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from the Mailbag

RT: “How and what do Catholic authors contribute to your spiritual life?”

ME: “I guess if I knew the answer to that question, I may not feel the need to read so much. Not that it’s so much.”

ME, upon further reflection: “Another answer to the question is to say that for me, not being a “cradle Catholic” (although I have no idea what it’s like to be a “cradle Catholic”, and, for all I know, there is a 100% Venn overlap with the species “convert”), direct approaches like prayer and even (sadly) the sacraments often feel forced and disingenuous. What one feels isn’t the best criterion for determining worth, but it isn’t unimportant either. Reading and writing, on the other hand, might also need to be forced, but the resistant, opposing force might come from anywhere. Catholic writers are often, even almost always helpful in determining the direction of those other forces. Like objects a bat sounds for flying. Like greens on a golf course. Like fissures and outcrops for climbing on the sheer face of absolutely nothing at all.

Once More, In the Name of Love

Proud HeterosDamn, the planet just seems to circle the sun a little more quickly every year. Here we go again.

Lots of folks showing their pride today, of course. It’s difficult not to be gay for people out and about, enjoying the sun and such, but …

It seemed to me that there’s an undercurrent of sadness in the event that wasn’t there 20 years ago. In the Gay 90s, when the parade was up on Broadway, there was still something countercultural about the event, a cross between Mardi Gras and St Patrick’s Day and maybe Women’s Suffrage—an opportunity to release all that pent up libidinal energy, or at least imagining more of it, but also to stand up for one’s God given disposition and to go public with it for political recognition. Now there’s a lot of corporate sponsorship and parents, gay and straight, walking around with the kids, and the energy seems as manufactured as a high school pep rally.

In addition to tutus and unicorns and lots of sparkles, a lot of people wore a look of sheer boredom on their faces. Along the lines of, Let’s be good sports and dress up, like we do for Halloween. Or, What now? Oh yeah … Rights! More rights!

Having spotted a number of priests and nuns, if only in costume, I wanted to see a group of women in black burqas show up and just stand there, silent. And/or see a float with an SUV sized cock ejaculating big soap bubbles or something. But no: a huge inflatable plane, emblazoned “Alaska Airlines” and King County Metro … who gives a rat’s ass? Yeah, yeah everybody’s on board now and along for the ride, we get it.

“Sanguine”

is the name of the poem published in First Things this month, by our friend Joshua Hren, the impresario over at Wiseblood Books.

It concerns that awful attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray last year. Hence the dedication:

Requiescat in pace, Father Jacques Hamel
Martyred at the church of St. Étienne,
Named for the first martyr
.

As for the rest of us … Wake up, Korrektiv! Wake up!

Emblem

Attachment-1 (1)

The First Word on Silence . . .

. . . which is to say the novel, Chinmoku, will always belong to Endo. After reading Mark Lickona’s article I had a few questions, so I went back to my well-worn copy of the book and read a couple of paragraphs from an interview with the author in 1967 (the year after Silence was published). The first should seem familiar to readers of Korrektiv—or anybody’s inner existentialist. With a Japanese twist:

For a long time I was attracted to a meaningless nihilism and when I finally came to realize the fearfulness of such a void I was struck once again with the grandeur of the Catholic Faith. This problem of the reconciliation of my Catholicism with my Japanese blood . . . has taught me one thing: that is, that the Japanese must absorb Christianity without the support of a Christian tradition or history or legacy or sensibility.

Say what? “Without the support of a Christian tradition or history …” How is that possible? What does that even mean?

Good thing there’s another paragraph:

But after all it seems to me that Catholicism is not a solo, but a symphony … If I have trust in Catholicism, it is because I find in it much more possibility than in any other religion for presenting the full symphony of humanity. The other religions have almost no fullness; they have but solo parts. Only Catholicism can present the full symphony. And unless there is in that symphony a part that corresponds to Japan’s mud swamp, it cannot be a true religion. What exactly this part is—that is what I want to find out.

I’m really not sure what to make of the first paragraph, so please, if you can, enlighten me with your comments below. But the second paragraph I rather like, and not just because he uses music as a metaphor. What I find stirring is the resolution he exhibits as he looks ahead to the next thirty years of his career. And even more than that, perhaps, is his ready admittance that he isn’t exactly sure what he makes of the predicament in which he finds himself.

And since Scorsese’s version has fallen upon awfully rocky ground in these parts, I’ll provide a link here to a 1971 Japanese version, directed by Masahiro Shinoda from a screenplay by Endo himself with the director. It differs from the novel in several ways, but I won’t give the game away here.

Last of all, here’s a look at the author himself, shilling for something called the “Bungo Mini”. And coffee:

What Came in the Mail

So Recently Rent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From JOB, for Christmas … with a note that perhaps I have an affinity for Eastern Europeans, to which I can say, Yes, I certainly do. I hadn’t read much of M. Codrescu. Know of him primarily because of his NPR gig, of course, and something he’d written in connection with New Orleans. Leafing through the table of contents, the title “dream dogs” caught my eye, which turned out to be a good choice because it is (a) short, and (b) consists of lines that are entirely left-justified, which is makes reproducing it in this post much easier.

dream dogs

years ago it was easy to dream of wolves
and wake up your lover
to show him the blood on your hip.
the wolves had ties
and followed after every sentence
rather polite.
now there are police dogs
using tear gas and the lover next to you
doesn’t wake up.

ME: I like it. Thinking that it must have been written with a woman in mind, I flip back a few pages and learn that it’s from a section named for a former wife, Alice Henderson-Codrescu. Naturally, this interests me, and so I read a few more.

reverse

the storm outside
must be the kind you read about in the newspapers,
killer of babies and bums.
the kind of rain that goes in the subway
when i hold on to the coat of a fat man
whose disastrous life
makes me happy.

ME: Not much to do with the wife, as far as I can tell, but the alliteration in “babies and bums” catches my ear, and the schadenfreude my heart … although I’ve put on a few pounds this last year, so …

zzzzzzzzzzzz

i want to touch something sensational
like the mind of a shark. the white
electric bulbs of hunger moving
straight to the teeth.
and let there be rain that day over new york.
there is no other way
i can break away from bad news
and cheap merchandise.
(the black woman with a macy’s shopping bag
just killed me
from across the street.)
it is comfortable to want
peace from the mind of a shark.

ME: I like this one, too, although I don’t have much of an idea about what it means. The title leads me to suspect it is perhaps a version of a dream he’s had, and now I wonder whether all of the poems in this section are based on dreams, since we have it in the title of the first poem above, and the imagery in each of the poems has sort of chaos we often experience in dreams. The lower case letters bring to mind W.S. Merwin, but Codrescu’s poems contain a great deal more of life as most of us find it. He isn’t trying for the sublime in every line, and in fact seems to be trying to avoid anything that might signify portentousness. So yes, I like it. Not as much as JOB’s own poetry, but I’ll be dipping back into this volume until I see more from him.

Thanks JOB!

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Frank Zappa on the Steve Allen show March 4, 1963

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Here Zappa enlists Allen’s help to play a piece of music featuring two bicycles. Hilarious!

This one is for JOB, of course.

Lionel Shriver on Fiction and Identity Politics

An excerpt from Lionel Shriver’s recent address to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival:

What stories are “implicitly ours to tell,” and what boundaries around our own lives are we mandated to remain within? I would argue that any story you can make yours is yours to tell, and trying to push the boundaries of the author’s personal experience is part of a fiction writer’s job.

I’m hoping that crime writers, for example, don’t all have personal experience of committing murder. Me, I’ve depicted a high school killing spree, and I hate to break it to you: I’ve never shot fatal arrows through seven kids, a teacher, and a cafeteria worker, either. We make things up, we chance our arms, sometimes we do a little research, but in the end it’s still about what we can get away with – what we can put over on our readers.

Because the ultimate endpoint of keeping out mitts off experience that doesn’t belong to us is that there is no fiction. Someone like me only permits herself to write from the perspective of a straight white female born in North Carolina, closing on sixty, able-bodied but with bad knees, skint for years but finally able to buy the odd new shirt. All that’s left is memoir.

And here’s the bugbear, here’s where we really can’t win. At the same time that we’re to write about only the few toys that landed in our playpen, we’re also upbraided for failing to portray in our fiction a population that is sufficiently various.

Pärtapalooza

By the way, I am listening to an Arvo Pärtapalooza on WQXR right now (it’s his birthday), appropriately sober given that other event fifteen years ago, Hattin 2.0.

Might be good while you’re grilling up some brisket, or even with the sound of the game turned down.

Tetralogy, people. Tetralogy!

From this story at the Dark Horizons website, it looks like we’re finally going to get that run of Tetris movies everybody’s been clamoring for.

But a trilogy?

For TETRIS?!? Am I the only one who see how big an aesthetic blunder this is?!?!?!

And of course such a whopping aesthetic blunder means many, many missed marketing opportunities.

We obviously need FOUR of these movies.

Tetralogy, people. Tetralogy.

Yeesh.

I ask again: why am I not running a major studio?