Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Last Word

Picture 1.
Picture 2

The last word: "To sail without ever landing doesn't have a landing-place. To never arrive implies never arriving ever."- Fernando Pessoa

Sometimes you find the right cocktail that says the right feeling of a moment. The Last Word: tart with lime, bitter with herbal complexity, all in a perfect gin hit. The last word is the word that lingers longest, whether intended or not.

a weird phrase from a notebook: " I am Jack's pulsating medulla oblongota, releasing self-regulated rage in bite-sized, consumable doses; packaged colorfully, as not to upset the viewer." (Did I write this?)

The last word, you want to leave with something witty but deep, a sort of
esprit d'escalier; but instead you end up sounding petulant and whiny. Sour words in the wake and then there are those who always end up leaving literary.

The Last Word: from the Cocktailian:

Makes 1 drink

  • 3/4 ounce dry gin
  • 3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Instructions: Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

For Another Valentine's Day gone by.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Pictures of Oakland.

"Every gesture, however simple, violates an inner secret. Every gesture is a revolutionary act; an exile, perhaps, from the truth of our intentions.

Action is a disease of thought, a cancer of the imagination. Action is self-exile. Every action is incomplete and flawed. The poem I dream has no flaws until I try to realize it. " -Fernando Pessoa

Thursday, February 07, 2008


picture 1: Color photos from WWI-
picture 2: Cafe in Vienna, 1971

It was the Austrian sketch-writer and habitué of Vienna's Café Central, Alfred Polgar, who perhaps best captured the essence of the literary café when he described it as "a place where people want to be alone, but need company to do so". Since the first European coffee house opened in Venice in 1645, artists and writers have adopted cafés as their unofficial workplaces - libraries in which they can eat, drink, smoke and gossip at the same time as working on the latest draft and sharing ideas.

Today, the decline of a true café society is to be mourned. One can hardly imagine Alfred Jarry's (author of Ubu Roi) pick-up line working in Starbucks. Spotting a pretty girl from his vantage point at the bar in Paris's La Closerie des Lilas, he approached her table, fired a shot into the mirror behind her with his gun and said suavely, "Maintenant que la glace est rompue, causons." ("Now the ice is broken, let's talk.") link


The Muslims came to Europe, he writes, as “the forward wave of civilization that was, by comparison with that of its enemies, an organic marvel of coordinated kingdoms, cultures, and technologies in service of a politico-cultural agenda incomparably superior” to that of the primitive people they encountered there. They did Europe a favor by invading. This is not a new idea, but Lewis takes it further: he clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in creating “an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe that . . . made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory religious intolerance, cultural particularism, and perpetual war.” It was “one of the most significant losses in world history and certainly the most consequential since the fall of the Roman Empire.” link

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Peter Altenberg

Pictures form this site.

"I never, never, never should feel a woman, unless I want to feel her. My name is Altenberg after all, not Strindberg.”

“Even good books never stink, they are the distillation of all the malodorous sins one has committed of which one had finally managed to extract a drop of fragrant humanity!”

“I was nothing, I am nothing, I will be nothing. But I will live out my life in freedom and let noble and considerate souls share in the experiences of this free inner life, by putting them out in the most concentrated form on paper.” -from Telegrams of the Soul

From Wiki:

Peter Altenberg (March 9, 1859 - January 8, 1919) was a writer and poet from Vienna, Austria. He was key to the genesis of early modernism in the city.

Although he grew up in a middle class Jewish family, Altenberg eventually separated himself from his family of origin by dropping out of both law and medical school, and embracing Bohemianism as a permanent lifestyle choice. He cultivated a feminine appearance and feminine handwriting, wore a cape, sandals and a broad-brimmed hat, and despised 'macho' masculinity.

At the fin de siècle, when Vienna was a major crucible and center for modern arts and culture, Altenberg was a very influential part of a literary and artistic movement known as Jung Wien or "Young Vienna." Altenberg was a contemporary of Karl Kraus, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler, Gustav Klimt, and Adolf Loos, with whom he had a very close relationship. He was somewhat older, in his early 30s, than the others. In addition to being a poet and prolific letter writer, he was an accomplished short story writer, prose writer, and essayist.

Monday, January 28, 2008

anecdotal envelope

Photo 1: Lina Scheynius
Photo 2: Kirigami

from the notebook, December 2005:

RE: Remy de Gourmont “…confided to his personal diary his intention to devote himself to ‘l’amour et les livres,’ scrupulously noting that love would enable him to develop the sensual aspect of his personality, and books the intellectual aspect.”

“…where all the dear little adulteresses, eternally beloved, were endlessly enraptured by the impatient and imperious caresses of the angels of perversity.”

“…you will have no dream but the dream of dreaming.”

12/10/05-Random unknown note:
at times I looked at that immense solitude before me, and that other solitude that was becoming more terrible.

Tracery of harmony

12/12/05-Embers whitened by the pale reflection of the seething sun.

Friday, January 25, 2008

One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

When I read the above headline, I knew it referred to me: I am a grump, although a well-read grump. The first picture is taken from a slideshow about Lee Miller in the 1/21/2008 issue of the New Yorker which accompanied a very interesting article but it is not available online. The second picture is Weldon Kees reading in San Francisco.

Little reads of the week:

The days get longer. It was a long time ago.
And I have come to that point in the turning of the path
Where peaks are infinite--horn-shaped and scaly, choked with

But even here, I know our work was worth the cost.
What we have brought to pass, no one can take away.
Life offers up no miracles, unfortunately, and needs assistance.
Nothing will be the same as once it was,
I tell myself.--It's dark here on the peak, and keeps on getting
It seems I am experiencing a kind of ecstasy.
Was it sunlight on the waves that day? The night comes down.
And now the water seems remote, unreal, and perhaps it is.
-Weldon Kees A Distance From The Sea

By all accounts, Balenciaga -- severe, uncompromising, taciturn -- is couture's Soup Nazi. As his friend and Vogue's fashion editor, the high-born and high-minded Bettina Ballard, wrote, "His life is his work...It rarely seems to give him a sense of fulfillment, as it never reaches the perfection he desires. Balenciaga's art emerged from his sympathy with women. He knew, for instance, that he had three generations of women to dress, and so always had some older models. Ernestine Carter, fashion editor of The Times of London, was spot-on in her evocation of his favorite model and the muse for many of his early masterpieces, the notoriously unpleasant Colette (not the writer): "her Dracula walk, her big head low like a bull ready to charge, her shoulders hunched down,...and a look of almost violent hatred on her face." She wouldn't have fit in at the House of Dior, where woman was ornament, but she was extremely useful to Balenciaga's customers: "Any woman could wear Colette's clothes -- one of those tricks of proportion."

From the Persian Gulf to the Arctic Circle, Weiner discovers that happiness blooms where we least expect it. Who knew that the long, dark Icelandic winter gives rise to a magical, communal culture that has done away with envy and sobriety? Or that the Thais so prize "fun" that their government has created a Gross Domestic Happiness Index to ensure they get enough of it? Or that Moldovans are miserable because they "derive more pleasure from their neighbor's failure than their own success"? Or that the wealthy citizens of Qatar lead pampered, joyless lives in a "gilded sandbox" while the poor citizens of Bhutan are cheerfully obsessed with archery tournaments, penis statues and feeding marijuana to their fat (and presumably happy) pigs?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Anna Akhmatova

I drink to the wreck of our life together
And the pain of living alone.
I drink to the loneliness we shared-
My dear, I drink to you.

I drink to the trick of a mouth that betrayed me,
To the eyes and the look that lied.
I drink to the terrible world we inhabit
And to god, who never replied.

- Anna Akhmatova trans. by Paul Schmidt
from a found New Yorker, November 6, 2006

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

to the coast

“I am lured away by faraway distances, the immense void I project upon the world. A feeling of emptiness grows in me; it infiltrates my body like light an impalpable fluid. In its progress, like a dilation into infinity, I perceive the mysterious presence of the most contradictory feelings ever to inhabit a human soul. I am simultaneously happy and unhappy, exalted and depressed, overcome by pleasure and despair in the most contradictory harmonies.” -E.M. Cioran, Degradation Through Work

The Paris Review Interviewer: “How do you name your characters?”

Dorothy Parker: “The telephone book and from the obituary columns”

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Pictures of Shanghai

“From this moment she was convinced she was in the grip of a terrible nightmare, only there was no waking from this one: no, she was quite certain that it was reality, only more so; furthermore she realized that the chilling events in which she had been participant or to which she had been witness (the appearance of the phantasmagorical vehicle, the violence in Erdélyi Sándor Road, the lights going off with all the precision of an explosive device, the inhuman rabble in the station forecourt, and above all this, dominating everything, the cold unremitting stare of the figure in the broadcloth coat) were not merely the oppressive creation of her ever-troubled imagination, but part of a scheme so co-ordinated, so precise, that there could be no doubt of their purpose.” The Melancholy of Resistance, Lászlo Krasznahorkai

“The crowd is the veil through which the familiar city beckons to the flâneur as phantasmagoria-now a landscape, now a room.” –Walter Benjamin

“Every epoch, in fact, not only dreams the one to follow but, in dreaming, precipitates its awakening. It bears the end within itself and unfolds it- as Hegel already noticed-by cunning.” –Walter Benjamin Paris, The Capital of the Nineteenth Century

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Books read in 2007

  1. Vanished Act: The Life and Art of Weldon Kees, James Reidel
  2. Low Red Moon, Caitlín R. Kiernan
  3. Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation, Noel Riley Fitch
  4. …Or not to Be: A Collection of Suicide Notes, Marc Etkind
  5. The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier, Memoirs of Adrienne Monnier
  6. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. Invented Lives: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald, James R. Mellow
  8. Life Stories: Profiles from the New Yorker, ed. David Remnick
  9. Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler
  10. Exile’s Return, Malcolm Cowley
  11. Caresse Crosby: From Black Sun to Roccasinibalda, Anna Conover
  12. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
  13. Hemingway: The Paris Years, Michael Reynolds
  14. Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald, Scott Donaldson
  15. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People who love Books and for those who want to Write them, Francine Prose
  16. The Torrents of Spring, Ivan Turgenev
  17. America and The Young Intellectual, Harold Stearns
  18. Three Tales, Gustave Flaubert
  19. Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  20. Library: An Unquiet History, Matthew Battles
  21. Days and Nights: Novel of a Deserter, Alfred Jarry
  22. After Dark, Haruki Murakami
  23. Despair, Vladimir Nabokov
  24. Contempt, Alberto Moravia
  25. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontė
  26. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  27. Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, Sam Savage
  28. La Bâtarde, Violette Leduc
  29. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
  30. The City: A Global History, Joel Kotkin
  31. Three Years, Anton Chekhov
  32. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  33. The Conformist, Alberto Moravia
  34. Everyone was so Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, A Lost Generation Love Story, Amanda Vaill
  35. Hunger, Knut Hamsun
  36. Scent: The Essential and Mysterious Powers of Smell, Annick LeGuérer
  37. Perfume: The Art and Science of Scent, Cathy Newman
  38. Locus Solus, Raymond Roussel
  39. Jurgen, James Branch Cabell
  40. The Life of the High Countess Gritta Von Ratsinourhouse, Bettine von Armin & Gisela von Armin Grimm
  41. The Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman
  42. The Master and the Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
  43. Dangerous Muse: Lady Caroline Blackwood, Nancy Schoenberger
  44. Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
  45. The Museum of Useless Efforts, Cristina Peri Rossi
  46. Diary, Chuck Palahnuik
  47. The Defense, Vladimir Nabokov
  48. Axel’s Castle: The Study of the Imaginative Literature 1870-1930, Edmund Wilson
  49. Dubrovsky and Egyptian Nights, Aleksandr Pushkin
  50. The Secret of Scent, LucaTurin
  51. Indiana, George Sand
  52. The Emperor of Scent: Luca Turin, Chandler Burr
  53. From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, Jacques Barzun
  54. A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889, Frederic Morton
  55. A Night Country, Loren Eiseley
  56. Pharmako/Dynamis: Stimulating Plants, Potions and Herbcraft, Dale Pendell
  57. Inferno/ From an Occult Diary, August Strindberg