Sunday, April 8, 2007


Title of a Thirteenth Floor Elevators' LP, yes. But it is Easter today, after all. A time of year that always has a kind of significance, seeming to herald spring more effectively than the equinox does in this climate. This year not so much, still very March-like with winds and occluded skies, but I'm not complaining -- and anyway sometimes Easter is in March.

Pa's teapucs. For several years I had an Easter ritual of staying up till dawn reading Finnegans Wake aloud on tape fueled by chartreuse vert. There's something about those Joycean cadences in the wee hours of the night. In Infinite Jest there's a DJ, Mme Psychosis, who only talks, or sometimes reads, on the air. I used to have a kind of fantasy in which I imagined my reading of FW going out on the airwaves and into the sleeping craniums of whoever might be tuned in (I never really imagined who that might be). Stuff like this, from last week's reading:

Since the days of Roamaloose and Rehmoose the pavanos have been strident through their struts of Chapelldiseut, the vaulsies have meed and youdled through the purly ooze of Ballybough, many a mismy cloudy has tripped taintily along that hercourt strayed reelway and the rigadoons have held ragtimed revels on the platauplain of Grangegorman; and, though since then sterlings and guineas have been replaced by brooks and lions and some progress has been made on stilts and the races have come and gone and Thyme, that chef of seasoners, has made his usual astewte use of endadjustables and whatnot willbe isnor was, those danceadeils and cancanzanies have come stimmering down for our begayment through the bedeafdom of po's taeorns, the obcecity of pa's teapucs, as lithe and limbfree limber as when momie mummed at ma.--FW II.2 (236)

Parables. This week in Daily Themes the assignments were Fables, Parables, Aphorisms. Wisdom literature, I suppose. I learned that to write a Fable successfully it's best if it has a tripartite form and if you don't try to mix humans with the animals. The animals in a Fable are a world unto themselves. For Parables almost anything goes, but not everything works. Those were best which maintained some element of mystery or something that could only be settled by intuition, rather than by some easy allegorical one-to-one correspondence. I guess it would be cute if I were to write a series of aphorisms about fables and parables, but I'm not in the mood. I can say that if you write half a page of aphorisms and three or four have the ring of authentic aphorisms or actually communicate something witty or profound, then you've succeeded.

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have.
When the sage says, 'Go beyond,' he does not mean that we should cross to some actual place, which we could do anyhow if the labor were worth it; he means some fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something too that he cannot designate more precisely, and therefore cannot help us here in the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.
Concerning this a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that be rid of all your daily cares.
Another said: I bet that is also a parable.
The first said: You have won.
The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.
The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.

--Franz Kafka, "On Parables"

V. 'n' me. Work on the V. chapter proceeds a-pace, despite an annoying headcold. If my luck or perseverance holds, I could be done this difficult 2nd section and into the next part before again footing my way campusward on Tuesday. Speaking of perseverance or its lack, "and then there was one" describes the status of students still engaged in reading Against the Day with me. Normally that would be demoralizing, but thanks to my newly undertaken task of writing on TP's fiction, I take it as an indication of the need for such a book. I think that one reason Pynchon is not better received at places like Yale and Princeton is that there is no good recent book on his work to help make the case for his work's importance. So, incentive enough, I'd say.

Young again. Just got the new release, Neil Young live at Massey Hall in Toronto from Jan. 1971, with Neil all of twenty-five. Lovely, so intimate (just Neil and acoustic guitar and piano), fragile, dreamy, and pointed as so many of those early Young songs are. This performance catches him just as he was getting launched on the "sensitive songwriter" bandwagon that had him rubbing elbows with the likes of James Taylor; pre-Harvest, but four of the songs later recorded for Harvest are here in demo-like clarity without Nitze's strings or the Nashville musicians, and "The Needle and the Damage Done" is here with a nice preface from Young explaining the occasion for the song.

Won't you help me please / I'm growing old
Won't you help me sneeze / I've caught a cold

--John Cale, "Please" (1970)

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