A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...
Sep 16, 2014
Clive James is dying and just published this lovely poem in The New Yorker. It reminds me of the practice of Japanese Death Poems.
In the death poem or jisei, the essential idea was that at one’s final moment of life, one’s reflection on death (one’s own usually but also death in general) could be especially lucid and meaningful and therefore also constituted an important observation about life. The poem was considered a gift to one’s loved ones, students, and friends. The tradition began with zen monks, but was also popular with poets, whose poems were often just as solemn as those of monks, or entirely flippant and humorous. The poems are often full of symbols of death, such as the full moon, the western sky, the song of the cuckoo, and images of the season in which the writer died.
Here’s another poem by James.
Filed under: death, poetry
My working process is no doubt much the same as yours and the same as many other people. The artistic process seems to be mythologized quite a lot into something far greater than it actually is. It is just hard labor… As anyone who actually writes knows, if you sit down and are prepared, then the ideas come. There’s a lot of different ways people explain that, but, you know, I find that if I sit down and I prepare myself, generally things get done.
Sep 15, 2014
Le Saut dans le vide (Leap into the Void); Photomontage by Shunk Kender of a performance by Yves Klein at Rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, October 1960.
Sep 14, 2014
Alvin Lustig’s book covers
I was killing some time in South Congress Books the other day and the clerk showed me some original New Directions books with these Alvin Lustig covers and they really knocked me out. (The images above are via Cooper Hewitt Collection — this is what they look like IRL.) I ended up buying this edition of Miss Lonelyhearts, because, sure, it was the cheapest they had (Kafka’s AMERIKA was $600+), but it’s also one of my favorite books.)
While I wait on my copy of Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig to get here, here’s his official site, here’s more on his work, a collage of his author names, an exhibit of his work with his wife, and a huge Flickr set of his work.
Oh, and New Directions also sells a postcard collection of these covers.
Sep 13, 2014
Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son
Fun story: Johnson published this book to pay his tax bill:
Jesus’ Son was an act of literary desperation. There had been a second divorce and a call from the IRS asking him to please pay the $10,000 he owed. Bankrupt, Johnson turned to some “memories” he’d jotted down years back — vignettes of his drug-abusing past that he never considered publishing — and sent them to The New Yorker. To his surprise, several were accepted. Fortified with $4,000, Johnson contacted Jonathan Galassi, his editor and the president of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. “I told him, ‘I’ll make you a book of short stories; all you have to do is pay off the IRS.’”
And (can’t find the source for this quote, but it’s posted all over):
What’s funny about Jesus’ Son is that I never even wrote that book, I just wrote it down. I would tell these stories apropos of nothing about when I was drinking and using and people would say, “You should write these things down.” I was probably 35 when I wrote the first story. The voice is kind of a mix in that it has a young voice, but it’s also someone who’s looking back. I like that kind of double vision. So I worked on them once in a while, then I started using stories I heard other people tell, and then I started making some up. Pretty soon it was fiction. Then I just forgot about it. I thought, I’m not going to parade my defects, my history of being a spiritual cripple, out in front of a lot of other people..
Filed under: my reading year 2014
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