Tuesday, January 24, 2017

150. Survival } into a Rubble Age.

Asked to write 500 words “…for SPR about what written thing… you most loved this year”; I did here. What follows is addendum.

During the early fall, I attended two house readings. I wrote about the first at SPR; the next was hosted by Kate Colby. I brought my right-arm, Fatima. I was sorry I’d not brought my eldest—there was a child her age in the audience. John Cotter was there. Scared the bejeezus out of Cole Swenson’s husband when the entire houseI kid you not—tilted. I mean, not just a little bit! Fortunately, I was braced in a doorway. Darcie Dennigan and Elisa Gabbert read. My favorite moment: Elisa read, “…outside the glass is green…,” paused and read the line as she wrote it. Darcie Dennigan read from a group of poems that I grew convinced was part of the libretto she read at Ada Books earlier in the year. I was wrong.

On Election Day, Darcie read for my contemporary literature class. One student asked if the nude featured on the cover of Madame X—painted by Darcie’s husband—was Darcie.

Bella Bravo also read for my class from her collection The Unpositioned Parts (pictured). I didn’t include her collection in my SPR essay, but it's one my favorite written things. I admired it so much, I proposed to interview Bella for Drunken Boat—she and I are now conducting an interview by postcard. It’s a slow process.

If I’d had more that 500 words, I would’ve included the Fantagraphics English translation of The Eternaut, too. It’s an Argentinian work of 50s sci-fi with a political subtext—largely lost on me. My one complaint is that it’s grossly sexist—women are gorgeous housewives or gorgeous betrayers, largely ineffectual on both counts. There are barely any women in the book at all; if you include the Eternaut’s very young daughter, there are three women in the book, and fifty pages will go by without a woman in sight. Nonetheless, a diverting read in an absolutely beautiful package.

Right around the election I read John Darnielle’s Master of Reality, which was fantastic. I was especially taken by a scene in the second half of the book when the narrator, who is the manager of a restaurant, operates a huge burger-patty-making machine, and, while listening to Black Sabbath on a boom box, revels in the noise of the machine and the texture of the ground beef. I listened to a lot of Sabbath in November. And Philip Glass, while I read his methodical autobiography Words Without Music.

And Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man. Here’s a passage that struck me as extraordinary and ties in neatly with my previous post:
These experts say that it doesn't really matter if there's a war, because enough people will survive to run the country with. Of course, the people who survive will tend to be those with money and influence, because they'll have the better type of shelter, not the leaky death traps which a lot of crooks have been offering at bargain prices. When you get your shelter built, say the experts, you should go to at least three different contractors, so nobody will know what it is you're building; because if the word gets around that you have a better type shelter, you'll be mobbed at the first emergency. For the same reason, you ought to be realistic and buy a submachine gun. This is no time for false sentiment. George laughs in an appropriately sardonic manner, since this is what Grant expects of him. But this gallows humor sickens his heart. In all those old crises if the twenties, the thirties, the war--each one of them has left its traces upon George, like an illness--what was terrible was the fear of annihilation. Now we have with us a far more terrible fear, the fear of survival. Survival into a Rubble Age , in which it will be quite natural for Mr. Strunk to gun down Grant and his wife and three children, because Grant has neglected to lay in sufficient stores of food and they are starving and may therefore possibly become dangerous and this is no time for sentiment.