His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com



Writing as a negative act; writing against... the question.
Writes Blanchot: “We write to prove the impossibility of writing."


“Grace fills empty spaces but it can only enter when there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.” -- Simone Weil, “To Accept the Void”


In the space between the ticks of a clock, the beats of one’s heart; that aporia between the sensation that something is amiss and its realization; the hesitation, the holding of one’s breath, the waiting for the crash... There is a sense of [fullness] in these gaps; entire worlds exist in the infinity of such moments.

Similarly, the world created by the withdrawing of the divine.


A Photograph of Lotte Lenya 

It’s famous, I’m sure you’ve seen it -- she’s resting her chin on her forearm, holding a cigarette. It conjures up for me, not quite a sense of era (that’s part of it; it’s in the libretto booklet accompanying my recording of Mahagonny; it was also the cover image of the first Unrest single) -- but that vague sense of half-remembered dream, the suspicion that the dream is part of a recurring one. And the photo surfaces again and again, at various times in my life.

My Ignorance Astonishes Me 

Commenting on this photo, ten years or more ago, M. wrote to me “You are right. It is a red thread.” The term red thread became a phrase I'd use to describe certain touchstone works, or moods -- autumn; the music of Webern; Bach; Cy Twombly; Wool f, Claude Royet-Journoud... V. picked up on this instinctively, knew exactly what I meant without explanation. The phrase has become incorporated into the vocabulary of some of my friends; I've never encountered it elsewhere.
The other night, T. told me that to the Chinese, red threads are a symbol of life. Perhaps ascribing some sort of optimism to this project. A phrase -- is it Nabokov's? -- runs through my mind: "ruins in reverse."

A Voice Not My Own 

A certain style to these entries dictated by the keyboard: a style that lacks the fluidity of a letter, or the start stop you know um run-on character of my spoken thought

The Words of Others 

I often quote the words of others; this is in no way intended to show the “breadth” of my reading -- "scattered” is a more appropriate term -- but because I find a certain sympathy in their thoughts. And if they should think it, write it better than I myself can, why not cite their words? The so-called anxiety of influence seems little more to me than making a fetish of originality. Originality. “Look at any word long enough and you will see it open up into a series of faults, into a terrain of particles each containing its own void.” --Robert Smithson. Without apologies. The idea that the ability of others to express themselves well somehow lessens me -- what hubris!

Crabby Austrians 

It’s strange that so many of my intellectual heroes -- Wittgenstein, Schoenberg, Bernhard, Kraus -- are all Austrian. And very crabby ones, at that. It’s reflective of my character; also, perhaps, the early influence of C. I find myself balanced between a consuming sense of doubt and a desire for certainty. They were nothing if not certain. “When faced with a choice,” wrote Karl Kraus, “make the right one.”


This Is Not A Novel 

I went to a reading last night. I type out that sentence and sit here in the pre-dawn dark, machine humming... I went to a reading last night.

Poems involving animals, food, relationships. Everything centered around a first-person "I" speaking the poem. "Poetry Voice." Workshopped poems. I nudged N. and said "after sitting in the tenth circle of literary hell yesterday, if I make it through this entire reading, I'm officially a masochist." We left.

I'm no ivory-tower elitist (cinder-block, perhaps). As a child, I was a big fan of Oscar the Grouch and Eeyore. So I'll be quite up front with you and state for the record that I'm a grumpy old man just waiting to grow into fully into form. (My back, alas, is leading the way).

Oh, I had a point: I'm finding it increasingly difficult to say I like poetry. I watch Law & Order (all three franchises), Seinfeld, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Becker. They're no Bob Newhart Show or Mary Tyler Moore; times change, generally for the worse. Or, more likely, Quentin Crisp had a very good point when he said "Romance is that quality that distance lends to things." (Or Borges: "Like all men, he was simply given bad times in which to live.") My point is: statistically speaking, I like tv more than poetry. The unread and half-read books on my shelf interest me more than almost anything I find in bookstores. All I'm really interested in now is Blanchot. Some Bataille. Pinget. Duras. David Markson has a new book out. Thomas Bernhard.

I don't wake up in the morning and think "I'm a writer." I'm not publishing this blog to say "look at me; I'm a writer." I don't feel like being defeated by this moronic, book-hating, anti-intellectual culture, but neither am I going to allow it to marginalize me within a token community of poets (great slip, I wrote "pets" just now), consoling ourselves that we speak some sort of truth -- as much of a socio-cultural safety valve as this country's few, dogma-ridden "Marxist" organizations are.

As for now, this blog is non-public. It's a sort of exercise. This post may be deleted by the time you arrive; in fact, when I go public with it, friends might amuse themselves by starting a pool to see how long it takes for me to delete the entire thing. I showed it to T. for the first time last night; he wrote: "Perhaps you'll consider rotating the MB quote with Woolf's: 'On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.'"

I'll leave you with a story...


We had no luck with the weather and also had guests at our table who were obnoxious in every way. They even succeeded in spoiling Nietzsche for us. Even when they had a fatal car accident and lay prostrate in the Church at Sils, we still hated them.
-- Thomas Bernhard


Cahiers du Doute 

I don't know what, ultimately or fundamentally, the nature of this weblog will be. "The search says more than the discovery" wrote Augustine, yeah yeah yeah.

There will be a fair amount of venting, the usual sorts of notes, digressions... Errata.

As much as I dislike technology, this is a curious thing. [The vault, filled with dying light, the sound of books closing.] Part of me thinks that these notes would be put to better use as seeds of short essays, or sent as letters. I do find the reverse chronology of blogs somewhat interesting: footnotes before the source.

I'm sketching these notes with an Esterbrook "J" series fountain pen in the reading room of the university library, a sort of Book Church -- all gothic stylings, a long echoing nave fitted with heavy chairs and tables. Reading, or note-taking here seems to take on a special gravitas. I wouldn't have used the word "gravitas" were I not here.

When writing, I pause, prevaricate, cross out, switch sentences around: a computer is a useful tool for working things into shape, though the generative impulse, I feel, is better conveyed through the scratching of a pen nib, the percussion of my Olympia typewriter -- the physical action of depressing a key that moves a lever that raises the typebar to strike an inked ribbon against the paper held tight against the platen. It does not whir and hum in an annoying manner as I pause to collect my thoughts. It sounds like rain.


"Beauty is denoted by a word that we have invented."
-- Sean Scully

One of Our Great Men 

Leonard Woolf on Saxon Sydney-Turner, from Sowing:

“Both physically and mentally Saxon was ghost-like,
shadowy. He rarely committed himself to any positive
opinion or even statement. His conversation — if it
could rightly be called communicative, was extremely
spasmodic, elusive and allusive. You might be sitting
reading a book and suddenly find him standing in front
of you on one leg in front of the fire knocking out
his pipe into the fireplace and say without looking up
‘Her name was Emily...’”


Yesterday I went to a gathering of writers, an open forum setting to exchange ideas. I won't offer much back story on this; if you know what I'm talking about, fine; if not, you're better off.

No suprises or revelations, which was neither surprising nor revelatory... The afternoon concluded with everyone gathered in a circle, those sitting outside asked to join in, and everyone welcomed to listen and concentrate on the (and I quote) "juiciness" of the event, feeling free to speak from their heart. It was warm and supportive and empowering and saturated with a cloying sense of the goodness of the group and its mission: all of us, writers, together.

Someone did venture forth what was meant to be sly critique of the notion of community, bu t rather worthlessly vague. The point trying to be made was that the idea of an all-inclusive community is ridiculous: a community is defined by what it is not as much as by what it is. Not to say that different communities can't get along, but that's a d ifferent kettle of fish.

The most grating thing for me was the climate of mindless self-affirmation, the assumption that there's something inherently VIRTUOUS about writing. I'm not trying to be glibly paradoxical or overstate the obvious, but writing is as much about distance as connection; it separates as it communicates, it creates a social bond that it continually violates. It, to use a much over-used word, transgresses.

Perhaps it was generosity of spirit or just plain lack of guts on my part not to mention this, but I might as well have pissed on the floor if I did. I consider myself fortunate that we didn't have to join hands and share a moment of silence at the end, contemplating the joyful wonders of the word.

No doubt many poems celebrating community were penned last night; I went home and watched The Designated Mourner..



It's the anniversary of Virginia Woolf's birth today.

"...that melancholy which is the sweetest tongue of thought."
-- Diary, Sept. 1899

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