Archives for October 2013

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: La fille du régiment by Gaetano Donizetti

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

Today’s diapsalmata comes to us by way of Seattle Opera’s latest production of Gaetano Donizetti’s La fille du régiment. I saw the dress rehearsal last week and thought it was just great.

It was a bit of a flop when it debuted at La Scala in 1840, possibly because it was a kind of operetta before it had really been named as a form. Berlioz panned it, writing,

What, two major scores for the Opéra, Les martyrs and Le duc d’Albe, two others at the Renaissance, Lucie de Lammermoor and L’ange de Nisida, two at the Opéra-Comique, La fille du régiment and another whose title is still unknown, and yet another for the Théâtre-Italien, will have been written or transcribed in one year by the same composer! Monsieur Donizetti seems to treat us like a conquered country; it is a veritable invasion. One can no longer speak of the opera houses of Paris, but only of the opera houses of Monsieur Donizetti.

The score may well be a bit fluffy for the composer of Les Trojans and the Symphony Fantastique, but perhaps Berlioz resented Donizetti use of français. Other than the poor reception for La fille, Donizetti was (obviously) enormously popular. And with good reason: there are a lot of great tunes, it’s funny, and it’s easy to follow.

The clips above and below are of the same production that has found its way to Seattle. Here with Patrizia Ciofi rather than Sarah Coburn in the Seattle version:

Telemachus before the Plow

telemachus before plow

It’s not so easy to simply stain the paper with lines of thought,
Nor make a will out of plain documents and verbal ownership;
The deeded properties behind the scheming eyes becomes manifest
With regrets, downfalls, the upshot of missed beats and rhymes.

One slip of the tongue, one false and irretrievable note,
And muses yield the field of action to furies, hungry as harpies.
No map can tell you where to go that first did not spool the loom
With what you know and where you live your life beyond the ink.

With sandaled foot on searing plains and hand on hilt, the spears
Will make their martial music, storytelling layers of bronze –
The shields will glitter like cats’ eyes at night – though at level noon
They’re catching fire in weary sockets and balanced battle lines.

What you look for is ordinary time, when all is feast and fast;
The famine of yesterday is the great ensemble of windfall today.
It’s not so easy to simply train the ear to speak or trace the sky
Across a piece of paper – easier to mark crows’ feet than corner sight.

What you look for are easy mistakes that turn to furrowed gold;
And always, always, the far distant war-drums inspire you to salt
Your fields in despair. The harrow team’s harness slips from around
Your shoulders. Each clever word lies, a child before the plowshare.

An Imaginary Hen

If you cannot jog
on one leg
you can still joggle,
just as you can boo
in the glen
of a boondoggle,
but if you go
and growl
at the hens,
do not imagine
it is only a hen
you can hornswoggle!



This is not an entirely implausible thesis, as any writer with a large family and little money can attest.


A Korrektiv reader with his own astute take on Powers.

For John, With Gratitude


In the runup to Percy, I failed to post this. My friend John Jones died on October 10 of last year. He was editorial director at Crossroad. He offered to publish Book Two – after extensive revisions and retitling as The Communion of Sinners – and I almost accepted. Over the years, we were forever pitching each other about possible projects. Nothing ever came of it except our friendship. I was fortunate enough to visit him a few days before he died. He was pretty heavily drugged, and barely able to speak – most of his tongue had been removed in the effort to combat the cancer that took him. But I was glad to see him. While there, I wrote him a poem.

Of course the devil grabbed your tongue
you fool, you wagged it oft enough,
and let it drip with scorn for rough-
made words that chapped and stung
the chilly soul, to nudge it toward despair;
preferring gentle speech that played
like sunlight ‘cross your cell, strayed
to laughter, and singed the devil’s hair.
Of course your flesh is wasting now
you monk, so rarely you indulged it.
(Or if you did, so rarely you divulged it.)
Eschewing fatted calf for sacred cow,
retreating from your matter into mind
‘til now your Brother Ass begins to buck
against its weightless load, no truck
‘twixt soul and what gets left behind
for now. And now of course you walk the path
that all men walk, but I still fear to tread,
believing more than I the rising from the dead
and God whose love has vanquished all his wrath.
Your flickering tongue, your flashing eye
Your bearded wit and naked grin
Your boyish faith that love will win
These will endure, and only death will die.
– October 3, 2012

Coincidence? I think not.


Here it comes. Breathe, JOB, breathe.

“They are in a position to be able to care for multiple children with special needs…”

“But the adoption costs are … huge.”

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 11.23.45 PM

Lord Don’t Let That Cold Wind Blow

A song by Kevin Welch

Søren Says

The Human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation which relates to itself, or that in the relation which is its relating to itself. The self is not the relation but the relation’s relating to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity. In short a synthesis. A synthesis is a relating between two terms. Looked at in this way a human being is not yet a self.

~ The Sickness Unto Death

Point of Departure

goin south

“Note however, that reentry by travel and also exile…nearly always takes place in a motion from a northern place to a southern place.”

Hast Seen the white transcendence of the immanence?

“… also in Josephus …”




Driving home from the screening of The Counselor last night (ooofgoseeit), I found myself driving through a trail of pages. Not a cloud as in the clip above – just one, two, maybe five at a time, strung out over the course of a couple of miles of interstate. I thought about pulling onto the shoulder and picking one up, just to see. The thought made my heart break a little, and I kept driving.

Let’s get some good work done for Gerasene ’14.

A good book may not be so hard to find as a good man.

O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal is out November 12.

amusement park

The Real Estate of Arcadia – Part IV

arcadia 4

Ah, this season will be just death on me.
Fur thickens and hooves begin to toughen
In such days. So I expect that naught then
Will detain winter’s north wind hegemony:

In such a season, sisterly and cold,
Neither do I expect to find victims
Of my perfidious lusts and whims –
Abductions do not carry the same old

Weight in the recent world. The foreign market
Tries to avoid panic as their much, much too
Muchness – the scarcity of real “ado”
Will sell off profits for nothing and obviate

Death, that prolonged forbearance all must suffer
For sake of bread’s measly security.
Real estate’s lost perpetuity
Revises landed interests as epic buffer:

Old Hector was made a Trojan martyr
By warring for that Trojan whore – but I’ll
Be put out to pasture, a spectacle
Too cheaply bought and sold for a satyr.

Why is Carl Sagan so lonely?

The Awl asks, “Why are we so terrible at contacting aliens?” Carl Sagan is mentioned. Walker Percy is not. Language and intelligence are discussed. Pity the author didn’t present at the Percy Conference. It would have been a lively Q&A.

In other news, The Sparrow sounds absolutely terrifying.