Archives for October 2011

Walter Reviews Palahniuk’s Riff on Dante

Korrektiv friend (and House of Words blurber) Jess Walter reviews Chuck Palahniuk’s latest: Damned.

“Internet is dial-up. Printers are all dot-matrix. There are only two jobs: Internet porn and those telephone solicitors who call during dinnertime. The smell, while awful, is ‘nowhere near as bad as Naples in the summertime during a garbage strike.'”

Read the entire review at The Washington Post.

Today in Parenting

So Second Son and I went to an audition for a local radio show thingy last night.  To warm up, The Wife and I were giving him exercises.  “Tell us you just won the lottery” – that sort of thing.

The Wife:  He needs to do something to show sadness.

Me:  Okay.  Tell me that you just got a phone call telling you that my mother has died in a car accident.

And he did it.  And he did a good job.  And I told him so. “Good job,” I said.  And I thought to myself, “I just asked my son to pretend that his grandmother was dead, and that he had to tell me about it.  Acting is evil, and I’m a monster.”

Today in Porn, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me Edition

So the gang of cut-ups that somehow have our job on radio was discussing the birth of the world’s seven billionth baby.

“What’s responsible for this?” asked one fellow.

“The population boom?” replied a second.

“Yeah,” said the first.  “Is it the Internet?”

“Um, no,” answered the second, stammering just a little in amused disbelief.  “I’m pretty sure that’s not it.”

N. Katherine Hayles on Electronic Literature

N. Katherine Hayles is a professor of literature at Duke University, specializing in electronic literature. This interview is two years old, but Hayles provides some great context for changes in our current understanding of Literature with a capital “L”. In a word, she’s in favor of keeping it capitalized. I think. And did you know that ELO no longer means “Electric Light Orchestra”? You do now.

The interview is conducted by Stacy Cochran for his show, The Artist’s Craft. My favorite comment: “In addition to words, which remain important for most literary works, you could have animation, you could have kinetic effects, you could have something like a flash implementation …” I gave up at that point. On copying out the quotation, that is. Not the rest of the show.

In a prior career, Hayles worked as a chemist for Xerox and helped developed toner for copy machines. She wrote an excellent article on Navokov’s Ada. And she’s from St. Louis, or Missouri, at any rate. So she knows what she’s talking about, and you should watch this program.

At Long Last…It Can Be Told

The winners of the first and quite possibly the last ever Korrektiv Triolet Contest are as follows:

1st Place

My daughter says parthenogenesis
Engenders life in ovocytes unseeded;
Her flint eyes pierce my brown ones. ‘Incubus?!’
My daughter says. ‘Parthenogenesis
‘Needs no such mystical hypothesis.’
Mom, granite-eyed, agrees — my jest unheeded.
My daughter says parthenogenesis
Engenders life in ovocytes unseeded.

by Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OPL

Award: Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase by Arthur Quinn

2nd Place

The Naturalist and the Dogma
The source of nature’s always-being?
Divine parthenogenesis.
Found from lizards to heaven’s Queen:
The source of nature’s always-Being,
Who makes with methods byzantine.
My case in point: the genesis,
The source of nature, ‘s always being
Divine Parthenogenesis.

by Tom Tousignant

Award: Piers Plowman by William Langland 

3rd Place

Christians in Exam Room 4
They look. I lie, “Parthenogenesis.
Rare case. Call it a miracle…”
He interrupts, “What is–?”
“Birth of your savior? That was parthenogenesis.”
Wondering how he can believe this.
She’s quiet, grateful; He’s rapturous, hysterical.
Father-to-be plays with the word: “par-then-o-genesis?”
“Yep, no accident…a miracle.”

by Robert Simpson

Award: Martial’s Epigrams (trans. Gary Wills)

 4th Place

Oh, Father – No father! Damn parthenogenesis!
Taken forever, a most precious tie.
Denied the advantages, pluses, and benefits
Of having a father! For parthenogenesis,
A book full of curses! Just pick one, for any fits.
Crying for justice, in vain do I cry.
Each Father’s Day blank – thanks to parthenogenesis,
I never can give him a most precious tie.

by Bob the Ape

Award: Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written About the Game (ed. Cor Van Den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura)

Honorable Mention:

“There is a kind of grief”
There is a kind of grief, begotten by parthenogenesis,
when no father paces, glowing, or passes out a cigar
to each passing stranger, pausing only to reminisce.
How great the grief inherited through parthenogenesis,

for even children know there should have been a kiss.
Ask Gaia; ask Dolly—les filles se croyaient très bizarres—
they understand the grief peculiar to parthenogenesis,
who have no fathers pacing, or pausing over glowing cigars.

By Jeb O’Brian

Award: The Odes of Pindar (trans. Richmond Lattimore)

Honorable Mention:

“Did Jobe form Jeb…?”
Did Jobe form Jeb by parthenogenesis?
A nom de plume or fictional character?
How much of Jobe’s beer is in Jeb’s piss?
Did Jobe form Jeb by parthenogenesis?

The author hits what others miss
Page after page and chapter to chapter.
Did Jobe form Jeb by parthogenesis?
A nom de plume or fictional character?

By Jonathan Potter

Award: Endpoint and Other Poems by John Updike

Winners will be recieving* their award prizes within the next week or so.

Thanks for the deep thoughts and thanks for you!

*If you have not yet done so, please send me your physical address by contacting me through email given in the comments here.

Evelyn Waugh

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Evelyn Waugh (books by this author), born in London, England in 1903. His family was affluent, and he was upset when he found out that he couldn’t attend the same prestigious school as his father and brother. He wasn’t allowed in because his brother, Alec Waugh, had a homosexual relationship, was dismissed from the school, and then wrote a book about it. So Evelyn went to a less prestigious school, where he thought all his classmates were unsophisticated. Then he went to Hertford, one of the Oxford Colleges, where he did art and wrote and drank, and neglected his academics. When someone asked him if he’d done any sports at college, he replied, “I drank for Hertford.” He left Oxford without a degree. He tried teaching and he hated it, he was in debt, so he attempted suicide by drowning himself in the ocean, but he got stung by a jellyfish so he ran back out. He decided to give his life another chance, and he wrote his first novel, Decline and Fall (1928). It’s about an innocent schoolteacher named Paul Pennyfeather who is expelled from Oxford for running across campus without his trousers, and has no choice but to become a schoolteacher. He’s surrounded by bigots, drunks, and pedophiles, and he almost marries the mother of one of his students, but it turns out she makes her money trafficking in brothels in South America. Evelyn Waugh went on to write many novels, including Brideshead Revisited (1945).

Evelyn Waugh said, “The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.”

Abortion Funnies

The Onion continues its delicate dance.



I don’t usually link to my ditherings at the day job here, but then again, I don’t usually watch the trailer to the new Lorax film, either.

The Heartland Youth for Decency Memorial Park

Do you recall the Heartland Youth

For Decency, how they came West

To save us from our sorry state:

Grown rank with sin and long of tooth?

The tramp stamp and the half-bared breast

Still gripped us, though we weren’t sure why;

Our fires having gone to ash.

They swore they’d never share our fate

Still itching when we came to die

Still wanting flesh despite the lash.

They brought Ohio, God, and grace

Their supple selves in modest dress

But offered love that looked like hate

And Jesus darkened up the place –

Salvation via full-court press.

But youth of every kind will fade

Those Decent kids themselves are old

And now the time is growing late.

We made a park – two trees, some shade

Skin is California’s gold.

Golden Age of God Films?

Of Gods and Men, Warrior, The Mill and the Cross, The Way, Higher Ground…

These are interesting times.

Public Service Announcement

The new Tom Waits, “Bad as Me,”  is available for $5.99 (mp3 format) at Amazon.

Contents of Wallet

one powerball ticket
overall odds 1:35.11 ($1 play)
one check from my wife in the amount of five hundred dollars
one handwritten receipt for after school care in the amount of sixty dollars
one baggage claim receipt dated 10-17
several other receipts dated 10-17
a folded post-it note with a password and the email address of someone I met at a wake
a torn and tattered fortune-cookie message which reads, Versatility is one of your outstanding traits.
four photographs of my eldest daughter
two photographs of my youngest daughter
one photograph of both daughters
one photograph of my daughters and my wife
an expired groupon
a torn-out and folded newspaper article about a place called Big Rock
my driver’s license
debit card
credit card
insurance card
university ID
public library card
business card
real estate license (expires 2/10/2012)
rechargeable local coffeehouse card (no money on it)
another university ID
another one (expired)
KOA Value Kard (good thru 07/12)
Costco card
copy card
another business card, Joseph O’Brien’s address and phone number written on the back of it
twenty-three dollars

Page 17

House of Words gets a mention in Eastern Magazine, p. 17.

I thought they killed you first and then worshipped you

I only get three minutes, but the poster is pretty damn kool. I’ll take it. Speaking of Robert Wrigley, I suspect he is the poet alluded to in a recent Dappled Things poem about envy. LOST-like interconnectedness once again rears its freaky head.

Prytania Park Patio

Chip In!

Want to help change a life? The Ironic Catholic is adopting a five-year-old boy with cerebral palsy — an expensive process — and is asking for a little help.
Today is the last day to donate!


The world is just a barrel-organ which the Lord God turns Himself.
We all have to dance to the tune which is already on the drum.
– From “Amen” by Bruno Heydrich

Jan. 20, 1942

Wannsee House. Its wings of stone unfold
To expand upon a mere eighty-five minutes
Enclosed by the written minutes of history.
They bear our words aloft as its only witnesses.
But stark with refutation of its pinions,
The villa’s cold, translucent panes, dark and
Deformed, ripple and buckle before
A thousand winter suns and earnest Baltic winds.
Thus comes death from the east? We’ll make reply:
The sound of quills sharpening. The suck
And sumptuous appetite of fountain pens
Leaning their brass beaks into their work,
Engorging bladders, gobbed and dripping black
At the gathering of nibs by the inkwell.

But I am undisturbed. The serenity here
Is music missing only the poetry of action –
It will come along soon enough for our tastes.
There, on the other side, the Wintergarden.
The crouching stone bench. The runic sundial
In total shade. The fountain fossilized and mute.
These true residents alone rejoice in time.
The rest, we are boarders urged to move on.
So, the rose’s thorns and dead petals gone to earth,
The seasons’ nine months of pretty leaves
Received as refugees, hide in their surroundings.
The ordered beauty of the Wintergarten,
It pains me to speculate on its Junes, Julys….
The opera of the rose, the overture of its folds.
Now, nostalgia is all, memory without redress.
Rendered to earth, abused until the spring,
The squared-off trimness is blurred with sorrow.

The last of the boots have made their statement
And stand at attention. The first shall be last….

In through the alcove’s wall of windows,
The light become a translation of rainbows.
The sagging panes like ice sheets in slow melt
Bulge the leaden frame’s base into the sill
As if the entire house were sinking back to earth.
But we know it is not. Quite the opposite.
Today, Wannsee is the only place left on earth.
From here, we rebuild and rejoice in the light
We shed for humanity, our humanity.
As if fostering songs of spring in winter’s heart,
Das Wannseehaus’s windows showcase
The lake spreading its stain of bruised blue.
The Grossen Wannsee: famous for its regattas
And tea parties, Weimar excess married to
The older considerations, including cognac
Served by waiters dressed for the occasion
As male brides in polished spats and whites,
Winking at you as they light your wife’s cigarette.

A throat cleared, the table cleared of lunch.
I hum a snatch of something from childhood.
It’s almost a prayer, a strange sense of reaching
For something in the heart, a picture book
From childhood you know is not there,
And yet you reach. –A windows bursts open
And secretaries scramble to save their papers.
The wind wounds the lake with slanted shadows.
Calls for fresh rounds of cigarettes and coffee
Return us to the world of things at hand.
The napkin rings serve as playthings; forks mark
Locations, and knives point out supply routes
While pepper mill and salt box serve as depots.

As we attend to business, upper-class whores,
Like a gaggle of lawyers awaiting cases,
Sit in a corner, awaiting further orders.
Tossed in scripted nonchalance, our field hats
With eagle crests and patent leather brims
Pile like grey soufflés on the table in the hall.
The darkened stains of sweat on the inner rim
Of each bears up like a happy thought
That moment when we took our seats,
And launched into the formal conference,
Determining history, and bleeding red ink
From our hands to pen and paper, stamped
As any heel to stone, any steel to wood.
No words can describe. No words do justice.
How do you explain success in such terms?

The light from the lake conspired with my joy.
It was total. It was fulfillment. All eyes on me.
It was more than my father could compose
From his conservatory eyes and metronome.
The failed composer and failed watercolorist,
Birds of a feather, never would listen, never know…
I was an artist, more so. My subject was man
And I myself the canvas, the instrument, the form.
The successful service man, his uniform tastes
And predilections easing his ride up the ranks.
Begin with broken glass and long knives, night and fog,
But no more color-coded index cards and file drawers.
No crackling telephone receivers gone
Suddenly dead. I can now admit, the joy
Provided sober perspective of that day.

Afterwards, confirming success to its accessories,
As we stood to a portrait of our fearless one,
Goddamn me, but I almost blessed myself!
A decrepit force of habit I hadn’t quite
Abolished – like fear of Jew blood trapped
In veins. The corners of my eyes confirmed:
No fear, then, for none saw the slender hand
Rising in the air, spidery fingers folded
Like a tulip to the temple, the leaning forward
In utter beatitude, slowly descending to meet
The hand that upward reaches… – Interrupted,
Jerked away from leprosy’s white hot flame.
Who saw? None because the index cards saw first.
None. Not among those men of beautiful will –
Those thirteen officers and captains of their time,
Numbering more than a jury, less than an army.

A scrape of chairs across marble, hands clapped
Backs slapped, chevron-crosses polished up
By quick breath beneath an elbow, a sleeve, a cuff.
Timepieces cross-checked with wall clocks.
An hour and a half. In that time, roads were paved
For war with bone meal, brick and seashell;
A satisfactory framework of redress.
The human machinery fine-tuned with gas
And clever transcendence – history
As hysteria. Mystery as miasma. Hatred
As achievement. Time pieces rechecked.
Spectacles, credentials and genitals adjusted.
Before next orders of business consume us,
There’s still time for sluts and sips from a glass.
And we would decant and sip our cognac.
The servants would wink as they lit our cigarettes.
The sluts would take and swallow our orders.
The world’s problems would find solution
Like squalling babes drawn to flowing teats.
In the name of the Fuhrer, and the Reich
And the Holy Fatherland. Amen. Amen.


“The best restaurant in Covington, where I live, is the Waffle House, a chain restaurant located just off the Interstates throughout the South.  Not only is the standard waffle and sausages superb, the chicken is the best anywhere.  The people are pleasant…One bite of waffle drenched in butter and corn syrup, plus Tennessee sausage, plus a huge glass of sweet iced tea, the waitress calling you honey, the Picayune opened to the latest political skullduggery, the traffic on U.S. 190 booming along – it’s not a bad life.”

– Walker Percy, in Conde Nast Traveler.