Thursday, May 18, 2017

Deaf Con 5

The following is an excerpt from John Updike’s gem-studded collection of completely imagined, highly imaginative interviews with characters we’ve all met, but never knew as well as we should have. This interview was with "The Bankrupt Man"

. . . 
Q: When did you first know that you were bankrupt?
A: I think from birth I intuited I was headed that way. I didn’t cry, like other infants.

Q: Do you see any possibility for yourself of ever being non-bankrupt?
A: The instant bankruptcy is declared, laws on the federal, state, and local levels work in harmony to erode the condition. Some assets are exempted, others are sheltered. In order to maintain bankruptcy, fresh investments must be undertaken, and opportunities seized as they arise. A sharp eye on economic indicators must be kept lest the whole package slips back into the black. Being bankrupt is not a lazy man’s game.

Q: Have you any word of advice for those of us who are not bankrupt?
A [with that twinkle]: Eat your hearts out.

 . . . 

This galls us. We wish to destroy him, this clown of legerity, who bounces higher and higher off the net of laws that would enmesh us, who weightlessly spiders up the rigging to the dizzying spotlit tip of the tent-space and stands there in a glittering trapeze suit, all white, like the chalk-daubed clown who among the Australian aborigines moves in and out of the sacred ceremonial, mocking it. We spread ugly rumors, we mutter that he is not bankrupt at all, that he is as sound as the pound, as the dollar, that his bankruptcy is a sham. He hears of the rumor and in a note, on one-hundred-percent-rag stationery, with embossed letterhead, he challenges us to meet him on West Main Street, by the corner of the Corn Exchange, under the iron statue of Cyrus Shenanigan, the great Civil War profiteer. We accept the challenge. We experience butterflies in the stomach. We go look at our face in the mirror. It is craven and shriveled, embittered by ungenerous thoughts.

Comes the dawn. Without parked cars, West Main Street seems immensely wide. The bankrupt man’s shoulders eclipse the sun. He takes his paces, turns, swiftly reaches down and pulls out the lining of both pants packets. Verily, they are empty.

 . . . 

He ascends because he transcends. He deals from the bottom of the deck. He builds castles in the air. He makes America grow. His interests ramify. He is in close touch with Arabian oil. With Jamaican bauxite. With Antarctic refrigeration. He creates employment for squads of lawyers. He gets on his motorcycle. He tugs a thousand creditors in his wake, taking them over horizons they had never dreamt of  hitherto.

He proves there is an afterlife.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

from a Bloom'n' Feathery Aire

Reklektikos, 2017:
It is naught if not Walpurgisnacht, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea.

The following culled from an extraordinarily readable critique:

James Joyce: The First Forty Years
Herbert S. Gorman, 1924
"Stephen Dedalus retains his entity throughout but Bloom, more incoherent in his cerebral adjustions and weaker in intellectual intensity and concentration, time after time changes into visualizations of the thoughts which rush across his befuddled mind. All that he has desired or dreaded or dreamt or been fascinated or revolted by takes him and colors him chameleon-like. He becomes a squire of dames, a prisoner in court, Lord Mayor of Dublin, an Emperor, an Irish emigrant, a woman, anything that pops into his mind, anything that is suggested by the most chance remark or situation. The whole day rushes back across his helpless mind, all the people he has met, all the gossip he has heard, all the thoughts which had passed his consciousness. In astonishing garb and blasphemous attitudes all these half-digested morsels of observation and subconscious reception out of his brain, spurting about like bits of colored glass from a smashed kaleidoscope. Part of this is occasioned by the same pathological principle which causes a victim of delirium tremens to see snakes."

"Yet they stand in the silence of kinship a moment at the door before they part while the bells of St. George ring out."--Herbert S. Gorman, 1924

"What echoes of that sound were by both and each heard?

By Stephen:
Liliata rutilantium. Turma circumdet.
Jubilantium te virginum. Chorus excipiat.

By Bloom:
Heigho, heigho,
Heigho, heigho."

--James Joyce, Ulysses

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sedimental Journey

From across that Acheron,
heard not with whimpering,
but accursed stomping,--
gwine that hollow man,
sowing seeds of wrath.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Hard Class Act to Follow

As I have begun to re-read the works of Dickens the complete set of dried-blood-colored volumes I first encountered as a toddler when crawling I looked up and beheld a towering mountain much like the one the startled apes once saw reflected in the living Kubrick's imagination I have just so happily gleaned from G. K. Chesterton’s 1911 “Introduction” to those works the following that has startled this young ape at least once more.

“Dickens was a very great man, and there are many ways of testing and stating this fact. But one permissible way is to say this, that he was an ignorant man, ill-read in the past, and often confused about the present. Yet he remains great and true, and even essentially reliable, if we suppose him to have known not only all that went before his lifetime, but also all that was to come after.

“From this vanishing of the Victorian compromise (I might say the Victorian illusion) there begins to emerge a menacing and even monstrous thing—we may begin again to behold in the English people. If that strange dawn ever comes, it will be the final vindication of Dickens. It will be proved that he is hardly even a caricaturist; that he is something very like a realist. Those comic monstrosities which the critics found incredible will be found to be the immense majority of the citizens of this country. We shall find that Sweedlepipe cuts our hair and Pumblechook sells our cereals; that Sam Weller blacks our boots and Tony Weller drives our omnibus…

“even Americans are all something, though it is not easy to say what it is; it goes with hawk-like eyes and an irrational eagerness. Perhaps it is savages.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Present

Marcel Proust. Can one recall a more practiced conjuror of dots connecting themselves through time’s infinite portals? When asked what he would do if the Apocalypse was, indeed, about to commence, the revered layabout replied, as only he could, wisely, because, somehow, knowingly. As once a certain ghost from Christmas Past did present a gift to the reviled M. Scrooge a gift that changed his world, M. Proust’s gift to us, also, consists of clear and genuine reflections that can change ours.

“I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies, it—our life—hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly.

"But let all this threaten to become impossible for ever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! If only the cataclysm doesn’t happen this time, we won’t miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Miss X, making a trip to India.

"The cataclysm doesn’t happen, we don’t do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn’t have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening.”

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Media Freak

Garry Wills had him nailed a long time ago. 
Jesus, are we stupid or what?

“He was all energy and conviction, never letting up, though I was soon worn down by the emotional attrition. Every time I tried to ease my way out the door, he loomed up with new giant claims or some belligerent challenge—was I calling him a liar? Like all spellbinders, he was clearly convincing himself at least part of the time, trying to believe, with an actor’s wish to measure up to the part. Or, alternately, he would taunt me with undisguised lies that he made me respond—and had me hooked again. The weird fascination of Hitler became comprehensible at last. Much as I tried to stay clinical and observant, he involved me, made me angry, or sympathetic, or frightened; ashamed for him, or ashamed of myself for letting his emotional bullying work. He was the voice of all that Sixties mystique of “the confrontation”—the belief that sheer conflict will somehow purify, as when people in encounter groups screamed, criticized, fatigued each other down to the ultimate capitulation—and called their stripped down exhaustion “reality.” The street theatre of shouts and trashing, tear gas and taunting the pigs, was a way of moving these “encounters” out onto the public stage. My Demagogue had brought the process full circle around, taking the inflated political rhetoric back into the ego’s echo chamber. The Sixties experience—“mind-blowing,” consciousness-altering—was always some kind of trip.”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Sunday Funnies

Attention Doomsayers:
We who ignore history are not destined to repeat it. We're still living it.

The following paragraphs from the college textbook, Western Civilization Since 1500, illustrate the painfully slow pace of positive economic, social, and political change even in the most democratic nation ever to grace the face of the earth, the United States of America.

Bear in mind that these words were written many decades ago by the noted historian, Walther Kirchner, during the Eisenhower administration, and that they concern only the years 1830 through 1848.

United States. Unencumbered by old-established aristocratic traditions, the United States, a republic in a world elsewhere dominated by monarchs and vested landed interests, continued during the period 1830 to 1848 to escape most of the complex social problems confronting other Western nations.

Internal Conditions. The United States’ population enjoyed civil rights. Hereditary privileged classes did not exist; the franchise, accorded in England and France to no more than a tenth or twentieth of the population, was almost universal; the government and law courts were democratically organized. The settlement of western lands continued to act as a powerful force for democratization. Although life (except for the upper middle class of the eastern states and the plantation owners of the South) was comparatively hard and competition was sharp, America held out promise for all and, with her geographic advantages, offered opportunities for material progress unequaled in the Old World. Yet, numerous social issues persisted, even though they were of a kind differing from those in other parts of the Western world. Among them were the race problem and slavery, the question of unity between the agricultural South and the increasingly industrial North, and the issues of protective tariffs, centralized government, enforcement of law, westward expansion, and immigration.

Foreign Policies. Despite her safe geographical location, the United States early had shown strong nationalistic tendencies. Fearful of European colonialism, she had proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine (in 1823), which aimed at preventing foreign powers from gaining additional footholds in the New World. The successful development of the nation simulated nationalistic feelings and a measure of imperialism. This was evinced by the fact that the westward movement was often accompanied by the eviction or extermination of Indians; by economic imperialism, reflected in the tremendous growth of the lumber industry and in the swift development of mining for copper, silver, and gold; by foreign wars and the annexation of territory—for example, Texas in 1845, and other large Mexican areas in 1848; and by treaties, such as the compact with England regarding the Canadian border. Thus, while domestic unrest and international calm marked the European scene, in North America the situation was reversed. Internally, the country progressed without revolutionary outbreaks; but externally, expansion and wars marked the period from 1830 to 1848."


Add to these continuing problems those of the effects of globalization, climate change, international terrorism, rapid technological change causing worker displacement, widening income disparity and the crisis of having a worldwide leadership vacuum and you've got a good case to continue reading, "The Sunday Funnies". God Bless Blondie and the United States of America.