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One Short Poem about Two Lions of 20th Century English Literature

A Lark
That was a quite a conquest,
the poor author of that aubade
about waking in the dark,
believing he’d go to prison.
And did not. That’s not so bad.

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Don Quixote by Richard Strauss

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

Back to Richard Strauss. Don Quixote is an insanely beautiful cello concerto of sorts, really another of the composer’s great tone poems. From Wikipedia:

Don Quixote, Op. 35, is a tone poem by Richard Strauss for cello, viola and large orchestra. Subtitled Phantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters (Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character), the work is based on the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Strauss composed this work in Munich in 1897. The premiere took place in Cologne on 8 March 1898, with Friedrich Grützmacher as the cello soloist and Franz Wüllner as the conductor.

The score is 45 minutes long and is written in theme and variations form, with the solo cello representing Don Quixote, and the solo viola, tenor tuba, and bass clarinet depicting the comic Sancho Panza. The second variation depicts an episode where Don Quixote encounters a herd of sheep and perceives them as an approaching army. Strauss uses dissonant flutter-tonguing in the brass to emulate the bleating of the sheep, an early instance of this extended technique.

Sections:

Novelist as Barefoot Trinitarian

It was Miguel de Cervantes’ dying wish to be buried inside the walls of Madrid’s Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas — the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians — where a dozen cloistered nuns still live today, nearly 400 years later.

As a young man in his early 20s, he fled Spain for Rome, after wounding a nobleman in a duel. By 1570, he returned home and enlisted in the Spanish navy. He went to war to defend the pope — and got shot in twice in the ribs, and once in the shoulder — an injury that left his left arm paralyzed.

And it was only then that he got kidnapped by Algerian pirates …

How’s that for a cliffhanger? Read the rest of the story at NPR, here.

from The Apologizer by Milan Kundera

There’s just loads of French out there to read these days. Not just a new Houellebecq novel, but another Kundera book as well. The Festival of Insignificance will be his first novel in more than a decade. I’m in the midst of the French version, but the translation comes out next month and I seriously doubt I’ll finish it before then. Here is a selection of a selection in The New Yorker a few weeks back:

It was the month of June, the morning sun was emerging from the clouds, and Alain was walking slowly down a Paris street. He observed the young girls: every one of them showed her naked navel between trousers belted very low and a T-shirt cut very short. He was captivated, captivated and even disturbed: it was as if their seductive power resided no longer in their thighs, their buttocks, or their breasts but in that small round hole at the center of the body.

This provoked him to reflect: if a man (or an era) sees the thighs as the center of female seductive power, how does one describe and define the particularity of that erotic orientation? He improvised an answer: the length of the thighs is the metaphoric image of the long, fascinating road (which is why the thighs must be long) that leads to erotic achievement. Indeed, Alain said to himself, even in mid-coitus the length of the thighs endows woman with the romantic magic of the inaccessible.

If a man (or an era) sees the buttocks as the center of female seductive power, how does one describe and define the particularity of that erotic orientation? He improvised an answer: brutality, high spirits, the shortest road to the goal, a goal that is all the more exciting for being double.

If a man (or an era) sees the breasts as the center of female seductive power, how does one describe and define the particularity of that erotic orientation? He improvised an answer: sanctification of woman, the Virgin Mary suckling Jesus, the male sex on its knees before the noble mission of the female sex.

But how does one define the eroticism of a man (or an era) that sees female seductive power as centered in the middle of the body, in the navel?

How? indeed! Read more here.

“Slouching toward Mecca”

Mark Lilla has written a great article on Michel Houellebecq’s new novel in last month’s New York Review of Books.

The bestselling novel in Europe today, Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission, is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France. Its publication was announced this past fall in an atmosphere that was already tense. In May a young French Muslim committed a massacre at a Belgian Jewish museum; in the summer Muslim protesters in Paris shouted “Death to the Jews!” at rallies against the war in Gaza; in the fall stories emerged about hundreds of French young people, many converts, fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq; a French captive was then beheaded in Algeria; and random attacks by unstable men shouting “allahu akbar” took place in several cities., is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France. Its publication was announced this past fall in an atmosphere that was already tense. In May a young French Muslim committed a massacre at a Belgian Jewish museum; in the summer Muslim protesters in Paris shouted “Death to the Jews!” at rallies against the war in Gaza; in the fall stories emerged about hundreds of French young people, many converts, fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq; a French captive was then beheaded in Algeria; and random attacks by unstable men shouting “allahu akbar” took place in several cities.

… Houellebecq had gotten into trouble a decade ago for telling an interviewer that whoever created monotheistic religion was a “cretin” and that of all the faiths Islam was “the dumbest.” The normally measured editor of Libération, Laurent Joffrin, declared five days before Soumission appeared that Houellebecq was “keeping a place warm for Marine Le Pen at the Café de Flore.” The reliably dogmatic Edwy Plenel, a former Trotskyist who runs the news site Mediapart, went on television to call on his colleagues, in the name of democracy, to stop writing news articles on Houellebecq—France’s most important contemporary novelist and winner of the Prix Goncourt—effectively erasing him from the picture, Soviet style. Ordinary readers could not get their hands on the book until January 7, the official publication date. I was probably not the only one who bought it that morning and was reading it when the news broke that two French-born Muslim terrorists had just killed twelve people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Soumission will be published in English this fall, so maybe we can start a group reading after the Percy conference.

from Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis

I’ve been rereading this 1899 novel by Machado de Assis, and came across this passage, which seems somewhat related to the conversation JOB and I have been having over the last month or so.

God is the poet. The music is by Satan, a young and very promising composer, who was trained in the heavenly conservatory. A rival of Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, he resented the preference they enjoyed in the distribution of the prizes. It could also be that the over-sweet and mystical style of these other pupils was abhorrent to his essentially tragic genius. He plotted a rebellion which was discovered in time, and he was expelled from the conservatory. And that would have been that, if God had not written an opera libretto, which he had given up, being of the opinion that this type of recreation was inappropriate to His eternity. Satan took the manuscript with him to hell. With the aim of showing that he was better than the others—and perhaps of seeking a reconciliation with heaven—he composed the score, and as soon as he had finished it, took it to the Heavenly Father.

“Lord, I have not forgotten the lessons I have learned,” he said. “Here is the score, listen to it, have it played, and if you think it worthy of the heavenly heights, admit me with it to sit at your feet …”

“No,” replied the Lord, “I don’t want to hear a thing.”

“But, Lord …”

“Not a thing, not a thing!”

Satan went on pleading, with no greater success, until God, tired and full of mercy, gave His consent for the opera to be performed, but outside heaven. He created a special theater, this planet, and invented a whole company, with all the principal and minor roles, the choruses and the dancers.

“Come and listen to some of the rehearsals!”

“No, I don’t want to know about it. I’ve done enough, composing the libretto …”

If we imagine that the score is by Schoenberg, maybe the passage will make even more sense!

Happy St Patrick’s Day

vinegarhill.today_

 

 

 

 

 

 

Requiem for the Croppies

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.

~ Seamus Heaney

‘the kitten games of syntax and rhetoric’

He [i.e., Lactantius] delighted in writing, in the joinery and embellishment of his sentences*, in the consciousness of high rare virtue when every word had been used in its purest and most precise sense, in the kitten games of syntax and rhetoric. Words could do anything except generate their own meaning.

–Evelyn Waugh, Helena (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012), Nook edition, chap. 6, p. 8.

[Read more…]

the Dylanologists

We interrupt this casting call to bring you some really old news about Bob Dylan. Somehow I missed this when it came out at the end of Spring, so if one of the others has posted this already, well … so what?

I’d read about Dylan’s use of the Yakuza autobiography, which made a funny kind of sense, and then of course his impersonation of the Civil War poet, which made a lot more sense, but some of the stuff in this A.V. Club article shows how he took it to a whole ‘nother level. Surfing with Mel fans, take note:

When Warmuth found similarities between phrases in Chronicles and Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’s book about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, American Rhapsody, he was dumbfounded. “Even I was thinking, ‘There’s no chance,’ but as it turns out, some of the more salty lines in Chronicles comes from Eszterhas!”

Jack London, John Dos Passos, and even self-help author Robert Greene are all fair game.

Dylan’s response to charges of plagiarism?

“All those motherfuckers can rot in hell,” he said. “Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff….It’s an old thing,” he said of appropriation. “It’s part of the tradition. It goes way back.”

Makes you wonder why anybody would spend $250 for the right to quote from his lyrics to Gotta Serve Somebody, Trouble in Mind, and I and I.

Maybe add “sucker” to that list.

Ficciones

The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a résumé, a commentary. […] More reasonable, more inept, more indolent [than other authors], I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books.

— Jorge Luis Borges, preface to The Garden of Forking Paths, in Ficciones (New York: Grove Press, 1962), 15-16.


 

See also the Cubeland Mystic’s notes for an imaginary movie:

How about a two man movie? It could be called, Matthew, JOB, and Bourbon. You sit out on Matthew’s patio drink and discuss important stuff, but with a twist. The session turns into a discussion about the perfect movie, and then as the screenplay develops amidst shots, your dialogue would be interspersed with the actual scenes from the finished product that you are developing on the fly. It ends with the sun coming up over La Mesa. The last scene of the movie is Mrs. L picking up the empty bottle of bourbon throwing it in the trash, and saying something like “I wish they’d do some real work.” or some such. That’s the whole movie.

Let’s write it, right here in this post.

Cubeland Mystic, ‘Comment 14746’, Godsbody (September 2008; republished in Korrektiv).

Scroll down for the whole megillah.