As the floor wafted up and C's grip finally gave, the last thing Gately saw was an Oriental bearing down with the held square and he looked into the square and saw clearly a reflection of his own big square pale head with its eyes closing as the floor finally pounced. And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out.
So what did I think about Infinite Jest the second time? I read it back in '97 or thereabouts, and then lent it to Maurice, and his apartment flooded, destroying the book, so have not looked at it again since, until I picked it up a few weeks back.
My take, and what I've always said to people, was it's a magnificent book for the first 700 or so pages, then trails off and does not go anywhere. And, well, I'm much more enthusiastic now about pages 700 - 9xx. The whole book is just really engaging and beautiful. But the ending. Well, it leaves me hanging in what seem like some important ways.
It seems to me like the two most important characters are Hal I. and Don G. I identify strongly with both of them pretty consistently throughout the book. Hal spends the book quitting marijuana and unraveling -- and it's clear from the first chapter, in the Year of Glad, that his unraveling continues after the end of the book. But I don't have a very clear sense of what this means, or why it's happening. Does it have something to do with the Entertainment? Does it have something to do with DMZ? (What is DMZ even doing in the book, if Hal and Pemulis don't end up taking it?)
Gately spends the novel quitting his narcotics habit and opposite-of-unraveling -- no that's not quite right I guess, he is sober and substance-free by the beginning of the novel, there are plenty of flashbacks to his addicted past and to his 12-steppery, but he is clearly free of that in the novel's present tense. I do wonder where he goes -- does he get together with Joelle? And why does ghostly JOI visit him at such length? Mainly I wonder why the final pages of the novel are a flashback to him getting high. It doesn't really seem to do anything for the story.
And this is a big deal -- what happens with the A.F.R. invasion of the tennis academy? The very last thing that happens in the book's present tense is them arriving on campus. But we know from chapter 1 that they did not kidnap Hal (I think? Or they did and he got back to E.T.A? Anyways something has to have happened.) We know from chapter 1 that ONAN has not been decimated by any Entertainment catastrophe. There was a possibility the master tape for the Entertainment was at the Ennet House, but no follow-up. And I'm completely driven crazy by how Hal made a casual reference, talking to Orin, to digging up somebody's grave -- throughout the book there are veiled hints that JOI's grave was robbed -- but it doesn't really go anywhere.
So -- I'm going to stick with my opinion that the ending is weak. But everything else about the book needs to be underlined and with exclamation points, what a great great book it is, how deeply necessary it is to read this book if you want to understand addiction. That's all.
Saturday, July 26th
The moment of the poem, by J. Osner
Poems you read, they shape you – watch the singsong of their syllables chase images of darkness and light down syntactic tunnels. Follow the syllable along the corridor to where it leads;
act out solemn ritual of determination.
The poem (if it's successful) always
functions on some level as a metaphor
for time: the reader's memory will
integrate the poem (if it's successful)
so its meter and its rhyme make up a cauldron through which filters reader's vision of experience: the moment, just off-kilter, just opaque enough to shadow (just concrete enough to straddle) future and the past which bubble up through the poem (if it's successful) and comprise the self you narrate to the world.
There is no calculus of consciousness.
The moment that you dwell in is no delta t,
its kaleidoscopic boundaries recede.
Thursday, July 24th
Seen lately in the READIN family garden --
Sunday, July 20th
Basta señora arpa de las bellas imágenes
De los furtivos comos iluminados
Otra cosa otra cosa buscamos
Sabemos posar un beso como una mirada
Plantar miradas como árboles
Enjaular árboles como pájaros
Regar pájaros como heliotropos
Tocar un heliotropo como una música
Vaciar una música como un saco
Degollar un saco como un pingüino
Cultivar pingüinos como viñedos
Ordeñar un viñedo como una vaca
Desarbolar vacas como veleros
Peinar un velero como un cometa
Desembarcar cometas como turistas
Embrujar turistas como serpientes
Cosechar serpientes como almendras
Desnudar una almendra como un atleta
Leñar atletas como cipreses
Iluminar cipreses como faroles
Anidar faroles como alondras
Exhalar alondras como suspiros
Bordar suspiros como sedas
Derramar sedas como ríos
Tremolar un río como una bandera
Desplumar una bandera como un gallo
Apagar un gallo como un incendio
Bogar en incendios como en mares
Segar mares como trigales
Repicar trigales como campanas
Desangrar campanas como corderos
Dibujar corderos como sonrisas
Embotellar sonrisas como licores
Engastar licores como alhajas
Electrizar alhajas como crepúsculos
Tripular crepúsculos como navíos
Descalzar un navío como un rey
Colgar reyes como auroras
Crucificar auroras como profetas
Etc. etc. etc.
Basta señor violín hundido en una ola ola
Cotidiana ola de religión miseria
De sueño en sueño posesión de pedrerías
Friday, July 11th
We went to Europe! Stayed with Jacki in Amsterdam, at airbnbs in Gerona and Barcelona, and back to Amsterdam. A wonderful time! As always, a new city for me brings with it the compulsion to visit bookshops -- we were traveling light so I kept my acquisitions to a minimum however. My two favorite bookshops in Barcelona are Librería Antiquaria Studio on Carrer d'Aribau, a seriously old-school antiquarian bookshop where I bought the first book to catch my eye, fortuitously it was Pere Gimferrer's Primera y última poesía; and Laie Librería y Café on Carrer Pau Claris, where I bought Maimónides' Guia de los perplejos and Pedro Salinas' Poemas inéditos.
Also: picked up Bonsái by Alejandro Zambra at a small used-book shop on the Ramblas; and had my interest in Infinite Jest renewed when I opened the copy that was on the shelf of the apartment we stayed in in Barcelona -- I leafed at random to p. 755, 11 Nov. YDAU, and kept laughing for hours. The first thing I did this morning was head over to Words bookshop in Maplewood and buy a copy, and start it from the front. An employee at the salon where Ellen was having her hair done asked what the book was that was making me laugh so hard, and put it on her reading list.
Working on another chapbook -- this one is tentatively titled "The moment of the poem: Extensions".
Sunday, June 22nd
The latest desktop wallpaper chez READIN:
Monday, June 16th
"The Cauldron of Verse" by J. Osner,
The poem (if it's successful) always functions on some level
as a metaphor for time: the reader's memory will integrate
the poem (if it's successful) so its meter and its rhyme make up
a cauldron through which filters reader's vision of experience:
the moment, just off-kilter, just opaque enough to shadow
(just concrete enough to straddle) future and the past which bubble
up through the poem (if it's successful)
and comprise the self you narrate to the world.
Saturday, June 14th
The teaching is the bow, devotion is the arrow. Brahma is the target.
The second teaching in this collection is Mundaka Upanishad, a short dialog between Saunaka and Angira on the subject of meditation. Meditation is "the form of knowledge through which all other things can be known." Through meditation we can give birth to reality, "like a hen brooding on her eggs."
The "universal person" appears to be synonymous with "Brahma" and to denote the consciousness which is reality, the universal one-ness. Meditation is the path to becoming the universal person, as an arrow becomes one with its target.
Mundaka Upanishad contains the parable of the two birds, which is my point of entry to this reading.
Two birds, inseparable friends, perch in the same tree. One eats the sweet fruit, the other watches but does not take a bite.
Mundaka Upanishad is also called Ksurika, or "Razor," Upanishad, as it is used for shaving away false consciousness.
The man is sitting in the same tree, and is suffering; he is confused by his own impotence. But when he sees the Lord and understands the Lord's glory, his heart is filled with happiness and his suffering vanishes.
When the seer sees the glorious Maker and Lord of this world, and recognizes Him as the Person whose wellspring is Brahma, that man becomes wise, for he has drawn back the veil of good and evil and attained the supreme unity. He is free of desire, for in him resonates the breath which arises from all being. Who understands all this becomes truly wise, no longer a charlatan.
Wednesday, June 11th
Naciketas replied to Yama: "All these things you're talking about are ephemeral, O Death; they will only last until tomorrow, for their power is born of the senses. Even the longest life is but fleeting. So keep your horses, your festivals, and answer my question."The Katha Upanishad is the first one in the collection I'm reading. (Totally uncertain as to whether there is a standard ordering or a standard selection -- I definitely get the impression that this book is not all the upanishads there are.) It is a dialogue between Naciketas, the young son of Gautama Vagasravasa, and Yama, god of Death. Naciketas is granted three wishes; the third, which makes up the body of the teaching, is to know whether a man's soul continues to exist after he dies.
Death's reply is divided into 5 sections.
- The distinction between pleasure and good: this is pretty standard stuff, the wise man chooses good over pleasure, the fool is seduced by pleasure. Longing for wealth is foolish. Yama teaches Naciketas the Sacred Word (om), which is eternal.
- Yama compares the body to a chariot driven by the mind and pulled by the senses; in order to master the horses, to be a skilled charioteer, one must be firm and strong of mind. Here the wheel of births and deaths is introduced, and the idea that one's goal is to get off the wheel. "Beyond the senses are objects, beyond objects is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, and beyond the intellect is the Greatness of Being. Beyond the Greatness of Being is the Hidden, and beyond what is hidden is the Person. Beyond the Person there is nothing: this is the Highest Path."
- Through the senses turned inwards, it is possible to know "what exists inside us -- the thing you have asked me about. The wise man knows that what allows him to perceive objects, whether awake or dreaming, is the omnipresent greatness of Being; and his suffering will end." In order to leave the wheel of births, one must recognize the universality of being. There is no difference between here and there, between Creator and creature. 'As pure water poured into pure water remains the same, thus, O Gautama, is the Self of a thinker who knows.'
- [I do not understand this section]
- Knowing Brahma is how you achieve immortality. Failing to understand this dooms a man to the wheel of births. "When all of the senses and the mind are under control, a wise man will attain the highest state. This is what is called Yoga." On hearing this teaching, Naciketas is freed from suffering and death, and attains the state of Brahma. That will be true for anyone who recognizes all that is referred to as the Self. "May he protect master and disciple! May he take delight in both! Let us be strong together! Let us be illuminated with Knowledge! Let us forever leave our strife! Om! Peace, peace, peace! Hari, om!"
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