), Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Camus (The Stranger), Twain (Huckleberry Flynn), Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom), Dickens (Great Expectations and David Copperfield), Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises), Homer (The Iliad and The Odyssey), Stendhal (The Red and the Black), Proust (Remembrance of Things Past), Kafka (The Trial), Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Salinger (Catcher in the Rye), Milton (Paradise Lost), Voltaire (Candide), Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), Sterne (Tristram Shandy), Dante (The Divine Comedy) Chekhov (stories), Heller (Catch-22), Orwell (1984), Borges (Ficciones), Rushdie (Midnight’s Children), Conrad (Heart of Darkness), Virgil (The Aenid), Whitman (The Leaves of Grass), Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath), and Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse).

Great Works of Literature by Blacks

Yes, Blacks have written some great works. But not The Color Purple or Beloved, please, or at least let’s wait a while, and yes, I’ve read both. Neither is in the same category as what follows. They only make the great books list because people are trying to be PC and throw some Black authors in. That’s very nice of them, but it’s not solid Lit Crit, if such a thing even exists any more in these mushy, truth-free postmodern times.

Richard Wright (Native Son) and Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man) come to mind. Also, try Zora Neale Houston (Their Eyes Were Watching God), Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart), James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Fire Next Time), or Jean Rys (Wide Sargasso Sea).

Despite Aphra Behn’s Oronoko – Possibly the first true modern-style novel written in the West! – Blacks got a rather late start at things. Nevertheless, there are some works there that reach for the same skies as the Whites’ works do. Houston’s book in particular nearly matches Eliot’s Middlemarch in the glory of its prose.

Look – I am not saying that Black authors have not done some great work – e.e. cumming’s poetry comes to mind too, but if you notice, this list is a lot shorter than the proceeding one, right? Do check out some of the recent (last 75 years) classics out of Black Africa though. There are some great books in there.

Great Works of Literature by Asians

Where are the comparable great Asian books? From Japan, we have Yukio Mishima (The Sea of Fertility), and of course Murasaki Shikibu (The Tale of the Genji – a very long Chinese-like epic with 1,306 pages). There has definitely been some fine literature coming out of Japan for the last 100 years. Japan also got a fairly late start, only beginning to write Western-style literature ~1900. This work has been greatly accelerating in recent years, but it’s not much read in the West. Haruki Murakami is very good though. When is he going to win the Nobel Prize anyway?

But other than the millennia-old Genji, Mishima is the only one who has seen his work rise to true greatness in the West so far.

China was much later to Western-style literature, only showing up in the last 50 years, if that. Though there are a few stars on the horizon. Previously their works were very different – typically very long epics – Cao Xueqin (The Dream of the Red Chamber – 2,339 pages), Shi Nai’an (Water Margin – 2,304 pages), Wu Cheng’en (Journey to the West – 2,346 pages), and Luo Guanzhong (Romance of the Three Kingdoms – 2,340 pages). Maybe add Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng (The Plum in the Golden Vase – 3,334 pages) and Yu Xiangdou (Journey to the North – much shorter at 392 pages) while we are at it. Those are all incredible works.

Are they in the same category as the books by Whites? I’m not sure. It’s sort of like the painting. It’s not that Asian painting is bad – it’s incredibly great for what it’s trying to do in its minimalist way.

Are Japanese haikus as good at the great White literature above? I’m not sure. The Asians, with epics stretching for thousands of pages, their spare naturalistic art, and their compact yet gorgeous haikus – the first towards wild excess and the latter two, like a Bonsai garden, towards extreme minimalism – are instead trying to do something completely different from what the Whites have been doing, so any comparison is between apples and oranges. You can’t really compare them.

Asian art and literature is great and so is Western art and literature, but they are trying to do completely different things. I might say the same thing about an African mask. It’s a wonderful work of art, but is it the same thing as a work by Rembrandt, Bosch, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, or even a Picasso or Dali? Well, no. But maybe once again we can’t compare because the Africans were trying to do something completely different than the Whites with their White reach to the skies paintings.

Comparing lions and tigers. Which is better, a lion or a tiger? Besides neither one if I’m walking in the jungle, I’d say neither one in any case. A lion is great at being a lion. Nothing else comes close. Likewise with a tiger. He wins the gold at being a tiger. They’re both the best at being what they are and at what they are trying to do.

Anyone Else Reading the Classics?

I just read Moby Dick a while back.

Well worth it! And I am currently working on the following. As you can see, I am not that far into most of them. The ones where I don’t list how many pages I’ve read means I’ve barely touched, them, just a few pages in at most. This is how I read. If you count books like that, I am reading 170 books right now but most of them are just a few pages in.

Currently reading:

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, Novel.

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Novel.

Conrad, Heart of Darkness (reread), Novella.

Conrad, Lord Jim, Novel, (35 pages).

Dickens, Great Expectations (reread), Novel.

Dickens, Hard Times, Novel.

Dickens, Oliver Twist, Novel.

Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Novel.

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Novel, (15 pages).

H. A. Grueber, Myths of Greece and Rome, Nonfiction, Mythology.

Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Non-fiction, Philosophy, (26 pages).**

Thomas MacAulay, Lays of Ancient Rome, Narrative Poem Collection***

Melville, Billy Budd, Novella.

Milton, Paradise Lost, Epic Poem (type of Narrative Poem), (156 pages into Book One).***

Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols Non-fiction, Philosophy**

Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Nonfiction, Military.

Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake, Narrative Poem, (47 pages).*

Tolstoy, War and Peace, Novel, (15 pages).

Wells, War of the Worlds, Novel.

Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Novel.

* Difficult, archaic language.

** Hard to understand, conceptually/narratively difficult

***Both difficult, archaic language and hard to understand, conceptually/narratively difficult.

None of the rest are particularly hard to read in my opinion. You have to go slow with Conrad though because he’s so dense. You can read him fast, sure, but then you will be missing a lot of it. It’s like Moby Dick in that respect. I also found the Brontes quite dense for some reason. I had to read them slowly, but I’m not sure why. They’re not dense in the same way Conrad is; instead they are different.

Dickens, Dostoevsky, Melville, Tolstoy, Wells, Wilde, and even Sun Tzu are not particularly hard to read, though Melville and Sun Tzu are both pretty dense.

Permanent Ban from Twit (Twitter)

Well, I was on Twit (Twitter) only a short time before I started getting warning after warning after warning. These are all short-term bans of say three days. Then they went up to seven days.

I very quickly tried to start policing my posts to make them SJW-friendly. But every time I do that anywhere, I get banned anyway for some reason. I am starting to think that there is no appeasing these people unless you are one of them, in which case, I guess you know the drill, or you already speak the language.

The first time was a post in which I talked about how I had been doing a lot of reading, and I was shocked at how writers, especially poets, were gay or lesbian and how many were suicides.  After a while, I started asking myself how many poets are not gay, lesbian, or eventual suicides? It’s like they all kill themselves. I guess after a lifetime of faggotry and rug-munching.

I doubt if the gay behavior causes the suicides, but it’s well known that gay people have a very high suicide rate.

They talk a lot of a the rate of suicide attempts by gay and lesbian teens being high, but their rate of actual suicides is actually normal. Yet we hear endlessly of the suicide epidemic among gay and lesbian teens. I suggested this on Daily Kos and got blistering responses from fellow straight liberals.

One was a psychologist. I thought I was going to get banned. It was really scary. The psychologist was extremely hostile, basically called me a Nazi, and said that all the statistics were wrong, and the gay teen suicide rate was actually elevated and furthermore, I was an evil bigot for suggesting otherwise.

I wrote about how disappointing this was to me. I mean I don’t mind if a  poet here and there is gay or lesbian. Some gay writers are among my favorites, especially William Burroughs, and he’s practically the most fagged out of them all! But I had no idea that there were so many of them. I was reading a lot of biographies of writers I liked or had heard of, and over and over, it was gay gay gay gay gay gay, lesbian lesbian lesbian lesbian lesbian lesbian bisexual bisexual bisexual bisexual bisexual.

I would go the biography page and see that say Vita Sackville-West or whoever was actually a lez. There would be her picture. She looked like a man! Total disappointment. Women who look like men are a complete turnoff to me. I twist up my face into a scowl every time I see one. There’s something terribly wrong with a woman looking and acting almost exactly like a man. It just seems so wrong and fucked up.

Amy Lowell? Lesbian. Virginia Woolf? Bisexual. Suicide. Her husband? Bisexual. The whole damned famous Bloomsbury Group? A bunch of gays and lesbians! Mary McCarthy? Lesbian! Oh no, say it ain’t so! I really liked her. It was so discouraging.

I went to read James Merrill’s biography. Jesus Christ, he was a fag! What a downer. I still like his poetry but it was so disappointing to be hit with this gay club over and over. I thought, “Are any of these poets and writers…like…normal? You know…like…heterosexual?”

Then I closed out my post by saying that if I have deal with a bunch of fags, dykes, suicidals and crazies to read the greatest writers that ever lived, that’s a deal I’ll take.

It was humor. That’s funny, right? And ultimately it’s not even really homophobic if you think about it and get past the shock words.

Well, I got a temporary ban from Twit.

Then there was a case in Venezuela of two opposition politicians who went to Colombia and partied with Colombian prostitutes. The whores spiked their drinks with scopalamine, knocking  them unconscious. Then they robbed them. One man died and another nearly did. This happens all the time down there, just to warn you.

There was all this discussion of what happened. Everyone was saying that the guys were taking drugs with the whores and then they overdosed. I kept correcting them saying that the women were “murdering whores” who had poisoned the men, murdering one and almost murdering another, and then robbing them.

Well, Twit gave me a ban for describing prostitutes as whores. Not only that but for describing robbing, poisoning, murdering prostitutes as whores. I was exasperated. Since when is it illegal to call a whore a whore, I mean to call a prostitute a whore? I mean, that’s…like…literally what a prostitute is. A prostitute is literally a whore and vice versa. That’s not even controversial.

And I had no idea that calling prostitutes whores was the new “nigger.” But everything’s the new “nigger.” Every week I wake up and there’s another word that’s been designated as the new “nigger.” Another banned word. Another word I’ve been using my whole damn life with no problems, and now all of a sudden, it’s illegal. I swear if they keep banning my words like this, after a while, I will barely be able to talk at all!

I get unbanned. Then I get another ban for the exact same thing! Banned for calling murdering prostitutes “murderous whores.” Which is exactly what they were. Are we worried about offending the precious feelings of murderous prostitutes now? I’m sure they have very sensitive feelings. Let’s please make sure we don’t hurt them.

So I gathered my wits about me and tried to be a good boy. But then there was some post about transsexuals, and I said, “There’s no such thing as trans people. They don’t exist. Instead, they’re all just mentally ill.”

Permanent ban from Twit for pointing out the obvious – that 90

So yeah, permaban. It’s pretty bad because I am on Twit a lot, and I would love to comment or like things, but I can’t.

By the way, lots of people are getting banned on Twit for saying innocuous things about transsexuals. There is a very obnoxious and vicious male tranny or transwoman who works in the department that polices and bans posts and posters. He’s reportedly the brains behind a lot of these bans on people telling the truth about trans people.

A Lot of Artists Are Crazy or Terrible People, But That’s Not Important

The thing is though that many artists of all types are crazy  to one degree or another. Trust me, I have spent a fair portion of my life intensely hanging around large groups of artists, writers, and musicians, and most of them are nuts in one way or another.

Actually they’re all crazy in different ways, but they’re still all crazy.

Writers and tend to be quite self-destructive. A lot are depressives and boy do they drink. They’re introverted but not as introverted as the poets or especially the artists.

Artists are just very shy and neurotic. A lot are depressives. An artist party is 100 people in a house and no one is talking to anyone because they’re all too shy. It’s actually pretty funny. I went to a number of them.

Musicians are very self-destructive, but they’re not neurotic at all – more like wild and crazy extroverts. Some musicians are depressives, but that aspect of them tends to be more hidden behind the wild partying exterior. Still, musicians often seem to be battling deep pain. They love to drink and hey, don’t forget the dope! Musicians and drugs are like peanut butter and jelly.

Poets are way crazy, totally neurotic or worse, manic-depressive or more commonly just depressive, plus a lot of them really drink hard. I’d say the poets are the nuttiest of them all. Are you sort of a weird, offbeat, neurotic, introverted person who doesn’t fit in anywhere and is rejected by most Normies? Head on over to your local poetry reading. You’ll be right in style there. Most of them are just as nuts as you are. Don’t feel bad.

Furthermore, many artist types are  lousy to terrible people.

Shakespeare was a monster as a human being. But that’s not what we remember him and the others for. It doesn’t matter that Shakespeare was a mean old miser.

All that matters is that he was probably the greatest writer of English prose in history, probably still unsurpassed to this very day. That’s all that matters. Artists stand on their art, the only thing that lasts. That they may have been crappy people is lamentable, but it that’s not why we remember them and ultimately it’s simply not important.

Sekou Sundiata, “Shout Out”

I normally don’t like this type of Black rap poetry, but this poem is just out of this world. It’s by a Black activist, poet, musician, and playwright named Sekou Sundiata (an adopted African name). This is from an album called The Blue Oneness of Dreams from 1997. This album won a Grammy award that year.

This is some incredible stuff. Some Blacks can write superb poetry, some of the finest poetry of all.

I get hammered when I say this, but this is an example of what I call “the Black genius.” Now that’s not to say that there are Blacks geniuses who can partake of the other genius styles, but I don’t think they’re as common as this type. It is in this style of genius that the Black man and the Black brain for that matter, truly shines bright as day. I suppose other races can display this genius style, but you sure don’t see it very often.

I can’t help thinking that Black minds or Black brains are different or at least tend to be different on average, and pure Black geniuses often look different from pure White geniuses, who tend more towards the airy philosophical world of ideas. This rapid-fire rapping type poetry, commentary, or even rap music can be found as a conversational style by Cornel West, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Micheal Eric Dyson.

Listen to these Black geniuses (West is the best, but Dyson is also very good, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Hutchinson) and you will see that they all talk something like the Sundiata is in this video. It’s a very fast verbal brain at work, almost spewing out words so fast you can barely keep track of them.

Blacks do score higher than any other race in verbal memory and Africa never had writing. All they had was this oral tradition. Who knows, maybe they even selected for it? Is it beyond the realm of possibility. I really love this Black genius type with the rapid fire super-genius brain rattling off the perfect words in the perfect rhythm often with the perfect musical pitch to the spoken word.

Some White men can do this too, especially comedians. I am thinking in particular of Lenny Bruce, a Jewish comedian with an almost “Black” stage style and even Andy Kaufman at his best.

I keep hearing this poem on my radio station and I keep wondering who this is. Tonight I memorized a few lines and put them in Google and wa-la! Ladies and gentlemen, we have an answer!

I’m thinking right now that if there’s a heaven, there’s musical poems like this being played up there.

This poem is just too perfect!

Here’s to the best words In the right place At the perfect time to the human mind Blown-up and refined. To long conversations and the Philosophical ramifications of a beautiful day. To the twelve-steppers At the thirteenth step May they never forget The first step. To the increase, to the decrease To the do to the do To the did to the did To the do to the did To the done done To the lonely. To the brokenhearted. To the new, blue haiku. Here’s to all or nothing at all. Here’s to the sick, and the shut-in. Here’s to the was you been to the is you in To what’s deep and deep to what’s down and down To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

To the crazy The lazy The bored The ignored The beginners The sinners The losers The winners. To the smooth And the cool And even to the fools. Here’s to your ex-best-friend. To the rule-benders and the repeat offenders. To the lovers and the troublers The engaging The enraging To the healers and the feelers And the fixers and the tricksters To a star falling from a dream. To a dream, when you know what it means. To the bottom To the root To the base, uh, boom! To the drum To the was you been to the is you in To what’s deep and deep to what’s down and down To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

Here’s to somebody within the sound of your voice this morning. Here’s to somebody who can’t be within the sound of your voice tonight. To a low-cholesterol pig sandwich smothered in swine without the pork. To a light buzz in your head And a soundtrack in your mind Going on and on and on and on and on like a good time. Here’s to promises that break by themselves Here’s to the breaks with great promise. To people who don’t wait in the car when you tell them to wait in the car. Here’s to what you forgot and who you forgot. Here’s to the unforgettable. To the was you been to the is you in To what’s deep and deep to what’s down and down To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

Here’s to the hip-hoppers The don’t stoppers Heads nodding in the digital glow Of their beloved studios. To the incredible indelible impressions made by the gaze as you gaze in the faces of strangers. To yourself you ask: Could this be God? Straight up! Or is it a mask? Here’s to the tribe of the hyper-cyber Trippin’ at the virtual-most outpost at the edge on the tip Believin’ that what they hear is the mothership Drawing near. To the was you been to the is you in To what’s deep and deep to what’s down and down To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found.

Who Is This Man?

A very famous writer from the last century. This photo may have been taken around 1900 when he was at university. This was before he got famous. Although he did complete a rough copy of his first novel four years later in 1904, it was not published until it was fully fleshed out 12 years later in 1916. He died around 1940.

His output was spare – only a single book of short stories, two books of poems, one of which is barely known, and three novels, although two of those were very long. The poems and short stories were published first. Then the first novel was published to a stunned public. The second huge novel followed not long after and caused shocks around the world. The final novel, quite long but not as long as the second, was published nearly 20 years later to a largely baffled public.

His work got increasingly complex. His easiest fiction to read is his short short stories, but even they are often quite complex and hard to understand. The first novel is the easiest of the three to read, but many nevertheless find it daunting. The second novel is a monumental leap beyond the first and the third novel continues to baffle readers to this day.

The last novel, published around his death in 1940, was a huge project that he worded on for nearly two decades of his life. Nevertheless despite his small output he is regarded as one of the major authors of the 20th Century.

Who is this man? Where was he born? Name his books of poetry, his book of short stories and the three novels.

Simple Formula for Becoming a Great Writer, Especially a Poet: Add One Part Homosexuality to One Part Suicide

I posted this on Facebook and I was banned not once, but twice, for this post! After the first time I figured they would just delete it because that is what they usually do when they give you a few days ban. Well, they left it up. Then they banned me for it again. I mean come on. How many times do you have to ban me for one post. Ever heard of double jeopardy?

Mix well, stir, cook on high until boiling then reduce to low heat and cover for 25 minutes. Then take it off the heat and let it sit for five minutes. Now you’re gay as Hell and soon enough you will yourself for no reason, but so what! You’re on your way to becoming a good writer!

I have recently been reading lots of great writers of the past, oh, 100-150 years or so. A lot of that stuff is free. I will grab an old classic and read like one page, and then go grab another one and read like one page, on and on. Anyway it’s still pretty awesome!

And then I read up on all these great writers and books. And reading a lot of poetry/lit prose too from poetry blogs, all classic stuff, but that’s more a paragraph at a time than a page.

And like half these lit blogs are written by homosexuals or trannies or whatevers. And that’s starting to annoy me. Why? Not because they’re gay but because they won’t shut up about it. Cuz I want to read about poets, not about your dykery or wanting to turn into a guy!

Why I do this? Because I’m bored.

Well anyway, researching all these great writers and poets, I keep coming across homosexual homosexual bisexual bisexual or whatever. Like almost no one is straight. Like being straight is almost illegal ILLEGAL or something. And the women writers were way gayer than the men.

So I am thinking, “Exactly how many great poets were not some species of gay?!”

And like half of the poets were suicides. And I’m also thinking, “How many poets did not commit suicide?” Cuz it seems like they all take themselves out at some point.

So I am thinking, “Ok there’s a connection. Great writers/poets are basically freaks, an insane number of them are some gay species, and it’s almost a requirement to off yourself.”

And then I’m thinking, “Oh well, if I have to put up with faggotry and dykery and mass suicides to get my great prose, ok, that’s a deal that I will take.”

Cuz at the end of the day all that matters is that these great writers wrote great stuff. Everything else is meaningless.

Alt Left: Anatomy of Two Chinese Stereotypes: Greediness and Lack of Aesthetic Taste

Thinking Mouse:

What do you make of the stereotype that Chinese are greedy amoral worker drones with no aesthetic taste and little emotion?

Lot of truth to those things. Let’s take these one by one here. We previously discussed amorality and stoicism or lack of emotion, so let us look at greediness and lack of aesthetic taste. I will also look at Jews as many Chinese stereotypes are Jewish stereotypes as well.




The Chinese are white collar criminals, and they are amoral in that sense. Very similar to the Jews. It may be the case that any group with IQ’s markedly higher than the majority will not only grab most of the money under capitalism but will also be profoundly ruthless and amoral in how they go about it, often to the point of basically being a race of white collar criminals, which is what I would call Chinese and Jews.

Both Chinese and Jews are viewed as being fanatically money-oriented, materialistic, and aggressively driven to succeed at all costs. As the Jews have their Jewish mothers and uncles with pinky rings, so the Chinese have the newly created Tiger Moms

Lack of Aesthetic Taste


You can make the lack of aesthetic taste argument about all those other Chinese-influenced societies. The Chinese or Japanese artist is deliberately spare and seems at first glance to be drawing excessively, shall we say, modest paintings. It is as if the Asian artist feels ashamed of artistic talent and is deliberately dumbing down in his art so as to not appear better than others.

Nevertheless, artists have told me that Chinese and Japanese art is excellent in its own spare, somewhat minimalist, and certainly modest sense.

Both Chinese and Japanese have taken to modern literature, the Japanese in particular in terms of fiction. But both races have early traces of fiction in the form of epic tales that are basically novels extending back centuries, even to 1000. Think of The Tale of the Genji or Water Margin for Japanese and Chinese respectively.

Japanese invented a very interesting, spare, minimal, “shy”, and modest or self-effacing form of poetry called the haiku, which in its own way reaches to the peaks of literature.

The Japanese also took up Western or rock music. Many excellent rock bands of all sorts have come out of Japan. The Chinese, like the Italians, have been entertaining themselves via operas forever.

"Mother Water"

This is a bit more of my creative writing. And yes, I have been published in literary journals, in case you were asking. I published a short story in a single literary journal. There were a lot of  unknown names in there, but there were also a couple of big names – Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg. I remember at the bar afterwards Gary Snyder said he liked Journey Through the Zone. That was my story. Anyway, is this better as prose or as a poem?

The sea. Once again the sea. Again and again the sea. Always again the sea. The sea from which we came. The sea to which we will return. Our mother. Mother water.


Mother  Water

The sea Once again the sea Again and again the sea Always again the sea The sea from which we came The sea to which we will return Our mother Mother water

It does make a neat little very short poem. As prose it would have to be part of a larger work or possibly a microfiction or flash fiction story. And if you are looking for influences, check out Samuel Beckett. Maybe James Joyce too, who knows? Beckett for sure though.

"Sad Song"

This a bit of my creative writing here. Is this better as prose or as a poem?

The years. The long years. The sadness of the years.


The years The long years The sadness of the years

If you make it poetry, it’s almost a perfect little encapsulated haiku. If fiction, it would have to be part of a larger work or it could be a three-line microfiction flash fiction story.

Pio Baroja

Where’s this guy been all my life? The name sounds familiar, but I didn’t really know anything about him. Another Generation of ’98 writer who barely made it through the Spanish Civil War. Federico Garcia Lorca, the doomed gay poet, one of the finest poets of the 20th Century, of course was assassinated in this war, but he was from the next generation of Spanish writers, the Generation of ’27. They were much more avant garde than the ’98’ers. The Generation of ’98 were a whole new crop of Spanish writers who popped up at the turn of the century in Spain. Spain was still a monarchy back then and these were times of fervent. The monarchy was trying to balance between the desire of the people to modernize the humanize their country and the desires of the Church conservatives to keep things as static as they were. At the same time, in 1898, Spain was reeling from its defeat in several wars around the globe. Thousands of Spaniards were dead, and Spain lost all of its colonies. This was a time of great upheaval in Spain. The ’98’ers attacked traditional culture and the monarchy which they say as conformist and undemocratic. In this sense, they were like the liberal protest movements that arose in Germany after World War 1 who attacked German culture and ways of thinking in the light of their painful defeat in the war. These liberal movements were met with a conservative backlash or mostly demobbed soldiers who formed gangs called the Brownshirts who fought socialists and communists in the streets of Germany. These conservatives felt that the liberals had “stabbed the country in the back” and been traitorous during the war, leading to the nation’s defeat. One of these demobbed soldiers was an angry, wounded soldier named Adolf Hitler and it was from this Right vs Left firestorm in the streets that the Nazi God of Destruction arose a decade later. The Phoenix rising from the ashes, the regeneration of the illustrious nation of blood and soul, which is fascism in a nutshell. Fascism can best be seen as palingetic revolution of the Right. The word palingetic brings to mind the Phoenix rises to glory from the ashes of defeat. Baroja was a liberal like most of that generation. He grew up in the Basque Country. He wrote a number of trilogies, including The Sea, The Cities, The Struggle for Life, The Basque Country and a few others. The Struggle for Life is a gritty, harsh trilogy about life in the slums of Madrid. John Dos Passos was very fond of this series. Probably his most famous book is The Tree of Knowledge. Baroja was a pessimist and a nihilist who soured on life at a young age. I do not mind reading downbeat authors though, even if I am an optimist. Really the optimistic and pessimistic views of life are both true and equally valid. Baroja was influenced by Nietzsche, but below almost looks like Heidegger. I like the elaborate, ornate, very descriptive prose of the 19th Century. I love the long, fancy sentences where the tail of the sentence almost seems to be the head. I don’t mind getting to the end of a Henry James sentence, commas and all, and then wondering what the start of the sentence was about. It’s fun to decipher fancy writing. People don’t write like this much anymore as it is considered to be too elaborate and difficult for its own sake. I believe some of the finest writing in English was done in the 19th Century though. I can’t get enough of those $64,000 sentences. They’re so good you could almost take them to the bank. Most of Baroja has not yet been translated into English, though he has been famous in Spain for a century.  Hemingway was heavily influenced by Baroja, although this fact is little known. Isn’t that some fine writing?

The individual is the only real thing in nature and in life. Neither the species, the genus, nor the race, actually exists; they are abstractions, terminologies, scientific devices, useful as syntheses but not entirely exact. By means of these devices we can discuss and compare; they constitute a measure for our minds to use, but have no external reality. Only the individual exists through himself and for himself. I am, I live, is the sole thing a man can affirm. The categories and divisions arranged for classification are like the series of squares an artist places over a drawing to copy it by. The lines of the squares may cut the lines of the sketch; but they will cut them, not in reality but only in the artist’s eye. In humanity, as in all of nature, the individual is the one thing. Only individuality exists in the realm of life and in the realm of spirit. Pio Baroja, Caesar or Nothing, 1903

Reading List (Anyone Else Read Like This)?

I am a voracious reader, and lately at least, I am often reading between 20-40 books all at once. I pick up one, read 20 pages or so, and put it down. Then I pick up another one, read another 20 pages or so, and put it down too. It’s not really a problem for most nonfiction books and it works fine for books of essays and short stories. The poetry I read is often long narrative poetry where you have a single poem that goes on for an entire book of 200-300 pages. This method works well for these poetry books. It is a bit of a problem with novels. I will admit it. You do tend to lose your place a bit and sometimes I just have to go back and start all the way over again. I think I am going to need to restart War and Peace and the Brothers Karamazov because I forgot what I read. I do not know if this way of reading is stupid and sensible. It’s just the way I do it. It’s actually rather fun to read this way. The list: Total

  1. 33 books


  1. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  2. Feodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  3. Robert Stone, A Flag for Sunrise
  4. Joyce Carol Oates, Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart
  5. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  6. Tom Robbins, Still Live with Woodpecker
  7. John Rechy, Bodies and Souls
  8. John Updike, Until the End of Time
  9. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
  10. Herman Melville, Moby Dick
  11.  Chuck Pahalunik, Invisible Monsters
  12.  Franz Kafka, The Trial
  13. John Irving, Son of the Circus
  14. James Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Short Stories

  1.  Joyce Carol Oates, Night-Side
  2.  Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness
  3.  Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway
  4. Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
  5. Daniel Francis Howard, The Western Tradition: An Anthology of Short Stories


  1. John Milton, Paradise Lost
  2. Steven St. Vincent Benet, Western Star


  1. Loren Eisley, Night Country (science)
  2. Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (nature)
  3. Edward Abbey, Down the River (nature)
  4. Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
  5. Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tuscon
  6. Doug Peacock, Grizzly Years (nature)
  7. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink (cognitive science)

Unclassified Nonfiction

  1. Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or (philosophy)
  2. Showan Khurshid, Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics (political science)
  3. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (philosophy)
  4. John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (gender studies)
  5. John C. Greene, The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought (science)

Love and Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy of course is the great Victorian novelist, short story writer and lately appreciated poet. Many of his works deal with men and women and their love affairs. If you have never checked him out, I urge you to do so. He is well worth it. He was admired by writers like D. H. Lawrence (who wrote a book about it), the great John Cowper Powys, W.Somerset Maugham, and the great misanthropic poet Philip Larkin. He was a follower of the Naturalist School made famous by Emile Zola. The Naturalists were a follow-on to the Realists such as Gustave Flaubert (proto-realist) and Anthony Trollope (classic realist). It was supposed to be an improvement upon realism, but I am not sure how. Both of these were reactions against the overly florid, unrealistic and overwrought stories of the time. Zola in particular sought to be almost scientific in his descriptions of the people in his books. Both sought to simply portray characters, humans and scenes as they actually are and let readers draw their own didactic or moralistic conclusions if they so wished. As far as Hardy himself in love, he was famously married a couple of times. He was described as an unhappy husband. When his second wife died in 1912 after they were estranged for over 20 years, nevertheless, Hardy become a distraught widower and produced some of his finest poetry in Satires of Circumstance published two years later. These are considered to be some of the saddest, most powerful and finest poems about death ever written in English. And so we have Thomas Hardy:

  • Unhappy husband, and then
  • Distraught widower

He was miserable while he was married to her, but he was even more miserable when she was dead. There is a lesson in here somewhere, maybe:

  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, or simply
  • People are never happy

I prefer the latter.

Robert Burns, "Tam O Shanter"

This poem was written in and is being read in a language called Scots, which is not a dialect of English as many people think. Scots split off from English in ~1500, or 500 years ago. This is approximately what two languages sound like when they have been split apart for 500 years. I listened to this, although I can make out some words and even phrases here and there, honestly, I do not have the faintest idea what he is talking about, and I am missing most of this language. I can hear ~25


Do any of you like John Keats? Famous English Romantic poet who lived in the Romantic Era. Born 1795, died young of tuberculosis in 1821 at age 25. He led a pretty sad life. Other Romantic poets were Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sidney Lamb, Thomas Carlyle and William Wordsworth. There sure was a lot of great poetry around back in those days. Except for the tuberculosis and doctors who tried to cure you via blood loss, it was probably a great time to be alive. I have wandered through quite a few of Keats’ poems, but that doesn’t mean that I understood what was going on in all of them. Keats’ poems are often hard to understand. But even if can’t figure out what the poem is about, they often feel real nice to read due to the beauty of the language. However, Ode to a Nightingale seems pretty straightforward to me. It’s beautiful stuff!

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains One minute last, and Lethe-wards had sunk: ‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But being too happy in thine happiness, That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees, In some melodious plot Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, Singest of summer in full-throated ease.   O for a draught of vintage! That hath been Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth, Tasting of Floa and the country-green, Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth! O for a beaker full of the warm South! Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, And purple-stained mouth, That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim-   Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness the fever and the fret Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs; Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.   Away! Away! For I will fly to thee, Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and retards. Already with thee! Tender is the night, Clustered around by all her starry Fays; But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.   I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hands upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet Wherewith the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild – White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; Fast fading violets covered up in leaves; And mid-May’s eldest child, The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.   Darkling I listen; and, for many a time I have been half in love with easeful Death, Called hi soft names in many a mused rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die, To cease upon the midnight with no pain, While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad In such an ecstasy! Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain – To thy high requiem become a sod.   Thou wast born for death, immortal Bird! No hungry generations tread thee down; The voice I hear this passing night was heard In ancient days by emperor and clown: Perhaps the self-same song that found a path Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien corn; The same that oft-times hath Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.   Forlorn! The very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu! The fancy cannot cheat so well As she is famed to do, deceiving elf. Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades Past the near-meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep In the next valley-glades: Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music – Do I wake or sleep?

The Hell with Quiet Desperation

Carpe diem!

One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum, in which men steal through existence, like sluggish waters through a marsh, without either honour or observation. – Sir Walter Scott

“And then I can die happy.” That is one of my favorite saying. Not that I want to die now, but considering how I have lived my life, nothing much could happen between now and death in the next 30 years, and I could still die happy. That’s how fun my past was. Of course I want the present and future to be just as fun, but it doesn’t have to be. If I never have sex again, I can still die happy. I’ve had my fun. PS Do you any of you like Scott? It is fashionable to hate him as some sort of a hack, but I am reading some of his poetry now (he wrote book-length poems) and I must say, it is pretty awesome. In recent years, Scott has come somewhat back into favor as the academy has found some grounds for appreciating him. About time.

Of Dogs and Men

With apologies to John Steinbeck.


When some proud son of man returns to earth, Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth, The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe, And storied urns record who rests below; When all is done, upon the tomb is seen, Not what he was, but what he should have been. But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend, The first to welcome, the foremost to defend, Whose honest heart is still his master’s own, Who labors, lives, fights, breathes for him alone, Unhonored falls, unnoticed all his worth, Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth. While man, vain insect, hopes to be forgiven, And claims himself a sole, exclusive heaven. Ye! Who behold, perchance, this simple urn, Pass on; it honours none you wish to mourn. To mark a friend’s remains these stones rise, I have never known but one – and here he lies.

Lord Byron, “Boatswain”

Who says that we have souls and dogs none, anyway? The Bible? What kind of religion is that, then?

"Drunk and Disorderly: The Joys of Ranterism and Other Topics," by Jacob Bauthumley

For white English or American readers of this blog, a question. Who went to church this morning? Go on, own up. Nobody? Coming home on the bike I passed the Catholic church on the corner of my block (West Earlham). Everyone was of Indian origin, speaking Indian languages! In white Norwich! Not a white Caucasian in sight. This morning I was up extremely early, and at first light I was worshipping at the church of my allotment, delighting in the alchemy of all life. Yes really! Just enjoying it. Then, I went scrumping windfall apples, and gathered 150lb of different varieties, which I moved on my bike trailer in an old plastic cistern back to my friend Ruth’s place. I am so knackered now that I have to go back to bed. I’ve been up since 4am, and I’ve had three hours’ sleep. What the hell. Sleep it off, baby. It’s a Sunday! I rang a friend, a local poet, and he put me in touch with a local cider maker with a press, out in rural Norfolk, in Old Buckenham. My friend John and I plan to turn the apples into ten gallons of cider and sour the cider to make ten gallons of cider vinegar. Religious views are a very tricky area, aren’t they? The two things you are not supposed to discuss in polite English society are religion and politics. It is clear that I do not have the manners of an Englishman, since I talk about both. My nom de guerre Abiezer Coppe gives his views on the Christian religion at the end of the piece. I have been at times an Marxist atheist, an Marxist agnostic, and a Marxist with Christian leanings. In the next phase of my life I shall settle for a Marxist gnosticism, marrying the rational materialist dialectic of Marx, to the otherworldly insights of the Christian Gnostics, starting with Valentinus (3rd Century AD). I am in good company. Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) was also a kind of Marxist gnostic. True, he was a Stalinist, too, but Stalinism is not the main thrust of his remarkable magnum opus on Hope, Das Prinzip Hoffnug, or of his biography of the 15th Century revolutionary peasant leader, Thomas Munzer, which I found in French translation. Spiritual search: should I give it up entirely? I have tried the Cheshire Cat Buddhists at the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (I swear they all had the same smile) but they gave me the creeps, as every religious group does. Experiential spirituality is the only type I can connect to: I learned Vipassana meditation once. Ten day silent retreats in Herefordshire, no speaking, no eye contact: it takes a lot to discipline a wild mind. I’ve always been poor, and even the poor can afford it: I gave service instead of cash, and went back and worked in the kitchens on another retreat. Vipassana was good, and it works, but who wants to spend two hours a day sitting on their arse meditating? It certainly chills you out like nothing else does, the ten day retreat. You come out feeling clean, really clean. A good friend of mine called L–a came on a Herefordshire retreat with me (I drove my totally illegal French taxed, French MOT’d and French insured Citroen BX from Norwich to Herefordshire and back, and around on the roads of the UK for 2 years, and the police never stopped me once). She’d smoked dope and tobacco, and drank alcohol all her life. After the 10 day retreat she just stopped, without even a struggle. No alcohol, no drugs, no tobacco. She just didn’t want them anymore. Buddha was really onto something, then. Buddhism is a practical spirituality centered on the practice of compassion, and the meditative practices of Buddhism actually renders one more compassionate. It can’t be a bad thing. I’ve met atheists and Marxists who are – or seem – spiritual, and plenty of Christians who are not. It’s about the being, the beingness of the person, the kind of love they put forth into the world. I’ve met Muslims with a spiritual energy to die for. Spirituality is? – taking the risk in every moment to be honest, to connect with other beings (it might be a frog, my favourite amphibian) and live and love from my deepest sense of whom I am, from my wild and untamed self. And damn the consequences. It’s difficult. We are English. We are fairly shy. We like dissimulation and subterfuge; it is what, as a nation, we are more comfortable with. At least the chattering classes, the bourgeois, the middle classes. I can only speak for my own class, and I am not Jay Griffiths, though I admire her guts. I am more comfortable with Latins, personally, than the emotionally repressed public school Englishman (I did that. I went to a small private boarding school in Suffolk for six years). WYSWYG: What You See Is What You Get, in my experience with people of Latin  extraction. If they don’t like you they come straight out with it. I respect that. In fact, seriously, who would WANT to live any other way once the inner wild being in each of us is brought to light? Who then would settle for the psychic equivalent of suburbia? here on Chinese workers). I still identify as a Marxist, but as a Marxist Feminist Gnostic, which is totally unacceptable to the comrades! I’ve done the Communist Party (CPGB, PCF), done the Socialist Workers (SWP), but I couldn’t hack it, organised male Marxist politics (yawn…), so these days I work for the Green Party, campaign for them, but I won’t join. I’ve stopped being a joiner. At least the UK Green Party do not have the one thousand hang-ups about the Soviet Union that the Communists had, and all that bloody coded language… They mean the things they say, too….it’s prefigurative politics, of the type I’ve always believed in. You carry the changes you want to see into your personal life. If you’ve rubbed shoulders with Stalinists for several years, as I have without ever being one of them, you’ll know how refreshing that is. Where’s the Libertarian Marxist Feminist Gnostic Party? That’s what I want to know. I haven’t seen one yet. When I do I’ll sign up. I struggle with the materialist epistemology of Marxism. I have had a go at being a philosophical materialist, read the books (back in the day it was Maurice Cornforth, now completely and deservedly forgotten, and Emile Burns)  but found it kind of miserable…back in the day I read a lot of Marxists. The only ones I could go for were the outliers, the non-conformists like Ernst Bloch, a German Marxist who wrote a thousand page book about dreams, day dreams, hope and the place of utopia in the human imagination (Hope The Principle, 3 vols). Bad Marxists, utopian dreamers. William Morris and his News From Nowhere. Nowhere is where I live – the name of Utopia! Philosophical materialism, in the forms in which I have encountered it, rules out as nonexistent that which palpably exists! I have yet to meet a Marxist, for example, who takes homeopathic medicine at all seriously, and I trained as a homeopath, so I know it works!  They parrot the standard line. One would think that a revolutionary would have had a little more insight than that. If I had breast cancer, for example, a homeopath would be my first port of call. See Dr A U Ramakrishnan’s work in that area: consistent success across many types of cancer, with five year follow-ups, and none of the extreme toxicity and immune devastation of chemotherapy. Mr Abiezer Coppe was, I imagine, a Christian gnostic sans le savoir, and inspired William Blake, who I think knew he wrote in the gnostic tradition (see historian E P Thompson’s last book, Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law, which is a brilliant study). That is why I identify with Blake, too, and especially with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793), a text on the dialectic before Marx and Hegel. It is a lot more fun to read than Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, too! The English Ranters rejected all forms of spiritual, sexual and religious authority, and insisted that the only church was the human body. They were good chaps, religious anarcho-communists before communism, and more libertarian than Gerard Winstanley’s more puritanical Diggers, the only other Commies on the block at the time. The Ranters had a endearing habit of preaching naked (if their enemies are to be believed) in the open air, on heaths, and drinking ale and fornicating at religious meetings. Very endearing. The Ranters did not believe in sin. Ranter women are said to have looked for sin in men’s codpieces, and on being unable to find any, declared there was none. That’s a kind of healthy materialism I like. So they didn’t believe in that superstitious shit the Church teaches, either, the Virgin Birth, Original Sin, or the sexual perversions resulting from the Christian, especially Catholic, strictures on the priesthood. The Ranters were not feminists, but you can’t have everything, and in any case, who was a feminist in 1650? Ranters believed everything should be held in common, including women; they weren’t keen on the legal union of marriage and, I guess, just as in the 1960s, these 17th Century anarcho-hippie Ranter men enjoyed their sexual revolution and their sexual libertarianism while Ranter women got pregnant, had the babies, and were left holding them on the heaths of England, bereft of the men who had sired them. Maybe the Ranter males were indeed “only around for the conception”. Nothing new there, then! So much for sexual liberation in 1650s England. Did they know about satisfying a woman in bed? Funnily enough a feminist historian (Alison Smith) of early modern England told me that that there was a generally held view at the time that if a woman did not have an orgasm during sex with a man, then she could not conceive. So, in the beliefs of the time, no female orgasms equaled no babies…Quite progressive really, but did condoms exist then? I doubt it – condoms came in later…18th century, I think. Any condom historians here? English Ranterism and the Digger movement represented a political dead end. With the Cromwellian Thermidor of the English Revolution after 1649, and the general persecution and ostracism of the Ranters, a lot of them recanted their beliefs, including Abiezer Coppe, stopped railing against the rich (one of their specialties!) and settled down to become Seekers, or Quakers (who are very much in the Gnostic lineage – no priests, no service, no dogmas, no crap, just the Inner Light of Not-God, etc…) or even Muggletonians…see E P Thompson’s book on William Blake (1993) for more. He interviewed the last surviving English Muggletonian. How about that? More on the Ranters below: Discussion of the Ranter historical context, and Ranter views. – Extracts from the writings of Abiezer Coppe My comments, writing as Abiezer Coppe, on Christianity and gnosticism:

Virgilio Giotti, Triestine Venetian Poet

Repost from the old site. Let’s take a look again at Triestine Venetian. Virgilio Giotti was a famous poet who wrote in Triestine Venetian. He was born in 1885 in Trieste, a child of Riccardo Schonbeck and Emilia Ghiotto. He died in Trieste in 1957. He is considered to be the most important Triestine Venetian author. For this, he was honored in 1957 by the Accademia dei Lincei. Highly-regarded critics such Mario Fubini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gianfranco Contini, Cesare Segre and Franco Brevini enthusiastically described Virgilio Giotti as one of the most important Italian writers in Italian “dialects” of the 1900’s. From 1907 to 1919 he lived in Firenze. In 1912, he met Nina Schekotoff, a Russian from Moscow, the only woman he ever loved. In Tuscany, she bore him three children – Natalia, (Tanda), Paolo and Franco. Sons Paolo and Franco both died in Russia during World War 2. Giotti first book was Piccolo Canzoniere in Dialetto Triestino, published in Florence in 1914. He became famous in 1937, when the great critic Pietro Pancrazi, in a review in Corriere Della Sera pointed out the anti-dialectal character of Giotti: his poetry was described as écriture d’artiste (literary writing) or patois de l’ame (the language of love). Pancrazi described Giotti as a poet who wrote mainly in dialect, but he differed from the usual poetry of Italian “dialects” that was often folkloric, standardized, generic, etc. Giotti spoke Tuscan Italian as his principal language, and he considered Triestine Venetian as “the language of the poetry” only – that it only had a literary and cultural value, but was not useful beyond that. Giotti’s Triestine Venetian lexicon was impoverished and full of simple words, with only a very sparse use of idioms. Giotti’s Trieste was far from the Trieste of Svevo, Saba and other writers: there’s no Port wine, no psychoanalysis and no Mitteleuropa. Giotti’s world is one of sensations, little places, family and friends, the arcana of quotidian existence. He was a romantic poet of everyday life. Let’s look at one of Giotti’s poems, With Bolàffio, in classic Triestine Venetian, then in modern Triestine Venetian, then in an Italian translation by Antonio Guerra (Italian language link) or Tonino Guerra (a famous Italian screenwriter), (Italian language link) and finally I will try to translate it into literary English. If you think you can do a better job of translating this into nice poetic English, even a line or two, give it a shot. This translation stuff is kind of fun! Con Bolàffio Virgilio Giotti Classic Triestine Venetian Mi e Bolàffio, de fazza un de l’altro, col bianco tavoja de la tovàia in mezo, su i goti e el fiasco in fianco, parlemo insieme. Bolàffio de ‘na piazza de Gorìzia el me conta, ch’el voria piturarla: ‘na granda piazza sconta, che nissun passa. Do tre casete atorno rosa, un fiatin de muro, un pissador de fero vècio stravècio, e el scuro de do alboroni. Xe squasi mezogiorno E un omo, vignù fora de là, se giusta pian pian, e el se incanta sora pensier. Bolàffio in ‘sta su piazza bela, noi, poeti e pitori, stemo ben. La xe fata pròpio pai nostri cuori, caro Bolàffio. In quel bel sol, in quela pase, se ga incontrado i nostri veci cuori; là i se ga saludado stassera alegri. Con Bolàffio Virgilio Giotti Modern Triestine Venetian Mi e Bolàffio, de muso un co’ l’altro, col bianco tavoja dela tovaia in mezo, su i calici e il fiasco de fianco parlemo insieme. Bolaffio, de ‘na piazza de Gorizia il me conta ch’el voleria piturarla ‘na grande piazza sconta che nessun passa Do tre casete atorno rosa, un fiatin de muro un pisador de fero vecio stravecio, e il scuro de do alberoni Xe quasi mezogiorno E un omo, vignù fora de là, se giusta pian pian, e il se incanta sora pensier. Bolàffio in ‘sta sua piaza bela noi, poeti e pìtori stemo ben. La xe fata proprio pei nostri cuori caro Bolaffio In quel bel sol, in quela pase, se ga incontrado i nostri veci cuori; là i se ga saludado stasera alegri Con Bolàffio Virgilio Giotti Italian translation by Antonia Guerra Io e Bolaffio, l’uno di fronte all’altro, col bianco della tovaglia in mezzo, i bicchieri alzati e accanto il fiasco, parliamo insieme. Bolaffio mi racconta di una piazza di Gorizia, che vorrebbe dipingerla: una grande piazza nascosta, dove nessuno passa. Due tre casette intorno, rosa, un poco di muro, un pisciatoio di ferro, vecchio stravecchio, e lo scuro di due alberoni. È quasi mezzogiorno. E un uomo, venuto fuori di lì, si mette a posto pian piano, s’incanta sopra pensiero. Bolaffio, in questa sua piazza bella, noi, poeti e pittori, stiamo bene. È fatta proprio per i nostri cuori, caro Bolaffio. In quel bel sole, in quella pace, si sono incontrati i nostri vecchi cuori; là si sono salutati stasera, allegri. With Bolàffio Virgilio Giotti English translation by Robert Lindsay Bolaffio and I, face To face, sitting down At a table dressed in white In the middle Picking up the wineglasses and a bottle nearby Together we’re talking Bolaffio is telling me He would like to draw A picture of a square in Gorizia It’s a big hidden square Nobody is walking through 2 or 3 small houses around Rose-colored, a small wall An iron pissoir* Very old, and the dark shadows From a couple of trees It’s around noon And a man came out Of that pissoir Slowly, he buttons up his pants And he stops himself No thoughts in his head Bolaffio In his nice square We, painters and poets We feel good here It was created just for our hearts Dear Bolaffio In this nice sunshine, In this Peace, our old hearts Have met each other And tonight They’re enjoying each other *pissing place= Vespasiano, where to piss My friend Paolo describes Giotti’s language as the old “Modern” Triestine Venetian.

Will Shakespeare Ever Be Equalled?

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was not yet surpassed 150 years ago. Doubt if much has changed since. In glorious prose the likes of which we don’t see much anymore, Emerson lays out precisely what the contenders are up against:

Shakespeare is as much out of the category of eminent authors, as he is out of the crowd. He is inconceivably wise; the others, conceivably. A good reader can, in a sort, nestle into Plato’s brain, and think from thence, but not into Shakespeare’s. We are still out of doors. For executive faculty, for creation, Shakespeare is unique. No man can imagine it better. He was the farthest reach of subtlety compatible with an individual self – the subtlest of authors, and only just within the possibility of authorship.

With this wisdom of life, is the equal endowment of imaginative and of lyric power. He clothed the creatures of his legend with form and sentiments, as if they were people who had lived under his roof; and few real men have left such distinct characters as these fictions. And they spoke in language as sweet as it was fit.

Yet his talents never seduced him into an ostentation, nor did he harp on one string. An omnipresent humanity coordinates all his faculties.

Give a man of talents a story to tell, and his partiality will presently appear. He has certain observations, opinions, topics, which have some accidental prominence, and which he disposes all to exhibit. He crams this part, and starves that other part, consulting not the fitness of the thing, but his fitness and strength.

But Shakespeare has no peculiarity, no importunate topic; but all is duly given; no veins, no curiosities; no cow-painter, no bird-fancier, no mannerist is he: he has no discoverable egotism: the great he tells greatly; the small, subordinately. He is wise without emphasis or assertion; he is strong, as nature is strong, who lifts the land into mountain slopes without effort, and by the same rule as she floats a bubble in the air, and likes as well to do the one as the other.

This makes that equality of power in farce, tragedy, narrative, and love-songs; a merit so incessant, that each reader is incredulous of the perception of other readers.

Whoa! That’s some kickass prose. I didn’t know Emerson could write like that.

He’s right. Shakespeare’s in another world altogether. There’s Shakespeare, and then there’s everyone else.


Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1850. Representative Men. Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Co.

Writing Is Like Music, Cinema, Painting or Photography

I recently complemented a commenter on the site by telling him he’s a genius. By that, I mean he’s a great writer. He’s also a fine thinker, but the two go together. We have lots of fine thinkers on the board, but not all are great writers too. He’s Korean, and Koreans don’t seem to write English spectacularly. I don’t know why, but they are better in visuospatial than in verbal IQ:

Thanks. I found one of the secrets to writing that is engaging is having a musical awareness. Walk down a street and run a tune through your head. Preferably one that you made up. Then just play with it. Volume, pacing, accelerate, decelerate. And volume is key. Change in volume completely changes the tune. Try it. Try Beethoven’s 5th bahm, bahm, bahm, baaahmm.

Quietly. Done quietly it’s nothing. LOL. So here’s the dramatic conclusion to why Koreans don’t write spectacularly. They are raised to be quiet. It shows in their writing.

And we are not even getting into poetry yet. Sure the best poetry is musical, always has been. That’s why it’s so hard to translate. But so is the best prose. We are talking strictly prose here. How do you translate Finnegans Wake into any language other than English? Where do you even begin?

So when you write, your prose is music. Well, it should be, if your aim is artistic. Or at least that’s one way to write

Of course, the best prose is both music and even visual art like painting. I don’t know if it’s cinematic. And the best prose sings like poetry too. It’s all about the rhythm.

I write musically too, and I also write cinematically or like paintings. I get little pictures in my mind when I writing. They just pop up. Then I look for words to describe the paintings or scenes. Sometimes they are pictures like storyboards for a movie or just a painting or picture or frameshot or photo or other visual image. In other cases, it’s like a scene from a movie. Then I search around for the words to describe the scene I just saw in my mind.

When I was 22, a could of friends read my fiction and said it was like Joyce, “painting pictures with words.” My junior college journalism teacher threw me off the paper for “hallucinating with words.”

Forgotten Romantic Poet: Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anna Laetitia Barbauld was an English poet from the school of Romanticism. She is now largely forgotten, but at the time she was writing, she was one of the most famous authors of the Romantic Era. Sadly, she is now forgotten, but at the time, she was compared to Samuel Johnson and Joseph Addison. She was a professional author at a time when such women were rare.

Her reputation suffered after her time for a variety of reasons, most of which had nothing to do with her ability as an author and had more to do with politics, ego and fads.

Romanticism was a great literary movement.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (1830). Romanticism!

The Big Six of English language romantic poetry were:

William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.

Other great Romantic authors include:

Others included Mary Shelley, Robert Southey, John Clare, George Crabbe, Thomas Hood, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, (England); Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Edgar Allan Poe (US); Robert Burns, Walter Scott and James Macpherson (Scotland); Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov (Russia); Ugo Foscolo, Giacomo Leopardi (Italy); Rabindranath Tagore (India); Novalis, Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich Heine, Heinrich von Kleist, Clemens Brentano, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Schelling (Germany); Adam Mickiewicz (Poland); Almeida Garrett (Portugal); Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Alfred de Musset, Charles Baudelaire, Alfred de Vigny, Gérard de Nerval, Stendhal, Leconte de Lisle (France); Álvares de Azevedo, Castro Alves, Gonçalves Dias (Brazil); and Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Rosalía de Castro and Jacint Verdaguer (Spain).

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). This great painting captures the spirit of Romanticism perfectly.

The following two excerpts are undated, but they were probably written around 1770-1800 (around the time of the American Revolution).

Title Unknown

But passion’s wild, impetuous sea Hurries me far from peace and thee ‘T were vain to struggle more.

Thus the poor sailor slumbering lies While swelling tides around him rise And push his bark from shore.

In vain he spreads his helpless arms His pitying friends with fond alarms In vain deplore his state Still far and farther from the coast On the high surge his bark is tost And foundering yields to fate.


As near a weeping spring reclined The beauteous Araminta pined And mourned a false, ungrateful youth While dying echoes caught the sound And spread the soft complaints around Of broken vows and altered truth

An aged shepherd heard her moan And thus in pity’s kindest tone Addressed the lost, despairing maid:

“Cease, cease, unhappy fair, to grieve For sounds, though sweet, can ne’er relieve A breaking heart by love betrayed. Why shouldst thou waste such precious showers That fall like dew on withered flowers But dying passion ne’er restored? In Beauty’s empire is no mean, And woman, either slave or queen, Is quickly scorned when not adored. Those liquid pearls from either eye Which might an Eastern empire buy Unvalued here and fruitless fall No art the season can renew When love was young and Damon true No tears a wandering heart recall.”

Cease, cease to grieve thy tears are vain Should those fair orbs in drops of rain Vie with a weeping southern sky: For hearts o’ercome with love and grief All nature yields but one relief

Die, hapless Arami…


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