Backlist Item - Sold Out

Here is the description of the book from a scene with Marilyn Simonds in conversation with Hugh Barclay from Gutenberg's Fingerprint. They are examining all the books published by Thee Hellbox Press

Every book is different in size and shape and colour. A range of genres is represented: poetry, memoir, essays, fiction. It's had to grasp a binding thread through all these Hellbox books, in either form or content.


I pick the top book off the pile, turn to the first page, and read aloud: "The old chief who made us welcome in English and then offered prayer in the soft poetic tongue of the Ojibwa radiated a concern for the future and the past of the North American Indian."

Hugh leans across and flips forward to an illustration of a warrior that seems to dance across the page. "I wanted to show the dynamics of the powwow, a bit of the dance," he says. "So I carved three images and over-printed them in progressively fading colours."
The book in question was the first produced by Thee Hellbox Press in 1983. It is entitled A Letter to Teresa. It was produced in a limited edition of 72 numbered copies.

And so for day 2007

Patterns, Rhythms,

First the injunction:

The structural theme must be conceived dynamically, as a pattern of forces, not an arrangement of static shapes.

Rudolf Arnheim, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order
From force to actant:
In 1968, Barthes pointed out that the Proustian narrator is not the person who has seen or felt, nor even the person who writes, but rather he who is going to write.

Jean Frémon "Delta" in Proustiennes translated by Brian Evenson. "Delta" is the final section of Proustiennes.
The opening conclusion, appeal to the reader:
[The concluding sentences to "Delta" and to the book recall the chapter/section on calculating à la Leibniz the ultimate finite number of books and then the necessity of repetition.]

In dreams, in books, in pieces of music, in paintings, in the beings what we love, as on hiking trails, there are sometimes, scattered, signs of gratitude such as compose the traveler's joy. They are fleeting, like sand, unstable, like sand can be, innumerable… They attest to the presence of something else, as do the shadows that reveal what's in the light, as do the efforts of the dead who haunt the living.
[Before this is] "The Traveler's Joy the English call the climbing viburnum because its presence on the hedges lining a road signals that you are approaching a hamlet."

For "hamlet" read "home". Always approaching. Hear hameau. Always approached. Approach.

And so for day 2006

Led by the Nose

Cleverly designed ephemera.

There's a twinkle in the eyes from some small cutout triangles and of course there's the nose inviting the reader to open the card to get at the words in a script as if written by hand.

And the double play with the puns in both French and English (announcing a German book fair): "Nose out a good story", " Ve-nez donc voir".

"3.000 books and magazines from 500 publishing houses" — in case you read the back before opening… now ya knowz.

And so for day 2005

Synth Perv

Top right corner, green ink, partial underline: probably indicates the topic: synesthesia.

Green highlight of a paper by Peng Yi with Latin phrase (Litterae Pervversae) in the title; right margin inscription: Peversity [sic] & Synesthesia.

Long line down the edge of the page in same green ink.

Green line terminates in bibliographic information inscribed in blue. [Listen to Shape and Warm is a Circle]

The whole page looks like a table top for moving pieces.

A Boolean search for "perversity" AND "synesthesia" nets:
An intensive trait starts working for itself, a hallucinatory perception, synesthesia, perverse mutation, or play of images shakes loose, challenging the hegemony of the signifier. In the case of the child, gestural, mimetic, ludic, and other semiotic systems regain their freedom and extricate themselves from the "tracing," that is, from the dominant competence of the teacher's language—a microscopic event upsets the local balance of power.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Set as an epigraph to "Introduction: Cinema and the Affective-Performative" in Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance: Powers of Affection: Powers of Affection by Elena del Rio
I now return to note how the individual events/papers are packaged in sessions:
  • Plenary Session
  • Cultural Relativism and Conflicts
  • Problematic Identies
  • Inscriptions of Identities
  • Chinese Women in the West
  • Intercultural Contacts
All under the rubric of the 14th ICLA Congress of a Tuesday morning in Edmonton in 1994.

That many of these are concurrent sessions makes me think of time. And enter Sarah Perry with After Temporality, a piece on chronesthesia at RibbonFarm:
Linear temporality (time as a sequential series of experiences) and chronesthesia (time as many simulations of past and future) are not conflicting models. Rather, they are deeply interlocking models that constantly construct each other. They are both illusions, though the way in which they are illusions is different. However, they are both highly functional, and the ways in which they are functional are complementary.
She uses the experience of shopping via a grocery store to illustrate the concepts at play and through this she underscores the opportunities for mental time travel: "I think it’s interesting how much mental time travel is involved in crushingly mundane activities."

And one more point: "Interestingly, there is evidence that remembering the past and imagining the future are not opposites, but expressions of a unified underlying capacity."

And so for day 2004

The Body Remembers - Aided by a Postcard

I know I picked up the postcard in Toronto and the event was held in Vancouver. It is the image and its distinctive coloration that caught my attention as well as its suggestive title. (The evidence of a small pin hole indicates that it graced the wall near my desk for a number of years before finding its way into a file folder and from there to here — still fascinated by the quality of the design).

Neon bodies hooked together.

The recto gives more information: a dance piece choreographed by Joe Laughlin.

Which leads one to Joe Ink
The Body Remembers is a highly kinetic look at the mechanics of moving and the material life of the human body. Lyrical, humorous and emotionally compelling this dance performance leaves a most optimistic impression.
And one learns that the music was from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. O for a remount and tour!

And so for day 2003

Rock Lullaby for a Distressed World

Performed by the Eagles, written by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, the song has its own Wikipedia entry. A distracted listener can easily read it as being about an absent lover. The occasion of its composition is about loss of a different kind and its tenderness beseeches us all to repair …

There's a hole in the world tonight
There's a cloud of fear and sorrow
There's a hole in the world tonight
Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow
A suitable anthem for our perforated times. Feel the hurt. Heal the pain.

And so for day 2002

Day 2001 - Intellectual Exchange

On this day, a very short sentence.

His favourite apophthegm is "we sometimes connect by disentangling."
A smart quip for a bio.

And so for day 2001

Day 2000 - Intellectual Exchange from the Almost Reader

On this day, a long post.

Encouraged by my friend Fadi Abou-Rihan I lightly edited a series of emails with a view of making them available to a wider audience. Here then are the fruits of that effort

September 15, 2003

Dear Linda,

What a delightful postmodern question! Indeed, where am I? Nearly a decade past defending the thesis.

Curious as to what might have prompted the interpellation :)

Very much a para-academic. I contribute from time to time to Humanist, the discussion list moderated by Willard McCarty and devoted to Humanities Computing as well as to the Text Encoding Initiative discussion list.

I've participated (writing a "paper" and facilitating a discussion) in a number of online conferences about online teaching (an area of expertise that grew out of the work I did for the School of Continuing Studies.)

Lately, inspired by a question posed to Thomas Pavel I've rambled through theory with a piece about Lubomír Doložel's presentation of possible worlds and fiction

In short, I manage to write and find a bit of an audience.

Still a bit surprised that you wrote. And not sure if a mention of house, garden and work in the civil service would be more of an answer.


September 18, 2003

Dear Linda,

I'm currently working in the Policy Branch at the Ministry of the Attorney General. The position is scheduled to be surplussed so I'm conducting the ever-familiar job search. Likely to land somewhere within the Ontario Public Service.

I found myself musing over the last couple of days that it would be an interesting project to trace "students" and not just "grads". I can think of a few ABDs that contributed significantly to the student life of Comp Lit while I was there. Perhaps it is an inclusion possible for consideration in prospective tracking/tracing projects. It is a bit less of a challenge for educational institutions to begin thinking about themselves not just as degree/diploma granting bodies but also as facilitators. The academic is but one constellation in a galaxy of intellectual activities.

Others, such as Paul Goodman, have articulated a similar point. And still others are actively risking the extra-mural contact in their seminars and exploiting the fishbowl opportunities offered by new media technologies.

See for example this experiment from Pomona College: [digital decay – url now defunct; reviewing the archive at Planned Obsolescence leads us to believe that the referenced piece is is about incorporating blogging into a class tentatively titled “The Literary Machine”]

All praise to any institution that can tap into the goodwill of its ABDs. I know what tensions reside in that statement. But it’s a nice pivot from which to contemplate the place and pace of convocation and commencement, the role of gathering and scattering of the members of the corporation.

Thanks for your reply which has given me the chance to reflect upon that period where the pressure was on to finish in four years what a dozen would make better and that time where a few non-cynical but skeptical wags would venture to say "publish _and_ perish" and quickly add "but never cease writing". It is perhaps the most valuable experience that the interchange at Comp Lit in the early 90s gave me -- a deep and abiding appreciation for the time to think and that making time to think is akin to disciplined writing and all manner of record keeping. It's kept me in good stead.

Thanks for shaping that place and time which gave me so much.


September 18, 2006

Dear Linda,

My apologies if this subject line [Michael Lynch] came as a blow from the past. I did want it to stand out and catch your attention. The acknowledgements to Sarah Brophy's _Witnessing AIDS_ mentioned you and it led me to ponder.

I have my own selfish reasons for inquiring if you ever wrote an encomium for Michael Lynch and if so might I read it or some part of it? I am struggling with disclosing my own recent change in HIV status with some of my professional colleagues and friends in the civil service. I was wondering how two very articulate and sensitive individuals lived through that time in the early 90s. Not that I am looking for a model. I just want to a decade on to offer you a reader or listener because I vividly remember you walking away from the memorial service held in the old Euclid theatre wrapped in that inward looking look. Then was not the time to ask. Perhaps neither is now.

An interpellation ventured, is one less regret.

Thanks for already I have begun the telling in that most metadiscursive fashion with a story built on a narration that expresses the willingness to listen to a story -- and what more magical addressee for that than yourself.

I hope you are well and la rentrée is the delight it should be -- great students and revitalized colleagues.


October 22, 2006

Dear Linda,

Thank you for your message about Michael Lynch. Your pointing me to his writing (I recall the various pieces he wrote for The Body Politic and of course the one for _Profession_, the MLA publication) helped me recall a conversation. Michael, in those days of frantic grief and anger, where every step singular and collective was a struggle, gave to me in retrospect his blessing to stay in graduate school and continue with my research and studies. He quite gently but firmly evoked the unfinished task of organizing.

He said to me that it was important to graduate, there would always be time later to "activate". I remember fondly the Latinate form of the verb meaning not only to be an activist but also to be something like a Gramscian organic intellectual. My writing to you, my reading your response, helped me recall that conversation of a warm fall day somewhere along King’s College Road before the oaks were replanted --

Michael with that characteristic squint of concentration to make a point then relaxing into an invitation to contemplate the import of what he had said.

In the days after receiving your reply, I found myself thinking about issues of disclosure. So much of the activism of gay liberation and the organizing in response to the AIDS crisis was wrapped up in the tactics of silence breaking, telling stories, bringing to light, speaking out. The coming out questions are still there: who do you tell, how, why? But now in the 21st century, oddly and ironically, the very right to privacy can be enjoyed. I mean I am able to enjoy the work of education and advocacy. The supports are well in place and institutionalized. Such is the case, in the space of 20 years.

Today I was reading one of those marvelous essay-stories by Barry Lopez. The narrator-character references St. Ignatius to the effect that what one does on learning the end of the world is near is not to run to the confessional but to continue with one's activity, with what one is engaged in doing. I smiled.

A sero-conversion in 2006 is far from the end of the world. That said, I’m really only at the threshold of this set of personal experiences. Will the drugs work for me? Will I be able to manage the side effects?

Yesterday, we completed the fall planting of bulbs. This year we also put in a burning bush at the base of the smoke tree -- an elaborate horticultural joke. None of this is intended to have metaphoric import. It does and it doesn't. Gardening is so entwined with our quotidian since we purchased the property back in 2000, it is what we are engaged in doing.

And I write. It is what I am engaged in doing. Oblique interventions on discussion lists. Cross-pollinating comments on academic blogs. And my own short pieces published to the web. Continuing to be interstitial.

I had thought about keeping a journal. But there is other stuff to complete. And my writing is carried on in the space of an avocation -- after a day's work. Being sero-positive just might be the spur for me to take the rhetoric of multimedia that I have planned and sketched and, well, activate it.

Thank you thank you for bringing back to me the wonder of a time and place so important to who I am now and where I might yet be taken.


November 30, 2006

Dear Linda,

The moon waxes and wanes and almost a month has passed since my last not-a-stranger message.

During this particular lunar cycle, I spotted some of the promotional activity for your recent book on adaptation. And I noted that Robert McKee author of _Story_, was in town giving a two-day seminar on how to write for page, stage and screen. I didn't attend. It would have been fun to observe someone deliver a spiel when he is quoted as saying "that writing only for the Canadian audience is too limiting" in the same interview that he says he wasn't coming to teach Canadians how to make Hollywood films.

Your theme of the migration of stories and their retelling and resetting was on my mind when I read Jim Bartley's first novel, _Drina Bridge_. There is a character who "adapts" stories in the sense of producing alternate versions. There is in this novel a character engaged in writing a memoir about wartime experiences. A story will be related and a second and third version immediately succeeded in the narration.

The reader is situated as reading a typescript along with the narrator. The storyteller/writer is a 60-year old refugee raised in Bosnia and Serbia and through most of the novel an inmate in a Sarajevo hospital. The mise en scène results in an odd feeling of being at a remove from the situation of initial enunciation and yet occupying the specular position of the interpellated. And so when three distinct versions of a similar tale succeed each other there is more to the strategy than avoidance of traumatic memories. There is a point about the interchangeable roles in the atrocities. Yet the technique does not result in a simple set of aloof remarks about perpetuation and the repetition of history. It touches the line between adaptation and adoption. There is a passage that seems to both comment on the technique and set up the reader for revelations:
Chance divides the actual from the true. The actual might avoid the true -- for a time. But truth lurks eternal. It's always there, hovering closer to here.
And though it is not explicitly stated in the novel, it becomes evident that stories are bridges. Not only between the true of the there and the actual of the here.
What follows below is the first piece of sustained writing I've done, apart from the odd post to a discussion list or comment to a blog, since I learnt of my sero-conversion. It's influenced by our exchange and by my conversations with a colleague who is directing a student's research project on AIDS and grieving. I think I will now be able to integrate that bit about the actual and the true before uploading the piece to the WWW. Thank you for being an "interlunar" interlocutor. One of the reasons it has been difficult to renew my engagement with writing projects has been a shift in intended audience. When one is too much in touch with one's mortality the temptation is to slip into a mode of addressing posterity. I forgot that my best writing always has had contemporaries in mind. And so being at a keyboard typing and thinking is a much as part of staying healthy as compliance with anti-viral therapy which will begin in the second week of December for me when the results of a bunch of tests are back and the specialist has determined the best combination of drugs. In about a month my theme just might be "side-effects". Enough. I grow prolix. And I have to figure out how to integrate the actual-true theme in the following.
Jim Bartley's novel _Drina Bridge_ is set in the former Yugoslavia during the Bosnian-Serb war. Its narrator is a gay man who has lost a lover. There is an intriguing passage on the nature of grief. The passage in question is conveyed in the voice not of the narrator and certainly not that of the author. This particular view on grief comes from a character who is a writer and also male (but not "gay"):
Grief and language do not intersect. What we can express is sadness or distress or some form of the tragic, but those who have known grief will not find it on a page.
I found myself explicating the passage in a letter to a friend. I took a very Kantian approach to indicate that there is always a hiatus between the expression and the thing expressed. If grief cannot be expressed then neither can sadness nor distress nor even joy. Expressivity cannot be tied to intensity. For the slight stirrings of some emotion by being very minuscule challenges the adequacy of expression. However the non-coincidence of the expression and the expressed is not a failure. For such a _décalage_ opens the intersubjective space in which the listener or the reader can imaginatively project their experience. It is a space through which or into which experience moves. Of course it is not found on the page. The page is a portal.

And yet the page is a surface.

I also in an almost Stein-like moment reflected upon the difference between those who have known it and those that are knowing it. Those who are knowing it will find it anywhere if not everywhere. The past perfect tense that ascribes a pastness to the grief, locks it into a condition of having been known, offers an escape for the careful reader from the "we", the defeatist "we" that would reify the trauma and make it unreachable. It is a tactic that blocks lucid access to the power of the past.

It is quite telling that the next paragraph in the novel, a continuation of the passage quoted above invokes a salvation motif:
I have delayed redemption too long. Let there be a glimmer. There remains hope of an escape, of a new life.
In 1945 was born [...]
The reader forgives the delusions of the character, indeed by this point in the novel, the reader is well acquainted with the feints that help the discourse unroll and the stories come forth. There is no redemption. No escape. No new life. There are stories. Our narrator is an unbeliever and it is through the narrator that the somewhat backward confession of faith professed through the inadequacies of language comes to the reader. The story in its being told offers connections -- bridges -- and that is where hope lies. The redemption is in the delay.

The cost of mourning is not in the loss of stories about the dead. The cost of mourning is about the risk of connecting with the living. There is no guarantee that each interpellation will find acknowledgement.

There is a cruising aspect to the expression of grief. So many connections not made. And some very intense grief encounters that remain anonymous.

In some ways it is not about the process of mourning it is about the question of the place of intensity in one's living. And intensity well-managed requires an exquisite sensitivity to audience.

On the page. Around the page. Off the page.

December 30, 2006

Dear Linda,

I am grateful for your last message and in particular for the mention of my particular situation of enunciation for it got me to thinking of situations of enunciation in general.

Biography counts when it does. Its counting depends on more than knowing the facts. And if the term "situation of enunciation" can be read as a synecdoche for biography, it might explain, at least it explains for me, much of the fear (and sometimes loathing) that has greeted the discourse about the death of the author.

I arrive at this tenuous possibility by way of Barthes. Your mention of situation of enunciation put me in mind of his remarks about "fading". Even when reading an English translation there comes to me the French accent dwelling on the _ing_ sound, a sound of course foreign yet neighbouring. I think "fading" is at the heart of what the character in _Drina Bridge_ was expressing and offering up to resistance. I have been meaning to write something up under the working title _Incommensurabilities: of expression and experience_.

I think the impulse to cherish biography, as well as the exasperation with the inadequacies of being true to the intensities that traverse one's life, are related to the urge for continuous adaptation. Anyway by a circuitous route I plan to link some passages from Barthes to a meditation on a picture in Sausure's Cours.

My intent is to describe that at the very heart of the relation between matter and language is a human need to inscribe, nay incise, over and over again ... minutely and at every level to make the story stick.

Conversely we also revel in the unstickiness of stories. It is easier in this short space to convey the thought with an image: I will make marks in the sand knowing and expecting the wave and the wind to do their work.

I have benefited from this thinking about the paradoxical structural durability of stories and the ephemeral touches of narration. I've been tackling scenarios of disclosure. Not rehearsing. Just mulling.

Since beginning antiviral therapy, I've extended the repertoire of conversational gambits. I'm not limited to aping the Alcoholics Anonymous model and its for me bizarre ontological commitment (Hi I'm so-and-so and I'm [an example of]). It is far nicer to approach the disclosure through the punctual (I have tested positive; I have begun antiviral therapy) it leaves so much more room for a conversation and for absorbing the import of maintaining a distance -- not becoming overly identified with the disease and yet not slipping into easy denial.

One step to realizing this was timing the beginning of therapy with the resumption of the discipline of daily writing. Blogging offered just the right place to start. Almost as if it is the spiritual exercise of the 21st century, blogging is marked by a commitment to regular recording and reflection. But not a first person confessional! I maintain what amounts to an open commonplace book with glosses. No comments from readers (I don't want at the present to deal with the reactions of others). And nicely off to the side in a listing where one usually finds favourite movies or books is a wee bit of pharmaceutical discourse: the drugs I take on a daily basis. Those that know will know and those that are curious can find out. And as I write out this little ekphrasis of the layout, I have come to realize that I have a daily visual reminder of the importance of compliance with the regimen but more importantly a visual affirmation of a contract with myself to maintain perspective.

I recall some time ago at one point you had taken up the piano later in life. I don't know if you are still at it or interested in listening to a new piece you might wish to add to your repertoire. Nonetheless I will suggest the final piece in Clint Mansell's score to Darren Arnofsky's film _The Fountain_. There is a serenity to the composition that returns the listener to the mindfulness of practice. I have no idea what it would be like to play.


January 19, 2007

Dear Linda,

The ides have passed and my interlunar phasings are creeping more and more to month's end. Must be the influence of accounting in the air. Various modes of storytelling have been preoccupying me a wee bit lately. A few aphorisms crop up.

-- On the "split addressee" :
The practice of irony is like running with knives.
Non signal splitting safely involves a lot of care.

-- On "going meta" as per Jerome Bruner :
Involution is a necessary step on the way from self-referentiality to self-reflexivity and evolution.

-- From a letter to a friend in part about a piece by Adam Mars-Jones on the depiction of the disabled in film ("Cinematically Challenged" in _Blind Bitter Happiness_) i.e. me quoting myself :
"the gap between representation and reality -- the place where it is possible to imagine the possible. "

This is all connected in some fashion to the discussion we have been having about the incommensurability theme in the discourses on experience's relation to expression.

Hope all is well with you and that the students are receptive.


March 22, 2007

Dear Linda,

February passed by without my sending news. Not without thinking what I might say to you, faithful interlocutor. I've begun the task of sorting through papers and came across a clipping of a review by Michael Lynch and so noted it in the open commonplace book (blog) I keep. I quoted the salient part and gave the entry the rubric "Grappling"
In the middle, straddling two columns of text, the editors chose one key attention grabbing sentence from a review by Michael Lynch of the film Beautiful Dreamers. Now further in time from 17.04.90 its Globe and Mail appearance is a tribute to the author.
Audiences want to grapple with history, not be lulled by it.
"Putting Whitman back in the closet" is the title of the piece.
I've not had the energy for longer stints of writing. As I approach day 100 of religiously popping the antiviral pills there is some improvement in the CD4 count and still a way to go.


It was a treasure find to come across that clipping and a pleasure to report it to you.

I hope the end of term goes smoothly.


April 30, 2007

Dear Linda,

Very last day of the month: time to sneak in under the wire a report some disjecta and let you know that I have continued to meditate on the theme of experience and expression.

First, the hyacinth is blooming and the smell of the six or so plants in the garden is heady. It is a temporary phenomenon all the richer because of its transience.

Second, I found myself considering what I am inclined to call the forgetting of narration. I have observed in some examples of critical discourse that there is a tendency to speak in terms of many narrations and a single narrative. If a phenomenological perspective is introduced then narrative is not seen as a single and unique object of thought (or experience) but as the product of agreement between subjects. The diagram of a diegesis is no less a narration than the many words or images that also give access to similar constructions. It is by agreement that we produce the same story, an agreement renegotiated at every telling.

The same story is always a new agreement. Recall children wanting to hear a favourite story with all the noises and gestures that produce the sense of the familiar. It is a language trap to insist that what returns is the same. It is familiar.

No two cups of tea taste the same yet they are recognized as cups of tea and even tea of the same flavour (but with a wee difference in the intensity due to slight shifts in steeping time).

I have been propelled to this nominalist realization of the instability of any given entity called a "narrative" by recalling a question that Professor Fitch asked at my defense so very many years ago. His question was about Ingarden's notion of concretization. My answer then makes more sense now: a rereading produces a different concretization. Of course some readers would set concretization on the side of narration and a narrative on the side of some unchanging structure. But the structure itself is malleable; its stability, a function of our agreements.

In Saussure's Cours there is an illustration (referenced by Barthes in Elements of Semiology) where there are two flows and samplings from each. Below is a typographic transcription

===== < ============== > =====

.......... < …………………….. > ………….

The famous arbitrariness of the sign is a relation between samplings. The signified is as much an incision into a flow of matter (experience) as is the signifier. All this seems rather obvious to anyone that understands the semantic field to be dynamic. If the pair narration/narrative is isomorphic with the pair signifier/signified, the slippage that is perceived in experience/experience is built into how humans process the relations between language and reality.

And language is a part of reality.

Third of the disjecta, all these musings on the intersubjective nature of the stability of narrative as object of thought or experience came after a lecture by Martin Lefebvre to the Toronto Semiotic Circle where he quoted Peirce to the effect that "every fine argument is a poem or a symphony" and outlined a scheme where habit taking mediates between chance/origin and necessity/telos. This is getting long and convoluted. The following is very sketchy.

involution is not equivalent to self-reflexivity

involution produces a copy of the world in a given state that becomes the base state to compare subsequent states (This is similar to how a computer’s central processing unit keeps a copy in active memory to work upon -- the model can be applied to the act of reading. In my thesis way back when I briefly touched upon the notion of involution in a quick look at the similarities between the semiotic square and the mathematical object called a Klein group. This bit on involution arises from a note in my thesis in the chapter positing the semiotic square as a machine… it of course needs elaboration)

Someone somewhere may have already introduced the notion of states into possible world semantics. This might just give access to a poetics of impossible worlds. Impossible worlds are imaginable as games (considered as moves between states). A focus that might interest those searching to bridge the ludology versus narratology in gaming studies.

Of course I'm left with questions to ponder: How does, if it does, the pair world-state map onto the pair narrative-narration?

And so I take time to breathe and smell the fleeting hyacinth.


June 2, 2009

Dear Linda,

I feel betrayed by the clever Stein-inspired subject line [Beginning Again, Again] that I used for my last message (apologies once more for the blank message). I am doomed to begin again!

I also apologize for the hiatus of over a year. And I thank you for the invitation to resume writing to you -- I particularly liked how you managed to mime keyboard activity to remind me not to be a stranger.

It has been an odd year. A slump both physiological and psychological. After some months of monitoring and observing, medications have been modified thus giving me more energy. I also have been forced to pay attention to diet and exercise. The medications affected appetite which affected food intake. And I lead a fairly sedentary existence. So some weight gain contributed to the physiological sluggishness.

The lack of stamina resulted in a, for me, bewildering retreat from writing. I wasn't depressed -- I could function well enough at work. I wasn't dejected -- I still derived pleasure from reading and watching films. I had become passive. I just wasn't able/willing to devote evening time to writing. It wasn't as if I didn't begin composing in my head. I kept putting off the act of writing. Very odd since writing in a sense nourishes me. Ironic: a year of bad food choices and little writing.

What I didn't abandon was reading. I did give up half way through the larger volumes I had been reading such as Edmund White's biography of Genet or Tony Peake's bio of Derek Jarman. However poetry and short prose and would you believe it "food writing" were genres that I frequented.

I made my way through the complete poetry of Gwendolyn MacEwen. She has a wonderful line in a poem called "The Return" , a line that would make a nice inscription around a mirror: "To perceive you is an act of faith". I am able to recall this mainly because the notion was recorded as a blog entry. A short entry. One of the last before a long patch of no entries.

Of course that mirror trick would have been impossible were it not for an encounter with the _Narcissistic Narrative_ a long while ago.

Professor Doložel asked me a vexing question when I saw him at the festivities in your honour. He asked if I missed the university. I hesitated and gave my stock reply about missing the teaching but not being willing to spend years in the wilderness of sessional appointments. He then mentioned a former student of his who has been caught in sessional work for almost a decade. Relief mingles with regret. I like the discursive move to a story about managing one's career path, an exercising of choice. It is a reassuring tale. However it deflects from a sense of rejection (not to have been chosen to be part of the academy). The rejection is the luck of the draw. Up until recently it has been stored as a piece of disavowal. It is amazing to how much pain we can immure ourselves.

The failure to land a tenure track position and the move to another world resulted in the loss of an audience. Not just any audience. A learned audience. In my case the loss was not total. I managed to participate on line and for a while attend conferences. Always though as an outsider.

Outside looking in is not an unusual position and not without its special attributes.

I came to graduate school with a strong sense of the distinction between an intellectual and an academic. I was also heavily influenced as a teenager by having read (twice) Hesse's _The Glass Bead Game_. I was a far less resistive reader then and identified with the character of Knecht who serves the academy and then moves beyond the institutional walls. His life ends with a beautiful and stoic suicide. As a teenager that ending was far off. And the promise of company of other game players, an inspiration. Still would it be possible to rewrite the novel without its suicide ending?

Funny to think it possible to read one's intellectual itinerary as a rewrite of a novel read in one's youth.

I don't plan on returning to Hesse in the near future. I recently have begun reading novels by gay men who first published in the 1980s and have continued to write in the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic. Earlier on there is something very arch in most of them. James and Proust are the evident models.

Allow me to conclude with this passage from Andrew Holleran's 1983 novel _Nights in Aruba_. It contrasts nicely with Hesse. From its concluding pages ... our rather listless hero is looking for conclusion if not closure.

I no longer believed when I awoke in the morning that I could, by lying still in my dark room, balance past, present, and future, or figure everything out. I was certain that even death would provide no illumination -- that we died ignorant, confused, like novelists who cannot bring an aesthetic shape to their material.
As I sat there in my silent room I saw these memories would be with me forever, that wherever they were, I was: some part of me. But the life I must begin was my own -- a separate person's.
This was difficult. For I realized that so much memory and desire swirl about in the hearts of men on this planet that, just as we can look at Neptune and say it is covered with liquid nitrogen, or Venus and see a mantle of hydrochloric acid, so it seemed to me that were one to look at Earth from afar one would say it is covered completely in Ignorance.
And the reader is thus left to ponder. And perhaps conclude that a closer view, a view perhaps more down to earth, is possible and through which one appreciates that allegorical figure of Ignorance as the product of a novelist certainly not confused nor ignorant. Our author is in no need of illumination to provide the ending a novel. He knows how to insert a self-destructing allegory. The author is also lucky to find receptive readers.

And now for a bit of bragging that I can share with you because so much of my reading habits were honed in Comp Lit. Recently in a reply to a posting as part of a public discussion about computing and the humanities, Willard McCarty replied to one of my postings by calling me out by name:

"Francois has a gift for almost reading a text, that is, for remaining aware of the ways in which surface-features of a text condition the reading while it is happening. Most of us attend _from_ the many voices and signs and signals to the argument unfolding as we go. He simultaneously attends _to_ them."

It is amazing how I lap up such praise, feed the ego and re-engage with writing and sharing. It's a kind of cool designation to be an "almost reader". :)

Thank you once again for your kind indulgence. It's appreciated.

Thank you for your kind indulgence. Again.

And so for day 2000

Awe-filled and Awake

Michael Redhill in Light-crossing offers a suite of poems that reflect upon the reflective figure of the father.

while that roil of stars and darkeness
coalesced to you, who arrived, surprisingly.
Grey, wet, sweating nutrient, quick

to suck. Math-loving atoms, clenched into body,
assumed alikeness, which delights. I now hold
this infinitesimal, that gathered its forces across

vast nothing to be called to life.
This from "What Moves". Note that the coalescence is not "in" but "to" — a destination with a hint of further destinations. Also note the being called to life. Again the stress is on a continuing voyage.

"Offering" is sacramental in tone but offers more.
I was alone with you after everyone was gone
and life was in you like a charge in a wire. Your poor
head in my hand, musketball heavy, your eyes roving
for purchase in the blue and grey room. They had you
in a tiny surplice, not knowing
they didn't have to make you look holy, you were
already ministering to me.
The line breaks tremble. You can almost hear "power" in "poor" because of the "charge in the wire" and the break. It crackles.

The opening of "Star" captures the nuances of a repeating scene: "Is he sleeping? — our midnight / mantra, one of us walking / all stealth into the room."

Lines that bring you in even if you have never experienced being the vigilant parent but have a faint memory of sleeping safely. There is more than just a trick of identification with the deployed pronoun "you" — there is a sense here of inscribing something for those not yet able to make their own memories, a sense of relatedness and human fragility.

And so for day 1999

The Immitigable Tree

Virginia Woolf uses the archaic adjective "immitigable" in The Waves. It is always in the context of Neville and a certain tree. A very Edenic tree with lethal consequences.

Project Gutenberg with an electronic version allows for a quick search to refresh memory.

'Since I am supposed,' said Neville, 'to be too delicate to go with them, since I get so easily tired and then am sick, I will use this hour of solitude, this reprieve from conversation, to coast round the purlieus of the house and recover, if I can, by standing on the same stair half-way up the landing, what I felt when I heard about the dead man through the swing-door last night when cook was shoving in and out the dampers. He was found with his throat cut. The apple-tree leaves became fixed in the sky; the moon glared; I was unable to lift my foot up the stair. He was found in the gutter. His blood gurgled down the gutter. His jowl was white as a dead codfish. I shall call this stricture, this rigidity, "death among the apple trees" for ever. There were the floating, pale-grey clouds; and the immitigable tree; the implacable tree with its greaved silver bark. The ripple of my life was unavailing. I was unable to pass by. There was an obstacle. "I cannot surmount this unintelligible obstacle," I said. And the others passed on. But we are doomed, all of us, by the apple trees, by the immitigable tree which we cannot pass.
'The man lay livid with his throat cut in the gutter,' said Neville. 'And going upstairs I could not raise my foot against the immitigable apple tree with its silver leaves held stiff.'
'I will not lift my foot to climb the stair. I will stand for one moment beneath the immitigable tree, alone with the man whose throat is cut, while downstairs the cook shoves in and out the dampers. I will not climb the stair. We are doomed, all of us. Women shuffle past with shopping-bags. People keep on passing. Yet you shall not destroy me. For this moment, this one moment, we are together. I press you to me. Come, pain, feed on me. Bury your fangs in my flesh. Tear me asunder. I sob, I sob.'
A trip to the O.E.D.

That cannot be mitigated, softened, or appeased ; implacable ; not to be toned down.

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, the O.E.D. gives an occasion in Swinburne: 1887 Swinburne Stud. Prose & Poetry (1894) 188 The principle or the impulse of universal and immitigable charity.

Swinburne is commenting on Victor Hugo
All his logic, all his reason, all his conscience, had been resolved by nature into a single quality or instinct, the principle or the impulse of universal and immitigable charity. All his argument on matters of social controversy is based on the radical and imprescriptible assumption that no counter consideration can be valid, that no other principle exists.
We know that Woolf read Swinburne. Could she have formed part of Neville's character from Swinburne's remarks on Hugo?

And so for day 1998


An anecdote about Mary Butts and her prowess at convincing … the term "procuress" comes to mind but it is not apt.

Maybe the best of Mary is gathered in the short stories Several Occasions (Wishart, 1932); and here is the perfect account of the night when Mary was living in Villefranche in the same famous hotel as Cocteau. Cocteau had picked up a boy, and the boy refused to play. Mary arrayed herself as a glittering apparition and went to the room where the boy was sulking. With magic words she told him how miraculous it was to be offered a night with a great poet, to share the glory of France. She clasped an exquisite bracelet on the boy's wrist. "There," she said, "you are ready for glory." He looked at Mary and knew that he was.
"The Lady Who Enchanted Cocteau" by Oswell Blakeston Little Caesar No. 12 "Overlooked & Underrated p. 22.

Story-maker … that's the apt term … more appropriate for the navigator of spirit and flesh.

And so for day 1997


From the Fourth Edition of The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory.

blurb A brief description of the contents of a book printed on the dust jacket. Often couched in enthusiastic and, at times, extravagent [sic] terms. The word is believed to have been coined by the American author Gelett Burgess who defined it as 'a sound like a publisher'. Earlier the term 'puff' was used, probably after Mr Puff in Sheridan's The Critic (1779). See also PUFFERY.
And who can resist quoting the blurb on the very book that defines blurb?
Some entries accomplish cameo wonders of literary history. Others are funny … generously and urbanely compiled. THE NEW YORK TIMES
A treasure. BERNEVAL

And so for day 1996

In the Forest or in the City: Watch, Attend.

Robert Macfarlane, author of The Lost Words, musing about different ways of approaching nature.

This, it seems to me, is what nature must best be to children: something "alive, powerful and sentient", rather than something that can be, in Richard Louv’s terms, "watched, consumed, ignored". The difference is akin to that between anthropomorphism and animism: in the first, we convert the more-than-human world into an image of ourselves; in the second, we lean a little into its complexity and mystery.
"Badger or Bulbasaur - have children lost touch with nature?" in The Guardian

And so for day 1995

Biopolitics of the Quotidian

From the 1990s, a message about Rich, Weil and trauma writing.


I was rereading a preface by Adrienne Rich. The preface is collected in On Lies, Secrets and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978. The preface is dated 1976 and is entitled ”Conditions for Work: The Common World of Women”. She quotes from Simone Weil:
A clear view of what is possible and what impossible, what is easy and what difficult, of the labors that separate the project from its accomplishment — this alone does away with insatiable desires and vain fears; from this and not from anything else proceed moderation and courage, virtues without which life is nothing but a disgraceful frenzy.
The passage is from Weil’s "Theoretical Picture of a Free Society" collected in Oppression and Liberty trans. by Arthur Wills and John Petrie (1973).

I am wondering if Weil and Rich might not provide a bridge back to considerations of the popular as the work of social reproduction and a way of conducting the work of memorialization without reinducing trauma. Rich suggests that “[f]or spiritual values and a creative tradition to continue unbroken we need concrete artifacts, the work of hands, written words to read, images to look at, a dialogue with brave and imaginative women who came before us.” She then cites a passage from Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition and continues to firmly situate this work in a gendered context: “Hannah Arendt does not call this ‘women’s work.’ Yet it is this activity of world-protection, world preservation, world-repair — the million tiny stitches, the friction of the scrubbing brush, the scouring cloth, the iron across the shirt, the rubbing of cloth against itself to exorcise the stain, the renewal of the scorched pot, the rusted knifeblade, the invisible weaving of a frayed and threadbare family life, the cleaning up of soil and waste left behind by men and children — that we have been charged to do 'for love,' not merely unpaid, but unacknowledged by the political philosophers. [...] Arendt tells us that the Greeks despised all labor of the body necessitated by biological needs.”

The radical American feminist critique of the 70s regarding the repression of the body in Western thought might be worth keeping in the background of your explorations of the debates over the proper relation between the popular and the Holocaust. Incidentally, Rich does in her later prose and poetry explore her Jewish roots. [See "Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity" (1982)]
Somewhere in all this quotidian work there the encounter with the impossible. Rich writes in "Split at the Root" about sometimes feeling inadequate to the task but she does not shrink:
Yet we can't wait for the undamaged to make our connections for us; we can't wait to speak until we are perfectly clear and righteous. There is no purity and, in our lifetimes, no end to this process.
We can't wait. No we can't.

And so for day 1994

Border Beginnings

In an editorial ("The Geopolitics of Signs", The Semiotic Review of Books Vol. 2.3 September 1991) Milena Doleželová-Velingerová opens with the following observation:

Every culture, in order to become a culturally distinctive entity, must start by staking out the frontier of its semiotic space. The boundary may separate the dead and the living; the town and countryside; French culture and Russian culture. It could be a river, a gesture, a script, a concept of time and space, or a natural language. No matter how diverse the culture, the boundary has nevertheless one and the same function: to divide the world between "our" space, where communication is possible, and the space of the "others", where communication is not accessible.
She goes on in the editorial to summarize the work of Yuri Lotman on semiospheres and cross-border hotspots. She quotes:
The boundary is a mechanism for translating texts of an alien semiotics into "our" language, it is the place where what is "external" is transformed into what is "internal". It is a filtrating membrane which so transforms foreign texts that they become part of the semiosphere's internal semiotics while still retaining their own characteristics. (Lotman, 1990 [Universe of Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture translated by Ann Shukman]
I like how she set this up. It is obvious the borders exist not by words alone but other signs as well. As we read it is good to keep this area (of non-words but signs) in mind as the texts discussed by Yori Lotman are secondary modelling systems — a reminder that the membrane to the alien may traversed within a semiosphere hence all the scare quotes around external and internal.

And so for day 1993

Placing Feeling

E-motion: don't quite know how the rhetoric of neither/nor moves me.

Affect is a different kind of intelligence about the world, but it is intelligence none-the-less, and previous attempts which have either relegated affect to the irrational or raised it up to the level of the sublime are both equally wrong-headed.
Nigel Thrift, "Intensities of Feeling: Towards a spatial politics of affect" in Geografiska Annaler, Series B, 86, 57-78.

And so for day 1992

Stupidity, Humility and Pride

I first encountered this striking serigraph reproduced in black and white in the Graphex 4 catalogue of the 1976 juried exhibition at the Art Gallery of Brant (in Brantford, Ontario). I immediately recognized the parody of Matisse's Dance.

The image is the work of Vernon Chilton. It is called The Rite of Spring. Measures: 24 1/2 x 37 1/4 inches. Was purchased by the Art Gallery of Brant through a Gift from Sonoco Limited ($130.00).

The 1980 publication of the catalogue Art Gallery of Brant Permanent Collection provides some bare biographical details: Chilton was born 31/10/50 and studied at York University and Carleton University.

Chilton went through a cow period. With at least one show at the Royal Agricultural Fair. I know this thanks to the librarians at the Toronto Reference Library who have maintained vertical files on Canadian artists and they have a copy of the poster announcing the Royal show. Also in the clippings file was microfiche preserving an article from the Globe (August 23, 1975) by Bryan Johnson reviewing a show at Harbourfront under the catchy title: "The artist addicted to the bovine charms".
Chilton's favorite is The Pasture, nine-foot-wide acrylic in which a dozen cows gaze out at the viewer with the curious mixture of stupidity, humility and pride which seems to have captured artist Chilton entirely.

"The way I think of it," he says, "is that this is their group portrait. They've grown up together and soon they're going to split up for the meat market, so, you know, they figure they need a portrait to hang I the barn.["]
Chilton goes on to describe his encounters with a herd. A picture of The Pasture accompanies the article. But my favourite is still The Rite of Spring.

And so for day 1991

After Glow Rash

Joseph Chadwick "Toward Gay Reading: Robert Glück's 'Reader'" in Easthope and Thompson Contemporary Poetry Meets Modern Theory (1991) pp. 40-52.

Reading, this sentence, suggests, doesn't stop when one puts down the book; rather, it continues as long as one remains alive to the possibilities of "what everything could be" rather than becoming immured in fixed definitions of what and how things are.
Although Chadwick doesn't continue this line of thought, we have here an infection model. Or as William S. Burroughs would say: language is a virus.

And so for day 1990

Don Quick Shot

I may not be the first to play on the name of the windmill-tilter nor the first to be surprised by the eruption of a good chunk of Cervantes in a 1959 printing of The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Milton (with introduction by Cleanth Brooks) published in the Modern Library College Editions series.

On the left we are in midst of Book XI of Paradise Lost; on the right Of the Memorable Quarrel Between Sancho Panza, and Don Quixote's Niece and House-Keeper; With Other Pleasant Passages.

A bit disconcerting for the student. How very intriguing for the comparatist.

And so for day 1989

Error Localization

In transcribing this, I so want to introduce a spelling mistake.

But we cannot judge in the same way the charm of a person who is, like everyone else, exterior to ourselves, painted upon the horizon of our mind, and that of a person who, in consequence of an error in localisation which has been due to certain accidents but is irreparable, had lodged herself in our own body so effectively that the act of asking ourselves in retrospect whether she did not look at a woman on a particular day in the corridor of a little seaside railway train makes us feel the same anguish as would a surgeon probing for a bullet in our heart.

Proust The Sweet Cheat Gone in the translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.
The image in one's mind, a simple error? How then can the obsession be corrected? Displaced by spelling?

And so for day 1988

Sharpening the Knives

From a review that appeared in Books in Canada Volume 28, Number 6.

The book in question: The Medium and the Light: Reflection on Religion, Marshall McLuhan.

Surely, McLuhan's editors would grant that rhetoric, especially when allied with dialectic, does concern itself with rules of evidence. Dialectic is the art of asking questions. McLuhan's aphorisms and provocative statements function like questions. McLuhan himself says he provides probes. Pierre Babin, interviewing McLuhan, most felicitously characterizes the probes as "interpretative keys". Surely, it is also the role of editors to parse the questions and situate the probes in their historical context, lest the reader be left with a clanging bunch of keys and no lock to pick.

Without dialectic, McLuhan's grammar loses its critical edge. It does not matter if the sage of Wychwood denies the validity of dialectic. There is no doubt that McLuhan's probes functioned as questions, trenchant questions, and it is up to his editors to strop the text.
I do take to editors to task. But I do like the final image of the barber-editor sharpening the razor. Supporting the text with an adequate critical apparatus.

And so for day 1987

Depth and Surface

Jean Petitot-Cocorda
Les Catastrophes de la parole. De Roman Jakobson à René Thom
Paris: Maloine, 1985.

En général, l'explication concerne de mécanismes sous-jacents, supposés êtres explicatifs, dérivables des lois générales et susceptibles d'être mathématisés. C'est-à-dire exprimés dans un formalisme génératif. La description concerne en revanche les morphologies macroscopiques observables dans leur corrélation à la langue naturelle et à la perception.
And what links explication to description? Elaboration, justification? Petitot does reference P. Delattre, "Le Problème de la justification des modèles dans le cadre du formalisme des systèmes de transformations" in P. Delattre and M. Thellier dir. Élaboration et justification des modèles (Paris: Maloine, 1979). Which book is not available in a library near me. :(

And so for day 1986

To Describe Telling

I have had a longstanding interest in the relations between narration and description (and the assumption that nothing is happening while something is being described). I love this bit from John Dewey: "[…] a mountain, which to the layman [sic] is a standing symbol of permanence, is to the geologist the scene of drama of birth, growth, decay and ultimate death."

In Volume 12 (193) of the Collected Works in Part Two of Logic: The Theory of Inquiry we find a passage where we can note that Dewey begins with temporal and goes to spatial aspects. He does say that either aspect may be uppermost. His symmetrical treatment is evoked by the parallelism of his sentences.

Existential subject-matter as transformed has a temporal phase. Linguistically, this phase is expressed in narration. But all changes occur through interactions of conditions. What exists co-exists, and no change can either occur or be determined in inquiry in isolation from the connection of an existence with co-existing conditions. Hence the existential subject-matter of judgement has a spatial phase. Linguistically this is expressed in description.
I think this can be brought fruitfully into contact with the work of Lubomír Doležel on possible worlds and fictions. I have always been puzzled as to what triggers world construction especially how persons emerge from states. Dewey offers part of answer to the mysteries of generation.

And so for day 1985

Category Mistake

John Berger from About Looking

Duchamp was not an iconoclast: he was a new type of curator.
Berger's 1974 observation shapes an approach to art that is useful for understanding those assemblages that are in essence collections of objects with tags.

And so for day 1984


A visual two colour note that partakes of the margins.

In blue there is a reference to Linda Hutcheon drawing upon the work of Peter Dews (likely Logics of Disintegration: Post-Structuralist Thought and the Claims of Critical Theory) to discuss Lyotard's notion of grasping which of course is at the centre in red:
Language may not seem
to grasp the a world
but to push it away
create a distance from
which the analytic
my operate
Retained from the blue around the rim: one type of postmodern —> as prointellectual + proerotic therefore see it operating as above —> —> these two act as brakes to the grand récits [identified] by Lyotard        Spirit is grounded (space) in flesh + emancipation (time)      widened to continual struggle.

And so for day 1983

Elevated in the Passive Voice

08/03/01 entry in a notebook

Jut read a passage in Apollinaire
Voici s'élever des prophètes
Comme au loin des collines bleues
Il sauront des choses précises
Comme croient savoir les savants
Et nous transporteront partout
The last line of this stanza could be (and is by some translators) rendered "And they'll transport us everywhere". My temptation is to play with the "transport".

And from anywhere we will be transported.

I.e. from anywhere we will have access to transport

This passive form in English does a fair job of translating the (reflexive pronoun + verb) form of the French. As well the Petit Robert gives for transport au sens figuré voir agitation, élan, enthousiasme, exaltation, ivresse. All apt for the rising prophets of the first line. We are less preoccupied by a destination (everywhere) and by a process or state of being (transport).

And so for day 1982

Writing the Line

Steno pads sometimes get buried in the book shelf which results in an asynchronous dialogue between entries distanced in time. For example, this entry from 2001 is revisited in 2002.


Rumi has a line about being the moisture in an oyster that helps form a pearl. Interesting how so much of the creation of a pearl is credited to the speck of irritant that launches the process.
And the very page of the steno pad gives us a string — a red line down the page.

hippo campset
moisture string in the oyster
of speech
the string break brokesea bulls
horsed in to play
 not a list
Very happy with the play on words: nautilus, not a list. And the spiral image it conveys out of two columns.

And so for day 1981

Nip Nip Na Poo

I have been intrigued with matrices since high school algebra. The layout of this little bit was influenced by the square form of the sticky note.

Baby talk: sheer love of sound. Calming mantra.

And so for day 1980

Stepping Out by Stepping In

Lew Welch, transcribed.

Step out into the Planet,
Draw a circle two feet round.

Inside the circle are 300 things
     nobody understands and,
     maybe, nobody's ever seen.

How many can you find?

Lew Welch
Can you hear the intonations similar to Stein's in the 1967 recording housed at PennSound He did after all write a thesis on Stein.

I came across this reproduced in a catalogue from Ken Lopez Bookseller. The description:
454. WELCH, Lew. "Step out onto the Planet..." [San Francisco]: [Four Seasons], 1964. A broadside poem, 9 1/2" x 12 1/2", reproducing Welch's handwriting and design, limited to 300 copies sold on the occasion of a reading by Welch, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, longtime friends who first met when they all attended Reed College, a progressive school in Oregon, and who later became three of the most influential poets of the Beat generation. The sentiment of this poem -- a sense of the mystery and wonder of the earth, expressed in a few simple lines -- captures an essential element of the sensibility ignited by the Beats in our culture. Signed by Welch, who, although less well-known than his former classmates, was nonetheless one of the most important poets of the era. Matted; fine.
What of course attracted to me was the calligraphy and the brushwork of the circle at the top of the broadside.

It looks ripe for contemplation.

And so for day 1979

Composition in Contraries

Plank versus bridge. Some thoughts.

D'après Miss Moore Going Over

To throw before some way
what is a gang plank to a
bridge? Not just the
appropriate tool at
the appropriate place.
A bridge is full of
particulate plurals.
A bridge of stone, steel
or wood, is still a
construction constitution of parts
in the memory of imagination
it is as
a single entity    the
span resides. The
plank — no matter
how much in actuality
it may be riveted
of pieces — stands alone
at an angle, like a

And now years later I turn to Marianne Moore and quote some lines from "Granite and Steel". "way out; way in; romantic passageway / first seen by the eye of the mind / then by the eye. O steel! O stone!"

And so for day 1978

Atoms of Discursive Formations

Someday perhaps English will adapt the term "vulgarization" to denote "popularization". *smile*

La répétition didactique, sous sa forme proprement pédagogique, ou même sous une forme plus vague de vulgarisation, est indispensable au fonctionnement de l'espace intellectuel, même si elle ne contribue pas à son avancée théorique. Par définition cette dimension n'innove pas, mais notre situation intellectuelle n'est pas compréhensible sans elle. Quant à la diffusion de l'information, la vulgarisation répercutée, les redites de la mode, le jargon des sectes, la problématique de la saison, tout cela constitue un bruit spéculatif qui appartient lui aussi à la situation intellectuelle et qui la marque.

Judith Schlanger, L'invention intellectuelle
My gloss from a while back
Speculative noise is wedded to the elaboration of intellectual space. However, jargon and fashion serve primarily not innovation but comprehension.
One wonders if Schlanger may have on the periphery of her concerns noted the title of a work by Roland Barthes: Système de la mode. They may only collide in the longer view from the 21st century.

And so for day 1977

Petit Récit

From a paper comparing chaos to catastrophe theory. One being an invention of science journalism and the other a branch of mathematics. In my peroration I get quite polemical.

Reconciliation with nature, chaotic or otherwise, is the avatar of a theocratic theme and it cannot serve to legitimate either science or criticism in a postmodern age. Hayles's hostility to Lyotard now becomes understandable. He is a prime critic of meta-narratives of legitimation. And his is a secular, wholly secular, use of paradox.
She sees his work as contributing to "a cultural metanarrative, and its peculiar property is to imply incredulity not just toward other metanarratives but toward narrative as a form of representation. It thus implies its own deconstruction." (Chaos bound: orderly disorder in contemporary literature and science (Cornell University Press, 1990)

But didn't Lyotard advocate for localized narratives?

Furthermore, there's a distinction to be made between the skeptical and the cynical. Not all challenges are to be read as reductio ad absurdum deconstructions.

And so for day 1976

Premises and Premises

Within a few paces, one straddles the erotic, the synesthetic and the memento mori.

Because an opulent tongue contours my hip

Because the music arrived in ochres, greens,

Because I wanted the music to articulate me

Because lacking ardour, the surroundings were

Because I am pronoun in disguise as sediment
Oana Avasilichioaei Limbinal

The anaphoric piling on of "because" clauses never culminates in a complete sentence. All is arrested. Be cause. Have effect.

And so for day 1975

The Curled Kitten

Warm is a Circle
Written and Illustrated by Hilary Thompson
Hantsport, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press, 1979

It was the title that attracted me to this book, I thought it had something to do with synesthesia. What I discovered is true artistic accomplishment. The words are not grand but they are not simple repetitions one expects in children's books. They can appeal to readers of any age — they provoke the imagination. And the pictures are in shades of gray and sometimes they offer stark contrasts of black and white. They always invite the viewer to look again.

I like how over the last two sections one is immersed in a nocturnal wandering followed by an awakening.

When it is dark I rest.
Dark, where the walls make patterns.

And when I wake I see
my window.
Light is a square in the wall.
A window is a place.
It is full of other places.
Such a rich invitation to the play of the imagination from the very start at the title page…

The copy I viewed came to me all the way from the University of Calgary. Sad to see it leave my hands but happy that I have a scan of that curled kitten to remind me that warm is circle.

And so for day 1974


Modes of Being Out of the World

Sara Guyer Reading with John Clare: Biopoetics, Sovereignty, Romanticism explores the poetics of homelessness. It takes on an existential character. For example, about the poem "I am" she references Bridget Keegan

Bridget Keegan reads the end of this poem as aiming for the possibility of experiencing the "world without us" in "The World Without Us: Romanticism, Environmentalism, and Imagining Nature," in A Companion to Romantic Poetry ed . Charles Mahoney (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 554-68.
I juxtapose this with a performance by The Four Horseman [bp Nichol, Steve McCaffery, Paul Dutton, and Rafael Barreto-Rivera.] who use lines from this Clare poem in counterpoint to a Spanish/English line ("My shoes are dead, oh microphone"). A recording of the Four Horseman is on the Canadada album, digitally available from the Penn Sound archive, see Matthew's Line.

Stephen Scobie in relating the The Four Horseman performance situates the poem as less about imagining a world without humans [Keegan] and more as a sad poem about isolation (it's author being confined to an asylum). He interprets as he quotes in bpNicol: What History Teaches:
The poem speaks pathetically of Clare's sense of despair, abandonment, and isolation, both within the physical asylum and within his increasing insanity:
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows
   My friends forsake me like a memory lost,
I am the self-consumer of my woes
The poem then moves to Clare's longing for escape, even if only through death:
I long for scenes, where man hath never trod
   A place where woman never smiled or wept —
There to abide with my Creator, God,
   And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below — above the vaulted sky.
Out of context, the poem is a fine example of the Romantic desire for transcendence into a pantheistic unity of Nature; in the context of Clare's life, it points to the fineness of the dividing line between extreme Romantic sensitivity, the solitary genius of the poet and clinical insanity.
Here I turn again to Sara Guyer who like The Four Horseman in a sense makes John Clare strange. This she does in part by resisting the mad poet reading and insisting on the dash ("'untroubled,' unmoved, stable, blank, or flat like a dash, despite the catastrophe everywhere around him"). She also in her concluding chapter juxtaposes the poetry of Clare with the condition of abandoned houses in Detroit. A picture of one graces the cover the book.

What a clear way of bringing the poet back in the world and avoiding transcendence.

And so for day 1973

More Making Making More

Julia Child on crème anglaise

This is the basic custard sauce that you want to have in your repertoire, to transform any plain pastry or poached or fresh fruit into a special dessert. Crème anglaise is an essential component of such classics as floating island, and the foundation of many other dessert preparations — when frozen, it becomes ice cream; if you add gelatin and fold in whipped cream, it becomes Bavarian cream. If flour is added before cooking, you have pastry cream, and then if you fold in beaten egg whites you have a dessert soufflé.

Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Julia Child and Jacques Pépin
Nella Cotrupi on Frye and Bakhtin
It has been easy for some to misconstrue Frye's references to 'the total form of art' or the 'total body of human culture' as representing a closed, monolithic entity or unity. Such a view would be quite antithetical to Frye's process approach to poetics and to its philosophical footing, the verum factum principle. This view emphasizes nothing if not the infinite scope or creative potential of human imagination to conjure and contrive. In a sense, this brings Frye close to Mikhail Bakhtin, who, in his preoccupation with the relationship between the mind and the world, opted much more for 'the Kantian heterogeneity of ends' rather than the 'Neo-Kantian lust for unity' (Michael Holquist, Art and Answerability xv). In Bakhtin, where the emphasis is on 'perception as an act of authoring' (xv), on distinctly senses the kind of Vichian reverberations that are explicitly evoked in such comments of Frye's as 'reality is in the world we make and not in the world we stare at' (MM 122) and 'what is true we have made true' (WP 135).

Northrop Frye and the Poetics of Process. Caterina Nella Cotrupi

MM = Myth and Metaphor
WP = Words with Power
Making more more…

And so for day 1972

Greek Sleep

A charming passage on the effect of soporifics on the ability to quote Greek… one almost falls asleep trying to keep track of who is quoting who.

I have always said — and have proved by experiment — that the most powerful soporific is sleep itself. After having slept profoundly for two hours, having fought against so many giants, and formed so many lifelong friendships, it is far more difficult to awake than after taking several grammes of veronal. And so reasoning from one thing to the other, I was surprised to hear from the Norwegian philosopher, who had it from M. Boutroux, "my eminent colleague — pardon me, my brother," what M. Bergson thought of the peculiar effects upon the memory of soporific drugs. "Naturally," M. Bergson had said to M. Boutroux, if one was to believe the Norwegian philosopher, "soporifics, taken from time to time in moderate doses, have no effect upon the solid memory of our everyday life which is so firmly established within us. But there are other forms of memory, loftier, but also more unstable. One of my colleagues lectures upon ancient history. He tells me that if, overnight, he has taken a tablet to make him sleep, he has great difficulty, during his lecture, in recalling the Greek quotations that he requires. The doctor who recommended these tablets assured him that they had no effect upon the memory. 'that is perhaps because you do not have to quote Greek,' the historian answered, not without a note of pride."

I cannot say whether this conversation between M. Bergson and M. Boutroux is accurately reported. The Norwegian philosopher, albeit so profound and so lucid, so passionately attentive, may have misunderstood.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain in the translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.

And so for day 1971

Let Us Compare Ecstasies

With apologies to Leonard Cohen (Let Us Compare Mythologies)

Body and mind — words and things.

Les extases de Nane Yelle, dans l'histoire de sa passion pour un chamane de l'enchâssement vertigineux du réel, ces extases mentales ne sont rien à côté des désirs dont le halètement de feu dans tous mon corps me ravit au gré de mes investissements libidinaux sur le timbre de voix, le grain de la peau, l'œil bleu de noir, le corps variable de mes jeunes amants qui, tous, s'allègent dans le sommeil au point que l'extase matérielle se diffuse en réverbérations heureuses dans le continuum de l'amour fou des mots et des choses.
Yolande Villemaire La Vie en prose (Montreal: Les Herbes Rouges, 1980)

And so for day 1970

Let the Fossil Record Show

Le français au bureau Cahiers de l'Office de la langue française No 26 [1977]

A teletype machine, a mimeograph machine, a photocopier.

Extinct or vanishing.

And so for day 1969

Liminal Ball Tossing

Oana Avasilichioaei

As suiting a book about margins and perimeters, the book begins with a poem called "Bound" which itself begins with an apostrophe to "Border" which I misread as beginning "Border, you tenderly."

Border, you terrify. Border, you must dictate your own dismantling or we will perish. Purge. Border, are you listening? Are you empire?
Just why I remember the opening line as tender is perhaps attributable to the erotic charge of some of the stanzas and perhaps also related to the figure of the child in conjunction with the sonorities and semantics of sound's traveling: "We wanted to theorize the voice, give it credence in the angle of an article." [Here I detect traces of Nicole Brossard in the wish to theorize and of Gertrude Stein in the emphasis on the little word or article — it may just be me and the borders I have visited.]

"And the child grasps the wall of sound can and will become language."

And so for day 1968

Temporal Transports of a Different Sort

If there were not language there would only be music.

And, just as certain creatures are the last surviving testimony to a form of life which nature has discarded, I asked myself if music were not the unique example of what might have been — if there had not come the invention of language, the formation of words, the analysis of ideas — the means of communication between one spirit and another.
Marcel Proust, The Captive in the translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.

Reminded of Steven Mithen, The Singing Neanderthals: the Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body (Harvard University Press, 2006)?

And so for day 1967

Spreading the Sensuality

This opening brings to mind the need for expanded food security and food literacy so that more can enjoy the pleasures rehearsed here.

For countless Americans living on their own, cooking for one is a fact of daily living. Far from dreading it, many people find it to be a satisfying, fun, rewarding activity — not just a chore. It's a way to get back in touch with a familiar rhythm of daily living. The pleasure of seeking out the best ingredients, preparing them to their own preferences, experimenting with new flavors and ingredients, and the sensory pleasures of cooking — the feel of chopping something, the sound of foods sizzling in a wok, the aroma of a simmering soup — are as important to their sense of well-being as daily exercise is.
Mark Erickson and Lisa Erickson Cooking for One.

And so for day 1966

Auto Error Correct or Auto Correct Error

From a legal newsletter

Fun with Spelling

Clients and/or opposing parties may be puzzled or insulted if you accidentally recommend 'medication' or 'meditation' rather than 'mediation', even though the former two may be more appropriate to the case. It has happened!!
Configurations calling for a team with a wide scope of practice.

And so for day 1965

Fiddlehead Farrago

Other titles in the series are Touch Will Tell and Walk With Your Eyes. The one that interests me is Listen to a Shape. It seems to harken more to the synesthetic experience. All are with words and images by Marcia Brown.

Listen to a Shape positions its opening under the sign of a curled fern frond or fiddlehead. It promises to bring to fruition the metaphorical import of roundness.

ROUND curls up
       on itself.
Round things
       bring you back
       to where they
And faithfully the book ends with an illustration of unfurled fronds.

Round objects also fly you around the world in this age of searchable clip art.

There's a restaurant in Nanaimo. It's called the Fiddlehead Bistro and I have here borrowed its logo with a horizontal flip.

Almost like a Japanese crest. Trace of an artist who has truly listened to shape.

And so for day 1964

Boys Will Be Girls Will Be Boys

In retrospect there is a hint of gender politics in Eric Partridge's entry on "boys will be boys"in his 1964 compilation A Book of Essential Quotations. He adds to the quotation from Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Anthony Hope's gloss:

"Boys will be boys." "And even that," I interposed, "wouldn't matter if only we could prevent girls from being girls."
The source of that quip is The Dolly Dialogues [1894].

And so for day 1963

Purrfect Pun

In the age of cat videos, one comes across an apt little bit of verse from John S. Crosbie in Crosbie's Book of Punned Haiku. (New York: Workman Publishing, 1979).

There is nothing worse
Than poems about cute cats
It is all perverse.
If you think this is bad, I've seen worse — from Crosby himself — a haiku that ends limerick-like with "caramel knowledge."

And so for day 1962

Setting Up the Punchline

"Playing against Type" by Doug Gibson - review of Gutenberg's Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels and the Lasting Impression of Books by Merilyn Simonds

The final section of the book allows Merilyn Simonds, the early adopter, to predict where books are going. She notes that readers are now "encouraged to explore and engage with the text. The reader's role is no longer passive, it is active, even though he or she can't actually affect the outcome."
The latest catchphrase-which may well be obsolete before this book is printed-is "augmented reality," or AR: virtual images laid over real ones to create an "augmented" display. AR integrates graphics, sounds, touch (haptics), and smell into a real-world environment, blurring the line between the actual and the computer-generated.
"Smell." Really? Hold that unlikely thought.

The key phrase here, I think, is "which may well be obsolete before this book is printed." Certainly, anyone reading this book to learn about the future of reading will find that while Merilyn Simonds's book raises many questions, it is too sensible to produce many confident predictions. Although it is notable that she has put a lot of time and effort in turning her out-of-print paper books into digital e-books.

A final detail, one that Bob Gottlieb [American editor and publisher] would like: the endpapers for the precious little book are specially created, with the help of the artist Emily Cook, from paper whose fibre comes from daylilies picked from Merilyn Simonds's garden. In discussing this process, Merilyn the Essayist tells us that way back, about 1780, Matthias Koops in London decided that for printing books, paper made from straw would be ideal. Nicholas Basbanes, in his 2013 book, On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History (published by Gottlieb's old company, Knopf) writes about handling a book based on straw. After more than 200 years, the paper still held "the agreeable aroma-of fresh-cut grass."
Worth holding the thought to catch that whiff.

And so for day 1961

Triggers, Paratexts and Interpretations

Lynne Pearce in Woman Image Text: Readings in Pre-Raphaelite Art and Literature suggests that the figure depicted in John Everett Millais's Mariana is caught in a distinctive moment: "Mariana is presenting her body for inspection, while she gazes desirously into the eyes of the Archangel Gabriel represented in the stained glass." Curious to observe if the gaze is returned, one turns to plate three to inspect the reproduction. Inclusive. Indeed it is difficult to confirm that the figure of Mariana is indeed looking at the angel. However, one notices that plate three (Mariana) is situated on the right page and plate two (Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti) on the left page of the open book and that the figures of Mariana and Beatrix by their positions as reproduced in the book might be seen to converge on the stained glass angel. He may be looking at her but is she looking at him? Reproductions in Pearce's sources are marshalled to make the claim. The article "Subliminal Dreams" by George MacBeth in Narrative Art edited by John Ashbury and Thomas B. Hess provides a black and white detail of the upper left quadrant followed by a colour reproduction. The layout induces a subtle repetition: left page the b&w detail, right page the first page of the article, [turn the page] left page the colour reproduction of the full painting. The manner of the disposition of the illustrations supports the critical story that is being offered. Interestingly Pearce in introducing a quotation from an Andrew Leng article that quotes Macbeth's article fails to mention that Leng remarks upon the tone of Macbeth's "post-Freudian enthusiasm" in whose prose "[t]he erotic implications of the painting which Ruskin ignored are made abundantly if facetiously clear [...]". Leng's article is now available on the Victorian Web. In "Millais's "Mariana": Literary Painting, the Pre-Raphelite Gothic, and the Iconology of the Marian Artist", Leng draws upon how knowledge of Tennyson's poem affects the reading of the painting. In the online verision of the article there is to be found a thumbnail reproduction of the painting that is hot linked to a larger image.

Paratexts push if not produce the interpretations of the painting: that gaze is certainly askance.

And so for day 1960