Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Thanks to Jim Jupp's Belbury Parish site for posting a link to this video - What Cricket Looks Like To Americans.
You can see it by following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEH4ahCCrJo&feature=youtube_gdata_player
(At least I hope so).
A perfect antidote to all the oh-so-terribly serious sports analysis we have to endure this summer.
File alongside rounds of Mornington Crescent, Tati and Antonioni's tennis matches, and Python's Philosophers' Football.
Monday, July 30, 2012
This afternoon's efforts with les filles: authentic gougeres (recipe taken from John Burton Race's book French Leave).
Not only do they look good - they taste good.
A second batch (larger blobs) are currently in the oven - we're hoping for a final size like the ones you get in the Burgundian bakeries.
If you want the recipe, let me know.
(Next time we'll experiment with slivers of smoked salmon and bacon bits in the mix).
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Well, whatever else I have to say about Blake in Cambridge, the fact that virtually every available free moment this weekend has been spent either reading & rereading the volume or delving back into Blake’s original texts suggests it's had an impact. For a critical text to send you back to source with fresh enthusiasm and interest has to be a good thing.
There’s plenty I could say about this book and the author himself. However, for now I’ll limit myself to one particular section which gives me concern and seems particularly revealing. I’m encouraged in such a fragmentary response by Ben’s own championing of such reading strategies. As Zappa might say, it’s where the poodle bites.
On pages 124-127, Ben moves swiftly (pun partly intended) from J.H. Prynne’s Kazoo Dreamboats and his use of the phrase “rolling like wheels” to a quotation from Blake’s Jerusalem (itself employing several “wheel” phrases) which occurs in a montage featured in – of all things – the first edition of a Saskachewan magazine Utilitarian Donuts to then ... hope you’re following ... tease out the etymology of Jerusalem artichokes by way of proving Blake’s refusal of the Christian-Cartesian world picture.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Such catholic (a bad pun, this time) referencing is what we expect when we pays our money and enter the Universe of Out to Lunch. From Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play on that’s what we enjoy – the giddy mix of high/low culture (terms he’d deny, of course), anally retentive scholarship and record collector lore, Hegel and S&M. However ... let’s examine the movement of Ben’s sentences.
The Prynne sequence is fine – in any case I haven’t yet got my copy from Cambridge and so can’t verify the analysis. It’s with the “then” opening the next papragraph that things begin to slide. “Then” – when exactly? The same day as the other “plop!” through the letter box – Ben always attentive to excremental metaphor – when Kazoo Dreamboats arrived? Or while he was subsequently writing the chapter? Or while he was going about his business (pooh, again) and the post arrived? That "then" is rather shifty in its simultaneous suggestion of causal relation and gosh-what-a-coincidence.
That’s not all. Yes, William Blake employs wheel imagery and yes, so does Prynne. And so, yes, that’s rather coincidental that while Ben is engaged on his Blake project a magazine arrives with a fortuitous quotation. (Although not, perhaps, so shattering a coincidence as had it been – for instance – Ben’s sub to BBC Good Food Magazine. I suspect that Utilitarian Donuts – from its title alone – inhabits a roughly similar world of cultural connections).
Now the Big One. Via a triumphant exclamation – Jerusalem! – Ben swerves off on to Jerusalem artichokes. I don’t want to be the kind of academic pedant he lambasts throughout his book but I am not aware that either Prynne (the point of departure) or Blake (the follow-up quotation) is at any point talking about artichokes - Jerusalem or otherwise.
Drawing upon Gerard’s Herbal (1621) Ben then explores the artichoke's etymology from the Italian girasole (i.e. turn-to-the-sun) which – as such – is a lovely little poem in itself. However, this isn’t enough – Ben is after the “famous flatulence” the vegetable causes when eaten. Why? Because this allows him to ground spiritual reverence in bodily frailty.
But Jerusalem – the geographical city, Biblical place name laden with religious significance etc. etc. – derives from completely other linguistic/cultural roots (and yes, let's allow etymological and botanical language to co-exist).
So where does this leave us?
One, feeling that in this instance, Ben is guilty of the sort of judgement avant la lettre he accuses others of. He is out looking for anal/excremental meanings and will force the evidence accordingly. That isn’t allowing the shiver-down-the-spine discovery of latent energies declare itself. It’s good old fashioned stacking the dice e.g. I find what I'm looking for or if it isn't there I'll shoehorn something in.
Two, by way of pre-empting his claim but this is poetry! That’s my point! I glimpse these connections afforded by the language then fine. I accept this and – again – rejoice in his (and others) writing when this occurs. However, elsewhere he attacks authors for such specious arguments, abusing language to fit ideological ends. Are we playing the academic game or not?
Three, why do I feel that we’re still in the college library (to adapt W.C. Williams’ riposte to T.S. Eliot). Ben seems to be Satan-like trapped within the very system he purports to despise. I, too, dumped academia but as this Blog has shown still have hankerings (my earlier to the point of absurdity reading of a Ray DiPalma poem). I, too, know the thrill of making such unforeseen connections in the course of reading a text. And I know when and how the habit formed: in the Bodleian or sitting in lecture halls listening to my own generation's charismatic Professors. It’s catching. Notice, too, how Ben’s connectionnitus is so decidedly verbal, textual, based on the printed page. It’s a thinking conditioned by Western scholarship dating all the way back to Biblical commentary. So what about other ways of thinking and arguing? Break the mould! Open the field! Say bye-bye to the quad, the cloisters and your tenured chums. And while we’re about it, I doubt Murray was the most jive-ass lexicographer the 19th Century produced. However, how strange that the so-cold-it’s-frozen prose of the OED is so semantically (surely sementically) fecund? The very Authorised Version of the Language, such a monument to disinterested linguistic research and the Propriety of the Tongue, is what allows Prynne to run riot (p. 115) and – phew! – prove his Marxist credentials.*
And so that’s my sadness. For I, too, share Ben’s despair at the commodification of learning and the vicious dismantling of the English university system. I, too, wince as another generation of high school students seem to show little real enthusiasm for literature beyond what might be of service to get a grade to get onto a course in Business; I, too, see a use for my life “outside the prerequsites of capital”. However, I can’t swallow Ben’s constant torquing of the argument back to “fucking Marxism”. Despite his efforts to prove to the contrary, it’s just another Big Book and locks reading in. Urizen keeps pulling the chains no matter how many shits fall.
Blake's words “I must Create a System. or be enslav’d by another Mans” (Jerusalem, Plate 10) still ring true.
*and who could say what strange desires expressed themselves in the reading, collating and writing of the Big Dic(k)tionary? I will always remember a fellow sub-editor chortling as he put his finger on the entry for twat (n).
Friday, July 27, 2012
Back from the annual week or so down in France (apologies for the absence of posts - Internet connection is haphazard at best).
A few interesting items were waiting on the door mat, one of which being Out To Lunch's new slim volume on William Blake. A guaranteed provocation right from the start: I haven't seen Ben in several years but that's quite a frightening author photo.
After six hours of driving I'm not in the mood right now, but a quick flip through suggests this is going to be fun - many of the usual suspects (Marx, Zappa, Prynne, Joyce), intense pen and ink bio-cosmorphic drawings, and maybe some Blake in there, too.
Via Ron Silliman's blog I gather there's been some rumpus about this book - Ben and Sean Bonney going head to head as to who's the truly revolutionary. It's the sort of in-fighting that I remember in the 90s and the journal Parataxis - precisely what Cambridge English studies seems to thrive on.
Meanwhile I've been trying to make progress in Paradise Lost (both an obligation due to work and a feeling that my 48 year-old self should see what my callow 19 year-old youth missed reading all-too hastily for the weekly essay). Perhaps not the best choice of holiday reading given the multitude of distractions and I'm currently only half way through Book IV. It's slow going although not through lack of interest. I find I spend a lot of time dreaming in and around the annotations and the density of the language. Exactly what I used to find so frustrating is now perhaps the greatest pleasure. A Paradise Discovered.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012
Being over in the UK - aka Pound Land - for the moment I'm more than usually aware of the ghastly machinery of the British media. Thus, this morning, the nation wakes to newspapers proclaiming "now we know what you feel" after Andy Murray's (for me, at least) toe-curling dissolve into tears before the cameras. Do we? Or at least beyond a few of the most predictable sentiments anyone in a similar position would muster. Give me Ivan Lendl, any day.*
Friday, July 06, 2012
Thursday, July 05, 2012
"... the weave of anecdotes of the book and of life ..."
Went into town this morning with L. to buy sepia ink and some other materials. This afternoon, finishing my daily lecture by Barthes, it suddenly dawns on me that I have (unconsciously) bought the very same brand of ink that figures on the cover - Encre Sennelier.
Can I really be this dozy & unobservant?
Absence of attention as one of the figures of The Neutral?
Session of February 18, 1978; The Neutral, Roland Barthes
To which I would add: chair in the garden + book
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Just for once the BBC gets it so right: PM on Radio 4 signs off with its tribute to Eric Sykes - a minute's noise (as against silence) from The Plank.
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Another timely arrival for the holiday reading season. I haven't yet got much beyond the prefatory material but a quick glance down the Contents pages offers many delights - great titles for poems to be or perhaps in some cases poems in and of themselves ...
The Wirelike Sharpness of Mourning
To Keep Silent as Worldly Tactic
Drags, Dodges, Hollow Corrections
The Time of the Adjective
A Little Bit of Symbolic
To Be Sitting
and this from the March 18, 1978 Session:
(reminiscent of a Charles North poem?)