“I ain’t takin’ you for no kid,” answered Potter. His heels had not moved an inch backward. “I’m takin’ you for a damn fool. I tell you I ain’t got a gun, and I ain’t. If you’re goin’ to shoot me up, you better begin now. You’ll never get a chance like this again.”
… if listening to the audio books (The Sporstwriter and Independence Day so far) counts as reading. (Does it? In the grand Reading Olympics of life, does listening to the book count the same as “reading” the book? Can I say, “I’ve been reading Richard Ford lately” if I’ve actually only been listening to Richard Ford being read?) Anyway, you Percy fans may recall Mr. Ford from his (and his Mississippi drawl’s) prominence in the Walker Percy documentary. Ford is like a Percy that never quite grabbed aholt of faith and The Sportswriter is like The Moviegoer without Kierkegaard or Catholicism — but with something fundamental and bemused and piercing and good all the same.
Kompare & kontrast:
‘Advice from the Muse’
for T. W. W.
How credible, the room which you evoke:
At the far end, a lamplit writing-desk.
Nearer, the late sun swamps an arabesque
Carpet askew upon a floor of oak,
And makes a cherry table-surface glow,
Upon which lies an open magazine.
Beyond are shelves and pictures, as we know,
Which cannot in the present light be seen.
Bid now a woman enter in a mood
That we, because she brings a bowl of roses
Which, touch by delicate touch, she redisposes,
May think to catch with some exactitude.
And let her, in complacent silence, hear
A squirrel chittering like an unoiled joint
To tell us that a grove of beech lies near.
Have all be plain, but only to a point.
Not that the bearded man who in a rage
Arises ranting from a shadowy chair,
And of whose presence she was unaware,
Should not be fathomed by the final page,
And all his tale, and hers, be measured out
With facts enough, good ground for inference,
No gross unlikelihood of major doubt,
And, at the end, an end to all suspense.
Still, something should escape us, something like
A question one had meant to ask the dead,
The day’s heat come and gone in infra-red,
The deep-down jolting nibble of a pike,
Remembered strangers who in picnic dress
Traverse a field and under mottling trees
Enter a midnight of forgetfulness
Rich as our ignorance of the Celebes.
Of motives for some act, propose a few,
Confessing that you can’t yourself decide;
Or interpose a witness to provide,
Despite his inclination to be true,
Some fadings of the signal, as it were,
A breath which, drawing closer, may obscure
Mirror or window with a token blur—
That slight uncertainty which makes us sure.
Wilbur, Richard. Collected Poems, 1943-2004: 104-105. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2004.
‘Fiction and the Reading Public’
Give me a thrill, says the reader,
Give me a kick;
I don’t care how you succeed, or
What subject you pick.
Choose something you know all about
That’ll sound like real life:
Your childhood, Dad pegging out,
How you sleep with your wife.
But that’s not sufficient, unless
You make me feel good –
Whatever you’re ‘trying to express’
Let it be understood
That ‘somehow’ God plaits up the threads,
Makes ‘all for the best’,
That we may lie quiet in our beds
And not be ‘depressed’.
For I call the tune in this racket:
I pay your screw,
Write reviews and the bull on the jacket –
So stop looking blue
And start serving up your sensations
Before it’s too late;
Just please me for two generations –
You’ll be ‘truly great’.
Larkin, Philip. Collected Poems: 170. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
C’mon in, the reading’s fine! (Still plenty of books to review!)
About a month ago, I finished reading Dr Percy’s stab at science-fiction, Love in the Ruins. I had no time to blog about it then, and have little time to blog about it at the moment, but here are a few scattered, superficial, spoiler-free initial thoughts:
- My overall impression was similar to that of Korrektiv fellow-traveler Craig Burrell, who reviewed the novel in 2011. Like him, I think the premise is great, but the telling of the tale is overlong and under-focused. Some severe trimming would have improved the book considerably.
- That said, the main cast is nicely drawn, and the creeper-covered neo-New South setting felt, if not believably realistic, then persuasively consistent. Also consistently unsettling, with its islands of shiny modernity and pockets of old poverty amid the ruins of the [1940s-1960s(?) '70s(?)] ‘Auto Age’. The automated carillon of the abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, playing religious and secular Christmas carols — and college football fight songs! — on the Fourth of July, echoing off a derelict drive-in movie screen, is especially haunting.
- Overall, the book was not — and Dr Percy, in his essay ‘Concerning Love in the Ruins‘, says the book was not meant to be — a prophetic prediction of the future (as, e.g., Brave New World has ended up being). Still, this line from Dr Tom More, describing the gadgets of his own shambolic future-world, hit close to home: ‘Appliances [...] are more splendid than ever before, but when they break down nobody will fix them.’
- Percy also predicted the rise of steampunk! Tom More climbs into his colleague’s ‘electric Toyota bubbletop, a great black saucer of a car and silent as a hearse’ and notes the anachronistic contrast of its interior styling: ‘These days it is the fashion to do car interiors in wood and brass like Jules Verne vehicles.’
- Speaking of stylistic throwbacks: The diabolical, deodorized, flat-topped Art Immelman reminds me of the Harry Trumanesque space alien from the ‘THE LAST DONAHUE SHOW’ thought experiment in Lost in the Cosmos. They both seem like good fits for a David Lynch movie.
Have you read Love in the Ruins? What did you see, like, dislike, feel, think?
Thrill me with your acumen.
Spokane’s the place where water falling
From Idaho runs through with thoughts
Unconsciously unwinding, reeling
The poets in from inland squats
To take their places at the river’s
Bedraggled edges. Poets’ livers
Can’t filter all that they abuse
Themselves with for the lovely ruse
That lines of words can make unhappy
Inhabitants of Coeur d’Alene
Cease for a moment feeling pain
Or leastwise help them feel less crappy
When turning towards the Cascade heights
With thoughts of oceanic nights.