Although I have done it all these thirty years or more, although I live my life surrounded by other people who are always doing it, still I think that there are few activities so worthy of inspection as the reading of novels.
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Chapter 9 is like Chapter 5, a single long paragraph telling Domingo Zárate Vega's back-story. I was thinking today about how these chapters are functioning in the structure of the book. They set off groups of chapters that are telling a fairly straight, linear story, and they are set at critical junctures -- at the end of Chapter 4 the Christ of Elqui is preparing to enter La Piojo; at the end of Chapter 8 he has at last met Magalena Mercado and is receiving an "urgent blowjob." The narrative voice in these chapters is a bit different from the narrative voice in the rest of the book, and I was thinking this might be Zárate Vega writing his memoirs -- I'm not sure about that, it doesn't sound much like the voice he uses in his dialogue.
Chapter 9 gives Zárate Vega's birthday as December 20, 1897 -- I am not clear about my arithmetic here* but I calculated last time I was reading this, that the events of Chapter 4 occur on December 19-20th, his 45th birthday.
The intervening chapters -- the Christ of Elqui's arrival in La Piojo, his sermon, the lunch he shares with the striking workers, his nap, the introduction of Magalena Mercado -- are some pure reading pleasure.
*ah yes -- this was not a calculation, Zárate Vega says in Chapter 15, when the emissaries from the union tell him it is the 21st, that yesterday, when he "almost died like a dog in the desert," was his forty-fifth birthday.
In honor of the man's birthday: here is one of my favorite Ferlinghetti poems.
The Painter's Dream
(from These are My Rivers)
I'm with Picasso and "Fernande in a Black Mantilla" looking tragic with turpentine like rain running down her shoulder
And I'm in Pontoise with Pisarro
And with Gauguin in "The Vanilla Grove"
And in the "Mountains of St. Remy" with Van Gogh
And at "The Bend in the Road through the Forest" with Cézanne
And with Vuillard in "The Place Vintimille"
And with Picasso and "El Loco" and his blue acrobats
And with Picasso shaking his fist at the sky in "Guernica"
And I'm Durer's Steeple-jack seen by Marianne Moore
And those harpies "The Demoiselles of Avignon" are glaring at me personally
And Degas' ballet dancers are dancing for Matisse and Monet and Renoir and all the Sunday painters of Paris and John Sloane and all the Sunday painters of America and most of the painters of the Hudson River School floating along so calm and holding hands with most of the West Coast Figurative painters and their Have a Nice Day cohorts
But I'm also with Malevich in his "Red Square" in the Beautiful Corner
And with Delacroix' "Liberty Leading the Masses"
And with Goya's groaning masses in "The Disasters of War"
And I'm rocking across the Atlantic with "Whistler's Mother"
And I'm crossing the Delaware with Washington standing in the boat against Navy regulations
And I'm with Bierstadt crossing the Rockies on a mule
And with Motherwell and DeKooning and Kline and Pollock and Larry Rivers in the broken light in the shaken light of the late late late twentieth century
And then I'm walking through a huge exhibition in the Whole World Museum of Art containing all the greatest paintings of the entire fine arts tradition of all the centuries of western civilization
When suddenly a wild-haired band bursts into the Museum and starts spraying paint-solvent onto all the paintings
And all the paint in all the paintings starts to run down onto the floors of all the galleries forming fantastic new and exciting images of the end of our little universe
And elite curators in Gucci shoes rush in and cut up the painted floors and hang them on the walls while picturesque bohemian painters in berets stagger through the halls weeping
Jan Magne Gjerde of the Tromsø University Museum has discovered some fascinating Stone Age art, at Lake Kanozero in northern Russia. Read about his findings at Science Nordic, with pictures of the etchings and of Gjerde's tracings.
via Orbis Quintus, where badger has been linking some great stories lately.
To make your shadow dance, dance. To make your shadow talk, stand on a streambank.
Learn from your shadow. Broken glass won’t cut it, barbed wire can’t stop it, mud doesn’t stick.
Dave Bonta of Via Negativa today posted How to Cast a Shadow, the 27th and final poem in his series Manual. Go read (and if you likeby all means, listen to his recitations) -- some great stuff is present. Start from the beginning! You have to start from a position of strength. Leave a window open for cat-burglars and cats, either of whom may have a lot to teach you.
— Death takes us all. — That was all we would say when customers asked us how we had made the decision to go into the funeral home business here next to the medical school, when they asked us how we could have chosen such a name for our business as Bárbula Copies.
I had forgotten about the fifth chapter of The Art of Resurrection -- it is an extremely dense, 7-page long paragraph of a sort of context-switching stream of consciousness. Last time I read this book, I'm pretty sure I mostly skipped over it. It is valuable for the way it gets inside Zárate Vega's head, and by switching back and forth between the narrator's voice and the Christ of Elqui's, makes explicit the identification between reader and writer and character -- also we see the use of first-person plural, not used in this book anything like as much in Santa María de las flores negras, to make explicit the identification between the narrator and the workers who live in the salitreras.